P-38 vs P1

Not open for further replies.


Jan 7, 2012
Western Michigan
I have a post WWII Walther P1. I've always felt like I do not really have an "authentic" P-38. I know the parts are interchangeable, but does the P1's aluminum frame have a significantly different feel when shooting?
I have a P1 that I received in what amounts to as brand new from rebuild condition, Tight action, sharp, crisp rifling, 100% surface finish, two brand new P1 marked magazines and shiny new grip plates.
Most P38s on the market are force fit rebuilds from ex communist bloc nations, spoils of war. The really good P38s are priced out of the range of most people for use as day to day shooters.

P1s fill the gap for good quality shootable examples of a classic design.
The war time rebuilds will do the same but always remind me of assembled piece parts guns.
I love my P-38/P-1. I've always wanted to have a P-38 shooter and this one got me in the door. Wonderful pistol from a different era. Check to see if your frame has the steel "hex" reinforcement pin by the take-down lever. Mine does not, so I only shoot 115 grain standard 9 mm through it.
The P1 IS a P-38.

After the war, Walther changed the design to use an aluminum frame, and they made the aluminum P-38 up until the mid-1990's before it was discontinued.
The aluminum P-38 was sold to West German police and as a commercial gun all over the world, including in America.

When the new post-war West German military adopted the P-38 as their standard pistol they designated it as "Pistole One" or P1.
The P1 is nothing more then the post-war aluminum P-38 with military stamps in place of the commercial stamps.

The aluminum P-38/P1 does feel slightly different when shooting due to the lighter frame and different balance due to the lighter frame.

The steel bolt in the P-38/P1 frame was not to prevent cracking, it was to provide a steel wear surface for the locking block.
In high round count guns the Germans discovered that the aluminum frame would wear in the locking ramp area and the gun would start to have locking problems.
The steel bolt gave the frames locking ramp a steel surface that would last longer.
IMHO there's more than just the frame material that gives my P38 a different feel than the P1 it replaced. Even with the rebuild and mismatched locking block and the etched import marks knowing the heart of my gun is a 1942 Nazi P38 gives it MOJO.
To me it is well worth the $225 out of pocket for the deal.
I'm living my childhood dream with my P1 and a few modifications.
I have a P1, and have shot a P38. The difference is minor, just like was mentioned above, a bit lighter. I dont really notice much difference otherwise, other than I dont worry about shooting my P1. Its a very accurate pistol, IMO. One of my magazines is marked p38.
I have had both a wartime P-38 and currently have a postwar P-1 and the differences in terms of weight and handling is barely negligible. The P-1 is interesting in that it was made by Manurhin and used by the then West Berlin Police force.
P-1 is the post war German army name (early '60's on) for P-38.

There are no differences (other than finish and markings) between an aluminum P-38 and a P-1 of the same vintage.

Like :
M92fs = M9
P228 = M11
Government Model = M1911
And the early post war aluminum p-1s are marked p-38; at least mine is. I like it.
Can't really rag on them (since I've never had one) but I once heard a guy say that a P1 gave you "eight warning shots and one aimed throw".
They are a little jumpy, being muzzle light, but a consistent grip and good trigger let off will give accuracy equal to a "good " 1911, or average Browning Hi Power.
I have a P-1 as well and though my old, idjut, BIL harped about steel being better... I always loved the P-38 look and got a decent deal on a P-1. I view my example as the moderner version, that's all. I use, don't abuse, any of my arms.



  • UNCLE P-38.jpg
    UNCLE P-38.jpg
    22.8 KB · Views: 18
Note that the later P1's have a heavier slide, and reinforced frame (as noted above with the hex pin), so they are believe to be more durable than the WWII steel versions, that have had an alleged history of cracking their "lighter" slides with heavy use.
I can't remember exactly when I bought my P1 but it was some time before the Twin Towers fell in 2001.
I shot a couple hundred rounds a year through it for years, not so much now with ammo getting harder to find and expensive.
It is holding up just fine.
Add a set of wood grips and the weight difference is a non issue compared to a steel frame gun wearing the plastic service grips.
They make terrific shooters and fun range companions, regardless of whether yours says P1 or P38 on the slide. The fat-frame versions with the hex pin were reinforced for longer life; but so long as you don't try to run hot ammo through them, you can keep yourself occupied for hours at a time, punching paper. I've also heard the accuracy rap on the model, but mine are excellent and generally always hit what I'm aiming at.
Mine is accurate, too. It has what has to be a 13lb DA trigger pull, but the SA breaks pretty clean.
I've shot two P1s and currently own one. They are fantastic shooters IMO. It is the same as the P-38 for the reasons already listed. I certainly don't feel that mine isn't "authentic".
Years ago I had two different variants of the P-38 pistol; a P-38 II which featured the reinforced slide design and an alloy frame, and a P-4 which had the new slide as well as a shorter 4 1/2" barrel, the reinforced hex-nut alloy frame, an adjustable rear sight, and a decocking lever in place of the slide safety. The P-4 in particular made me think of it as being the most updated and product improved version of the P-38 to be produced.
The P-4 rear sight really wasn't adjustable. The screw was just to secure it to the slide.
Like all the P-38 series guns all adjustments were made by moving the front sight for windage, or replacing it with a different height for elevation.

The P-4 was developed to provide an upgraded pistol to the German police until a fully developed new design pistol was available.
Knowing that the new Walther P88 wasn't ready, and the German police were impatient for a more modern replacement, Walther did a fast redesign of the P-38 as a stalling tactic.
I know this is a losing battle, but the WWII gun is a P.38 (note the period, signifying the abbreviation for "Pistole" under the then-used nomenclature system). The pistol used by the West German army in the post-war period is the P1 (the period was not used in the post-war nomenclature system).

Walther designated the post-war commercial pistols as "P.38" because that designation was so well known. The "P1" pistols sold on the commercial market were either a production overrun on the military contract or sold later as surplus.

There are some significant differences between the wartime and postwar pistols, especially in the safety and firing pin which were revised to eliminate a weakness in the wartime pistols that could result in automatic fire. Some, but not all, parts in other areas will interchange to a degree but fitting may be required.

Not open for further replies.