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The Walther P88: Initial thoughts and observations

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Dragonfly, Jul 12, 2019.

  1. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    WarENdU.jpg

    I started shooting in the early 1980s and have fond memories of the classic pistols of that time. I've been lucky enough to assemble a pretty good collection of models I couldn't afford or find back then, and recently picked up one that just about makes my collection complete—a Walther P88 in 9mm. I must admit I was not that familiar with the pistol—I knew it was based on Walther's entry in the US's service pistol trials on the early 1980s, and I remember it generating a bit of attention when it was first released due to its reputation for both its high quality and high price—but the pistol never gained much popularity and was discontinued in 1996 with only about 10,000 being made. While this pistol doesn't have as unique design as say the H&K P7 or Steyr GB it does have a few interesting design features.

    Here it is compared to a full-size Glock 31C
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    The slide has nicely polished and blued sides with the rounded top semi-polished.
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    There's a shallow concave groove running the length of the slide top, too, which I've not seen before. The frame is anodized flat black aluminum, and heavier than I expected—the full pistol weighs 32 oz (895 g).
    Fw0qLiO.jpg

    The groove extends right out to the muzzle.
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    My pistol came with functional but plain black plastic grips, as well as the nice wood ones seen in the pictures.They're comfortably stippled and have a hand-pleasing palm swell. I generally don't care for thumb rest grips, but this one is pretty vestigial and fits my hands well. With these grips it's a very comfortable pistol to hold, and one of the best feeling ones in my hand. With either the wood or plastic grips it's still pretty thick, though, and the DA trigger reach is a bit of a stretch for me.
    X5TnHgB.jpg


    The controls are pretty unique—I had to download a manual to figure them out. The larger flat control above the grip performs two functions: if the slide is locked back, depressing the control once drops the slide, while a second press decocks the hammer. It's similar to the P9S all-in-one control, except the P9S's can also be used as a slide lock. On the P88, the slide lock is the smaller control to the left of the decocker—you push it rearward to lock the slide back. It's an odd arrangement I've not seen on any other pistol. The control on the left is the disassembly lever.

    The trigger is smooth and there's a trigger stop to minimize overtravel. In dry-firing, I've found the double action pull pretty heavy, with some serious stacking towards the end of the pull. The single action pull is pretty good, although a little on the heavy side and with just a bit of creep at the start of the pull. I still like it better than the trigger pulls on the P88 contemporaries Beretta 92F and SIG P226 (at least an original P226, recent ones like the Legion have much better triggers).
    XL1N3xL.jpg


    Similar to the Beretta 92, there's an external trigger bar. Mine is a bit bigger than on some earlier P88s. I've read that were a number of design changes were made during the pistol's relatively short manufacturing period. The decocker and mag release are mirrored on the pistol's right side, too.
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    The sights are typical three-dot versions, although the rear dots are noticeably smaller, which helps draw attention to the front sight.
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    The rear sight is unexpectedly adjustable for windage, too.
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    There's a lanyard loop that's pretty well-recessed to keep it out of the way.
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    Here's the pistol disassembled—it's a pretty standard Browning-style tilting barrel design.
    3yLRfVR.jpg


    My initial impressions are quite favourable—it feels great in the hand, and the "pretty good for a service pistol" trigger pull is OK. I'll post an update once I've had it out to the range—hopefully next week.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
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  2. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    Gotta admit, I thought they were hideous back in the day, but the design has aged well. Nice gun!
     
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  3. shoobe01

    shoobe01 Member

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    Handled a few back when they were still made. One of those I always loved, but their prices (like P7, etc etc) have risen faster than my salary, so I never got one.

    The couple I was allowed to click were VERY smooth. Really good trigger, even in DA mode. Wonder if yours will smooth up.
     
  4. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    This P5 is a 1970's pistol. It uses the dropping lock block of the P38.

    Jj9WXfy.jpg

    It was not a success, it is big, single stack 9mm in an era when double stack 9mm pistols were coming on the market. Your pistol has a double stack magazine. The locking system must have been expensive to make as your pistol is a later development and uses the Browning tilting barrel.

    There are comments on the web about the M88 being big and bulky. Knowing Walther prices, it was probably expensive at the time. If Walther was unable to have Government sales, they may not have been able to compete with other less costly brands.
     
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  5. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    P88 is kind of broad, due to the quadruple controls. The "waist" of the grips does not entirely make up for it.
    One gunzine writer repeatedly praised its accuracy, saying it was due to the barrel locking up at the top of the breech and the bottom of the slide nose.

    I liked the P88C with regular Walter slide safety. But few got in with full capacity magazines before AWB, so I bought a CZ75 while clips were still available.

    The earlier P5 did not sell to nearly as many German police departments as the P6. Its main customer was Dutch police. I don't know about its sales vs P7.
     
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  6. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

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    That is a beautiful gun and a great write up. Thanks for sharing that.
     
  7. tarosean

    tarosean Member

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    Nice score. Congrats
     
  8. usp9

    usp9 Member

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    Thanks. Great post. Nice gun. I learned a few things. Enjoy your new P88.
     
  9. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    I’m hoping it will—it’s hardly seen any use. It’s still pretty good as-is.
     
  10. czhen

    czhen Member

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    Dragonfly,
    Your Walther P88 is just beautiful along with the Sig 210 they are in my opinion the most outstanding pistols post war era.
     
  11. bc1023

    bc1023 Member

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    The P88 and P5 Series are my favorite Walthers of all time.

    The P88 Compact is a fine pistol, as is the SAO P88 Competition shown below.


    7vIkuM.jpg

    V19MFA.jpg
     
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  12. bc1023

    bc1023 Member

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    As nice as the Walther P88 is, I would not put it in the same class as a Swiss Sig P210.

    The P210 is one of the finest pistols ever built, in my opinion.


    ukLUcU.jpg
     
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  13. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    Wow! That’s a great collection. I had a chance to pick up nice P5 not that long ago but the seller dropped and damaged it before shipping...at least he let me back out of the deal. I was pretty disappointed since I really was looking forward to the pistol.

    It looks like both of your P88s have dovetailed front sights—I’m guessing that’s because of the model changes I’d heard about during the P88’s production life.

    I don’t know why but the P210 series of pistols doesn’t really appeal to me...it’s weird because I know that they are absolutely top-tier pistols but I can’t generate much interest in them. Maybe I should try one to see what they’re all about.
     
  14. 5-SHOTS

    5-SHOTS Member

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    Nice nice pistol, I'd love to have one myself. Pretty hard pistol to find. I think Bersa produced something similar in shape (Bersa Thunder 9, maybe) but without the same safety setup.
     
  15. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    Dragonfly

    As always a great job with your photo essay of the Walther P88!

    Thanks for sharing!
     
  16. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    bc1023

    Love your Walther collection, especially the P88 Competition!
     
  17. czhen

    czhen Member

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    I found myself watching the milling machine marks on the slide (running like veins), and staring at the pics of the threat.
    Suddenly questioning myself for buying polymer.
     
  18. bc1023

    bc1023 Member

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    Thanks. Yes, you definitely need a P5. While I prefer the P88 overall, the P5 definitely feels more like a true Walther, with its falling block design.

    As for my P88's, they are both first year guns from 1988, so they have the first generation of sights. The slides are shaped a bit differently also, as they are rounded on top like a 1911. Yours is from 1990.

    Here are some pics...


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    SenYtn.jpg

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    H6eArT.jpg

    gyLU5y.jpg
     
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  19. czhen

    czhen Member

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    Thank you, both.
    Great threat
     
  20. bc1023

    bc1023 Member

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    Well between this thread and many of your others, you obviously have a taste for the fine.

    You won't find a finer handgun than a Sig P210 built between about 1965 and 1982. I say that being fortunate enough to own examples of all the finest handguns from around the world. You owe yourself to buy one. Go for a -6 or -5 for the full experience.

    Here's a -6 kit from 1967, complete with the matching 30 Luger barrel and entire rimfire upper assembly.


    MjPvQM.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
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  21. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    I'm thinking it'd be one of those "why did I wait so long to try one" things! I should start saving my pennies (well, if we still had pennies here) since in Canada P210s go for more than twice (and up!) what I paid for the P88.
     
  22. golden

    golden Member

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    Back in the 1990's, one of my fellow officers bought a P88. He was left handed and bought it as a replacement for his SIG 226, which he liked, but had trouble, as the SIG was not ambidextrous, like the WALTHER. It was a very nicely made gun, but when WALTHER brought out the P88 Compact, the went with a conventional, slide mounted decocker. The cost was really too high to be competitive and the gun was too large for some departments. The GERMANS had a competition with WALTHER submitting the P5, H&K the P7 and SIG the 225. All of these guns were more compact than the P88 and at least in the SIG, probably cheaper and just as effective.

    WALTHER learned their lesson, the next police pistol was the superb P99.

    Jim
     
  23. Snowdog

    Snowdog Member

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    Ditto!

    I would love a Walther P88... but for now I have to settle for the P88-inspired Bersa Thunder Pro 9mm. Those pictures are very much appreciated!
     
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  24. bc1023

    bc1023 Member

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    They learned their lesson on how to be more profitable by selling plastic pistols to the masses. However, the P99 is more of an afterthought today compared to the P88, which remains a very well made handgun that continues to rise in value.

    Not much of a comparison at all.
     
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  25. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    I had a chance to take the P88 out this evening—other than the flies it was a very pleasant evening with the temperature a very nice 24°C (75°F). I used Sellier and Bellot 115 grain ammunition for all testing—I've had very good luck with S&B ammunition, and I didn't want to shoot anything too hot through the pistol.

    I expected to like this pistol, but I was really surprised at how well the pistol shot. I haven't fired a handgun since December 31 so I am definitely out of practice, but the P88 shot really well. I started out at 15m with a half dozen rounds at a leisurely pace to get a feel for the pistol—here's the result..not too bad!:
    m5RnKRX.jpg

    I tried another size, paying more attention to grip and sights....getting better!
    vckMdXC.jpg

    I moved up to 10m to try eight rounds at a bit faster pace...I was shooting a but left but not bad.
    5UpaFSA.jpg

    After a bit more shooting I moved back to 25m—that's about as far as I can shoot well standing, especially with my post-cataract artificial lenses. The crispness of the trigger pull, although a little heavy, as well as the nice clear sights, contributed to this pretty good result (I wasn't going to tempt fate with more than five rounds!

    a2fA89A.jpg


    Even though this was my first time out with the pistol I was surprised how well it shot—I've owned a lot of pistols and this might be the most accurate 9mm I've ever owned (the H&K USP Expert 9mm was my previous best). The recoil was very pleasant (the broad grip helps spread out the rearward push) and the nice crisp single action trigger pull makes shooting well easy.

    I really like this pistol!

    Here's a video of the evening's shooting.


    Here's a quick video showing the DA and SA trigger pulls, too.
     
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