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Walther P 38's for practical use

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Jim NE, May 18, 2011.

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  1. Jim NE

    Jim NE Member

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    Hi,
    I've been toying with the idea of getting an additional 9mm. I've seen some P 38's online that are described in excellent condition, but I'm not sure what "excellent" means when you're talking about 60 year old guns.

    I've always wanted a P 38. The "cool" factor on p 38's is about as high as it gets, IMHO, but what I really NEED is a gun that will be solidly reliable and reasonably accurate, not a momento. Obviously, I know that gun design has come a long way in the last half century. Still, if one of these guns could be counted on to not jam and to hit it's target, I would love to have it over a new gun. Good idea or bad idea? P 1's look like they might be a good alternative.

    Are there people out there who carry P 38's? Use them for home defense? Opinions welcome.
     
  2. NG VI

    NG VI Member

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    I wouldn't use one for either, mainly because literally anything a few decades more current will be a better weapon for carry or home defense.

    For fun, I have no experience but would definitely be down to pick one up. It's just a primitive Beretta 92, so if you want a P38 that's slightly more modern, and definitely more suited for combat, try any of the pistols on that platform.
     
  3. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    I shoot my AC41 P-38 pretty regularly and it is accurate and reliable (and fun!). However the double action trigger is VERY heavy compared to more modern designs. For that reason alone I wouldn't use it for carry/defense.

    [​IMG]

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJU90KTrKCI
     
  4. legion3

    legion3 Member

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    The closest I have come is the Walther P4. I carried one for a while back in the 90's. It was kind of cool and stylish but like some other guns I have had, the HKP7 and Walther P5 Compact, 8 shots of 9mm just seemed to old school when a Glock 19 was lighter and carried way more.

    The P4 is an updated version of the P38/P1.

    It has a decocker only and a shorter barrel, it was built at the same time as the Walther P38K the real short barreled gun, for the West German police after the olympic hostage debacle of 1972.

    Although it wasn't adopted several were purchased and used as a stop gap firearm.

    Ultimately this led to the adoption of the Sig P6, HK P7 and Walther P5 as the 3 "offical"police guns of West Germany.

    The P1/P38's now retired from German probably would give OK duty still but many had feeding issues on hollow points.

    A ww2 P38 I would not carry for SD
     
  5. Jim NE

    Jim NE Member

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    Thanks for the great input everyone. I think I'm starting to get a clear idea - good guns, just way behind where things are nowadays....kinda as I expected.

    I may still end up getting one, just for fun (the opposite of what I originally intended to do.). Theres a late 70's P-1 I've found, not so much for defense, just for fun. Hey, everybody's got to have fun now and then, right?


    BTW, that gun of yours is VERY pretty, 1KPerDay.
     
  6. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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  7. Fishbed77

    Fishbed77 Member

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    Have you considered a Walther P5? It's not a P38/P1, but it was developed from those models, and shares some features. I haven't presonally ever handled one, but there are number of folks over on the Walther forum that swear by them and carry them.
     
  8. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer member

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    Get a Hi Power. Same era, same cool factor, better trigger, better ergonomics and much higher capacity.
     
  9. il_10

    il_10 Member

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    I had one briefly. Never shot it because it was an unfired collectible, but it was heavy, unwieldly, the double action trigger pull was terrible, everything about it was sharp enough to cut you... I wasn't a fan. I wouldn't be opposed to owning one as a fun gun or plinker, but with the limited capacity, and high price compared to the features, I'm happy to say I traded mine for a Russian SVT-40 and haven't looked back. There are refinished and shooter p08 lugers out there that will serve well as fun guns for about the same price as the war-time p38s. I wouldn't dream of trading out my luger.
     
  10. xr1200

    xr1200 Member

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    Great gun for 9mm, it hits POA and are very well made, The alloy frame surplus ones are best and are more accurate than the ww2 german steel frame guns.

    I had a 1941 steel frame nazi model that was in 95% condition it shot a 5 inch group at 20 yrds., while the alloy frame model shot 3 inch groups at 20 yrds.
     
  11. bestseller92

    bestseller92 Member

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    For those who say the P38 is too old a design to be used for any serious purpose today, what about the even older 1911? :)

    My only experience with the P38 was with one my brother had in the mid 1980s. The DA trigger pull sucked donkey butt, but overall it was a pretty nice, reliable gun.
     
  12. HOWARD J

    HOWARD J Member

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    Years ago I took mine to the police station to register it so I could safely
    take it to the gun range. The guy at the Records Area did not want to register it because it only said P-38 but it did have a serial number.
    I informed him that the Krauts did not want him to know where it was made--so no Mfr's name or city, etc.
    After the usual BS discuss--they finally registered it.
    Typical goverment people..................:banghead:
    It's so much nicer today---No permit needed with a CCW--Buy the gun & mail the paperwork to the police station.--NICE

    PS: Nice to show it to folks---that's as far as I go with it.
     
  13. gopguy

    gopguy Member

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    Actually a lot of the Walther P1 pistols you are seeing for sale, via AIM and such are fairly new. The bulk of what is available as of late are the post 1975 production guns with reinforced frames and heavier slides. The Germans made and used those guns up to the mid 1980s.

    As far as practical use, they are not bad. With narrow grips, a mag heel release and chamber loaded indicator, they do not make bad house guns for novices who want a more elementary and forgiving semi auto pistol. However they were designed for use with ball (FMJ) ammo and most of the post war pistols will not function reliably with hollow points. Mine seem to love Winchester White box 115 grain 9mm ammo.

    With the spare magazine and holster they make a good buy at the prices they are offered at as well as owning a piece of cold war history. I own several and really like them.
     
  14. Fishbed77

    Fishbed77 Member

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    EDIT - Sorry - double-posted when I tried to edit.
     
  15. PRM

    PRM Member

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    P38/p1

    I currently own a Walther P1 that is one of the most accurate and dependable guns that I have. Compared to more modern designs, you get a 9 shot capability (8+1) VS 13 - 15 rounds. I personally find the single stack P1 more comfortable over the thicker double stack modern guns.

    The P38/P1 is a battle/time tested firearm. It remained in service with the German military from the late 1930s through the late 1990s. It did what it was designed to do then and is still capable of functioning as a defensive and sporting arm.

    The price on these guns make them very reasonable. I had Allen's make a custom high rise holster for mine and have found it no more of a problem for CC than any other full size semi auto.

    The P38/P1 was designed around the 124 grain FMJ standard velocity bullets. A lot of shooters have had good results with the 115 grain FMJ WWB ammo. Stay within the design limits of the gun and you will rarely see a problem. It is not recommended to shoot heavier weight bullets or +P rounds in these guns.

    Walther put two upgrades on their guns as they continued production.

    Hex Bolt. This feature was added to give the locking block a hard surface to ride on and greatly extends the frame life. The Hex Bolt was not added as some have posted to prevent cracked frames, but rather to reduce wear. Although not necessarily a deal breaker, this is a nice upgrade to have hand picked. Stay away from heavy after market spring kits as they really beat the frame.

    Fat Slide. Walther did have some very limited problems with some of the war time models experiencing cracked slides. This was mostly due to late war QC practices. There were some incidents of this in post war models, but again rare. Walther did increase the thickness of their slides in later models. Another nice upgrade if one is being hand picked, but again not a deal breaker ~ there are thousands out there without it that have had no issues. Just stay within the design limits of the gun as far as ammo. The fat slide is easily recognizable with the longer battery of serrations that extend forward of the safety/decock.

    If you do get one, remember any sight adjustment is with the front sight. Move the rear and you will damage the cover on top of the slide which is a pressed fit ~ Not good.

    Here is a couple of neat web sites to read up on them:

    http://www.waltherforums.com/forum/

    http://forums.p38forum.com/forums/

    Pic 1 is my P1 with the Hex Bolt and fat Slide
    Pic 2 is the Allen's custom holster
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2011
  16. SharpsDressedMan

    SharpsDressedMan member

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    I want one of these! [​IMG][/IMG]
     
  17. goon

    goon Member

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    Like any other handgun - buy it. Try before you buy if possible.
    If it's reliable and you shoot it well, use it for defense.
    What's the problem?
     
  18. NG VI

    NG VI Member

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    Sharps what the crap is that?
     
  19. Jim NE

    Jim NE Member

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    Goon, the opinions on this site are free of charge. I'd be silly not to solicit them before spending hundreds of dollars on a firearm. Now I've heard from half a dozen people who actually own one of these guns, which is a half dozen more than I'd heard from before I started this thread.

    And yes, my decision to use it or not use it for defense will be based on the gun's performance.
     
  20. SharpsDressedMan

    SharpsDressedMan member

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    I may be giving away my age, but that is a pic of the original "Man from U.N.C.L.E." gun from the 60's show. They used original P-38's, cut the barrel and installed a custom flash hider, and the grips were milled, solid aluminum that had a bracket built in to take a scope mount and slotted for a shoulder stock. The pistol could be built into a carbine, with stock, scope, and sectioned barrel with a two stage silencer. [​IMG][/IMG]
     
  21. 451 Detonics

    451 Detonics Member

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    The P-39Ks were fun guns and carried well. I had about 1/2 dozen made from imports when I owned my shop. Basically just shortened the barrel and dovetailed a sight into the front of the frame.

    [​IMG]
     
  22. PabloJ

    PabloJ Member

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    While there is nothing wrong with antiquated P-38 or alloy framed P1 if you like this type of gun I would buy surplus Beretta 92 instead. I have seen some as low as $300.
     
  23. SharpsDressedMan

    SharpsDressedMan member

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    FWIW, I had a recent import P1, with the reinforced frame, made in the 1980's, and it fed anything I put in it, including some newer Win and Rem HP's, like SXT and Golden Saber. I'm not saying all will do it, but mine was fine.
     
  24. mgmorden

    mgmorden Member

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    It's been pretty thoroughly covered at this point, but my $0.02:

    The design is a bit dated. The newer P1 models were made far more recently, but in reality the DESIGN goes back to 1938 - even if the pistol itself doesn't. Things have changed a bit since then. The DA trigger pulls have improved - double-stack magazines have become common. The heel mag release has been mostly abandoned. The half-unshrouded barre . . . well it doesn't affect anything but it's certainly indicative of the age :).

    Like most older styled semi-autos my take on it is this: if you happen to have found yourself with such a gun - ie, inherited it, someone gave it to you, etc - it will probably make due just fine. People haven't gotten tougher since these things were issued, and the P-38 design certainly has enough modern features that it's not as if you're packing a muzzleloader or anything.

    That said, if you're specifically looking for a defensive gun to purchase, there are better options on the market. Pickup any one of the numerous modern polymer framed "wonder-nines". They're not as classy nor will they have the conversation appeal at the range, but just to protect yourself with, they'll do it better.
     
  25. goon

    goon Member

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    Jim NE - no offense intended. My contention was just that in spite of their age, I'd use one if it was reliable. But the only way to really know if your specific example is going to be reliable is to shoot it - which usually comes only after you buy it. Unfortunately, I've learned about this reliability test the expensive way a few times (even on guns that should have worked right out of the box).
     
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