Walther P 38

Walther P 38

Althogh the P 08 was excellent, it was expensive to produce, and thus the Walther P 38 was developed to replace it. When the Nazis took over in 1933, they embarked on a large program of military expansion in which there was no place for the expensive and old P 08. They wanted a pistol that was easy and quick to mass produce but still maintained the many design features like a hand-cocked trigger and better safety apparatus that were becoming commom. Walther finally got the contract in 1938 for the new pistol after a long development program.
In 1904, Walther Waffenfabrik manufactured its first automatic pistol design. It was succeeded by a series of designs that included the PP of 1929. The PP had many excellent features but it was a civilian police weapon and not a military service gun. Therefore Walther designed and produced a new pistol called the Armee Pistole (or AP) which had a 9mm (0.354 inch) caliber for the Parabellum cartridge but lacked the protruding hammer of the PP. The AP provided the basis for the next version, the Heeres Pistole (or HP). The HP looked very much like what was to become the P 38. Walther made a few changes after the German Army demanded them to enable mass and rapid production. The P 38 was then adopted by the German armed forces, but the HP was kept in production for commercial sales to individuals. However, Walther could never meet the trememdous demand and need for the P 38, and thus most of the HPs manufactured went to serve in the Wehrmacht.
The P 38 was tough, accurate and simple and still is a great service pistol. Mauser and Spreewerke also produced the P 38, but the Walther versions were invariably very well made with shiny black plastic handles and overall matt black plating. The gun could be dissembled easily and was loaded with safety measures like the hammer safety of the PP and the indicator pin for a loaded chamber. It was very much appreciated and just slightly less treasured as a war trophy than the P 08 Luger.
Production for the P 38 resumed in 1957 for the Bundeswehr as the Pistole 1 (or P1). It has a dural slide instead of the original steel part. It is still being produced and has been purchased by many countries.

Click on one of the thumbnails below to view the full picture.
Technical data and/or diagram of Walther P 38.
A picture of the Walther P 38 (picture courtesy of H. Jong).
A German soldier with his Walther P38.

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