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Thread: RFI: Walther P38 AC41

  1. #1
    Wag more, Bark less RJ's Avatar
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    RFI: Walther P38 AC41

    I have temporary custody of this WWII pickup Walther P38. I’ll post better pictures soon:

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    It has been in continuous ownership since it arrived in the US, as far as I know.

    Based on some preliminary research, I believe it is a ‘41, ac build (Walther Factory) with matching numbers. There are other markings but I haven’t examined it carefully. The accompanying steel magazine does not match. The leather holster appears issue, but is marked ‘P08’, which I am guessing might not have been unusual during wartime.

    It was reported that the gun shot fine, but hasn’t been fired for many years.

    The action is relatively smooth; the wear on the finish may be dirt / corrosion as I’ve not looked closely yet. The safety / decocker seems to work. The extractor is present as is the ejector and I can see the firing pin. The DA press is very stout, definitely way above my LCR. The barrel is pretty clean, the chamber free of obvious dirt or grime. I have not dry fired it.

    The owner asked me to get some more information, and perhaps clean it up a bit. I thought I would ask here first if there were any knowledgeable Walther smiths on p-f, or someone could point me to one, ideally in Florida?


    Are there any obvious things to check on a gun this old?

    The grips appear to be bakelite; are these stable under recoil after this many years?

    Does the mag disassemble like a modern mag, I.e. depress the catch, slide baseplate off, remove spring and follower?

    Would there be any problems in using a modern CLP (Slip 2000 EWL), or should I just stick with Ballistol?

    What ammo would you suggest? (The owner is ok shooting it if it checks out)


    It’s quite an interesting piece of history. It almost seems like it operates like how I remember an HK USP operates, with the DA/SA and safety/decocker. I can’t verify the loaded chamber indicator works, but I like the concept. I’ll post more info and pictures, and maybe a few more questions, soon. Meanwhile, appreciate any tips or info anyone has. I should be able to keep it for a few weeks at least before returning it.
    Last edited by RJ; 03-28-2021 at 08:04 PM.
    "Don't f*** with it" seems to prevent the vast majority of reported issues." --BehindBlueI's

  2. #2
    Lowly Production C-Class olstyn's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing a picture. The P1/P38 is a neat piece of history as one of the early DA/SA designs. A lot of the guns that followed pulled a lot of mechanical design cues from it.

    Wish I had more knowledge to offer, but I don't. I will say that the folks over at http://waltherforums.com are usually pretty helpful.

  3. #3
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    That’s a cool blaster, but why do you need a gunsmith? If it passes a basic function check I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot it some. Those were well made guns.
    "I don't know if it is a placebo effect or not, but I have a growing feeling of well being that comes directly from my instinctual survival drive deep in my belly center”

  4. #4
    Brass Rat Borderland's Avatar
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    I had a P-38 for awhile. Accuracy wasn't it's strong suit. Nice piece of military history tho. I would shoot it with ball if you clean it up and it feeds/ejects unfired rounds properly.

    Don't expect any modern HK or Walther performance when you shoot it though.
    In the P-F basket of deplorables.

  5. #5
    Member gato naranja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RJ View Post
    I have temporary custody of this WWII pickup Walther P38.

    It has been in continuous ownership since it arrived in the US, as far as I know.

    Based on some preliminary research, I believe it is a ‘41, ac build (Walther Factory) with matching numbers. There are other markings but I haven’t examined it carefully. The accompanying steel magazine does not match. The leather holster appears issue, but is marked ‘P08’, which I am guessing might not have been unusual during wartime.

    It was reported that the gun shot fine, but hasn’t been fired for many years.

    The action is relatively smooth; the wear on the finish may be dirt / corrosion as I’ve not looked closely yet. The safety / decocker seems to work. The extractor is present as is the ejector and I can see the firing pin. The DA press is very stout, definitely way above my LCR. The barrel is pretty clean, the chamber free of obvious dirt or grime. I have not dry fired it.

    The owner asked me to get some more information, and perhaps clean it up a bit. I thought I would ask here first if there were any knowledgeable Walther smiths on p-f, or someone could point me to one, ideally in Florida?


    Are there any obvious things to check on a gun this old?

    The grips appear to be bakelite; are these stable under recoil after this many years?

    Does the mag disassemble like a modern mag, I.e. depress the catch, slide baseplate off, remove spring and follower?

    Would there be any problems in using a modern CLP (Slip 2000 EWL), or should I just stick with Ballistol?

    What ammo would you suggest? (The owner is ok shooting it if it checks out)


    It’s quite an interesting piece of history. It almost seems like it operates like how I remember an HK USP operates, with the DA/SA and safety/decocker. I can’t verify the loaded chamber indicator works, but I like the concept. I’ll post more info and pictures, and maybe a few more questions, soon. Meanwhile, appreciate any tips or info anyone has. I should be able to keep it for a few weeks at least before returning it.
    The P-38 makes a dandy souvenir, and yes, that one is a 1941 Walther specimen. It'll have the codes and numbers and "waffenamt" stamps like any other Third Reich firearm. They were a decent enough military pistol in their day, and they made the P-08 it replaced look like the Great War fossil it had become. The one real achilles' heel they have is the safety- it is not unheard of for the safety to break when the hammer drops on it, and the design will allow the primer to be hit. When I was a wide-eyed, gun-nut kid, I was advised to decock P-38s manually.

    All the ones I have fired have had only marginal accuracy, and maybe part of that is due to the grips being oddly ill-shaped for my hand. The grips' material is pretty decent, and not some cheap emergency wartime plastic formulation; they are not particularly prone to chipping or breakage compared to "bakelite" grips on, say, a Pistole Modell 27 (CZ27).

    In my experience, the P-38 handles about any 9mm ball without too much fuss, and as far as mismatched magazines go, they don't seem to be fussy about magazine variations (unlike the P-08). Magazine disassembly is as you indicate.

    I would use Slip 2000 because it is (IMO) a better lube than Ballistol, despite the cachet Ballistol has with some connoiseurs of bring-backs.

    About that holster: a holster stamped P-08 is for a P-08 (or as people still tend to call them, "Lugers"). While the P-38 will fit in a P-08 holster, the P-38 was issued with holsters specifically designed for it, and they are easily visually distinguished from one another. My favorite uncle was frequently involved with the movement of German POWs to the rear, and he had some stories about the piles of weapons that resulted when larger German contingents arranged for surrender and tossed their small arms on the ground. The pistols sometimes came out of the holsters and were piled separately, and then the world's greatest souvenir collectors (American GIs) might stick the wrong pistol in the wrong holster. Different military formations and different situations caused surrendered or captured weapons to be treated in a variety of ways.

    When things were hot, some of those ways involved making sure the long guns never worked again, but as a general rule pistols fared a bit better.
    gn

    (un VIEJO gato naranja... and still skeptical about humans)

  6. #6
    Member gato naranja's Avatar
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    Duplicate, deleted.
    gn

    (un VIEJO gato naranja... and still skeptical about humans)

  7. #7
    Wag more, Bark less RJ's Avatar
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    Got it apart this afternoon. Generally I tried to be respectful to such an older firearm, using only gentle swabbing with Slip 2000 EWL as a cleaner and nothing else. I did not want to remove any "beauty marks". Literally every part seems to have a stamp of some kind; maybe these were inspector numbers but Herr 359 was very busy; Herr 459 less so. There are three S/N parts that match; the frame, barrel and slide. The locking block appears original to the gun; it is stamped with the last three of the S/N (?).

    The clockwork is pretty interesting. I like how the heel mag release spring tension is provided by the main hammer spring, just at the other end. Clever.

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    Under light, and after cleaning, the grips appear to be brownish in color and exhibit a wood-like appearance with random graining. If these are not wood, but some kind of resin, it's made to "look" like wood. I have no idea, really. They feel pretty plastic-y.

    I spent a good amount of time on the magazine. It's amazing to me how similar it is to a Glock; albeit the follower is stamped steel, not polymer. But the spring winding is almost identical, and the basepad floorplate retainer and lug is very similar. Actually now I think about it, it is very close to a HK mag design with a simple cam that holds the floor plate on which holds the spring tension.

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    The mag has a different S/N to the gun, but each part is stamped similarly.

    Getting the slide off and back on required some jiggery-pokery of the controls. I have no manual of arms for this gun at the moment, so I looked at the parts, and gently coaxed it off and then back on, doing what made sense, slowly and carefully. A lot of the parts I looked at seem to have very minimal wear, like they weren't used a lot. I stopped at a simple field strip. I did not want to start disassemble it into components, as I don't have the skills or the tools, and it's not clear to me the pistol needs it.

    The locking block mechanism in the barrel / slide is really neat. I'm reading online it's virtually the same as a Beretta 92, but I am no expert, for sure. Same for the dual recoil springs; I've never so much as seen a gun with two recoil springs.

    I elected to try and feed some Tipton snap caps in the 8 round (?) magazine. They chambered fine. I exercised the safety / decocker and the controls are smooth and operate firmly. The snap caps chambered with no issues, and ejected out of the slide with enthusiasm when racked by hand. I've revised my estimate of the DA press, it must be 25 lbs Well that, or it feels like it hah. I don't have a pull gauge that will measure it. But dang it is heavy.


    Overall it seems to be a nice original Walther P38. There is some pitting and foxing on the slide, which detracts somewhat to the appearance.

    I am just so impressed at how a gun designed in 1938 appears so...I don't know, maybe "modern" is the word? And of course, as a firearm with a personal history, it has great meaning to the owner. I am very glad to have had the opportunity to examine it.

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    "Don't f*** with it" seems to prevent the vast majority of reported issues." --BehindBlueI's

  8. #8
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    Adding to Gato Naranja's post:

    Walther P38's eject to the LEFT, which is different.

    P-38's can be quirky about unloading. Normally, to unload an automatic pistol, remove the magazine, then pull the slide to the rear, to extract and eject a cartridge from the chamber. HOWEVER...
    The Walther P38 ejector is held up into position to contact an extracted cartridge or brass by the magazine.
    When the magazine is removed, the ejector can pivot downwards into the magazine well.

    This can result in a problem during unloading. Sometimes the cartridge stays on the extractor.

    Quoting from Major George C. Nonte's book, "The Walther P-38 Pistol" (Desert Publications, 1975, long out of print), page 33.

    "NOTE: the ejector is held in the upright position by the inserted magazine-when the magazine is not present, especially in a well worn specimen, the round will merely be held by the extractor and be rechambered when the slide goes forward"

    So, visual inspection to ensure that the cartridge comes out of the pistol is very important with a P38. IF the cartridge is held onto the breech face by the extractor during unloading, with my 1980's vintage Interarms commercial model Walther P38, holding the slide to the rear and shaking the pistol causes the cartridge to slip off of the extractor hook, and fall out through the magazine well. (this doesn't happen too often to me, but sample of one and all that)

    Wolff, www.gunsprings.com had recoil springs, magazine springs, and others (at least earlier this year)
    Numrich Gun Parts Corporation, www.GunPartsCorp.com had most of the parts for repairs (again, earlier this year)

  9. #9
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    Sweet, glad to see you didn’t go paying somebody to do that. Hopefully the owner will let you shoot it some before you give it back.


    Here’s a quick video that will give you an idea of what all the guts look like.

    "I don't know if it is a placebo effect or not, but I have a growing feeling of well being that comes directly from my instinctual survival drive deep in my belly center”

  10. #10
    Member gato naranja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RJ View Post
    Under light, and after cleaning, the grips appear to be brownish in color and exhibit a wood-like appearance with random graining. If these are not wood, but some kind of resin, it's made to "look" like wood. I have no idea, really. They feel pretty plastic-y.
    Technically, I mis-spoke earlier, as the grips are a variant of molded bakelite, but quite good stuff compared to the sorry junk encountered in a lot of wartime bakelite items. I apologize for that. IIRC, some of the late-war Spreewerk guns grips in particular are a little less impressive, but by the time 1945 rolled around, raw materials were getting tight.

    (That being said, I once had a custody of a 1944 Mauser Werke (byf) P-38 that was in excellent condition with a nice, crisp bore, and it was a joy to behold except for an odd plum cast to the bluing on the frame. It could also just about hit an elephant at 50 feet in the hands of a good shot... okay maybe elephant is an exaggeration. A bit.)

    Field stripping a P-38 is no big deal, but detail stripping can be interesting. There are a fair number of parts in one of these things, and the Austrian Army must have nearly swooned with joy when the Glock showed up.


    Gratuitous plug alert: I really can't say enough good things about Roy Dunlap's book "Ordnance Went Up Front" for an interesting and enjoyable read about many WWII small arms, the P-38 included. If a person is interested in the subject at all, it is well worth reading.
    gn

    (un VIEJO gato naranja... and still skeptical about humans)

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