The Walther P38 was developed in Germany by Carl Walther as a service pistol to replace the Luger P08. Design of the P38 began in 1938 at the beginning of WW2 and production started in 1939. The Walther P38 in my possession is marked (AC)43, AC being Walther’s letter code and 43 the year it was made. Walther initially used a number code to mark their pistols, but later switched to a letter system. Today’s P38 is the P1 built with modern alloys and a lightweight design, but displaying the same engineering as the original P38.
The P38 pistol was a superior, well engineered weapon of its time. It paved the path for modern pistol designs of today and was the first pistol to implement a locked breech used with a double action trigger. A round can be loaded in the chamber safely by selecting the safe mode on the firearm with the decocker. When loading the firearm in this position, it allows the hammer to raise up without firing a round. Return the weapon to fire mode and you have a modern double action trigger with a long trigger pull. By depressing the trigger, the hammer will slowly come back and fire on its own. Fire a round and the pistol will automatically eject and reload for the second shot. Now the hammer is in cocked mode (down) with a single action type trigger, revealing a shorter trigger pull. Remember the hammer can be de-cocked for safe carry at any time with its safety, which in turn is its de-cocker.
A neat feature of the P38 is the load indicator, which sticks out on top of the hammer housing to indicate a loaded chamber. The barrel and slide recoil together for about 1 cm with the barrel then stopping, which disengages the slide then continues on the perfect horizontal movement of the frame, ejecting the spent case and cocking the hammer all in the same motion. This is a truly well engineered operating system. At this point, the two major springs on each side of the frame drive the slide forward stripping a new round from the magazine ready to be fired.
The P38s were reliable, easy to disassemble and provided a quick view of the main firearm mechanism for inspection. With the detachable clips and the clip ejector on the bottom of the grip, a solider could easily carry multiple mags for quick reloading.
In my opinion, this gun is a well balanced semi-automatic weapon maybe a little heavier than today’s firearms with their composite grip, but ergonomically not too bad. I feel the horizontal action allows for a lesser recoil feel and all around a really, neat gun. This pistol was my grandfather’s gun, which he obtained in Germany during WW2.
Number of shots: 8 round detachable single stacked clip
Barrel lengths: 125mm / 4.9”
Overall length: 216mm / 8.5”
Weight: 800g / 1 lb 12 oz
Features: Single action or double action firing options with external hammer, short recoil locking breech, perfect symmetric horizontal reloading, lanyard ring standard