Pistole Modell 38 (Walther)
Type: Self-loading pistol.
At the beginning of the 1930s, the company Carl Walther in Zella-Mehlis, which had been manufacturing a number of outstanding pocket pistols for many years, began to work on a military service weapon in the 9 mm Parabellum caliber. Completely abandoning the paths of their previous designs, they built a pistol with locked-breech, whereby the hammer had the capability of double-action trigger system. The pistol was derived from the previous police model Walther PP of 1929.
When the gun was loaded and cocked, actuating the safety lock lowered the hammer. To shoot, the safety lock had to be set to ‘fire’, the shooter operated the trigger to pull the hammer and then release it. During the shot the bolt was locked with a pendulum bolt, which was released after a short back movement of the barrel. After the first shot the hammer remained cocked and the firing took place in the usual single-action mode of automatic pistols.
The weapon became known under the name Model AP (army pistol) and only a very small quantity was produced. When it was offered to the German army, it was rejected because the hammer was not visible. Soldiers preferred to see the hammer as an externally visible sign of the readiness of their weapon.
Walther immediately reworked the weapon with an external hammer and while it was being considered for introduction into the German Army, it was sold commercially as the HP model (Heeres-Pistole = Army pistol) on the civilian market.
Since the German army, due to its strong expansion, was now seriously looking for a simpler replacement for its excellent but old service pistol Luger Pistol 08, the weapon was taken over by the Wehrmacht after some small changes for easier production. It changed its name again to Pistole 38, although the ‘HP’ could still be purchased on the private market until the summer of 1939.
The first one hundred units were delivered to the Wehrmacht in August 1939 and by the end of the year 1,470 guns had been taken over.
The P-38 was also adopted by the Swedish army in 1939 as its Model 39, although it is doubtful whether they received many before the outbreak of World War II.
During the war, the virtues of simple mass production of the pistol were pushed to the extreme when three factories were busy, as well as numerous subcontractors producing components assembled in the main factories.
This characteristic had led to its adoption into the Wehrmacht as a standard pistol, since the Walther pistol required less traditional working methods from pistol smiths than its predecessor Parabellum 08.
By 1945 about one million pieces had been built, of which Walther produced 580,000. From November 1942, the Mauser company also built the pistol, which delivered 360,000 units to the Wehrmacht and the police. Later the Spreewerke were added.
All built weapons were well-made, with shiny, black plastic handles and matte black plated coated. The gun could be easily disassembled and was very well-equipped with safety devices, including the fuse for the hammer, which was taken from the police pistol PP with its settings ‘Chamber’ and ‘Loaded’.
In combat, it also proved to be more reliable than the 08 pistol due to its combination of fuse and trigger. The gun could be carried cocked with a cartridge in the chamber and when the trigger was pushed through, the release was simultaneous and the shot could be fired.
Like the Luger P-08, the Walther P-38 was also widely used within the German army during the Second World War. Although there was American criticism, like ‘Wonders of Sheet Metal and Springs’, it was a remarkable rugged weapon. This was particularly evident on the Eastern front, where the freezing conditions had already taken many other proven weapons out of action.
It was also accurate and easy to use, features which were reflected in its popularity with the troops in the field and in its effectiveness. Therefore, the Walther P-38 was also a sought-after trophy with the allied troops.
With the end of the war the production of the weapon stopped of course, but it was resumed in 1957 by the new company Carl Walther in Ulm and was taken over by the German Bundeswehr as Pistole 1. The Walther pistol was still so modern that it was used by the German army as P-1 until 1998.
The weapon continues to be built and was introduced to numerous armed forces.
3D model pistol Walther P-38
Specifications Walther P-38
|Type||automatic self-loading pistol|
|Caliber||9 mm Parabellum|
|Weight||2.12lb (0.96 kg)|
|Barrel||4.88in (12.40 cm); 6 grooves, right hand twist|
|Feed system||8-round detachable box magazine|
|System of operation||Recoil; wedge lock; double action firing lock|
|Muzzle velocity||1,150 ft per second (350 m/sec)|
|Manufactures||Carl Walther Waffenfabrik (Zella-Mehlis), Spreewerke GmbH (Berlin), Mauserwerke AG (Oberndorf)|
|Service delivery||August 1939 (100 pieces)|
|Production figure||over 1 million (580,000 by Walther; 360,000 by Mauser), of which 1,470 by the end of 1939|
|Price per unit||unknown (less than 32 Reichsmark of Pistol 08)|
References and literature
The Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of World War II (Ian V.Hogg)
Infanterie im 2. Weltkrieg (J.B.King, John Batchelor)
Illustriertes Lexikon der Waffen im 1. und 2. Weltkrieg (V. Dolinek, V. Francev, J. Sach)
The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II (Chris Bishop)