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Old December 24, 2013, 08:55 PM   #1
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Walther P1 9mm (P38 style) anybody shoot one?

When I was a kid, I was always intrigued with the P38 for some reason. Now that I'm an old fart - that interest has seemed to rekindle although I probably would never spring for a true P38 due to the prices on them. I'm reloading 9mm now and I'm thinking about possibly getting a Walther P1 if I can run across one at a decent price. This won't be a "carry" or "SD" - just strictly a range plinker. - some paper punching and cans out to 25 yards.

Anybody shoot one of these? Any things to watch out for when buying one? Your thoughts on accuracy, etc.? I'd be using cast lead rounds.

I currently have a Ruger SR9 so have experience with that and several other 9mm. I'm using a 120 gr TC slug over 3.5 gr of BE in my reloads which seems to feed and function perfectly in the SR9. I'm thinking the P1 would be a fun plinker - just have no experience with them. Looking on GB - like many handguns - they seem to be priced all over the place. What would be a fair price on a good used one?

Your thoughts, advice please? Thanks!
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Old December 24, 2013, 11:44 PM   #2
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I had one years ago, (West German police turn-in), gave it to a friend for work done. Mine wasn't too accurate, loaded mostly 115 gr. jacketed, then. Barrel slugged at .358 which maybe explains the inaccuracy. Wasn't into cast for semiautos, at the time, in fact that P1 was the only one I had, but cast might work well sized a thou over bore if they chamber OK. Like a lot of European guns bores can run a little large. They eject to the left which is kinda cool if you're a southpaw (I am). Mine needed the bullets seated longish, as I recall, to feed consistently. They are fun to shoot, as you surmised and malfs are easy to clear. Best if you can see it in person, they come in all conditions. How much do you want to spend? I'd say 325 bucks or less if in really good condition. That's kinda the ballpark figure I was seeing a few months ago. (for me)
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Old December 25, 2013, 12:10 AM   #3
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I have one; haven't shot it a whole lot, other than enough to know that it shoots really low. It has a tall front sight, so I bought a considerably shorter one to switch out.
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Old December 25, 2013, 12:24 AM   #4
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It was the duty gun of the German army for many years so, you gotta figure it has something going for it.

They are nice guns and, at the price the surplus guns were going for, an outstanding value. I've heard not to try and hot rod them, stay with standard pressure loads. I don't think they will come apart or anything, but wear will be accelerated. Look for one with the hex bolt through the frame, later mod to save wear an tear on the aluminum frame.

I have one, bought it when they were dirt cheap, sadly, haven't shot it yet.
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Old December 25, 2013, 12:35 AM   #5
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I bought one about six or seven years ago when the surplus police trade ins were coming in to the country in large numbers. Being a Walther I thought I'd be getting a high quality piece. Mine was somewhat crude, not very accurate, just a total disappointment. I think the commercial guns are of much higher quality if you can find one, but they are probably very pricey.
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Old December 25, 2013, 12:44 AM   #6
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J&G Sales has WW II Nazi guns currently for 575.00 and change. Not a great price. But, not too bad.
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Old December 25, 2013, 01:12 AM   #7
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Ditto on the warning to check for the hex bolt modifications from the '70s.
The double action pull is very heavy.
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Old December 25, 2013, 06:52 AM   #8
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I had one years ago. I liked a lot about the gun, especially the grip configuration, the DA and SA trigger and the reliability. Mine appeared to be in very good condition, but the slide cracked in the locking block area after minimal use. I'd look real close at any P-1 I was considering, and would not use anything but standard spec. or lighter ammo in one. The P-4 version has beefed up slide sidewalls for a reason IMHO. Were I looking for a P-38 "type" pistol now days, I'd search a little harder and pay more for the later P-4 version...ymmv
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Old December 25, 2013, 08:22 AM   #9
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I got two of them from Gander Mountain back when they first started coming in. One with the cross bolt, one without. Both came with holsters and were around $270.

The earlier gun without the cross bolt came with a P38 marked slide and sights. The later gun has the larger replaceable front sight. Both had a nice dark parkerizing on the slides and looked to have been redone. Both frames where in good shape, but were somewhat dinged up and bare aluminium was showing through where they were. Easily touched up with a black paint pen.

I ended up getting rid of the earlier gun, but kept the one with the cross bolt for a shooter.

I had a WWII vintage P38 (BYF42 "Mauser") a number of years ago, and traded it off on something I just had to have at the moment, and its one I regret letting go. It was a good shooter and never had any issues while I had it. Both of the post war guns were good shooters, accurate, and had decent DA triggers. The upgraded, larger sights actually make them easier to shoot with.

I dont shoot the one I kept a whole lot, but it doesnt seem to have any problem gobbling up the fairly warm reloads I use in my Glocks, which is what I shoot out of it.

The holsters they came with were pretty much worn out. One was leather, and one was a "Flecktarn" nylon military flap holster. I ended up getting a nice repro WWII flap holster from Pacific Canvas and Leather.

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Old December 25, 2013, 09:12 AM   #10
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I have one that is German army surplus. The trigger pull was a bit creepy, so I did a trigger job on it myself. It shoots pretty good now. It is a marvellous design, way ahead of the time. But it has extractor on the left, so the empties ejects to the left. It's a bit quirky. I like it very much nonetheless.

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Old December 25, 2013, 09:28 AM   #11
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I have shot well over a hundred different P1s in the service and have found just a few that had poor accuracy. It is not the easiest pistol to shoot well and it needs a little getting used to.

For range use I would recommend a P1 with the updates of the hex bolt and beefed up slide. We used the same ammo in them that we used for the UZI.


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Old December 25, 2013, 10:55 AM   #12
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I bought one of the imported surplus guns from Sportsman's Warehouse a couple years back (with the hex pin mod). Not particularly accurate, but dead reliable with jacketed bullets. Not so much with lead bullets - lead bullets seemed to drag in the magazine somehow and hang up.

Here's a nickel's worth of free advice - even though the rear sight appears drift adjustable at first sight, IT ISN'T. After it cracks in half, a new sight is about $35.
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Old December 25, 2013, 11:37 AM   #13
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These guns may be more accurate than owners first realize, as a firm and consistent hold is required to stabilize the gun. I think it is more demanding due to the uber light muzzle; I don't know for sure. Here is my slightly modified P1. .............................. [IMG][/IMG]

Last edited by Sharpsdressed Man; December 25, 2013 at 04:05 PM.
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Old December 25, 2013, 12:29 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by bedbugbilly
Looking on GB - like many handguns - they seem to be priced all over the place. What would be a fair price on a good used one?
Before I begin, a disclaimer: I don't own a P.38/P1, nor have I fired one. However, the gun is on my To-Buy list, so I've done quite a bit of research.

BBB, since you don't explain how much (or little) you know about the P.38/P1 series, I'll explain a few basics which may help you understand the varying values.

There are essentially 3 generations of the P.38/P1:
  1. Prewar-WWII production, narrow slide, steel frame, P.38 or HP marked: These pistols are the heaviest and therefore most recoil-friendly, but are also generally the most collectible and therefore the priciest. In terms of value, by far the highest are commercial prewar or early WWII pistols marked with the Walther banner and/or HP model name. The wartime producers- listed in order of generally descending value- were Walther (480 or ac code), Mauser (byf or svw code), and Spreewerk (cyq or cvq code). Original-finish numbers-matching pistols are getting quite pricey, but there are many mismatched "gunsmith specials" and refinished Russian-capture pistols on the market; these are less expensive and potentially desirable as shooters, but may have problems (more below). A number of WWII-type P.38's were cobbled together by the French after the war using wartime parts; these can be differentiated by the markings, but are functionally equivalent to WWII German pistols.
  2. Postwar production, narrow slide, alloy frame without hex pin, P38 or P1 marked: The initial postwar production version after the WWII parts were used up. Early pistols marked P.38; later pistols (and the majority of production) marked P1. Many police and military surplus examples are on the market; these generally have matte parkerized finish and varying degrees of mismatched parts, and are currently an excellent value, as they are often in better functional condition than WWII gunsmith specials or Russian captures, since German police and Bundeswehr armorers generally knew what they were doing when these pistols were repaired. However, these pistols had problems with frame battering under the locking block, which prompted a redesign; if possible, inspect the inside of the frame before purchase.
  3. Postwar production, "fat" slide, alloy frame with hex pin, P38 or P1 marked: The slide was widened to mitigate cracking problems (more below), and a plainly-visible lateral hex-shaped reinforcing pin was added above the trigger guard, below the locking block area, to address the frame battering problem. All else being equal (which isn't always the case!), these pistols are generally considered to be more desirable than the earlier alloy-frame pistols, although the earlier guns arguably aren't bad; the hex pin pistols are just better. As with the earlier alloy-frame guns, military and police surplus hex pin P1's are an excellent value.
Originally Posted by Jbar4Ranch
Here's a nickel's worth of free advice - even though the rear sight appears drift adjustable at first sight, IT ISN'T. After it cracks in half, a new sight is about $35.
This is one of the important warning statements about these pistols. Windage is supposed to be adjusted at the FRONT sight; you can also purchase an offset rear sight if a stubborn windage problem can't be fixed within the front sight's adjustment range.

There are several other common documented issues and warnings.
  • These pistols can be assembled and fired without the locking block, but the slide will fly off the frame at high speed on firing, with potentially greivous or even fatal results for the shooter! Do NOT fire a P.38/P1 unless you are confident that the locking block is in place!
  • The decocker/safety system is rather complicated and prone to malfunctions with extended use. One of the documented problems is the pistol firing by itself when the hammer is dropped over a loaded round using the decocker/safety, so don't do this unless the pistol is pointed in a safe direction! Diagnosing and fixing decocker/safety problems is well beyond the scope of this thread; just be aware that you should check the system before purchase if possible. Also, the decocker/safety system has several parts that require precise hand fitment to function properly; many malfunctions have been caused by improper attempts to fix other problems with the system. There ARE gunsmiths who know how to fix these things, and it's recommended that you search for one of them if the pistol begins having problems, rather than attempting to fix it yourself and kludging it up.
  • The first two generations of pistols are prone to slide cracks, particularly around the front of the ejection port. This can be fixed with judicious welding, but should be checked before purchase.
  • As previously discussed, the earlier alloy frames are prone to battering under the locking block, particularly if lots of hot loads are fired. Field-strip and check before purchase if possible.
  • The slide top cover, located in front of the rear sight, is prone to becoming loose if it is removed too many times. It is a stamped-steel part that is interference-fit into the slide; removing it will gradually weaken the areas that touch the slide, making the cover progressively looser, and potentially allowing it to fly off on firing. The top cover retains the rear sight and a number of important small parts, so you DON'T want this to happen! The top cover design was changed on later P1's to make it less likely for a loose cover to be thrown clear on firing, but the redesign reportedly does NOT fix the problems completely. The bottom line: inspect the top cover for tightness before purchase, and DON'T remove it unless you need to access parts underneath it for repair; it should NOT be removed for routine cleaning. [Edit to add: It's reported that many gunsmiths in the 50's and 60's would add crosspins through the slide to retain the cover; if you find a pistol that's been so modified, now you know why.]
Good luck! BTW Merry Christmas, y'all.
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Last edited by carguychris; December 27, 2013 at 09:29 AM. Reason: Top cover changes...
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Old December 25, 2013, 09:57 PM   #15
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I'll add that the P-38 Commercial marked guns were made until 1995 before production finally ended, so not all later guns are all P1's.

Basically, the P1 was the P-38 made for the West German military who adopted it as the Pistole One, or P1.
The P-38 marked guns were made for German police and for commercial sales all over the world.
The two guns are essentially the same gun, similar to the commercial Colt Government Model and a Colt-made Model 1911 USGI issue gun.

Shoot 115 to 125 grain standard load ammo.
Using hot ammo, heavier bullets, or installing extra-power springs can crack or breaks slides and frames.
People figure they can shoot hotter ammo by installing stronger springs, not understanding that this makes the slide slam SHUT with much greater force.
I've seen P1 and P-38 pistols with cracks through the frame in the take-down lever hole from the slide slamming shut after extra-power springs were installed.

Again, to be clear, the P1/P-38 rear sight is NOT WINDAGE ADJUSTABLE.
I've seen guns seriously damaged after unknowing owners tried to beat the sight over.
All adjustments are made to the front sight. Higher or lower sights are available from Earl's Walther Repair.
Apparently there are rear sights that are or were available that have the notch shifted to one side or another to adjust for windage if the front sight isn't enough.

Note that the Walther has a "interesting" quirk: It ejects cases to the LEFT, not to the right.
Once in a while, just to keep your attention it'll throw one straight at your head.
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Old December 25, 2013, 10:32 PM   #16
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When the surplus P1's were around, I bought one for $239. A gun show dealer had a table full to choose from, and I picked out a fat slide hex bolt version. It looked like a brand new pistol, but did have some refurb stamps on the frame.
I found the one I owned to be incredibly accurate. The trigger was single action, it felt like a target trigger. Very short pull, crisp break, and no overtravel.
Once, I shot a very small group at 100yds with that P1. Using a 25yd bullseye, I put five rounds in the black, and the other three were just out of the black. This, using 115gn white box FMJ.
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Old December 25, 2013, 11:15 PM   #17
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Good guns. Get one, learn about them and to shoot one and enjoy.

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Old December 25, 2013, 11:28 PM   #18
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I too purchased mine when the surplus P1's started coming in several years back. They were cheap, $150. to $250 and I considered them a great value for a German gun. I wanted it because it was so different from what I own and I've found it to be an enjoyable and fun shooter. I liked the grip angle and the vintage look. Mine was in excellent condition and had an unusually deep black parkerized finish. Eezox made it even darker over the years. I don't shoot it much anymore because of other guns that I enjoy shooting, but when I did, it was fairly accurate enough and I've never had any issues with it. Every once in a while I'll bring it to the range just for the fun factor, sometimes it does get some looks and comments, mostly from the younger crowd that don't know what it is. Like others have stated, look for the hex bolt in the frame and shoot standard ammo, nothing hot and they will be fine.
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Old December 26, 2013, 12:20 AM   #19
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A minor point. The pre-WWII and wartime pistols were designated and marked "P.38" with the period. Postwar guns made for the commercial market were designated and marked "P38" without the period. P1 pistols were designated and marked "P1" without a period.

FWIW, possibly the most accurate CF pistol I ever fired was a mixmaster wartime P.38. I don't know how it happened but that gun had parts from at least 4 other pistols from all three makers and it shot one hole at 10 yards, right dead on the sights. Had it been mine, I would have kept it, even though collector value was negligible.

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Old December 26, 2013, 03:40 PM   #20
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Mine is an ex-army gun stamped 10/81 on the slide. If you know how to read the proofs and various stamps you can read the history of the gun almost like a book. Mine has been a very smooth shooter and 100% reliable. Accuracy is very good with whatever I have fed it. I acquired mine maybe six years ago for around $250. In retrospect I consider that to have been a steal.

Just as a note, my shooting buddy recently acquired a similar gun and complained to me that he found the recoil to be a bit punishing. I recommended that he change the two recoil spring, which he did. The gun now shoots smoothly.
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Old December 27, 2013, 09:21 AM   #21
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These guns may be more accurate than owners first realize, as a firm and consistent hold is required to stabilize the gun. I think it is more demanding due to the uber light muzzle; I don't know for sure. Here is my slightly modified P1.
Ahh, Sharpdressedman has the "Man from U.N.C.L.E." gun. Love it!
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Old December 27, 2013, 09:28 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by James K
The pre-WWII and wartime pistols were designated and marked "P.38" with the period. Postwar guns made for the commercial market were designated and marked "P38" without the period.
Good point. I've edited my earlier post.
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