View Single Post
Old December 25, 2013, 12:29 PM   #14
Senior Member
Join Date: October 20, 2007
Location: Richardson, TX
Posts: 7,267
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.
"Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules... MARK IT ZERO!!" - Walter Sobchak

Last edited by carguychris; December 27, 2013 at 09:29 AM. Reason: Top cover changes...
carguychris is offline  
Page generated in 0.04957 seconds with 7 queries