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Old May 1, 2019, 12:40 AM   #1
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P-38 Malfunctioning: Flames in the Wrong Direction

Hello everyone,

I was out with a friend the other day and let him shoot my P-38. I was spectating from about 7 o-clock when I noticed a lot of activity when the round was ejecting. There was some sort of explosion or flame within the chamber. It seemed as though the explosion was touching the next round in the magazine. Later that night I was inspecting the slide and noticed a crack. It's in the common area as it isn't forged. However, I also heard these guns weren't designed for extensive shooting which could just be the case for the WWII guns, as this is a retired police weapon, but haven't heard about the gas coming back through the chamber. I don't want a mishap, any ideas? Could it be that I greased the slide?

Thank you!
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Old May 1, 2019, 02:12 AM   #2
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Don't shoot it until it is repaired! You don't want to get hit in the face by a broken slide.

Slides crack at the corners of the notches for the locking block. Once cracked, the slide should be replaced. They cannot be welded.

Is it a wartime P38 or a post-war P38? The slides are different.

Slides for wartime P38s are becoming more difficult to find There are still NOS spare slides for post-war P38s that occasionally show up on eBay and Gunbroker.

When you get the slide replaced, shoot 9mm which IS NOT +P rated to prevent over stressing the slide.

P38s aren't the only ones which suffered broken slides at the locking block notches. In the 1980s, Beretta 92s/M9s broke slides due to shooting 9mm which was rated for submachinegun use. The solutions were a strengthened slide in the Brigadier series and a safety catch added to the 92FS.
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Old May 4, 2019, 06:04 PM   #3
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DnPRK gave good advice.

IF you want to invest the money, it IS possible to get a post WW II slide to work on the WWII frame. HOWEVER, it generally requires a post WW II barrel, and a modern locking block [and fitting of the locking block].

A complete slide might cost anywhere from $50-200, depending on luck.

Barrels seem to be hard to track down also, and I'd consider myself lucky if I got one for under $150.

Locking blocks can be found cheap.

So- to make your pistol into more of a shooter, it might cost you up to $400 in parts, vs buying a P1 [get one with hex frame pin, if you can] or another WWII P38 for under $600.

IF you go the slide route, you have already walked away from the collector value concerns. So, if you go this route, get the mid/late 1960s and newer 'fat' slide. The safety lever has a cut out to turn up, but is now slightly below the surface of the slide. The pre-fat slide and all WWII slide are thin enough here that the safety lever is outside the entire width of the slide.

Also, the firing pin, and safety are more durable on the round-shank design. The firing pin block pin in the slide is not the same between WWII and Post-WWII design slides. In other words, not every slide part will be swappable.

Cost effective wise, a P1 might be the cheapest route, and simplest.

Yet, you have to determine what will make you happy.

Best luck!
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Old May 4, 2019, 10:10 PM   #4
Bill DeShivs
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Why can't the slides be welded?
Bill DeShivs, Master Cutler
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Old May 8, 2019, 05:11 AM   #5
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Thanks for the responses,

The information on spare P-38 parts is very valuable. It is a post-war, police P-38. I'm glad to inform that I've had zero intentions to fire it once I found the cracks. However, I failed to make it known that my main concern for a mishap was actually the explosive activity.

From my point of view, I could see partially into the open slide with each shot my friend took. From that angle I could see a red glow (more like explosion) in the open chamber basically wafting over the magazine and outside the unit. We had to put it away.

I have no experience with the P-38 or such a nature of handguns. This has me believing the issue could be more than the slide alone.

Thanks again!
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Old May 8, 2019, 07:32 AM   #6
Onward Allusion
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P-1's (2nd gen P38's) added a hex pin in the frame to provide a wear surface to dampen the slide/frame slamming. P38's were made for standard pressure rounds.
Simple as ABC . . . Always Be Carrying
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Old May 8, 2019, 10:32 AM   #7
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Post-War Police P38.

Can you do the magnet test? Take a magnet to the front strap of the frame. If it sticks, it is steel, and thus a P38. If it doesn't, it is aluminum and a P1- no matter what the slide says.

I know there were P38s assembled at the Manurhin plant in France from left over P38 parts seized at end of WWII. I know there were a limited number of steel P38s made in the late 1950s also. However, most of the police models were P1- which stood for Police Pistol 1. And P1's are aluminum framed.

The key is knowing if it is made of left over WWII parts or new made parts, and aluminum or steel frame.

If aluminum frame, the hex reinforcement that was made in the late 1960s is ideal.

If steel frame, I don't think it is all that important.

the way you describe the glow of flame makes me think the slide wasn't returning to full lock up/battery.

This could allow ignition while the breech was slightly open. and, that IS dangerous.

I have a 1943 BYF P38, with a properly fit WW Top end, and a fat slide pst 1968 top end that was properly fit.

I have never watched from the side when it was fired, so don't know how to compare it.

Good luck
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Old May 8, 2019, 02:36 PM   #8
Bart Noir
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Don't watch the gun from the left side!!!! 'Cause it ejects to the left.

P38's were made for standard pressure rounds.
But don't we often read on the internet that Euro standard pressure 9mm is about the same pressure as a US +P 9mm?

Not saying that is true, but we have all seen it, right?

Bart Noir
Be of good cheer and mindful of your gun muzzle!
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