Walther P.38 Pistol Production (Brief History)



Education of P.38

Hey guys, today I wanted to do an educational video on P38s. Now I've already done a couple P38s but they were always capture stories and I often get comments from all of you saying we need to hear more about P38s. Well, actually there's a lot to cover and I've been focused a lot on PPs and PPKs, doing all the different variations and once I jump into these waters, there's a lot to cover. 


A Few Rare Guns to Come

So today I'm just going to show you a couple of really rare guns but give you a broad brush overview on P38s and then later I'll come back and do individual videos on some of the different variations. There's probably 10 videos worth of material that I can cover.


Kenneth Price a Silver and Bronze Star Winner

But speaking of P38s, let me give you an update on one of the stories that we did. It was a P38 that was captured by Kenneth Price who won the Silver Star and the Bronze Star, wounded three times. I told you that story and many of you wrote and said what a shame, why didn't the family want the gun. Well the truth is, I had the daughter watch the video and said, we would like to have the gun. Somehow dad sold the gun and they didn't realize that that had happened. So they wanted the gun back and Legacy Collectibles is making that happen this week.


2 Rare P.38s (30 Caliber!) You Don’t Want to Miss

So the reason I'm doing the video today is to show you two rare P38s. These are both 30 caliber P38s. If you collect these you know how rare these are. In fact I did a video on two engraved Kreighoffs and that was rare to find. And this might be just as rare, not as flashy but two 30 caliber P38s is really hard to find one.


Production Overview of P.38

Before I go into the detail though, let's back up a bit and let me give you an overview of the production of the P38. So as the name would imply the P38 was patented by the Walther Factory in 1938. The first ones produced were in 1939 and the first contract was a Swedish Police Pistol Contract that very few of them were made but there were actually two contracts right at the end of 1939.

Those guns are very rare and what makes them quite interesting is they still have the crown N proof. But very quickly, 1940, every gun after that will have the Eagle N proof as part of the Nazi era. So within the Walther variations, the first military guns, now keep in mind during the war there was 1.2 million P38s made, about 1.2 million were made.


What makes this gun so special?

Most of them came from Walther and the original patent was with Walter. And before this, Walther had been making single action, semi-automatic pistols, the most famous being the PP and the PPK. But the P38 was a revolutionary design, in that it is double action.


Is your Decocker Working?

If I'd quick take a look at one of these, this is a Walther Factory gun. You can just pull the trigger or you can cock it back which will then work the way most guns work. But it had the exposed hammer, it also has a decocking feature, once you pull the hammer they decock which by the way, I found that about 30% of them the decocker doesn't work. It doesn't hurt the value a whole lot about 50 bucks, it's just a strange oddity there's just a couple pieces of metal in there that allow that to work and about 30 % of them, in fact I think some of the ones that I brought out to show you, the decocker doesn't work properly.


How to fix a Decocker?

What's funny about that is I send them to a gunsmith to see if he can repair them, he will take, he tells me this I find it humorous, he'll take two guns that the decocker doesn't work, he'll switch the decocking part whatever that is, a couple pieces of metal, he switches them and they both work. So I can't figure it out but they can be fixed. So it doesn't detract from the value. But that's the overall operation for the P38.


An Improvement over the Luger

All the military guns shot a 9-millimeter Luger round and it had less moving parts than the Luger. It was by many seen as an improvement and the most important part was that they were a lot cheaper to produce. So very quickly Walther…they couldn't…the army and all the branches of service couldn't get enough of them and so they just they ordered more and more and Walther was kicking these out as quick as they could.


Zero Series Pistols

So the first variation of military pistol is the zero series. It's named zero series because the prefix was always a zero. You can see a picture of one here, they had beautiful high polished finish, they had a Walther banner on it, there was no date but these were made in early 1940.


480 Code

Next variation was the 480 code. There's not many of these, they're pretty valuable when you can find them. 480 code, I don't know where that name comes from but that was a factory code that later became the ac Walther Factory code. Most of you are familiar with the ac P38s because most of the ones you see will look like this. You'll see ac with a date.


AC Variation (the rarest)

However, little known variation they first began just with the ac. Let me show you one. You know I told you I was going to show you two really rare guns, I lied I'm going to show you three really rare guns. They first started out just the ac, with no date. This is considered the rarest of the military variations, but the ac, no date I'm going to have dozens of you write to me and say can I buy that? No you can't, only one I have, it's just in great condition, ac no date.


But somebody pretty smart right away said, you know, in the whole numbering system is based on the fact that they put the year and then every month the serial number adds a suffix. They added the date and therefore they could keep track, ac41 and the serial numbers went from 1- 10,000 with no suffix, and then the a and then the b. So basically they were making 10,000 a month and then every year they would change the date and start back at the beginning.


Smart System to Produce Guns

So it was a really a smart system, easy to follow, I can look at it and tell pretty quickly what month and year the gun was made, unlike PPs and PPKs. You guys all write to me and say when was my gun made. This is really easy everybody can figure out the month and the year. So they went from ac41, ac42 all the way to ac45. There other variations we can talk about, there were some that went to the police departments, but 99% went to the military and the police.

Now I mentioned before Walther couldn't keep up with it and so as most good companies do certainly Colt and Browning Factory, a lot of factories then license their product to be made elsewhere, at a different factory, under a licensing agreement. And that's what happened with the Walther P38.


Mauser Making Lugers

Mauser was making Luger's. We all know that Mauser Luger throughout World War II. They stopped production in 1942. BYF was the code for the Mauser Factory and so they're kicking out these Luger's. And now the army doesn't want the Luger's anymore, they went to P38s because again they felt like it was an improvement. Now I know I'm going to get not hate mail, but I'm going to get comments that the Luger is the best gun ever made and how could you say that. I don't want to insult the Luger, I collect Luger's, I love Luger's. But the truth is this is a simpler design, uses the same round and it's a lot cheaper.


The Military wants to take another Girl to the Dance

And so the military was looking for these and not these. So in 1942 about halfway through the year, they stopped production of the Luger, they retooled the factory and they began making the BYF42 P38. So this is just kind of cool, just a piece of history you can see the BYF42 on a P38 and BYF42 both made in the same year, in the same factory, but this overthrew this. Just the way of the world. We're all going to be obsolete one day. So just like the ac code and we now will see BYF 42, 43 all the way up to 45. It's still the same factory but for some reason they changed the code to SVW. So you'll see it up to BYF44 and then you'll see the SVW45. By that time they were very crudely made and a lot of them were using phosphated finish, instead of the blue. The third producer of the P38, many of you didn't know that three different companies produced the P38.


The Spreewerk Factory Gets in on the Action and Makes P.38s

The third one was the Spreewerk Factory in Czechoslovakia. Spreewerk started producing them in 1943 and they went all the way to 1945. They did not put a date on, but there are codes where you can figure out when these were made. And so Walther made the most P38s, second was Mauser and then thirdly the Spreewerk which usually were considered a little cruder than the earlier variations.


Now Let’s do a Commercial Versions Brief Review

So having done a review of the development of the P38 and how they were produced for the Armed Forces and a few to the police, let's go back and talk about the commercial version and these two rare guns that I wanted to show you. They'll probably never make it out of the safe for many years, so take a good look now while you have the chance.


The 1%: Why Make a Commercial Gun?

So of commercial guns they only made about 1% and I was just discussing with Randy before we started doing this video, you know if you think about it, if they couldn't keep up with production, no matter how many they made they had three factories kicking them out, they were still clamoring for more. Why would they stop and make a commercial gun? For sure since it started in 1940 the war had already started so they certainly were not making these for Sears and Roebuck for the commercial market. They were only making them for the war and for the survival of the third Reich. So why would they stop and make a commercial version?


Our Hypothesis is as Follows

The only conclusion I can come to and there's not a lot of literature but it had to be high-ranking party officials. Now we know that they could go out and buy a Party Leader PPK. The Reichsgericht could get a gun, the different departments and the bureaucrats could all order a gun if you are a member of the Nazi Party. But evidently some people wanted the P38 in nine-millimeter for whatever reason and they could get them if they went in and said I want a commercial P38. You could get one from the Walther factory, the other two factories didn't make them but you could get a commercial gun. And again they only made less than 1% of them as commercial guns so they're very few.


Mod HP or Mod P.38

Now among those commercial guns and I'll do a whole another series about the commercial guns what they look like, generally they were they were marked Mod HP on the slide or they were marked Mod P38. These were the commercial variations. The early ones were really nice high polished. Later…actually they have a whole variation that has a reddish hue to it and that was just the way they prepped the metals. These were made toward the end of the war, they're just beautiful guns but why in the world are they making commercial guns at the end of the war, when they're still trying to arm all the troops.


High Ranking Officials Wanting a Gun is Your Answer

So my conclusion stands in terms…in my opinion these were made for high-ranking party officials who said I want a P38. So as rare as the commercial P38 is, it's even rarer, so less than 1% of the commercial guns actually, there's probably only a couple hundred of these made. I'm going to just spend a little bit of time showing you this gun.


Beautiful High Polish Finish

You can see it has the high polished finish, absolutely beautiful. It has the early grip, not the wartime grip that you normally would see, but this is actually the grip that is familiar to you if you look at a zero series. The zero series uses this same type of grip which is different than the ones that came later.


Dull Top Plate Finish Question and Answer

I mentioned once before that the top plate is like a matte finish, as opposed to the rest of the gun being high polished. And thank you to YouTube I said in that video, I don't know why but the top plate is always a dull finish. And somebody wrote in and it makes perfect sense. It's because the sun as your if you're out in you know if you're outdoors shooting which most times you are, and if the sun is glistening off that top plate, it's hard to see. I like it, I think that's probably the case. They acid-etched the legend but here they actually inscribed 7.65. So actually its 32 caliber but the bullet round is 30 Luger but it is the same thing as 7.65. If you're confused by that join the club but, 30 caliber Luger is the same circumference as the 32 caliber. So they inscribed on their 7.65 millimeter which means they didn't even bother making a separate legend for that just because there was so few.


100 to 200 of these Made

Again I think there was only a hundred or two hundred of these made. And remember I mentioned a decocker, if I remember correctly, decocker doesn't work on this one. I'm not going to mess with these parts because this is so early and so rare, I'm just going to leave it alone. But this is a good example that the decocker, as nice as the design was, didn't work properly on this gun and that is about 30% of the guns I come across decockers don't work.


Check out the P.38’s Bore

You can get an idea of the bore compared to other P38s you can see that the 30 caliber is a little bit smaller. And now let's look at the second one, because this…you think this is odd, like why did they make a few of these? I'm sure it was a special order or some kind of an experiment.


Warren Buxton Collecting Legend

This is even odder. This comes from the collection of Warren Buxton who is known throughout the world as an author and collector of P38s. He died tragically in an accident, actually coming back from the Tulsa show with some other collectors. Headed back home and a head-on collision with a truck and he lost his life. A huge loss for the collector community but this was from his personal collection. You see right away that the grips are a little bit fancier, in that they’re wood but they are a factory option. All the ones in this serial range come with these same wooden grips. They are beautiful grips with nice checkering.


Eagle N Proof

And you can see that it does have the Eagle N proof on the right-hand side. It's interesting that it had a painted sight, I believe that is original. I have seen painted sights before, it was just an option where you could ask the factory to paint the sights. Often red in the back and white in the front. This one is red in the back and no white in the front, but that's…the zero series I do see a good number of the zero series P38 with red in the back and white in the front.


Stencils on this Gun

You can see serial number wise this one is about two hundred guns later. This one they didn't have the stencil to make the logo and so they had to add the calibre. But in this one it looks to me like they actually did make a stencil. It's slightly different, the stenciling is slightly different, but it was made 7.65 and it is marked Mod HP but this is single action. All the ones that were made are double action. This one the decocker doesn't work but I believe it was set up not to work because it does not work in double action, it only works in single action.


30 Caliber Extremely Rare Gun

30 caliber, extremely rare gun, you probably will never see one again but I wanted to show them to you because they stay in the safe, it's dark and lonely in there. I have to bring them out and expose them to the light of day and show them to you. Two extremely rare, Walther P38s from 1940 in 30 caliber Luger.


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