Working The P38

The history of modern pistols can trace their roots to this landmark handgun.

by RK Campbell

The Walther P38 is among the most influential handguns of all time, having introduced the double action first shot and combination safety/decocker innovations to service pistols and spawning a number of imitators. It is arguable that the present service pistol, the Beretta 92, is simply a highly developed Walther P38 with a high capacity magazine. The Smith and Wesson Model 39 has been called the Americanized P38.

The P38 was a result of Germany’s modernization move during the 1930s. The Luger pistol was expensive to manufacture and maintain and the aging design was sensitive to ammunition types as well as debris. The Walther design was intended to be more effective and reliable, yet cheaper to manufacture. There were quite a few contenders, including some of Walther’s own enlarged PP type pistols chambered in 9mm Luger. Influence from J P Sauer, Mauser and Luger is seen in many of these handguns but Walther is produced a working example of the most modern service pistol of the 1930s.


Read more in our February 2012 issue. Back issues are available.

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