Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record

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Maker/Manufacturer:WALTHER, CARL
Date of Manufacture:1943
Eminent Figure:
Catalog Number:SPAR 894
Measurements:OL: 20.9CM 8 1/2" BL: 12.7CM 5" 2.2 lbs.

Object Description:

Manufactured by Mauser, Oberndorf, Germany in 1943 - German WWII semi-automatic pistol with 8-round detachable box magazine. Walther design built by Mauser. Recoil-operated; locked breech, external hammer. Fixed inverted V-front; fixed open V-notch rear sight. Double-action, loaded chamber indicator, lanyard loop on left grip. Blued finish; checkered plastic grips. 6-groove rifling; right hand twist. Muzzle velocity 1200 fps. Effective range of 50-75 yards, maximum range of 1,600 yards. Weapon weighs approximately 2 lbs. 2 oz. Slide, hammer, and 8-round magazine welded to frame. Cartridge: 9mm Parabellum, weighs 98-115 gr.

Frame: 4768c. WaA135.
Slide: P.38. BYF/43 4768c. byf = code for Mauser. Right side: WaA 135.
Barrel: 4768c.

Weapon transferred to the Museum by the 4th MP Detachment, Ft. Myer, Va., on 9 May 1961.

Exhibit label: "P38 9 millimeter - Easier and cheaper to manufacture than the Luger-08, the P38 had largely superseded the Luger by 1943. Production began in 1938, and this pistol remains popular with the German Army to this day."

Notes: The P-38 was developed by Fritz Walther at the Walther factory, Zella-Mehlis, Thuringia, Germany in 1936-1937, for commercial and military sale. The P-38 was the first military automatic pistol to use a double-action cocking system. Designed to replace the Luger, due to wartime shortages used in conjunction with it.

"The young American naval lieutenant strolling through an occupied town in 1943 hit the cobblestones immediately after a shot slammed out of a dark alley. As he reported afterwards, he fell 'clutching and cocking a Walther P-38. I had brought it for a cartoon of cigarettes from a Scot paratrooper who had killed a German paratroop lieutenant at Termoli and who had liberated his side arm. Some more shots spurted from the alley and I shot back at the shots, moving the P-38 gently from left to right and shooting out the full magazine. No more shots came from the alley. There was nothing in the alley but a dead co-belligerent with a lot of new navels. We use to lose a lot of allies in those days, before we disarmed the co-belligerents.'
Lieutenant Robert C. Ruark, naval officer, newspaperman, and big game hunter, was but one of thousands of Americans and British Tommies who replaced their issue side arms with a P-38, a PP, or a PPK - all products for that versatile German firearms designer Fritz Walther.
Every World War II veteran of the North African, Italian, and Western European campaigns is familiar with the German P-38 service pistol. These pistols, together with the smaller Walther police models (PP and PPK), the Walthers Models 8 and 9, and the Lugers, were the most prized souvenirs of World War II.
The P-38, the side arm most used in the Germany Army during World War II and currently the standard side arm of the West German Bundeswehr, became such a popular pistol with U.S. troops that during the Battle of the Bulge the German High Command is said to have ordered that any American soldier captured with a P-38 in his possession was to be shot. While not all P-38's are Walther's (vast numbers were made by Mauser late in the war), the original pistol was designed and manufactured at the huge Walther arms plant at Zella-Mehlis, Thuringia, Germany.
It is interesting to speculate on the whereabouts of the 375,000 Walther pistols which were reportedly found in the Walther plant in Zella-Mehlis when the American Army took over in April 1945. It was a gun collector's holiday for the liberators.
The Walther pistol story begins more than 250 years ago when Matthais Conrad Pistor the chief armorer and gunsmith of the Kassel Arsenal, and an ancestor of the present Walther clan, designed and supervised the manufacture of military and sporting arms. Pistor's ability secured him the right to organize his own gun-making establishment.
Pistor's plant (which also made other arms) was located near Schmalkalden in the Province of Thuringia. Pistols and poets don't usually mix but Johann Wolfgang voA Walther report noted 'Old documentary evidence makes it abundantly manifest the valuable consignments of hunting rifles were supplied to the great majority of European countries already during the 18th Century, and that in the course of the same era very large numbers of Walther weapons were also shipped to the United States, to Australia, and to India." - Smith

"The venerable Walther P38 became so popular with Italy's Red Brigades, that at one point they were publicly nicknames the 'P Thirty-eighters.' Stylish, accurate, and powerful, the classic German side arm proved ideal for street abductions and assassinations, not to mention the distasteful chore of 'knee-capping' critics and traitors. In 1975, the Red Brigades initiated publication of a revolutionary journal called 'Mai piu Senza Fusile' - Never Without a Gun - which they dedicated, in spirit, to the P38." - Michael Newton

Buxton, Warren. THE P38 PISTOL. Taylor Publishing Company. Dallas, Tx. 1978.
Hogg, Ian V. GERMAN PISTOLS AND REVOLVERS 1871-1945. Stackpole Books. Harrisburg, Pa. 1971.
Newton, Michael. ARMED AND DANGEROUS: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO WEAPONS. Writer's Digest Books. Cincinnati, Ohio. 1990.
Smith, W.H.B. MAUSER, WALTHER & MANNLICHERS FIREARMS. Stackpole Books. Harrisburg, Pa. 1971.

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