In total, several million of the Lugar and the Walther P-38 pistols were produced by many different manufacturers, in different arsenals, in Germany, Switzerland and England. In addition, multitudes of commercial versions were manufactured before and after both wars. The Olive-Drab.com page on the Luger has a table of serial numbers and markings that apply to both pistols.
The Luger was an aging design as Germany began preparations for war in the 1930s. In the mid-1930s, the Wehrmacht requested Carl Walther Waffenfabrik and other companies to develop a new military pistol, a more modern approach that would be cheaper to mass produce for the coming war. Walther had already been working on such pistols, in particular the Armee Pistole (or AP) and the Heeres Pistole (or HP) that were quite similar to the forthcoming P38. In 1938 the Wehrmacht accepted Walther's work and adopted the new design as "Pistole 38". Military production began the next year, issued first to elite Panzer crews.
The P38 was well regarded by those who carried it. It was tough, accurate and simple, an advanced design for its time. The double action feature was used as a model for many post-war designs. Mauser and Spreewerke also produced the P38, over one million in total during World War II, but the Walther versions were always most prized.
Production for the P38 resumed in 1957 for the Bundeswehr, with a new name, the Pistole 1 (or P1). The original steel slide was replaced by dural. It is still being manufactured today in many countries.
Walther P38 Pistol Features
The P38 is a recoil-operated, locked breech design with a verticlally tilting blocking bar that connects the 4.9 inch moving barrel and the slide. A locking wedge under the barrel holds the slide and barrel together during recoil. When the wedge reaches the limiting point against the frame, it drops down, releasing the slide to return to its forward, locked position for the next round.
The P38 has a short, open top slide and a double action trigger, the first DA military handgun, a design pioneeried by Walther with the PP and PPK. The slide catch is on the left side of the frame. The catch for the 8-round magazine is located at the bottom of the grip. There is a post front sight and notch rear sight.
The frame and slide are all-steel while the grip plates are plastic. The Walther-produced guns are had an overall black matte finish and black plastic grips.
The Walther P38 could be dissembled easily and had multiple safety features. A manual safety is mounted on the left side of the slide, which also de-cocks the hammer. There is a loaded chamber indicator at the rear side of the slide, just behind the rear sight.
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