By LTC Joel Johnston (Ret), US Army Ordnance Corps
P-38 BYF 44 (Mauser 1944).
Matching numbers, Original finish, Non-import.
History: The P-38 is considered the first modern combat handgun. The design came immediately before WWII as a replacement for the aging Luger. The pistol was the first double action combat handgun and was produced during the war by Walther, Mauser, and Spreewerk. It had a de-cocker, firing pin block, and a loaded chamber indicator so it was safe to carry the pistol with a chambered round and the hammer down. British Special Forces often used captured P-38s due to their reliability.
Manufactures and Varieties: Wartime P-38s were made by 3 manufacturers; Walther, Mauser, and Spreewerk of Spandau Berlin. Walthers are marked on the slide with an "AC" and then the date. The same is true with Mausers which are marked with "BYF" and the date. Spreewerk was a bit more illusive and only marked their guns with "CYQ" and no date. The Spreewerks are the roughest finished of the lot. They often have rough machining marks and poor finish. As with most German war materiel, the quality products declined towards the end of the war. Walther made a post war pistol known as the P-1 starting in 1957 and they can be recognized by the Walther Banner and an aluminum frame vs the all steel frame of the WWII pistol.
|AC over 42 marking on slide||BYF marking on slide.||CYQ marking on slide||JVD mag, Czech made||Walther mag mark||Military guns have 3 proofs.|
Specifics on Markings
These values are approximate and only for matching, original finish and non-import guns at 90%. I think collector and gun show prices are significantly higher than Blue Book. This is true with many martial arms on the market. There are other factors such as matching magazines and holsters that may drive a price higher.
Buying Tips: Frankly, WWII mid to late war German P-38s are plentiful. if you are going to shoot the rifling out of the gun or install a blank adapter, then by all means buy a mis-matching import or a P-1. Otherwise, I advise not buy a mis-matched, re-finished, or import marked gun. There are just too many nice ones out there to settle for second best. Besides, a quality gun always appreciates; shooters on the other hand remain shooters.
Non-matching refers to the serial numbers. On most wartime German guns, the last two digits of the receiver serial number is stamped on each and every part. On a P-38, the entire number is stamped on the frame, slide, and the front of the barrel. The locking lug often is numbered with the last two or three digits of the serial number. Unlike a Luger that has every single part numbered, getting a matching P-38 is not that difficult since there are only 3 major and 1 minor numbered parts. Incidentally, while the Germans were furiously stamping the numbers on each and every gun part, the Americans were turning out 65,000 M-1 carbines per day.
Currently, there are many "Russian Capture" P-38s on the market. Many of these were re-finished and have an import company stamp on the frame. Look for these marks! They may be on the side or on the backstrap. Also look at the slide rails! This is another area they stamp import marks and it will certainly hurt the value. Russian captures can be had in all varieties for $500-$600. P1s are $250-$350.
Click to enlarge and print the Exploded Disassembly Diagram
(Make Sure Your Weapon is Unloaded first!)
|1||Put weapon on safe. Lock the slide to the rear, remove your magazine.|
|2||Inspect the chamber to ensure the pistol is unloaded.|
|3||Rotate the barrel retaining latch to the down position.|
|4||Release the slide lock and move the slide/barrel assembly off of the frame.|
|5||Push the locking block operating pin, pushing the locking block up, and releases the barrel from the slide.|
Pistol is field stripped for cleaning.
|7||Push the locking block operating pin, pushing the locking block up, allows barrel to fit back into the slide|
|8||Fit rails of slide onto the pistol frame. Push down locking block (extended operating pin) to clear the frame.|
|9||Slide barrel slide assembly completely onto frame.|
|10||Make sure the firing pin lock lifter and other dog legs are pushed down to clear slide.|
|11||Lock slide to rear by pushing up on slide lock.|
|12||Rotate the barrel retaining latch to the up position.|
Disclaimer: Ol' Army Joel accepts no responsibility for accidents involving improper handling of firearms. Virtual Arms Room is no substitute for expertise and gun competence.