Walther P-38 Pistol
 

          By LTC Joel Johnston (Ret), US Army   Ordnance Corps    

P-38 BYF 44 (Mauser 1944). 

Matching numbers, Original finish, Non-import.

Home Up Glock No.1 MkIII SMLE Polish AK-74 US M1911A1 Pistol M-1 Carbine M-1 Garand P-38 Pistol Browning 1922 German Flare Pistols MP-40 BFONG T2 MK5 Kell Tec PF9

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 VarietiesWartime 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.

Mark Maker Serial Range Notes
0xxxxxx Walther see below Zero Code series were the first military P-38s, they also have a Walther banner 
  01-01000 1st Issue, high polish, black checkered grips, no suffix on serial number
  02005-03478 2nd Issue, thin slide, external extractor, square firing pin
  03520-013714 3rd Issue, round firing pin, after ser #1000, have brown military grips
480/40 Walther I-7374 No Walther banner, replaced with 480 and year of 40. April 1940
AC40 Walther I-7374 "AC" code for Walther, followed by year of 40, October 1940
AC Walther 7384-9912 AC no date, "AC" also on left triggerguard, very scarce
AC40 Walther 9988-5942a 40 under AC, high polish, hand stamped
AC40 Walther 5942a-9965b New German Alpha-Numerica serial number system used for remainder of the war.
AC41 Walther 1-4527i 1st and 2nd issue, last high polish P38s produced
AC41 Walther 5015i-9973j 3rd issue, dull finish
AC42 Walther 1-9197k Another big year with 98,600 produced.
AC/43 Walther 1-9999n AC is over the 43, exact transition number unknown
AC43 Walther 1-9999n Changed to single line AC43, total production of both is 135,000
AC44 Walther 1a-9999L No changes
AC45 Walther 1a-? Last of the war, 40,000 produced, last # unknown.
AC45 Walther 025960-027659 Late war Zero Code
BYF42 Mauser 1-4783a Early war Mauser, dull finish
BYF43 Mauser 1-6500q no changes
BYF43 Mauser l-7600 Eagle L Police Issue, Eagle can be over L,N, or F.  
BYF44 Mauser 9000p-10000z no changes, serial numbers unknown
BYF44 Mauser l-7600 Eagle L Police Issue, Eagle can be over L,N, or F.  
BYF45 Mauser unk. A few made and then code switched to SVW
SVW45 Mauser 1-5000e Code found on last ditch P38s, must be Nazi proofed. 
SVW45 Mauser unk. Same as above, but a post-war French assembly, no Nazi proofs, 
CYQ Spreewerke 1-9500z Spreewerke of Spandau, Berlin.  No date of manufacture. FN frame adds 100%
CVQ Spreewerke prefix o,a, or b Last ditch P-38, die broke and "Y" became a "V" assembled in Munich from parts
FN Fabrique National unk. FN marked on slide, shipped to Walther and assembled on their guns
FNH Boehmische none Boehmische Waffenfabrik,Strakonitz plant, Prague locking blocks and barrels.  
DOV Bruenn none Waffenwerke Bruenn, Wsetin plant, CzechoslovakiaVarious subassembly parts.
JVD Nordbohmische none

Erste Nordboehmische Metallwarenfabrik, Adolf Roessler,  Sudetenland

v Walther none Magazine, late war Walther.

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

Disassembly

(Make Sure Your Weapon is Unloaded first!)

  Disassembly  
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.
6

Pistol is field stripped for cleaning.

 

Re-assembly

 
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.
13 Re-assembly complete.

Home Up Glock No.1 MkIII SMLE Polish AK-74 US M1911A1 Pistol M-1 Carbine M-1 Garand P-38 Pistol Browning 1922 German Flare Pistols MP-40 BFONG T2 MK5 Kell Tec PF9

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.