[Lone Sentry: Walther Pistol; WWII German Infantry Weapons]
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German Infantry Weapons
Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 14, May 25, 1943
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from a WWII U.S. War Department Special Series publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



a. General

The Walther, officially called Pistole 38, is coming into more and more general use as a standard issue in the German Army. Eventually it may replace the Luger. Although the Walther lacks the stopping power of the U.S. M1911 Colt .45, it is nevertheless a handy weapon because of its double-action feature and its good balance.

b. How to Identify

The Walther may be identified by—

(1) Horizontally grooved grips.

(2) Outside hammer.

(3) Marking ("P. 38") on the left side of the slide.

(4) Safety on the left rear of the slide.

(5) Lanyard hook on the left grip.

(6) Double action.

c. Characteristics

(1) General.—The Walther is a recoil-operated pistol with a slide that moves directly to the rear (in this respect, like the U.S. M1911 Colt .45 and unlike the Luger). The feed is by an 8-round magazine that fits into the pistol handle, but, unlike the U.S. M1911 Colt .45 and the Luger, the magazine catch is located on the bottom rear of the butt and is moved to the rear to release the magazine. (See fig. 6.)

[Figure 6. Walther pistol.]
Figure 6.—Walther pistol.

(2) Table of characteristics.—

Principle of operation    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    Short recoil-operated, double-action trigger mechanism.
Caliber    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    9-mm (.354 inch).
Ammunition    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    9-mm Parabellum (German, British, Italian, or U.S. manufacture).
Capacity of magazine    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    8 rounds.
    Front    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    Inverted V blade.
    Rear    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    Open V notch, nonadjustable.
Length of barrel    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    4.75 inches.
    With loaded magazine    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    2 pounds 5.25 ounces.
    With empty magazine    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    2 pounds 1.75 ounces.
    Effective    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    25 yards.
    Maximum    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    1,150 yards.
Muzzle velocity    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    1,040 feet per second.

d. How to Operate

(1) Safety.—The safety is a lever located at the left rear of the slide. In order to fire, thumb up the safety, uncovering the letter "F" (Feuer—"fire"). In order to lock the pistol, thumb down the safety uncovering the letter "S" (sicher—"safe").

To uncock the pistol, set the safety to the "safe" position. This permits the hammer to fall and at the same time locks the firing pin in its rearmost position. (See fig. 7.)

The Walther has a device which enables a quick check to be made in order to determine whether or not there is a cartridge in the chamber. If there is a cartridge in the chamber, a small pin protrudes about a quarter of an inch from the back end of the slide. If the chamber is empty, this small pin will remain flush with the surface of the back end of the slide. This arrangement is particularly handy in the dark.

(2) To load and fire.—(a) To load, "single action."—Put the safety on "fire." Insert a loaded magazine into the butt and shove it forward until the magazine catch holds it. Pull the slide back once and let it snap forward. The pistol is now loaded and cocked. A pull on the trigger will fire the weapon.

(b) To load, "alternate method."—Put the safety on "safe." Insert the loaded magazine and work the slide as described in d(1), on the opposite page. This pistol is now loaded but not cocked. When ready to fire, put the safety on "fire" and pull the trigger. As this pistol has a double action, the pull on the trigger will cock the hammer and then fire the round. After the first shot, the recoil of the slide will cock the hammer.

(3) To unload.—Pull to the rear the magazine catch, located on the bottom rear of the butt, and the magazine will drop out. Work the slide back and forth several times to be sure that the chamber is emptied.

[Figure 7. Diagrammatic sketch showing trigger action of Walther pistol.]
Figure 7.—Diagrammatic sketch showing trigger action of Walther pistol.

e. Ammunition

The following types of ammunition may be used in the Pistole 38:

(1) German standard 9-mm Parabellum cartridge (which is used also in the Pistole 08).

(2) British- and U.S.-manufactured 9-mm Parabellum ammunition for the Sten and Lanchester submachine guns.

(3) Italian ammunition used in the Beretta submachine gun and 9-mm pistols (other than the cartridges used in the Beretta pistol, model 34, which will not function in the Pistole 38).

Wherever possible, German-issue ammunition should be inserted in German pistols, which are "touchy" about the ammunition used. Italian pistol ammunition, model 38, is likely to cause stoppages in German 9-mm weapons. Care should also be taken so as not to mistake the dummy cartridges (Exerzierpatronen 08) used in drills for live ammunition.

f. Maintenance

(1) Stripping.—Insert an empty magazine in the pistol. Pull the slide back until the slide stop engages and holds the slide in the rear position. Turn the barrel retaining pin clockwise about three quarters of a turn. Remove the magazine, press down on the slide stop, and let the slide snap forward. Pull the trigger, and remove the slide and barrel from the receiver by pulling the slide forward. Unlock the slide from the barrel by pushing in on the locking-cam plunger and pulling down the locking cam.

(2) Assembly.—Assemble in the reverse order, but be sure that the slide and barrel are locked together before being assembled to the receiver. To insure this, pull out the locking-cam plunger and press the locking cam upward into its groove. The barrel and slide will remain locked together if the pistol is assembled upside down, but the ejector and the two levers of the safety mechanism must be pushed in so as to prevent them from catching on the rear end of the slide.

(3) General care.—The type of care given the U.S. service pistol will keep the Pistole 38 in good working order. It should be cleaned and oiled frequently. In extremely sandy or dusty regions, oil should be used sparingly or not at all.

g. Accessories

A leather holster, spare magazines, and a magazine holder are issued with this weapon.

4 The double-action feature enables the weapon to be fired simply by pressure on the trigger without cocking the hammer. The Walther is the only military pistol with this feature.

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