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How to Identify a Walther P38

by Floyd Drake III
Walther firearms continue to be manufactured in Germany.

Walther firearms continue to be manufactured in Germany.

Walther and Luger were the handgun providers to the German Army in World War II. Designed by Fritz Walther, Walther pistols were well-designed, reliable 9-mm firearms that were cheaper to produce than the Luger P08. Although Walther designed and manufactured the P38, Mauser and Spreewerke also produced them to keep up with wartime demand. Production of the P38 ended with the war. However, in 1957, Walther manufactured a similar pistol, called the P1. Although there are specifics to look for, depending on the manufacturer, the P38 is an easily identifiable firearm.

Examine the P-38. With the pistol pointing to your left, look at the main metal assembly holding the barrel, with the trigger directly underneath. On the extreme left, "P38" is stamped into the metal. On the first issue, or "0" series, the trademark Walther banner is found at the extreme left, immediately followed by "P38."

Locate the manufacturer codes. After the P38 designation, an alpha, or alpha-numeric stamped designation is found. All Walther-produced P38s are designated AC, followed by the final two digits of the year manufactured. A 1943 Walther P38 is identified by AC43. Mauser-produced P38s were stamped BYF. followed by the date, while Spreewerke models were stamped either CYQ or CVQ.

Measure and weigh the P-38. Using a machinist's ruler and a small scale, measure and weigh the P38. According to Wehrmacht-Awards, the P38 is 216 millimeters long, with a barrel length of 125 millimeters. An unloaded P38 should weigh 800g, or 1.76 pounds.

Identify the serial numbers. After the manufacturer stamping, the serial numbers are stamped to the right of the pistol, above the handle. Each year and manufacturer had a different serial number system. For example. the first-issue P38s in 1940 had serial numbers that ranged from 01 to 01000. However, 1943 models ranged from 1 to 9999n. Mauser and Spreewerke P38s changed their system from year to year, with each year being unique. To identify P38 serial numbers, reference a P38 serial number listing, such as the one found on the Ole' Army Joel site. Zero models run from 01-013000, with the Walther banner.

Items you will need

  • Machinist's ruler
  • Magnifying glass (optional)
  • Small scale
  • Walther P-38 serial number guide

About the Author

A native of New Haven, Conn., Floyd Drake III began writing in 1984. His work has appeared in the "New Haven Register," Medford's "Mail-Tribune" and the "Ashland Daily Tidings." Drake studied journalism at Southern Connecticut State University. After working as a reporter in Oregon, he is now based back home in New Haven.

Photo Credits

  • David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images