This One Is Mine: Walther P38
Nothing is more dangerous to a budget than a gun nerd with the ability to justify a purchase. All it takes is a credit card, a welcome reduction in paperwork via C&R license, or the siren call of a one-of-a-kind gun to do untold amounts of damage to a wallet. Before you know it the safe is full, the parts are everywhere, and you’ve been eating ramen for two weeks to make up the difference.
This pair of pistols is the result of one such incident in a long line of incidents. A friend and I had stopped by a local shop and discovered a Walther P38 listed with a very attractive price. The employee initially stated that it was nothing special but upon inspection, it became glaringly obvious that some employee had, either by laziness or inexperience, made a mistake. And although deciding that eating cheap to make sure the bills got paid for yet another gun may also have been a mistake, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. One copy of my C&R and a swipe later and it joined the collection. The somewhat disappointed sigh from the man behind the counter was just icing on the cake.
The Spreeworks made pistol is all matching and clearly waffenamt marked on every conceivable surface, befitting of Germanic over engineering. The bluing is mostly intact and free of major scratches, but the real story is in the little ones.
On the right side of the bakelite stocks (in all their burnt orange glory) are ten even scratch marks. Normally, one could write such a thing off as an edgy prior owner with an exacto knife hoping to impress their equally edgy house guests but something notable also stands out with the holster.
The first indication is simply that it is not a P38 holster. This leather first belonged to a Tokarev and was crudely modified to fit the Walther, as evidenced by the missing magazine pouch and torn material. On the back, underneath a jagged cut to accommodate a much wider belt then originally intended, are not ten scratch marks, but fifteen. Even more intriguing is that they were clearly added at two separate occasions, one group scratched in large and crude strokes, and the ten above it in the same fashion as the gun itself. It is merely conjecture, but if they are all original there is a possibility that the first five can be attributed to the holsters previous owner. Once “re-appropriated” by his opponent, they kept track of their own in a grim contest.
Although my own thoughts on war fall much closer in line with General Sherman’s perspectives, my morbid curiosity and desire to preserve history made me recognize that there might be something quite special about this P38. So you can imagine my mental conflict as I discovered something else; P38’s are really fun to shoot. A steel frame, decent hammer fired SA trigger pull, and a perfectly usable 25m zero made the P38 an absolute joy on the range. Combined with it’s history making it the belle of the ball each range trip it began to beg the question; Am I really going to beat the heck out of a WWII collectible?
The answer, as it turns out, was no. Being familiar with the mechanical longevity of many other C&R firearms in my personal collection as well as in the open world, I was less worried about the pistol equivalent of a hip replacement than I was about scratches, dings, cracks, and rust from normal use and cleaning. After multiple range trips where the P38 was avoided to save it from wear I decided once again that eating Cup-A-Noodles between paychecks was acceptable if it got me a shootable Walther pistol with none of the guilt associated with beating up a geriatric gun. Several gun shops and shows scouring tables later I had my solution. Enter the Walther P1, the Get the Led Out version of the original classic.
The P1 is, for anyone familiar with the P38, relatively unremarkable. The steel frame has been swapped for aluminium, the barrel is lighter and features a steel liner, and the grips are now all black plastic instead of the sexually attractive wood pulp based comeliness of bakelite. Otherwise the gun remains mechanically almost unchanged and retains all the joy of a single stack, heel mag release, skinny barreled Walther with the additions of snappier recoil and a marginally better trigger. All I had to do was enjoy the culinary delights of “flavor packets” for a few days and I can enjoy the sensation of scratching my thumbs on the slide mounted safety guilt free.
I am surely not alone in how I approach firearms related topics, which is to say with a voracious appetite and a willful lack of self control. I also know enough about myself to realize this will certainly not be the last time I willingly sacrifice funds for abstract things like “food” and “rent” in favor of yet another must have firearm related item. However, I am also happy that with a combination of luck, knowledge, and ability to justify another canned ravioli dinner that I have opportunities like these. A little more expenditure than expected for both the P38 and a “duplicate” for the live fire experience is a small price overall to pay for the collection, preservation, and appreciation of unique and historical firearms. My hypothetical accountant may disagree with the methods, but each time I hold it, I am happy that this one is mine.
Do you have a firearm or other gear that you acquired even though you might not have budgeted for it? What made that purchase special enough to justify? Let us know in the comments!
Got a cyq P38 for 60 dollars in 1961 at a pawn shop just north of Fort Campbell Ky. 60 bucks was big money for an impoverished Pfc. That meant no beer and cigarette money for a month but I survived and still have the pistol. Post army, I did a lot of deer hunting in Vermont with Grandfathers trapdoor Springfield .45-70 and brought the P-38 as backup in bear country, but the scariest thing in the woods was a pair of N.Y. hunters!. I’ve felt your pain and joy and still shoot the oldtimer now and then. It stays in the family!