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Walther P38

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Walther P38 Photo © Mika Järvinen, Creative Commons License
The Walther P38 is a semi-automatic pistol that was developed for military use during World War II. It has the dubious distinction of being the service pistol for German Nazi forces.

History:

In the late 1930's the service pistol of the German military was the Luger Pistole Parabellum. It was an expensive weapon, however, and had a limited scheduled production run. As such, the Germans began searching for a replacement.

The P38 design was based on a previous Walther gun, the Armee Pistole. The Germans accepted the design in 1938 and the gun was manufactured the following year. It was initially designed and produced as a 9 mm weapon although a handful of P38's were made in other calibers over the years.

Walther manufactured the original P38's through 1945. In 1957, however, the German military again wanted to use these guns and commissioned Walther to resume production. The P38's produced from 1963 through the end of the century were marked with a "P1."

Ammunition:

As a general rule, the Walther P38 uses 9x19mm Parabellum ammunition. However, there were a few P38’s that held 7.65x21mm Parabellum and .22 Long Rifle cartridges. These variants—especially the 7.65 Parabellum--are quite rare.

Collectibility:

Because of their history, P38’s are desirable to many collectors. Military weapons collectors, World War II weapons collectors, German weapons collectors, and others consider these guns to be essential to their collections. A few of the P38’s have some rare quality to them, making them even more collectible.

Availability:

The standard issue Walther P38 is pretty widely available. This is due to the fact that so many were produced and for so many decades. As such, any collector who is interested in owning one should not have any real trouble finding one to buy. Of course, the earliest P38’s and those in alternative calibers are harder to find but they are out there. Gun auctions are a good place to look for harder to find versions of the gun although you may be lucky enough to stumble upon one at a gun shop or gun show.

Price:

As with most guns, the price for a Walther P38 is going to depend upon a lot of factors. A basic pistol manufactured later in the 20th century can be picked up for as low as $300. An older model in good condition could run closer to $1,000. A rare P38 variant was up for auction in 2011 with an estimated value of $18,000-$25,000 so as you can see, the price may vary widely. In general, though, the typical P38 that you would stumble upon at a gun shop or in a classified ad is going to run somewhere in the neighborhood of around $500, give or take a couple hundred.

Special Notes:

Although P38’s were manufactured through the 20th century, most collectors are interested in the World War II era weapons. With that in mind, be sure to thoroughly research a P38 you are considering. There are many post-war pistols out there as well as many with import markings—both of which may reduce the value of the gun.

The P38 is seen quite often in popular culture which may well have added to the weapon’s popularity. It is often seen in war movies or shows like Memorial Day and is also often depicted as a World War II souvenir. Occasionally, though, the P38 makes an appearance as a functional modern-day weapon as it did during season three of The Walking Dead.

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