Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Walther P38.

So since I've nothing better to do today, having tired of whacking Murphy with a cardboard tube from the center of a paper towel roll (and being "playfully" bitten on the arm in return), I've decided to do a bit more gun-blogging.

The time was the late 1980's. I'd walked into a local gun shop to look around. I really hadn't planned on buying anything as, at the time, I already had one rifle, one pistol, one shotgun and a .22, and that's enough for any gun owner, right?

But as luck would have it, a couple of the shop employees were unpacking a box of guns that they'd just purchased from an estate. I was looking at them as they took each one out of the boxes and entered it into their inventory system and one of them caught my eye. At the time, being young and unfamiliar with most firearms outside of the westerns and war movies of the day, I did not recognize the gun set before me on the counter-top. I did, however, realize that it was a military pistol of some sort, and I was at least savvy enough to know what the little eagles on it meant--it was a German World War Two gun. I was intrigued.

As I pawed it over, I could see that it was in pretty good shape (excellent+, all-matching non-import actually) and I decided that I'd inquire about it.

"What do you want for this?" I asked.
The man at the other end of the counter barely looked up as I asked. "What is it?"
"Not sure," I replied. "It says 'P.38' on it."

He looked up briefly. "It's a P38."

"What do you want for it?"

He came over and looked at it for about ten seconds. "Eh. Give me $200 for it."

Now I did not know what, if anything, this pistol was worth. I just knew that this shop typically marked stuff up pretty high. "Hmmmm... Not sure that I have that much," I replied. "How about $150?"

We finally agreed on $175 for the pistol. I put a deposit down on it and ran off to the local police department, because back then, we had to have a police-issued purchase permit to buy a handgun. I got it and was back at the store in about half an hour.

"I came back to get my pistol," I announced.

"Sorry," the guy said. "The sale's off."

"What? Why?"

"The owner came in while you were gone and took a look at it. It's worth more than $175 so we're not selling it for that."

"But you already did," I pointed out. I gave you a deposit. I have a receipt. We had a deal."

"I'll give you your deposit back," he offered.

"No, you hang onto that," I told him. "And you'd best set that pistol aside, because this is going to go to court."

I was young, but I knew when I was getting hosed. Now I knew that I wanted this pistol.

"Calm down, calm down. Let me call the owner back."

A few minutes passed. Then a few more. Then the owner came out of the back. He tried to tell me that it wasn't a deal until I'd paid for the gun in full and said that a deposit wasn't good enough. I told him that I had a receipt that said "sold" on it. He asked to see the receipt. I almost handed it over to him, but at the last second it dawned on me that if he got hold of it, it was as good as gone. "Sorry, but this is evidence now. I'm going to need it for court," I said.

He sighed and looked at me as if I was the one trying to rip him off.

"Fine. Pay the balance and take the pistol. But don't come back here in a hurry." Then he turned and walked off, leaving me to deal with the original counter guy.

I rushed home with my new toy. On the way, I stopped at the library (This was back before we had the internet that we have now) and looked through books on World War Two until I found out what I had--A Walther P38. It was a 9mm double-action pistol with an 8-round magazine. This one was made at the Walther plant in Berlin in 1942, so indicated by the "AC 42" stamp on the slide. Already war shortcuts were starting to creep into production, which is why you can see machining marks on the slide, something that would have been unthinkable a coupld of years prior.

Now World War Two stuff wasn't particularly collectible back in those days, so I just treated it like any other pistol. I took it out and shot it quite a bit. When I got my first job as an armed security guard, I was told that I had to provide either a .38 special revolver or a 9mm double-action pistol. Not having the money to buy another gun, I just bought a holster for the Walther and took it to work every day. With it's tiny fixed sights and horrible trigger (I say that looking back--I had no idea how bad it was back then), I could manage to shoot "minute of fat bad guy" most of the time, but that was good enough for me.

Eventually I realized what I had and what it was worth and the P38 retired to a life wrapped in a Rig Rag on the top shelf of my closet. Now that I have a gun safe, it lives in there. And I think that when I get to be walking decent again, I'm going to take it out and shoot it some, just for old times' sake.

And here's how it field-strips. (For the record, it's not my video and I'm not responsible for the bad porn music in the background.)
Simple, eh?


  1. I'm glad you had the gumption to stick up for your rights as a customer. Probably most people would have been backed down by the owner's trying to renege on the deal.

  2. NICE pistol and piece of history you have there!

    Oh, you were right about the p0rn music. I muted it!

  3. Very nice! And somehow that 'doesn't' surprise me that you stood up for yourself! :-)

  4. Always wanted one of those. But I'm stuck with a bunch of .45's now, so no European calibers.