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Old 09-12-2011, 10:41 PM   #1
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Quentin .22
P38 with safety lever problem

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It looks like the bug has bit me, I just bought my second P1/P38 in a couple weeks!

I found a broken P38 at a local gun shop that had problems with the safety lever which locks up halfway when trying to apply it with the hammer cocked. They realized it was a dangerous gun since the hammer occasionally would follow the slide so could dump a magazine full auto. They wanted to get rid of it and knew it wasn't worth the cost sending to a gunsmith. Upon inspection all the major parts looked good so we worked out a deal for $250. The gun definitely has seen some use over the years but nothing that can't be fixed.

Once I cleaned it up I swapped slides with my P1 and found nothing wrong with the P38 slide or safety - the problem definitely is in the frame and I'm almost certain it's the sear so I'm going to order a parts kit and replace the sear. I figure with two P1/P38s a parts kit makes sense anyway. Pretty sure I won't need a gunsmith.

Anyway, more about the pistol, it has an early frame SN: 051789 W5.72 so reworked 5/1972. The thin slide is marked P38 and 2/62 and it and the old style barrel both have 789 stamped on them but I think the frame is much older than 1962.

If anyone has a good idea about the frame, would SN: 051789 be about 1959? That would mean during the rework the slide and barrel were stamped to match the frame but I understand forced number matches were common.

And finally here are some pictures!

Walther P38 right


Walther P38 left


P38/P1 Magazines

Last edited by Quentin; 09-12-2011 at 10:49 PM.
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Old 09-13-2011, 10:02 PM   #2
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MGMike .38
True enough, your problem probably is in the frame-- but it's not the sear, it's the internal decocking lever.

As for d.o.b., etc., forget it. Some of the Bundeswehr reworks are such mixmasters that unless the frame itself is dated, you have no way of telling what parts, if any, in that gun are original. It is entirely possible that over a number of years the entire gun was replaced piecemeal, and the serial numbers conformed for bookkeeping purposes.

Then there is the existentialist issue of deciding which component is the heart and soul of the firearm. The Germans have a different view of it than we do; to them, a frame is just another "part".

M
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Old 09-14-2011, 02:26 AM   #3
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Quentin .22
Quote:
Originally Posted by MGMike View Post
True enough, your problem probably is in the frame-- but it's not the sear, it's the internal decocking lever.

As for d.o.b., etc., forget it. Some of the Bundeswehr reworks are such mixmasters that unless the frame itself is dated, you have no way of telling what parts, if any, in that gun are original. It is entirely possible that over a number of years the entire gun was replaced piecemeal, and the serial numbers conformed for bookkeeping purposes.

Then there is the existentialist issue of deciding which component is the heart and soul of the firearm. The Germans have a different view of it than we do; to them, a frame is just another "part".

M
Thanks for the correction, MGMike. Hopefully we're talking about the same part. I called it the sear because it holds the hammer at full cock and drops it like a sear does on other guns. But the part I suspect seems to be called the cocking piece (and the pin that holds it in the frame also secures the ejector). It that what you're referring to by "internal decocking lever"?

I did order the P38 parts kit from CDNN so will replace the cocking piece (part #26) as it's called in the Owner's Manual PDF.

As far as dating the pistol, I'm fairly certain the serial number on the frame is original, not restamped, so hoped that there was a way to estimate when 051789 was made. It must be pretty early, within the first few years so I was guessing 1959 assuming Walther made 25-30 thousand P38/P1s a year. I've seen frame serial numbers from 1962, the date on my slide, and they were well beyond 51xxx (more like 150xxx) so no way a 1962 slide is original on that frame. Anyway, I may never know the frame date but it's fun to try.

Thanks again for the info!
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Old 09-14-2011, 10:08 AM   #4
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MGMike .38
The part I am talking about is not the cocking piece. It is one of the three levers visible on top of the frame when the slide is removed. The other two are the ejector and the firing pin block lifter. That part was made in many sizes so it can be selectively fitted. Otherwise the safety won't work properly. That part, and the locking block, are principally where Walther reconciles the manufacturing tolerances in the P.38.

M
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Old 09-14-2011, 11:36 AM   #5
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searcher451 .22
Maybe this will help:

Numrich Gun Parts Corp. - The World's Largest Supplier of Firearms Parts and Accessories
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Old 09-14-2011, 06:57 PM   #6
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Quentin .22
Thanks MGMike, I'll certainly look at the internal decocking lever but I'm fairly certain it's the cocking piece at fault because its sear area is extremely rough. This P38 has a horrible double action trigger pull compared to my P1 and I can see a big difference in the smoothness of the sear area.

Also I should have mentioned before - that if I pull back on the cocked hammer while applying the safety it actually does easily go fully to Safe and then I can lower the hammer to the uncocked position. This seems to indicate that the internal decocking lever is the proper length. If I don't pull back on the cocked hammer then the safety lever won't go fully on Safe even with more than normal force.

The safety lever works properly if the hammer is uncocked.

Hopefully the CDNN parts kit will have all of the necessary parts. I'll also look at the hammer tumbler area, recoil spring, etc. and make sure the best parts go back in this ailing P38.

Thanks again, M, and thanks searcher451 for the Numrich link. I've used them many times in the past but this time went with CDNN because their (and CTD's) $89 parts kit including a slide is a good deal. I added some used magazines to the order as well. Hopefully the quality is good, both places usually give you a good product. I'll give an update once the parts arrive.

Last edited by Quentin; 09-14-2011 at 07:01 PM.
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Old 09-16-2011, 07:44 PM   #7
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Quentin .22
Hey MGMike, you're the man! I got my parts kit today and it does look like the internal decocking lever is the safety lever problem. And since I didn't have parts before, today is the first time I broke down the frame to look closely at the problem and found a couple.

The new internal decocking lever looked much better than the old one so I put it in. And the cocking lever/sear mating surface was horrible so I replaced it which improved the double action trigger impressively. Alas, the new internal decocking lever didn't solve the safety problem but now I can see what you were talking about as far as adjustment - and it will take some careful file work to fix. I'll have to break down my working P1 to solve this problem.

Anyway, I'm real happy to fix the terribly gritty double action trigger and can live with the safety issue until I shape the decocking lever properly.

Thanks again for the help, M!
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Old 06-27-2012, 03:06 AM   #8
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barnes_gunworks .22
Have you found out what was causeing the problem yet? ive got an orginal ac-41 with matching numbers/proof marks thats having the same issues,,, and i dont have one to be able to see the decocking lever/sear relationship to be able to weld/refit the lever. i fairly certain the issues in mine was caused by a blow-out in the magwell (sear/frame was bowed).

ps: could you post some good pictures of the decocking lever/sear relationship?

thanks
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Old 06-27-2012, 11:15 AM   #9
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MGMike .38
Quote:
Originally Posted by barnes_gunworks View Post
...

i fairly certain the issues in mine was caused by a blow-out in the magwell (sear/frame was bowed).
...
Forget it. A frame that has been bowed from a burst cartridge case should be scrapped.

M
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Old 07-23-2012, 12:24 AM   #10
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Diver6106 .22
I notice there is a difference in the geometry of the 'safety hammer lowering lever' on a WWII P-38 and post war P1. This effects cocking - SA & DA. I'm rebuilding a WWII Spreewerk frame (with E88 but also a 42 left side above spring stud? Mauser?) with a P1 slide & barrel. The frame was missing the hammer, lowering lever, firing pin lock lifter, hammer strut & spring, & mag catch. In putting a P1 lowering lever, I had to file down on the edge to clear the sear, but still needs work with the geometry difference for SA to work. There is also a difference on the top of the lever, the other P1 parts seem to work in the frame. So this is a critical part for SA & DA to work properly.
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