A warning to those who want to shoot WWII-vintage P.38s - Page 3 - WaltherForums

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Old 09-05-2014, 10:46 PM   #21
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FergusandCo .22
I'm definitely of the mindset that a collectible firearm loses something, if only in my mind, if I can't shoot it (at least once or twice, right?). I would draw the line at firing something like a LeMat revolver, mind you. If I had an original FG-42, I'd have to fire it, 'cause I want to go back in time and feel what it must have been like to use such a weapon. It's magical to fire a Garand, a P-08, a P-38, a Kar-98K or an M-1 Carbine and to learn their respective manuals of arms. We are all just blessed that we don't necessarily have to fire them in anger.

Certainly there is a powerful mystique about American weapons, made in simpler times, and which have been used to right wrongs and make the world safe for democracy. Weapons which seem, even now, to have a military relevance about them. There is also a significant, although darker mystique, in owning and trying out the weapons of the vanquished. Someone more articulate than I had said that WWII German infantry weapons have a dark, Darth Vader-like mystique about them, even though they propped up and helped preserve a regime of unspeakable evil. Also, understanding the materiel poverty of the German war machine (when compared to our own) in the later war years, gives one additional appreciation for the quality of some of the weapons they produced.

Still, I applaud this thread, 'cause someone will go out there and shoot Pakistani or Israeli SMG ammo through a vintage Walther and destroy something that can't be replaced. To quote the sarcastic tone of a deceased friend of mine, who managed several gun stores, and witnessed all manner of foolishness, "Aren't all bullets the same?".

I think the caveat has to be stated, and it should be told by people like you guys, who have some knowledge and experience as to how far a WWII P-38 can be pushed. Knowledge is power. I have shot mine, together with my father who left it to me, and I would understandably be crushed to see it destroyed through attrition or ignorance. Aside from a single-shot bolt-action .22, it was the only gun he owned.


"Remain yourself, in spite of all the mighty do."

Last edited by FergusandCo; 09-06-2014 at 12:10 PM.
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Old 09-28-2014, 11:22 AM   #22
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Greg47 .22
One of my collector friends in Germany (retired German army col) told me that some of the P-38's were deliberately sabatoged by Jewish slave laborers working in the factory(s). I've seen some as a gunsmith over the years that I recommended not be fired. The original advice to have the guns checked by a competent (emphasis) gunsmith is sound.

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Old 09-29-2014, 09:32 PM   #23
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trap4570 .22
I agree Greg. Not all gunsmiths work with the older stuff. There is more money in the new stuff. Something to remember is that 9mm operates at 33,000 psi and Ken Waters wrote of pressure spikes of 7,000 above SAAMI limit. A lot depends on the gun and the condition. Operating the action by hand may feel smooth as silk but the round discharging acts differently on the action. A slight tweek in the frame or a bolt face not true can eventually lead to damage or breakage. I only shoot on occasion and use cast bullets and keep the pressures around 26,000. My targets never complain about weak loads.
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Old 01-16-2015, 10:55 PM   #24
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kbrandt .22
I have a BYF 44 that my dad brought home from the war. It appears very new and hardly used. I am thinking of cleaning it and firing a few shots thru it. He has been gone a while but I rememember him saying he has shot it.
any comments?
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Old 01-17-2015, 07:57 AM   #25
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olsoul .22
If the weapon is mechanically sound you should have no problem shooting good commercial 115 FMJ rounds through it.

Thoroughly clean the weapon and magazines. Do a careful inspection of the weapon and grips, if you are not confident that you can determine the weapons condition take it to a smith with experience in these weapons. While a few mags worth of ammo through it won't hurt, you might consider getting some replica grips to use when shooting.
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Old 01-17-2015, 08:45 AM   #26
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trap4570 .22
I agree with Searcher and provides some food for thought. I remember an article about just how long a barrel will last and using math the barrel will last at best two seconds before being shot out. So the point is wear and stress. Wear can be spotted where stress is more difficult. There are more unknowns than knowns when it comes to arms of war. For me - I avoid mismatched guns because they were taken apart for some reason which is unknown to me. That is just me. I shoot a P-38 on occasion with cast bullets and loads at the starting suggested load. I would advise to go easy on the old girl's since their time of service has ended and they deserve a less spicy diet. As to what they should be called - I don't think it matters. My Father had a name for the M1 Garand and I can't repeat what he called it here. They were heavy, destroyed your hearing and ate thumbs at a moment you could ill afford the distraction. His opinion. I enjoy an occasional session with the P-38, but I take along other guns for enjoyment as well.
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Old 01-17-2015, 10:29 AM   #27
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MGMike .38
Having been around the block a few times with wartime P38s, I will add a few observations for whatever they are worth.

I won't shoot any ex-military firearm of any model, rifle or pistol, without disassembly and careful examination. I just won't; there are too many unknowns. Don't assume anything. If one does not have the knowledge and experience to perform that task, he should find a gunsmith that does.

Among P38s, early to mid-war with all matching numbers hold the most promise. Late-war guns, especially Spreewerk production, hastily made when Germany was hard-pressed for skilled labor and good quality raw material, require close inspection. Mixed-number and forced-matched ex-Russian capture guns are always suspect, and should be searchingly examined.

The fit of barrel, slide and locking block as an assembly is critical to the service life of any P.38. Excessive headspace, particularly given the wide dimensional variation in 9mm ammunition made in different countries, can result in battering or breakage of parts. Proper fitting of the safety, firing pin block and decocking lever are vital to safe operation, and the difficulty in obtaining correct adjustment prompts some users to just ignore it and use it "as is" --which is begging for hazardous problems.

If a P38 passes physical inspection, I have no hesitation in shooting it. I've never found any difference between 115 or 124-grain in P38s, so long as the load is light to moderate. The bullet shape and cartridge OAL are far more important for good functioning. Bullets with fat ogives such as Hornady 147-grain tend to bind against the curved front wall of the magazine after about 5 rounds are loaded; this is due to the taper of the 9mm Para cartridge case. Same is true with cartridges with long OAL. One can feel the noses scrubbing when loading the 6th and later rounds.

I don't believe anybody ever damaged a wartime P38 in good condition by using Federal American Eagle or Winchester white box, though part breakage in any old gun is always a risk. If I break something (and it has happened), I don't go into hysterics over a presumed financial catastrophe; I just replace the part and move on.

A lot of malfunctions can be avoided simply by starting out with good magazines. Postwar fit perfectly and are the best, but they too should be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned inside before use.

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Old 01-22-2015, 07:50 PM   #28
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Deputy .38
Originally Posted by kbrandt View Post
I have a BYF 44 that my dad brought home from the war. It appears very new and hardly used. I am thinking of cleaning it and firing a few shots thru it. He has been gone a while but I rememember him saying he has shot it.
any comments?
Only advice I would give is use Federal American Eagle ammo and make sure moving parts are lubed. Not over-lubed, but not dry either. I had ZERO luck with Winchester White Box. It was actually TOO weak to fire the gun reliably. Mine is a Russian capture Spree that is all-matching except for locking piece. Runs great since I gave it a thorough clean and lube it and use Federal.
I hear a lot of warnings about wartime P-38s, but I see very few posts of them blowing except when +P ammo is used. Then even a modern P-38 can blow with that ammo.
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Old 03-23-2015, 10:37 AM   #29
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djr46 .22
Does anyone use Remington 115 gr ammo? I bought a box of 250 rds and have shot a couple of mags so far with no problems. Am I missing something? Haven't heard anything about Remington, per se, Except that US commercial ammo is not loaded hot unless P+.....
Any comments?

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Old 03-23-2015, 11:33 AM   #30
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donp326 .22
I just never use Remington ammo in any gun I have. The hollow point stuff is too short over all and will stove pipe in a P-1 while the Winchester White box 115 fmj American Eagle 124 gr fmj always function. Also my carry rounds for my P-1 are Winchester Ranger T 147gr bonded standard velocity HP rounds. These also function well as do the Federal HST standard velocity HP rounds.

If the Remington stuff works for you go for it.
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