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Old 02-22-2014, 10:54 PM   #1
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A warning to those who want to shoot WWII-vintage P.38s

We get questions from time to time here from folks who buy a WWII-vintage P.38, or who are thinking of buying one, and want to use it primarily as a shooter rather than as a collector piece. As often as not, the advice is to have a qualified gunsmith check out the pistol thoroughly and then shoot it with 115-grain ammo.

But it's also wise to keep in mind that if something happens and the pistol blows up for one reason or another -- from overloaded ammo to inferior materials as the war dragged on -- then you are out the investment, at a minimum. This doesn't happen a lot, so far as we know, but it's been know to happen. For example, note this word of caution from our friends on the P.38 Forum:

P 38 & PP-PPK Collector Forum

If you blow up a P1, you can easily buy a new slide for less than $50 bucks, and it won't matter a whit; a shooter is a shooter, after all. Replacing a cracked slide or other parts on a vintage, matched WWII pistol, however, is a whole other issue.

Make your own judgments, of course, but at least be aware of the potential of what can happen to a collector pistol should something go awry.
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Old 02-23-2014, 02:26 PM   #2
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MGMike .38
With all due respect to Mr. Clarin, he is on what is almost exclusively a collectors' forum.

As Pilotsteve and I would say, there is no substitute for bedding Helen of Troy.

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Old 02-23-2014, 02:48 PM   #3
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Punch .22
If you can't shoot it, it is not a gun. Period. And if you paid so much for it that you are afraid to shoot it, you have more free income than common sense. A Walther P38 is a pistol, and the fact that a group of people potty trained at gunpoint stamped numbers on every part of it doesn't make it anything other than a pistol. As for those that shed a tear over the "history" of these pistols; I value the dark coated, X marked pistols sent over from Russia that had seen the battles of Kursk, Stalingrad and the like over the nice pristine pistol taken off an old man or fourteen year old boy sitting in someone's safe. But, that is why I am not a real collector.
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Old 02-23-2014, 02:59 PM   #4
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With apologies to John Greenleaf Whittier:

Shoot, if you must, this old gray ghost,
But spare your pistol's slide, or it's toast.


It matters not to me whether someone wants to fire a WWII model, or keep it in a safe or case or on the wall, or stuff it in a drawer inside a holster or a sock or plastic bag or gun cloth. The point is that risks are attached to shooting a vintage firearm, especially with hot ammo. Pointing out those risks seems prudent on a forum of this nature.

As to the argument that if you can't shoot it, it's not a gun -- period (and for the record I always like the period, added for emphasis, as though it's the only valid opinion to be considered) ... well, would you make the argument that a vintage Corvette that sits inside a museum isn't a car at all? Because if you did, you wouldn't give a thought to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that just disappeared down a sinkhole.

Corvette museum to display cars eaten by sinkhole

Or not.
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Old 02-24-2014, 04:01 AM   #5
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To each his own, is my philosophy on this subject.

I plan on buying a really nice, collectible byf43 at the Louisville SOS show this coming week. My plans for this pistol are to strip it completely, clean it well, reassemble it, shoot a magazine of WWII German ammo through it (just to check function, and the German ammo is less powerful than any U.S. target load I've ever fired), clean it again, and put it in the safe. It will be taken out, looked at, and fondled from time to time, but I don't plan on shooting it again. That's what my P1 with steel frame is for.

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Old 02-24-2014, 10:39 AM   #6
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+1 to jt1968. The debate goes on forever.

Ford vs. Chevy?

Collector vs. shooter?

Trophy vs. tool?

WWII vs. post WWII?

Original vs. non-original?

Decide on what you want to do.....educate yourself, and solicit help from others on the pluses and minuses of your decision.....spend your money.....and try to get past the urge to endlessly justify what you've decided to do with YOUR money and YOUR gun.
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Old 02-24-2014, 11:31 PM   #7
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Quentin .22
Good points by all here! And I can see both sides.

While I don't have a steel frame P.38 (just shoot my postwar P.38 and P1) I do have two vintage P08s. My mixed numbers 1913 DWM has been fired many thousands of times since I bought in in 1975 with only one part breaking (and replaced with another non-matching number part). Now my hardly fired, all matching, 1941 byf P08, well I'm afraid to fire it as a broken part would be a big deal. The byf looks pretty much the same as it did in 1941 but I can only look at it, the old, worn DWM is fun to look at and fun to shoot!

We are fortunate with the P.38 that there are cheap postwar models that you don't have to worry about shooting if they're mechanically sound.

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Old 02-25-2014, 12:30 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by jt1968 View Post
To each his own...
Good points shared by all. At the end of the day, Searcher's right. Things can break. But they can also last for the rest of your life. You can eat no red meat and jog ten miles a day yet still die of a heart attack at 35 years of age. Lets get real gentlemen... we only live once. If you spoil the chance to actually operate, with your own hands, these wonderful artifacts... these pieces of history, then good for you. You're obviously doing much better than I and can afford such frivolities. But not me. If I own the firearm, it's gonna get shot. If I have the keys to the Shelby Cobra, it's getting driven. And we don't even need to talk about Helen...

-Pilotsteve
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Old 03-01-2014, 04:21 PM   #9
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I bought my 43 BYF Dusty slide, non reinforced trigger with the double cut out at the ejector at a new years eve auction back on 2012/13. Stole it with a winning bid of $250. Have been advised by a local P-38 nut that it has about 90-95% of its finish. HAD to shoot it, just had to. Replaced the recoil springs, bought some lower power target rounds and put 58 rounds total through her. That is all I am going to shoot it in my life, unless WWIII starts up stateside. Now it is a nice display piece that I know can work. I just can't pass shooting something I own even if it is just once. Even got a 1858 Remington new model 5 shot police pistol in .36 in working order and shot about 15 rounds through it at 15 grains of BP, it too is now just a display piece. Hard not to shoot something you own.
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Old 03-01-2014, 04:35 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by searcher451 View Post
With apologies to John Greenleaf Whittier:
well, would you make the argument that a vintage Corvette that sits inside a museum isn't a car at all? Because if you did, you wouldn't give a thought to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that just disappeared down a sinkhole.

Corvette museum to display cars eaten by sinkhole

Or not.
Sitting in a museum, it has no use as a car. And when GM gets done rebuilding them, you will have exactly what you had before - a bunch of metal that looks pretty for people to look at.
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