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Old 10-11-2007, 10:12 PM   #1
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P88 failure to pass drop test

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Not as bad as it sounds. In the 1984 XM9 trials at Aberdeen, the entrant pistols were dropped from a height of 1.2 meters on a hard surface
(drop attitude and surface were unspecified, and I don't know what they were); the test was passed if there was no accidental firing, or degradation of function or safety. Damage to or movement of sights was permissible.

The Walther failed because the rear sight popped out. This was hardly a surprise, given Walther's past history with the P.38 and misguided propensity for putting elegant (and delicate) target components on guns expected to see hard service. The loss of the sight itself was not the problem; with the sight gone, the firing pin retainer and associated parts also took flight, rendering the gun unserviceable.

This could easily have been solved, but a more serious problem was uncovered by the Army. After 7,000 rounds, the pistols (probably two) selected for the endurance test were found to have cracked their frames across the top of both rails, perpendicular to the bore line and in front of the locking insert. Though the Army report concluded that the frame "lacked sufficient strength to withstand firing 7,000 rounds", in fairness to Walther it takes more than a failure of this kind to establish a serious design defect. It should be remembered that this trial was the first to specify NATO-spec ammunition, which is the commercial equivalent of +P or better, and most of the pistols entered by the various manufacturers were originally developed for lighter loads. In factory tests the P88 had far exceeded 7,000 rounds without failure, but the earlier JASSAP trials at Eglin were bitterly criticized for using commercial ammo procured from IVI in Canada, and the Army was determined not to make THAT mistake again.

In any event, the frame cracking was a harbinger of woes to come. The original cracking with NATO ammo could probably have been cured simply by a minor beefing up or a change of material, but after the Army's rejection of Walther's XM9 (these all had 88-prefix s/ns), Walther just could not leave the gun alone for commercial introduction. In rapid succession Ulm made unannounced design and cosmetic changes, some of them inexplicable, most for the worse. First a curved backstrap, then a scalloped slide, and on and on. One could never be sure what the next P88 arriving from the factory would look like--which was death on advertising-- and at around $1,200 per copy, sales were understandably slow.

It was a shame; the gun deserved better. Had it been left in its original XM9 configuration, which had a grip shape reminiscent of the Browning High Power, and an all-business gray parkerized finish, it would have held great promise for that market segment that appreciates classy, functional, expensive things. It was by far the most comfortable and pleasant gun to shoot in its class, which contributed greatly to its fine accuracy. Some engineering attention was needed for a few details, principally the durability of its delicate lockwork, but I really liked the XM9 version. However, nobody at Ulm ever looked back...

It got worse, but it's late, and the rest of that sad story I'll leave for another time.

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Old 10-11-2007, 10:34 PM   #2
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Mike: I had heard pieces of that story, but never in the detail that you provided here; thanks for that. I'm sure that many others on the forum would love to hear the rest of the tale as well.

What is most interesting to me in the whole sordid affair of the Army's testing of the P88 is that what was left behind as a result -- despite all the tinkering -- is still a magnificent firearm ... a true engineering marvel. I wouldn't trade my P88c for much of anything on the market, regardless of price or perceived value.

And to think that at one time, it was even better. It boggles the brain and saddens the heart.
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Old 10-11-2007, 10:53 PM   #3
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I want to add here that not only Walther failed....
at least they had a pistol that held the requiered minimum of 10 rounds.....
HK submitted the P7... but in order to do so they had to weld mags together and add a extension to the frame. Do not get me wrong I love my HK's (3 p7's) but it just goes to show how a company can go wrong when in a hurry to get a pistol ready for trials like these
look at the grips... they are even XM9 marked
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File Type: jpg P7A10-proto-XM9-1.jpg (38.6 KB, 105 views)
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Old 10-12-2007, 09:59 AM   #4
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That is very true. There is an old Greek proverb that "He who runs, stumbles."

There were eight entrants, only three of whom had enough developmental time behind them to be serious contenders--Beretta, SIG/Sauer and the S&W 469. The others, the Steyr GB, FN High Power DA, Colt, H&K, and Walther, never had a realistic chance. Bill Ruger recognized early on (probably from his WWII experience) that his gun--what became the P85, designed principally by Roy Melcher-- was not yet ready, and decided not to waste the money or suffer the adverse publicity that would ensue from a poor showing, and did not enter. Ruger concentrated instead on preparing his gun for commercial introduction without distraction, which proved a very wise decision. Gaston Glock was still struggling to get started in Austria, and his innovative design probably could not have satisfied the specs anyway. Star, which had been stung by its treatment in the earlier Eglin trials, kept its distance but unofficially, to an extent still unclear, had some arrangement with Colt; indeed, the Colt entry bore a remarkable resemblance to the Star M28, which in turn borrowed heavily from the Czech CZ75.

In the end, only Beretta, which had a proven gun and its own on-shore U.S. manufacturing facility up and running, was able to fully satisfy the Army. SIG came close, and indeed thought they had it in the bag through a strategic alliance with Maremont, who already supplied M2 and M60 machine guns to DoD. But last minute lobbying by the Italian government, which called in many diplomatic chits to apply pressure, coupled with an episode at the Pentagon of insufferable arrogance on the part of the Swiss who owned J.P. Sauer, produced a victory for Beretta.

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Old 10-12-2007, 10:59 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MGMike View Post
That is very true. There is an old Greek proverb that "He who runs, stumbles."

There were eight entrants, only three of whom had enough developmental time behind them to be serious contenders--Beretta, SIG/Sauer and the S&W 469. The others, the Steyr GB, FN High Power DA, Colt, H&K, and Walther, never had a realistic chance. Bill Ruger recognized early on (probably from his WWII experience) that his gun--what became the P85, designed principally by Roy Melcher-- was not yet ready, and decided not to waste the money or suffer the adverse publicity that would ensue from a poor showing, and did not enter. Ruger concentrated instead on preparing his gun for commercial introduction without distraction, which proved a very wise decision. Gaston Glock was still struggling to get started in Austria, and his innovative design probably could not have satisfied the specs anyway. Star, which had been stung by its treatment in the earlier Eglin trials, kept its distance but unofficially, to an extent still unclear, had some arrangement with Colt; indeed, the Colt entry bore a remarkable resemblance to the Star M28, which in turn borrowed heavily from the Czech CZ75.

In the end, only Beretta, which had a proven gun and its own on-shore U.S. manufacturing facility up and running, was able to fully satisfy the Army. SIG came close, and indeed thought they had it in the bag through a strategic alliance with Maremont, who already supplied M2 and M60 machine guns to DoD. But last minute lobbying by the Italian government, which called in many diplomatic chits to apply pressure, coupled with an episode at the Pentagon of insufferable arrogance on the part of the Swiss who owned J.P. Sauer, produced a victory for Beretta.

M
Mike: This is really good stuff. I'd love to know your sources and background for this. Many of us have heard bits and pieces of this, but I for one have never heard it pieced together in this fashion. Thanks for sharing what you know. As they say, keep it coming.
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Old 10-12-2007, 11:51 AM   #6
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The final insult for Walther was the adoption of the Beretta 92...a pistol that used the falling block action that the P-38 pioneered!!!!

The reasons and theories for Beretta being adopted are numerous...including a deal made by Uncle Sammie to base missiles in Italy. Plus Beretta undercut the replacement parts costs of the SIG by a few pennies. What is even more amusing is the later M11 adoption. Seems SIG got the last laugh and the Army adopted the SIG 228 (As the M11) as a substitute standard pistol for it's forces. Seems there was a lot of complaining about the big grips of the M9, and the Beretta was having all kinds of reliability problems with magazines and slide detachment from the frame (hence the saying "you ain't a Navy SEAL till you've tasted Italian steel").

As to the rest...Glock was dead in the water before they even entered. They didn't pass the requirement for a seperate manual safety. Steyr GB is a weird gun to start with. It was actual based on a gun made in Morton Grove, IL by Les Rogak called the Rogak P-18 (which was based on a WW2 design). Steyr eventually took over design and production of the gun (after the P-18 flopped badly), but even Austria, where the gun was made, decided on the Glock instead. Ruger has tried to get his guns accepted for military use previously and has failed each time. The Mini-14 is a prime example. He tried to market it worldwide (France tested it) but has not had much success with it. Accuracy and reliability problems plague it. Some police departments have adopted it, but with the advent of dirt cheap M16 rifles released by Uncle Sammie, Ruger Mini 14 is pretty much a "sporting rifle" now. Ruger may have had more than fear of embarassment that kept him from entering the military trials. Shortly aftet it's introduction, the P-85 had a massive recall of EVERY unit because a broken firing pin caused an AD during decocking. I suspect that would have been the end of the P-85 as far as Uncle Sammie is concerned and would have killed civilian sales too. While the Colt does appear to strongly resemble the Model 28/30 Star, one wonders why Colt would hook up with a gun that has had nothing but problems since it's introduction.



Then again, Colt made some really dumb marketing moves back in those days Anyone remember the Colt double action semi-autos (Colt Double Eagle?) A real turd in stainless steel. They even had a Rube Goldberg plastic frame gun (the Colt ALL American 2000) that ranks with the Edsel for dismal failures. Surprisingly, it was designed by Eugene Stoner and Reed Knight.

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Last edited by Deputy; 10-12-2007 at 11:57 AM.
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Old 10-12-2007, 12:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
It was actual based on a gun made in Morton Grove, IL by Les Rogak called the Rogak P-18
I thought that the Rogak was a licensed copy of the Steyr GB?
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Old 10-12-2007, 12:51 PM   #8
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Anyone have a picture of the XM-9 version of the P88?
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Old 10-12-2007, 01:11 PM   #9
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I thought that the Rogak was a licensed copy of the Steyr GB?
That is correct. And the Steyr people were speechless with rage when they saw what Rogak & Son had done to it.

Long story short: Steyr cancelled and got it back, but no matter, it was too awkward and experimental to be a realistic contender.

For those interesting in seeing what the XM9 Walther P88 looked like, it was featured and on the cover of an Interarms catalog, I believe '88.

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Old 10-12-2007, 01:21 PM   #10
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... While the Colt does appear to strongly resemble the Model 28/30 Star, one wonders why Colt would hook up with a gun that has had nothing but problems since it's introduction...

Dep
I apologize for drawing this thread OT, as there are more appropriate forums to evaluate the Star Models 28 and 30. So I will just offer this: the Star Model 30 has proved itself to be a stronger and more durable gun than ANY of the original XM9 entries. It always works and it rarely breaks.

For the same kind of reasons that barred the Glock, the Star did not meet the Army's specifications.

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