Avoiding catastrophe changing P38 recoil springs - WaltherForums

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Old 08-25-2011, 11:26 PM   #1
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Avoiding catastrophe changing P38 recoil springs

It is VERY easy to do irreparable damage to the frame of P.38/P4/P5 pistols by improper removal or installation of recoil springs. Do not attempt to pry out the recoil spring guides. Also, when the slide is removed, do not compress the springs and allow the guides to snap forward under spring pressure. The first will distort the frame, and the second will chip out or swage out the retaining seats in the frame, either of which will cause everything to fly apart whenever the gun is field-stripped.

First, use a bamboo skewer sharpened to a chisel point as a tool to avoid marring the frame or scratching the spring. If you are dextrous enough to be able to hold down the gun while working with both hands, the job can be done on a workbench; otherwise remove the grips and clamp the frame in a padded vise; the job will be much easier. Insert the skewer between the spring coils behind the spring guide and compress the rear portion of the spring while holding the spring guide forward. Once the spring is pulled rearward clear of the spring guide, it creates enough clearance in the frame for the guide to be easily plucked out of the spring channel. Gently release the spring compression and remove the spring from the front. The new spring is inserted in the channel and held back in a compressed position with the skewer. The spring guide is dropped in so that its rim engages the frame seat. Then the spring is gently released to surround the rear part of the spring guide. Then do the same on the other side.

REPEAT: DO NOT attempt to force the spring and the guide as an assembly either into or out of the frame channel, and DO NOT let the spring (or the spring and guide together) snap forward uncontrolled.

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Last edited by MGMike; 08-26-2011 at 10:33 AM.
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Old 08-25-2011, 11:30 PM   #2
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The foregoing assumes that the springs really need to be changed...

In my estimation, 80% of the spring-changing that some shooters insist on performing (sometimes damaging the gun in the process or generating malfunctions in the aftermath) is unnecessary or at least premature. I am a firm believer in changing springs only when they need changing.

Recoil springs in the P5 (or in the P.38 or P.4; all three are identical , and have the same Walther part number) are easy to check. Dismount the slide and push each recoil spring guide in turn all the way rearward. Feel for steady smooth movement. The recoil spring should NOT go “solid” before the recoil spring guide contacts the rear of the frame. When fully compressed by the recoil spring guide, the recoil spring should still have a little room left between the rear coils to compress; test it by prying with your fingernail. If it doesn’t, the spring is too long; also, going completely “solid” with every cycle will cause premature spring failure. Original factory springs vary considerably, but all use 0.6mm wire, coil diameter of 5.3mm, 41-1/2 to 43-1/2 coils with closed and ground ends. A new spring will measure about 123mm at rest; after a little use it will take a set to about 115-117mm. If it’s kinked or appreciably shorter than that, replace it.

I stay away from "extra-power" springs. With the correct ammunition you don't need them, and they are a poor improvisation for excessively high-pressured ammunition. There is a relatively narrow range within which heavier springs can compensate for heavier loads without producing collateral problems. Excessively long, or excessively strong springs (thicker wire or more coils) can disrupt correct "timing" of the mechanism: They may prevent full slide travel and/or shorten the cycling time, which may not get the slide back far enough to securely pick up the next round or to reliably lock the slide open on the last round. Another unwelcome result is occasionally to cause the slide to rebound too quickly and try to strip out the round before the magazine spring has lifted the cartridge high enough to be correctly fed. Then, to correct that, it is deduced that the mag spring should be replaced with a stronger one -- which in turn increases the drag of the top cartridge against the slide, which in turn negates the extra power of the recoil spring, and around and around you go, chasing symptoms like a dog chasing its tail...


P.S. The spring dimensions above were taken by actual measurement. For Walther factory-specified dimensions, see below.
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Last edited by MGMike; 01-21-2014 at 06:35 PM. Reason: Later addition
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Old 08-26-2011, 12:10 AM   #3
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That's scary. I will not change the P38 springs that are coming in the mail! Thanks.
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Old 09-02-2011, 05:57 PM   #4
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H'mmm. I didn't have problems with them in either the P-38, or my P5. You have to be careful, but guiding them and sliding them into position went fine. Grease 'em and ease 'em. Make sure they are evenly compressed along their entire length.
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Old 09-03-2011, 06:43 AM   #5
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No catastrophe -do it carefully, it is not so complicated

P5 Springs dis- and reassemble
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It is better to have a PPK and not need it than to need a PPK and not have it
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Old 09-03-2011, 09:30 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by TANFOGLIO View Post
No catastrophe -do it carefully, it is not so complicated

P5 Springs dis- and reassemble
Tanfo, not everyone has your level of knowledge and technical skill. They mindlessly succumb to popular internet advice that the first thing one does after acquiring any P.38 is to immediately change the recoil springs. Many of these people are ignorant of the proper procedure, they use the wrong tools, and they get impatient and careless. Some of them wreck their guns before they ever get to fire the first shot.

I have saved a file of forum threads started by some of these people after they run into trouble and start pleading for help. One of these days I will post a selection of these stories-- properly edited to remove names and avoid embarrassment to those involved. I did not make these episodes up. It's not a joke and it isn't funny--what they have done to perfectly good guns is enough to make a grown man cry.

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Old 10-28-2011, 09:03 PM   #7
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I am buying one (or more if I can find some decent ones) WW2 P-38s. The factory P-38 springs are 6 pound. I don't think I would go heavier than that. However, the factory springs in the WW2 P-38s are, at the newest (1946 SVW) 65 years old. That's pretty old. And most of these guns were used in WW2. So they aren't "new, unfired". So I dunno if changing the springs is such a bad idea on those guns, especially if you plan on firing them.

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Old 10-29-2011, 11:19 PM   #8
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Since the ejected sheels have been hitting my face and going down the front of my shirt, including 7 into my shirt pocket, I decided to replace the springs to see if I can get the shells someone else.

I have previously taken apart my complete spare slide to remove the phosphate, so the slide wasn't too hard. Thank to the TANFOGLIO videos.

So I replaced all the springs in the Wolff kit, will have to hit the range too see if the shells eject differently.

I didn't see Tanfoglio video about the slide springs, but it was easy with a small screwdriver and a dental tool.
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Old 11-01-2011, 10:07 PM   #9
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P1/P38 build

I'm planning on building an all steel P1/P38. I have a parts kit with a P1 slide. I see Sarco has P38 frames available but i'm having trouble finding a P1 barrel. Any suggestions? P38 - my first gun,
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Old 11-01-2011, 10:24 PM   #10
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You might want to send a PM to MGMike and see if he still has any:

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