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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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Discussion Starter #4
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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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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+1 to jt1968. The debate goes on forever.:rolleyes:

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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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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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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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:rolleyes:. 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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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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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
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.
It has no use as a car if it's sitting in a junk yard, either, especially because GM no longer makes parts for cars that are 70-plus years old..

The same can be said of grandpa's P.38 that was returned from the great war, taken to the range one day, loaded up with high-powered ammo and a gleam in the eye, and ... kaboom.

But again, this thread is provided as a warning of what can happen, not a dictate. Your pistol, your call. Just go in with your eyes open.
 

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I agree with Searcher...kinda. I have some numbers matching WW2 P-38s that simply won't see the range ever. That is my choice and I
am sticking to it. I also have a "mostly matching" cyq P-38 that has a non-matching locking block. I took it to the range and it ended up being a single shot pistol. Bummer. But that's a seperate story. It's real easy to tell folks who have dropped a lot of $$$ on a collector P-38 to "just go out and shoot it". But then what do you say to them when a part with a matching number breaks and it can't be replaced with that same number? You say "sorry about that sheet". That's not much comfort to a guy who has just seen the value of his numbers-matching P-38 drop by about half.
As to ammo....the "normal" ammo used to shoot WW2 P-38s is the Winchester white box stuff. I can verify that that is some pretty weak stuff. As a matter of fact, I plan on using some hotter stuff next time I go to the range to see if maybe the wimpy ammo was at fault. At any rate, it is your own personal choice. It's on you if you take a $1000+ P-38 to the range and it self-destructs...well...then you have money to waste ;)



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.....As to ammo....the "normal" ammo used to shoot WW2 P-38s is thw Winchester white box stuff. I can verify that that is some pretty weak stuff. As a matter of fact, I plan on using some hotter stuff next time I go to the range to see if maybe the wimpy ammo was at fault.....
Try Blazer Brass or PMC 115-gr. It's just a bit hotter than the Wimpchester White Box. I also like the Federal RTP (Range Target Practice) white box 115-gr.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Given the nature of this thread, I don't think that hotter ammo is the way to go with Deputy's problem with his Spreewerk model. :( The answer likely lies elsewhere, though a further detailed description would help with a diagnosis.
 

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Try Blazer Brass or PMC 115-gr. It's just a bit hotter than the Wimpchester White Box. I also like the Federal RTP (Range Target Practice) white box 115-gr.
I have some stuff called "HotShot". I think it is Czech ammo. If it doesn't work with that, then I will have to start investigating further. Could also be a bad mag, so I will take a couple of spares with next time. It's possible the locking block is at fault. It's a replacement.



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I have a cyq all matching with holster. The plastic red grips had a crack so I removed them and stored them and installed a set of cheap wood grips. I have shot maybe 100 rounds of cast reloads without a hitch using canuba wax as a lube just to clean up the bore some. The 104 grain cast pops out at just under 1000 fps according to my chrono at 5 feet from the muzzle. It's a pleasant load and no battering of the action. I - personally - have no reason to fire any full power loads in any of my vintage military arms. I would say for those who intend to do so that springs is a must to replace and a full check over by a smith is a must do.
 

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I just posted an update to my cyq problems here:
http://www.waltherforums.com/forum/classics/38043-range-report-part-2-my-cyq-p38.html#post364379

I DO think the ammo WAS part of the problem. I changed to MGMike's recommendation of Federal 115 grain American Eagle and the malfunctions dropped dramatically. I think I can improve performance even more by replacing ALL the springs with a Wolff spring kit and installing a stiffer mag spring.
Quite honestly, I am not a big fan of the alloy frame P38. If you hold both in your hands, you can tell the difference immediately. Besides the alloy frame being lighter (and that lightness transmits recoil to your hand), it is out-of-balance. It is "nose heavy". The steel frame P38 has perfect balance. And there is also the problem with frame cracking. You can pretty much minimize the chances of frame or slide cracking in a steel P38 by changing the springs. The only hope you have for an alloy P38 is if you have one with the hex bolt and stronger slide. And those versions are disappearing rapidly from availability. The word is out about the 1970 and later alloy guns being better and they are demanding premium prices compared to previous versions.

So what do you do if you want to shoot a P38 but don't want an alloy gun? The answer is the Russian mismatch imports. They are available for just a little more than the alloy P38 and will give you many more years of service after a spring replacement. Going price right now is around $550 from Wideners and J&G Sales. The Wideners guns are supposed to be very nice and J&G has a money back guarantee if you don't like the gun. Try getting that with a Gunbroker alloy frame gun!



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Shooting P-38s

A word of caution from experience....Do not shoot the old stuff in a vintage P-38, especially the German and Italian....it's corrosive. In addition, the Beretta sub-machinegun ammo is hot. Hot enough to blow the top strap off!

Use modern ammo....moderate loads. You should be fine. Better still, go buy a West German police P-1......and shoot the hell out of it.:D
 

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If you can't shoot it, it is not a gun. Period.
[SARCASM] I concur. I also believe that the Spirit of St. Louis is not an airplane. Neither are all of those WWII fighter and bomber aircraft in the Wright-Patterson AFB Museum, nor all of the other aircraft museums throughout this country/the world. Now that I think about it, the USS Constitution, USS Alabama, USS Missouri, USS Hornet & USS North Carolina are not war ships either.

In other news, I didn't drive my car yesterday...therefore, it's no longer a car. Period. [/SARCASM]

Ain't opinions great?

Since my Father passed away, I am the current caretaker of the P-38 and Radom pistols that he picked up from the battlefield during WWII, as well as the German issue belt and belt buckle he acquired (which, coincidentally, I still consider as a belt and buckle, even though it's been decades since they've been used as such.) While he and I did fire them in the past, and I have fired them on one occasion since his passing, I have no definite plans on ever firing them again. It may still happen, but for the moment, they are temporarily "retired". Even if I never fire them again, I still consider them as "guns". To each his own.

Tim
 

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I hate doing this, but I will state the obvious...it's YOUR gun and you can do anything you want with it. If you can afford to buy or already own an expensive collectors item that will lose most of it's value if a numbered part breaks on it, be my guest. But you DON'T have to do that. You can buy a much less expensive yet still historical gun and shoot the heck out of it, and if a part breaks, so what. Just replace it. That's the choices. There is nothing inherently wrong with either one. And trying to lecture people to NOT do a certain thing is a sure way to make them do it out of pure spite. I have 2 non-import, numbers matching, WW2 P38s that I PROBABLY won't shoot. I MAY, but probably not. If I do, first thing I will do is replace ALL the springs before going to the range. That is just common sense. :)



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