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Discussion Starter #1
Why exactly did Walther change the frame material from steel to aluminum and change the slide finish from bluing to parkerized? Was easier to mill out aluminum alloy and do parkerized finishes?
 

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Most probably the main reason to make the frame from aluminum was to reduce the weight.

For the steel parts, parkerizing or phosphating is more durable and rust-resistant than bluing, though not as attractive. Since Walther's major customers were the military and police, to whom such qualities were more important than cosmetics, that's the way Walther went.

M
 

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First, alloy frames to reduce weight, as noted by Mike. Then they found that the aluminum frames were prone to cracking, so they reinforced later guns with a steel cross pin. Then they introduced a heavier slide to reduce slide cracking and slide velocity impact to the frame. The sights were modified to more visible with a wider front sight and rear notch, and with while dot on the front, and while rear block. If there are other mods, I may have missed them.
 

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Weight and cost.

The standard reason you find everywhere for switching from steel frames is the weight reduction, somewhere close to 200 grams. Anodized aluminum is also cheaper. However, I suspect the increased need for repair and replacement likely wiped out the cost advantage for the customer agencies in the long run.

As for the finish on the steel parts: As Mike mentioned, no significant civilian market was envisioned when post-war production began, and the Bundeswehr and BGS probably preferred a non-glare utility finish. And a standard blue finish is considerably more costly, requiring more care and labor with surface prep and polishing than phosphating. As an illustration, during WW II S&W and Colt cut the cost of their .38 revolvers somewhere between 20 and 30% just by switching to a dull finish and non-fancy stocks.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the responses, folks. Especially with the talk on finishes.

Weight and cost.

The standard reason you find everywhere for switching from steel frames is the weight reduction, somewhere close to 200 grams. Anodized aluminum is also cheaper. However, I suspect the increased need for repair and replacement likely wiped out the cost advantage for the customer agencies in the long run.
Do aluminum alloy frames wear out more than steel frames from heavy use in the long run? I could imagine that the alloy frames on the P38 and P1 could take more of a beating because of the locking block system.
 

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Do aluminum alloy frames wear out more than steel frames from heavy use in the long run?
Here's an answer from FAQ: The Classics

The fat slide was Walther's answer to a high incidence of slides stretching, cracking, and eventually breaking, at the locking block cutouts. I have personally examined dozens of slides , both late-war Mauser and postwar Walther, cracked or broken in this way. Whether this was the result of more powerful or widely variable postwar 9mm Para ammunition or of some other cause, I am unable to say.

I do not believe that cracking of the frame was or is a frequent occurrence. I personally have seen only a very few, cracked in different places, from which I draw no opinion as to the cause.

The hex lug was added for an entirely different reason: to extend the service life of the frame by providing a hardened steel wear surface for the locking cam. Frames that have seen a lot of use, especially when dirty or without lubrication, show considerable wear and displacement of aluminum at that point, which makes the action locking/unlocking rough and less consistent and reliable.

The hex lug does not make the frame stronger; it is only an insert and does not "cinch" the frame together to prevent splitting. It could be argued that broaching the hole for the insert actually makes the frame integrally weaker. But it lasts longer.
 
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