Carl Walther in 1886 started his humble beginings as an arms manufacturer. Little did he know the impact his designs would have on firearms to this day.
Carl Walther started his business with the Walther Models 1 through 9, however this page deals with models PP through the present P99. There is a link to a page farther down that will take you to some rare and seldom seen Walthers, including two from the numbered series.
Pre-war and Wartime Production
The Walther PP, first produced in 1929, was the first successful double action automatic pistol manufactured. The pistol could safely be carried with a round in the chamber, ready to fire. The trigger pull on the first shot would be a longer heavier pull than subsquent shots. After the first shot, the retracting slide would cock the hammer for follow up shots if nessesary. The PP pictured in the above link was, according to the serial number, one of the first 20,000 pistols produced. Probably late 1929 or sometime in the first quarter of 1930. This example has the 90 degree safety and the large ring hammer, but does not have the loaded chamber indicator common to later pistols.
The PP series is a blowback, or unlocked-breach design, meaning that the barrel is fitted and pinned to the receiver and does not move. When a round is fired the recoil ejects the spent casing and the slide strips another round from the magazine into the chamber ready to fire again. This design is used in smaller, lower power chamberings, typically 9mm Kurz or less.
The Walther PP was chambered in .22, 6.35mm, 7.65mm, and 9mm kurz. The 7.65mm chambering was the most popular, with the 9mm kurz, or .380 ACP as it's known in the United States, gaining popularity toward the latter part of WWII. The PP and PPK chambered in caliber 6.35mm is extremely rare and not many examples exist today.
There were various experimental models of the PP, such as a ten-round model, and one with a decocker mounted on the frame. These never made it into regular production. Though the decocker can be found on the PP Super.
Almost all Walther models were produced at the Zella-Mehlis plant before and during the war. After the war, the plant was moved out of the Soviet sector of divided Germany, to the French sector in Ulm, West Germany, where some models are still manufactured today.
The Walther P.38 is probably as well known as the Walther PPK. It too, has been used in various movies and television shows. The predecessors of the P.38 were the Models MP and AP. The MP was in development just after WWI and was a blowback design like the PP series. This design would not stand up to the punishment of a 9mm round. The AP was a refined version with a new type of locking system, extractor, breech, and firing pin. Patents were awarded for protecting these inovative designs. Walther took these designs and futher refined his new pistol to be called the P.38. This pistol was first available in 1938, and a civilian version called the HP was the commercial model. Postwar P.38's were constructed with an alloy frame and a P-1 was issued to the military and West German Police. This example is an AC43 built at the Zella-Mehlis plant in June or July of 1943. Machining marks are evident on the slide in this image. Starting in 1942, exterior machining suffered in favor of higher volume production. Internally, it is every bit as good as earlier examples. This pistol has the brownish-reddish grips. It is in excellent condition, with little noticable wear. See under "Rare and Lesser Known Walthers" an AC41 First Variation that still has the high polish and deep blue finish.
The PPK, a smaller version of the PP, was made to fill the need for a compact concealable handgun used by undercover police officers. Many police officers today trust their lives to this little pistol as a back-up to their service sidearm. As a side note, PPK stands for Polizei Police Kriminal , and was first introduced in 1931. It saw extensive service in the German government and military during WWII. Walther produced more than 150,000 during the war. Some of the more collectable PPK's are the Party Leader, ones with a heel magazine release in any caliber, and those marked with a Waffenamt "RZM" and "WaA359". The Party Leader was not acually a special gun, but rather the grips that were attached to it made it special. It was awarded by the Fuhrer, though not presented by Hitler himself in every case. Beware of fakes. These are the most copied grips out there. Many people think there is a definite block of serial numbers for these guns, but there was no such block reserved just for this purpose.
Post-war production 1946-1956
In the aftermath of WWII, it was decided by the Treaty of Versailles, and the Pottsdam accords that Germany would not manufacture weapons. Walther instead built business machines as they had before the war. In 1950, the Manufacture de Machines du Haut-Rhin of Mulhouse, France started to build Walther PP's and PPK's and P.38's under license. Manurhin started in 1952 with the PP and the PPK in 1953. The Walther quality remained in these licensed copies, and kept the Walther name in the public eye untill such time they could start manufacturing again. Most PPK and PPK/S models were still manufactured in France untill as late as 1986. Parts were shipped to Walther in Ulm for final fitting, finishing, stamping, proofing, and assembly. In 1986 Walther took over production of the PP series ending their licensing agreement with Manhurin.
Although PPK's are banned from importation, I was able to locate this pre-GCA 1968 model manufactured by Walther. This example has the Ulm proofhaus elk antler and the Eagle-over-N Nitro-proof. There are no import marks anywhere on this pistol. It has the lanyard slot on the butt which is specific to the German made Walthers. It is chambered in the not-so-common (for PPK's made in Germany) 9mm Kurz. PPK's chambered in .22 are even less common. Rating would be 99%. Although new, it has suffered some abrasion of the finish from being in the cardboard box for the last thirty years.
Compare the German PPK with the American licensed copy by Interarms. I just picked this pistol up today. (22MAR99) I fired 200 FMJ and 40 Hydra-Shok through this pistol and it
functioned flawlessly. Though the metal polishing is not as good as the German Walthers, the machinework, fit, and finish are very good. The lanyard slot is noticably missing on the American copy. The grip tang is somewhat more pointed, and the muzzle end of the slide a bit more bulbous.
In 1953, Thalson of San Francisco started importation, and Interarms of Alexandria, Virginia took over in late 1955. Interarms no longer imports for Walther GmBH. Walther USA/Smith&Wesson is a minor importer of the P99 but does not import any other models.
Earl's Repair Service is a major importer for all Walther handguns currently in production in Germany aside from the TPH and PPK which are banned from importation.
Earl is the only source for most Walther accesories short of visiting Ulm, Germany yourself.
Recent Walther Handguns 1960-1998
The Walther TPH
In 1962 Walther introduced the Model TP or Taschen Pistole (Pocket Pistol). This model continued in production untill roughly 1971. In the summer of 1968, Walther redesigned the TP to become the TPH, or Taschen Pistole Hahn (Pocket Pistol, Hammer) to compete in the small automatic pistol market. The TPH is acually a scaled down version of the well-known Walther PP, using most of the proven design features of the larger pistol. The TPH is a bit larger than the TP approaching the size of the Walther Model 8. It shares with the PP the basic outline of the frame and slide as well as the safety/decocker feature. The pistol in the image is chambered in caliber 6.35mm or .25ACP. It is also offered in .22 caliber as well.
Both of these cartridges could not be considered very effective against large targets, but when it's all you can carry it's better than nothing. It would take consistant practice with these small calibers to become proficient with effective employment of a handgun this small.
The TPH uses a bottom magazine release much like the P5 in that it is hidden in the but of the pistol. It is a conventional single/double action handgun. The sights are fixed, but the rear is drift adjustable for windage. The frame is of alloy and the barrel/slide and internal parts are of steel. It has the traditional high-polished deep blue finish that is standard on many Walthers and is flawless. It does have a feature I've never seen before on any other Walther and that is a half-cock notch for the hammer. When the decocker is used, it allows the hammer to fall to this half cock position doubly insuring that there is no contact of the hammer on the firing pin.
Importation of this pistol was banned by the GCA of 1968 because of the TPH's small size as an extremely concealable handgun. Many were legally imported for issuance to US Navy Seal Teams, the CIA, and other official government agencies that required the use of such a small concealable handgun. Mine is one such pistol as it was manufactured in 1983. Interarms manufactured a licensed copy in stainless steel in both calibers starting in 1987, and later, a blued version. But reliability problems are not uncommon in the American made version. They are also not nearly as expensive as their German brethren either. The entire length is less than a P.38 barrel. The grip is surprisingly comfortable for a pistol of this size and you can get a full two fingers around the grip with the help of the magazine extention. I have not fired this model and may not to preserve its value, though I'm curious as to how it handles. It points naturally in the hand and the sights are good for their size.
This pistol is NIB and came with all accesories including a very impressive test target that indicated a group of 1" at 15 meters for five shots. The date code, "ID" indicates this pistol was manufactured in 1983, and was imported or smuggled into the U.S. circumventing the GCA of '68. There are no import marks on this example. This pistol is extremely rare in the United States chambered in the 6.35mm caliber. Overall, probably the cream of the crop for small mouseguns.
P.38, P1, P4, P.38K
In the late 1950's Walther once again offered the P.38 to civilians. There were some changes to the pistol when Walther was allowed to tool up for production. The slide was machined with slightly different contours, though it is hard to tell unless the war-time and post-war models are side-by-side. In addition, the frame was machined from alloy instead of steel. An idea that Walther had experimented with back in the 1930's.
The P1 is essentially the same pistol issued to the West German Police and for export, and the P4 was an experiment with a shorter barreled version with decocker and safety modifications. The P.38K was a snub-nosed P.38 made in request to a concealable full-power 9mm handgun. It is a rather unusual looking pistol with most of the extended part of the barrel cut down to the front of the slide. Its drawback was its bulkiness through the slide as it used the same locking mechanism of the P.38. There were some 2000 frames machined of steel for the P.38. Walther was informed that the military and police agencies would rather have the lighter weight of the alloy, and steel frame production ceased. An All Steel Classic version was imported by Interarms in 1987-'88 and is extremely rare and expensive.
This P1 is the same P1 pictured in the above link after refinishing. Brownell's baking lacquer was used after proper preparation of the alloy and steel parts. Wood grips were added from Gun Parts Corp. The work was performed by the author. This pistol was manufactured in 1978 and has both military and police acceptance marks as well as the importer mark.
There are thousands of P.38's, P1's, and P4's on the market, and as Germany retires this workhorse, more and more are being imported to the States for shooters and collector pieces.
P5, P5 Compact
In the early 1970's Heckler& Koch (pronounced coke), was Walthers chief competitor. H&K released the excellent P9S, and the P7, and signaled to Walther it was time for a new design. The P5 was a redesigned P.38. The slide contours closely matched those of the P.38 towards the rear, with a different machining towards the front. The barrel was shortened to 3.5" and was supported at the muzzle as well as the breech for excellent accuracy and fully enclosed by the slide. The P5 shared the same type of swinging link locking block as the P.38. This type of lock-up is inherently accurate because the barrel returns to the same position each time it cycles. It is not the familiar Browning type tilting-barrel lock-up.
The grips are checkered plastic and fits very well in the hand. This example was wearing Houge grips. Though for concealed carry the grips tend to hang up on the covering garment so I put the factory grips back on it. It is now wearing factory Walther burled walnut grips. Control is excellent with little flip or rise because of the heavy slide. Sights are click adjustable for windage only, and the magazine holds eight rounds. The decocker on the frame also functions as the slide release. The magazine release is in the traditional heel position for a European pistol.
The Walther P5 is available in extremely limited quantities in .30 Luger caliber. Most were special ordered in this configuration and included the standard 9mm barrel as well.
This model was never adopted by the German government but is used by some German police agencies. Finnland, Sweden, and Norway all bought in quantity for their national police forces. The Dutch National Police have puchased more than 50,000, and more than 100,000 have been produced so far. Walker's partner on "Walker, Texas Ranger" carries a Walther P5. The P5 was also used in one Bond movie but the title escapes me.
In 1990 Walther offered the P5 Compact. A slightly shorter and thinner model. The P5C is 6.5" long and weighs 27.5oz. The magazine holds eight rounds. I scanned a photo of this pistol, but it didn't turn out too well. It looks very similar to the P-5 Standard. A 100 Year commemorative P5C is available with fancy scroll engraving and hand-checkered wooden grips, with gold plated parts. It comes with a deluxe presentation case and a deluxe price tag as well. It sells for more than $2700.00.
P88, P88 Compact
In 1981-82, Walther started designing the P88 for the U.S. armed forces' pistol trials to replace the Colt model 1911 .45ACP. It did quite well but failed the adverse conditions test and was eliminated from further consideration. It was also deemed too expensive to purchase in such quantity. It became available for civilian purchase in 1986, but again the high cost of this pistol doomed it to commercial failure with the gun buying public. The P88 is a "wonder nine" as it holds 15 rounds in the magazine. Many of its contemporaries were also introduced during the mid-80's when high capacity magazines were popular among law enforcement and civilian shooters alike. Due to its high price, the P88 has not been adopted by any police or government agencies. Considered by many as the finest out-of-the-box 9mm combat pistol in the world, the P88 is a superbly engineered and exceptionally well though out pistol.
It is fully ambidextrious. The magazine release will push from either side. The decocker and slide release function on the same lever, again, both sides. Sights are click-adjustable for windage. This pistol was the first modern design from Walther that did not use the swinging-link lockup like the earlier P.38 and P5. Instead it uses a modified improved variation of the tilting-barrel concept invented by John Browning. Close tolerances and attention to detail eliminate any sloppiness or variation in the way the slide and barrel return to battery after each shot. This precise fit makes the P88 superbly accurate. Groups fired from a Ransom rest are well under 2" at 25 yards. More than accurate for a service sidearm. For a pistol that has a double-column magazine, it is very comfortable for someone with average size hands. The grips are black checkered plastic, burled walnut grips are available for this model from Earl's Repair Service. The finish is a deep, high-polished blue, that is traditionally flawless from Walther. This pistol was discontinued in 1994, probably due to no contracts from government or police agencies because of its high price. Even a well kept used pistol often commands near-new prices.
In his new book, "The Walther Handgun Story", Gene Gangarosa Jr. states that the highest serial number he has seen was 006988. He goes on to say that Walther surely must have produced closer to 10,000 of these pistols before discontinuing it in 1994. His estimates are extremely close, as the serial number on mine is 009385. Very near the end of production.
In early 1994, Walther redesigned the P88 and called it the P88 Compact. As the shift to smaller, more concealable handguns occured, this was still a pretty big pistol. It is 1/2" shorter and 1/4" shorter in length than the Standard. It is still fully ambidextrious. Walther moved the location of the safety/decocker to the slide like the PP series. There are some differences in the lockwork between the two models. It is still a very accurate pistol, but not as accurate as the original P88 Standard. The target-grade accuracy of the P88 Standard was almost overkill for a service sidearm, but I'm sure glad I have one.
The newest and most advanced from Walther: The P99
With the success of polymer-framed pistols from H&K and Glock, Walther introduced the polymer-framed P99 service pistol at the 1997 Shot Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Drawing on the excellent points of both pistols, as well as receiving patents for many new features of their own, the P99 truly is a pistol for the next century. The P99 uses the familiar Browning type tilting-barrel lock-up that was used in the P88. It is a true single/double action striker fired handgun with second strike capability. No other striker fired handgun has this feature. An inovative decocker arangement was devised with the decocker button built flush into the top left of the slide. The magazine release is ambidextrious and is placed along both sides of the lower part of the trigger guard. The slide release is the only protrusion on the side of the pistol, and it too is pretty flat on the frame. This makes for a pistol that is extremely fast to draw without snagging or tearing up clothing. The finish is what Walther calls Tennifer. It looks like black blueing with a satin sheen, and matches the frame color exactly. It is very hard wearing and tough. Sights are windage adjustable in the rear and comes with three extra interchangeable front sights of varying heights. A feature not found on other polymer guns, is the interchangeable backstrap to adjust the size of the grip. This is great for shooters with different sized hands, or for winter use when gloves are worn. A backstrap insert is also available in stippled walnut. The frame has molded-in rails for laser or tactical lights. One company that makes a laser sight is Laser Devices Inc. The magazine capacity is ten for civilians and 16 for law enforcement, government and export. There are limited quantities available of legal 16 round magazines for civilians. The mag is made by Mec-gar, one of the best mags out there, and has "Walther P99" molded into the floorplate. Accuracy is very good, approaching excellent. Off-hand 2.5 to 3 inch groups at 25 yards is very acceptable for a service sidearm. Unlike the other Walther models, this one is actually affordable. It lists for 799.00 with shop prices typically running around $600.00 give or take 20 bucks. Other than the PPK, PPK/S, and the TPH, this is the first Walther in a long time below the 900.00 mark. This pistol was designed for the German State Police and is being issued now to replace the PP and P38 models. This example is number 237 out of the Ulm plant. There were 5400 pistols produced in 1997 and over 25,000 produced in 1998. Nowhere near the wartime P.38 production, but still a subtantial increase over 1997. Demand for this new Walther has outstripped production.
Earl's Repair Service had announced the Walther P-99 chambered in 9mmX21mm and is now available in limited quantities.
There are many details about these pistols that I did not want to bore the casual reader with. If you would like more information on these and other pre- and post-war Walther pistols please click on "Rare and Lesser Know Walthers or E-mail me at Sennheiser@email.msn.com. All replies will be answered to the best of my ability with no BS.
Walther Handguns and Accesories
The BEST accesories and parts source for German made Walthers. All models covered. Hi-cap mags, factory walnut grips, night sights, and more. Walther authorized service center. Earl visits Germany several times a year to bring back parts and accesories not available in the States. For ONLY German made Walthers. Do not contact them with questions about American made PPK's and PPK/S's. Many unusual and hard to find Walther handguns as well as current production handguns are available too.
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This page last updated on 18APR01.
You are visitor since 28FEB98. Thanks for stopping by. This just scratches the surface of the Walther handguns.