Forward view of the P1 pistol, a P38 with aluminum frame.
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The P38 is a pistol of German origin. It was developed slightly before World War 2 and was one of the iconic German weapons during the war. It was developed by Walther as a cheaper alternative to the costly and complex Luger P08. The P38 was the first locked breech double action pistol. The earlier Walther PP was also double action, but blowback operated instead of having a locked breech. The design of the Walther P5 was derived from the P38.
The P38 is a short recoil operated semi-automatic pistol. It has a distinctive look caused by the barrel protruding several centimeters from the short frame. As one of the first double action pistols a unique feature was the ability to carry the P38 with a round in the chamber, allowing for rapid use.
The P38 is a semi-automatic pistol that fires the 9x19mm round from an 8 round single stack magazine. Small quantities have been produced in 7.65x21mm Parabellum and .22 Long Rifle, mostly for civilian use. The maximum effective range is 25 to 50 meters.
The P38 was extensively used by Nazi Germany during World War 2. During and after the war it was adopted by various nations around the world, most of them in Europe. Post war West Germany adopted the P1 in 1957. Nowadays most P38 have been replaced by more modern designs which generally have a higher magazine capacity and are lighter as well.
The P38 is the standard World War 2 era production model with steel frame. Early commercial models were known as the Armee Pistole and Heeres Pistole and featured minor differences.
The P1 is the post war production model with aluminum alloy frame for reduced weight. Besides the weight it is similar in every other aspect.
The P4 is a short barrel model of the P1, developed in the 1970's for use by the German police. Besides the shorter barrel an automated firing pin safety has been added.
The P38K is a version of the P4 with a very short barrel that hardly protrudes from the frame. It was developed in the early 1980's for concealed carry by the German KSK. The letter K stands for "Kurz", which is German for "short".
In German military service the P1 was replaced by the P8 pistol. This is a H&K USP in 9x19mm.
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