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Pistol P 1 – the Bundeswehr handgun – Part 1

Part 1:

The first part of this article will provide the reader with an overview of the changes which the weapon and its accessories have undergone. The upcoming parts of this report will give the reader a more detailed description of individual features and introduce individual pistols.

In its initial phase in 1956 the Bundeswehr had to procure major defence equipment as well as handguns from the Allies of World War II. Hence, Colt 1911 pistols in .45 ACP were the first handguns handed out to German soldiers. The delivery of the first new Walther pistols started in June 1957. According to what we know today, pistols which had previously been used by the Wehrmacht, the armed forces of Nazi Germany, and had been seized by the Allies of WW II were not released. While the WTS does have two Wehrmacht P 38 bearing delivery acceptance stamps by the German Federal Office of Defence Technology and Procurement (Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung - BWB), the purpose which these weapons served is not known unfortunately. The Belgian shooting test stamps suggest that they were procured on non-military markets. An inquiry on this has been launched.


P 38 manufactured by Mauser in 1943 showing Belgian stamp: "Waffe ausländischer Herstellung" ("Weapon of foreign origin").

Stamp by the German Federal Office of Defence Technology and Procurement (Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung - BWB).


The Belgian stamp overlaps with the German delivery acceptance stamp of 1943.

BWB stamp showing the number 27.

The Bundeswehr P 1 pistol is a replica of the Walther P 38 which was originally brought into Wehrmacht use in 1940. German common parlance and Bundeswehr regulations exclusively mention the term "Pistole P 1", even though the first pistols were marked with the designation P 8. The P 1 was the Bundeswehr standard issue pistol over many years before it was gradually superseded by the P 8 from 1996 onwards.

At first glance, one can hardly see any difference between the pistols manufactured during World War II and the Bundeswehr weapon, apart from the grip casings. Almost all components look identical.


Wehrmacht P 38 above and Bundeswehr P 1 (P 38) below.

However, the first difference becomes obvious as soon as one takes the Bundeswehr weapon into one's hand. Thanks to the light metal grip portions, which are anodised in black, the first variant of the pistols with unreinforced slide and grip, including a magazine, weighs between 780 and 785 grams when unloaded. These weapons did not have the weight of 790 grams stated in the Technical Manual (Technische Dienstvorschrift – Tdv), issue 1960 (no designation). The weight of weapons with a reinforced slide is between 790 and 795 grams. The newest variant with a grip which had been additionally reinforced weighs 800 grams (in accordance with TDv 1005/006-14, dated June 1976).

As opposed to that, the Wehrmacht variants of the P 38 models have a consistent weight of 940 grams each. The magazines, manufactured by different companies and in different years, weigh between 80 and 82 grams. These valued were determined by weighing and comparing 10 weapons, respectively.

The manufacture of the Bundeswehr P 1 was exclusively carried out by Walther as contrasted with the P 38 manufacture during WW II which was conducted by Walther, Mauser and Spreewerk Grottau. According to a former Bundeswehr soldier, Manurhin also supplied weapons to the Bundeswehr. Due to a lack of written evidence and/or respective weapons, however, this cannot be confirmed.

With this article we would like to give you an overview of the major and minor changes which the weapon and its accessories have undergone over the years.

Changes which are visible from the outside:

  • Steel grip replaced by light metal grip
  • Phosphate coating of steel components instead of bluing
  • Reinforced slide
  • Reinforced grip
  • Reinforced slide release
  • Reinforced hammer
  • Reinforced sight
  • Additional slide recess for engaging slide release
  • Minted or cast trigger
  • Modified marking of the weapon

Changes which are hardly or not visible from the outside:

  • Use of a two-part barrel (exterior barrel with interior barrel tube)
  • Reinforced round level indicator
  • Three changes in firing pin design
  • Installation of a spring at ejector
  • Different designs of and materials for falling locking block

The first weapons delivered had a grip made from steel. Shortly afterwards, however, it was replaced by a grip made from light metal. The grips of weapons which had already been delivered were replaced. Most of the modifications which took place during the manufacture of the weapons were retrofitted to the pistols used by the troops during overhaul works. The kind and location of the marking and punch-marking applied to slide and grip continuously changed in the course of the P 1's service life.

Faulty components were replaced by new ones which, simultaneously, were marked with the serial number of the respective pistol. The delivery of each lot of pistols was accompanied by the delivery of a set number of spare parts. These parts had no serial number but had been tested and accepted. Weapons were even cannibalized and the used components were re-used. The former serial numbers were effaced and new numbers were applied (not always at the required position). For this reason, there is a whole range of different mixed designs which, according to their serial numbers and years of construction, should not even exist. This practice is the reason why it is very difficult to find a weapon in the state in which it was originally delivered in first version.

Attributing the serial numbers and the manufacturing periods unambiguously to certain changes performed on the weapons is possible only in very few cases. In most cases the dates of the changes respectively stated in the written documents do not correspond to the point in time at which the changes were incorporated into P 1 manufacture at Walther.

There are three versions of the marking of slides and grips:


The first design of the weapons carries a small Walther ribbon on the left side of the slide, and next to it the complete company name, the P 38 variant designation as well as the calibre indicated by a "C" and a "9" which is round at the bottom. However, it does not have a serial number. A four-pointed star and an inspection stamp (only faintly visible here) can be found in the left front area of the first variant only. The two symbols represent a changed or new firing pin design.

The reason for this first change of the firing pin is not known. Unfortunately, the Walther archives do not hold any information on that, either. Many thanks to Walther for all the information provided.


On the right side of the slide you can see 2 delivery acceptance stamps, month and year of manufacture and stock number.


Left side of grip with reinforced slide release, serial number and Walther factory acceptance stamp. The slide release was replaced and the Bundeswehr stamp was added in the course of an overhaul.


Right side of grip with two inspection stamps. This kind of marking corresponds to the TDv dated May 1960.


The four-pointed star and the inspection stamp are hardly visible in this case because the protective coating has been renewed. The three digits at the end of the serial number of the marking on this first-design slide were imprinted after manufacture. The irregular spacing suggests that this was done manually.


The second variant of the weapons (from October 1963 onwards and approx. starting with serial no. 230,000) still features the complete Walther company name on the left side of the slide next to the small Walther ribbon. However, this variant was already labelled P 1. The calibre designation used is "Cal" and a 9 which then had a straight line to the bottom. The three digits at the end of the serial number were imprinted during manufacture. The marking of the firing pin which had been replaced does no longer exist.


On the right side you can see the two inspection stamps next to each other now. To the right, month and year of manufacture are indicated. The stock number has been waived. The marking of the grips of the second variant is identical to that of the first variant.


This is the third and latest marking version which was introduced when the reinforced slide was adopted (from November 1967 onwards and starting with serial number 312,700): Walther factory inspection stamp, large Walther ribbon and variant designation P 1. Month and year of manufacture were moved from the right side to the left. Calibre was now abbreviated "K" but now a "round" 9 was again used. The four-pointed star marks the reinforced slide in this case.

The formal aspects and layout of the marking correspond to the technical specifications TL 1005-001 dated April 1976. TDv 1005/006-14, published in June 1976, showed a slightly different layout of the marking. This version was obviously not implemented.


Right side of reinforced slide with two quality inspection stamps.

Right side of reinforced slide with new quality inspection stamp.

In the course of P 1 manufacture, the layout and shape of quality inspection stamps changed.


The third P 1 variant with reinforced slide often features a reinforced grip. This one has a serial number, the Walther factory inspection stamp and the Bundeswehr property stamp on the left side.

The weapon came with the standard of a reinforced grip and the Bundeswehr stamp starting no earlier than with serial number 370,001 onwards. This can be drawn from these sources: TDv 1005/006-14 Parts 1 to 4 and TDV 1005/006-50 Part 5, Spare Parts Catalogue.


Two quality inspection stamps on grips without reinforcement.

One inspection stamp on grips with reinforcement.

The reason for reinforcing the P 1 slide was the high number of cracks which most of the time occurred at the weakest parts of the slide - the recesses into which the locking block swivels. The material thickness of these parts was lowest and did often not withstand the strain during firing. The reason for this was the gas pressure which was considerably higher for the cartridges which were used for Bundeswehr pistols and submachine guns than for the original composition of 9mm Para cartridges which had been manufactured in the period up to 1945. It is safe to say that the common practice to hand out the same weapons again and again for firing practice, leading to extreme firing stress, contributed to the cases of damage. The reinforcement was conducted by increasing the thickness of the lateral slide material from 2.5 to 3.2 mm. The design changes are described in the Technical Instructions on Changes in Material Shape ( TAM-F – Technische Anweisung für Material- Formänderung) dated February 15, 1968.


Reinforced slide (top) and unreinforced slide (bottom).

The 9 mm Para cartridges, most recently referred to as 9 mm Luger after the national firearms register had been established in Germany, was called cartridge 08 in Germany until 1945. The German Bundeswehr calls it Cartridge 9 MM x 19 and uses different additional characters indicating the respective design, such as "DM11A1B2".

With time, the kind and quantity of the propelling charge in the former "Cartridge 08" has changed considerably.

The following table summarizes the changes indicated in several official sources:


Weight of projectile
in grams

Weight of charge
in grams

Muzzle velocity
in m/sec

Gas pressure
in bar

HDV 481/1 - Data sheet on Handguns and submachine guns (Merkblatt für die Munition für Handfeuerwaffen und M.G.)(March 26, 1938)



V0 320


TDv without number (05/1960); 9 mm x 19, DM 11

No indication

No indication

V0 345


TDv 1005/006-14 (June 29, 1976)


No indication

V0 395


Data sheet on Ammunition, Cartridge 9 MM X 19, DM11A1B2 (Munitionsmerkblatt Patrone 9 MM X 19, DM11A1B2)(December 20, 1976)



V0 395


Data sheet on Ammunition, Cartridge 9 MM X 19, DM51 (Munitionsmerkblatt Patrone, 9 MM X 19, DM51)(04/1997)



V0 370 - 420

No indication

CIP Table

No indication

No indication

No indication


Based on the indications on maximum gas pressure and muzzle velocity of the projectile, the damage to those pistols with unreinforced slides can be explained. The gas pressure of the regular cartridge used by the Bundeswehr is as high as or even higher than the gas pressure of the civilian testing cartridge.

As a further measure for improving stability, the grip was reinforced (starting with serial number 370,001). The ramp inside of the grip which pushes up the slide release when the slide moves forward, thus locking the barrel and the slide, is prone to extreme wear and tear. This is why this part of the grip made from aluminium was reinforced by a rectangular steel element which was mounted transversally. This change is clearly visible from the outside.


Grip without reinforcement - Overhaul (W1.78) in Sankt Wendel in January 1978; during this overhaul, the Bw stamp was added.

Grip with reinforcement - Bundeswehr stamp imprinted at the Walther factory.


Grip without reinforcement. The wear and tear at the ramp is clearly visible (left). Grip with reinforcement. The steel inlay and the rollpin securing it are clearly visible (right).

Another modification which took place during the P 1's service life was the reaming of the left front lower part of the slide. Thanks to this measure, the slide release may be swivelled to the front even if the barrel and the slide are locked, i.e. the weapon can be disassembled in this state.


Lower part of the picture: slide without recess; upper part: slide with recess.

Probably the most significant change to the weapons which were manufactured in Ulm, as opposed to the pistols manufactured during WW II, is the use of a two-part barrel. The barrel no longer consists of one part, but of an exterior barrel and a lining barrel which features the rifling. In the course of the manufacture of the P 1 pistol, three different variants emerged.

The shrink-fitted lining barrel of the first variant is secured by a pin fitted at right angles to the central axis in the rear portion of the slide release.


You can see the transversally fitted pin which secures the position of the barrel.


You can see the transversally fitted pin which secures the position of the barrel.

View of the muzzle portion.

The barrels of many of the weapons assembled in this way tended to shift to the front over the course of time. The transversal pin was not sturdy enough, and buckled. Therefore, the type of barrel support was changed. First (as of September 1972), a narrow collar and, later (as of October 1974), a wide collar were added to the barrel; the wide collar abutted against the outer barrel from the rear.


Narrow collar

Wide collar


View of the barrel, the collar is clearly visible.

View of the muzzle portion.

You can differentiate between the individual types of lining barrel assembly quite well when looking at the muzzle.


Lining barrel with transversal pin.

Lining barrel with collar.

Starting with serial number 370,001, the sight was improved. This was implemented by the use of a wider front sight with a white dot and a notch which was incised more widely and had a white strip.


Old front sight having a width of 2 mm.

New front sight having a width of 3.5 mm and a white dot.


Old notch having a width of 2.3 mm.

New notch having a width of 4 mm and a white marking.

If you take a closer look at the front sights and notches, you can see various numbers on the front sights and the letters "R" and "L" on the notches. These are explained in TDv 1005/006-14.

With weapons which did not hit the target range during accuracy testing the front sights were adjusted to different heights, and the notches were laterally shifted. The number on the front sight indicates the respective vertical displacement of 6.7 mm relative to the standard sight. There is a distinction between the old front sight with a width of 2 mm and a displacement of 0.3 mm and the new front sight with a width of 4 mm and a displacement 0.4 mm..

This brief table will give you a better overview:

Front sight








Standard measurement

No designation






+ 0,3 mm


+ 0,4 mm



- 0,3 mm


- 0,4 mm


Standard measurement of old front sight

Excess of old front sight
+ 0,3 mm

Excess of new front sight
+ 0,4 mm

Standard measurement of new front sight

Excess of new (old) front sight
- 0,4 mm (- 0,3)

The lateral displacement of the old and new notch is 0.3 mm to the right ("R") or to the left ("L") respectively. This is true for the old and the new notch.


Displacement to the left

Displacement to the right

The method of manufacturing the triggers also changed.


Trigger produced by means of metal sheet minting.

Trigger produced by means of casting.

Changes to the interior of the pistol
It is very likely that the shape of the firing pin was one of the first things changed. Slides fitted with these new firing pins were marked by a four-pointed start to show the change and by an inspection stamp in the left front area. Source: TDv 1960.


Marking changed to new firing pin. Only on slides of the first variant.

Slide of the second variant with dot within a circle as in-house delivery acceptance marking by Walther. Fitted with new firing pin ex works.

You can see an additional star on most slide releases. The shape of this star corresponds to the one which marked a "reinforced slide".


With star

Without star

The hammer dimensions were expanded. This change, as is the case with different reinforced components, is marked by a four-pointed star. The larger dimensions can, however, only be seen when the grip casing has been dismantled.


Original hammer design as seen from the left side.

Original hammer design as seen from the right side.


Reinforced hammer from the left side. Change in shape can be clearly seen.

Reinforced hammer from the right side. Change in shape can be clearly seen.

The ejector (cartridge) was fitted with a spring as of April 1971.


The ejector which has no spring tilts to the front and cannot be seen.

The leaf spring pushes the ejector upward..


Without spring the ejector dangles downward into the magazine.

The spring fastens the ejector at its upper position.

The changes to firing pin, loaded chamber indicator and drop latch will be described in the subsequent part of the report.

Accessories - magazines
Walther manufactured the magazines in-house. Apparently, the design did not change during the manufacture of P 1 magazines, but the marking did. All magazines are marked only on the left side and at the rear; they are oxide-coated in matt black or phosphate-coated in black grey.

The following combinations exist:

Left side of the magazine

Rear of the magazine


P 38 "round 9"

Acceptance stamp on upper part - stock number in the middle - month/year on bottom part.


P 38 "straight 9"

Acceptance stamp on upper part - stock number on bottom part - month/year on bottom part.


P 1 "straight 9"

Acceptance stamp on upper part - stock number on bottom part - month/year on bottom part.


P 1 "straight 9"

Month/year on bottom part


P 1 "round 9"

No marking at all



Variant 1 (left) and variant 2 (right).


Variant 5 (left) and variant 3 + 4 (right).


P 38 "round" 9 variant 1 having an inspection stamp on the upper part, stock number in the middle and month/year of manufacture on the bottom part.


P 38 "straight" 9 variant 2 having an inspection stamp on the upper part, stock number and month/year of manufacture on the bottom part.


P 1 "straight" 9 variant 3 having an inspection stamp on the upper part, stock number and month/year of manufacture on the bottom part.


P 1 "straight" 9 variant 4; only month/year of manufacture on the bottom part have remained.


P 1 "round" 9 variant 5 without any marking.

Accessories - holsters
Three different types of holsters were manufactured for the P 1.


First model made from black leather. Also available in white for Wachbataillon (Bundeswehr Guards Battalion).


First white model for Feldjaeger (Bw military police). It could be attached to the belt by means of the snap hooks.


Second model, made from polyamide fabric and featuring an rubberised inner surface.


Third model, made from polyamide fabric, having camouflage print and a rubberised inner surface.

To be continued...

Author: Helmut Bindl

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