Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol left
Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol.

I put this report of the Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol ahead of some others because one of our readers did a bad thing and got himself into trouble with his gun. I want to address that today before I get to the accuracy test.

I mentioned in Part 2 that while it’s possible to remove the slide from this pistol, it isn’t recommended. Well, blog reader Gregory did so anyway, and now he can’t get his pistol back together. I tried to help him by taking my slide off, and I lost the spring that powers the slide altogether.

Umarex USA couldn’t help
Since Gregory lives outside the U.S., I called Umarex USA for him so they could advise me how the spring goes back in the gun. Gregory has his spring, so all he needs to know is how to get it back in the gun. But Andrew at Umarex USA told me they do not support this gun, aside from exchanging it. So, they have no parts on hand, nor do they have any technical data relating to it. And, if you take the slide off, that’s not authorized, and they will not fix it under warranty.

Pyramyd Air steps in
Next, I called Pyramyd Air because this will become their problem sooner or later. I spoke with Gene Salvino, the service manager, who is also a firearms gunsmith and familiar with the disassembly of the firearm P38. I walked him through the problem and, sure enough, the spring popped out when he removed the slide. But he didn’t give up. Several guns later, he was able to reinstall the spring and get the gun working again.

Gene says he’ll try to get Umarex USA to stock the spring because, like me, he sees it as something people are going to need. He went through four guns before he was able to get a good spring back in and get the gun working again, so this is definitely a design problem.

Assembling the gun
Now we know beyond a doubt that you should not attempt to take the slide off the frame of this gun. But for Gregory’s sake, I want to show where the spring goes. I’m doing this without having seen the spring — just the place where it goes. But Gene confirmed that I was right about that.

Walther P38 BB pistol slide off
The slide has been taken off this gun. That long slot in the right side of the frame is where the slide return spring goes. It’s held in the gun by the fit of the slide to the frame. You can see two cutouts at the top of the long slot in this photo. When the spring is installed, it must be compressed enough to allow the slide projection to enter the frame through the rear slot (the one on the left).

Walther P38 BB pistol slide coming off
The slide is slipped over the front of the frame and pulled to the rear. A projection on the inside of the slide passes through a slot cut in the frame for this purpose. The long spring has to be compressed behind (to the left of) the place where the projection enters the frame.

The slide has a projection on the right side that slips through a cutout in the frame when assembling the gun. Getting the slide back on is simple once you understand how it fits. First, the front of the slide is put over the front of the frame, where it aligns very easily. Then, pull the slide all the way to the rear of the frame as far as it will go. At that point, the projection on the inside of the slide is aligned with the cutout in the frame, so it’s ready to be installed. You just push down on the top of the slide to get the hammer out of the way, while pushing the slide forward and it goes back into position very smoothly. After that, the barrel inserts into the front of the slide and the barrel latch is swung closed, locking the gun together.

The trick
The trick in all of this is to insert the spring into the slot on the right side of the frame, and to compress it so it’s behind the slide projection once it slips into the frame. You’ll need a thin tool for this; and, according to Gene, it’s a skill that takes some time to master. I don’t have a spring to show you, but I’m presently working on finding or making a replacement.

What the spring does
The spring really isn’t that powerful. Think of a long ballpoint pen spring that is also very thin. It holds the slide in the forward position.

You can use the gun without the spring, which is what I’m going to do today. You just have to keep the muzzle pointed slightly down when shooting and you have to make certain that the slide is all the way forward before you pull the trigger. The slide moves extremely easily on the frame when the spring isn’t installed, and you can operate the pistol without it if you just pay attention to the slide’s position.

I function-fired the pistol many times, and the pistol operates as it should without the spring. Even the blowback works perfectly, as long as there’s a slight downward angle to the gun. Sometimes, the slide will not go all the way forward, so you have to push it the last quarter-inch; but you can do that with the thumb of your shooting hand. It isn’t a perfect solution by any means, but it beats cursing the darkness and being without your gun!

Loading revisited
I mentioned in Part 2 that you load the magazine one BB at a time. I said it wasn’t a problem as long as you kept the magazine oriented up so the BB could fall down inside after it entered the mag. Well, during this test I encountered one additional thing. You should hold your finger on the opposite side of the mag when loading; if you don’t, some BBs will pass straight through the top of the mag and fall out the other side.

Walther P38 BB pistol loading magazine
Keep your finger over the hole on the opposite side of the magazine if you don’t want to lose BBs while loading.

Shooting for accuracy
The P38 is a blowback BB pistol — not traditionally the most accurate of air pistols. Where those pistols without blowback can have closer tolerances and a tighter barrel, these blowbacks have to leave a little room for the reliable operation of the slide and for the BBs that get blown into the barrel. So, they’re more for the shooting experience and less for precision.

Knowing that, I stepped off 12 feet from the Winchester Airgun Target Cube that I now use as a backstop and trap for all BB-gun tests. Of course, I had the cube positioned lower than my hand so the gun could be positioned downward. For targets, I decided to use Shoot-N-C bullseyes that were just applied to the front of the Target Cube. That made changing targets fast and easy.

I want to comment on the trigger-pull now. You never appreciate it until shooting for accuracy, and I was able to evaluate this one very well in today’s test. As I said earlier, the P38 has a trigger-pull that feels like a light double-action pull. That became very evident when I was shooting for accuracy. But the trigger also stacks at the end of the pull, just like a vintage Colt. The pull weight increases exponentially right before the gun fires, and that lets you control this trigger with precision. It takes some getting used to, but I’ve shot enough vintage Colts that I recognized it right away.

Winchester Airgun Target Cube
The Shoot-N-C target bulls were just applied to the front of the Winchester Airgun Target Cube. Very quick to change targets! This is a two-inch bull.

The first target revealed two things. First, the sights were hard to see against the target. I was using a center hold, and the black sights of the gun disappeared against the black bull. Second, the gun shoots a little low. I confirmed that with the second target and was able to raise the rounds by holding more of the front sight up above the rear sight.

Walther P38 BB pistol first target
The first target showed the pistol was shooting low, though it was hard to see the sights. I guess this 10-shot group measures just over one inch.

Walther P38 BB pistol second target
The second target was lit better, which allowed me to see the sights. This looks like another one-inch group.

Overall evaluation
The Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol is a realistic action pistol that delivers on performance. It should not be disassembled, as I have explained here; but if you just want a realistic action shooter, I think this is a gun to consider.

56 Responses to “Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol: Part 3”

  • John Says:

    The accuracy isn’t all that bad actually. I have seen far worse from these blowback guns. I’m reasonably impressed.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      John,

      You’re right. The Walther PPK/S is one that sprays its shots everywhere, and this one looks tigh by comparison.

      B.B.

  • John Says:

    Yeah, I have one of those. I noticed there’s not much of a shot pattern. The things are ok if all you want to do is pop off some shots and you aren’t really aiming at a target, but don’t look for any kind of accuracy with the PPK/S. If the real one is as accurate it’s a wonder that Hitler was able to end his life with his PPK.

    • Wulfraed Says:

      Forget Hitler…

      How about many James Bond movies. One-shot kills at 25+ yards with a mousegun…

      • John Says:

        Yeah, James Bond liked the PPK/S, and I see the gun on other things like NCIS and Burn Notice ect, but I was thinking more along actual history since we all know Hollywood tends to deal in fantasies and things frequently do things in movies that they can not do in real life.

        • Wulfraed Says:

          As I recall, he had the PPK, not a PPK/S…

          The US 1968 Gun Control Act made the PPK invalid for import (over-all size was too small). The PPK/S was the solution to get around that law — stuff a short PPK barrel and slide onto a modified PP frame (the grip portion of the PP was long enough to be importable)

      • chuckj Says:

        Yeah, but he gets guns acurized by Q.
        -Chuckj

  • Perk Says:

    Good Morning,
    Probably, this has been mentioned before. But, on those occasions when there is a likelihood of losing a spring, or similar, when dismantling something like an air gun, performing the operation inside of a plastic bag can help.
    Not always the easiest to see inside, but different grades, sizes and thicknesses of clear plastic bags are available. I know this practice has saved me from having to hunt down dozens of tricky parts.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Perk,

      You are absolutely right! That is what I should have used when I disassembled my pistol.

      Ah — hindsight! ;)

      B.B.

    • J-F Says:

      Large freezer Ziploc bags with a small cut for your second hand. Really easy and prevents lost springs and those darn little ball bearings they sometimes put inside guns.

      J-F

  • Fred DPRoNJ Says:

    Hoo-ray for Gene. BB, not that it matters since I don’t intend to buy this pistol but I’m wondering if having Edith put some red arrows on the photos to show the location of the spring, will be a help? Re-reading this several times, am I correct in assuming the spring will lie in the top horizontal slot on the frame and must be compressed behind the second or extreme left vertical slot in the frame thus allowing that projection in the slide to fit down into that vertical slot? Seems a piece of clear tape to keep the spring from hopping out applied to the frame and a right angle pick might be the ticket?

    Fred DPRoNJ

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Fred,

      Yes, that is what I am saying. And yes — hooray for Gene. To be willing to check this small detail in the middle of the Christmas rush was indeed a service!

      B.B.

    • Edith Gaylord Says:

      Fred,

      I admit that I couldn’t follow Tom’s directions, but I’m not one to disassemble guns and am not the best person to determine if assembly directions are easy to follow.

      Edith

  • Desertdweller Says:

    This looks like it would be an interesting little pistol to own.

    The stick magazine looks a lot like the one in the PPK/S. Even to the problem of bb’s falling right through them when loading.

    Your description of the missing spring sounds a lot like the spring in the PPK/S magazine. Maybe you could take one of these apart and cut the spring to size to use as a replacement.

    I’ve finally retired my first PPK/S. It had seen a lot of use since 2005 and just wore out. It could be rebuilt, but it would not be cost-effective.

    My newer PPK/S works like new, but isn’t as accurate as the old one was. I’m beginning to think the performance of the first one was a fluke.

    CO2 gun shooting season here in Nebraska is pretty well over with till spring.

    I really like the appearance of the P38. One of these and a Makarov would make a nice little collection with the PPK/S.

    Les

  • Vince Says:

    BB, what are the chances you can get Mr. Salvino to tell us the dimensions of the spring? There might be a generic replacement out there somewhere.

  • Mr B Says:

    B.B.,

    Thank you for going the extra light year to help Gregory and yes you too Gene. Very commendable. A lot of places would have told him, “we told you not to disassemble that gun you are on your own.” But not you!

    You’ve also come a long way in your photographic skills, how the heck did you hold the camera to take the shot loading the magazine? I see parts of both your hands in the picture. Camera on a tripod pushing the shutter button with your chin or perhaps a cable release squeezed with your teeth? :D

    Bruce

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Mr. B.,

      Edith held the camera and we used a flash. You’ll notice that the wall is cream-colored (sort of), which keeps my skin from becoming too bright. There is a shadow from the flash, but the camera angle pushed it out of the frame.

      B.B.

  • chuckj Says:

    I am so pleased with the helpfulness of this blog! I’ve been a reader here for a few years and Tom and Edith, and the rest of you readers have always shown such helpful spirit. I am nominating this blog to the Bloggers Hall of Fame. Well, whenever one is founded.
    -Chuckj

  • Matt61 Says:

    Nice use of holdover. As for the mechanical problem, that is truly my nightmare: disassembling a gun, not being able to get it back together, and not being able to find the technical support. What a great deterrent against disassembly. Why did Gene have to go through four guns to figure out the solution? Couldn’t he have kept trying with the same gun?

    Victor, well that is encouraging that you of all people need to relearn and re-experience. I would have thought that you would be able to do it all in your head. Glad to hear that you’re able to shoot more. And you’re right too about the skill specificity for one gun. For many thousands of shots, I had given up on the IZH 61 and thought I had reached the limit of improvement. But now I’m finding that’s not true.

    Matt61

    • Victor Says:

      Matt61,

      I have had many a shooting sessions where I care nothing about performance. Yes, I honestly try to shoot pinwheels, but also honestly do not stress over how poorly I might do. It comes with time, and I know it. However, because I no longer compete, I allow myself to follow a strange pattern where I cycle between various rifles. As soon as I get to where I’ve mastered a rifle, within one target I will abandon that rifle and move onto something else.

      It’s critical that you not get discouraged too easily. Sometimes, after failure, I will move onto something else, and then return back to the troubled rifle. I do the same with my work. If I am struggling with something, I’ll take a long break and revisit the material later. Sometimes even years later (obviously not something that is time-critical).

      Victor

      • twotalon Says:

        Victor…

        I am presently drunk enough to say this. It may sound strange…

        When you look at how to hold a rifle, let’s look at extremes. Extreme examples no matter how reeeeediculouse they seem can make some things easier to understand….

        Look at two different ways of holding a rifle….
        If you ever saw a video of someone shooting a .577 T-REX you would understand the need for a gorilla hold that would only be used in a severe life and death situation. Maybe not even then considering what the gun is going to do to you.

        Then the other extreme…
        This is beyond reality, but would be perfect….
        You never touch the rifle. It floats in the air. You ease up to it and move to within one atom of touching it. The trigger is repelled as you try to touch it, and moves back away fron your finger and fires.

        That would be perfect, but you get as close to that as possible. I had a moment about a week ago that came close to that. (the rifle seemed to weigh nothing. It seemed not to touch me. The starling died.)

        twotalon

        • Victor Says:

          twotalon,

          Your advice is not bad, actually. We can’t learn from our experience if we don’t experiment. Experimentation is precisely how I brake out of plateaus. You try something that on the surface contradicts fundamentals, and you independently discover something obscure that very few others have. Sometimes you find that a certain gun requires an aggressive trigger pull, and other times you find the opposite. The thing is, many of the “tricks” have to be found from personal experience because they don’t abide by classic fundamentals. I was recently explaining this very thing to a buddy, but added that I wouldn’t teach advanced techniques to a newbie because they probably wouldn’t work for them. On the other hand, the classic fundamentals have a higher probability of getting a new shooter off the ground. Cool stuff!

          Victor

  • Desertdweller Says:

    B.B.,

    You might try sweeping the area where you disassembled the gun with a magnet. I have a magnet that is attached to a telescoping metal tube that is handy for such things. I keep it in my car toolbox for retrieving dropped wrenches and sockets, etc.

    I get a lot of “floor time” looking for such things, as my other hobbies are model building and N scale trains. Any activity involving springs or the use of a Dremel Tool is an invitation to launch nearly invisible parts into orbit.

    Another thing that sometimes works is to sweep a flashlight beam over the floor at a low angle, or to sweep the floor with a broom and dustpan and examine the contents. The toughest ones never make it to the floor, but wind up on furniture, in your hair, etc.

    A very good solution is to give up finding the piece and spend an hour or so making a replacement from scratch. This is almost guaranteed to produce the original part, often right ofter the replacement is installed.

    Les

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Les,

      Thanks. I swept the floor with both the magnet and the light already. I think it probably fell on my desk, in which case it’s going to become coal ina few eons.

      B.B.

      • Wulfraed Says:

        Probably lost in some quantum interstitial void…

        Same place I lost a crown*, 18 months ago… (which gave me the incentive to do the implant — which finished just before my dental insurance expired [nice that Delta covers for the /month/ when I was laid off; medical expired the next day] [though even Delta wouldn't pay for all of it])

        {there wasn’t much of a point for the crown to be cemented too, just a thin post — the cement would come loose under shear, and the crown with post fell out, bounced, and landed somewhere in (I think between a pair of partitions) cubicle farm}

      • twotalon Says:

        B.B.

        I found a short little coil spring on my living room floor a few days ago. I have no idea where it came from. I put it away just in case I ever do figure out where it belongs.
        It might have been found by one of my cats. I really have to watch Bootsie. He picks up anything and runs off with it. So I have to be careful and lock him out of the room when I take anything apart.

        twotalon

      • kevin Says:

        Seems that a metal detector would come in handy in a situation like this. :-)

        • Wulfraed Says:

          Too many stray electrical signals, and nails in the flooring… You’d have to set the sensitivity to minimum to have a chance with a metal detector.

    • Titus Groan Says:

      Les, you hit the nail on the head. I recently took apart my second Weihrauch to clean and lubricate. After the first one showed such smooth results, I was feeling confident. Everything went well until I was putting the Record trigger assembly back in. I didn’t have the safety in quite right, and the little spring went flying. I swept the floor with a magnet, and did the low angle flashlight trick too. All to no avail. So I fashioned a temporary spring from a ball point pen. It seems to work just fine. I don’t think I will ever find the original, as the next day I came home to find my wife vacuuming the same area. It might have landed on furniture, or even on me. I’m proud that I came up with decently working temporary solution. I have ordered a new spring from a local on-line dealer here in Canuck land. Set me back $3.25. I was over confident, and didn’t tack the proper precautions. Lesson learned. Thanks for the laugh.
      Caio Titus

      • Brian Says:

        I am curious to know what you found for a replacement for the slide spring. i am looking all over and am thinking of making my own out of a guitar string, or cannabilizing a stapler. did your replacement work out? how to get/what is it?

  • kenholmz Says:

    I wrote this in yesterday’s blog, but that was a mistake (apologies).

    Here is an interesting video of the FX Verminator Extreme MK2 shooting arrows. Some interesting camera work.
    I don’t think this will play in Peoria.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIb56PQwIfE

  • kenholmz Says:

    Well, here is the new video by Ted. He is testing the Benjamin Trail NP .22. Ted is a PCP person so this is a bit different. I hope John is taking at look at today’s link. I think it will go hand in glove with the earlier reports B.B. and guests wrote previously.
    This is to piggy back on the discussion of the lower power Titan (for comparison and contrast).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=In1O27YgkNI&list=UUNqIq439XbEIeJhFJca2J-g&index=1
    ~Ken

    • Anonymous Says:

      I really like Ted’s video reviews but this one is lacking. Shooting the Titan or almost any other springer with the fore end resting directly on a sandbag leads to poor performance. Did he not notice the vertical stringing of those groups? He should know better despite his preference for PCP’s.

      I sort of feel bad for him. Shooting a springer prone like he was requires some gymnastics to load and shoot. I’ll bet he was tired of that after testing all those different pellets.

      • twotalon Says:

        You don’t need to bag the front end of a springer to make them verticle string. Just get your hand a little far foreward of where they like it and they can string like crap.

        Get your hand under the cocking slot with a HW and they will string bad.
        Anything that looks solid to a springer will cause it to head away from it. Anything in the wrong place will make take off..

        twotalon

      • kenholmz Says:

        Anon, I did notice the vertical stringing. Ted is spoiled by PCPs, both his own and the ones he reviews (and he knows it). I felt more amusement than sympathy for him about the springer, but somehow, I don’t think he will mind. The video is both informative and entertaining. ~Ken

  • jdb in NY Says:

    Mine shoots daisy bb’s into bout 2 1/2 inches at 6m. It likes the Avanti premium bb’s a little better, under 2 inches. Very nice replica. Thank you Umarex for NOT painting white the warnings on the slide. Loading is a bit tedious, and yes putting your finger behind the hole really helps, as well as loading over a tray of some sort, you WILL drop some bbs. The blowback is a lot milder that the PPK/s , or Desert Eagle. Get about 60 shots per powerlet (3 clips full). Wood grips would really be great, the plastic look ok but feel cheap and flimsy.

  • J-F Says:

    It seems like a very cool little pistol, the accuracy is pretty good for a BB gun but I’m a little put off by the double action like trigger… I was expecting a single action trigger since it has blowback.

    J-F

  • Brian Says:

    you can reinstall the spring easily – there is a front slot that kind of curves into the channel.

    start by putting the slide on front the front. you will see a notch that exposes that small curved channel. spring goes right into it with the “plunger” part on the end of the spring going in last. use a kabob stick to push it in all the way. took 5 seconds once figured out.

  • Aggie Says:

    I have a book called ” One Hundred and One Uses For a Dead Cat”.

    #1. Second Base
    #2. Alamo reinactment headgear

    You take it from there.

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