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CO2 Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol: Part 1

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol: Part 1

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

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

Am I a gun collector? Not in the strictest sense. I do have a lot of guns, but I run through them fast — getting rid of the ones I’m no longer interested in and getting others that I’ve never had before. A couple guns, like the M1 Carbine, do fascinate me to the point that I’m attracted to every one of them. Even with that model, I’ve pared down the number I own to just one.

And I’ve always been this way. If you met me 40 years ago, I would just be a younger version of myself, and the guns I owned then were different from those I have today. I’m sentimental to a point, but my curiosity overcomes nostalgia when it comes to owning guns. And, because I have limited means, I have to own them sequentially rather than all at once.

Back in the salad years, I was questing after the guns that everyone wants — the Lugers, Colt SAAs and Winchester lever actions. And among all those wonderful guns I once owned, there was a Walther P38. The P38, which is short for Pistole (19)38 was designed in 1938 to use modern (at the time) production methods to build a sidearm that replaced the more complex and manufacturing-intensive P08 (Luger). The P38 was adopted by the German army in 9x19mm caliber, which is more commonly called the 9mm Luger.

I knew when I bought the gun that it wasn’t built the same as a Luger (which I would have to wait a few more years to acquire), and the actual pistol I could afford at the time had lots of wear on it. The accuracy wasn’t the absolute best — and that was at a time when I was shooting handguns all the time, so accuracy mattered a lot.

My impressions of the gun were that it was made differently than I’d expected. It was made of stamped parts, and the tolerances were on the loose side. Of course, my well-used gun was probably even looser than the norm, but I do remember being surprised at the rattle it made when shaken.

At the time, it was one of a very few semiautomatic pistols that were both single-action and double-action. So, you could carry it with a round in the chamber and just pull the trigger to start shooting. The Browning High Power (P35) was another one, but in those days I couldn’t come close to affording one of those. Over the years, they’ve come down in price as my purchasing power has risen, but I’ve still never owned one!

I was prepared for a horrible double-action trigger-pull from my weary P38, but even that well-worn example surprised me by being light and smooth. And the single-action pull was reasonable, if just a bit creepy. After all, this was a wartime sidearm that had seen a lifetime of field use and it was in about the same operating condition as any arms-room M1911A1, so a creepy trigger is to be expected.

This was my very first 9mm handgun, and the light recoil really came as a shock. After a childhood spent listening to stories of Lugers that shot through several people with a single bullet, I was expecting a real cannon; but as anyone who has shot the round knows, that simply is not the case. It has very little recoil for the power and is absolutely delightful to shoot.

The other thing that surprised me was how natural this pistol felt. It was replacing the Luger, which is the poster-child for an ergonomic handgun, yet the P38 did not disappoint when I brought it up to shoot.

The Walther P38 BB pistol
Now that I’ve told you my own backstory of P38 experience, let’s look at this Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol! For starters, this one is finished beautifully! Umarex has really gotten the finish of these replica guns down to a fine science, and this one is darkly blued. The metal is smooth and shiny and so good-looking that only the owner will know it isn’t a firearm.

The grips are brown plastic, designed to resemble wood, but they don’t quite make it. They are a little too reflective, though an effort has been made to dull them.

This is a BB pistol with a 20-shot drop-free stick magazine. It’s released by a lever located at the bottom rear of the grip frame, and the mag must be removed to pop off the left grip panel so you can install a CO2 cartridge. The tensioning screw for the cartridge is completely hidden within the grip so the gun’s profile is entirely authentic. In fact, there’s even a cleat at the bottom of the left grip panel for a lanyard hook — just like on the firearm!

The safety is a switch on the upper left rear of the slide. Up makes the gun ready to fire and down makes it safe, but you need to push the lever all the way down until a click is felt. If you don’t, the gun is not on safe and will fire when the trigger is pulled. The safety looks like the kind that also de-cocks the hammer, but this one doesn’t do that.

The one thing I wish was different is that this P38 doesn’t have a double-action trigger. The hammer must be manually cocked to prepare the gun for firing the first shot. After that, blowback cocks the hammer for each successive shot, so you have a true semiautomatic pistol. The blowback is brisk, though the mass of the slide is low, and you can definitely feel the shot going off. After the last BB has left the muzzle, the slide stays back so you know it’s time to reload.

The slide is held in place by the slide release, which is a working lever on the left side of the gun, just above the trigger. Reload the magazine, slip it back in the gun and push the lever down to let the slide go forward.

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol slide release
When the last BB’s fired, the slide stays open like this, alerting the shooter that the pistol needs to be reloaded. The slide release is a lever just above the trigger that’s pushed down to release the slide.

The magazine could be easier to load. To load it, you retract the spring-loaded follower and lock it in position, then feed each BB through the same hole they are fired from at the top of the magazine. Most stick magazines have a enlarged cutout in the follower channel that assists the loading of BBs, but this one doesn’t have that.

On the other hand, there is a loading groove where the BBs enter the mag, and the hole they drop into is slightly funnel-shaped. I guess I should reserve my comments on loading until after I’ve done it a few times.

The sights are fixed, both front and rear. They’re sharp and easy to see, and we’ll learn how close the gun shoots to the point of aim in the accuracy test.

The test pistol weighs 2 lbs. with a CO2 cartridge installed but no BBs in the magazine. That’s slightly heavier than the most common P38 firearm that has an aluminum frame and even heavier than the steel-frame early gun. But it isn’t a heavy handgun. It feels just right to me. The grip is neither too wide nor too narrow for me. Since the firearm has a single-stack 8-round mag, the width of the grip can be controlled by the thickness of the grip panels.

This will be a fun test for us. I just hope it’s as accurate as it looks!

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol right

author avatar
B.B. Pelletier
Tom Gaylord is known as The Godfather of Airguns™ and has been an airgunner for over a half-century, but it was the Beeman company in the 1970s that awoke a serious interest in airguns. Until then, all he knew were the inexpensive American airguns. Through the pages of the Beeman catalog, he learned about adult airguns for the first time. In 1994, Tom started The Airgun Letter with his wife, Edith. This monthly newsletter was designed to bring serious reports about airguns to the American public. The newsletter and Airgun Revue, a sister magazine about collectible airguns, was published from 1994 until 2002, when Tom started Airgun Illustrated -- the first American newsstand magazine about airguns. Tom worked for three years as technical director at AirForce Airguns, the makers of the Talon, Condor, and Escape precharged air rifles. Today, he writes about airguns and firearms for various publications and websites. He also makes videos, and you'll find short clips embedded in some of his artices on Pyramyd AIR's website. Tom is a consultant to Pyramyd AIR and writes under the name of B.B. Pelletier.

63 thoughts on “Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol: Part 1”

  1. This was my very first 9mm handgun, and the light recoil really came as a shock. After a childhood spent listening to stories of Lugers that shot through several people with a single bullet, I was expecting a real cannon; but as anyone who has shot the round knows, that simply is not the case. It has very little recoil for the power and is absolutely delightful to shoot.

    And who has not seen at least one photo of a tornado driven piece of straw embedded into a board?

    Small diameter bullet, hard copper jacket, and traditional rounded ball ammo nose, at very high speed (compared to the .45ACP)… It should penetrate some distance…

    As for recoil — it likely depends upon the make-up of the firearm. I have an old second generation S&W 459 (9=>9mm, 5=>double-stack magazine, 4=>alloy frame). I also have a third generation S&W 4006 (40=>.40S&W, 0=>unknown/basic action, 6=>stainless steel). Of the two, I find the 459 the more painful to shoot: it slams into my hold where the 4006 pushes gently (even though the 4006 rounds show partial signs of the action cycling early — firing pin drag marks on the primers [I use the original 180gr load; considering I tend to shoot low, I’m not going to compound the matter using a faster 155/165gr load])

  2. BB, Browning P35 Hi Powers aren’t double action. They look like they are due to the style of the trigger but they aren’t. BTW, what kind of Luger do you have? I like the little M-1 Carbines too. I own only one (An Inland, early production) but it’s near mint and very accurate for it’s type.


    • Mike,

      Holy cow, you’re right! I have been thinking Hi Powers were DA for 50 years! I even looked at one semi-seriously within the past week.

      Guess I can forget them now.

      I don’t still have my Luger. It was a beater, too. A byf 42, or something similar, I believe. It’s been almost 40 years.

      My Carbine is a 100 percent S-primed G-primed. It’s a collectible that also shoots. My reload is so well-matched to the gun that it drops the empty cases right on the shooting bench half the time. It also groups well for a Carbine.

      I had an Inland, which I think were really the best-made of all the Carbines, but I had to give it up to re-acquire my Whiscombe rifle, several years ago. I also owned a super-early Winchester with the add-on spring tube. But that gun was too collectible to shoot, so I traded it for a Peabody 45-70 that eventually became my Ballard.


      • That is a neat series of guns to have owned. I currently have a DWM matching luger date stamped 1910. I don’t shoot it much when I do it’s only with my cast bullet handload. There have been a clone or two of the P35 that are DA so it’s been done. Inland carbines are the most common type but good ones.
        FYI, all of the folding stock carbines were Inlands. So, if you run across a folding stock carbine that was made by a different company, it’s not original.


  3. I took possession of a Mauser 1914 in 7.65. It has all the german nazi proofs and stamps on it, in very good condition. It even has the original holster. My dad had it for years and when he passed on, I took possession of it. I’m sure he captured it in WWII. He got a bronze star for attacking a Nazi machine gun emplacement and subsequently wounded in the leg.

    Like many of his generation, he never spoke of the war, so I have no idea of the gun’s history; though I suspect it had something to do with this incident.

    Here’s a link to what the gun looks like: http://world.guns.ru/handguns/hg/de/mauser-1910-14-34-e.html . It looks like the one immediately below the disassembled 1910, and in as good condition.

    Obviously, it’s one of my most prized possessions.

    • Its true that those men so seldom speak of their experiences. One story my uncle did tell was of almost being captured by the Russians. They had two DPM’s trained on him, they had his hands up and kept ordering him to come to them. He said he would rather’ve been shot in the back than captured by the Russians so he just walked away, expecting a bullet every second.

      Another uncle (his brother) received a bronze star in the pacific for rescuing wounded men while under fire. Truly the greatest generation.

      • I’m sure we could fill a whole blog with stories like this.
        My father served for 4 years on a corvette (1941-45), plying the North Atlantic on convoy duty.
        Seemed like a lot of ‘fun’ to me when I was a kid…though he very seldom spoke of those years, and he would very seldom watch a war movie.
        Towards the end of his life (he died of cancer in 2006) he told me about the time their ship was being shelled by a surfaced submarine. My dad was gunner on a 2pdr (you Yanks call them 40mm). A shell from the sub landed close to their gun-tub and rent a large piece of metal that killed and nearly cut in two a fellow sailor.
        Problem was the body wedged in such a way that they couldn’t bring the gun to bear on the sub…so my dad and his loader grabbed a fire axe, and basically hacked the body so they could get the gun in operation.
        Somehow this story doesn’t fit with all the John Wayne war movies I watched as a kid.

        • I should have clarified, he was an American infantryman. He was souvenir hunting in Berlin shortly after the Americans arrived. He was in the vicinity of Hitler’s bunker, separated from his fellow treasure-hunters when the Russians caught up with him.

        • And way leads on to way. Looking at How to rest any handgun…” I followed the link to “Long time coming” where I noticed “How I bought my BB gun” where I noticed “Never let her down”. B.B., I read it all and you had me blubbering for a bit. I am posting the link to Part 5 (it just makes it easier to have the first 4 parts at hand).


          Back to the handgun; this information may help me shoot the .357 accurately at long ranges, say 15 to 20 yards 🙂


            • Well, I didn’t cry as much this time as I did the first time I read it.

              Tom, I would suggest you go back to the first blog articles you wrote and work your way forward with any that still apply to today. You could post one old blog article every month or something like that.
              I wish there was a way you could preserve the comments that followed each as well.

              • chuckj,

                What a great idea!

                B.B.’s old blogs are golden. Nostalgic value is big but more important to me is the fact that these blogs of the past are talking about airguns that are now part of airgun history.

                When I clicked on that bookmark for Sal earlier today I couldn’t help but see another archived article “which is more accurate .22 or .25?” Since that article was written more .25 caliber pellets have entered the market and today the .25 cal marauder, .25 cal fx elite, tweaked .25 cal rapids, etc. are outshooting .22 cal guns since the new .25 caliber pellets are accurate and because of mass are bucking the wind better. Couldn’t help but wonder if, with the new pellets recently introduced, that B.B.’s .25 cal barrel on that JW 75 could outshoot the .22 cal barrel.

                These are the types of things that the archives could unveil.

                Most archives, if revived, could teach new airgunners and remind old airgunners. It’s sad to me that most airgun forums, by their organic nature, speak loudly and constantly about what is the newest and greatest. I’m not saying that vintage is 100% where it’s at in airguns but I am saying that with most airgunners that visit the net they aren’t given any opportunity to glimpse into the past instead they’re caught in the wave of the typical newbie, zealous airgunners that are posting on the internet because they found airguns two years ago and know everything about current models because they read the internet banter and hype and believe all of it but have only tried a little of it.


  4. Now, here’s an interesting pistol. I’ve read some accounts of how it is one of the greatest designs ever. So, I was licking my chops at low-priced versions used by the West German police. But then I saw reviews that said that they were all terrible and that throwing them at targets was about as effective as shooting them. Anyone know why the same design would be terrible for the West Germans when it worked for the Nazis?

    Also, having fired a Beretta numbers of times, I find that I don’t understand the first double-action shot for auto pistols at all. You need to work the slide to chamber the first round, and this work can operate a single action just like the 1911. So, why would anyone design the first shot to be double-action? Doesn’t seem to make sense.

    Mike, you’re correct. It is a Long Branch. The test target that I got scanned in the mail(!) indicates 2MOA which, for iron sights, is pretty good.


    • Matt,

      Neither the Nazis nor most police departments in Europe place much faith in handguns. There are special tactics teams, but they are a rather modern thing.

      When it comes to handguns look to Americans and Brits of the early 20th century.


    • Matt61, when carrying an auto with one in the chamber it is common to have the hammer down. With a single-action auto you have to remember to cock it again before firing. In a stressful situation it is possible to forget to do that – especially with an inexperienced shooter.

      With a DA automatic you can carry it around the same way… and if you need it in a hurry all you have to do is pull the trigger.

    • Hypothesis:

      NAZIs needed cheap mass production (the P.08 is an expensive gun, in any era), military arms are more aimed at wounding than outright killing (the infamous “bullet passing through” rather than expanding/stopping in the target), and by the time you need to draw the pistol, you aren’t overly worried about accuracy…

      Police don’t want something that might harm bystanders (so, accurate at distance, and not likely to pass through the target), and probably can justify more expensive firearms…

  5. Very nice looking gun. I am thinking seriously about getting one. Does it come apart for cleaning like the tanfoglio 1911? That would be a rather nice option for people like me that just need to see the inner workings of just about everything.

      • I’ll keep that in mind. I have no intention to go further than what the what would be needed for a real gun being taken apart for cleaning. I just like that feature. Especially for $99 for a bb gun. I found I’m just not a fan of the all plastic guns that don’t feel real, don’t function real or recoil like I expect a gun to do. Personal preference.

        But me being me I do love a nice recoilless accurate rifle I suppose that is why I love my airforce condor, AK-74, and AK-12.

  6. I was just looking at this gun, lamenting the fact that it is a bb shooter only, when here you go and write a review! While it certainly looks more authentic than Crosman’s C41, at almost twice the price I sure hope it shoots twice as well!
    I don’t really have any use for something as inaccurate as a bb gun but I couldn’t resist the Crosman version, as I’ve always wanted the real thing but could never afford it.
    For comparison’s sake, the best I’ve been able to manage is an 18 round group measuring 1 3/4″ ctc @ 7 yards. Copperheads, Avantis, Gamo & RWS round balls, none seem to be any more accurate than the others. It will easily shoot over a hundred rounds on a single cartridge, slightly less when it’s cold out, and so far has been very reliable without a single jam or ftf.

  7. It seems like a sweet little BB gun that would fit in my small collection really good.
    Would you say it’s similar to the Walther PPK Umarex is already selling?
    I wish the Makarov they sell had the blowback available in the airsoft version and Crosman didn’t drop the Tokarev TT-33 copy. I really like those old war time guns.


  8. hi Tom, my umarex p38 co2 got some problem , please help me m_ _m
    I try to repair the gun ,first take off the barrel and slide, when I pull out the slide , one of spring(about 2 inches long) jump out suddenly , now the slide dont have the spring to push to front , because I have no idea how to replace the spring , would you please post some photos of your p38 about the slide’s spring and teach me how to replace the it ?
    many thanks for your help, and sorry for my bad english ,I’m from Hong Kong 🙂

  9. Tom 🙂 ,many thanks for your fast reply , sady l dont have watch this page before and take the slide
    I have the spring , does the spring is place from right of the gun? do you have photo can share with me ?
    I’m very sad , my gun just 2 days ago , stupid me -___-
    in my country , no one having the p38 , luckly can talk to you , hope you can help me 🙂

    • Gregory,

      I don’t know where the spring goes, but tomorrow I will talk to Umarex USA and find out. Then I will post something on the blog about it.

      If the spring you have is a coiled spring about 1 inch (2.4 cm) long, then I think I nnow where it goes. There is a long slot on the right side of the frame. On the inside of the slide there is a small square projection that slips into that slot. With the spring in the slot there would be tension on the slide.


      • Hi Tom, my original spring is 5.7cm long ,diameter of the circle is 2mm , one side have a circle plastic cover on the spring ,and the diameter is same ,hope can help you.
        How’s your p38, does Umarex give any suggestion to you?

        • Gregory,

          Umarex USA told me this morning that they don’t repair this gun. They just send a replacement.

          I think I am right about where the spring goes. Take the slide off the frame and look at the right side of the frame. You will see a slot just above the front of the grip. It is almost exactly as long as the spring you mentioned.

          I think the spring goes into that slot, then the slide goes on the frame and holds it in. I bet the plastic cover goes to the front.

          Look at the underside of the slide. You will see a projection on the right side that slips through the rear slot in the frame and into that long slot I just described. That is how the slide goes back on the pistol. You have to push down on the top of the slide to get it past the cocked hammer, but then it slides easily.


  10. thanks Tom , you are most helpfully for those p38 owner ,sady my country haven’t Umarex store , I wish they can fix your gun,and pls teach us how to replace it , I’ll follow your blog every second .
    I’m so sad to lost my gun today, but I’m happy can make a good friend at this time ^^

  11. if you got the spring , I belive you will feel pain to replace it .
    because the slide’s slips of the right,who is support the spring ,but when you replace the slide, the slips need to cross the last gap from the slot (the slot have 2 gap on top ,right?) , that’s mean we need to compress the spring form 5’7cm to 1.2cm , I just don’t have idea to compress it

    • Gregory,

      Yes, that is the problem. I haven’t figured it out yet, either.

      But remember this — each of these guns is assembled in less than a minute by a 19 year-old Chinese girl who is also texting while she works. We ought to be able to figure it out.


  12. finally , I could compress the spring and fixed the gun by myself , I took a piece of bamboo and two pieces of stitches to compress the spring
    first,put the bamboo inside the spring,who is support the spring to keeping straight ,
    then place the stitches to lift and right side in the spring , who is compress the spring ,
    make sure the spring form 5′7cm compress to 1.2cm , cut the bamboo as long as the spring (1’2cm)
    put the spring at front into the slot, replace the slide , take off the stitches from the gap under the slide, spring come true again 🙂
    bad news is the bamboo will inside the spring always , and need to give up the spring’ cover
    yes, I know my english like a bag of shit , but hope you can understand and help you ^^;
    (I have photos , but how can I show you? your email?)

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