Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol: Part 3
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
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.
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).
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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