Walther — the German Colt

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is another guest blog from reader Ian McKee who writes as 45 Bravo. Today he compares Walther of Germany to Colt from the USA.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me at [email protected].

Over to you, Ian.

Walther — the German Colt

Ian McKee 
Writing as 45 Bravo

This report covers:

  • A brief Colt history
  • Walther history
  • PP and PPK
  • World War II
  • FEG copies
  • Hungarian AP9 pistol
  • Walther sporting arms
  • Umarex takes over
  • Full circle

Everyone in America and most of the world knows the name Colt. They may not remember his first name of Samuel, but they do know that the Colt name is associated with guns.

A brief Colt history

Most people think Colt started with the Colt Patterson revolver, But Colt’s first manufactured firearm was actually the First Model Ring Lever Rifle. It was manufactured by the Patent Arms Manufacturing Arms Company in Patterson, New Jersey in 1836. Though patented much earlier than its release, production of the Patterson revolver didn’t begin until 1837.

first model Colt rifle
Colt’s first model ring lever rifle.

The first model ring lever was a percussion revolving rifle, similar to the revolvers that soon followed.  The front ring cocks the internal hammer, and rotates the 8 shot cylinder. After that operation, the trigger fires the rifle.

This rifle was available in .34, .36, .38, .40, and .44 calibers. Two hundred of the first model rifles were produced.

Over the years, Colt’s percussion successes included the 1851 Navy in .36 caliber and the 1860 Army in .44 caliber. We still see remnants of the 1860 Colt Army today, in the longer pistol grip that’s found on Umarex Peacemaker revolvers. That longer grip is the only way a 12-gram CO2 cartridge will fit inside the grip. It looks normal to our eyes, unless we are fans of the Peacemaker firearms.

Colt designs have been the basis for many guns produced by other companies. With the advent and proliferation of the metallic centerfire cartridge, his 1873 “Peacemaker” soon became the revolver to which all others in the world were compared.

According to legend, Colt did enter into a losing agreement with Winchester Arms, when they started making lever action rifles. Winchester had created a very advanced revolver that Oliver Winchester is supposed to have shown to Samuel Colt. It was clearly superior to anything Colt was making at the time. According to the story Colt quickly agreed that they would not make lever action rifles, if Winchester would not make revolvers.

Winchester revolver
The Winchester 1876 single action revolver gave Colt cause to consider.

Colt did stop making lever action rifles after just 16 months, but they still produced the pump-action Colt Lightning rifle for many more years. This story cannot be confirmed, and I have a problem with it because the Winchester revolver was out by the mid-1870s, while the Colt Burgess lever action rifle first came out in 1883. 

In this same timeframe Colt, having their foot in the door with government contracts, in 1877 produced the Bulldog .45-70 caliber Gatling gun. Even working replicas today bring $40,000 and genuine Colts fetch well over a quarter-million dollars!!

Later, the Colt-Browning M1895 machine gun, nicknamed the “potato digger” because of its unusual operating system that featured an underlever that cycled back and forth with the action was the first successful gas-operated machine gun to enter widespread service.  Though it had a slow cyclic rate of fire of just400 rpm, it was reliable enough that many countries adopted it, and some used it as late as WWII.

During its history, Colt’s manufacturing facilities have been pressed into service to make other arms that were not of their own designs to meet wartime needs. For over 175 years, Colt has been the company that has armed the United States military.

I will not go into more Colt history here as that could take several blogs and still not be complete. Now I will transition to the real subject of this report.

Walther history

Carl Walther GmbH was founded by Carl Walther in 1886, and has manufactured firearms and airguns in its facility for over 100 years. 

The history of Walther started even earlier, with the factory created by Matthias Conrad Pistor, who was chief armorer of the Kassel Armory. Pistor is the Ancestor of the Walther family. The plant was operating in 1780 and made pistols and other weapons. 

It wasn’t until 1908 under the initiative of Fritz Walther, the eldest son of Carl Walther, that the Carl Walther company started making pistols in .25 ACP, and .32 ACP. The letters ACP that you will see a lot in this report stand for Automatic Colt Pistol.

PP and PPK

In 1929, they started making the Walther PP (Polizeipistole, or police pistol) model. This was their landmark design that catapulted them to the forefront of German firearm design.

PP
The Walther PP stands for Polizeipistol (police pistol), not pocket pistol as many shooters believe.

In 1931, the PP was followed by the first of the PPKs (Polizeipistole Kriminalmodell, or Police Pistol Detective Model). While it retains the same calibers as the PP, it is even smaller, for concealment.

PPK
The PPK is a smaller version of the PP.

Both the PP and the PPK were made in .22 LR, .32 ACP (7.65mm — by far the most common caliber for the pistol) and .380 ACP. A very small number were also made in .25 ACP. Both models were extremely popular and well made.

The Walther PP pistol that was introduced in 1929 in .32 ACP weighed about 23.5 oz.(665 grams). The weights vary a little for each caliber. It was 6.7 inches (170mm) long, 1.2inches (30mm) wide, and 4.3 inches (110mm) tall. 

The PPK, (of James Bond 007 fame) was smaller and lighter, and chambered in the same .32 ACP, that, believe it or not, was more powerful than the .25 ACP M1934 Beretta Bond originally carried. Brits have traditionally not used large caliber sidearms since moving from their .455 caliber Webley Mark VI revolver.  And secret agents use the smallest calibers of all, since concealment is of greater importance to them than muzzle energy. Bond’s PPK weighed 20.8 oz. (590 grams), was 6.1inches (155mm) long, 1 inch (25mm) wide, and 3.9 inches (100mm) tall. 

World War II

When Germany geared up for what was to become World War II, they needed sidearms that could be produced quickly and at lower costs than their finely-made P08 Luger pistol. The Walther P38 was the first mass produced pistol to use stamped steel parts. An increase in dependability and the very high quality of production, coupled with a lower relative manufacturing cost, made it the best option to replace the P-08 Luger. In 1938, Walther was awarded the contract to replace the Luger with their P38 9mm pistol. Lugers continued to be produced into the 1940s, but the P38 soon replaced them on the battlefield.

After the war, with their factory destroyed, Walther was reduced to just a collection of designs, and patents.  Fritz Walther started anew in Ulm, West Germany in 1953 making the P38 again. It was renamed the P1 in 1957. It was phased out in 2004, when the P8 pistol from H&K replaced it. The P8 is based on an H&K USP that has been modified for the German Army.

The United States was the largest market for Walther’s sidearms after WWII, but the U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968 banned the importation of pistols and revolvers that did not meet certain requirements of length, weight, and other “sporting features.” 

Since the very popular PPK was one of the pistols that could no longer be imported, Walther determined if you combined the longer grip frame of the PP with the shorter slide and barrel of the PPK, with a weight of 22.4oz. (635grams), the new pistol was just 1mm longer, 10mm taller, and 5mm wider than the standard PPK. More importantly it now met the weight and height requirements to be imported into the USA, and the Walther PPK/S was born. The /S stands for United States.

PPK/S
Umarex Walther PPK/S BB pistol.

When Fritz Walther died in 1966, his son Karl took over and decided to concentrate on the sport pistol sector. We will look at that shortly.

FEG copies

If copying is the sincerest form of flattery, Walther should feel very flattered. Several Soviet-bloc countries copied the PP and PPK. The Soviet Makarov was a notable one, but FEG based in Hungary also started making copies of the PP, and PPK pistols for their police and military.

PA-63
The Hungarian PA-63 utilized an aluminum/titanium alloy frame, making it one of the few service pistols with a 2 tone finish. 

The PA-63 was manufactured in 9x18mm (9mm Makarov), .32 ACP (7.65 Browning), and .380 ACP (9mm short).

Hungarian AP9 pistol

The Hungarian AP9S was a steel framed copy of the PPK, the thumb swell on the left grip made the pistol wide enough to be imported into the USA, after the 1968 gun control act. It was most often chambered in 9MM Kurtz (.380 ACP) but some were also chambered in .32 ACP.

AP9
The Hungarian AP9.

The AP9 was so popular that FEG even made a run of them for the South African Police Services (these can be differentiated from other models by the letters S.A.P.S. and the logo on the left side of the slide). Depending on your sources, somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 of these were made, and they show up in the USA regularly at gun shows. They are a inexpensive, semi collectable, reliable copy of the PPK. Eventually FEG received blessings from Walther, made the model PPK/E under license from Walther.  

FEG made modifications to the action to make them safer, but at the cost of a heavier double action trigger. 

httwo pistols
The Walther PPK/S BB pistol (top) next to the AP9 from FEG.

Walther sporting arms

Over the years, Walther has provided pistols for many countries police and military forces, and are one of the top innovators, and manufacturers of sport pistols used in Olympic and ISSF rapid-fire competition. The GSP pistol that is offered in both .22 long rifle and .32 S&W Long calibers and OSP .22 Short pistol are two of their most famous examples of rapid-fire target pistols.

GSP
The Walther GSP Expert .22 rimfire pistol has a vibration-absorbing aluminum sleeve, containing inertial dampers, around the barrel.

LP500
The Walther LP500 is a precharged air pistol that comes in several trim levels to meet your needs and your budget. This one shown is the base model.

Umarex takes over

In 1993, Walther was acquired by Umarex Sportwaffen GmbH & Co. KG, and continued to manufacture under the Walther name in Ulm, and Arnsberg Germany, Umarex was founded in 1972, and started by making tear-gas and signal pistols, paintball markers, and airsoft pistols under the RAM brand in Germany. Their realistic non-lethal guns attracted a lot of interest because firearm ownership in Germany is strictly controlled — especially handguns!

In 1999, Smith & Wesson became the authorized US importer for Walther. 

In 2012, A new subsidiary was formed Walther Arms, Inc. This is the United States Walther business unit and is based out of Fort Smith Arkansas.

The airgun world has become familiar with the Umarex name in recent years, they are especially well known for their replica airguns that are made under license from the manufacturers of the original firearms.

Umarex produces action pistol replicas of many models made by Colt, Beretta, Walther, Smith & Wesson, Magnum Research, HK, Glock, IWI (Israel Weapon Industries) and others.

Their Legends series include replicas of many iconic, weapons in history, the 1894 Winchester, Thompson M1A1 submachine gun, the Walther PPK/S, Mauser C96, P08 Luger, German MP40 submachine gun, Soviet Makarov pistol, and many variations of the the Colt Peacemaker

Some of the replicas, like the M712 pistol, are available in fully automatic trim where such airguns are legal.

Full Circle

With its rich and long history, I think Walther is the German counterpart to Colt in the USA. They have provided arms for their country, and many others for over 100 years.

They have evolved and branched out over the years as the world markets have changed.  And they make a fine airgun replica of the Colt Peacemaker.

https://www.pyramydair.com/s/m/Duke_Colt_CO2_Pellet_Revolver_Weathered/3754Umarex Peacemaker
Umarex has made many different airgun variations of the famous Colt Peacemaker.

Almost every industrialized country has their own company that stands out from all of the other gun companies in that country. When you hear the name of certain guns, an image flashes into your head, and you automatically know its country of origin.

Anyone care to name a few?

45Bravo

64 thoughts on “Walther — the German Colt

  1. B.B.,

    The section on FEG copies is interesting. I don’t think I’m familiar with FEG.

    Here’s a question for you. Are there any copies of firearms that are not merely “just as good” as the real thing but are generally regarded as superior to the original?

    Michael


    • In the 1970’s FEG also made both single action and double actions of the Browning Hi Power.

      The single action was a faithful copy of the Browning.

      As to being better than the originals, FEG pistols generally have a good reputation for reliability, and like most semi automatic pistols, reliability issues can be narrowed down to a magazine issue.

      That being said, A couple of the improvements FEG made was Both the FÉG and the Walther PP have hammer drop safeties, but the FÉG has a passive firing pin safety while the PP does not.
      – Firing pin: The rear of the firing pin of the FÉG is below the line of the hammer face when the hammer is uncocked, and raises up in line with the hammer face when cocked.
      The Walther PP firing pin does not move up or down, and is always in line with the hammer.

      Ian



  2. 45Bravo,

    Uzi = Israel, Skorpion = Czech Republic, Sten and Sterling = Great Britain, Chauchat and Famas = France, AUG = Austria

    B.B.

    Introduction “Today’s report is another guest blog from reader Ian McKee who writes as 45 Bravo. Today he compares Walther of German(y) to Colt from the USA.”

    Section Umarex takes over 5th paragraph “Umarex produces action pistol replicas of many models made by Colt, Beretta, Walther, Smith & Wesson, Magnum Research, HK, Glock, IWI(delete comma ,) (Israel Weapon Industries) and others.”
    7th paragraph “Some of the replicas, lime (like) the M712 pistol, are available in fully automatic trim where such airguns are legal.”

    Siraniko


  3. Ian,

    Awesome, thanks.

    BSA = England, Sauer und Sohn = Germany, Webley = England, Labelle = France, MAS = France, Mauser = Germany, Sako = Japan, Nambu = Japan… Are we starting to see a pattern here? Many of the countries that manufacture some of the most well known and well made firearms also have some of the most restrictive laws. We are well on our way folks.



      • Rk,

        On dry counties,….many small towns had liqueur, beer, wine licenses (available) from the State,….. of which the local churches promptly bought! Thus,… said small town was kept safe from the “evils” of alcohol. For the most part, that has changed. I am sure there is still some cases of it though.

        Chris



  4. Nice report Ian.
    Colt dont make or design any airguns at all, period.
    Walther does because they, and a few others, have created a market for them.
    And we get the benefit.
    thanks,
    Rob


  5. 45 Bravo-
    Great report! A real 2 for 1, learned about Colt AND Walther.

    “Since the very popular PPK was one of the pistols that could no longer be imported, Walther determined if you combined the longer grip frame of the PP with the shorter slide and barrel of the PPK, with a weight of 22.4oz. (635grams), the new pistol was just 1mm longer, 10mm taller, and 5mm wider than the standard PPK. More importantly it now met the weight and height requirements to be imported into the USA, and the Walther PPK/S was born. The /S stands for United States”

    Did many people convert them back to original spec once they were imported?
    When did Walther gun maker and Walther barrel maker go their separate ways? Part 2?

    Stay safe,

    -Yogi


    • As to reverting them back to original condition, I am sure some people may have, but probably not many.

      As to a Walther split, the story is too short for a part 2.
      It never was the same company, but a son that started his own business.

      Carl Lothar Walther (born May 3, 1899, died 1983) was a German manufacturer of precision tools and a sports shooter.

      Carl Lothar Walther was the youngest of five sons of Carl Walther, the founder of the Walther pistol factory.

      In 1925 he founded Lothar Walther Feinwerkzeugbau GmbH. The company specialized in cold metal forming and manufactured non-cutting drawn (cold extruded) barrels for firearms.

      Walther belonged to the German national team of pistol shooters in the 1930s and won the bronze medal at the World Championships in 1939.

      Ian.



        • I will have to research him.

          Unlike other Olympic sports where it is a young persons game, the shooting sports know no age limit.

          A 50+ year old, can still out shoot the 20 year old.

          What’s the old saying,
          Age and experience, will beat youth and enthusiasm.

          Ian



    • Rob,

      There are very few air guns made in the United States, period when considers the number against those made in Asia and Europe.

      Smith & Wesson used to make their own air guns, and Daisy and Sheridan made a couple firearm models.

      Michael


    • Air ordinance makes a belt fed fully automatic air gun.
      It was originally designed and built by tippman.

      It is one of the very few airguns built and designed in America.

      Ian




      • Yogi,

        Prior to the 1976 merger SIG-Sauer was Schwitzerishe Industrie Gesellschaft and Sauer und Sohn gmbh was a German company. Hämmerli and SIG (Swiss) had merged earlier and SIG-Sauer sold it in the 1990’s. Hämmerli was the older Swiss manufacturer and had built Firearms, Canon, and (PCP, SSP, and MSP) airguns.

        shootski


    • Rob,

      Not an answer to your specific question, as they were English and not American, but the biggest example of a maker producing firearms and airguns side-by-side for a very long time might be Webley-Scott. Webley is legendary for firearms and legendary for air guns. Not bad!

      Michael


      • When I mentioned Webley above it was due to the prominence of both firearms and air guns in their history. On a smaller scale, many continental makers (FWB, Anschutz, Weihrauch, etc.) produced both, especially if the firearms were target models.


      • Do not forget Birmingham Small Arms (BSA). They were making firearms for the military long before they started making airguns (1905).

        As for Webley-Scott, they are no more. More correctly, they were bought out and have not made anything for a long time. They just slap their name on Benellis, Berettas, Hatsans, etc.


        • RidgeRunner,

          I did forget BSA, good catch! :^). With Webley I used past tense, “were English,” because now it’s Gamo. In my second sentence I went back to present tense as they still are a legend.

          The Beretta brand for air guns is held by Umarex, but as I understand it, the firearm brand and manufacturing is still owned by the Beretta family. So a Beretta firearm might be made in Italy or the U.S., but it is made by Beretta nevertheless.

          Michael



            • Ian,

              In my hometown two brothers inherited their father’s garage and turned it into a British bike shop. They restored mostly Triumphs and Nortons, but I believe they had some BSAs and even a Matchless or two over the years.

              Michael


            • 45Bravo,

              Great report!
              Your taste in bikes is Great too! To bad BSA and the rest of the Brit industry didn’t see the Japanese motorcycle industry revival coming. I can’t remember the companies name but in India they have bikes on the street that almost are direct copies of my first, a 250 Starfire that was followed by a A50 Royal Star in 1966!

              shootski



              • Shootski
                Might be Vintage India.
                I have two 650cc BSA Lightnings, 67 & 70 and a 68 MkIV Spitfire that I got a steel replacement gas tank for from them. Lots of parts still available for old British bikes like British Cycle Supply.
                Thank God for the internet, I found a reduced tooth transmission sprocket in a little shop in Germany and found some crash bars I didn’t even know existed for them.
                I had more than a sea bag when I left Mildenhall England in ’69 🙂


                • Bob M,

                  those a worth a few $$$$$!
                  I know it was almost the end but i still remember the sound of my slightly un-stock Royal Star! And way smoother to boot than anything but a BMW. I know the Harleys of the day couldn’t cruise for very far at speed like a BSA.

                  shootski




  6. Ian,
    I have a nice old Walther PPK, as well as a new Walther/Umarex/Colt Peacemaker. Thanks to your history lesson here, I can appreciate them both even more. =>
    Great job, thanks again,
    dave


  7. Hi B.B.,
    I know you’re really busy, and it’s not like you aren’t cranking out plenty of reports already; however, I was reviewing some of your old reports, specifically on “The Beeman C1.” I recalled reading this 3-part series on your second C1, this one in .22 caliber:
    https://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2017/05/the-beeman-c1-part-3-the-rifle-that-created-the-artillery-hold-2/
    At the end of that report, you mention an upcoming part 4, once the wobbly barrel is fixed.
    But a generic search on just “Beeman C1,” I came up with this 2-part report, 2 years after the .22 C1:
    https://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2019/08/beeman-c1-part-2/
    And that appears to be your third C1, back to .177 caliber, which leads me to wonder what happened to the second one? Was it beyond economic repair? Or is it perhaps in the back of the closet, awaiting the master’s hand to restore it for part 4?
    I won’t ask about part 3 on the third C1, as you already gave the answer as you already gave us the answer at the end of part2:
    “This is as far as I can take the C1 before I straighten the barrel. So the next installment may take some time, because a lot of things might have to happen before I can write it.” =>
    Looking forward to many future reports,
    dave



    • David,

      I may need to get the newest Airforce Big Bore in a few more months if the reviews continue to be good.
      But does AirForce build firearms too? I thought firearms and airguns both built by the same manufacturer was the question.
      i wonder what type firearm/motorcycle Airforce would build? Hopefully more manufacturers move production back home soon!

      shootski


      • The actual question wasn’t meant to be companies that make airguns and firearms.

        It was what names of any company or gun immediately remind you of the country of origin.

        Nagant-Russia
        Arisaka-Emperial japan
        Enfield-UK
        Thompson-USA

        IAN


      • 45Bravo,

        I reread my reply to David and i see now how inarticulate my wording was. I had 1stBlues: “Do any major American gun makers design or manufacture airguns?” on my mind along with the reverse thought of what kind of firearms would airgun manufacturers build. I had more to the idea but lost it…

        shootski




    • Why?
      I can only speculate to make them lighter, and possibly less expensive and easier to manufacture.
      If I remember correctly the weight savings of the aluminum frame was about 6 ounces (170grams) lighter than the steel pistol.
      If you are wearing it on your hip all day, that 6 ounces was quite noticeable.

      I do know in the 1970’s, they added a Hex shaped steel pin to the P1 frame to reinforce it, the pin acts as an impact surface for the locking block.

      Dieter Marschall has written a few books on Walther pistols, and is good reading and of interest to all Walther collectors or gun owners in general.

      Ian


    • Decksniper,

      Could have been as simple as all the surplus aircraft grade aluminum scrap metal available after the Big War.
      That is what caused Aluminum cookware to replace cast iron and steel.

      shootski


      • Shootski,

        Being a pretty good cook, I can appreciate the finer cookwares,… I never knew that. Thanks for the education.

        Tip: For anyone with the non-stick stuff that is “wearing out”,.. replace them,.. even it is with cheaper new stuff. That missing coating stuff ain’t no good for ya’.

        Chris


  8. I have a few cap and ball pistols colts and remingtons and the colt design is archaic compared to the Remington. the stupid wedge that holds the barrel all the screws to take apart the multi piece grip frame and the open top. where the Remington has solid frame top strap grip frame all one piece with the frame way better safety notches screwed in barrel and most important easy to take out the expended cylinder and put in a fresh one. modern revolvers are made a lot like the old 1858


    • I agree, the 1858 pattern was much more advanced than the colt. top strap, a captive base pin, screwed in barrel, safety notches, everything you mentioned.

      When I was 12, I received a .44 caliber 1858 Remington revolver kit for Christmas.
      My dad and I assembled it, and finished it, he made me do most of the work and fitting, he just supervised.

      I learned a lot from him.
      Ian


  9. Ian

    Thanks, I was not aware Walther had strengthened the P1 in the 1970’s. My problem P1 was made in the 1960’s.

    Ian and Mildot1, I have two Remington 1858 replica wheel guns and several Colts. I must say I have wondered why the cap and ball Colts were more popular than the Remington for the reasons you describe.

    Deck


    • Personally?
      The colts just point better, and FEEL. Better in the hand.

      I have owned 3 of the Remington pattern (Richland, pietta, and CVA) the pietta was the only one that was factory built.

      I have owned several colt replicas over the years, from many makers, Uberti, Pietta, Richland arms, CVA, traditions, EIG, ASM, and 1 ACTUAL colt second Generation 1860 Army in .44.

      The Colt had the slickest action out of the box, and the best finish. But the price reflected that extra level of workmanship.

      My all time favorite, and the one I kept?
      An ASM (Armi San Marco) 1861 navy in .36.

      It just feels better.

      Ian.


  10. Ian

    I have not shot my black powder wheel guns in a long time. You have got me wondering why. One of my favorite memories was at the rifle range years ago. Daylight was giving out. I started shooting my Ruger Old Army .457 black powder cap and ball. Fire as well as smoke was delivered down range. One of the fellows at another station shouted “what in the world are you shooting”?

    Deck


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