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