Introduction: Assemble a Walther P38 or P1 From a Frame and Parts Kit

Picture of Assemble a Walther P38 or P1 From a Frame and Parts Kit

Author's note, this project was born out of a thread on the Slickdeals.net forums about putting together a P38 pistol, assembled from parts found at various sources, extremely cheaply...$300 or as little as $150 with a little patience and legwork.  I built my first one for just about $200 exactly, the one featured in this writeup.  The original thread, with some information and comments, is found here:  http://slickdeals.net/forums/showthread.php?t=2133706

This is my first writeup on instructables.com, it was suggested to me in the above thread, so apologies in advance for my technical and formatting errors.  Also note that the throughout the build my recoil springs were put in backward.  The writeup includes photos and text describing the correct procedure, but the photos throughout the build show the springs installed incorrectly, a mistake I didn't realize until the final assembly.  In other words, install the recoil springs and plungers as described in the text and photo in Step 6, and ignore the recoil springs and plungers shown in subsequent photos.


DISCLAIMERS, so you (hopefully) don't sue me if something bad happens...and believe me, I'm not worth suing...I wouldn't be building a $200 gun out of parts if I could afford to put a new one on my Amex Platinum card.

I'm not trying to scare you off, just to cover my butt in our litigious society. With that in mind I'd be an idiot not to say:

1.  This is for information purposes only, do NOT try this at home.

2.  Regardless of which gun you may choose to build (P1 or P38), bear in mind that while these are extremely high quality gun, built by a top tier manufacturer with over 100 years of firearms experience, they ARE a 70 year old design, made with manufacturing techniques and materials developed before WW2...don't try shooting super hot rounds out of these if you want them to last...worst case scenario is a catastrophic failure causing injury or death, but a more likely scenario is accelerated wear and an eventualy stress fractures in the frame of the gun. Generic 9mm rounds will be fine, and older military surplus rounds are perfect, just don't shoot +P or +P+ loads in these guns. Any idiot can overload a gun and destroy it or himself, don't be that guy.

3.  Also, unless you're a qualified gunsmith, it's worth a few dollars to have this gun looked over by someone who is before you fire it.  A simple function and headspace check is cheap peace of mind.  If you find a local shop with a range and gunsmith, you can probably work out a deal if you buy some ammo, accessories, or range time; they'd probably do it for free.

4.  Finally, be sure to check your local firearms laws BEFORE attempting this build.  This gun should be legal in most of the US, but each state (and/or city) has different requirements for going about getting the proper legal permission, permits, and registration.  Call your local police department or attorney general's office for guidance, they should guide you through whatever process your local jurisdiction requires, and allow you to do this legally.


This won't be a valuable collector's piece, just a fun, high quality shooter with some interesting history for someone that would enjoy this project. It'll require a[I] little[/I] bit of mechanical aptitude, and I'd highly recommend having it gone over by a competent gunsmith before you shoot it, just to be on the safe side (a safety inspection shouldn't cost too much, just to check function and headspace). I don't think I'll even shoot mine, just add it to my collection of antique guns. The more legwork and patience you put in, the more money you'll save, but worst case scenario is about $300; greater effort could cut that almost in half.

A very brief history:

The Walther P38 was the gun that replaced the Luger P08, which was too expensive to mass produce and a bit "tempermental" when it came to functioning, as the issued sidearm for the German Army around the beginning of WW2. The P38 was issued to the German Army, and was, more or less, their version of our Colt 1911 .45. If you've seen a WW2 movie, the Nazis all carry Lugers and these guns (ok, sometimes I've seen Walther PP and PPKs as well, but less often).

Many of these guns were captured by Allied soldiers and sent home, a lot more were captured by the Russians and stored away until fairly recently, when the Iron Curtain fell and the Russians started finding their stashes and dumping them on the open market. After WW2, these have been produced continuously, issued to military units and police forces, although it's now considered a somewhat dated design and is more of a novelty than a serious issue weapon. Still, the design influence is apparent in many modern firearms, like the Beretta 92 (aka the M9), and this gun represents a significant landmark in firearms evolution.

The P1 is essentially the exact same gun as the P38.  With some exceptions, the biggest difference is the P38 has a steel frame and the P1 has an alloy frame.  There are advantages to each, with the steel frame being more durable and capable of a little more abuse, while the alloy frame is lighter to carry and won't rust if neglected.  This build is on a P1 frame, although all the instructions would apply to a P38.  The P38 tended to be built for the Military/Law Enforcement market and the P1 was built for the civilian market, although, again, this isn't an absolute rule.

As far as "street cred" goes, James Bond uses one in Goldfinger, Napoleon Solo used one in The Man from U.N.C.L.E, and all the apes in the original Planet of the Apes movies used them...that's cool enough for me, haha.

I'm building mine with a gun show barrel ($50) for about $200 total, including shipping and tax.

1. You'll need to order a frame, which is the serial numbered piece and requires an FFL dealer, unless you can locate one locally (they sell for as little as $25 at gun shows, if you can find one). I found these online, from Sarco, a reputable online retailer of guns and accessories. From page 7 of their recent ad, Walther frames, P38 ($84.95-steel frame, older WW2 era) or P1 ($39.95-same frame in alloy, lighter but not as robust, produced after WW2):

http://www.sarcoinc.com/7-10%207-13.pdf

2. Next you'll need a barrel. Again, you can find these locally, in various condition (get a like new one for a shooter, or an older, shot out one for a wall hanger). I've seen them as cheap as $30 in rough condition, or about $150-175 in very good condition. Ebay is a decent source, although you'll have to be patient, as they're not always available.

Here's one, again on Sarco, for $175:  http://www.sarcoinc.com/7-1-10_1-6.pdf
or $160 at Gun Parts Corp:  http://www.gunpartscorp.com/catalog/Detail.aspx?pid=200750&catid=6157

3. Finally, you'll need a parts kit and a magazine.  They're available from several online vendors for about $90 (+$12 for the magazine). They have everything you need but the above parts, and most come with the sub assemblies mostly put together (the slide is asembled, the frame requires assembly, which is not very hard at all, maybe a 15-20 minute job).

CDNN has them:  http://www.cdnninvestments.com/wap1pakitus.html
As does Cheaper Than Dirt:  http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/GNS065-1.html who also has the magazines for $12 http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/MAG805-36.html

So for the price of the frame ($40-85), the parts kit ($100 with magazine), and a barrel ($160 or less), you'll have everything you need for a complete, working gun. If you're patient and a bit lucky, you can build a $150 gun with a $25 frame, a $25 barrel, and a $100 parts kit and mag. Walther only does small, limited runs of these anymore, but I believe the MSRP of a new one is well over $1000, if you're lucky enough to find one.

Again, this is not for everyone, but with prices of non-collectable P38s (Russian captures with non-matching numbers and bad Russian refinishing jobs) starting at $400-600 (dealer cost, not retail),  and original ones selling for considerably more (the sky seems to be the limit for rare variations), it's an good option for a collector on a budget.

You used to be able to pick up a post war P1 for $200-300 a few years back, but it seems that those are all dried up and these guns are becoming more scarce every day.

Some useful links

Owners manual:  http://www.mauser.org/Manuals/WaltherP-38%20Manual.pdf

P38 website with lots of good information and forums:  http://www.p38forum.com/index.htm

Another good website with some history and information:  http://p38.50webs.com/contents.html

Wikipedia entry on P38 pistols:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walther_p38

There are videos on You Tube and quite a few links for how to assemble the pistol (if you don't want to buy a book), or if you want to see the parts coming together (i.e. if my photos or instructions aren't quite making sense!).

Step 1: Parts Schematic Checklist

Picture of Parts Schematic Checklist

Parts Schematics, so you can see where everything goes.  I'd recommend printing a hard copy of this page, and checking off your parts before assembly as you order and receive the parts, so you'll know you have everything you need.

The key below refers to the first schematic.  Another schematic is included from the Walther P38 Factory Manual, which gives a slightly different view.

A Slide

AA Hammer Lever

B Firing Pin Spring

BB Hammer Spring

Firing Pin & Indicator Cover

CC Magazine Catch

Rear Sight

DD & FF Grips (one of each, left and right)

Automatic Firing Pin Lock Spring

EE Magazine Assembly


G Firing Pin Retainer Pin

H Cartridge Indicator Pin

HH Hammer Pin

Cartridge Indicator Spring

II Sear/Slide Catch Spring AKA Slide Stop Return Spring

 J Firing Pin

JJ Trigger

 K Extractor

KK Slide Catch AKA Slide Stop

 L Extractor Plunger

LL Trigger Bushing

 M Extractor Plunger Spring

N Safety Catch

NN Trigger Spring

O Ejector

OO Takedown Latch AKA Barrel Retaining Latch

P Firing Pin Lock AKA Firing Pin Lock Lifter

PP Takedown Latch (AKA Retainer Latch) Plunger Spring

Q Hammer Drop Lever AKA Safety Hammer Lowering Lever

QQ Takedown Latch (AKA Retainer Latch) Plunger

Trigger Bar Spring

RR Recoil Spring (2 required)

S Trigger Bar

SS Plunger, AKA Recoil Spring Guide (2 required)

Sear

TT Locking Block Operating Pin

U Sear Pin

UU Locking Block

V Hammer Strut

VV Locking Block (Retainer) Spring

W Hammer Assembly

WW Barrel

X Hammer Lever Spring

XX Front Sight

Y Strut Axle Pin

Z Hammer Lever Pin 

Step 2: Order the Frame

Picture of Order the Frame

You'll need to order a frame, which is the serial numbered piece and requires an FFL dealer, unless you can locate one locally (they sell for as little as $25 at gun shows, if you can find one). I found these online, from Sarco, a reputable online retailer of guns and accessories. From page 7 of their recent ad, Walther frames, P38 ($84.95-steel frame, older WW2 era) or P1 ($39.95-same frame in alloy, lighter but not as robust, produced after WW2):

http://www.sarcoinc.com/7-10%207-13.pdf

Step 3: Order the Barrel

Picture of Order the Barrel

Next you'll need a barrel. Again, you can find these locally, in various condition (get a like new one for a shooter, or an older, shot out one for a wall hanger). I've seen them as cheap as $30 in rough condition, or about $150-175 in very good condition. Ebay is a decent source, although you'll have to be patient, as they're not always available.

Here's one, again on Sarco, for $175: http://www.sarcoinc.com/7-1-10_1-6.pdf
or $160 at Gun Parts Corp: http://www.gunpartscorp.com/catalog/Detail.aspx?pid=200750&catid=6157

Step 4: Order a Parts Kit and Magazine

Picture of Order a Parts Kit and Magazine

Finally, you'll need a parts kit and a magazine. They're available from several online vendors for about $90 (+$12 for the magazine). They have everything you need but the above parts, and most come with the sub assemblies mostly put together (the slide is asembled, the frame requires assembly, which is not very hard at all, maybe a 15-20 minute job).

As shown in the photo, it all comes in a ziploc bag, so some of the parts have some minor scratches and wear on them from rubbing together...not the end of the world, and I suppose individually wrapping them would add to the cost, but just be prepared for a little bit of cosmetic wear.

CDNN has them: http://www.cdnninvestments.com/wap1pakitus.html
As does Cheaper Than Dirt: http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/GNS065-1.html who also has the magazines for $12 http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/MAG805-36.html

Step 5: Gather All the Parts and Tools Necessary to Complete the Build.

Picture of Gather All the Parts and Tools Necessary to Complete the Build.

Using the information in the introduction and first 3 steps, you should be able to get everything you need to build this gun.  The photo included with this step shows my parts kit, barrel, frame, and magazine.  Compare your parts with the parts schematic and key to see if you have anything missing.

I didn't know any better, but my kit was missing a few small parts, the Retainer Latch Plunger and Spring, and the Locking Block Operating Pin.  A phone call and they're on their way, but until they arrive, I won't be able to show photos in the build.  I have included the steps, and it's not hard to figure out where they go.

Find a quiet spot where you won't be disturbed.  I laid out an old towel that I didn't mind getting grease/oil on to protect my tabletop and keep the small parts from rolling away.  You'll need a flathead screwdriver for the grip screw (only one screw in the whole gun!), a small punch and hammer to drive the 2 pins (one for the sear, one for the hammer), and if you're afraid of losing small parts under spring pressure, a small ziploc bag (so you can put the parts together inside the bag, catching anything that wants to fly away.

I also have an extra frame in the photo (the one on the right), which is not used in this build.  If you're interested, it'll be used in a future instructable, on Duracoating a pistol...stay tuned for more!

Step 6: Install the Recoil Springs and Plungers.

Picture of Install the Recoil Springs and Plungers.

As mentioned before, many of the photos later in this build will show my springs and plungers installed backwards, which I didn't realize until I tried putting the slide on the frame.  It was corrected, and this photo shows it correctly installed, so just ignore the photos where the springs/plungers are installed incorrectly.

Slide the springs, one on each side, into the grooves on each side of the frame.  Use a small screwdriver (for me, a thumbnail worked fine), to compress the spring enough to fit the plunger into the groove, then down into the recess in the frame, so that the "lip" of the plunger fits into the slot on the top of the frame.

Step 7: Install the Sear

Picture of Install the Sear

Insert the sear from the right side of the frame, then rotate forward (counter clockwise from the right side).  It will be loose until the next step (where the pin will hold it in, but I'm trying to break this down into baby steps!

Photo 1 is the sear
Photo 2 is the elongated slot in the frame where the sear fits
Photo 3 shoes me putting the sear into the frame
Photos 4 and 5 are the sear in the frame, rotated into position and ready to be pinned in place.

Step 8: Install Sear Pin and Ejector in Frame

Picture of Install Sear Pin and Ejector in Frame

Start the sear pin from the left side of the frame.  Use a small hammer and light taps.  Use a punch so you're not striking the pin directly.  Be patient, a lot of light taps is better than a few hard hits, and makes it less likely to damage the frame.  As you drive the pin in, check to see when it starts to show in the ejector groove.  When it does, slide the ejector down from the top of the frame, so the sear pin catches the groove in the ejector.  It's a lot easier to see in the photos than it is to describe, so I'll let them speak for themselves.

Photo 1 shows the pin started in the frame.
Photo 2 shows the ejector, properly oriented to go into its groove in the frame (from the top).  Notice the groove on the front of the ejector, this is where the sear pin will fit and hold it in place.
Photo 3 shows the ejector started in the frame
Photo 4 shows the ejector in the frame, and the sear pin fully seated.
Photo 5 shows the right side of the frame, with sear pin fully seated.
Photos 6, 7, and 8 show the pin from the magazine well, holding the ejector in place.


Step 9: Install Hammer, Hammer Drop Lever, and Firing Pin Lock

Picture of Install Hammer, Hammer Drop Lever, and Firing Pin Lock

This is not as hard as it sounds, even though you're installing 3 parts at once!  

Just go slow, drive the pin in from the left again, a little at a time.  Small taps on a punch, and put the parts on one at a time (it's all but impossible to hold them all in place and drive the hammer onto them.

The hammer sits between the drop lever and the firing pin lock.  Holding the pistol as if you were firing it, the parts are, in order from left to right, the Hammer Drop Lever, the Hammer, and the Firing Pin Lock.

Be sure to line up the sear with the hammer, so it engages where it's supposed to...again, easier to show in photos than to describe, so I'll let the Nikon do the talking:

Photo 1 shows (from left to right) the Hammer Drop Lever, Hammer, and Firing Pin Lock
Photo 2 shows the three parts in their correct position in the frame
Photos 3 and 4 show the relationship of the hammer and sear with the hammer down and cocked, respectively

Step 10: Install the Hammer Spring Onto the Hammer Strut

Picture of Install the Hammer Spring Onto the Hammer Strut

After the last couple steps, this is as easy as pie.  Slide the hammer strut spring onto the hammer strut.  

Photo 1 shows the parts before assembly
Photo 2 shows them together

Step 11: Install the Hammer Strut/Spring Assembly and Magazine Catch on Frame

Picture of Install the Hammer Strut/Spring Assembly and Magazine Catch on Frame

Feeling confident yet?  This step is a little tricky, and where, in my opinion, you're most likely to loose a part if you're not careful.  Now that I've scared you, it's really not that bad, just be careful and you've got nothing to worry about.

The Hammer strut needs to engage its home on the trigger, then slide the magazine catch over the hammer strut, and use it to compress the spring.  Move the magazine catch into the frame, and seat it with the magazine catch pins in the recessed grooves at the back of the frame.

Photo 1 shows the magazine catch
Photo 2 shows the magazine catch seated in the frame (just to show where/how it fits)
Photo 3 shows the Hammer Strut as it will fit into the frame/engage the hammer
Photos 4 and 5 show the assembly as it sits installed in the frame

Step 12: Install the Trigger and Slide Catch

Picture of Install the Trigger and Slide Catch

The trigger goes in from the top of the frame, and is held in place by the slide catch.  The slide catch installs from the left side of the frame.

Photo 1 shows the Trigger
Photo 2 and 3 show the Trigger and Frame.  You'll be inserting the trigger from the top.
Photo 4 shows the trigger and slide catch separately
Photo 5 shows the trigger and slide catch as they will fit together in the frame
Photo 6 shows the trigger and slide catch assembled in the frame

Step 13: Install the Sear/Slide Catch Spring

Picture of Install the Sear/Slide Catch Spring

In the parts kit, you'll see two springs that look similar.  The larger one is the Sear/Slide Catch Spring.  It looks like a bent paperclip with a loop in the middle.

It's very simple to install, slide the forward end (the end with one bend in its length) into the small hole in the rear of the slide stop.  Then push the loop in the spring over the stud protruding from the left side of the frame.  Finally, compress the spring a little (using a small screwdriver or my favorite tool, my thumbnail) and fit the rear section into the groove at the top of the sear.

Photo 1 shows the Sear/Slide Latch Spring above the frame, in its correct orientation.  Notice the forward portion has one bend, and the rearward portion has a more complicated bend.
Photos 2 and 3 show the stud on the frame where the coil of the spring fits with and without the spring installed
Photo 4 shows the spring installed on the frame, with the forward portion fitted into the hole in the slide latch
Photo 5 shows the spring installed on the frame, with the rearward portion fitted into the groove in the sear

Step 14: Install the Trigger Bar

Picture of Install the Trigger Bar

Slide the "hooked" end of the Trigger Bar between the frame and the sear on the right side of the frame.  Push the stud on the other end through the hole on top of the trigger.  You can now (very VERY carefully) check function and you'll be able to see how the gun operations; i.e. the relationship between the trigger, hammer, and sear.

Photo 1 shows the Trigger Bar
Photo 2 shows the Right side of the frame before the trigger bar is installed
Photo 3 shows the "hooked" end of the trigger bar in better detail, this is the portion that will interact with the sear
Photo 4 and 5 show the trigger bar being inserted into position, between the frame and sear
Photo 6 shows the forward end of the trigger bar being inserted into the hole in the trigger
Photo 7 shows, from the top, the trigger bar inserted in the hole in the trigger
Photo 8 shows the gun with the trigger bar installed

Step 15: Hook Trigger Spring Onto End of Trigger Bar

Picture of Hook Trigger Spring Onto End of Trigger Bar

This part was a little tricky for me.  You need to lift the rear loop of the trigger spring over the stud on the trigger bar, then lower it into the small groove in the stud.  It's, again, easier to show than to describe, but I had a hard time taking photos, since it's a 2 hand operation.

Photo shows it installed and where it fits into groove on trigger bar

Step 16: Install Takedown Latch, Plunger, and Spring.

Picture of Install Takedown Latch, Plunger, and Spring.

My parts kit was missing these parts, so I can only show what I was able to install.  Looking down from the top of the frame, there's a hole drilled from an angle, toward the front of the gun.  Insert the plunger spring and then the plunger into the hole.

Then slide the takedown latch into the left side of the frame.  The Plunger and Spring will hold it in place.

Photo 1 is the parts before assembly
Photo 2 is the parts being assembled

Step 17: Install Locking Block Spring and Locking Block Into Barrel

Picture of Install Locking Block Spring and Locking Block Into Barrel

Orient the Locking Block Spring so the loop is toward the rear of the barrel and the long part is closest to the barrel.  Compress it slightly and push it into the hole under the barrel.  Slide it forward so a small "loop" is visible under the barrel.

Photo 1 shows the Locking Block Spring and bottom of barrel
Photo 2 shows the Locking Block Spring started into the hole in the barrel
Photo 3 shows the Locking Block Spring installed in the barrel, notice the little loop that will hold the block in under tension
Photo 4 shows the Locking Block as it will be installed in the barrel
Photo 5 and 6 show the Locking Block installed in the barrel

Step 18: Install the Grips

Picture of Install the Grips

Okay, time for another easy step.  The Grips fit on the frame pretty easily, one on the left, one on the right.  Make sure to slide the grip under the slide latch on the left side.

The screw goes in from the left; don't overtighten, or you can crack the grip.  

Photos show grips on the left and right of the gun.

Step 19: Gun Is Now "Field Stripped" and Only Requires Routine Assembly.

Picture of Gun Is Now "Field Stripped" and Only Requires Routine Assembly.

At this point, the gun is considered "Field Stripped," which is about as far as it should be routinely taken down.

You should have 4 components now, and no extra parts (unless your kit shipped with extra parts):

1:  The Frame Assembly
2:  The Magazine
3:  The Barrel Assembly
4:  The Slide Assembly

To put it all together, fit the Barrel Asembly into the slide; Put the rear of the Barrel assembly into the front of the slide assembly, making sure to push the Locking Block up so it will fit.  Photos 1 and 2 show this step.

Then slide the slide onto the frame, making sure the takedown latch is rotated down.  Pull the slide a little past the rear of the frame, until you can rotate the latch back into the locked position, and let the slide travel forward.

Insert the Magazine and you're done; the gun is completely assembled.

Comments

jdillon6 (author)2014-11-01

Hi, with your knowledge of the inner workings of this fairly complex machine, I wonder if you have any interest in, or knowledge of, the Delgado MYT handgun design. The concept of this gun is basically to align the barrel with the shooter's forearm, and this makes it so that there is no "muzzle rise" when firing the weapon. I thought that was a great idea, but haven't heard much about it. The inventor (based in California, as I recall) was not able to get backing to put it into production, but his idea was ripped off and used without credit, by a company in Italy or perhaps central Europe, in the past 5 years or so. This ripoff gun model won some awards for Delgado's improved design. The "kick" of a weapon, throwing the muzzle upwards, is certainly an indication of poor design, usually. So to me, it did seem important as a safety improvement. Thank you for your consideration. {PS I am not affiliated with the inventor, although I am interested in his MYT Engine just as an energy efficiency advocate.)

JohnS859 (author)jdillon62016-05-22

Wrong,the Chiapa Rhino you refer to is not based on any of Delgado's work,it is based on the Mateba Revolver which came before Delgado's patent,the Mateba is based on an enhanced version of the Webley Fosbery which is an 1895 design.

If anything Delgado ripped off from other people not the other way around.

For instance he ripped off the Gyrojet,his ICP cartidges are pretty much the same but of inferior design,he just took the Gyrojet and lower the bore axis and put the magazine on top of the gun in the form of a tube.

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