Walther HP at RIA

The Walther HP was the immediate predecessor to the P38 pistol that was adopted into widespread German service. The HP (Heeres Pistole, or Army Pistol) was offered for commercial sale and export by Walther. It was formally adopted by the Swedish army in 1939, but only a small number were shipped before the outbreak of war caused Walther to reprioritize for German military production. A number of HPs were also sold commercially to Austria military men, and those pistols often wound up in German military service after the annexation of Austria.

When the German military adopted the pistol, it dictated a few minor changes from the standard HP design, and the result became the P38.


  1. The 1939 “World’s Fair Edition” Stoeger catalog includes the HP as available, for $75. The page goes into great detail about the gun’s mechanism and function.

    I doubt many HPs were actually sold by Stoeger, not least because of its high price at the time. In the same catalog, MSRP for a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum (Registered Series pre M-27) was $60, and a Colt Government Model in .45 ACP or .38 Super listed for $41.50.

    The .357 Magnum was still something of an unknown quantity to American shooters at the time, but the .45 and .38 rounds were more esteemed than the 9mm was back then. The HP was promised in both .45 ACP and .38 Super calibers in the catalog entry, but to my knowledge, no HP/P.38 in such chamberings was ever made by Walther.

    Another factor was that the “Shooter’s Bible” normally came out in April back then, and by September, Walther wasn’t filling commercial contracts anymore.



    • “The HP was promised in both .45 ACP and .38 Super calibers in the catalog entry, but to my knowledge, no HP/P.38 in such chamberings was ever made by Walther.”

      Which is no surprise, since German military contracts promptly became the sole priority.

  2. Commercial HP grips were made from polystyrene plastic, a material Walther pioneered for firearms furniture with I.G. Farben in the Walther PPK (1931). Polystyrene as made by Farben in the 1930’s demonstrated poor aging, impact toughness, and solvent resistance as the WaA was adopting the P.38, so they specified an older plastic, phenol formaldehyde (‘Bakelite’) with a cellulose (wood particle) fill for production pistols. The cosmetics of polystyrene were much better than the wood filled Bakelite, so Walther continued to use polystyrene for grips of commercial pistols until 1944, when the I.G. Farben styrene plant in Ludwigshaven was bombed out of existence.

  3. Had a couple, several Lugers (9 mm .30 cal and one .45)and P-38s. Liked the Browning Hi Power much more, especially the 13-round capacility Mag. I wish I had all of them back.

  4. As Eon mentioned, does anyone know if the fabled .45 and .38 Super HPs ever reached production? Or even any experimental models? Seems odd that they would advertise a product that wasn’t actually available, and yet I’ve never seen any evidence of them. I suppose they might have been lost during the war, but I’d have thought that one or two might have escaped into the wild.

    • Surprise! Found one. (I think.)


      Article on the P.38 shows some early MPs (shrouded-hammer type), one purportedly a .45. Its exposed barrel seems a bit “thicker” than the standard barrel, so it could indeed be a .45 caliber. Unfortunately, the photograph isn’t good enough to read the slide inscription to determine caliber designation (if any).

      So, it’s distinctly possible that at least one .45 ACP MP (or HP, or whatever) did exist. Once.



  5. From deep in the forest of fuzzy memories from my youth: In the late 60s or early 70s one of the then big time gun magazines (Gun World?) had a pair of articles about a gunsmith who was making .45acp conversions of Lugers and P38s (a “P45”) which IIRC were supposed to be identical to the US Army test Lugers and the so rare you probably never heard of it Walther 45acp model. Back then (When dinosaurs walked the earth.) there were no “double action” 45 autos and like new P38s were going for $50.00 so there was some hope the “P45” might actually be commercially viable.

    • Guns & Ammo, 1975. The gunsmith’s name was John Martz. He also patented the “Martz Safe Toggle Release” (MSTR) conversion for the P.08 version of the Parabellum. With the toggle locked open, you inserted a loaded magazine, and applied the safety (NS down and back for safe). It also automatically tripped the bolt hold-open lock, leaving you with the pistol in Condition One, cocked-and-locked.

      An analogous system was found on the AMP 180 AutoMag pistol, in which the thumb safety on the left side of the frame had a forward extension which, when the safety was pushed all the way down past the Fire position, tripped the bolt lock and allowed the bolt to run forward and chamber a round from the magazine.

      I always thought this was a curious feature for a hunting and silhouette pistol. However, it would make excellent sense on a heavy-duty combat handgun, because at some point you might expect to be in a position where you had to reload from an empty chamber and magazine under fire, and resume the fight instantly.

      The MSTR was better suited for the target range, frankly. The AutoMag, if it had been a bit more reliable, would have been my first choice for a combat pistol in event of having to deal with lycanthropes, vampires, Cybermen, Cylon Centurions, the odd Utahraptor, etc.



  6. The knowlege of Ian’s reader community never fails to amaze me. A great asset to the shooting and collecting world.

  7. I have handled several of the Martz Lugers at gun shows and they are beautifully made. Most were .45 ACP including one with a 6″ bull barrel which I lusted after. One was a .380 “Baby” Luger. The workmanship was superb and price reflected the quality.

  8. It is not certain whether a leftie in Walther Brothers been present but, Model 3 was a left ejecting pistol and the following Model 4 either. At first decade of 20th. Century when Model 3 first appeared, there should be no settled on acceptations on auto pistol design and left ejecting could be considered as a different approach. But it proved its workability. When hidden hammer AP, forerunner of HP pistol designed, it was the first nominate of production sample with a “Firing Pin Block” and since the trigger bar with related pieces to actuate this safety system joined at right side of the slide, the extractor was located at left side via the gained Model 3 experimentation. On AP model, the extractor was located inside with a double acting plunger also retaining the “On” and “Off” positions of left side mounted “On Slide” safety lever, and this was another cause to place the extractor at left side. Model HP was equipped with a separate detent for safety lever but, extractor location was left unchanged by the cause of firing pin block mechanism layout. Years after, when Beretta accepted P38 Lock as a saver to survive “Open Top Barrel” image, the right side trigger bar and firing pin block safety systems were continued but, related parts and actuator mechanism were taken to the left as creating an unoccupied space for extractor montage, at common right side of the slide.

    • In my experience, P.38s pretty consistently eject their cases to the left (as you’d expect with the left-side extractor/ejector setup) and slightly forward (which is a bit surprising when you first see it).

      I used to own a Manhurin-made P1 that consistently dropped them two feet in front of the pistol and about a foot and a half to its left.

      I suspect this was a deliberate feature of the design, for safety on the firing line at practice. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen someone hit in the face or upper torso by ejected brass from a shooter to their left on a line without barriers between posts. I’ve been smacked a few times myself in such a situation.

      Since the Wehrmacht tended to do pistol practice in the open, my guess is that Walther designed their “Army Pistol” to present no problems in this department.

      BTW, the P.08 pretty consistently throws its cases almost straight up and back over the shooter’s shoulder. Which must have made rangemastering from behind the line a bit exciting at times.



      • It should be related to the shooting stance and pistol holding hand or hands. The sudden jolt generated from the blast causes an unavoidable jump at gun and a swing at holding limbs as resulting to give some direction to the hurling case eventually correcting your observation. True behave of the gun can be understood by clamping it into a vise. But if Walther Brothers figured the “AP” through that approach, why did’nt they transmit to the others for surviving and spreading the concept. However, being aware of the fact that Fritz Walther was the responsible of produced pistol designs, he should had been reflected this merit into his last brain child, P38. It seems the son, Karl Heinz was clever enough carrying the big company to be purchased by a fireworks and blank gun manufacturer.

  9. Please see http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=412408&page=1 for a discussion of the .45 ACP American Eagle Luger. As far as I know there were several sold to Americans after the tests but dierctly from Germany. The one I once owned was from this source. It had an American Eagle stamped on the receiver ring just ahead of the slide port. I was living in Shreveport, Louisiana at the time but the one mentioned in the discussion group is not the one I had. I sold mine to a collector in Longview, Texas (my original home) in the 1960s and his son still owns it, or so he says. I have seen two others besides the one I owned and the one in the Shreveport museum.

  10. I just found this site. http://www.phoenixinvestmentarms.com/1593AETest1900.htm It is of a .30 cal/7.62 mm American Eagle Luger. The .30 was fairly popular in the US and the 9mm was second. The .45 was the least traded and is the rarest today. The one I had was marked “Germany” under the serial number indicating that it was an import and had the grip safety as shown. The barrel quite obviously was larger in diameter and bore. The “American Eagle” crest was exactly as shown but there was about 15% wear from use on the frame and barrel. It had the DWM marking on the top of the link as shown on this one.

  11. High German is not a primary language for me, but doesn’t “Herres Pistole” translate to “men’s pistol”?

  12. Hi all,
    In the late 1970’s continuously through late 1980’s I made grips, stocks with fore-ends and parts for Mr. Martz. He made .45 caliber Luger and P-38 conversions. I made the breech blocks for them. Both were very accurate out to 100 meters. His .45 P-38 had metal backed grips which were needed because of the recoil. He also made a limited number of P-38 carbines
    in .30 Luger, 9 mm Luger, .38 Super and .45 Colt Automatic. Some with Leupold short rifle scopes; again with superb accuracy. All in all it was demanding work but, I think worth it. So much of today’s products are NOT built with attention to the finest of details; Mr.Martz and crew did pay attention to the details. I wish for the purchasers of his firearms much enjoyment of them throughout the years.
    P.S. I do like the Krause .45 Luger Pistols also and even though they sell for much money, these pistols are also worth every dollar.

  13. Mark,
    I can still do the Lüger and P 38 stock work however, I currently have no place to make them. I am recovering from a broken leg which is taking it’s time to return to normal.

  14. My Mod HP has an F instead of a red dot on the safety, has linear pistol grips with the U staple on the left side. The serial numbers match on the body and slide. Those checkered grips would not fit on this one because of the staple.

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