AR15.Com Archives
 Strange P38 malfunction?
kiddsf  [Member]
1/4/2010 10:04:55 PM EST
In this video, the guy's P38 malfunctioned, and that the take down lever keeps falling down due to the recoil...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDhjRDoAZiY

Did this happen to anyone?

I'm got kind of scared by watching this, is there a way to fix that problem?

Is this common for P38 pistols?
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Thor340  [Member]
1/5/2010 8:11:59 AM EST
It probably is missing the takedown Lever retainer plunger and spring located staked into the frame. They are parts 044 and 045 in the accompanying exploded drawing of the P.38 parts. Replace the parts, install the takedown and problem solved. However if the parts are NOT staked in place they are subject to being lost again when the lever is slide out of the frame. You normally dont have to remove the lever unless you are doing a detail strip for rebluing so once they are back in place, you really dont have much to worry about it. Tom Heller of Heller Arms has the parts. He can be reached at email hellerarms@webtv.net He is my parts supplier for my P.38 and Luger restorations.
BobCole  [Team Member]
1/5/2010 4:40:12 PM EST
Thor answered everything except, "No, it's not normal."
kiddsf  [Member]
1/5/2010 9:30:54 PM EST
Does the Retainer plunger and spring usually wear out after like couple thousand shots?

Is it recommended to have some in hand just in case?

How would you wear out those parts anyway?
I guess if you just absolutely love to field strip your P38 everyday and the Retainer plunger and spring Might wear out?
BobCole  [Team Member]
1/6/2010 2:17:35 AM EST
I can't answer the wearing of one out via thousands of rds as I don't have that many thru mine, but I would lean towards some past reassemblies done not correctly, IMO.

I don't keep spare parts for my P-38, FWIW.

My .o2
Thor340  [Member]
1/6/2010 3:26:32 AM EST
No they dont wear out, at least all the ones I have worked on, I am sure they came out when the take down was removed. Sometimes the staked parts have either been forceably removed which destroy the small burred staked metal and then replaced without staking again and then later popped out and were not replaced. Normally field stripping does not require the take down to be removed, just rotated which does not threaten loss of those parts. The more COMMON problem is if the gun has been detailed stripped (as opposed to field stripped for cleaning) is the top cover over the slide, if that is not probably reinstalled the whole blooming cover will come off when fired and loss of the rear sight and other small parts can happen.The cover is part 006 and it retains the rear sight and other parts. Bottom line, dont detail strip them yourselfs, have a pro do it and you'll probably never have a problem. The main springs should be checked if you buy one, to make sure they are strong and all the hammer drop and double action features work as intended. I once knew of a fellow that when he bought a P.38 and went to shoot it, he would inclose the gun with a box with the muzzle end open to capture any small parts that flew off. Just a precautionary measure. There is a trick to putting the cover back on and once on correctly they wont fly off. You can field strip one everyday and probably never wear out the take down retainer. Also if you sight one in, the front sight is driftable for windage, dont try to drift the rear sight, it wont move. No elevation adjustment is avaible except extreme measures of replacing the front sight. These always seems to shoot a little low from point of impact and a Luger seems to shoot a bit high at 25 yds.
kiddsf  [Member]
1/6/2010 6:29:52 AM EST
Thank you very much Thor,
I am sooooo glad to hear that P38s are durable and dependable.
At first, after watching that video, I got scared and thought my P38 collection is doomed to be some overly engineered POS...

Great to hear that it is not the case and that P38s are still durable and reliable.

One more question if you don't mind,
I know all guns can wear out someday and that I DO shoot my 'shooter grade' P38 A LOT!
What is the recommended spare parts to have?
And, from whom or what source?
Thor340  [Member]
1/6/2010 10:58:15 AM EST
Here is one reason that P1 imports are so cheap now. the German government used the P1(P38) with the alloy frame for years and now they are getting rid of the surplus guns for around $300 +-$50 depending on where you find them. LOTS of them are being imported into our country. This picture was from the p38forum.com
The Alloy frame guns can fail but the later ones have a hex pin through the frame by the trigger that helps preventing frame failure. I would say keeping good strong recoil springs in them is a good idea. Wolff springs sells them for cheap. That will keep from pounding the guns and just shoot standard pressure ammo in them, 124 gr bullets at around 1050 fps is enough, or 115 gr at 1150 fps is enough. Take a look at how far you gun is throwing the emptys, if it is around 5-10' that is about right, if it is really slinging them far, you probably have weak springs. The WWII P.38 have a flat firing pin that can fail if you drop the hammer using the safety block, I alway LOWER the hammer on them slowly holding back the hammer from just slamming shut. That doesnt apply when you are firing or loading a round to fire, just when you have the safety lever rotated to lower the hammer. The post war P38s have a round pin that really is an improvement. Use good springs and standard ammo and dont drop the hammer with the safety without easing it forward and you should be okay. There are TONS of surplus parts available on P1s (Post War P.38s)
kiddsf  [Member]
1/7/2010 6:53:55 AM EST
So, what kind of spring is recommended?
The factory 6.5lb or the extra 8lb?

And, you mentioned the firing pin in P38s are weak...
How weak are you talking about?
I know the decocker mechanism will easily break but I never knew the firing pin is also weak?

I have 2 import WWII AC44 P38 'shooters' and one non-import WWII P38 BYF44 'queen', I just want to learn how to take care of them...
If the decocker doesn't work, does that mean the firing pin is broken?
One of my AC44 shooter doesn't decock but shoots fine...
BobCole  [Team Member]
1/7/2010 5:35:24 PM EST
Originally Posted By kiddsf:

So, what kind of spring is recommended? The factory 6.5lb or the extra 8lb?



As long as you're shooting "normal" FMJ ammo, I would opt for the OEM 6.5lb spring, IMO.

My .o2
Thor340  [Member]
1/7/2010 5:43:54 PM EST
I agree with Bob, STandard weight spring is find. The WWII firing pins are FLAT and have square corners on the surfaces that interface with the safety lever and that can cause stress concentrations and cracking, but this is not a problem if you DONT USE THE HAMMER DROP without easing the hammer forward with your thumb. If you have ANY functioning problems with the P.38 just email Tom Heller, he can answer all your questions and fix any of them you have.
HeavyMetal  [Team Member]
1/7/2010 5:51:29 PM EST
Originally Posted By Thor340:
I agree with Bob, STandard weight spring is find. The WWII firing pins are FLAT and have square corners on the surfaces that interface with the safety lever and that can cause stress concentrations and cracking, but this is not a problem if you DONT USE THE HAMMER DROP without easing the hammer forward with your thumb. If you have ANY functioning problems with the P.38 just email Tom Heller, he can answer all your questions and fix any of them you have.



Use two hands and cross your thumbs. Assuming right handed, depress theh decocker with your right thumb and ease the hammer down with the left thumb. This is while gripping the pistol with a two-handed firing grip.
kiddsf  [Member]
1/7/2010 10:46:35 PM EST
Can any one tell me how to take the recoil spring out?
I never took out the recoil spring out before, but I think I might want to now.

I want to know how to take them out before I order those 6.5lb factory Wolff springs.
Thor340  [Member]
1/8/2010 4:32:09 AM EST
The twin recoil springs(046) have two recoil spring guide rods (047) in front that have to come out before the springs come out. I use two small screw drivers or two pin punches, whatever is closest at the time. Work on one side at a time. You have to compress the old spring enough and hold it to clear the back end of the guide rod. While holding the spring back slide the rod out of the frame recess towards the front. If you dont get the spring compressed enough the rod cant tip a little to clear the end of the frame recess. Once you have one done, do the other then put the new springs back in the opposite way, compress the new spring inside the frame recess, then slide the guide rod into the compressed spring, then straigten the guide rod with your hand and have the lip of the guide rod at the end of the frame recess, then release the spring.
When you are taking the old springs out, place the small screw driver through the coils of the spring that are behind the back end of the guide rod, then pull back to compress the spring, while holding it back place the second screw driver just behind the back end of the guide rod and pull again, by using this tandem compression method you will get the spring compressed behind the rear of the guide rod, only then can you tip the guide rod up and remove it from the frame, then the spring will come out.
kiddsf  [Member]
1/8/2010 4:45:03 PM EST
Ok thanks for the tip.

I got another question tho...
I know that the safety decocker with break the firing pin, but ..

How about 'dry-firing'?
Would 'dry-firing' break the firing pin as well?
Should I get some 'snap-caps'?
Thor340  [Member]
1/9/2010 5:37:23 AM EST
I would not dry fire it myself even with snap caps, but some will disagree with me.
kiddsf  [Member]
1/9/2010 1:05:44 PM EST
So are you saying the firing pin in the P38s are very weak?

B/c I thought the 'hardness' of the primer on snap caps are about the same as the real bullet,
and if the gun can shoot real bullets without damaging the firing pin, it should be fine with snap caps.

Do you even shoot your P38s?
Thor340  [Member]
1/10/2010 4:41:39 AM EST
The design was not as good as it could be and there are failures, and some pins that last a good while. Since there are tons of post war p.38s out there, I would opt to shoot one of those, they have an improved pin that is round. They knew there was a problem or they would not have changed the pin.
kiddsf  [Member]
1/10/2010 5:25:16 PM EST
So even if I just shoot normally with REAL ammo, the firing pin will still likely to break?
Isn't the older version and the newer version both made of the same steel?
I know that the older 'flat' pins will break if you use the decocker a lot, but would it still break just from normal shooting?

Don't really see how you can break the pin just by normal shooting or using quality snap caps...
Thor340  [Member]
1/11/2010 3:10:44 AM EST
So even if I just shoot normally with REAL ammo, the firing pin will still likely to break? It may or may not, some have failed.
If you want to shoot it, then shoot it.
Isn't the older version and the newer version both made of the same steel? I dont really know the answer to this question.
I know that the older 'flat' pins will break if you use the decocker a lot, but would it still break just from normal shooting? Possibly, but who knows, if the pin has any hair cracks in it, the firing might later on cause it to fail.

Don't really see how you can break the pin just by normal shooting or using quality snap caps...

Okay, I would ask you to contact Tom Heller at Heller Arms, he is a great go to guy for parts. He has seen P.38s with problems and he could tell you if he has seen any broken flat pins, I have not, just read that they could break. hellerarms@webtv.net

If I was considering this with my WWII P.38, which I no longer own, I would fire it occasionally, and only use the decocker in an soft drop manner described above. I would not any more stress to a part that might not be easily replaceable. But they are your guns, not mine.
Enjoy them! They were made to be shot. At $300 a pop, the Post War P.38/P1 have a lot of appeal if you like to shoot P.38s

I have asked this question on the p38forum to see if this is a problem, have they even seen any broken pins. They should have good information to see is this is a real problem or not.


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