P38 Grip Info ver 4.6
Many books and articles have been written on the P.38 and its history, development, use, variations, holsters and magazines. However, not much information has been published about P.38 grips. This article is a good starting point in understanding a little bit more about P.38 grip variations and their use in WWII era pistols.
I have done a lot of research to compile this information, please feel free to reuse this summation but give credit to those who did the work!
Identification of Grips by Manufacturer
Mauser and Walter P38s used the same outside grip manufacturer until Mauser switched to the glossy, soft, black plastic in early '44 just before the dual tones.
On the outside of the grip you will see 6 broken lines around the grip screw and a short first line for a Walther or Mauser grip. When you remove the grips from the gun they will have, in most cases, a manufacturers code in the top circle and 1529 or 1528 (left and right) with the numbers 1-9 in the third circle at the bottom. Other less common variations exist and will be discussed later.
Spreewerk made P38s used a different grip manufacturer and the grip is slightly different with 5 broken lines around the grips screws and a long first line. When you remove the grips they will have the manufactures code in the top circle and a number from 1-12 in a circle at the lower part of the grip.
Variations In Walter and Mauser Production
Checkered black bakelite* commercial grips that look similar to the post war ones.
Inside the grips is CeWe in a circle at the top of the grip (Registered trademark of Carl Walther) Under that will be the last three digits for the serial number of the gun, then the numerals 480 in a circle which was a mold mark and not the Walther assigned, short lived, manufacturer's code. Under 480 is the marking V7 above MD with Z3 or T1 in a circle and the number 1. This code is explained later on. These grips are marked with the Walther acceptance stamp of e/359.
I have seen 0 series grips where the e/359 acceptance stamp appears to be scratched out and also 0 series grips with no e/359 stamp at all, these are most likely for commercial production. Black 0 series and early commercial contract grips will have a "dished" indent in the grip where the lanyard loop cut out is located. Commercial black checkered Walther grips in the early 3,000 serial number range will no longer have the "dished" indent but a rectangular one the same as military grips.
3rd variation 0 series guns switched over to brown "ribbed" military grips match numbered to the gun with the e/359 acceptance stamp at about serial number 011000 according to P.38 researcher Orv Reichert. One set that I examined were from AEG Dahlem code 38 with Z3 (explained later).
1940 to end of production:
Dark brown to nearly black bakelite thru mid 1943. Reddish brown from mid 1943 thru mid 1944. A mixture of both thru the end of the war with mold number 1529 on left grip and mold number 1528 on right grip.
The last 3 digits
of the gun's serial number will be found stamped on the inside until
approximately the early to mid 2nd variation AC 41. The grips will also have the E/359
waffenamt stamped on the inside until about the same time as the numbering of the
magazines stopped, in the 1942 c block. The e/359 marking can be found in between the first and second circle or the second and third circle.
I have reports from other collectors that the numbering on the grip panels on AC41's ended midway through the 1st Variation. AC41's in the low "a" block have been reported with the serial number and E/359 stamped inside both panels. However, AC41's reported in the high "a" and into the "b" blocks have E/359 stamps only. The numbering may have been on a random basis at this time. It is also apparent that the e/359 acceptance stamp began to disappear even before the numbered mags were phased out, around the early a-block on AC42 guns, this may also have been done on a random basis or grip panels already marked were being used mixed in with the panels that had the acceptance stamp eliminated.
The grips will have the first circle with a "MD" marking with the number 38 above it and Z3 below it. The 38 is the manufactures code according to the State Material Supervising and Testing Bureau in Dahlem (MD) and Z3 is the composition of the bakelite.
The second circle will be blank.
The third circle will have the P1529 (left grip) or P1528 (right grip) mold markings and the numbers 1-9 below them which I believe are the position that the grips were, in the mold. Further, I also believe that unlike the grips made by Julius Posselt which had right and left grips in one mold for a total of 12, the Allgemeine Electricitats-Gesellschaft(AEG) firm of Henningsdorf(Osthavelland) had separate right and left grip molds with 9 grips in each. An interesting observation is that all of the grips with either 1529 1 or 1528 1 will have the mold markings upside down!
Jim Cates & Martin Krause presented, in their copyrighted 8/99 AutoMag article, some interesting Sauer 38-H plastic grip research. They found the MD, used from 1936 and on, represented the "Staatliches Materialprufungsamt Berlin-Dahhlem" which is the State Material Supervising (& testing) bureau in Berlin's district of Dahlem. Further, through the German monthly magazine "Kunstsoffe - a 1939 issue", they found a listing of all the published German plastic producers, their MD codes, and the material composition numerals. For instance, they report the "38" we see above the MD is for the Allgemeine Electricitats-Gesellschaft(AEG) firm of Henningsdorf(Osthavelland) The T1, S etc. below the MD is for the composition of the bakelite-like plastic compound.
Dieter H. Marschall, in his 10/99 AutoMag submittal, expands further by stating the "MD" is actually the three letters "MPD". In the regular MPD publication "Kunststhoff (Vol.30, #3, 1940), for P.38 grips made before 1945, the "Z3" stands for "Bakelit" - a "duroplast" consisting of phenol resin mixed with wood chips or textiles and then pressed. Further "T1" stands for "Trolit" [tradename "Trolit(-an)]", a material based on cellulose-acetate-plastic.
D. Marschall goes
on to say the P1528 can be read as follows: "1" for phenol
resin plastic, "5" for 45% resin, & "28" was the color code for red to mahogany.
In late 1943 the MD markings looks worn and faded and in late war examples completely eliminated. My thinking is this was no accident since the P1529 and P1528 markings in every example I have seen are very clear. The reason for the elimination of the manufactures code is a mystery to me.
Mixed in at the end of the war were also grips marked V7 above MD with 57, 41 or 31 and two blank circles below the MD code, these Walther marked grips appear at random throughout production. AEG grips with 38 above MD and Z3 with two blank circles below the MD code were also used. Just about anything can show up late in the war including some Durofol grips.
The following information is from Darrin Weaver's book on the G/K43's called Hitler's Garand. Pgs. 166-168 discussing the Durofol handguards used on the G/K43's,
"'Durofol', looks much like plastic, was the brand name of a type of phenolic resin, bonded, compressed wood. As an economy measure, a high proportion of wood filler was used, in order to minimize the volume of petrochemically-derived resin required. This material was only manufactured by one firm in Germany, Durofol KG, O. Brangs & Co."
P.38 Durofol grips have the script written word "Durofol" inside a diamond at a vertical position, in the grip. The numbers 1,2,3,7,8,9 are in the left grip following the diamond shaped logo and 4,5,6,10,11,12 in the right grip. The mold postition numbers are the same as the grips by Julius Posselt. In some cases the mold postion number will appear to be above the logo but in fact it still follows the logo which is in a reversed direction. So far the numbers 7,8,9 have been observed above the logo. Any other reports would be appreciated.
Very early grips for Mauser produced P.38's were supplied by either Allgemeine Electricitats-Gesellschaft (AEG) with the 1529 and 1528 mold markings or Carl Walther. The Walther grips observed were marked V7 above MD with 57 or 31 below that. These grips are very shiney dark brown or black brown bakelite and are not marked 1529 or 1528 but have two blank circles below the MD.
The rest of Mauser production is the same as the Walther grips until Mauser switched to the soft, black plastic grips around the "v" block. These can be identified by two low circles on the left grip and mid grip sprue on the right grip as the most common. The inside of these grips will be a "dull" black, another variation is the right grip having the same two low circles as the left grip with a more glossy appearance on the inside of some sets.
Very late war byf 44's in the "e" block and svw 45's in the "f" block have been reported and observed having the late war red/orange bakelite grips from AEG.
Grips Used in Spreewerk Production
The color of the grips
will run dark brown to nearly black bakelite thru mid 1943 then
reddish brown or dark brown thru end of war.
Approximately, the first 20,000 (till the end of the "a" suffix) guns had grips from Walther/Mauser. Therefore, they will be brownish black Bakelite with the 1528 & 1529 mold numbers as described above and some very early guns may have the e/359 marking in one or both grip panels. After that, they were generally a very dark, very hard, shiny bakelite. The grips will have the first circle with the "MD" marking inside the grip with 1W above the MD and either 41 or 31 under it (I examined a grip number under the MD which could be mistaken for a 37 but the number appears to me as a 31 with a slightly bigger "crown" on the 1). The second circle has a number from 1 - 12 in it, these are the grip position numbers in the mold.
These are the mold position numbers as I have seen them, each mold had 12 grips.
Left grip have 1,2,3,7,8,9
Right grip have 4,5,6,10,11,12
The 1W is the manufactures code according to the State Material Supervising and Testing Bureau in Dahlem (MD) and stands for Julius Posselt. It is also listed in the 1940 issue Heft 3 from the Staatliches Materialprüüfungsamt in Berlin. This 1940 issue listed the following materials in their production. Presstoff Type S and Presstoff Type 2. His other code was gfc (Gablonz an der Neisse, now Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech republic) The code gfc is not found on the grips.
In his research Dieter H. Marschall also states that Julius Posselt worked with "Presstoff Type T2" only , which is classified as "Phenolharz mit Holzmehl als Füüllstoff" (aka "Bakelite"). The code numbers "31" and "41" designate the colors of the material: "31" = mahogany to greenish, "41" = grey to black. 1W marking is special code granted by Materialprüüfungsamt Berlin - Dahlem. (MD or actually MPD)
Dahlem P.38 grip manufacturer codes are:
V7 Carl Walther, Zella-Mehlis,
1W Julius Posselt
38 or Allgemeine Electricitats-Gesellschaft (AEG) firm of Henningsdorf (Osthavelland)
Other Dahlem codes are:
Weiskirchen, Trier, Saarland.
W1 Heinrich Kopp GmbH,Sonneberg in Thüüringen
I feel certain that Carl Walther, AEG, Julius Posselt and Durofol were the only manufacturers of bakelite grips for the P38.
There may be other variations of grips out there but I believe this grip information to be accurate for the most common grips that I have observed.
Late war grips will often have a lot of filler in the bakelite matrix. The filler was apparently ground cardboard or shredded paper. The end of the war was a real mixed bag of variations where many things can turn up.
Please send me an email, Mark@p38guns.com, if you have seen any P.38 grips that do not match the descriptions outlined above, complete information on your P.38 with the serial number would be appreciated.
*Bakelite (also called catalin) is a plastic, a dense synthetic polymer (a phenolic resin) that was used to make many objects including P.38 grips. Bakelite was the first industrial thermoset plastic (a material that does not change its shape after being mixed and heated). Bakelite plastic is made from carbolic acid (phenol) and formaldehyde, which are mixed, heated, and then either molded or extruded into the desired shape.
Bakelite was patented in 1907 by the Belgian-born American chemist Leo Hendrik Baekeland (November 14, 1863 - February 23, 1944).