The Walther P5 was developed in the mid-1970s as an response to the West German police’s continued search for a 9x19mm service pistol to replace the older smaller calibre pistols then in service, like the Walther PP. It was developed to fit the new police specification for a small, handy pistol which could be brought into action quickly. Walther’s design competed against pistols from Mauser, Heckler & Koch and SIG Sauer.
The P5′s design evolved from the P38, combining the lock work and dual recoil springs of the P38 (re-designated the P1 in 1963) with a shortened barrel and a full length slide. While a shortened P38k had been produced in the early 1970s, this was only an as an interim solution. The P38K retained the same slide and frame as the original P38s, but had the front sight mounted on the front strap of the frame and none of the pistol’s contours were rounded to aid drawing and returning to a holster. Only around 2,600 P38Ks were produced.
Following the attack on the 1972 Munich Olympics games West German police began the search for a new service police. Walther’s response, the P5, was introduced in 1978. The P5 is a locked-breech pistol and has double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger. It uses the same short-recoil operated system and locking mech as the P38. This means that the barrel and slide recoil together for a short distance before the locking block falls and allows the slide to continue moving rearward, ejecting a spent case and chambering a new round.
Walther moved the P5’s decocker from the slide to the frame and this also served as the slide stop and slide release. I would say that the P5’s decocker is easier to operate, with a shorter length of travel, than the SIG P6’s.
Following the West German police specification Walther designed the pistol to be safely and rapidly brought into action, and as a result dispensed the manual safety. Instead, the pistol could be carried in condition two – with a round in the chamber and the hammer down. This was safely achieved by some upgrades to the P5’s hammer and firing pin. There is a small recess in the pistol’s hammer for the firing pin. The firing pin only moves into alignment with the hammer surface when the trigger is pulled.
The P5 has a 3.5 inch (9cm) barrel and fed from an 8-round, single stack, magazine with a heel release. Like the P38 the pistol ejects to the left rather than the right. The P5 has a stronger and more durable fully enclosed slide which is contoured to aid holstering. The pistol has an alloy frame, with full-length slide rails and an enlarged trigger guard for use with gloves.
In addition to the P5, Walther also developed a compact model for plain clothes use which had a slightly shorter barrel (3.1 inches), slide and a truncated hammer. It was introduced in 1988 and had a lighter alloy frame with the P5 Compact weighing 750g (1.65lbs) rather than 795g (1.75lbs). While early production pistols retained the heel magazine release the majority had a thumb release. A small number of P5-Lang, long barrel target pistols were also produced in the late 1980s.
Disassembly is simple and comes directly from the P38. The slide is retracted a little until the barrel catch can be rotated. The slide and barrel can then be slid forward off the frame once the trigger is pulled.
The P5 proved to be an accurate and reliable pistol and once it was accepted by the police trials (along with the designs from Heckler & Koch and SIG-Sauer – the P7 and P6 respectively.) It was adopted by uniformed officers of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate’s State Police – these pistols were marked ‘BMI’ for Bundesministerium des Innern – the Federal Ministry of the Interior. This pistol is a BMI-marked gun and dates from February 1983.
It also became the standard issue sidearm of the Dutch police who purchased around 50,000 pistols, becoming Walther’s largest customer for the P5. The Dutch guns were later fitted with aftermarket Houge rubber grips and some changes to the hammer safety system were later made in the mid-1990s. The Dutch police retired the P5 in 2013 replacing it with the P99Q.
The P5 also saw some military sales with elements of the Portuguese Army adopting it and the P5 Compact was also adopted by the British Army. Selected in the late 1980s for issue as a personal protection side arm. It was designated the Pistol L102A1 and was extensively issued to British troops in Ireland for use while in plain clothes or off duty.
While certainly one of Walther’s lesser known pistols the P5 is a well-made, well-designed duty pistol, with comfortable ergonomics – the fiddly magazine catch not withstanding – and the slide and decocker are very smooth to operate. The trigger pull in both the single and double action modes is also pretty good. Overall, around 100,000 pistols were produced before production came to an end in 1993.
This week’s TAB Short episode takes a concise look at the German Schmeisser-designed Dreyse 1907, my thanks to Chuck at GunLab.net for allowing me to take a look at his pistol!
The Dreyse Model 1907 was manufactured by Rheinische Metallwaaren & Maschinenfabrik (RM&M), who later became Rheinmetall. The pistol was designed by Louis Schmeisser and produced by RM&M under the Dreyse brand name.
The Model 1907 was striker-fired, blowback pocket pistol, chambered in .32 ACP / 7.65mm Browning, which fed from a 7-round single stack magazine. Introduced in 1907, but not entering meaningful production until 1908, production ceased in 1918 with approximately 250,000 manufactured.
Schmeisser filed his patent protecting the design in the US in June 1908, it was granted two years later in April 1910. Earlier German patents were filed in 1906-1907. The pistol was designed to avoid infringing on some of John Browning’s semi-automatic pistol patents. To do this Schmeisser’s pistol had a ¾ length slide which attached to a breech block.
Louis Schmeisser’s 1910 patent (Us Patent Office)
Louis Schmeisser’s 1910 patent (Us Patent Office)
Louis Schmeisser’s 1910 patent (Us Patent Office)
To cock the weapon, the user grasped the slide at the front and used the slide serrations to pull it to the rear, chambering a round. Spent cases were ejected out of a port on the right side of the pistol. The pistol’s front sight was situated at the front of a scalloped trough in the slide while the rear sight consisted of a raised a notch in the upper receiver.
When fired the slide and breech block recoiled rearwards, the travel of the slide was stopped by the solid upper receiver housing. There was a frame mounted safety on the left side of the gun, with the safe position pointing to the rear. The 1907 had a heel type magazine release, typical of European pistols of the period.
The pistol’s receiver is hinged and pivots apart for cleaning, clearing and disassembly (see the original patent drawings above). There was some substantial variation, with the 1907’s design evolving during the course of its production life. Early models lacked the scalloped slide that we can see in the pictured model. Internal changes were also made with the addition of a disconnector.
The 1907 was favoured by the German police and gendamarie, with John Walter noting that most of the initial 1,000 pistol production run being purchased by Saxony’s gendamarie and later by the Berlin municipal police. In 1910, there were abortive attempts to develop a larger 9x19mm version of the pistol. Introduced in 1911, various German state police forces and Prussia’s Border Customs officers strongly interested.
The design, however, was still an unlocked blowback and relied on an extremely strong recoil spring. The spring was so strong that it necessitated a cocking lever which disconnected the spring. This version is often referred to, but not officially marked as, the M1910. The flawed design and production problems at Rheinmetall saw the project abandoned before the outbreak of World War One.
The .32 ACP Dreyse 1907 continued to be manufactured during the war and saw service with elements of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies during, as an auxiliary side arm. The Norwegian reportedly examined the 1907 during their pistol trials (1902-1914) and found it lacking. The Czech military purchased some 1907 pistols but they were quickly removed from service and replaced with the Pistole vz. 24.
In Germany the pistols remained in police service into the 1930s, and some saw auxiliary and late-war Volkssturm service during the Second World War.
In this live fire video we’re going to take a look at the MAC Modèle 1950, a French 9x19mm service pistol. The Modèle 1950 replaced the earlier M1935A and M1935S pistols, both chambered in 7.62mm longue.
In 1946, the French Army began the process of selecting a new service pistol, chambered in the more powerful 9x19mm round. A number of designs were tested including the SIG P210. The Modèle 1950 was developed by Manufacture Nationale d’Armes de Saint Étienne (MAS) and while suffering initial reliability problems it was refined and eventually adopted.
The Modèle 1950 combined elements from the previous 1935 pistols but added a larger, more ergonomic grip. The pistol feeds from a 9-round single stack magazine, has a single action trigger and has a slide mounted safety which blocks the hammer.
Shooting the Modèle 1950
I enjoyed shooting the Modèle 1950, its large grip size makes it pleasant to shoot but felt like it should have held a larger double stack magazine. The pistol has a decent set of combat sights, easy to pick up in good light.
Through firing several magazines through the pistol it became clear that you had to be sure not to accidentally engage the safety when racking the slide. This is something I encountered and explain in the video. It took me a few of seconds to realise the problem, take the safety off and recock the hammer. In the safe position the catch juts out the back of the slide, while this is a good indicator of the weapon’s condition it seems possible it could be disengaged while in a holster.
Produced at both MAS and Manufacture Nationale d’Armes de Châtellerault (MAC), over 340,000 Modèle 1950 were manufactured. The pistol is still in limited French service but has largely been replaced in service by the PAMAS G1, a licensed version of the Beretta 92.
We will have a full video and blog looking at the earlier Modèles 1935A & S and the 1950, examining the design, development and history of pistols in the future. My thanks to my friend Chuck Kramer over at Gun Lab for helping us with this video, check out his blog here.
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My thanks to the Cody Firearms Museum, at the Buffalo Bill Centre of the West, for allowing me to film the revolver. I am very lucky to have handled it as it is normally on display.
The US Patent Office granted Samuel Colt a patent for his ‘Revolving Gun’ in February 1836 (US #9430X). Colt had already patented his design in Britain in October 1835 – at the age of just 21. He subsequently patented his design across Europe and worked with Baltimore gunsmith John Pearson to build a number of prototype revolvers. Colt’s pistol was not the first revolver but it did embody a number of important features combining the use of percussion caps and a bored-out cylinder with a single action trigger mechanism and cylinder locking bar.
With backing from his cousin and other investors Colt established the Patent Arms Company, building afactory in Paterson, New Jersey in late 1836. The Patent Arms Company produced a variety of revolvers in different sizes including pocket, belt and holster models. The .28 calibre Pocket Model No.1 being the smallest and the .36 calibre No.5 holster revolver being the largest. The company produced approximately 2,300 – 2,800 firearms (sources have various estimates on just how many revolvers and revolving rifles were manufactured) before the company collapsed, due to insufficient sales, in 1842.
The Colt Paterson
It was the No.5 which saw the greatest sales with small numbers being purchased by the Texas Rangers, Texan Navy and private citizens. The US Army reportedly tested Colt’s revolver in February and June 1837, finding a number of weaknesses to the design. Despite the approval of President Andrew Jackson the US military remained largely uninterested in the Paterson.
Small numbers of the revolvers were purchased by the U.S. government including 100 for the Navy in 1841 and 50 for the Army in 1845 after the company had collapsed. The Republic of Texas also purchased 180 revolvers for its navy in 1839.
The Paterson has a number of interesting features and lacks some components that would become standard on Colt’s later revolvers. The Patersons had octagonal barrels and were sold in a number of barrel lengths ranging from 2.5 to 9 inches, with 7.5 and 9 inches being the most popular. The barrel assembly attached to the receiver via the cylinder axis pin which was locked together by a wedge – a method which would be used in Colt pistols for over 30 years. They had a small front sight and a notch cut into the hammer that acted as a rear sight. The pistols had no trigger guard, instead they had a folding trigger, which deployed when the weapon was fully cocked. Initially, the Patersons lacked a loading lever beneath the barrel. Instead the cylinder was removed to enable loading and capping with a separate loading tool. Another characteristic of the belt and holster Patersons was their flared pistol grips.
Despite this Colt’s .36 calibre No.5 revolvers proved popular with Texas Rangers, so much so that workers often referred to it as ‘The Texas Arm’, who were frequently engaged in skirmishes with Mexicans and Native Americans. During one engagement with a large Comanche warriors along the Guadeloupe River one ranger recalled: “They were two hundred in number, and fought well and bravely, but our revolvers as fatal as they were astonishing, put them speedily to flight.”
Despite the Patterson’s relatively small calibre, lack of an integral loading arm and the frailties of the design (such as a bent axis pin) the revolver’s five round cylinder offered the men wielding them five times the firepower of their muzzle-loading, single shot pistols.
Despite the limited success of Colt’s revolver the design still needed improvements and Colt became determined that the path to success was through military contracts. Sadly, for Colt there weren’t forthcoming and the Patent Arms Company collapsed in 1841/2.
It was the Mexican–American War (1846-48) that revived Colt’s fortunes. Captain Samuel Walker, of the Texas Rangers and the US Army’s Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, was an admirer of Colt’s revolver having carried them in the field for a number of years. So much so that he wrote to Colt in 1846 saying:
“The pistols which you made… have been in use by the Rangers for three years, and I can say with confidence that it is the only good improvement I have seen. …Without your pistols we would not have had the confidence to have undertaken such daring adventures.”
Subsequently, the US government contracted Colt to produce 1,000 large calibre revolvers, the Model 1847. These huge, robust pistols had a fixed trigger and a loading lever as standard.
In 1847 Colt began manufacturing what has since become known as the ‘Colt Walker’, a large, .44 calibre revolver with a six-shot cylinder, that weighed 4lbs 9oz (2.07kg). He subcontracted the production to Eli Whitney Jr. who set up tooling to manufacture the new pistols. These were issued to the US Army’s mounted regiments including the Texas Mounted Volunteers, the US Mounted Riflemen and Dragoons. The success of the Colt Model 1847 Army Revolver paved the way for Colt’s future success.
Adapted Colt Paterson with Loading Lever
The Colt Paterson was an expensive item when it first appeared on the market, costing between $40 and $50 – well over $1,000 today. So then, as now, it makes sense that people who invested a considerable amount in a revolver would adapt and upgrade it if they could.
Below is another example of a Colt Paterson which was adapted. A No.5 Holster model, serial number 951, which had had its barrel cut down to 5 inches. This was done after it left the factory as the cut interrupts the original factory marker’s markings. The pistol also has a new cone front sight added.
The pistol we are examining in this blog/video, is part of the Cody Firearms Museum’s collection – serial number 954. It had a number of alterations to the revolver, principally the addition of a captive loading lever and a new rear sight. While the Patent Arms Company had begun adding a loading lever to their revolvers in 1839, these were of a different style and shape. Below we can see two original examples of Patent Arms Company factory loading levers.
It appears that loading levers of different designs were used on the post-1839 Patersons. The top revolver appears to use a lever similar to the one later utilised in the Model 1847. Both of the examples above differ significantly to that seen on serial number 954 (below), which is more akin to the loading levers seen on the Colt Model 1848 Percussion Army Revolver (or Colt Dragoon) and the later Model 1851 Navy. The profile of the levers and design and location of the pivot point differ. They both also lack any retention point near the end of the lever. This would suggest that #954’s lever is not a factory addition but something which was added later, copying the 1851 Navy’s retained lever which was patented in September 1850 (US #7,629). On close examination the cap cutout at the rear of the cylinder and the cut into the barrel assembly just in front of the cylinder to facilitate loading appear to differ from Patersons with factory loading levers.
A similar retention latch system can be seen in Colt’s 1850 patent:
As with other Colt percussion revolvers with loading levers, the rammer acts on the 6 o’clock cylinder. To load, the revolver was brought to half cock, powder was poured into the chamber, followed by round ball projectile. This was seated enough to allow it to line up with the rammer and the lever could then be pulled to ram the ball home. The cylinder could then be capped. The 1839 Paterson’s had a scalloped cutout to allow caps to be placed on the cylinder nipples without removing the cylinder.
Interestingly the revolver has a slightly bent rammer but seems to function fine despite this. This is perhaps an indication of hand-fitting by the gunsmith who adapted the revolver.
At some point, perhaps at the same time as the fitting of the lever, a new set of sights were fitted. With a more prominent front sight and a rear notch sight added to the top of the barrel, just in front of the cylinder. This was a feature that the 1851 Navy did not have, and no Colt revolver would have until decades later. The gunsmith appears to have cut the dove tail for the sight though the original decorative scroll engraving surrounding the maker’s mark.
More Photographs of the Adapted Colt Paterson:
Adapted Colt Paterson No.5 Holster Model with contemporary holster (Photo: Matthew Moss, Courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum)
Close up of the Colt Paterson’s brazed on loading lever retention catch (Photo: Matthew Moss, Courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum)
Close up of the serial number, 954, on the CFM’s Paterson No.5 (Photo: Matthew Moss, Courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum)
The revolvers produced at the Patent Arms Company’s Paterson factory in the late 1830s and early 1840s date from a fascinating period of American history, on the cusp of an era dominated by Samuel Colt’s revolvers. While the exact circumstances of the adaptations/upgrades made to the revolver we have examined at the Cody Firearms Museum are unclear it tells us that Colt’s revolvers, even early examples, were highly prized.
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Specifications (for No.5 Holster model, #954):
Overall length: 13.5 in (35cm)
Barrel length: 8 in (20cm)
Capacity: 5-shot cylinder
Weight: ~2lb 10oz (1.2kg)
‘Revolving Gun’, S. Colt, US Patent #9430X, 25 Feb. 1836 (source)
‘Improvement in fire-arms and in the apparatus used therewith’, S. Colt, US Patent #1304, 29 Aug. 1839 (source)
‘Improvement in revolving chambered fire-arms’, S. Colt, US Patent #7629, 10 Sep. 1850 (source)