Small Arms of WWI Primer 007: German Walther Model 4 Pistol

The town of Zella-Mehlis is centuries old, but its claim to global fame would be its strategic location along trade routes and surrounded by iron and copper mines, it became a craftsman’s hub before firearms were even popular in warfare. The traditions continued, adapting to new technology, until in 1908 a little family-owned shop introduce their first pocket pistol Two years later they would attempt a military and police design. Little did they know its service in the coming conflict would make them a household name around the world [music] Hi, I’m Othais, and this is the German Walther Model 4 pistol. Let’s go take it over to that lightbox Originating from 1910, this pistol is just shy of six inches long and weighs in at 19 ounces. It chambers the .32 ACP cartridge, fitting eight in its detachable box magazine. It is not a locking action, instead using a simple blowback operation. Alright let’s take a step back and talk a little bit about the founding of Walther. You see, Carl Walther founded the company in 1886. Now, he was 28 at the time and he was making sporting rifles, schützen. But, yes, he did well for himself. There wasn’t going to be an international concern. That’s not the direction of the company at that time. However he raised several sons and the eldest, Fritz, he passed his journeyman exams in 1906 and decided, looking at the sporting rifle market sort of caving, that he would go learn some more about the gun industry. He went to Berlin and was working for Loewe & Cie when, while trying to make ends meet, his brother graciously sent him two pistols that he had acquired in a bankruptcy Well, Fritz was supposed to sell the two pistols, pawn them essentially for money He didn’t. Instead he became fascinated with them and took them apart repeatedly He was convinced, looking at the emerging pocket pistol market, led by designs by John Browning at that time, that this should be the new direction for Walther, that it was a growing market And so, he went back and convinced his father that Walther should have their own pistol, and in 1908 they did. Releasing their very first model. Now we’re concerned with the model 4, so let’s just run right through the first three models and get a little background Alright in 1908 Walther begins manufacturing the Model 1. This .25 ACP pistol has an open top slide with a sort of odd barrel jacket with a front sight on it It ejects vertically and has a push-button safety, but interestingly it introduced that sort of exterior trigger bar that we’ll see on later models. The very next year Walther introduces the Model 2. This is again .25 ACP but it introduces the new closed slide we’ll see on so many models to come Instead of vertical eject, we’re on right hand eject now, with a regular ejection port like we’re used to. It has a concentric recoil spring wrapped around the barrel and it has a knurled cap at the front of the barrel that contains that spring and acts as a bushing. It also keeps the slide from being disassembled until it’s removed This also introduces the safety lever on the left side that we are going to see on later models and these flat slide serrations should look pretty familiar. They’re going to turn up again in about 1914 – 1915. Overall very similar in appearance to the Walther Model 4. Some of these would have a rear sight that was actually a loaded chamber indicator, so the real sight would stay down until a cartridge was loaded into the chamber Kind of a neat addition. It was an optional. Not a lot of these display this Okay. In 1910 Walther introduces the Model 3 This is their first .32 ACP. It’s very similar to the Model 2, but we see our left side ejection and the knurled nut changes over to a smooth bushing right on the front. That’s gonna hang over to the 4. This little guy is actually pretty large for the Walther family at the time and it was designed in order to be a military and police pistol in .32 ACP. Let’s get a closer look at some of these features. Right off the bat you might notice it’s a little bit shiny. This is not original finish, or rather it is original in the sense that it hasn’t been re-blued, but this guy’s gotten worn over the years. He’s well used so he’s gotten pretty bright. If we look at the top, we’ll get a better idea of what the original blooming should be on these Just don’t expect these to be shiny pistols This is just an example we had on hand and it functions just fine. Its just well-loved. Now, to be a military and

police pistol at the time, the big thing you would do is extend the magazine and you’d extend the barrel. So, magazine extension’s fine, its just like we’d expect to be milled out in the frame, but Walther didn’t want to spend a whole bunch of money getting the machine just to make one pistol So they kept the longest slide they could get on their original machinery and then decided to just go ahead and extend it with a little extra piece of metal. Remember we said that the Model 3 had that nice little cap? Well, they took the idea they ran with it. So now we have a push style bayonet kind of lock Pops right out, and this thin steel cap that has a front sight goes away, and we can see that we have a solid slide that comes up to a certain point and some barrel extension beyond. You know, this isn’t the only time we’ll see this When we get into the FN 10/22 pistols, it’s gonna be the same thing all over again. Now, as genius as that is, there some other things that goes on here. Remember, these slide serrations we said come from the earlier model? Well, originally this pistol would have had tight vertical serrations. As the war years crept up they needed to speed up machine time, so they went back these nice easy quick flat serrations and then postwar the finish kinda goes back to better quality focus, and you get nice tight serrations again. So think of these is the wartime serrations and the tighter ones as the peace time, before and after Patterns vary. You can get a nice book for that honestly because that would make for boring video. Now, other things about this gun: like we said, simple blowback. The sort of odd left side ejection, and if we dump her out, there is a spring bushing that sits right up against the barrel and then the slide should lift right off the front. We have a fixed barrel and for the rest of the details honestly, we’ll get over to an animation. Before we go that far though, I wanna make note of a couple markings: on the slide we’re going to see our Walther branding but in some cases you’ll actually see Heinrich Krieghoff of Suhl, Germany. It’s believed that that marking was done on pistols that were assembled from parts to be sold in export markets. Also, on the left side trigger guard, in sort of the war years specifically, Walther was having a hard time keeping up with production and so subcontractors were brought in for parts. Now, there are a number of these and they are all marked right here, with the exception of the last one, that we’ll list, which is marked on the other side. And let’s just go ahead and get right into those: What looks like a J.M. actually stands for a Immanuel Meffert; F.W.K. for F.W. Kessler S&H for Schmidt und Habermann; GR for Gebrüder Rempt; GM for Gebrüder Merkel; G for H.M. Gering The anchor mark actually marks off Heinrich Krieghoff A lot of people think these are naval, but it’s just the sub-manufacturer. AS for August Schüler, and this one is interesting: you’ll have sort of a stylized F on the left side and definitely an M in an oval on the right: this turned out to be Mercedes Bureau Maschinen Gesellschaft, and I’m sorry about that pronunciation. Okay let’s take a look at how this thing works. This is a really simple pistol so we won’t be going into a lot of redundant detail. The mag is seated with a simple heel catch. You guys have seen those before. Alright we’ll manually chamber our first round, then pull the single action trigger to fire Let’s take a slower pass. This time watch the trigger move the trigger bar which in turn pushes back the sear, releasing the hammer to strike the firing pin. There’s no locking action here, so that slide come straight back. It’s working against the recoil spring that’s wrapped around the barrel, which will return it forward The safety is fairly simple. It has a notched rod that when turned prevents the sear from tipping and therefore it cannot release the hammer While we clear the rest of the magazine, note how the slide pushes down on the trigger bar to reset the trigger. This is semi-auto only. If the trigger bar does not align with the milled section inside the left side of the slide, the trigger cannot affect the sear and so this prevents out of battery fire Otherwise: simple design All right, let’s hand this of to Mae

We’ll load the eighth round magazine, rack the slide, and off we go The left side safety can be operated with one hand And back to Beardy Having just seen this thing fired, I hope that the takeaway for you is that it was pretty plain because that’s what this is. It is a handgun with no frills Simple magazine catch which we’re not all that familiar with these days but at the time was totally common. Simple slide operation. Simple two position safety Point and shoot, that’s all you have to worry about. Fairly compact, very slim Wonderful little handgun but almost unremarkable in that it has no special anything. It just works. Well that’s a credit to Carl Walther raising his children to focus on quality above anything else. So instead of getting into gimmicks or special marketing, this is just a heavy little robust handgun that is extremely solid and extremely reliable That also extends to other things as well though. There’s a story that Fritz Walther snuck himself into one of the state arsenals back when the state was trying to get private concerns to manufacture parts for special things like machine guns. The state arsenal employees weren’t really big on that and so it’s not that they necessarily sabotaged it, it’s just the process was not going well machine drawings were not always accurate. Parts were coming in that weren’t fitting or required very special hand fitting and we’re practically a waste of time to receive, and yet, way up the line the German government knew that it needed to rely on every avenue it could to get these things to the front Well here comes Carl into one of the factories at 9 o’clock at night when everybody’s gone and he’s poking around looking at the machines when he’s interrupted by one of the engineers. They get to talking and he, kind of, you know, has his way about him, and looks around, gets a good feel for it, goes home and the next thing you know he’s delivering a series of, you know, lock work for an MG08/15 and for the first time ever it’s just worked perfectly right out the box. So the brass is excited and Walhter ends up flush with extra cash because now they’re assembling parts other than these handguns for the war effort This turns out to be great because it leads them with a lot more to work with when we know what’s coming in 1918. You see, most of the arms industry collapses but Walther just sorta shrinks. It’s not great, but remember this gun especially as a good sign of this: they didn’t invest in the extra machine to make the perfect slide. They kept the original machinery. They were frugal and so they are still set up to be a commercial manufacturer, which means that once they are no longer producing military arms, they still have that, albeit small trickle, they still are perfectly tuned through the commercial market and so they weather the interwar period. More importantly though, because of the reliability and the quality and even the, you know, modern. I know it’s hard to say a hundred years later by the time this is very modern looking pistol. They stand out from the pocket pistols or smaller 32 ACP pistols of the war, I mean this thing is the height of design and so Walther reaps that benefit. They have a beautiful name in the market and so that too puts them in a unique position to bring back military designs as soon as Germany’s back into a war and so we’ll see things like the PP, PPK and P38 allcoming from this creative and quality focused factory who managed to whether one of the worst periods for arms development in the worst country to weather it.That’s fantastic and it’s all because of this little guy. The rest, yes, they helped, but this is the thing that keeps them as a military concern. Alright, enough bragging

about the beauty of the Model 4 Let’s get Mae’s opinion on how it actually shot. One long game of musical chairs later we have Mae with us. You are the shooter, I’m gonna hand use this, and let’s get your impressions starting with I guess just give us a sense of the heft of this thing, the feel of this thing As far as pistols go that we’ve shot, so far this one’s been the easiest for me. It’s very light, very small simple thin gun. Fits easy in my hand everything about this gun just… it fits right with me Yeah, the Walther 4 is fairly small and we think of it is it a tiny .32 ACP pistol thinking back but remember what we said earlier: this comes from a family of even smaller guns. This is the big one at that time. This is the military and police version it still fits in my palm and it barely sticks out of Mae’s, so it is fairly handy. Very compact. Now the one thing is: it is all steel so it definitely has some heft to it. It’s not completely light like a plastic pistol. Alright so what about the action. The handling of the guns. Slide, mag, that sort of thing Now, I know that made the serrations bigger on the slide for this gun just as a time saver, but it actually makes the slide a lot easier to function in my opinion and then moving on to the trigger. It’s kinda muddy. It’s a little bit soupy in there, but I think that’s probably ’cause of the bigger trigger bar in there. Granted I’m not an engineer, so what do I know with that? And then looking on the safety now, for WW1, this was not an unusual safety and actually out of all the guns that I’ve shot, this one’s pretty easy to maneuver one-handed Granted I have to move my hand around, I have to move it off the grip, but that’s not that unexpected for back then. Now for the magazine, I don’t think heel releases. I never have really liked them. But for this one the spring on the mag release is actually pretty easy to maneuver and they put this nice little tab on bottom of the mag that makes it easy to just pull out Remember we’re talking about 1910 not even 1914 when those things release, so there’s going to be some older features At the time, mag retention was important, so we have a heel release. We knew about push-button mag releases earlier, but, you know, in military contexts, people didn’t want them because it was just another thing to lose or get dented Dented is a big problem. If you drop your mag and it hits the ground and it messes up a feed lip, boom, gun is out of operation. The Russians are gonna have something to say about this later, but that’s again, another episode. Okay let’s go ahead and take one final look at this gun. Give us your impression of actually shooting, sight picture, that sort of thing I actually really like the sight picture on this gun. The sights were easy, simple to read, and recoil on it wasn’t that unexpected. I mean it was a little bit snappy but I’ve shot a lot worse out of what we shot so far Alright classic question and I feel like I might know the answer given that is .32 ACP but I gotta ask: would you carry it into war? Don’t get me wrong, .32 ACP I really don’t see as a good defensive round, but I would actually take this into war. My grouping was incredibly tight. This was out of all the guns we shot so far, the easiest in terms of functionality, it worked for me, we had no failures to feed, no failures to eject. This was a very reliable gun. I would take it with me to war Yeah, I’d like to point out that the shots that we showed, we’re Mae shooting one-handed as you would at the time, and she’s got a lot of other things on her mind, like trying to get the shot just right, and still it was a good grouping. We also shot away from the camera, two-handed like we’re used to, and let me tell you I think she drilled a hole the size of a quarter at 30 feet. It’s a beautiful, beautiful, service handgun and I think Walther really knocked it out of the park. Like we said, this sets him up for years to come Alright, coming away from the Reichsrevolver, I think we’re feeling good to see a real strong military pistol now. That’s really about it though for the episode There’s a lot of bad stuff to say except for, we did have a little extractor pin back out on us. That might be just this model I don’t think it’s all that indicative Alright, going forward on these episodes I wanna make sure they say this now: we will now be adding all the extras and updates and announcements at the end of the credits, where you’ll see me turn back up, maybe in a different outfit, maybe the same one if I didn’t do any laundry, but it’s just going to be a way for us to film further ahead of time because honestly this takes quite a bit of a editing Thanks for joining us Yeah, thanks guys! [music]

Oh you would not believe what changes in a couple of weeks Okay I got a long list so let’s go through this real quick First: the Great War channel, we have two edited videos up with them French rifles, French pistols. Go check ’em out this. This Thursday, September 3rd, I believe at noon eastern, don’t hold me to that, follow us on social media to be sure, we are doing the German episodes live. So if anybody want to get in there and chat while it’s going on that’d be great We love having fans there Let’s see… after that. Patrons: we are now over a hundred. And number: we have over 610 dollars in the bank per month. That is a beautiful sum because it covers all of our basic operating costs with a little bit of margin for error, and it’s finally putting just a little extra in there for us to use a rolling budget so that we can do bigger things Notably equipment improvements that’s really high on our list right now Let’s see… next after that is Oh, we have recommended reading list now We went ahead and set up an Amazon aStore So if you’d like to support the show that way, all you have to do is go look through the books we’ve recommended, and if you buy them, we get a small percentage. There’s no extra amount added onto you, so you’re still getting your best possible deal anyway. For all of that stuff I want to thank you all right now for that financial support. We cannot do the show without it. It is absolutely necessary We appreciate it and we hope that we’re producing the kind of content that you want to see That really makes us feel good. On that note, the final challenge for all of you is to just grab one other person to watch the show. We just want to make sure our numbers are moving up We wanna make sure we’re reaching more people Because we are starting to see collectors and museums reaching out to us with more pieces that we might be able use. So we may even have a road trip in the near future to get some more exotic things in front of you guys and that’s always great Remember it’s not just money that powers this We also have had access, and we did that by, well, we get it by being personally responsible for the pieces and doing research and trying to be professionals but we also get it from you guys and the good word of mouth you provide us, so thank you so much Alright, that’s enough of a rush.I’ll see you guys on the next video. Thanks