Mauser P.08 and P.38 - 1942

Designed by Georg Luger, the Luger pistol is without a doubt, one of the most recognizable handguns worldwide.  There were over 3.5 million made with the major manufacturers being DWM (Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken), Erfurt, and Mauser. Most all were made from pre-WWI through 1942, with less than 25,000 made after WWII.  The Luger P.08 (Pistole 1908) was probably the most prized war trophy for American GIs in both WWI and WWII.  An untold number came back to the U.S. in the duffel bags of returning servicemen.

The largest number of P.08 Lugers was produced by the famous German arms manufacturer Mauser.  They made upwards to one million Lugers, with over 900,000 military and over 43,000 commercial pistols.  The demands for small arms soared after WWII broke out in the late 1930s, and the P.08 was costly and very time-consuming to produce.  The P.38, designed by Walther, was the P.08 replacement, and Mauser was the only arms manufacturer that made the P.08 and transitioned to producing the P.38.  The other two manufacturers of P.38s, Walther and Spreewerk, made many other wartime arms, but not the Luger.

The last of the Mauser made P.08s and the first of the Mauser made P.38s make an interesting area of collecting for two classic WWII German side arms. Luger production ceased at Mauser in 1942, making the military marked byf 42 P.08 the last wartime P.08.  The code byf was the three‑letter secret code for Mauser.  The Mauser P.38 began production in late 1942 and was also marked byf 42.  Because of a somewhat rocky startup manufacturing P.38s in late 1942, with a high percentage of rejections, as few as 700 byf 42 marked P.38s actually left the factory in 1942.  Unfortunately, exact records don’t exist as to which specific serial number did and which didn’t ship. The remaining byf 42 P.38 marked slides shipped in 1943.

This 9XXX numbered L block byf P.08 is among the last German military Lugers made at Mauser.  This particular byf 42 is all-matching gun and equipped with black Bakelite grips and a black Bakelite bottom magazine.  

This fairly early byf 42 P.38, NLS (no letter suffix) is among the early P.38s produced at Mauser.  It also is all-matching, with correct grips and wartime magazine.  It has an E/135 proofed hammer, a practice that disappeared quickly as production ramped.  Unlike the predecessor P.08, the P.38 has only four numbered parts; the frame, barrel, slide, and locking block.  The finish is often referred to as the early Mauser dusty blue.  Mauser went on to make over 320,000 wartime P.38s.

It is possible that both of these guns were in the Mauser plant at the same time, as P.08 manufacturing was winding down, and P.38s were ramping up. These two classics are sought after by many collectors of wartime sidearms.  They are reunited here some 77 years later.

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  • @Michael Brooks — There are many late war P.38 examples from the early Z block, into the 00 series that appear to be marked CVQ, rather than CYQ. The CVQ marking has been extensively investigated by expert P.38 collectors and the conclusion and general consensus among them is that what appears to be a CVQ marking is actually a broken CYQ stamping die. The Y on the stamp has it bottom portion broken off and appears as a V. It’s really not a different secret code as some previously believed. This specific subject was covered thoroughly in the P.38 book by Jan Balcar and Ron Clarin, titled The P.38 Pistol – Spreewerk Production. I hope that answers your question.

  • My P38 is marked CVQ… Ring a bell?

    michael brooks

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