A wide variation of grips can be found on ww2 and postwar produced P38s. Below is an overview of the grips that are typically observed. This information is based on the research conducted by Dr. W.D. Roth, which was largely supported by the earlier work of Mark Castel. I refer to our book for more detailled information about P38 grips and the materials used.
Walther Grips, 1st variation (WW2)
Carl Walther in Zella-Mehlis was the only firm that manufactured grips for the P38 pistols that it also produced. The 1st variation Walther grips were used on the four variations of the military Walther 0-series and the earliest commercial Walther HP series (incl. the swedish contract). These grips can be easily recognized by the black color and the checkering, the left-side grip is characterized by a circular impression with a cut for the lanyard loop.
Four circles can be seen on the inside of the majority of these grips. The top circle contains the letters CeWe, a trademark of the Walther firm. The second circle from the top contains the number 480, which is probably a parts number of the mold or of the grips. The third circle from the top contains the MPBD supervision mark , with the company code (V7) in the upper part and the classification marking of the resin molding compound (Z3 or T1) in the lower part. In the last circle, the digit 1 will constantly appear. It is supposed to be the position number in the mold, but it is hard to imagine that there was just one position in the form. Between these circles the last three numbers of the serial number of the gun and the Walther Waffenamt E/359, was embossed. Some very early grip versions do not show the markings CeWe, 480, or the MPBD mark. They just have the last three digits of the serial number and the Waffenamt; some have the digit 1 in the lower part without a circle.
Walther Grips, 2nd variation (WW2)
The Walther Grips 2nd variation have the typical exterior form of the majority of P38 grips with transverse grooves, of which 6 grooves are broken by the hole for the grip screw. The upper groove is fairly short. The left-side grip shows, in the lower rear portion, a rectangular indent with a cut for the lanyard loop. Inside are three circles, of which the lower two typically are empty. In the upper circle we find the MPBD marking with the Walther company code V7 and the material classification marking 57, 41, 31, or Z3.
The 2nd variation Walther grips started to appear on Walther P38s as early as mid-1942, as well as at the beginning of production on the Mauser-produced P38s.
On the Mauser-made P38s, you will quite often find 2nd variation Walther grips with V7/57 or V7/31 in the MPBD marking. The lower two circles remain free of markings. Walther grips marked V7/41 have not been seen on Mauser-produced P38s.
It has not been proven to date that original grips manufactured by Walther were ever attached to the Spreewerk-made P38 pistols.
The majority of P38 grips were produced by AEG. Externally and internally, they had the typical design of the so-called military-styled ribbed P38 grips. On the outside, they have the same structure as the 2nd variation Walther grips, with six groves broken by the grip screw. The top one is relatively short. The left grip shows, in the lower rear portion, a rectangular indent with a cut for the lanyard loop.
The variation up to mid-1943 had three circles on the inside. The upper one had the MPBD marking, with the company code 38 and the compounds classification marking Z3. The second circle is always blank. The lowest circle contains a typical marking that we find only on AEG grips: The left grip is marked with P 1529 and a digit between 1 and 9 beneath. The right grip is marked with P 1528 and a digit between 1 and 9. It is most likely that the notations P 1528/1529 are names for specific parts given by AEG, and the digits 1-9 may represent the positions in the mold (we assume that multiple grips were manufactured in the same mold at a time.)
Grips produced since the beginning of 1943 are found with a strongly changed MPBD marking in the upper circle. In these grips, the markings were often not identifiable. But we know for certain that these are AEG grips because on some of them, the company marking 38 is still visible, and the markings in the lower circle (P 1528/29, which we only find in AEG grips) are still sharp.
These grips are found on P38 pistols from Walther and Mauser, as well as on the early Spreewek P38s. AEG grips appeared for the first time on Walther P38s at the end of the 4th variation 0-series. The Walther firm marked those grips with the last three digits of the serial number; additionally, they were marked the Waffenamt E/359. With regard to the serial numbers, that continued with the P38 variations – 480, ac-no-date, ac40 added, ac40 standard, and ac41 up to about the mid b-block, and in regard to the Waffenamt, that continued until about the early ac42 variation. Beginning from about mid-1942, we can see mainly the typical early AEG grips without the serial number and Waffenamt on Walther P38 pistols. After that, sporadically, AEG grips with 38/Z3 and two lower empty circles were found.
The Mauser P38 pistols, for the first year and a half until approximately mid-1944, were equipped mostly with the typical early AEG grips. Grips on Mauser P38s never contained a Waffenamt. The first 20,000 Spreewerk P.38 pistols featured AEG grips, which were shipped from Walther to the Spreewerk factory. After that, those grips vanished from the Spreewerk P.38s.
The company of Julius Posselt in Gablonz produced the grips for the Spreewerk-made P38s from the end of 1943 until the end of WWII. No proof exists that Posselt grips have ever been assembled on any P38 pistols other than the Spreewerk models.The Posselt grips have the typical exterior of the majority found on P38s, except that they show only 5 grooves that are broken by the grip screw. The uppermost groove, when compared with the other models, is relatively long. As on the other military-styled grips, the left grip, in the lower rear part, bears a rectangular indent with a lanyard loop slit.
The inside of the grips shows three circles. In the supervision mark of the MPBD, we find the company code of Posselt, 1W, and the classification marking of the material, 31 and later 41. The middle circle is always empty. In the bottom circle of the left-side grips, the numbers 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, and 9 are found. On the right-side grips, the numbers 4, 5, 6, 10, and 12 are found. We believe that these are the position numbers of the grips in the mold.
Julius Posselt originally worked with a compound consisting of phenolic resin with sawdust, which was renamed to 31 in the beginning of 1943. From mid-1943 on, a new recepy with less resin was introduced. This compound was classified as 41. The 31 and 41 compounds were not manufactured parallel to each other. This means that during the first months of production of Posselt grips, 31 was engraved in the MPBD mark, and from mid-1943 on the classification was 41.
It remains uncertain how many thousands of grips with the 31 marking still were in stock when the production of grips with the 41 classification began. That’s why even after August of 1943, grips can be found with 31 and 41 on the same Spreewerk P38. Julius Posselt grips were never marked by a serial number or with a Waffenamt.
Durofol grips were observed rather rarely on very late Walther P.38s. They have an interesting color, with a partly marbleized appearance. On the inside, a vertically directed rhomb (diamond) is seen, in which the word Durofol is engraved in script. In this longitudinal direction, numbers can be found that indicate its position in the mold, just as are on the Posselt grips. Those numbers are exactly the same as the ones on the Posselt grips.Waffenamts or serial numbers have not been found on Durofol grips.
No company codes, trade names, serial numbers, or Waffenamts were found in the softer black grips that were seen predominantly on the late Mauser P.38s. These also were found to a much smaller degree on the late Walther P.38s. To date, it has not been proven that they have ever been found on Spreewerk P.38s. Typical characteristics of these slightly lighter weight and not-so-precisely-manufactured grips are their shiny, jet-black. Their external appearance is identical to the AEG grips. According to the grip’s internal configuration, two types (identified as I and II are known. On the lower inner surface of the left grip of both types, two empty circles are situated. The inner center of the right grip of the type I variety shows an inordinate warping, which corresponds to the feeding opening of the injection material. Other characteristics cannot be found on the type I right grip. On type II grips, the left and the right grip have matching markings (each marked with two circles in the inner lower half of the grip); less the inordinate amounts of warping found on the type I right grips.
It is not known to date where these grips were manufactured.
Postwar Mauser Grips
After the capture of the Mauser factory by Allied troops, the production of the P38 was continued for a while under French occupation for the French army. During that time, the grips were manufactured of sheet-metal and became famous for their unique metal design and appearance. These grips are mainly seen on Mauser SVW 46 “French issue” pistols. They also have been reported on some SVW 45 pistols as well. There are no markings. The thread for the screw was incorporated in the steel.
Postwar Walther Grips
When the Walther factory, rebuilt in the southern part of western Germany, started its postwar P.38 production in 1956/57, it issued the pistols with black plastic grips that looked quite similar to the black grips of the first Walther variation. The postwar grips are made of Novodur, a plastic material from the major chemical corporation Bayer A.G. These grips were issued on all postwar Walther P38/P1 pistols. There are no markings. They have metal inserts (escutcheons) and are of high quality. Note the rectangular indent with a cut for the lanyard loop.