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The Walther Model 7
and the Walther Model 8

by Ed Buffaloe
 

The Walther Model 7

Walther Model 7I’d first seen a Model 7 in the collection of a friend, and immediately liked the way it felt in my hand.  I guess I have a medium-sized hand, and the gun feels quite natural to me.  Two fingers wrap around the grip and my little finger curls beneath the magazine.  The backstrap has a gentle curve that tucks right into my palm.

The bad news for collectors is that the Model 7 is a bit hard to come by.  According to Rankin in Walther Volume III they were only made for twelve months in 1917.  Gangarosa, in The Walther Handgun Story, says they were made for four years between 1915 and 1919, and Dieter Marschall, in Walther Pistols: Model 1 Through P99, says they were made from 1917 through 1919, with a question- mark after the 1919.  One clear indication that production continued at least into 1919 is that the late examples have the slide address Zella-Mehlis I--the name of the town where the Walther factory was located was Zella St. Blasii, but in 1919 it was changed to Zella Mehlis.  Dieter Marschall states that total production was about 45,000.

Rankin states:  “Many German officers carried these Walther pistols as a side arm.” Gangarosa says the Model 7 was “intended for military use by high-ranking officers...”  Kersten, in Walther: A German Legend, emphasizes that most officers would have preferred the larger-caliber Model 4.

The Model 7 may be considered the last in a series of guns that began with the Model 2.  It is closely related to the

Walther Model 4 (top)
Walther Model 7 (middle)
Walther Model 5 (bottom)

Models 2 and 5, having a deeper grip and a longer barrel, with an appropriately longer front barrel bushing.  The Models 2 through 7 are of a similar design, with a fixed barrel, concentric recoil spring, concealed hammer, and a positive safety that rotates 180 degrees to block the sear.  The Walther Models 2 through 7 are designed in such a way that the slide is locked to the frame and cannot be blown off the gun to the rear.  They utilize a front barrel bushing to secure the slide to the frame.  The Model 3 and the early version of the Model 4 have a latch to release the bushing, but all the other pistols have bayonette- style fittings that lock onto a lug inside the front of the slide.

Manfred Kersten indicates that the Model 7 was a commercial failure and was replaced because Walther decided it was underpowered, but the gun was immediately followed by the Model 8 in the same caliber.  The 6.35mm Browning cartridge    (.25 ACP) was very popular in Europe, and it seems more likely that Model 7 production was reduced if not eliminated during World War I because Walther’s priority was fulfilling its wartime contract for the Model 4.  By 1919 the Model 8 was being patented, so even during the war Walther continued to innovate.

There are two variants of the Model 7.

First Variant Model 7

The first variant is marked on the left side of the slide in upper case sans-serif characters:

SELBSTLADE PISTOLE CAL 6,35 WALTHER’S-PATENT.

with the Walther banner beneath it.  On the right side of the slide in mixed sans-serif characters is the following address:

Carl Walther.WAFFENFABRIK Zella St.Blasii

A few examples I have noted have an abbreviated address:

Carl Walther.WAFFENFABRIK Zella St.Bl.

The first variant has 9 coarse flat milled slide serrations on either side.  It has a groove down the top of the slide and a drift- adjustable rear sight.  The front sight is part of the front barrel-bushing.  The serial number is on the bow of the trigger guard on the right side of the frame.  The grip panels are of checkered horn with the CW (Carl Walther) monogram in an oval at the top.

Second Variant Model 7

Some specimens of the second variant, made in the last year of the war, are marked on the left side of the slide in upper case sans-serif characters, like the first variant guns:

SELBSTLADE PISTOLE CAL 6,35.WALTHER’S-PATENT.

with the Walther banner beneath it.  These guns are marked on the right side of the slide:

CARL WALTHER.WAFFENFABRIK ZELLA-MEHLIS I

Other specimens are marked on the left side of the slide in all capital sans-serif italic characters:

WALTHER’S-PATENT   CAL.6.35

with the Walther banner beneath.  The right side of the slide is likewise marked in all upper case sans-serif characters:

WAFFENFABRIK WALTHER ZELLA-MEHLIS

The second variant has 16 fine triangular-cut slide serrations.  Most second variant guns have an adjustable rear sight dovetailed into the slide about one-half centimeter from the rear, like the first variant, but a few late second variant guns have a fixed rear sight at the very rear of the slide, much like the sight on the later Model 8.  The serial number is moved to the left side of the frame, just behind the trigger.

The Model 7 pistol magazines I have examined are unmarked.  They have a U-shaped follower, hold 8 rounds of 6.35mm ammunition and have seven staggered holes drilled on either side for viewing cartridges.  I have seen a number of guns with magazines that have a flat (L-shaped) follower and holes drilled only on the right side--I do not know if these are original magazines or not.

Field Stripping the Walther Model 7

  1. Remove the magazine.
  2. Draw the slide back to make sure the chamber is empty and to cock the hammer.
  3. Press in on the barrel bushing, turn it counterclockwise (as you face the front of the gun), and draw it carefully off the end of the barrel under pressure from the recoil spring.
  4. Remove the recoil spring and sleeve by twisting them off the barrel.
  5. Pull the slide all the way to the rear, lifting the front of the slide slightly to get it all the way back, then lift the rear of the slide up and off the rails and pull the slide forward and off the barrel.


The Walther Model 8

 

In 1919 and 1920 Fritz Walther filed six patents related to the Model 8, covering the safety, the triggerguard which served as a takedown latch, the manner of attaching the grips using medallions, and the separate breech block of the first variant.

These patents are as follows:

DE319461 - grip medallions
DE325374 - single axis-pin for the safety and hammer
DE326373 - improvement for the grip medallions
DE334042 - trigger guard for disassembly of the gun
DE334448 - separated breech block of the first variant
DE335901 - improved spring-supported trigger guard of the thrd variant
 

The Walther Model 8 was produced from late 1920 to approximately 1940.  Production estimates vary.  Rankin states that 500,000 were made; Kersten states that 200,000 were made.  Dieter Marschall, in his book on Walther Pistols, states that approximately 370,000 were made, but working in collaboration with Earl Mount, a U.S. Walther collector, Marschall has revised the figure down considerably to approximately 145,000.

The gun was sleek and modern looking and became an instant commercial success.  Its external look is reminiscent of the Model 1910 FN Browning.  The Model 8 was often carried by staff officers during World War II, and as a backup gun by aviators, tank crewmen, and SS, many of whom required weapons that could be used in confined spaces.  Presentation Model 8’s were sometimes given to very high-ranking Nazi officials.  A Model 8 engraved with  Dr. Goebbels’ name appeared for sale on the GunsAmerica site in 2007 with a price tag of $260,000!

While incorporating most of the internal features of earlier Walthers, the design for the Model 8 was carefully re-thought, with an eye toward fewer parts and an easier take-down.  The slide extends to the end of the barrel, with no bushing, and the trigger guard doubles as a take-down lever.  The Model 8 served as a prototpye for the later PP (Polizei Pistole) and its descendants , which have been widely copied, and is the last single-action-only Walther other than target pistols and the post- war Walther TP.

There are three variants of the Model 8.

First Variant Model 8

Walther Model 8The first Model 8 variant was likely made from 1920 to about 1926.  Serial numbers run from about 390,000 to 480,000, with an estimated total production of about 84,000 guns. The first variant  had a breech assembly which could be removed from the slide, consisting of the breech block, firing pin, firing pin spring, and the extractor.  No external extractor is visible on the first variant.  A projection on the extractor retains the firing pin in the breech block.  There are 16 fine triangular-cut angled slide serrations on each side of the slide.  A small latch on the bow of the trigger guard on the right side releases the trigger guard to allow disassembly.

The Model 8 is marked on the left side of the slide in sans-serif upper and lower case italic letters:

Walther’s Patent Mod. 8.

with the Walther banner beneath.  The right side of the slide is marked:

Waffenfabrik Walther Zella-Mehlis (Thür.)

The above inscriptions were used on all variants.  Grips are of checkered hard rubber with enamel medallions.  On the left side medallion is the “CW” monogram, and on the right side medallion is “6.35”.  The serial number is on the right side grip tang.

Magazines for the first variant are generally marked with a large W on the bottom.  Some have an L-shaped flat follower that is open at the front, and some have a U-shaped swaged follower that is closed at the front.  All have seven staggered holes drilled in each side for viewing cartridges.

Second Variant Model 8

The second variant was likely made from 1927 through 1933 or 1934.  Serial numbers run from about 700,000 to 715,000, with another couple of thousand or so in the mid-720,000 range, for an estimated total production of only about 24,000.  I would like to emphasize that these figures are based on a limited sample and are subject to revision at a later date.  Previous estimates for production of this variant were much higher.  Please share your serial number information with the author and help make this data more accurate.*  The breech block is an integral part of the slide and an external extractor is retained by a spring and plunger in a drilled recess behind it..  The firing pin is retained by a plate and screw in the roof of the slide at the rear.  The second variant continues to have the latch button on the right side of the trigger guard to allow take-down.  In this period the grips began to have the Walther banner at the bottom.

Magazines for the second variant are generally marked with the Walther banner on the bottom, with a U-shaped flat follower that is closed at the front, and have seven staggered holes drilled in each side for viewing cartridges.

Third Variant Model 8

The third variant was likely made from 1933 or 1934 to 1940.  Serial numbers run from 715,000 to 745,000, minus the few thousand second variants in the mid-720,000 range, for an estimated total production of about 37,000.  Sometime, probably around 1938, the Model 8 serial numbers began to have a letter A suffix.  The third variant eliminated the latch button and added a spring near the pivot point of the trigger guard to tension it upward.  The trigger was modified slightly to accommodate the new trigger guard and spring, giving it a different profile.  Beginning in April of 1940 the proofmark was changed from the traditional ‘crown over N’ to the Nazi ‘eagle over N’.  Earl Mount, who has studied these pistols states that he has seen very few Model 8 pistols with the Eagle over N proof, and he believes that production probably ended in 1940.  In addition to the standard blued finish, the Model 8 was offered in nickle-plate or gold plate, with various wood or ivory grips, and with various levels of engraving.  The finish quality on the Model 8 was very high.

There are minor variations in the design of grip medallions between the early and late variants, but we do not have sufficient information to judge when these changes were made.

Magazines are like the second variant.

Model 7 and 8Comparing the Models 7 and 8

The Models 7 and 8 appear to be exactly the same size to me, though Gangarosa states that the Model 8 is slightly smaller.  The Vestpocket Pistol Collector gives both models’ length (in all variants) at 132mm (5.196 inches).  My own measurements show the frame width of the Model 7 at 16.3mm (.641 inches) and the Model 8 at 17.1mm (.673 inches), so the Model 7 is a bit slimmer than the Model 8.  The grips on the Model 7 flare out at the base, whereas the Model 8 grips are uniform from top to bottom.  The Model 8 has no curve on the backstrap of the grip and, while I like its feel, the Model 7 with its curved backstrap and flared grips is more ergonomically designed and feels more natural in the hand.

 

The early Model 7 sights have a slight edge in visibility over those of the Model 8.  The Model 8’s are fixed, whereas the rear sight on most Model 7’s can be drifted horizontally to adjust for windage.  The late second variant Model 7 had fixed sights like the Model 8.  The thin hard rubber grips on the Model 8 are held on rather precariously with the patented medallions, and I’ve seen several instances of loose grips, broken grips, and warped grips.  The Model 7 horn grips, with only a single screw, don’t come loose quite as badly, but can dry out, crack and discolor, and are also subject to being eaten by small critters.

Variants of both pistols weigh between 335 and 360 grams (10.7 to 11.5 ounces).  Apparently, a few Model 8s were made with aluminum frames and only weighed about 280 grams (9 ounces), but these are scarce and I have been unable to examine one.

I wasn’t able to obtain an original magazine for my Model 7, but my Model 8 did come with its original magazine, which is easily identified because it has the Walther logo on the bottom.  My collector friend who owns a Model 7 also has the Walther logo on his original magazine.  In comparing the Models 7 and 8, we quickly realized that the guns use interchangeable magazines.

Model 7 & 8 Barrels & MagazinesMy Model 7 would not feed reliably when I first got it, with something going wrong on at least 2 or 3 rounds out of every 8-shot magazine.  However, the original Model 8 magazine functioned flawlessly in my Model 7.  Since I had discovered that the Models 7 and 8 use identical magazines , I ordered a +5% replacement spring for a Model 8 from Wolff Springs, and installed it the model 7 magazine.  I also bent the front of the magazine follower down a tiny bit, though I doubt this had much effect.  However, with the new spring and slightly bent follower, my Model 7 now feeds reliably.  Both the Model 7 and Model 8 occasionally have a stovepipe jam, but they are generally more reliable than the smaller .25’s I have.

Both guns have internal hammers, which seem to me more reliable than strikers.  Both guns have connectors that run inside the frame on the right side of the gun.  The Model 7’s connector engages the sear near the top of the frame, whereas the Model 8’s connector engates the sear from below, down inside the grip.  You can see from the photograph that the Model 7 has a slightly longer barrel than the Model 8.  Both guns have a coil spring at the rear that tensions the hammer and the magazine release.  Both guns show excellent workmanship and critically close tolerances.  The safety on the Model 7  is much slower to disengage than that of the Model 8.

Field Stripping the Walther Model 8

  1. Remove the magazine and make sure the chamber is empty.
  2. Press the latch on right side of the trigger guard and pull the trigger guard out from the bottom of the frame.  The third variant Model 8 has no latch and the trigger guard is spring-loaded, so you must hold the trigger guard down to proceed.
  3. Draw the slide back, lift at the rear, and ease it off the front of the gun.
  4. Twist the recoil spring off the barrel.

Note:  Be sure the larger end of the recoil spring is toward the front when you reassemble the gun.

Copyright 2007-2013 by Ed Buffaloe.  All rights reserved.


*  Write to the author at edbuffaloe@unblinkingeye.com

References

Handguns of the World, by Edward C. Ezell.  Barnes & Noble, New York:  1981.
NRA Illustrated Firearms Assembly Handbook, 1962.
Walther, A German Legend, by Manfred Kersten.  Safari Press, Long Beach, CA:  2001.
The Walther Handgun Story, by Gene Gangarosa, Jr.  Stoeger Publishing Co., 1999.
Walther Pistols, by W.H.B. Smith, Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:  1946.
Walther Pistols: Models 1 Through P99, by Dieter H. Marschall.  Ucross, Los Alamos, N.M.:  2000.
Walther Volume III, by James L. Rankin.  Privately Printed:  1981.
Historic Firearm of the Month - March 2000: Walther PP
The Vestpocket Pistol Collector

Special thanks to Earl Mount and Dieter Marschall for their help with dates and serial numbers.
However, I am responsible for any errors that may remain in this article.

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