I love historical guns, especially military ones. There’s just something about the styling and the stories that go along with them that make them stand out from the myriad of other current firearms choices out there and adds a certain mystique to owning and shooting them. Unfortunately a lot of other folks feel the same way and that causes the prices of the genuine article to often be beyond the reach of a casual shooter. Enter the folks at Umarex and their P38 and P.08 air pistols!Okay, I know an airgun isn’t the same as a real one but when you consider that real P38’s often dell for upwards of $500, even for the recent import stamped models, and basic shooter grade P.08’s easily go for $1000 and up Umarex gives you a pretty neat alternative that won’t break the bank. Even if you do own an original piece it’s pretty darn neat to be able to own a stand in model that you can teach your kids to shoot with and that you can shoot in the basement and backyard. It’s especially nice over the winter months when you may not be able to get to the range as much. I’ve had an example of both Umarex’s P38 and P.08 for over 6 months and have gotten to do a good bit of plinking with them during this time. Let’s talk a little bit about each piece and then we’ll go into their function.
Both guns have a solid weight and balance to them similar to the real things. This is due to their hefty all metal construction. Attention to detail on both models is excellent. The grips, while being plastic are appropriately styled to each piece. The P38 wears a set of grooved brown plastic grips and the P.08 has black checkered plastic of the style that was common with WW II era “Black Widow” Lugers. Magazine releases operate just like the original firearms as do the safeties, although the P38 one does not actually act as a decocker. While there are the appropriate airgun stampings on the guns including caliber 4.5mm (.177) there are also markings similar to the real guns as well. The Luger variant has a simple “P.08” stamped on the left side of the frame and “Gesichert”, meaning safe or secured by the safety lever when the airgun is on safe. The P38 has the Walther banner followed by “P38 Carl Walther Waffenfabrik, Ulm/Do.” along the left hand slide flat.
Both guns operate via a standard CO2 cartridge that fits inside the handle. Simply pop off the grip panel, insert the cartridge and tighten it down via the thumb screw on the butt of the weapon. Once that’s done pop the grip panel back on and insert the magazine and your Umarex airgun is ready to go. And yes, I did say insert the magazine. Unlike many airguns that have simple a BB reservoir or internal magazine the Umarex P.08 and P38 use spring loaded detachable magazines just like the real thing. Let’s take a look at each gun in a little closer detail.
The P.08 is a classic and readily identifiable to anyone who’s ever watched a WW II movie. It’s got sleek lines to it unique grip angle that really makes it stand out from most other auto pistols. With its black checkered grips the Umarex P.08 is a dead ringer for a WW II era “Black Widow” Luger. The Black Widows were WW II era guns with a deep black salt blued finish and all blued small parts and on some models black grips. The Black Widow moniker was a term coined by Luger collectors but it’s a name full of mystique that fit the Luger well. I did a quick check on prices as I wrote this piece and real Black Widow Lugers were running anywhere from a low of $2250 to a high of over $7000 which makes Umarex’s asking price of $73.30 a steal for folks without a couple grand to spare or a car to trade.
Velocity (FPS): 410
Caliber: .177 (4.5mm)
Ammo Type: Steel BBs
Barrel Length: 4.6
Total Length (inches): 8.5
Action: Double Repeater
Trigger Action: Double
The Umarex P.08 does differ a bit in operation from the real thing in a couple other points other than being a .177 caliber airgun running on CO2. The toggle action on the Umarex does not actually cycle. While that would be pretty slick, the upper mechanism of the Legend P.08 is stationary, the action of the gun is all internal. The trigger is also double action only. It has a fairly short pull but it’s definitely not a single action trigger like the real things.
The P38 differs a bit from the real thing in operation as well. As mentioned earlier the slide mounted safety does not act as a decocker and drop the hammer on the Umarex P38. However, the slide on the P38 actually does retract and cycle as you fire the gun, just like the real deal. The difference is though that the airgun is actually single action only, and does not have a double action first shot. When prepping to fire the gun insert a fresh CO2, then a loaded magazine, and then cycle the slide just like you would a cartridge firearm. At that point the hammer of the P38 is cocked and you can fire away. Trigger pull, while considered single action, is rather long and mushy. The gas operated P38 runs a tad more than the P.08 at $117.74 but that’s still a fraction of the cost of the real thing.
Velocity (FPS): 400
Caliber: 0.177 (4.5mm)
Ammo Type: Steel BBs
FPS w/Lead Pellet: 400
Barrel Length: 4.75
Total Length (inches): 8.5
Front Sight Type: Fixed
Rear Sight Type: Fixed
Action: Semi Auto
Operation is pretty simple if you follow the loading instructions mentioned above. And if you follow Umarex’s guidelines on ammo, like the part of using steel BB’s. Initially I just tried using copper BB’s that I had on hand and couldn’t figure out why the P38 was having trouble feeding and the P.08 wouldn’t feed at all. Sure enough when I finally checked the specs Umarex says to use steel BB’s. Once I made the switch everything worked as it should. Both guns cycled just fine at that point and I could get about 4 magazines worth of shots out of the P.08 before having to change CO2 cartridges and maybe 3 out of the P38. The main difference between the two being that the P38 bleeds off some of the gas from CO2 cartridge to cycle the slide of the gun.
Now, I suppose I could have sat down and did a bunch of ammo testing and fired these two pistols off of sandbags to see what kind of groups I could attain. I could have, but I didn’t. I didn’t do that for a couple of reasons. First off these are both relatively low powered smooth bore BB guns, not generally known for precise accuracy. Second, they just lend themselves to casual plinking. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The closest I did get to shooting for groups was some standing, offhand shots from around 20 feet. Between the two I found that the P38’s single action trigger allowed me to shoot more consistently although I was hitting low right. Groups averaged about 3 inches. The P.08 shot tighter groups and I averaged around 2 inches with it but I found I had to settle down on the gun a little first to do that. I’d throw my first few shots in a session getting used to the long double action trigger before I got into my groove. Most of the shooting I did with this pair was on camping trips at empty aluminum cans and they excelled at that type of plinking action.
I’ve wanted a real Luger since I was a kid and still haven’t scraped up the cash for one yet so having an accurate, solid reproduction that I can actually take out to shoot and enjoy isn’t a bad substitute in the meantime. I do have a real P38 in my collection but having a stand in gun that I can shoot in the garage or backyard for a fraction of the cost of shooting the real thing is still a bonus in my book. If you like to plink these are great guns, and if you’re a fan of historical military weapons these are doubly fun. Whatever you’re reasoning though, there’s a lot to like the Umarex’s Legend P.08 and Walther P38 air pistols.
As seen in the Woods Monkey Gear Review column in Issue #20 of Self Reliance Illustrated! CLICK HERE FOR THE SRI ISSUE