Walther P88: Walther’s last metal-framed service handgun

Walther P88 (Photo: XY)

The Walther P88 will be remembered as Walther’s last metal-framed service handgun. Walther pistols have been well-known since the 1920s, and they were the first to make a success of the double-action trigger system using a de-cocking device. Their first major caliber locked-breech pistol was the Pistole 38, designed for the German Army first issued in 1939, and this used a block locking system that has been used by all Walther heavy-caliber pistols ever since, as well as being adopted by Beretta and other manufacturers.


The Walther P38 is still manufactured, having been re-adopted by the reconstituted German Army in 1955 as the Pistole 1. In the middle 1980s, however, with competition from newer manufacturers eroding their markets, Walther decided on a totally new pistol and developed the Walther P99; in doing so they broke with tradition and abandoned the locking block system and the familiar open barrel and short slide which was almost their trademark.


The Walther P88 is a conventional design, using an enveloping slide and locking the breech by means of the familiar browning tilting barrel, controlled by a cam beneath the chamber and locking to the slide by a squared section around the chamber engaging with the ejection slot in the slide. The trigger mechanism is double-action, with an ambidextrous de-cocking lever mounted on both sides of the frame. There is also an ambidextrous magazine catch in the front edge of the butt.

Safety is achieved by a complicated firing pin arrangement: the firing pin normally rests at an angle, and the face of the hammer is recessed so that should it accidentally fall, the end of the firing pin enters the recess and there is thus no pressure on the pin and no danger of firing.

Walther P88 was introduced in 1988 in 9 mm Parabellum chambering
Walther P88 was introduced in 1988 in 9 mm Parabellum chambering (Photo: XY)

When the trigger is pulled the rear end of the firing pin is moved upwards until it is lined up with the solid portion of the hammer face and is held there while the trigger releases the hammer and the hammer falls, striking the firing pin and firing the shot. As soon as the slide begins to move backward after the shot, the trigger connection is broken and the firing pin drops back to its safe position, to remain there until the trigger is pressed once more.

Walther P88: The diagram and schematics
Walther P88: The diagram and schematics (Photo: XY)

There is thus no way by which the firing pin can be driven forward except when the trigger is being correctly pulled with the intention of firing a shot.

The Walther P88 is normally supplied in 9 mm Parabellum chambering; it can, though, be supplied in 0 x 21 mm IMI chambering should this be required.

User experience

In a first manner, the competition of the Walther P88 was the Heckler & Koch P9S pistol fitted with its combat slide. But, for a service pistol, I prefer the Walther P88 slightly over the HK, only because of the P88’s magazine capacity, ambidextrous controls. On the other side, the HK P9S offers a thumb style cocking lever which is a really nice feature for a carry weapon.

For many users, the overall experience with the Walther P88 handgun was astonishing. Many claimed at that time that it was more ergonomic and accurate than the Browning Hi-power chambered in 9mm. The pistol itself was considered as basically an improvement of the Browning Hi-power, as a true service pistol; the improvements come in terms of better ergonomics/balance – a tad more accurate – better trigger feels and safety – using an ambidextrous de-cocker instead of a traditional safety.

Technical specifications: Walther P88

Manufacturer: Walther Arms GmbH, Sportwaffenfabrik, Ulm, Germany
Type: blowback, semi-automatic pistol
Caliber: .32 S&W Long
Barrel: 4.2 in (107 mm)
Weight (empty): 2.875 lbs (1305 grams)
Magazine capacity: 5 rounds
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