P38 French Mauser

French Mauser P38 SVW45

The Mauser factory was liberated by the Allied forces in April 1945. Control of the factory was handed over to the French army which was in desperate need of firearms. Many P38 parts were still available in the Mauser storage rooms and the French decided to take advantage of this to produce P38 pistols for their own needs. Mauser used the secret code byf up to 1944 but changed in 1945 to SVW. Mauser stamped this code on the left side of the slide. The last two digits of the production year were stamped behind the code. The last Mauser P38 produced under German control was stamped with SVW45 and ended with serial number 3000 in the f-block.

French army did not change any codes or removed any previous applied German inspection stamps. The French also continued with the serial numbering system as applied by the Germans. The French started assembling P38 pistols, from the remaining Mauser parts in stock, in May 1945. The French P38 pistols started in the g-block (the letter “g” behind the serial number) and production remained approx. 10,000 pistols per month. Early French assembled P38 pistosl can be found with German E/WaA135 inspection stamps. In the pictures below is my SVW45 with serial number 1370-k. This pistol was produced by the French in December 1945. The French applied a new, very rough black phosphate finish over the origin German finish. Therefore sometimes markings are faded or less visible.

French Mauser P38

The French applied a five-pointed star as inspection stamp. These stamps can usually be found on the right side of the slide, the left side of the barrel and the locking block.

French Mauser P38 star

There is an encircled “E” on the left side of the barrel. Unfortunately the meaning of this marking is unknown to me. You can also see two other markings that are not highlighted with white paints. These markings indicate postwar German Nitro inspection stamps. These new inspection were compulsary if the weapon was to be shot.

Barrel French P38

The barrel is stamped with a large “s” under the position of the locking block. The locking block has an old German Eagle inspection stamp but the marking is barely visible because of the finish that was applied by the French.

French P38 barrel S

Another characteristic of a French pistol are the metal grips. Early French pistols were fitted with plastic grips but soon metal grips started to appear on the pistols. These grips were stamped from sheet metal. The plastic grips were produced by a sub-contractor and the end of the war ended the delivery of these grips was stopped. The French had to find another source for grips after the plastic grips were finished and this resulted in the metal grips. Sometimes the inside of the grips are numbered to the gun but that is not the case for this pistol.

French metal grips Mauser P38