Just above 100.000 P5 pistols were produced by the Walther company from 1978 and onwards. Bulk production ended around 1993 but production of small orders of these pistols went on untill the early years of the new decennia. The biggest customer was the Dutch Police with a total order of ±50,000 guns.
More than a few technical changes were implemented over the years to re-inforce weak points or to increase the weapon user-friendliness. An initial study to assess the technical changes of the P5 design was undertaken by Mr. Dieter H. Marschall. The Walther factory provided him with an overview of the technical changes with respect to the production dates and he reported this data in his book “Walther pistols: model 1 through P99”. Based on this information it is concluded that 8 variations of the Walther P5 exist when we consider the technical changes as different variations. These 8 variations exclude prototypes and other oddities outside the “conventional” serial range.
In this section, these changes are discussed in more detail and backed up with pictures.
The first commercial bulk production started in 1978 with the serial number 01001. The initial production is used as a reference point for the other variations.
The only changes compared to the 1st variation is a shortened firing pin and the omittance of the 2nd hole in the triggerguard.A Walther P5 from the 2nd variation is shown below.
The 3rd variation involves the introduction of a new magazine catch. The earlier magazine catches were fitted with a hook and these were replaced by a magazine catch with a flatter bottom. The reason for this change is unknown but it is suspected that the hook of the earlier magazine catch could cause unwanted release of the magazine (easy to be stucked behind something). Another modification of the magazine catch was implemented later during production (see variation 5).
The 4th variation involves two technical changes that were implemented simultaneously. The first change involved the introduction of a reinforced cocking lever. The pistol shown here falls into the serial range of the 4th variation as reported by the Walther company, however the cocking lever is still of the older non reinforced type. Pistol produced after 1984 are generally fitted with the reinforced cocking lever as shown below.
The second modification was the addition of a flushing opening to disperse salt crystals after the blueing process. Initially, I was not able to locate this hole and asked for the help of other collectors. A few pistols were reported with a hole located in the extractor spring channel on the inside of the slide. This hole is generally accepted as the flushing hole as discussed in the book by Mr. Marshall. However, only a few pistols (all from 1983) were reported with this hole indicating that this modification was apparently abandoned shortly after introduction.
Flushing hole in the extractor channel (sn# 085068 from 1983)
The 5th variation involves two technical changes that were introduced simultaneously. The first change was the Introduction of another new magazine catch with one less serration (4 instead of 5). The second change was the alteration of the hammer. Altered hammers can be recognizes by a 4-pointed star marking and the modification can be clearly seen in the last picture.
The 6th variation involves the introduction of (1) a new take down lever and (2) a new plunger for this lever. The modified take down lever is easily identified by the 4-pointed star marking. The earlier design had a flat surface and therefore sometimes difficult to operate it with a finger because it can easily slip. The new design has a raised structure that enables better grip of the lever. A shorter plunger was also introduced.
The 7th variation involves the change of the position of the trigger stop. Earlier P5 variations have the trigger stop mounted on the trigger but the position was changed to the frame.
Old variation (left) and 6th variation (right); showing the new position of the trigger stop
The trigger stop can be adjusted by a screw inside the frame
The 8th variation involves the introduction of yet another new hammer.
Two modification to the hammer where introduced during the P5 production. Original hammers are unmarked and can therefore be recognized easily. The first modification of the hammer was introduced around serial nummer 44500 (variation 6). Please see P5-Variation 6 for more information regarding this modification.
The 8th variation of the P5 involves the introduction of another new hammer, which is marked with a triangle to indicate the latest modification. I’m not sure about the exact change in the latest design. I compared the 4-pointed star marked hammer with the triangle marked one, and I couldn’t find any differences.