One of Carl Walther's most recent additions to their
handgun line is a compact version of their P-88 service
auto. The latter is the latest autopistol design of this
famous German arms company, which has produced
several classic handguns over the years. One of the
best-known Walther pistols is, of course, the P.38,
which was the first full-caliber double-action auto
pistol to gain universal acceptance.
The Walther P-88 is actually radically different from
the P.38 and has none of its design characteristics.
For a start, it uses Browning's tilting barrel design
to lock its action during firing, instead of the P.38's
wedge-type system. Secondly, it has a dual-purpose
control lever that is mounted in the frame above
the trigger that is both a slide stop and hammer-lowering
device. This control lever is on both sides of the frame,
which makes the pistol fully ambidextrous. The P.38
has a separate slide stop and slide-mounted
hammer-lowering safety, neither of which are
ambidextrous. The P-88 also has a firing pin lock
and its magazine catch is of the button type, which
is in the usual position just behind the trigger on the
left side of the frame. The R38's magazine catch
is located in the bottom rear part of its grip.
The new P-88 Compact has a 3 1/4-inch barrel that
gives it an overall length of 7 1/8 inches. This makes
it 1 1/4 inch shorter than the full-size P-88. The pistol's
height has also been slightly reduced, which cuts its
magazine capacity by one round to 14. This can be
increased to 15 when the chamber is also loaded.
The Compact P-88's overall weight when empty is
The P-88 Compact has also had some significant design
changes, apparently to make it less bulky. The
ambidextrous dual-purpose control lever has been
dispensed with and replaced with a separate slide stop
and a hammer-lowering safety. The former is located
in the usual position on the left side of the frame just
the trigger. The safety is ambidextrous and mounted
on the rear of the slide. The barrel locking lever is,
however, the same as that of the full-size P-88. It is
positioned on the left side of the frame, just forward
of the slide stop.
In all other respects, the P-88 compact is the same as
its bigger brother. Its sights are fixed, with the rear
drift-adjustable for windage. Like most modern service
auto pistols, it has the three-dot aiming system for
shooting in low-light conditions. Finish is matte blue
metal surfaces, with the slide sides polished and black
plastic checkered grips.
The inclusion of a slide-mounted safety makes the P-88
Compact operate and function pretty much like the old
P.38. Depressing the safety drops the hammer and
disconnects the trigger until manually released. It is
therefore possible to apply the safety before loading
so that the pistol will be in the double-action mode
after cycling the slide to chamber a round.
The procedure for disassembling the compact model
for cleaning and maintenance is the same as for the
full-size P-88. First apply the safety, remove the
magazine and pull back the slide to check that the
chamber is empty. Then rotate the barrel catch down
in a clockwise direction and pull the slide off the
frame. All that remains to be done is to remove the
mainspring assembly, and then the barrel and stripping
is complete. The pistol is assembled in reverse order.
All Walther pistols are imported into this country by
lnterarms in Virginia, which sent me a P-88 Compact
for evaluation. It came in a cardboard box with an
instruction manual, cleaning rod and spare magazine.
The pistol displayed the usual high quality of fit and
finish that Walther is renowned for. Its single-action
trigger pull was crisp, requiring just over 6 pounds
of pressure to drop the hammer. Its double-action
trigger pull of just under 12 pounds was nice and
As far as looks go, the P-88 Compact is, in my opinion,
a far nicer-looking pistol than the full-size model,
which has a blocky, angular appearance.
I used a variety of factory 9mm ammunition to evaluate
the P-88 Compact. This consisted of Federal 124-grain
FMC, Hornady 147-grain JHP XTP, Pro Load 124-grain
JHP +P, Remington 115-grain FMC, Remington 115-grain
JHP and Remington 147-grain JHP subsonic.
The pistol was first shot for accuracy from a seated
benchrest at 25 yards using my Millett Benchmaster
rest. Its best performance was with the Remington
147-grain JHP subsonic ammunition, which produced
an amazingly tight 1 1/8-inch group. The next best
group of 2 1/2 inches was with the Federal 124-grain
FMJ, followed by the Pro Load 124- grain JHP +P,
which measured 2 13/16 inches. The Hornady 147-grain
JHP XTP produced a 3 1/8-inch group, while the
remaining loads both shot groups measuring 3 3/8
I found that the P-88 Compact had very nice handling
qualities when I put it through its paces on the combat
range. The grips were very comfortable and enabled
me to easily engage the trigger when in the double-action
mode. The pistol also pointed very well for me, and
I was able to reach and manipulate all of its controls
without having to change my grip. The sights were
clear and easy to pick up when the pistol was brought
quickly into aim.
When shooting fast two-shot strings from 5 back to
20 yards, it kept all but one of its shots within the
10-ring of a B27 combat silhouette center. During this
exercise, I was able to make the transition from the
long, heavy double-action trigger to the lighter
single-action pull quickly without any great loss of
I did some fast close-quarters shooting, drawing the
pistol from a holster under a coat. For this exercise,
I used a Michaels of Oregon "Side Bet" belt slide
holster. This is a universal holster that fits most
handguns and is constructed of Cordura nylon. One
of the nice features is that it has a securing strap that
is both adjustable and also detachable.
After a little practice, I was drawing the pistol smoothly
and getting off a fast, accurate shot. The excellent
grips of the pistol enabled me to get a full hold, while
their good pointing qualities ensured the sights were
invariably on target the moment I got the pistol up
to eye level.
When it came to reliability, I experienced two cases
of the slide not going fully forward during the early
early of the accuracy evaluation. No other problems
were experienced, and in the combat evaluation the
pistol digested all of the ammunition that I shot in it.
The two malfunctions experienced during the accuracy
evaluation may have been caused by the bottom of
the slide coming in contact with my Benchmaster rest.
You don't see too many Walther pistols in gun shops
in this country, which is probably due to their high cost.
This is unfortunate, because Walther makes fine
handguns. The P-88 Compact is a good example, proving
to be a very accurate, reliable pistol with excellent
shooting characteristics. Its compact size makes it
easy to conceal and an ideal companion to the full-size
P-88 service pistol.
First published in the October 1993 edition of
Guns & Ammo