WALTHER, more than 125 years of innovation.
Already early on, centers of firearms manufacturing were established around smelting works. That was the case in Thuringia as well, in the region around Suhl and Zella-Mehlis. Modest blacksmiths gave rise to special trades such as that of rifle maker, which was the trade of the forefathers of the WALTHER family. One of them was August Theodor Walther, who married the granddaughter of the respected rifle maker Gustav Wilhelm Pistor, from Asbach-Schmalkalden. Her son, Carl Wilhelm Freund, established the history of the WALTHER company. Born in 1858, he started his own rifle making business after completing his education in 1886. With the assistance of his apprentice, Carl Walther began to manufacture hunting and target shooting rifles using the Martini and Aydt systems. At that time, the 28-year-old had only very little equipment and few tools at his disposal.
Carl Walther's wife also came from a rifle manufacturing family. They had five sons: Fritz, Georg, Wilhelm, Erich, and Lothar. The first three learned the profession of rifle making at their parents' company, Erich pursued a career in business, and Lothar trained as a tool and die maker. The work progressed, and in 1903 a small factory was built on the Katzenbuckel hill in Zella-Mehlis.
Fritz Walther in particular was very much interested in the burgeoning semi-automatic pistol technology. He even convinced his father Carl that the future of firearms manufacturing would be in this sector. In 1908, the two of them proudly presented their "Model 1".
Other pistols followed, until the series ended in 1920 with the Model 9. In the fall of 1921, a much-talked-about automatic shotgun was introduced to the market, and in 1932 WALTHER designed
double-barrel shotguns, which were followed by small-caliber models. After his father's death, Fritz Walther took over the company, with his brothers by his side.
Their range of products expanded to include calculators. During the 1920's, these small miracles of addition, with their typical WALTHER banners, were found on most desks around the globe. Fritz Walther, meanwhile, concentrated on his worldwide success in the firearms sector. He even motivated his own employees to show their initiative in the designs. Walter Riem, for example, developed a warning shot/gas pistol called Perfecta in 1937.
Even though double-action revolvers had thus far been unable to penetrate the market, Fritz Walther recognized the potential of this technique. In 1929, he implemented it in his latest model. The PP was born - and was a spontaneous success all over the world. The compact design PPK followed a short time later. Both models proved perfect from the very beginning, and are still accepted and produced today. The public authorities in particular were very much
interested in the PP and PPK, but the pistols were also in high demand in civilian circles.
All that remained was the military sector, which WALTHER supplied with the legendary P38
model. This pistol also exceeded all expectations and took on a leading role in its class. WALTHER was at the peak of its success, with more than 2,500 employees working for the company during the period from 1943 to 1945. The city Zella-Mehlis was rightly proud of its citizens and changed the name of its market-place to Carl-Walther-Platz.
A thin folder with design drawings and the rights to more than 80 patents were all that Fritz Walther was able to save from the turmoil of the war. He started over near Ulm. History repeated itself as Fritz Walther, like his father before him, was left with nothing. A small shoe repair shop was the nucleus and thus the WALTHER company was born anew. Soon, production sites for office machines were added in Nieder-Stotzingen and Gerstetten. As early as April 1949, the employees celebrated the production of the 1,000th machine. For Fritz Walther that meant that he was once again able to devote his time to his profession. Weapons production began again at the Donaubastion in Ulm. At the end of 1950, the first 100 air guns were ready for shipment. Fritz Walther had done it!
The next step led to a new edition of the still-desirable PP/PPK and P38 pistols, latter advanced under the name P1 to the role of sidearm for the new German (Federal) Armed Forces. Other pistols were designed: the TP, TPH, PP-Super, P5, and finally the P88. There was also a breakthrough among long guns, in the form of hunting and sporting rifles of all kinds. For the public authorities, WALTHER designed and produced two versions of a submachine gun and the WA2000 precision rifle. When Fritz Walther died in December 1966, his son Karl-Heinz took the reins. He concentrated on the sporting sector and introduced new technologies.