A little-known unlicensed Walther PP with a bona fide Cold War pedigree, the Zella Mehlis P1001-0 hailed from East Germany and are tougher to find over here than the Berlin Wall. 

Carl Walther's famed firearms works were founded in the Thuringian town of Zella-Mehlis in 1886. However, by 1945, with the Soviets knocking on the door at the end of World War II, Walther pulled stumps and left what would later become East Germany (officially the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or DDR) for the more easy-going West Germany on the other side of the Cold War. There, a recovering Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen began to rebuild in Ulm along the picturesque Danube River on the border with Bavaria. The company's flagship PP and later PPK series pistols were soon back in production under a partnership with the Manurhin in France, then shipped to Ulm for final testing and proofing. 

Zella Mehlis P1001
Although this beautiful Walther PPK/s is marked Walther and has an Ulm stamp, it was made by Manurhin in France. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Meanwhile, back in the DDR, the Communists regime, not to let partially ruined firearms factories go to waste, was soon making guns again for jackbooted police, border guards, and soldiers of the Volksarmee. This saw the former J.P. Sauer & Sohn works at Suhl rechristened as the Ernst Thälmann Waffenfabrik, after a leader of Germany's communist party. 

Likewise, the equipment from the old Walther plant at Zella-Mehlis was put back to work as well, reportedly shipped to Thälmann. The P1001-0, an unlicensed clone of the Walther PP in .32 ACP, was made there in low numbers in the mid-1950s, probably from a mix of leftover WWII-era parts and new components. 

Later, the East Germans got along with the Soviet program and adopted the very Walther-like Makarov PM in 9x18mm, with production reportedly starting at Thalmann around 1958. 

Zella Mehlis P1001
The P1001-0 was made in low numbers in East Germany during the mid-1950s. 
Zella Mehlis P1001
Chambered in .32 ACP, they are clones of Walther PP models. 

Most of the P1001-0s in the U.S. were from a surplus lot purchased and exported by Hämmerli in the 1980s. Between the exporter and the importer, the "Zella-Mehlis" roll mark was added to the slide as was the lowercase "ac" stamp, which was Walther's assigned Third Reich-era ordnance code. They typically also have Hämmerli markings on the barrel. 

Zella Mehlis P1001
This WWII-era Walther PP shows a real "ac" stamp, rather than the one you see on the P1001-0. 


Zella Mehlis P1001
The "ac" and "Zella-Mehlis" rollmarks were likely added in the 1980s when surplus guns were exported from Europe to the U.S. to go along with post-war proofmarks.

While the P1001-0s got some hate from Walther purists when they first hit American shores as they had "fake" ac stamps and weren't technically Walthers, these guns still carry a very curious tale with them that French-made Manurhin/Walthers of the same era just can't match.