Range Report and Review: Walther PPK

The Walther PPK, an iconic and popular pocket pistol first introduced in 1929, is made in the USA.

Range Report and Review: Walther PPK

It was 1929 when Walther first produced the PPK, which stands for Police Pistol Kriminal and has become an icon in the field of small handguns.

It was originally chambered in .380 ACP, also known as .380 Auto — 9mm Kurz in Germany — and was created for police use, although through the years, it has been used by military and non-sworn civilians alike. For a time, the PPK/S, which had a longer grip, an exposed steel backstrap, and a magazine capacity of seven rounds, was more common in the United States. Perhaps it still is because of the magazine capacity, but the original PPK, with its shorter grip and six-round capacity, has always been around. After a change in the law in the mid-20th century, the shorter-grip PPK could not be imported and had to be made in the U.S. in order to be commercially sold here.

Because of those laws requiring the PPK be manufactured in the U.S., Walther licensed rights to produce the gun to other gun makers, including Smith & Wesson. But recently, Walther decided to build the PPK here for sale in the U.S., so now, a new genuine Walther production PPK can be sold by U.S. dealers. It should sell well, given the near cult following the gun enjoys.

Many people had never heard of the PPK until Ian Fleming’s spy character, James Bond, appeared on screen carrying one in a shoulder holster and used it to defeat evil. After that silver screen appearance, Walther’s PPK became very popular. For a time, though, if a customer wanted a new PPK, it was going to have to be a PPK/S. Not that there was anything wrong with the PPK/S, but it wasn’t a PPK, and because it had a slightly longer grip, it was not quite as easy to pocket or carry discreetly.


But that’s changed, and Walther now makes the PPK in the U.S. The company has made some minor changes to the original PPK design to make it just a little better without altering the gun’s appeal.

The most notable is probably the longer beavertail. The original PPK had a beavertail at the top rear of the grip, but some shooters were prone to getting a cut on their shooting hand by the reciprocating slide. Walther lengthened the beavertail to provide a little more protection. There are also some other very minor changes in the lines of the new gun when compared to an old gun, but it would take a side-by-side comparison by a person with a good eye to notice them.

The PPK has a double-action trigger characterized by a long, fairly heavy pull for the first round followed by a shorter, much lighter pull for each following round. The average double-action pull on the test gun was about 15.5 pounds, while the single-action pull averaged just under 4.5 pounds.

The double-action pull was not smooth, but on the other hand, at over a 15-pound pull weight, the smoothness of the pull was not really noticeable. The single-action pull started with some take-up, a bit of creep and a surprise break, followed by a slight amount of over travel. All in all, the trigger is not bad. But this is an almost century-old design, so the trigger is not up to the standards found on most modern guns.

Sights front and rear are milled into the slide, with the front sight a short blade accented by a red dot and the rear sight a notch with a square red dot just below the notch. One might think the sights are bad considering the sights available today on small guns, but they proved to be useful and not at all difficult to use.

The gun is more than accurate enough for the close defense work it was designed for. To cut glare on the top of the slide, wavy serrations have been machined into a flat that runs between the front and rear sights. Of course, it adds cost to the gun, but it is effective at cutting glare and adds to the visual appeal and classic design of the PPK.

This is an all-steel gun, so it weighs a bit more than the polymer guns of a similar size. While the weight may make the gun slightly less comfortable to carry, it is still not a burden to carry in a pocket or belt holster. A safety note to pass along to your customers — never carry a gun naked in the pocket. Always carry it in a holster and insert the gun in the holster before inserting the holster and gun as a unit into the pocket. Back to the weight issue — the weight is actually an aid to reducing felt recoil, which can be pretty snappy in a small .380 ACP handgun.

Trigger, Safety

Many people consider the PPK to be the original double-action, semi-auto pocket gun, and it is easy to see why. It’s about the same size as many popular new pocket pistols, and although the gun has a slide-mounted safety that also decocks the gun, most people carry it with a round in the chamber and the hammer down, relying on the long, heavy first-round trigger pull to be a detriment to unintentional discharges.

It has a smooth trigger face, so the trigger finger can glide easily over the surface during the pull despite the trigger weight. However, if the owner wishes to carry the gun with the safety engaged, it also drops the hammer and at the same time blocks the hammer to prevent it from striking the firing pin.

The safety on the test gun was stiff, but not so stiff that it was difficult to manipulate. The magazine release is in the place — or nearly so — that American shooters have come to expect. It is located just forward of the grip and just below the slide, as opposed to at the junction of the trigger guard and front strap. However, the location is so close to where one is commonly found, it is easy for a shooter to get used to finding the magazine release without looking. And the one on the test gun worked positively.

The PPK comes with two magazines, both with a capacity of six rounds. One has a flat baseplate, while the other has an extended baseplate that provides a place for the little finger to grip the gun. The black plastic grip panels that wrap around to form the backstrap are nicely checkered and provide a very slip-resistant surface.


To disassemble the gun, first make certain it is unloaded and the magazine removed. Double-check this and keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Then pull the trigger guard down at the front, letting it pivot on the pin where the guard intersects the front strap.

Pushing the trigger guard slightly to the side with the trigger finger to keep it from slipping back up into the frame, pull the slide all the way to the rear and lift it clear of the frame. Then the recoil spring that wraps around the barrel is pulled off toward the front. The barrel is pinned semi-permanently to the frame, which, increases accuracy. That’s all there is to it. Assembly is in reverse order.

The hammer is easy to cock with a thumb if the operator wishes to do so. The spur is of the rowel type with a hole drilled through the middle. It adds a distinctive look to the already sleek-looking PPK. Another elegant touch derived from an earlier time is the rounded top contour of the slide. While so many slides are squared off and have a blocky appearance these days, the PPK has a slide that is nicely rounded and aids in carrying it discreetly. It helps to eliminate square edges which can print through and abrade clothing.

During testing with a variety of ammunition including hollowpoint self-defense designs and round full metal jacketed practice ammo, the gun functioned flawlessly. I’m sure Walther has made slight modifications over time to the contour of the feed ramp and chamber to accommodate hollowpoint rounds, because at the time of the original PPK, round-nose ammunition was about all that was available. The PPK is equipped with an external extractor and a generously sized ejection port, so empty brass was easily and uniformly ejected without problem.

While the PPK and the PPK/S are available in brushed stainless steel or, like the sample gun, in a very nicely done black, Bond carried a black PPK — so that may be the one your customer will want.


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