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With Daniel Craig’s final outing as the famous MI6 00 spy James Bond in theaters on October 8th, we decided to take a look at the pistol that is almost as iconic as the character himself; the Walther PPK/s. Let’s see if this classic firearm has “No Time to Die” or if it’s time to put this nearly 100-year-old design out to pasture.
Walther PPK/s Specs
|BARREL LENGTH||3.3 in|
|CONSTRUCTION||Brushed stainless steel slide and frame (as tested)|
|TRIGGER||12.25 lb. pull double action, 4.75 lb. pull single action|
There is a very linear progression from the PPK/s from its grandfather the Walther PP.
We will start with the Walther PP. Originally the Walther PP, “Polizei Pistole” was designed for just that, the German Police force.
After being released in 1929 it soon became the standard issued sidearm for the German police force.
In 1931 Walther designed and released the PPK, or Polizei Pistole Kriminal. This name referenced the main change in design, the shortening of the barrel, and its intended role as a more covert pistol for plainclothes detectives.
The Walther PPK went on to become a very popular pistol post-WWII being used in several covert roles in many countries around the world to include the CIA, FBI, British Intelligence agencies such as MI5 and MI6, the French SDECE, and Israel’s Mossad.
This timeless design would see its manufacturing moved out of Germany post-WWII in accordance with the terms of their surrender.
In1968 The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed. This unfortunate legislation severely limited the import of compact firearms from outside of the United States.
A roster of approved handguns was formed and to be able to have a gun placed on the roster for import into the United States, an arbitrary checklist was made.
The Walther PPK did not meet the standard set forth in this legislation for import into the United States at that time.
After not being allowed to import the PPK, the Walther PPK/s was made to circumvent the checklist and be able to resume import into the United States.
To be able to continue importation, Walther combined the slide of the PPK and the frame of the Walther PP.
The added weight and length in the grip were enough to push past the required points on the checklist.
A Dark Past
Some people shy away from topics that might make them uncomfortable or may not be viewed in a favorable light.
It is no secret that the Walther PP line of handguns was designed and used by many Germans in the vicinity of and during combat of the Second World War.
Many American soldiers brought back a Walther PP or PPK as a war trophy.
The compactness of the PPK meant that it was very popular among German Nazi Officers.
There are currently collectible Walther PPK’s that have been traced back to having belonged to very prominent Nazi party members bringing a premium on the market today.
The most famous Walther PPK of the Second World War era was found in the hand of Adolf Hitler himself.
After retreating to the Führerbunker in Berlin on April 30th, 1945 with his newlywed wife Eva Braun, Hitler would soon take a cyanide capsule and then shoot himself in the head with his Walther.
“Walther PPK… the American CIA swear by them”
Bond, James Bond. The name of the fictional 00 licensed MI6 spy is arguably as famous as his sidearm of choice, the Walther PPK. For those who are not in the know, James Bond did not originally start off with the Walther that everyone has come to know him to carry.
Writer/Creator Ian Flemming first gave James Bond a Beretta 418 in a flat chamois leather holster.
Before the publication of “From Russia with Love” Ian Flemming received a letter from a retired Army Major Geoffry Boothroyd. Major Boothroyd in addition to his military career, was an avid gun collector.
Major Boothroyd pointed out that he felt that the Beretta 418 was not a proper pistol for the British secret agent to carry.
After going back and forth on different ideas, Boothroyd recommended Bond be issued the Walther PPK. Ian Flemming made the switch to the PPK in the publication and film adaptation of Dr. No.
If you are paying attention in the movie the armorer who was named Boothroyd in honor of the Major, makes a perceived falsity in the conversation with Bond and his boss while speaking of the newly issued Walther PPK. Boothroyd states the Walther is chambered in 7.65 mil.
This is in reference to the smaller .32 ACP cartridge offered in the Walther PPK.
Boothroyd goes on to state that “with a delivery like a brick through a plate-glass window” in reference to the power that the new gun has.
This is contrary to common knowledge on the .32 ACP cartridge. Most consider it to be too anemic to consider for use in a personal defense weapon.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?
During this review, we will determine if the Walther PPK/s still holds its own when the rubber meets the road.
To do this we will look at all of what Walther PPK/s has to offer.
We will start by highlighting some of the features of the Walther. Popular chambering offering in .22lr, .32 ACP, or .380 ACP.
Finishes offered on the Walther PPK and PPK/s are deep bluing or stainless steel. The Walther PPK/s is a solid steel design which means it’s going to stand the test of time.
The Walther PPK/s is made of solid stainless steel. It is milled, not cast.
That’s not to say there aren’t some cast parts, but the frame of the PPK/s is a quality piece of stainless steel.
This ensures the overall quality of the firearm. This also means that the Walther PPK is quite hefty, to the tune of almost 24 oz.
This is a substantial amount of weight when you consider the Walther only holds 7 rounds of ammunition in its magazine.
The grips that came on this particular Walther are black plastic.
As the grips are similar to the grip panels on a 1911, they are easily swapped out for different styles and materials.
Some people prefer a soft rubber material and others like ornately carved wooden grips made of exotic hardwoods or even ivory. This is one of the very few places you can customize the Walther.
The overall thickness of the grips depends on what material is used.
The girth of the grip section is surprisingly large no matter what material is used however when you consider the Walther houses a single stack magazine.
The angle of the grip is not that much different than other more contemporary offerings from major manufacturers such as Sig and Smith and Wesson.
One of the defining features of the Walther PPK/s is what is commonly known as the beavertail.
This is a protrusion of the grip and frame that extends over the shooter’s hand and protects the hand from hammer bite and slide bite.
Hammer bite is when the exposed hammer makes contact with the webbing of the shooter’s hand while the gun is cycling.
This can be painful depending on how frequently you shoot and the amount of ammunition you expend during a range session.
Slide bite in my opinion is much worse. This is when the shooter’s hand is cut by the slide as it reciprocates back while the firearm is cycling.
Slide bite can and often does leave the shooter with cuts across the meaty part of the web of the hand.
I don’t need to explain why this isn’t an ideal situation.
The beavertail resolves both of these issues quite handily.
There are several different textures you will find on the Walther PPK/S and its family of handguns.
They all serve a purpose and were placed to help with the overall use of the pistol. Starting at the top you will notice across the top strap of the slide between the sights a wavy pattern.
This wavy pattern is used to cut the glare that can come from light bouncing off the top of the slide. This is helpful because it makes it easier to line up the sights of the Walther.
The next texture you will notice is that the radiused edges of the slide are a matte finish. This also was designed to cut down the glare from the high-quality finish of the Walther.
The larger flat areas of the slide and frame are high polish. Whether you have a blued or stainless steel model, these high polish surfaces look magnificent when in the hand or on display.
It does not take much imagination to figure out why this was James Bond’s main gun.
On the rear of the slide, there are several slide serrations.
These serrations are vertical and deep enough to be effective. The hammer also has serrations to assist with manipulation when cocking the striker from double action to single action.
The black plastic grips are checkered, but the plastic is still smooth enough that a rubber grip sleeve would be useful. This is one of the drawbacks of the PPK/s design.
The sights on the Walther PPK leave something to be desired.
Mainly the ability to change the sights out for night sights or to another style.
The sights on the PPK/s are usable, but they are very small when compared to any modern handgun.
The sights are painted with red paint to help the eye pick up the contrast between the steel and the sight itself.
Controls and Operation
The controls of the Walther differ somewhat from what we’ve come to be accustomed to on a modern self-defense handgun.
You must remember that this handgun is nearly a 100-year-old design when all things considered.
Trigger / Shooting
We will start with the trigger.
The trigger on the Walther PPK/s is a large, curved, and smooth MIM part. MIM stands for metal injection molding.
This is a process that is used to keep costs down on smaller parts that do not receive direct stress from the operation of the firearm.
While the use of MIM parts is generally seen as a negative, I find it’s acceptable in this application.
The trigger of the Walther PPK/s is a Double / Single Action trigger.
What this means is there are two different types of trigger pulls. The premise behind this design is the first shot is longer and heavier making it safer.
Double action means the trigger is doing two things.
First, it cocks the hammer. The second action the trigger makes is to release the hammer and fire the chambered round.
To do both of these things it makes the pull heavy and long.
The double-action pull on the Walther PPK/s is extremely heavy and very long. There is a lot of take up and the break is a surprise.
There is no discernible wall where you can anticipate the trigger break.
The single-action is where the design shines. After the initial heavy and long double-action pull, the hammer going home, and a cartridge firing, the slide will reciprocate and a new round will be loaded into the chamber.
During this action of the slide it acts on the hammer and cocks it back leaving the gun in single action mode for subsequent shots.
The pull in single action is much lighter and shorter as it is only doing the one action of releasing the trigger bar and allowing the hammer to go home.
The reset of the trigger is short but not audible or tactile. This is a feature that we have taken for granted in most modern striker-fired handguns.
The Walther PPK/s safety is located on the left-hand side of the slide.
The safety is clearly marked with a red dot when disengaged and the red dot is covered when the safety is activated.
When engaged the safety lever is angled down and toward the trigger. When disengaged the safety lever is pointing parallel with the slide.
I found that the safety gets in the way when racking the slide.
The magazine release is located in a peculiar location on the Walther PP family of handguns.
Most handguns have the magazine release located at the back of the trigger guard where it meets the frame.
The Walther moves the magazine release up and slightly to the rear where the slide meets the frame and the grip panel.
The magazine release is still easily actuated in this location. The release itself is small and round.
It protrudes out from the frame a decent amount to make it easy to press.
The magazine release is not reversible on this handgun.
Things take a strange turn here.
The Walther PPK/s has an internal-only slide stop. This is very different from almost all semi-auto handguns in the modern era.
To lock the slide to the rear you must have an empty magazine inserted into the magwell.
This also means that you can not send the slide home using the non-existing exterior lever.
To make the slide go home you must either remove the empty magazine and rack the slide, or insert a loaded mag into the magwell and then rack the slide.
This quirk, while interesting, can be overcome with a proper amount of time and training.
The barrel of the Walther PPK/s is 3.3 inches and is fixed.
It operates on direct blowback. This is not so popular in today’s market.
To accomplish this the pressures in the chamber must be low enough to ensure the projectile has left the barrel before the slide actuates to load another round.
This is the main reason the Walther is chambered in .22lr, .32 ACP, and lastly .380 ACP.
The fixed barrel does lend itself to being inherently more accurate. Less moving parts equals more accuracy.
Magazines & Magwell
The magazines for the Walther PPK/s are of sheet steel construction.
They are sturdy and have a metal follower. The magazine capacity in the PPK/s is seven rounds.
This is one more when compared to the Walther PPK as the grip had to be lengthened to gain approval for importation to the United States.
There are two main options when it comes to magazines and those are flush or with a pinky extension. The PPK/s comes with one of each.
The magwell on the PPK/s is small and does not have much room for error when inserting a magazine.
The magwell does have enough clearance to allow the mag to readily drop free when the mag release is pressed.
Firing the PPK/s
The main takeaway from shooting the PPK/s is that it’s cool as hell. To hold and fire the Walther is something special for Bond film aficionados.
After reading and watching every offering by Ian Flemming growing up, I knew that I needed to add the Walther to my collection.
When shooting the Walther the pistol fills out the hand nicely, more akin to a full-size handgun.
This lends itself to being more accurate especially when using the pinky extension so you have a full purchase on the grip.
After chambering a round and disengaging the safety, the trigger pull is noticeably long and heavy to the point of detracting away from the overall experience for me.
Luckily the single action makes up for this mostly. After over a decade of carrying a Glock on a daily basis at work and away it’s hard to get used to anything else.
The Recoil of the Walther is snappy for the diminutive round that it is chambered in.
This is due to the straight blowback design of the firearm. After a session of a few hundred rounds sent downrange the meaty web of my hand is sore from the beavertail digging in while experiencing the recoil of the firearm.
This is partly due to the high grip on the firearm that the modern shooter has adopted to keep the muzzle down as much as possible and to help impart control over the firearm.
When gripped further down and not as tight this is not as big of an issue.
The Walther PPK/s is definitely more accurate than I am.
For a compact self-defense firearm you can’t expect but so much, and the Walther definitely lives up to its reputation here. I was able to easily qualify on a standard course of fire and excelled in a combat course while using the PPK/S. The only hangup I experienced was when inserting a magazine into the magwell under stress.
If things are not lined up just right, the magazine caught and I had to end up looking down at the firearm during reloads to ensure that the mag went into the magwell without issue.
To disassemble the Walther PP series of handguns you have to do something unique.
The trigger guard is hinged where it meets the grip.
This means that in order to disassemble, you have to pull down the front of the trigger guard.
First and foremost you must remove the magazine and make the gun safe.
Next, you pull the front of the trigger guard down and you can use your index finger to push the now visible locking block to the side.
You can then rest the block on the underside of the frame.
Once you have completed this step next you will pull the slide to the rear of the gun.
While still holding the slide to the rear you then lift up from the rearmost portion of the slide.
It will rotate up and off the back of the frame of the gun. Next while still keeping pressure on the recoil spring, slowly let the slide go forward and the fixed barrel will pass through the opening of the slide.
Set the slide aside and you can then remove the recoil spring if you so wish.
That completes the basic field strip of any Walther PP-style firearm.
To reassemble, make sure the trigger guard is still sitting on the underside of the frame, removed from its operational position.
Next, you will place the spring back around the barrel of the firearm.
After that pass the barrel through the front of the slide and pull to the rear of the gun.
Then you will rotate the slide back down until it meets flush with the frame of the gun.
Next while still in control of the slide, let it slowly go forward. Once you have completed all these steps replace the block into the frame of the gun and you are finished.
You always want to check for proper fitment and function of the firearm after reassembly.
Walther PPK Final Thoughts
In the year 2021, it’s hard to make an argument for a handgun that only holds seven rounds of ammunition.
You can easily find a handgun that is the same size and weight that holds up to twice the amount of ammunition.
When compared side by side with my current carry gun the Sig P365, the discrepancies are glaring.
The Walther lacks night sights, side stop, modern ergonomics, and capacity that make the P365 such a nice handgun.
Having said all of that I can not deny the allure of the classic Walther design. Should it be carried by secret agents across the globe in 2021?
The answer is probably not.
It is however a classic gun from a bygone era and should be appreciated for what it is and I plan to keep doing just that.