Modern PPK variants are finished in a traditional deep blue or stainless steel.
The Compact Pistol That Shook, Not Stirred
Pocket pistols first appeared in Walther’s product line in 1908, making them one of the very first firearm companies to manufacture small, compact pistols. That DNA has always been entwined in all Walther pistols, especially in the svelte-looking PPK.
In 1931-1932 Walther followed the Model PP with the smaller Model PPK. Although some sources claimed that the “K” in the pistol’s designation refers to kurtz (German for “short,” as in Police Pistol Short), most favor kriminal as the more correct choice. The designation Polizei Pistole Kriminal thus indicates the pistol’s intended use by the Kripo or Kriminal Polizei, the detective branch of the German police. At 6.1 inches in overall length and 1.25 pounds, the Model PPK was essentially a smaller Model PP with a shorter grip and slide and a 3.4-inch barrel. It was offered in the same calibers as its larger predecessor. Walther also eliminated the Model PP’s metal back strap and instead manufactured the Model PPK with a comfortable one-piece wraparound plastic grip. Owing to the PPK’s shortened grip, its magazine accepted seven cartridges rather than the Model PP’s eight. The shorter grip also necessitated the addition of a plastic extension to the magazine base for the shooter’s little finger-a feature found on some Model PPs.
Walther manufactured approximately 150,000 Model PPKs during the Nazi era. The small pistol became a favored sidearm of the civilian police and the notorious Gestapo-the Nazi secret police. High-ranking Nazi officials and military officers also considered smaller sidearms more prestigious than the larger service pistols and purchased numbers of engraved Model PPKs as personal status symbols. Some PPKs manufactured for Nazi Party officials were embellished with special grips molded with the Nazi eagle and swastika motif or party insignia stamped on their slides. The Model PPK played a role in hastening the end of World War II when, on 30 April 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide with his engraved, gold-plated model in his bunker in Berlin as Russian troops closed in.
Today steel stampings are common, and the PPK is iconic. The pistol is still extremely popular today with law enforcement agencies as a backup gun and civilians holding concealed carry permits. The German military used it extensively during World War II, and Ian Fleming armed his famous spy character, James Bond, with the PPK. The PPK’s size, caliber, simple controls, ease of use, and the pistol’s relentless reliability make it a benchmark in compact pistols. All compact pistols manufactured since owe many design characteristics to the PPK.
The compact PPK pistol uses a simple blow back operating system and features a traditional DA/SA trigger; a single stack magazine with a thin grip, a barrel fixed to the frame, exposed hammer, and decocking lever are some of the other features. Some magazines also include a floor plate with a finger rest. The checkered plastic grips of the pistol form the pistol’s back strap. Old school for sure, but ever so effective. A trademark feature of the PPK is the decocking safety lever. With the hammer cocked all the way back the safety is rotated downward, decocking the hammer and allowing it to fall against the decocking lever. This model also has loaded chamber indicators that can be seen and felt in the dark if need be, telling the user a round is in the chamber. Models are available in a matte stainless steel finish or a traditional deep blue.
The PPK/S is mechanically the same as the PPK but uses a longer full metal frame that holds 7+1 rounds, of .380 ammo. PPK/S models mate a PP frame to a PPK slide to meet United States firearms importation guidelines set down by the Gun Control Act of 1968. The PP, PPK, and PPK/S family of pistols are some of the most popular and successful small pistols ever designed.
During World War II the PPK was issued to numerous German military and police forces. Adolf Hitler is purported to have committed suicide with a PPK in his bunker stronghold in Berlin as the Allies and Soviets entered the city.
The PPK inspired other small pistol designs like the Soviet Makarov, Bersa Thunder 380 from Argentina, the Hungarian FEG PA-63, and more. Though smaller and lighter polymer-frame pistols have taken away market share, the PPK’s influence and notoriety was sealed when Ian Fleming issued the PPK to his secret agent character, James Bond, in his series of spy novels. PPK has been licensed by Manurhin in France, and it is now licensed by Smith & Wesson. Originals were made in Zella-Mehlis, Germany.
CALIBER: .22 LR, .25 ACP, .32 ACP; .380
BARREL LENGTH: 3.3 inches
OA LENGTH: 6.1 inches
WEIGHT: 21 ounces (unloaded)
STOCK: Checkered plastic
SIGHTS: Fixed notch rear/blade front
ACTION: Straight blow back, semiautomatic
FINISH: Deep blue or stainless (later variants)
CAPACITY: 8+1 (.22 LR), 7+1 (.32 ACP), 6+1 (.380)
Walther Brings Sexy Back
Postscript: The PK380 is built with a polymer frame and steel slide and barrel. The first thing you will notice when you pick up the PK380 is how good the grip feels in your hand. From a petite female to hulking brute, the PK380 feels right in anyone’s hand and it naturally points. A finger rest is built into the magazine floor plate so your little finger—if you have a big hand—does not dangle off the bottom of the grip. The PK380 is angular and aggressive looking. The controls consist of an ambidextrous safety mounted on the slide near the thumb of either a right- or left-handed shooter. Flip it up to fire the gun, rotate it down to put it on safe. The magazine release is also ambidextrous and built into the trigger guard so it is easy to release the magazine with whatever hand you shoot with. The trigger is traditional DA/SA meaning the first shot is first DA (double-action) requiring more effort to press the trigger, then once the round is fired the action goes into SA (single-action) which requires a lot less effort to press the trigger. The Walther PK380 is a provocative and inviting compact pistol.
While other pistol manufacturers have gone the micro design route, building .380 pistols that are small and ultra concealable, the PK380 is slightly larger though still very compact.