Walther PPK

Walther PPK Once ‘The’ Classic Pocket Auto
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Two premier German .32 autos: The PPK (top) and the Mauser HSc. The PPK wins the longevity contest as the HSc ceased production in 1977.

Television and movies have done more than their share of popularizing specific handgun models.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Colt’s Single Action Army owed a considerable debt for its rebirth in popularity to a gallery of small-screen Western heroes, stretching from Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon, to Maverick’s eponymous poker-playing brothers, on through members of Bonanza’s Cartwright clan.

On the big screen, Dirty Harry’s Inspector Callahan gave a tremendous boost to the sales figures of Smith & Wesson’s Model 29 .44 Magnum. And, towering above them all a whole bunch of James Bond films starting with 1962’s Dr. No popularized the German-made Walther PPK.

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The PPK is plenty pointable and controllable even with the hotter .32 ACP loads.

Pocket Rocket

Of all the blowback “pocket autos” of pre-WWII vintage, foreign or domestic, none of them — the Mauser HSc, Remington Model 51, Colt Model 1903, Ortgies — have the panache, high profile or sheer longevity of the PPK.

In essence, the original PPK is a shortened version of the longer Walther PP, and was called the Polizei Pistole Kriminal ( Police Pistol Criminal). PPK specs include a 3.3″ barrel length, 6″ overall length and a 21-oz. weight unloaded. It was introduced in 1929 and chambered in .22 Long Rifle, .25, .32 and .380 ACP. By most standards, it definitely fits the definition of “pocket pistol.”

We decided to reacquaint ourselves with this classic and it wasn’t a tough call. Everyone involved went through their formative years watching Bond movies as well as reading Ian Fleming’s 14-odd novels.

We were fortunate enough to have a pair of PPKs. Both were “007 original” in .32 ACP, known overseas by its metric designation of 7.65mm. It’s worth recalling there was a time when, particularly in Europe, it was considered a perfectly acceptable law-enforcement cartridge.

Our particular guns were in great shape but admittedly elderly specimens got in well under the wire prior to the 1968 Gun Control Act, which put the brakes on the importation of the PPK. The void, however, was filled in 1979 when Interarms produced the blued and stainless PPK and PPK/s domestically under license.

When quality problems ensued, Interarms contracted with Manhurin in France for the PPK/s only. This task was taken over by Smith & Wesson from 2002 to 2013 and thereafter by Walther Arms of Fort Smith, Ark.

The single-action trigger pull on our “shooter designated” gun was 4 lbs. and exhibited a bit of spongy take-up. The double-action pull? Well, it’s best reserved for serious short-range emergencies as it’s pretty rough at over 10 lbs. and presents a considerable impediment to anyone optimistic enough to attempt precision shooting in the DA mode. On the bright side, the hammer drop/safety is fairly accessible.

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At 50 feet, the PPK performed very well with the
amped-up Buffalo Bore 75-grain HC +P.

The .32 ACP loads used in the PPK included (below, left to right):
Mag Tech 71-grain FMJ, Buffalo Bore’s 60-grain TAC +P
and 75-grain Hard Cast +P.

Range Time

We used three different .32 ACP loads: the Buffalo Bore 75-grain Hard Cast +P and 60-grain TAC +P as well as some more conventional Mag Tech 71-grain FMJ. The Buffalo Bore HC clocked an impressive 1,090 fps, while the company’s 60-grain offering came in at 1,065.

The stouter HC loading approached the .380 ACP but with a bit less snap and gave us the best 50-foot groups of the day. These little heavyweights also shot closest to point of aim. As far as the standard-pressure Mag Tech goes, the average was a more sedate 866 fps, although accuracy was more than acceptable.

Although the power difference between the .32 and .380 ACP favors the .380 — no surprise here! — those souped-up Buffalo Bore loads narrow the gap considerably and would be the preferred choice if your PPK happens to be in .32 ACP. However, .32 specimens like ours are a bit tough to come by. The .380 models have gained ascendancy as any examination of the new or used market will attest.

Before the advent of extended beavertails and Commander-style hammers, the term “hammer bite” got tossed around pretty regularly but the problem with the original PPK is actually better described as “slide slice.” Meaning you should use care in positioning your strong hand to spare the tender webbing between your thumb and forefinger.

It’s worth noting later and slightly heavier U.S. specimens of the stainless PPK/s feature an extended beavertail to deal with this problem. Oddly enough, some of the Fort Smith Walthers in .22 LR lack the extended beavertail, although they feature a slightly longer grip, giving shooters a bit more real estate in which to position their strong hand.
Well?

So, the $64 question — Is the PPK an over-romanticized anachronism today?

I don’t think it’ll ever capture the hearts and minds of shooters as it did once. Traditional DA/SA pocket autos have, for better or worse, given way to striker-fired compacts chambered in 9mm Parabellum, which feature an undeniably enhanced weight-to-power ratio.

But anything as well-made as the PPK, with a heritage — both cinematic and “real world” — like it has, is going to enrapture shooters. And, at least as far as Ian Fleming’s novels go, the PPK remains as much a part of the Bond mystique as Moreland cigarettes, vodka martinis and Bentley sedans.

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