A French Walther?

Some years after I bought my Walther PPK/S restoration project, my wife and I ran across something a little weird in a Tampa area gun store.

In the case, it looked like a Walther PP. It had a beautiful blued finish, the expected double-action with a safety / de-cocker lever just as you would expect, and plastic grips. This pistol was a .32 ACP, and parts were fit like those on a fine watch. It appeared to be in mint condition and even came with the original box – a reddish cardboard one with a pebbled finish.

Things got weird when I looked more closely at the slide. The first thing I saw was “Made in France.” Shortly after finishing up with the airsickness bag, I noticed a “Manurhin” logo just above that. Apparently thankful that I didn’t mess up his floor, the gun salesman proceeded to educate me on exactly what I was looking at.

A Manurhin PP with its original box. Apparently pistols destined for a police officer had the officer's name printed on the box too. Photo: TexasGunTalk.com / OIF2
A Manurhin PP with its original box (not a PP or Walther PPK). Apparently pistols destined for a police officer had the officer’s name printed on the box too. Photo: TexasGunTalk / OIF2

The Manurhin Walther

Here’s the short skinny. World War two happened and ended and the Allies won. The Walther factory that made these pistols was located in Zella-Mehlis, which was occupied by the Soviet Union for a time after World War II. Oh, and the Allies also prohibited the manufacture of weapons in Germany for a time. In 1952, Walther licensed the PP, PPK, and PPK/S designs to French firm Manurhin. The full name is Manufacture de Machines du Haut-Rhin, but we won’t quiz you on that. However, if you pick apart the letters in the full name, you’ll quickly spot the derivation of “Manurhin.”

Anyway, with Walther equipment and know-how, the French company made pistols from 1952 until about 1986. Even some of newer pistols in that date range marked with German slides were made in France.

So enough about the history, let’s talk about the pistol itself. The PP (Polizeipistole or police pistol) model is a blowback design so the barrel is fixed to the frame. As this PP is a .32 ACP caliber, that works just fine as the mass of the steel slide is plenty enough to delay and control the recoil action. Since the barrel is fixed, it also acts as a guide rod of sorts for the recoil spring which wraps around the barrel itself.

The PP sports an exposed hammer and classic double-action / single-action operation. The first trigger press (when the safety / de-cocker lever is in fire mode) cocks and releases the hammer. From then on, everything operates in the single-action mode with a short, easy trigger press.

Made since 1929 in .22LR, .32 ACP, and .380 ACP variants, the magazine capacity of this .32 is eight rounds plus one in the chamber.

In the years we’ve had it, there have been no problems digesting any type of ball or hollow-point ammunition, even though it’s a classic design. That’s an interesting, even if unintended “feature” for an old gun designed to shoot only ball ammo. For carry, we’ve swapped out the original grips for rubberized Pachmayr models. The sights are still teeny, tiny steel post and notch so popular in the first half of the 20th century. They’re great for precision but not so hot for fast or defensive shooting. If you appreciate precision machining, real metal, and fine slick operation, it’s a fine little pistol.

Who knew that the French were capable of producing other items of quality besides fine wine and attitude?

Tom McHale is a committed learning junkie always seeking a new subject victim. As a lifelong student of whatever grabs his attention on any particular day, he thrives on beating rabbit trails into submission. In between his time as a high-tech marketing executive, restaurant owner, and hamster cosmetology practitioner, he's published seven books and nearly 1,500 articles about guns, shooting, and the American way.

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12 thoughts on “A French Walther?

  1. I don’t believe that the French were making the PPK/s variant in the 1950s. This model did not appear until after the 1968 Gun Control Act here. It was created to skirt thru the “too small to be trusted to civilians” intent of the Act. But that PP in .32 is uber cool. I regularly shoot mine with a FN 100 gr cast over a charge of Bullseye.

  2. I bought a Manurhin PPK/S in the mid 80’s while stationed at Grissom AFB, Indiana. It was $200.00 less than the two Walther marked pistols. It is my primary carry gun. In fact it is on my hip as I write this. Lovely firearm.

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