Resurrecting a Walther PPK/S

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Walther PPK/S pistol

A long, long time ago during an internet shopping binge far away, I spotted an old Interarms model of a Walther PPK/S “gunsmith special.” I’m not a gunsmith, but do like to tinker. Oh, and I’ve always had a thing for the Walther PPK family of pistols. Why? I don’t know. I guess I just appreciate the classics. And who wouldn’t want a variant of the James Bond gun?

Anyway, the pistol came sans grips, magazines, and missing a few other mechanical parts. After a bit of internet shopping and reassembly, I took it for the first range outing. Guess what? I couldn’t make it through a full magazine without my spanky new/used Walther jamming itself into oblivion. Knowing even less then than I do now, I figured it had to be “ammo sensitivity.” So I proceeded to try numerous types, bullet weights, and brands. Still no joy. So I bought new magazines. That should fix it, right? Nope. Two magazines and about eleventy-trillion dollars in ammo later, I was still having problems.

While certainly heavier, it's not a lot bigger than a subcompact like the Ruger LCP. However, it is a heck of a lot easier to shoot well.

While certainly heavier, it’s not a lot bigger than a subcompact like the Ruger LCP. However, it is a heck of a lot easier to shoot well.

The next step was to make the rounds of local gunsmiths. Over several months, this pistol was in three different shops. Each one knew “exactly” what was wrong and proceeded to make their modifications, mostly to the magazine feed lips and springs. You can probably guess the result now that you know this used and abused pistol made the rounds to so many gunsmiths. The lesson here was that damaged feed ramps can certainly make a magazine puke, but it’s pretty unlikely that you should ever have to modify factory magazines just to get a gun to function correctly.

When I got it back from Cylinder and Slide, it was shiny and like new. Since then, I've used it - a lot, so it's picked up some fresh holster wear.

When I got it back from Cylinder and Slide, it was shiny and like new. Since then, I’ve used it – a lot, so it’s picked up some fresh holster wear.

At that point, I committed the cardinal sin. I decided to (with a distinct lack of gunsmith knowledge) to “polish the feed ramp” on my own. I could veer off into a related article on how to completely destroy a pistol at this point, but we’ll save that for another day. Let’s just agree to say that “nothing improved.”

If your "big gun" is a double-action / single-action, the PPK/S makes a good smaller option as it works exactly the same way.

If your “big gun” is a double-action / single-action, the PPK/S makes a good smaller option as it works exactly the same way.

Since I liked the gun and wanted a lifelong keeper more than a cost-effective range toy, I bit the bullet and got on the waiting list for a restoration job from the pros at Cylinder and Slide. At the time (this was well over a decade ago) they had a year-long waiting list, and you had to pay a deposit just to get in line. So I did.

The real gunsmiths out there kept it for a couple of weeks and turned this beast into a beauty. The issue was the feed ramp butchery, and they were able to repair it. They also polished away the years of pitting while preserving the factory markings, and re-blued the pistol. They also fit custom wood grips and bedded each to fit perfectly into the frame to prevent loosening over time.

Not only is my once upon a time piece of Gunbroker rip-off trash now a looker, it shoots like a dream. I haven’t had a single malfunction in years with ball or any type of premium defensive ammo. Was the unplanned restoration of this hidden gem cost effective? Not in the least. Would I do it again? Yep.

  • Mastro63

    Whenever I hear/read about people casually polishing their feed-ramps, I imagine scenarios like this. Its not so simple to put material back, and grinding too much away will turn a “ramp” into a ladder.

    When buying a used gun we should probably feed some snap caps thru it to see if it has major feeding problems, Not that I ever have. I try to buy used guns that someone put 50-100 rounds thru and then decided it wasn’t for him, but I’m due for some guy’s “project ” to bite me.

    • David Higginbotham

      Exactly. Too many gun stores, though, won’t allow this. I’ve never seen it in writing, but it certainly violates some unspoken code. I wouldn’t buy a used car without a test-drive…

  • WARRIORI

    I’ve owned three of the Walther PP series at one time or another. What they had in common was that none of them would cycle reliably. (Not a desirable characteristic for a pistol designed for self defense.) If I was buying a .380 for edc, I believe I’d go with a Sig 230/232, or even a Makarov.

    • DarthVaderMentor

      Beauty depends on the beholder. I have owned 3 P232’s and two PPK/S over the years for EDC CCW. The Sig P232 is a beautiful weapon, but there is no safety and I worry when I CCW with one in the chamber. The PPK and PPK/S have a nice mechanical safety. In addition, the magazine release on the 232 is a little awkward to use with a single hand in a firefight when compared to the PPK and PPK/S. I’ve now moved to the Ruger EC9S which is 9MM and has a good safety so I can keep one in the chamber, but I still enjoy shooting the P232 and PPK/S. The P232 is a thing of beauty, sexy design and of course, being a Sig it is much more accurate.

  • DarthVaderMentor

    So who were the good gunsmiths? Gunsmiths that can restore a PPK or PPK/S are a rare breed.

  • Dick Winningstad

    Good to read the PPK/S was saved. They are great pistols.

  • Web Watchers

    Yes, nice pistol!

    I am wondering two things:

    1) How much did you end up paying for the “bargain” and the resulting repairs/restoration?

    2) Most gun manufacturers have a lifetime warranty that will cover any repairs, even if you are not the original owner. Why didn’t you send it to Walther?

  • MN Lew

    I understand what you went through with your Walther! It’s looks sweet! My albatross is a Mauser Hsc 380… The goal would be to get it refinished, however, it’s been turned a decent and almost reliable gun for carry…

  • Glenn Jodopeg

    I Walther would just bend the rules a little and incorporate a slide catch on the PPK/S and maybe a softer dual spring for easier cocking, then maybe sales would jump up…
    The Walther is out-dated, really badly out-dated…Needs a make-over….
    Makes more sense to buy a Bersa Thunder, or Glock 42, or even an old , used Makarov 9X18 would be a better functioning pistol than the Over-Engineered, poorly functioning Walther useless paper weight.

  • charlie chann

    The only walther I’ve carried was the p22 and I loved it having it over a year with no problems. Here is where elitists are going to laugh but instead of having your good deal discount gun (I’d bet he put as much $ into repairs and mods than a new functioning version costs) I’ve purchased 3 Taurus handguns out of my last 4 primarily because I like their styles and the best unlimited warranty ive ever had on a gun. Only had to send 1 for some work to be done putting in a looser spring on the compact 380 because it would jam at times which instantly destroys my confidence and I refuse to carry it as a primary. Taurus asked no questions as I placed a note in the box and 7 days later I had my gun back which has not jammed after about 200 mixed rounds. That warranty is nice cuz even getting one second or tenth handed doesnt matter.