The New Walther PPK: Would You Carry a 90-Year-Old Pistol?

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walther ppk

There’s something hard to explain about tradition. The Walther PPK (even the PPK/S version currently in production) is certainly traditional. Like the 1911, it is one of a very rare group of pistols that has managed to stand the test of time and remain relevant. But as the gun turns 90, and is now being made in the good old U.S. of A., the question remains – is this a viable option for concealed carry?

Allow me to backtrack a bit. I’ve pondered this question before. The Walther PPK is actually the reason why I write about guns. Way back in my professorial days, when I used to freelance during the summer to make gun money, I wrote about the literary legacy of the Walther. It fascinated me, not because of its stopping power, but because of the design’s staying power.

The stylish lines of the PPK reflect its Modern origins.

I look at the PPK the way I do my late-father’s 1931 Ford Model A. As a wanna-be guitar player, I look at the PPK the way I do my Telecaster. Sure there are more modern designs, but all three of these things make me feel warm inside.

The 1911 and the PPK are an interesting pairing. The 1911’s evolution is storied, and anything but subtle. I know many who still stand by their single actions. The PPK (or the PPK/S) is a bit different. Changes continue to be made, but they’re much less evident to most of us.

ppk

The stylish lines of the PPK reflect its Modern origins.

But let’s break it down a bit. The PPK comes from a larger line of PP pistols. Walther made the compact version to be more easily concealed. The platform is closely associated with the .380 round, which was in play with many of Colt’s designs during that time period, too.

As this gun predates the integration of plastics into pistols, it is heavy. The new stainless PPK/S weighs in at 1 pound, 9.6 ounces. That’s empty. While it is slim, at an inch wide, it is 6.1 inches long and a bit taller than your average single-stack 9mm at 4.3 inches. For all of that, you get 7 rounds of .380.

The mag extension below the mag-well.

That alone is enough to run off most everyone who will read this piece. If you are looking for a concealed carry gun that will pack the punch of the 9mm or .45 ACP, the old PPK/S isn’t it. And don’t hold your breath. I live in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where Walther is headquartered. I know the crew on the American side, and have asked, regularly, for a 9mm PPK. Their engineers assure me that the fixed-barrel blow-back design won’t work with the 9mm (presumably in such a small package), and that they would have to retool the inside of the gun to chamber a 9mm. Doing so would mean it was no longer a PPK, even if it looks like one on the outside.

ppk grips

The PPK wearing its stock grips.

And that’s the rub. The .380 is a viable cartridge for self-defense. Round placement, as with any cartridge, is everything. The PPK is certainly capable of that. The fixed barrel helps. And the gun has really well designed sights. The weight helps with stability, if not the kick.

ppk/a sight

The PPK’s front sight is a red dot.

In the end, I think it comes down to perspective. I’ve carried a PPK/S IWB (which I find requires a very sturdy holster and belt). I’ve carried it in an ankle rig (not good). For me, the best carry method may seem equally anachronistic. When I got my first PPK/S, a friend gave me his father’s shoulder holster from the 1970s. Whenever I wore a suit or a jacket, I’d carry the Walther. It tucks under the arm perfectly. The weight is enough to remind you the gun is there, but never so much that it became a burden.

If you’ve never shot a Waltehr PPK, you should. If nothing else, the gun is a Modern era classic. Put aside the associations with German political parties. Forget, if you can, the bullshit Hollywood miracles so many of the Bond incarnations have achieved with the modest gun. Look at it like a piece of engineering history.

ppk barrel

The fixed barrel supports the spring.

I’ve had as much fun handling and admiring, disassembling and cleaning my PPK as I have had shooting it. Maybe more. I can say the same a select handful of other guns: the Peacemaker, some older Colt autos, and two other German masterpieces–though I’ve yet to actually own either–the C96 and P08.

The kicker for me, now, is this odd mix of nostalgia combined with Walther’s obvious commitment to the American market. So many PPKs are here, in the states, after being imported or built by other companies under license from Walther. They’re moving in the right direction, though, and it is happening in my backyard, so to speak. And kudos to Walther for keeping the gun in their catalog.

 

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David Higginbotham is a writer and editor who specializes in everyday carry. He was a college professor for 20 years before leaving behind the academy for a more practical profession in the firearms industry.

  • Adam Selene

    I would think that there would be a demand for the James Bond gun, a PPK in .32. So why is Walther concentrating on PPK/S production? Even a .380 PPK would be preferable.

    • Bear

      If one wants a 9MM handgun almost identical in dimensions and weight to the Walther PPK, look no further than the Kimber Micro 9. Preferably the Micro 9 Crimson with the red laser. The little pistol does speak with some authority and Bengay or Aspercreme takes care of the sore wrist. Walther says “they would have to retool the inside of the gun to chamber a 9mm, doing
      so would mean it was no longer a PPK, even if it looks like one on the
      outside.”So what? I would be a more effective caliber and it would still be a Walther and I bet the Walther name would still make it a good seller.

      • Wm

        kimber is a kimber..it is not a Walther…period.

  • Wm

    WASTE OF TIME ARTICLE…NOT ONE PICTURE OF A “REAL” PPK….JUST THE Mongrel PPK/S…

  • Wm

    Garbage…talk about a PPK, and then show pics of a PPK/S. The real PPK has a wrap around grip and abbreviated back strap. I tis a fine pistol. ..period. Stop showing the PPK/S..it is a dog!!

    • https://www.facebook.com/WizardKiller Mark Arnold Reynolds Ⓥ

      There is nothing wrong with the PPK/s. It is simply a more compact version of the PP. Both were .380. Why, with that anemic cartridge would I want something larger? I have two PPK/s’s One says made in Germany the other says Interarms and was imported from Germany. I carry a Glock 30 or 29 because of my size easily. But I keep the Walthers because they are both “cool”. And besides that, I have a double O license.

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  • Archangel

    Find a Sig P232 for a much improved version of the Walther – lighter, no funky slide safety to get caught on clothes, tritium night sides, more comfortable grip, flawless operation

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  • http://www.noquarter4libs.com Mark Steele

    While I’ve never owned a PPK/S, and Walther has a great rep, I have owned what I believe may be a superior “clone”, the Bersa Thunder .380. I have other choices for EDC, a Dan Wesson 1911 CBob, a Sig P226, couple of wheel guns, etc., BUT, my Bersa is stone dead accurate and I carry a 8 rd mag. Trigger guard is squared and serrated (unlike the Walther) and a longer beaver tail to inhibit slide pinch. I can strip clean in just a few short minutes, and best, about a third the cost of the Walther, but, would I want one of those collectible Walther PPK/S >?>? YOU BET ! The names Steele, Mark Steele.

  • William Johnson

    In victorian costume I carry a Mauser broom handle does that count as a 90 year old gun.

  • Dr. Bob Thomas

    I have inherited my PPK from my father. He took it off of a German Police Detective while he was traveling with Gen. Patton. The Detective was trying his very best to escape Germany. My father was a forward radio operator and was often far out ahead the General. It was in Italy, he told me, that he came across the Detective in the dead of night and releaved him of this excellent weapon. While it does not have any NAZI symbols engraved on it, everything else is engraved in German, including the Cal. 7.65 m/m. I have carried it in a shoulder rig whenever the occasion called for “fancy dress.” It shoots like a dream and next to my Browning HiPower from the same war, it is my favorite sidearm. My son, the Navy S.E.A.L., has his eyes on it and knows that when I pass on, it will become his own. Hopefully, he will pass it on to his son, and so on. It will still be an excellent example of outstanding design and engineering.

  • James Andrews

    I’d love to have one, but they aren’t cheap! I’m more apt to pick up a Keltec P3AT, or something along thoswe lines, and more affordable. You can pick up a used Beretta Tomcat a lot cheaper than a new PPK, etc.

  • Charlie

    Ya mean like a Browning HiPower or a M1911 Colt? Yeah, every day, 24/7. Sig P226 and P239 are also on the night stand. Wife likes the P239

  • John Wedow

    I got a PPK 380 for my 14th Birthday in 1964 . I illegally carried it with Super Vel jacketed %truncated hollow points making more power than your standard 124 g 9mm . I saved myself 2x and stopped Rape attempts , armed robbery etc . The most naturally pointed gun I have shot in 61 years if shooting . Anyhow its the rage now talking velocity and wound channel . Rarely mentioning the ft lbs delivered . Just sayin

  • abiker

    I carry a 1908 Colt hammerless .380, marked U.S. GOVT that was issued to my father in 1939 as a counterintelligence officer with the U.S. Navy. It’s now 82 years old at the minimum. He carried it during WW II as a liaison to the Filipino Guerillas on Leyte, and throughout his career, including several years with INTERPOL in Europe in the 1950’s. He retired in 1966, and I acquired it when he passed in 1995. It’s not an EDC, but I do carry it occasionally, and it gets some range time each month. It rests in the holster it was issued in. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8c187d6d6ece57e09645c2e691dc14b4f8ee3c0f6a2fc3447de60473576dc359.jpg

  • Booko Ninjiin

    I have a PPK that I bought in 1990 or so. It is a sweetheart. But I wouldn’t want it in 9 mm. My 380 reduces your hand to hamburger when you try any serious practice. I wear black rubber gloves when doing any practice with it. That is why I carry my ugly little PPS v1. Carries recoil better, works like a Glock and just as homely. But I love the PPK and would not part with it. Nice decocker, you can feel when the chamber is full due to indicator pin on back of the slide. The sights are hard to use for my old eyes. And I really think it is a small caliber design suited for .380 and below. I would love to have one in 22 LR.

  • Boomer

    Do you not consider the Browning Hi Power to be in that group of iconic weapons?
    Its been carried by military and L.E. across the world, is in every other classic movie you see (with and without the PPK)
    and is the first high capacity pistol. And is, arguably, the “everything” that JMB was looking for when he began designing it.
    As far as the .380 or 9mm kurt/short (the gun is technically a nine millimeter, its just a short action pistol and, yes, retooling for a 9mm long would change the pistol completely. The answer lies in the new-tech offerings in ammunition for the .380.
    Advancements in powder, combined with amazing projectiles like the Lehigh defense Xtreme Defender/Penetrators has taken the performance of the. 380 to new levels, successfully passing the FBI ballistic tests and,, as you say,, there’s no substitute for being able to hit your target..
    To much trust/reliance has been put into counting on larger and/or more powerful rrounds taking the need for effective training out of self defense. “That .45’ll knock his nose in the dirt…” (ok, maybe not his nose.. 😉 ). “That 9mm will penetrate and take him out… But stay away from that .380…” Nonsense. I challenge anyone who “poopoos” the .380 to stand in front of one at personal defense ranges and “take one for the team” to prove how ineffective they are. I’ll be happy to be the test shooter…

  • Firewagon

    Gotta love these ‘old’ gun stories! As noted in the article, the Hollywood version of ‘gun fights’ are all but insanely laughable. Ole James and the other ‘gunnies’ on screen never require more than one shot from almost ANY distance to have their target collapse instantly! Also, as noted by the author, any handgun, almost regardless of caliber, is TOTALLY dependent on ‘shot placement’ for any hope of stopping a human individual. The problem with most folk, that have NEVER engaged in any gun related life or death situation, is they ‘think’ they are accurate enough, maybe not Annie Oakley accurate, but plenty good enough. What they need to consider is that tin cans, paper targets, even animals, etc., DON’T shoot back and the po po have an incredibly TERRIBLE record for hits on bad guys – about 25%! That tells you that for every 100 rounds fired under duress, or that life or death scenario, 75 go hunting for other places to impact! A most recent example was that Breanna Taylor mess, the ‘bad guy’ doing the initial shooting was NOT shot, the unarmed woman, Taylor, collected at least 6 of those po po ‘misses’ and died! There are other examples, including two of my favs, but this is already too long and I will regale you those another time;) I don’t have a Walther of any vintage, I have an Interarms in .380 only because it was a gift. My father-in-law, years ago, once opined that the .380 was the BIGGEST little gun in the world;) I’m ‘too’ old school and pretty much adhere to the Jeff Cooper school of thought about “any caliber is fine as long as it starts with a 4!” My EDC is a 10mm, and NOT the FBI’s ‘loaded down’ version. I like the idea of my .40 bullet becoming a .70+ caliber after contact with animal, vegetable, or mineral material! YMMV

  • cataulajcb

    I carry a Bersa Combat plus which is a PPK knock off, lighter with twice the magazine capacity Since I shoot Cowboy action I have no qualms about shooting classic firearms designs as they are tried true and reliable. My house gun is a cal.30 carbine just like what I used in Tet 68.Did not like the M16 then or now as it just does not have the knock down power or penetration of the 7.62 NATO, you can see where you hit in a rice paddy with the M14 but the 5.56 hardly makes a splash.