The New Walther PPK: Would You Carry a 90-Year-Old Pistol?
There’s something hard to explain about tradition. Walther’s 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.