Walther's flagship pistol for the past century has been the PP series handgun and for good reason. It is both old-school cool and often overrated. 

The background of the gun is well established. Fritz Walter, the heir to the famed Carl Walther rifle works, moved in the early 1900s to expand the company into handguns with a line of simple blowback pocket pistols to compete with models like the Colt Vest Pocket and Pieper Bayard. Moving to more advanced designs using a workable single-action/double-action trigger system by the 1920s, the Polizei Pistole, or PP series, soon became a smash-hit, despite the fact it was twice as much as the company's earlier models. 

1942 walther pp on table
This ac-marked circa 1942 Walther PP and its matching Schambach holster were brought back to the U.S. by a Vet in 1945. A lucky collector recently snatched this one up from the Guns.com vault. The PPK and follow-on PPK/s were shorter. 
close up of walther ppk handle
The DA/SA fire control system with a slide-mounted safety/decock was innovative for the Walther PP/PPK line and has gone on to be replicated and imitated on several other models. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

While not the first DA/SA handgun on the market, the PP was much more successful and soon an abbreviated version pitched as a detective's gun, the Polizei Pistole Kriminal, hit the catalog in 1930. With a 3.25-inch barrel and offerings not only .32 ACP (the original PPs bread and butter) but also spicier .380 ACP, which was then and still is seen as big medicine for European LE types, the sleek almost Art Deco PPK soon filled holsters and desk drawers.  

walther ppk vintage advertisement
A Walther PP/PPK ad from New York-based Stoeger in the 1930s for De-Luxe model guns. The company also sold 4mm sub-caliber target kits for these German pistols for an extra $7.50, with 100 rounds of ammo priced at $1. 

After the war, with Walther's historic Zella-Mehlis plant in Soviet hands in East Germany, the company shifted operations to the West German city of Ulm, where they remain today. However, production of the PP and PPK largely moved to the French concern of Manurhin to comply with restrictions by the victorious Allies against producing weapons in Germany. Even when the restrictions lifted, Walther continued to have Manurhin produce the PP/PPK series and components into the 1980s under license – and the French company also briefly sold the guns under their own rollmarks as well. Meanwhile, to comply with U.S. import laws after 1968, S&W made the PPK/S under license in America. 

vintage walther print ad
Besides war-surplus guns, new Ulm-marked Walthers made by Manurhin as well as overtly marked French-produced pistols were inbound to American shores during the Cold War. 

A huge driver for the gun came from pop culture. While the Walther PP series appeared on screen in films as early as 1938, it was the James Bond film franchise that kicked the pistol into the stratosphere. While Sean Connery's Agent 007 was first issued a Walther in 1962's Dr. No to replace his favored .25 ACP Beretta, it would continue as his standard through his six-film run and go on to be picked up off and on by successive generations of Bonds. 


Frozen in 1974


With that background covered, drink in this PPK/S that was brought into the country by Interarms while Jerry Ford was still in office. 

walther ppk next to carry knife
A Manurhin-produced gun with Walther of West Germany rollmarks and the antler/stag stamp of the Ulm proof house. It is marked "9mm kurz," which is .380ACP over here. For reference, the blade is a German Puma Medici swing guard from the same era.  
walther ppk next to target
This PPK/S is 6-inches overall, from the longest point over the grip's beavertail to the muzzle. Further, it is very slim, running under an inch over the surface controls.
close up photo of ppk gun
Maximum height from the bottom of a flush-fit mag to the top of the rear sight is 4.25-inches, making it a substantial carry for a pocket gun unless you have big pockets or a snap-for-belt carry with a holster. 
ppk missing handle
Mechanically, the gun is in good shape, and you can get a peek here at the internals with the grips removed. 
ppk with wood handle
To keep the gun true to the era, I added a pair of 1970s vintage new/old stock Zebrawood grips crafted by the late Jean St. Henri out of Malibu, California. These were groovy back in the day. 
ppk next to magazines and ammo
Weight, loaded with eight rounds of 90-grain ball and the Zebras, is 26 ounces. I have found the gun functions well with FMJs and with standard power Cor-Bon 95-grain JHPs. 
ppk with multiple magazines
A great thing about PP, PPK, and PPK/S models is that there is a glut of spare parts and accessories in circulation, with high-quality Walther-branded and MecGar 6- and 7-shot mags readily available. 
ppk with leather holster
A setup such as this one, with a roughed suede holster, was common with the PPK as a concealed carry piece for generations. Today, tested with a good defense load and a modern holster, this gun could still clock in for EDC as needed. 
ppk in shooter hand
Of course, as it is based on a century-old design, there are some outdated elements to the gun, such as ergonomics that can often leave you with a case of slide bite if you aren't careful and mindful of your grip. 
2 wood ppk pistols next to eachother
Even being dated, the PP series has long outlasted its period competitors, such as the very similar and no less reliable or well-made Mauser HSc

One thing for sure, when visiting the range, the PPK continues to turn heads and sparks interest. Although it has very small sights, they are workable, and the gun is almost surprisingly accurate. Guns like these are not only collectible, shootable, and useable, but are a great device for bringing new people into the shooting community. I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "I always wanted to shoot one of those," when the old Walther comes out of the safe for a breath of fresh air. 

These days, Walther has finally gotten over the hurdle of having their PPKs license-produced by others through establishing a manufacturing facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas, so you can expect the next generation to be well-supplied with this 1930s throwback that never really went out of style.

revolver barrel loading graphic