[History] Walther PPK: From James Bond to Today

Like all movies adapted from books, the James Bond film franchise has some significant differences from Ian Fleming’s novels. 

One thing that hasn’t changed is the spy’s handgun of choice, the Walther PPK.

Sean Connery as James Bond in From Russia with Love
Sean Connery as James Bond in From Russia with Love

The Walther PPK was 007’s government issue sidearm and appears constantly throughout both the book series (well, after From Russia with Love, anyway) and the film series.

In fact, the gun’s use by James Bond is considered to be a large part of why the gun is still popular today.

But what exactly is the Walther PPK anyway and what makes it so special?

Well, you’re about to find out, because in this post we’re going to look at the history of the Walther PPK and how it became the favorite gun of the world’s most famous fictional spy.

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at Brownells

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Prices accurate at time of writing

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Table of Contents

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Origins of the Walther PPK

The Walther PPK had been in production for almost 30 years before 007 would first get his hands on it.

The Walther PP (Polizeipistole) series was released in 1929 by German small arms manufacturer Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen, who designed the weapon for police use. The Walther PP Series was popular among European police and was used by German military and police under the Third Reich.

The Walther PPK (Polizeipistole Kriminalmodel), released the following year, is the most popular variant in the Walther PP series. The PPK is a scaled-down version of the PP, made to be more concealable, ideal for undercover work.

The Walther PPK
The Walther PPK

The PPK was also designed to be easy to use.

With a loaded magazine, just pull back the slide. A round will be chambered after the slide is released and the pistol will be prepared for single action fire.

If you want to be able to safely carry the PPK but still have it ready for use, press down the decocker catch with your thumb, dropping the hammer and rotating the hammer block between the hammer and firing pin and making the pistol safe for carrying.

Move the decocker catch back up to put the device into double action mode. When you’re ready to fire, you just have to pull the trigger. After a shot is fired, the pistol will return to single action mode, and the slide will remain open once the magazine is empty.

Unlike most contemporary pistols which had a heel catch magazine release, the Walther PPK has a frame-mounted magazine release.

You can see why it was popular among military, police, and intelligence, both real and fictional.

Even outside of the gun’s depiction in the James Bond franchise, it has a history checkered with use by notable individuals.

In 1945, Adolf Hitler used his PPK to commit suicide in the final moments of World War II. In 1979 the Walther PPK was used in the assassination of another dictator, South Korea’s Park Chung-hee, by Kim Jae-gyu.

Elvis Presley also famously owned a Walther PPK with a silver finish and “Elvis” engraved on one side and “TCB” (“taking care of business”) on the other.

Elvis Presley's Walther PPK
Elvis Presley’s Walther PPK

But, while interesting, none of that explains how James Bond ended up carrying a PPK, so let’s move on.

How James Bond Got His PPK

Ian Fleming was no gun expert, but he did serve in British Naval intelligence in World War II.

He originally had James carry a .32 ACP Beretta 418, the same kind of handgun that Fleming carried during his own service.

It wasn’t Fleming’s idea to make the change. Rather, in 1956, not long before To Russia with Love would be published, Fleming got a fan letter from Geoffrey Boothroyd, a former Major in the British Army and a respected firearm expert.

Boothroyd wrote that while he enjoyed the James Bond novels, he felt that the Beretta 418 was underpowered for use by a spy.

He suggested that James should instead use a hammerless revolver like the Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight since it had more power and a hammer could potentially catch on the spy’s clothing.

Ian Fleming on the Goldfinger Set with Sean Connery
Ian Fleming on the Goldfinger Set with Sean Connery

The letter started a dialogue between the writer and the firearms expert.

Fleming wrote back, saying that he appreciated the letter and that he agreed with the suggestion that James should have a more powerful sidearm, but thought that he should have an automatic pistol rather than a revolver.

Fleming also asked Boothroyd to suggest one, which Boothroyd happily did: the Walther PPK.

To make the transition, Fleming modified the ending of To Russia with Love to include James’s Beretta getting caught in his holster, endangering James’s life. At the beginning of the next novel, Dr. No, James is given the Walther PPK by Q, who had been named after Boothroyd as thanks for the expert’s help.

The scene from the novel is used almost verbatim in the film version of Dr. No (1962), though in the film he’d been using a 9mm Beretta 1934:

The Walther PPK throughout the Film Series

The particularly observant may notice that the firearm in that scene isn’t actually the Walther PPK, though. While the gun is referred to as a PPK, the actual gun is a Walther PP.

Connery’s James Bond with a Suppressed Walther PPK in Thunderball
Connery’s James Bond with a Suppressed Walther PPK in Thunderball

Starting with From Russia with Love (1963), Sean Connery carries an actual Walther PPK in the rest of his appearances as James Bond.

When Connery vacated the role before On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), George Lazenby also carried the PPK during his single film interlude in the role.

Promotional Image for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service of Lazenby with a Walther PPK
Promotional Image for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service of Lazenby with a Walther PPK

When Connery came back to play the character again in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), he once again carried the PPK before once again vacating the role, this time to Roger Moore.

Sean Connery with a PPK as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever
Sean Connery with a PPK as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever

During Moore’s tenure, the PPK didn’t play quite as central of a role. It appeared only in promotional material for Moonraker (1979), not the actual film.

In 1983, it only showed up in the opening credits for Octopussy, with Moore carrying the Walther P5 compact as his primary sidearm instead.

Roger Moore’s James Bond with His Walther P5 Compact in Octopussy
Roger Moore’s James Bond with His Walther P5 Compact in Octopussy

The Walther PPK was more visible in Sean Connery’s competing James Bond film, Never Say Never Again (the man just couldn’t let the role go, could he?).

Sean Connery Carrying the Walther PPK (Again) for Never Say Never Again
Sean Connery Carrying the Walther PPK (Again) for Never Say Never Again

However, Roger Moore carried the Walther PPK in the rest of his appearances as James Bond.

Roger Moore Carrying a Walther PPK as James Bond
Roger Moore Carrying a Walther PPK as James Bond

Timothy Dalton also carried the PPK during both of his films as the character.

Timothy Dalton’s James Bond with His Walther PPK
Timothy Dalton’s James Bond with His Walther PPK

Pierce Brosnan was the combo breaker.

He carried the PPK in Goldeneye (1995), but in Tomorrow Never Dies (1999), the character switches from the Walther PPK to the newly introduced Walther P99.

Pierce Brosnan as James Bond with His Walther PPK
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond with His Walther PPK

He continues to carry the P99 through the rest of his films in the franchise.

When Daniel Craig took over the role, he carried the Walther P99 in Casino Royal but returned to the PPK afterward.

Daniel Craig Shooting the Walther PPK as James Bond
Daniel Craig Shooting the Walther PPK as James Bond

But what about the pistols’ appearances outside of the James Bond franchise?

Where Else You Can Spot the Walther PPK

One of the easiest places to spot the Walther PPK these days is the affection spy film parody, Archer. Like Bond, the titlar Sterling Archer carries the Walther PPK as his preferred sidearm.

Sterling Archer Aims His Walther PPK
Sterling Archer Aims His Walther PPK

The Walther PPK has also become a staple of the action genre, appearing in films like Die Hard, Bourne Identity, and Zombieland.

It is particularly prevalent in media set in and around World War II and the Cold War-like Valkyrie, Inglourious Basterds, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (both the film and tv show). Hayley Atwell carries one as Agent Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger and a Walther PPK/S in the Agent Carter series.

Agent Peggy Carter Aims Her Walther PPK in Captain America The First Avenger
Agent Peggy Carter Aims Her Walther PPK in Captain America: The First Avenger

The Walther PPK is also a favorite in crime shows like Law & Order and The X-Files.

In a fun coincidence, both Franco brothers have carried the Walther PPK on screen, James as Harry Osborn in Spiderman and Dave as Eric Molson in 21 Jump Street.

Conclusion

So there you have it, a look at the simultaneously weird and awesome history of the iconic Walther PPK, a firearm more famous for its appearance on the silver screen than for its performance as a firearm.

630
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

That’s not to say that the Walther PPK isn’t an effective weapon. After all, Boothroyd suggested it to Fleming for a reason.

The Walther PPK combines reliability, power, and ease of use in a small, easy to conceal package, making it an ideal carry weapon for military personnel, police officers, intelligence agents, and maybe even you.

What’s your take on the PPK?

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23 Leave a Reply

  • Michael The_Adversary Dolan

    My father was a gun dealer in Florida and would go to pawn shops and gun shows looking for deals often to refurbish and resell, one day he called me up and told me about a stainless PPK he had picked up for $200, with the “family discount” I could have it for $220 (he was in business after all) I didn’t hesitate and snapped it up, when I got it I noticed it was a made in France variant, Bonus! About a week later my dad called crying crocodile tears and accused me of taking advantage of a poor old man and asked me to send the gun back. (He was joking) He had been to a gun show and saw how much PPKs were selling for $5-600. I wasn’t about to part with that gun, it is in the permanent collection, and even with my Glocks, 1911s, and other modern guns, when I take my 18 year old son to the range, he always insists we bring the PPK. It is a timeless classic.

    1 second ago
  • Robert (Drew) Cook

    Nice article, with several inaccuracies. (1) The Beretta 418 Fleming originally equipped James Bond with in the novels was in .25 caliber, not .32. (2) The 1934 Beretta Bond surrenders in the film "Dr. No" was in .32 caliber, the same caliber his new Walther PPK (actually a PP) was, not 9mm as stated in the article. (3) The caption to the photo of Sean Connery in "Never Say Never Again" states he is holding a Walther PPK, when the gun is actually a Walther P5, which Connery carried throughout the film.

    7 months ago
  • Richard Adkins

    I bought a new PPK back in the late 80's, had no end of problems with ejection lockups, FTF's, etc. Sent it back to Walther for a "tune-up" (which I paid for, by the way), gun was returned and still did the same thing. I finally sold it and my gun shop guy recommended the Bersa .380. I was a little hesitant but bought it anyway. I've had it now for nearly 30 years and it has * never * given me any problem whatsoever, and I've run quite a few rounds through it. Maybe at the time I just got a bad PPK but Walther should have been able to fix it. No worries, though, the Bersa is great.

    1 year ago
    • Michael Debatto

      Had PPK/S new in 1984 until 2010.....in 380 cal., NO ISSUES AT ALL-fed everything just fine, including plastic capsule snake shot. I have missed it since selling and am looking to buy another in Stainless, 380 cal. Also want a Walther "TPH", little brother to the PPK/S and Walther P38 in 9mm. Wonderful pistols, all!

      9 months ago
    • John

      The newer models manufactured by Smith and Wesson solved the feed problem by improving the feed ramp. The older models were meant to fire the FMJ military ammunition so self defense JHP rounds had jamming issues. They also increased the length of the beaver tail to eliminate slide bite. I’ve owned and carried my PPKS for about three years now with no issues.

      11 months ago
  • Jack Armstrong

    I love Walther hand guns, I have the PP 32, PK 380, PPS M2 9mm, PPQ M2 9mm, and the P 22, and have never had a problem with any of them,, I carry the PPS M2 daily...

    1 year ago
  • Sean

    Is there a version in 9 mm?

    1 year ago
    • John

      The PPK is chambered in .380 ACP, the diameter actually is equivalent to a 9mm round but the cartridge is smaller. Using the German terminology it’s referred to as a 9mm Kurtz, Kurtz meaning “short” The gun is also available here in .22 caliber in a 10 round magazine. Useful for target shooting and buying less expensive ammunition.

      11 months ago
  • bob

    in Spectre, Daniel Craig is also wielding a Sig 226

    1 year ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Only barely and it is never fired. I was hoping it would get used more but instead, they barely touched it :( Makes me wonder how much Sig paid for that 20 seconds of product placement...

      1 year ago
  • Nate C

    @Megan Kriss Do you know if anyone is going to pick up manufacturing the PPK or PPK/S again? I see rumors on occasion but stopped getting my hopes up.

    1 year ago
    • Steve T

      Walther USA is making the frames here in the US. The slides are being made in Germany by Germans who originally made the PPK years ago. Since the barrel is fixed to the frame and the frame is the serial numbered part that makes it a "gun," the importation of just the slides is not importing a "gun." However, the German government won't let Walther export the slides from Germany to the US because the German government wants the frame made in Germany too. But the Walther PPK is not allowed to be imported into the USA due to the Gun Control Act of 1968. You can make a PPK here, but you cannot bring one into the US from another country. Makes perfect sense right? So there is a stalemate on new PPK pistols being offered for sale here in the US.

      1 year ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      I've heard those rumors for years also, but I don't put much faith in them. I have heard that the Bersa Firestorm .380 is solid though - not the real thing, but still.

      1 year ago
      • Nate C

        Looks like our dreams may come true! https://www.facebook.com/guntalkmedia/posts/483506468833483/

        1 year ago
        • David, PPT Editor

          That is exciting! Thanks for sharing that. Hopefully, they'll have something for SHOT this year.

          1 year ago
  • Big Mike

    I bought a PP for my wife in1981. Still have it. It is a 9mm Kurz (German for "short"). Actually bought it in Germany. It is a .380. Gun does kick pretty good. Like most .380's it is small and light. Pretty accurate also.

    1 year ago
  • Consultant

    It really would help the accuracy of these articles if writers actually read some of the books they reference. There's not a lot of new material in this article to be honest. So let me add some. In the book Dr No, Fleming references Bond's Beretta - it's a .25 cal. Makes sense that the .32 PPK Fleming references would have better stopping power. But my own 380 PPK is even better! 9mm short still not as good as standard 9mm though. So it's just my BUG. Any how, here's some of what Fleming writes: “Well, Armourer, what do you recommend?” Major Boothroyd put on the expert’s voice. “As a matter of fact, sir,” he said modestly, “I’ve just been testing most of the small automatics. Five thousand rounds each at twenty-five yards. Of all of them, I’d choose the Walther PPK 7.65 mm. It only came fourth after the Japanese M-14, the Russian Tokarev and the Sauer M-38. But I like its light trigger pull and the extension spur of the magazine gives a grip that should suit 007. It’s a real stopping gun. Of course it’s about a .32 calibre as compared with the Beretta’s .25, but I wouldn’t recommend anything lighter. And you can get ammunition for the Walther anywhere in the world. That gives it an edge on the Japanese and the Russian guns.” Also, news to most folks, despite "Major" Boothroyd being a real person and a fan of Bond and Fleming, he wasn't a Major. Best not to read too many other wrongly written articles and do your own research!

    1 year ago
    • jp64

      I think your right on the .25 Cal. Other than that the article is excellent. Other than gun nuts I doubt few would pick up on the caliber mistake or even care.

      1 year ago
  • DaveW

    Couldn't get a PPK here in California, but I was able to get a Bersa Firestorm .380. It is indeed, simple, compact, easy to use, It's also pretty accurate. It is, however, a close up and personal weapon. Bond has been known to make some long distance shots (bringing down the bad guys 'copter on the bridge at the end of Quantum of Solace). The Bersa is my CCW. Of course, I also use a Kimber Ultra Carry II .45, a S&W Mod 60 .38, and a FI Mod D .380 (clone of the original Colt Pony). I carried the latter for many years as a backup, and it was sufficient since the majority of officer involved shooting take place at short distances of 3-10 feet.

    1 year ago
  • Doug Mann

    Thanks for another fine piece of info, great writing skills. If you are ever in the Nashville,TN area come see us, ya hear !

    1 year ago
  • Matt

    Love the article! Thanks! I always loved the PPK, mainly because of 007. But once I got into firearms I found the Sig P232 (in .380 & 9MM). Ever since my discovery the PPK has lost a little luster.

    1 year ago
  • Notalima

    Had a PPK/s for over 20 years as backup anklegun while on duty. Very heavy compared to today's poly-micro pistols, but never skipped a beat at the range in all those years of dust, dirt, getting banged around, etc. Always kept it clean each week and it never let me down. Weird how you just get used to that odd weight on your ankle. Anyway, double action was heavy, single was pretty decent. Didn't have issues with any .380 ammo used from FMJ to HP of varying weights. The only 'issue' I ever hand was cheese grating the web of my hand from the slide serrations when the slide cycled. Just where that part of my hand rode when gripping it. No fault of the gun. Loved the fixed barrel.

    1 year ago
  • Duke Aquaro

    I have had my PPK/S for ten years now. At first it was "picky". Then, after a good polishing of the feed ramp, removal of the loaded chamber indicator, and about 500 rounds down the pike, it became great. I carry it on occasion, depending on what I am wearing. It loves Polycase ammo, but does fine with pretty much everything I have tried. The Polycase really reduces the felt recoil making it much better for practice. The fun side of owning one is the faces people unfamiliar with shooting or guns make when they see it. Somehow, people know the James Bond legend and immediately react to the James Bond gun. Kind of fun. It is iconic!

    1 year ago
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