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Walther PPK/s Review: James Bond’s Favorite Pistol

We take a look at the preferred pistol of 007 -- the Walther PPK/s. This .380 ACP is a classic gun but does it withstand the test of time? Come see...

The Walther PPK/s.

The gun James Bond made famous…well, sort of.

OK, let’s face it: the PPK was famous long before the wise-cracking 007 adopted it.

Walther PPK/s
Walther PPK/s

It began life in 1929, but how many times have you read a review (or watched one) and not heard a reference to 007?

It seems that the two are permanently joined at the proverbial hip. I did a bit of research and found that Bond’s most-carried gun was a PPK.

Sean Connery's James Bond with his PPK
Sean Connery’s James Bond with his PPK in From Russia with Love (1963)

I counted 10 different handguns (plus a speargun and submachine gun, but those are hardly concealable) that our favorite spy used in different novels and movies, but he always came back to the PPK.

Why? Let’s see what makes it special…

We’ll talk about the pros/cons, specs/features, and take it to the range!

So, keep reading…

Table of Contents

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Pros & Cons 

Pros 

  • Well-built — Design and execution have been honed and improved on for almost a century.
  • Good ergonomics
  • Reliable: the gun shoots everything well
  • There’s an internal lock that holds the slide open, even though there is no slide release lever
  • It’s one of the coolest-looking pistols ever made!

Cons

  • Sharp frame edges around the trigger guard were a bit painful when shooting
  • Takedown is not easy
  • Sights aren’t great
  • $849 is pretty salty for a 7-round .380, no matter whose name is engraved on the slide.

The Bottom Line 

The PPK/s is an iconic pistol that has grown in popularity since its introduction in 1929. The Bond novels and films have certainly helped that, but all the positive publicity in the world wouldn’t matter if the gun itself wasn’t a well-built shooter.

Daniel Craig's James Bond in No Time to Die
Daniel Craig’s James Bond in No Time to Die

It might be a good addition to your collection if you can afford one, but it isn’t cheap. 

Specs & Features 

Specs 

  • Width: 1”
  • Length: 6.1”
  • Barrel Length: 3.3”
  • Height: 4.3”
  • Weight: 21 oz.
  • Capacity: 7+1.
  • What’s in the box: Two mags — flush-fit and a finger extension.

Features

  • My test gun featured a SA trigger pull of 3 lbs., 10 oz. The DA pull measured 11 lbs., 8 oz.  
  • Variations. .380 ACP black or stainless with walnut grip panels and a .22 LR in nickel plate and black.
  • DA/SA with a decocker/thumb safety.
  • Two magazines — each holds 7 rounds (1 more than the PPK)
  • Hammer block safety and a loaded chamber indicator
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Background

Walther brought out the PP and later the PPK in 1929, in .32 ACP and .380. This was the year of the Crash Heard ‘Round The World, as the U.S. stock market did its infamous nose dive on October 29th.

The ramifications were felt around the globe (and were exacerbated by other countries’ economies having troubles of their own). Germany was particularly hard-hit.

(Photo: Goldman Sachs)

At its peak, German inflation and economics would require a wheelbarrow full of Deutschmarks to buy a loaf of bread. 

It was in this scenario that the PPK was introduced. The initials stand for Polizeipistole Kriminal, or “police pistol criminal” model.

This is a reference to a branch of German law enforcement (the Kriminalamt, criminal investigation office) that was detective-based and that needed a smaller pistol. 

The original police pistol (PP) was a larger gun and was carried by LEOs of that era, with the PPK following shortly thereafter.

Walther PP (Photo: WikiCommons)

That was a pretty progressive thing to do, in my opinion, considering that (on this side of the Atlantic), our cops were toting six-guns around well into the 1960s and beyond.

Europe has always had a fascination with semi-autos, even though many were produced in what we modern shooters might consider underpowered (or at least borderline) calibers. 

Fast-forward to 1968, U.S. of A. The passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968 caused another new model of the Walther line to be produced: the PPK/s.

The portability of firearms was determined by a points system, adding up the points earned from size, weight, and features. The PPK was too small, falling one point short of the minimum required.

(Photo: Lucky Gunner)

To overcome this, Walther went way out of the box. They anticipated the current trend of putting a shorter frame/barrel on a larger frame 54 years ago.

They assembled the slide and barrel of the PPK onto the frame of the PP, and called it the PPK/s (“spezial”), making it importable.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Who Is It For?

Who would want one of these, and just as importantly, why would you want one? Anyone who appreciates exemplary materials, workmanship, and history.

You are holding gun history in your hand when you pick up a PPK(/s). From its inception in 1929 throughout WWII, into the Cold War, and on into our current troubled times, a PPK/s is to be carried with confidence and respected as the gun it is.

Walther PPK/s

Some folks disparage the .380 as a carry round but tend to forget that the “lowly” .380 started WWI with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.

The Walther is just about the classiest platform I’ve ever seen that shoots that lowly caliber. 

.380 ACP Round
.380 ACP Round

That was the long answer. The short answer: the PPK/s is for anyone who likes a classy, historic gun that works every time you pull the trigger and looks good doing it. 

Fit & Feel

The PPK/s is just about the most ergonomically-friendly pistol I’ve ever held, and I’ve held a bunch in my 70 years.

We make a lot of noise about our modern polymer-framed, striker-fired boomers when a manufacturer gets it right in terms of fitting their gun to our hands… 

  • or gets the grip right so the gun doesn’t slip… 
  • or fires every time it’s supposed to… 
  • or is accurate… 
  • or has had a gun that is still selling well after 8 or 10 years… 

Well, I got news for ya: this Walther has been doing all of these things for the last 93 years. Without waxing on too eloquently, the gun fits well and just works. ‘Nuff said. 

Just Works

The rear sight is fixed, as is the front sight. The sights haven’t changed in 93 years, except for the dab of red paint added to both sights.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is the “wavy” lines machined into the slide top to help with glare issues — they were even there on wartime guns.

I had read of earlier PP/PPK/PPK/s guns biting your shooting hand with their slide. You know, railroad tracks cut into the web of your gun hand because the tang (beavertail?) was too short.

Walther has since lengthened the tang so that is not an issue anymore. I had zero problems with slide bite (or any other kind of bite) when I shot this gun.

How Does It Shoot?

First, dropping the magazine on the PPK/s might make your thumb wander around a bit as it seeks the mag release.

Walther couldn’t put the release where we might expect it since that part of the frame was needed for the takedown mechanism.

So, it got moved higher, behind the trigger guard. This is not a big deal, but some shooters seem to be unable to adapt to it. 

I shot the gun with the two types of .380 ammo I had in my gun cabinet: Geco 95-grain FMJ and Fiocchi 95-grain FMJ.

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Finally, I set up a target or two at 10 yards and let fly. Each square is an inch on my homemade targets, so you can guesstimate the group sizes. Here’s what happened…

Geco. Not bad. This gun seemed to like this inexpensive (well, comparatively) FMJ load.

Fiocchi. Not quite as good as the Geco, but it would work as a practice load.

I didn’t have boxes of ammo to put through the gun, so I’ll add my usual comment about specific guns and ammo…you will need to experiment with several types of ammo to find what shoots best in your gun.

I could shoot 147 different loads in my test gun and see what it likes, but it wouldn’t matter. You’d still need to experiment with your personal gat to find its perfect load for practice and carry. 

What Sets it Apart?

Why would you buy an expensive, half-German-made (the barrel and slide are made in Germany and the frame is made in Arkansas) PPK/s when other .380s are out there that will do the job?

I think the word “class” has something to do with it…

Other .380s function properly and sling their bullets downrange with alacrity, but the PPK/s does that with elegance.

Walther PPK/sWalther PPK
Overall Length6.1″6.1″
Barrel Length3.3″3.3″
Width1″1″
Height4.3″3.8″
Weight (empty)19oz19oz
Capacity7 rounds6 rounds
Walther PPK vs. PPK/s

By The Numbers 

Reliability: 5/5

It did what it was supposed to at the range.

Ergonomics: 5/5

While it isn’t built like more modern guns, it is still a force to be reckoned with in terms of a small .380 pistol. And maybe it’s not a bad thing that it’s not built like modern guns…

Customization: 3/5

Not a lot out there for this one.

Value: 4/5

The overall value of the PPK/s takes into account its back story and build quality.

Overall: 4.5/5

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Upgrades for the PPK/s

This will probably be the shortest section in this review. To put it bluntly, there just ain’t too many doo-dads out there for your PPK/s.

The gun’s older design, coupled with the way it’s built, just doesn’t make customization or upgrading easy.

Of course, our first suggestion is always magazines. You can never have too many of those.

24
at Gunmag Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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In terms of holsters, it’s a different story…there are many to choose from. A good place to start your holster search for your PPK or PPK/s is Amazon.

Since the gun uses a steel frame, you can swap out the grip panels. Consequently, one item that you CAN buy for your Walther that will dress it up is a set or two of fancy grip panels. I’ve seen very few panels as nice as those from Altamont Grips.

In terms of lasers, lights, night sights, etc.… well, those are for guns of more recent manufacture. Even if you could add some of these things to your pristine PPK/s, I’m not sure you’d want to.

Final Verdict

If you are looking for either a .380 to carry or a time-tested gun built along more classical lines, the PPK/s will serve you well.

Walther PPK/s
Walther PPK/s

From its start in 1929 to today, there have been (and still are) many shooters who rely on it as an everyday concealed-carry gun. It’s been tried in times of war and has passed with flying colors.

You don’t have to be a British Secret Agent to appreciate this great piece of engineering!

What do you think of the Walther PPK? Let us know in the comments below. Looking for other concealed carry options, check out our list of the Best Concealed Carry Handguns!

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37 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Gregory Marsiglia

    This was my first gun, which now I have had for 40 years, with tens of thousands of rounds through it—far more rounds than most guns of the type ever shoot. Beautiful, but not competitive today because of its horrible—bordering on unusable—double-action trigger pull. I say this as someone who has loved these guns.

    December 6, 2022 9:35 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Peter York

    in the book DOCTOR NO Bond is relieved of his 'favorite gun,' a small-caliber Baretta with skeleton grip.

    the Armourer says it's fine for a lady's handbag.

    even in the movie, M stops Bond's exit by saying, "Just leave the Baretta" as Bond tries to sneak away with it.

    I know the PPK was made super popular by the movies, but I do not like incorrect information from 'experts.'

    December 1, 2022 4:22 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      S.

      "BERETTA" IN THE CASE OF INCORRECT SPELLING INFORMATION.

      December 7, 2022 1:49 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Kary Oldman

    Hilarious the way the gun nerds get all righteous and condescendy over Bond Beretta and PP(x) details. They sound like the stapler guy in Office Space. Bonds have all been cool and his guns (for better or worse) have been made cool because of the character. Unless you own a genuine prop gun, everything else is just a simulation of a simulation...so get your copy of choice and let the snobs gargle their own farts in a sauna.

    December 1, 2022 11:45 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Robert Osborne

    I was being teased at my LGC by the kids on the range. They said my gun was "old school". Now I took these young guns c**p for a time, and then asked them, "...in the 18 years I served in combat (before most of them were born) I got to BE OLD SCHOOL because I lived long enough to do it.!

    November 30, 2022 2:57 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mark Campbell

    I have a stainless PPK in .380. Bought it at an auction many years ago for $475. Always wanted one, love the fact that it is not the /s, but I'm still practical enough to have the stainless. My carry piece is a Springfield Armory V-10 .45 because I love that one too, but the .380 is a great backup. Never fired either one in anger, but there was this time with the V-10 and a feral cat...............

    November 30, 2022 4:46 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Stephen Patterson

    Mike,
    love ya man, but Bond shot a 32ACP, not a .380!

    November 30, 2022 3:35 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Mike Hardesty

      Stephen, yeah, you're right. Didn't catch that. According to Q, the .32 "hits like a brick wall" or wrods to that effect... well, maybe... Thanks for writing!

      November 30, 2022 4:58 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        007 Deal

        “Like a brick through a plate glass window”

        November 30, 2022 6:52 am
        • Commenter Avatar
          Mike Hardesty

          Yeah, that's it... I knew there was a brick involved, somehow... :) Thanks!

          November 30, 2022 8:10 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Peter York

        no. it isn't Q. the Armourer isn't Q. sheesh.

        December 1, 2022 4:23 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Peter York

        no. he says the Smith and Wesson .38 hits like that. sheesh.

        December 1, 2022 4:24 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Joseph Gavron

    I ‘m 73 and have carried either the original PPK or the PPK/s since the 70s. .380 auto is an ok self defense round if you are on target. There is a bit of snap or bark when shooting but very controllable. Yes I’ve worn it with a tuxedo with a horizontal shoulder holster. I will pass this on to my son as a a piece of my family history.

    November 29, 2022 7:48 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    David Alexander

    For that price, I'll pick up a Sig 10mm.

    November 29, 2022 7:28 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Stuart somerville

    It is a iconic gun but the DA trigger is terrible. Eleven pounds and takes forever! I still want one though.

    November 29, 2022 5:56 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Chuck Cochran

    We actually owe a debt to Geoffrey Boothroyd for 007's upgrade to the PPK. After reading Fleming's first novel, Boothroyd contacted Fleming and suggested that Bond carry something little more potent than a Lady's gun. The Major suggested the PPK in .32 ACP as a more suitable weapon for a gentleman spy in 1956, and Fleming replied and took Boothroyd's (a British Firearm Expert employed at ICI with several scholarly books to his name) advice, and continued to correspond with Boothroyd for weapons advice in the series. In honor of the man, a Major Boothroyd became a character in the series.
    Boothroyd wrote over a dozen scholarly works, a few of which are still in print and updated posthumously as he died in 2001.

    November 29, 2022 4:54 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Dagley, Michael

      Walther PPK is classic— ergonomics, style, Bond pedigree—indispensable for cultural/historical collections.
      Buy it for those reasons only, because it’s a poor choice for SD (outdated in every way, heavy, light caliber, low capacity, mediocre trigger) and not much fun at the range (poor sights, trigger).
      Owned mine for several years, took it to range twice, and sold it last month.
      For me, classic vibe didn’t outweigh other factors. It just sat in the safe. Which, again, is fine for a collector.
      Opinions vary.

      November 29, 2022 5:52 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Mouse

        Mine flings an easy pass on the “the drill” (10 yard, 10shots, 10 seconds) test including the first DA shot and mag change, IMO because of the softish 380 recoil, it’s speed (sharp also is super fast), and the 0.1” reset and light SA pull.
        G42 for the easy CCW option (also very accurate!) but nobody with a PPK(/s) should feel they’ve chosen poorly.

        November 29, 2022 8:30 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Rick Starr

    Didn’t Bond have a Beretta of some sort to begin with?

    PPK is just to small for me. I always had “slide bite!”

    November 29, 2022 4:42 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Joseph Gavron

      .25 caliber Beretta. A true lady’s gun. Even the .32 cal PPK was underpowered.

      November 29, 2022 7:51 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Papa Rulz

    My family had a PPK (a previous life in another country) but it was in .32 ACP.

    I always thought Bond’s gun was a PPK in .32 ACP and not a PPK/S in .380 ACP.

    November 29, 2022 4:41 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Joseph Gavron

      It was the 7.65mm/.32 caliber. PPK/s was not made when Fleming wrote the PPK into the books

      November 29, 2022 7:53 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Chuck Cochran

    I've owned a PPK/S for nearly 40 years, and carried it as my CCW for 25 of those years. It was only retired due to my aging eyes. I could no longer make out the sights in low light drills.
    Mike, your test gun is right in range trigger pull wise with my older gun. Slide bite on the old gun was an issue till I found a guy that makes a polymer extension for the tang, that cured the problem. Years ago, there was a brand of 95 gr Hollow Points that didn't feed well, but it's so long ago, I don't remember who the manufacturer was. Until Hornady came out with the Critical Defense load, I carried Federal Hydroshocks for years. The Hornady's I've carried for about 9 years now, and feed fine, and per Lucky Gunner's testing are one of the top 5 loads for .380.
    Crimson Trace at one time made Laser Grip panels for the PPK, but they discontinuthed them 6 or 7 years ago. Occasionally, they'll pop up on eBay, but at 2 to 3 times the price. Maybe now that Walther reintroduced the PPK, CT will bring the grips back.
    You're absolutely right though when you hold a PPK, it's not just a James Bond gun, but a piece of Firearm History, as the PP series was the first commercially successful DA/SA brought to market. It wasn't too long before other manufacturers followed suit, so when you're holding one, you're
    holding one of the Holy Grails of Firearm engineering and design in your mitts.
    There's a period of dark history as well, as many of the German High Command carried the PPK as a personal sidearm, albeit usually in .32 ACP not .380 ACP. Value wise, a Nazi stamped PP or PPK with provenance commands big bucks with collectors, but I bought mine to use back in the early 80's, the previous owner had purchased it in 1970. The old boy didn't even run a box of ammo through the gun, as 35 rounds were still in that original box.
    Excellent article and review Mike, of an iconic and classic pistol

    November 29, 2022 4:41 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Joseph Gavron

      Love your comments. Like you I carried it for years

      November 29, 2022 7:56 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Butch

    As I find consistently on this site, an excellent review. I always think that the presentation of both the pros and cons are honest and consistent. Sometimes I decide to trade my first choice in a gun fight for the concealable choice that might keep me out of a gun fight, but be there if I need it. Bond is cool, and, classy is desirable. But after this review I will stick with what I have. The review helped me in that decision. Cool and desirable can be hard to resist.

    November 29, 2022 4:37 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Sean

    I purchased my Walther the day after I graduated the police academy as my "off-duty" weapon. I purchased it because I wanted to carry with one in the chamber and safety off. In a panic I didn't want to have to "think" through a safety removal/ chambering a round process. I wanted a double action first round pull with subsequent single action. I have now worn this Walther in my waistband every single day for the last 35 years. My wife recently obtained her CCW and I bought her the bersa plus .380 which is basically a Walther clone. The bersa shoots fairly well and because I have a large/fat hand the grip actually fits my hand better and for a moment I considered trading in my Walther for a bersa (was only for a moment -ill probably die with the Walther in my waistband). Anyone considering the bersa should find magazines first as they are like finding a leprechaun under a rainbow.

    November 29, 2022 4:27 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    SPENCER HAYS

    You cannot dislike the feel of this gun in your hand. Any discussion of the gun starts with Bond, James Bond. It is my understanding that the pistol that Sean Connery held and used in the movie Dr. No was not actually a PPK, but was a PP (7.62 mm) impersonating a PPK. I guess its what they had on hand. I have a PP and I say its the REAL James Bond gun. Just holding it makes me thirsty for a vodka martini. Shaken, not stirred. When Ian Fleming was asked how he pictured James Bond, he said that he looks like Hoagy Carmichael, the singer, composer and piano player. Kind of like Fleming himself. You should read the books. I read every one by the time I started high school in 1967. Now, there will be a new movie Bond. My vote out of those being discussed for the role is Tom Hardy. Bond is the Bond of Ian Fleming's books.

    November 29, 2022 4:26 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Tom

    The sig 230 is superior (slightly).

    November 29, 2022 4:25 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Tom

    sig 230 is superior

    November 29, 2022 4:24 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Todd A. Kiesow

      P232 is so nice, need to replace the tritium sights as they are now dim. The mags are wicked expensive but it feels so right it the hand!

      November 29, 2022 7:51 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ron Usedom

    Haven't got a PPK yet, though I have shot a couple. I do have several Radom P-64's, which are an almost clone of the PPK and they all shoot well and accurate. Best part is I can buy three of them for the price of a PPK.

    November 29, 2022 4:15 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Chris

    I didn't want to pay for a Walther PPK so I bought a Bersa Thunder 380. Same gun just made in Argentina. Oh and it costs $500 less

    November 29, 2022 4:07 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      John allan

      Good choice I upgraded to a 380 plus 15 rounds

      November 29, 2022 4:28 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      DAVID CRACCHIOLO

      Chris....I have 2 Bersa 380's one 7 round and the 380 Plus 15+1 which is my edc. Also have Bersa's in 9 mm and 45 acp best guns I have ever owned. I have owned multiple. 380's ..Sig, Glock, Colt Mustang and S&W and I can say none of them have any advantage over the Bersa that warrants their prices. Only con is the sights they need to be night sights.

      November 29, 2022 4:30 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Dennis Schneider

    Well, if you read the books (or seen the movie) you'd know it wasn't Bond's choice. M made the Armorer pick him a new weapon when his Beretta misfired. After the Walther failed to stop Dr. No's flamethrower, he commented back to Headquarters that the Walther was "ineffective against dragons" Cheers to a good review. Still have my Bond Beretta, but sold the Walther a few years ago. Both good guns.

    November 29, 2022 4:01 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Gander

    Bond never carried (or heard of) a PPK/s. This is a cobbled together creation for the American market.
    He was re-armed with a PPK to replace a Beretta 25ACP. I have always assumed his was a 32ACP, but the 380 PPK was available and might have been a better choice.
    I have the PP and PPK in both calibers and a PPK/s ( a French made satin chrome model). The PPK in 32 has some snap. The PPK in 380 is not comfortable at all. The PPK/s, with the bigger grips is a bit better.

    November 29, 2022 3:58 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bob Cameron

    I have been carrying my PPK/s for 10 years. I am an old school shooter who likes weapons made out of metal (not recycled water bottles). The weight helps dampen recoil allowing a faster second shot. I’m also a disciple of SA triggers, no striker guns for me. The heavy metal construction also maintains its usefulness as a bludgeon if you run out of ammunition. I just wish.380 ammunition was more plentiful and more reasonably priced.

    November 29, 2022 3:24 pm
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