Gun Review: Walther PK380

Walther PK380 (photo courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The firearms industry once again realized that there are a lot of potential shooters out there who don’t fit into the molds of GI Joe or the Marlboro Man. There are quite a few people who need a smaller gun, a slide they can manipulate with ease under pressure, and maybe even guns for the folks whose hands can’t open the bottle their arthritis medication comes in.

For Walther, a longtime maker of smaller firearms chambered for smaller cartridges, their entry into this market segment is the hammer-fired PK380.

Walther PK380 left side (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

Aimed at the small or less physically-abled shooter, the PK380 is little and light, but not diminutive. At 6.5” in length, 1.2” in width and 18oz. empty, it’s actually slightly larger than the 9mm GLOCK 43 in every dimension.

That’s not a pocket gun, but it’s still quite small. Given the comparatively less potent .380ACP fired from a gun of that size, that equates to the PK380 having very little recoil.

I asked several people to shoot the PK380 gun along with me. From an Israeli Special Forces soldier, to a buddy at the range, to two smaller-framed women, both members of AARP.

Everyone to tried it found the PK380 easy to shoot, and recoil simply wasn’t a concern. It shouldn’t be. The gun is easy to draw, easy to aim, and very easy to get eight rounds out of with a quickness.

Walther PK380 trigger (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

The trigger on the PK380 is, unsurprisingly, very good. This is, after all, a Walther. In double action, there’s a smooth pull, with a small amount of stacking toward the end and a solid break. The double action pull is advertised at 11lbs, and my Lyman scale measured slightly less than that.

Eleven pounds doesn’t feel like much to someone young and healthy, but even that can be a bit much for a person who has lost the strength in their hands. My Smith & Wesson Airweight’s DAO trigger pull measures at 12lbs. and it was always too much for my tiny mother to be able to use and still keep the gun in line. That’s why I switched her to the Ruger LCP some years ago.

In comparison, the Ruger LCP II’s double action trigger pull weight is almost half that of the PK380’s, at just 6lbs.  That’s closer to the PK380’s single action trigger pull, which weighs in at the feathery 4lbs.

The trigger reset of the PK380 is hands down the best of any of the compact/subcompact .380ACP pistols I’ve tested on the market today. It’s super short and lightning fast. With a bit of practice learning trigger’s reset, this pistol makes the Mozambique drill fast and fun. By the end of the review, I was able to put eight rounds into an IDPA target at 15 yards in 1.7 seconds, over and over again, single-handed.

Walther PK380 left side in hand (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The grip is made for smaller-statured people, and it is, as advertised, indeed quite thin. It was a little too narrow for most of the men who shot it, but both women remarked with surprise at how well it fit their hands.

See that slide lock in front of the takedown tab? No? Neither did I, and I looked all over for it. That’s because there is no slide lock/slide release lever for this gun. Walther didn’t include one on the PK380.

Don’t worry though, the slide locks back on an empty magazine. You load the firearm by putting the weapon on safe, inserting a loaded magazine into the gun, then pulling back the slide and releasing it. The gun is now loaded and on safe.

Walther PK380 slide lock (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

If the slide is locked back on an empty magazine — which is the only way it can be locked back — simply insert a loaded mag, grab the back of the slide, pull and release. That’s how the manual instructs you to load the firearm.

It’s also completely unnecessary. You can also just slam the loaded magazine into the handle with a good amount of force and the slide will come forward all on its own.

When that’s an intermittent thing on a gun, it’s a big no-no. When it happens every single time, consistently, it’s a feature, not a bug. Performed in this manner, reloads are quite quick. But you’ll need to train specifically for that.

I found the lack of a slide lock/release absolutely infuriating, as did every experienced shooter that shot the gun. The new shooters, though, didn’t mind at all. They didn’t know there was anything missing.

Walther PK380 dissasembly (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

Unless the slide goes forward every single time a magazine is slammed home, hitting the slide release is the fastest, and, in my experience, the least error-prone way to get a gun refueled and back in the fight. Unless you are using a stock GLOCK, the idea that the release is too difficult to get to in a real fight is a myth.

Since the PK380 does in fact go into battery every single time a magazine is forcefully inserted, the only real concern is that the firearm might be a bit more difficult to clear in the case of a double-feed malfunction, but even then, I doubt it.

Not having a slide lock still annoys the heck out of me, but I can live with it.

This T&E gun shipped with one eight-round magazine. Everything I can find on the Walther website suggest that it only ships with a single magazine. It should come with at least two in the box, but additional magazines can be purchased on Brownells for about $24.

The magazine isn’t flush fit, but the PK380 is big enough that it’s not necessary for me to get a full grip on the gun. Fortunately, there’s no magazine disconnect, meaning the gun will fire as long as there’s a round in the chamber.

Walther PK380 safety(photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

The controls are ambidextrous, as the slide-mounted safety as well as the magazine release lever are on both sides of the pistol.

The slide-mounted safety is a concern for a lot of people, mostly from the dread they experienced from the Beretta 92 series safety. The problem with those guns was two-fold. First, many people simply could not reach the safety with their firing hand thumb. Considering the small size of the PK380, that isn’t an issue at all here.

The other problem was that, in the case of a malfunction, or just racking the slide back to chamber another round, the safety could be inadvertently switched back on. In the panic of a fight, that means you’d pull the trigger over and over again, likely wondering why your gun wasn’t firing before you figured it out.

The safety of the PK380 is more angular, less rounded, and less prone to accidental movement than the 92 series. I could still make the safety go on “by accident”, but only if I grabbed the gun overhanded and too far back, in an awkward manner. In short, I find it physically possible, but highly unlikely to ever actually happen.

Walther chose to go with factory Cerakoting for the PK380. That works well for the intended purpose, and it gives Walther several options for finishes and colors.

Beyond basic black and two-tone nickel, Walther has fully embraced color possibilities. You need a two-tone pink and black? Yup, they got that. Too scary? They’ve got a two-tone grey and pink model as well. Are you super-special? Say no more, they’ve got both a purple and black two-tone as well as the oh-so-fresh “Angel Blue” option.

Heck, I need one to match all my outfits. (That would be funnier if it wasn’t also kinda true.)

Walther PK380 rear sight (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

The traditional 3-dot sights are a good set-up, with the rear sight being screw-adjustable for windage. Although not true night sights, both the front sight and the rear have very bright white dots for easy visibility. Just like on the PPK, there’s a good amount of space on either side of the front sight when looking down the sights, just enough to see your target on either side of it. That’s not appropriate for a target pistol, but just right for a self defense-focused firearm.

For much of their target demographic, seeing the sights clearly might be an issue. Walther also offers a couple of different models of the PK380 that come factory-equipped with a laser aiming device, built right off the trigger guard and the front rail.

Note that the safety blocks the firearm from firing, but doesn’t de-cock the hammer. That is, with the safety on, you can pull the trigger and successfully lower the hammer. The gun will not fire as long as the safety is on, even if the hammer is lowered.

Walther PK380 safety (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Since most folks will likely choose to carry the gun with the safety on and the hammer down. And as there’s no de-cocker, this is the process that most people will need to go through after they have loaded the pistol to carry.

It is also the sequence that you will have to follow at some point to disassemble the pistol. Even with the safety on, I imagine pulling the trigger and controlling the hammer forward is going to be a mental challenge for new shooters, and a physical challenge for those with arthritis or weak grip strength. I would have preferred a de-cocker-only model like the Berretta 92G, or something similar to FN’s FNX three-position, safe/fire/de-cock lever.

Like many European designed modern guns, the PK380 has a paddle style magazine release located at the back of the trigger guard. I’ve always found these types of magazine releases intuitive and easy to train for. I still prefer a traditional button style, but that’s largely because I have larger hands and it’s always been easy for me to reach. The paddle style release on the PK380 is easier for anyone with small hands.

Walther PK380 mag release (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

If you don’t have small hands, though, it’s a bit of a problem. I found myself missing the release over and over again, throughout the review process. Instead, my finger would land behind the release in the unfortunately similarly feeling cut out behind the trigger well in the frame.

Two other grown men fired the gun, and I watched both of them have the same problem. They would hit the release, nothing would happen, and then they would stare more closely and realize they had just gone too far and hit the frame instead. The two small women I asked to shoot the pistol had no such issues. They went right to the paddle without a problem.

Like the other Walthers I’ve tested, the PK380 gets high marks for reliability. I lubed the pistol with Eezox prior to shooting and didn’t re-lube or clean the gun again for the remainder of the review. I put 500 rounds through the pistol and never had any problems of any sort. It never failed to load, fire, or eject.

Walther PK380 slide (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

The magazine always loaded easily, released quickly, and stayed put during shooting. The rounds I fired included Remington’s 102gr Golden Saber JHP, Ruger’s 56gr ARX, and Freedom Munitions‘ 100gr HP as well as Freedom Munitions’ 100gr RNFP (use coupon code “TTAG” for 5% off everything on Freedom Munitions’ website, including the 16 brands of .380 ACP they stock). No ammunition or bullet type tripped up the PK380 at all.

If you are going to count on a relatively low power round for self-defense, you had better be able to put it right where you want it.  In terms of accuracy, the PK380 performed admirably.  The best average of four five round groups at 25 yards was the Remington Golden Saber round at 2 1/4″.  Right behind that was the Freedom Munitions 100gr HP and the 100gr RNFP, both of which scored consistent 2 1/2″ groups.  I only had 8 rounds left of the Ruger 55gr ARX, so I didn’t include them in the accuracy testing.  It has been my experience, however, that these rounds perform particularly well in short-barreled pistols.

Walther PK380 groups (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

I’ve always found Walther’s customer service to be outstanding. They answer the phone and they get back to you very quickly. Their website boasts a “Legendary-Lifetime-Warranty,” stating “Our warranty provides unwavering support for your new firearm and continues for the life cycle of the product as long as the company manufactures and supports it.”

The manual, however, says “LIMITED ONE YEAR WARRANTY. This firearm is warranted to the original owner for one (1) year from date of purchase against defects in material and workmanship and is not transferable.”

Not only does the non-transferabily of the warranty contradict the “life cycle of the product” claim on the website, but it also doesn’t give me much of a warm and fuzzy. One year isn’t very long for a concealed carry firearm that’s likely to be shot rarely, and they will apparently only support repairing defects as long as they are still manufacturing the product. I’ve always found Walther to be a reputable company, so this is more a complaint in their documentation than any real concern that they won’t honor their obligations.

Walther PK380 takedown tool (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Disassembly of the PK380 is a little different from most other modern firearms on the market. As always, first make sure the gun is empty and make sure the hammer is down, or as the manual says “in the de-cocked position”. Then insert the small supplied plastic takedown key into the takedown release hole. Then rotate that key 135 degrees to the up position and….wait…what? Supplied plastic takedown key?

It’s 2018, and Walther is selling a firearm aimed at new shooters or shooters with limited dexterity…and the PK380 requires a small, proprietary plastic takedown key. One of them. I’d recommend buying a few of those as replacements in case you lose the original. Of course, I’m not sure where you’d buy them as I can’t find them on the Walther website. Then again, the key does look a whole lot like a tire valve removal tool, so I’d take one to an auto parts store to see if you can find one that matches up.

Walther PK380 front sight (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

This is something that will confuse new shooters, anger experienced shooters, and people who have arthritis will simply find difficult to do. This is not how the PPQ or the PPQ Sub Compact I reviewed disassemble, and it’s mistake for this gun.

Walther PK380 hat (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

I’m a big Walther fan. I own a couple of their pistols. Heck, I even have this fancy patch for my hat. But the PK380 didn’t do it for me. The lack of a slide lock/release and the required tool for takedown are non-starters. The paddle release, given the size of the gun, would take a lot of training for me to master, though smaller handed should be fine.

Of course, as an experienced shooter, over six feet tall and still fairly able-bodied, this gun isn’t marketed at me. If you’re a new shooter who has small hands, or maybe diminished hand strength or arthritis, the PK380 would be worth a look, but consider the other options out there as well.

Specifications: Walther PK380

Model: 5050308
Caliber: .380 ACP
Barrel Length:3.66″
Trigger Pull: DA: 11/SA: 4lbs.
Trigger Travel:.4″ DA
Capacity: 8
Overall Length: 6.5″
Height: 5.2″
Safety: Manual +1 Auto
Width: 1.2″
Weight Empty: 18oz.
MSRP: $399 (about $369 on Brownells)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * *
The Cerakote finish is even and well done throughout. The overall appearance is the typical modern plastic industrial, where it seems like there’s a race to see who can get all the geometric shapes on one pistol.

Customization * * *
You can hang a light or laser off the front, and the factory provides built-in laser and multiple color options. You could even decide to wield both of the two different factory pink finishes and just be the worst person on Earth.

Reliability * * * * *
Rock solid with any round.

Accuracy * * * *
Two-and-a half-inch groups at 25 yards is better than average for a pistol this size. The .380ACP isn’t a powerhouse round, but put in the right place, it’s plenty of bullet at the ranges a defensive gun use is likely to occur. The PK380 has the precision needed to do just that.

Overall * * * 
It’s accurate and reliable, so it has the basics down. The requirement of a proprietary takedown tool, and the lack of a slide lock/release are concerns. It fits well for shooters with small hands, but those same ergonomics cause some issues with anyone with more meaty paws. The eleven pound double action trigger is a problem for the target market of the pistol, and the PK380 should have included a decock-enabled safety.

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comments

  1. avatar little horn says:

    very nice that grip on such a small gun actually accommodates 95% of your fingers, that sounds a little wierd but didnt know how else to put it.

  2. avatar Silentbrick says:

    I own one of the earlier models of these. If you lose your key, just contact Walther and they can send you more. They sent me two extra for free. It’s a great pistol, but my trigger’s a bit rough. Still, it’s a very light recoil gun, no different than my P22 on recoil and it feeds and fires everything. Slide is easy to rack and it’s got a longer barrel than alot of .380 pocket pistols.

  3. avatar Big Bill says:

    I own one of these. I’m 6’3″,and weigh – – far too much.
    I got it because it’s one of the largest .380s on the market.
    The safety is hard to get used to. The lack of a slide release bugs me. The takedown tool scares me, because what if I lose it?
    That said, I find it to be fun to shoot. Recoil is almost negligible. Accuracy is pretty good (I’m not what could be called a good shot myself). The paddle mag release is something I’ve gotten used to.
    Overall, while not made in the mold of what others think of, the PK380 is, for me, a fun little shooter, that is about as reliable as a rock.

  4. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

    My daughter just delivered to us a new grandson this weekend. And she bought herself a new Bersa .380. I’ve seen the new grandson already but CA has a 10 day waiting period so I haven’t seen the other new addition. I’m guessing that it has pink grips.

    I don’t know if the new Walther makes CA’s ‘approved’ list. Years back I bought a walther p22 and had trouble with it. Ammo sensitive to the nth degree and a pain to strip and put back together. My old pp was stone simple to take down.

    .380 is perfectly fine as a self defense round. I don’t know when the ‘tactical craze’ started but this ain’t the sand box or nam or normandy and we don’t have to walk the streets kitted for extended combat against platoons of enemies.

    Outside of my military life I’ve defended my self several times without firing a shot. And a couple of times where shots were fired. Once with a .22 that stopped a dog pack. Once with a .32 acp against dogs, again. Against people I’ve shown a .38 once which caused the knife armed individual to change directions and drop the knife. And I’ve fired a shot, one, that caused the bad guy to drop his .22 and run.

    I’m also that mythical bullet magnet that was supposed to die by giving away his position by racking a 12 bore. What I did was cause the bad guy to un-ass my place without having to spend a fortune and years defending my use of a gun in court.

    The .380 is perfectly good for us citizens. It may even have some minor advantages over my beloved j frame.

    1. avatar dlj95118 says:

      …congrats on your grandson!

      I trust momma and the baby are doing well?

      1. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

        Yes, they are.

    2. avatar Art out West says:

      Congrats on the new grandson!

      So California hasn’t implemented their new ten day waiting periods for grandfather’s seeing their grandchildren yet? Toxic masculinity and all

      About this new Walther .380, it sounds like the Shield EZ is a better option. I also think the Ruger SR22 is a decent option for the target demographic (of course .380 is superior to .22lr). Ruger needs to make a striker fired variant of their LC380, for that market.

      Of course a S&W Model 10 is a great option as well. The Ruger LCRx 3″ might also be a good option.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        “Congrats on the new grandson!”

        Dittos!

        With luck, the little tyke won’t resemble Grandpa in any way… 😉

        1. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

          Always the hope…..

    3. avatar Felix says:

      I believe California requires all handguns to not fire unless the magazine is in the gun. So this will never be approved in California.

  5. avatar Keltex78 says:

    A friend had one of these a few years ago. I got to shoot the PK380 and loved it. The recoil was like shooting a .22. This is actually the larger-sized .380 that I wouldn’t mind owning.

  6. avatar Geoff PR says:

    If it proves to be able to digest anything you feed it, awesome. It seems .380s are kinda sensitive to that.

    An aftermarket threaded barrel and an about 2-inch long suppressor matched to the frame of the gun would be outstanding.

    And yeah, it looks like a tire stem tool would do the trick…

  7. avatar Ralph says:

    The PK380 is my go-to training pistol for people who are recoil averse or who can’t rack the slide on other pistols. My students have loved it.

    1. avatar Jeremy B. says:

      Plus, if they can master the manual of arms for a DA/SA that has a slide mounted safety but no decocking lever or slide release, and a paddle mag release, then they can master anything!

  8. avatar Bloving says:

    The PK380 is hardly new… When it came out in, what? 2009? I remember it being the first gun I showed a photograph of to the wife that she actually responded positively to. In fact, she immediately grabbed that magazine (an obsolete type of gun blog printed on pieces of dead trees) and read the entire article with no further prompting from me… something she had never done before.
    So the PK380 became her “must have” gun… and then Walther introduced the CCP a few years ago and we started the whole cycle over again.

  9. avatar whoopie says:

    1.2″ thick for a single stack? The double stack P-99 is that thick. The SIG 365 is 1.0″ thick and it’s 10+1 and the single stack Ruger LC9 is only 0.9″ thick.

    Add that to the lack of a slide release and decocker, the paddle mag release, the relatively anemic cartridge, the slide mounted safety and the corny take down process. Walther, you have disappointed me.

  10. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    what happened to the dead elk post? my comment attempt locked up to a white screen and then it was gone…

  11. avatar Anner says:

    There are multiple better options: Shield 380EZ, Browning 1911-380 (though the mag disconnect safety is a minus), Glock 42, etc. I’ve shot them all, owned most of them, and they all produce extremely mild recoil with better/simpler controls and far better quality control than the Walther (Umarex, really).

    The PPQ, PPS, and some others are fine and genuine Walther products. The PK380 and CCP are cheap Umarex products with the Walther badge. Not inherently a knock on them, as the price reflects that point and could very well be what you’re looking for. I’ve owned a Hi-Point because it was cheap, fun, and reliable. But for a gun I intend to serve in a self defense role, I’ll save up the extra $100-300 and do better.

    1. avatar Herb says:

      I fired a friend’s PK380. Nice to shoot. Then I watched him struggle with takedown and reassembly. Recoil spring proved to be a nightmare for him.

      I’ll stick with my PPS M2………..superb firearm in all respects.

  12. avatar Muhammad says:

    I’m looking for a gun that is easy to rack for old hands (Dad) and my pretty weak wife, was almost going to buy one, until the 11 lb trigger pull, my wife couldn’t handle a S&w bodyguard or an LCP. Closest I got was a sig, maybe Canik too. They need an 8lb trigger pull option, and I’m in

  13. avatar Bruce says:

    A review of the Grand Power CP380, and a comparison with the Walther would be appreciated. My Grand Power is a very soft shooting tack driver.

  14. avatar Dave in Peachtree City says:

    Why is everyone ignoring the elephant in the room? A big, bad, black gun has invaded a law abiding, peaceful home and sitting its butt and demanding to be fed at the kitchen table!!! Where’s the family? Probably shot and dead because the gun was allowed into the house! Don’t allow guns into a home! …For the children.

    Very detailed write-up. I’ve never considered a Walther. But now I feel money burning in my pocket ready to be spent on a new addition. Bang. Bang, bang, bang! I love guns.

  15. avatar docduracoat says:

    The main selling point of the Walter PK 380 is How easy it is to work the slide
    It is amazing how little force it takes to rack the slide of this locked breach 380 caliber pistol!
    The competing products of the Sig 238 and the Smith and Wesson E Z .380 are both direct blow back and have Slides that are much harder to Rack
    I’ve been recommending this gun to women who have problems racking the slides of semi automatic pistols for a while now
    The other option for these people is a revolver, but this has 8 Round capacity and a thumb safety

    1. avatar SouthAl says:

      Right on the money regarding working the slide. Before the tragic boating accident, there were three .380s in my house; a PK380, a Bersa Thunder, and a Llama IIIa. While the Bersa is easy to rack, it is quite heavy compared to the others.

  16. avatar Inidaho says:

    I’ve since sold my PK380 and upgraded to a PPS. After reading much online, it seems the PK wasn’t even manufactured by Walther, but by Umarex (who owns Walther). There were a lot of concerns with regards to quality vs Walther’s known-model lines. With the advent of single-stack 9mm’s, why not upgrade to a CCW 9mm pistol. I was debating the M&P Shield vs the Walther PPS and decided to fork the extra coin and go with the PSS. I love Walther and its heritage… but I do love American S&W. It was a tough call.

    Overall, I loved firing the PK380, but the real intent of the .380 is concealment and there are other pistols that solve this much more completely such as the super ergonomic and pocketable Ruger LCP. Aero Precision

  17. avatar ‘liljoe says:

    No slide lock? Gonna make clearing some jams (double feeds?) more annoying.

  18. avatar DrRJP says:

    Sorry, but I have to disagree with two points you made:

    #1 “You can also just slam the loaded magazine into the handle with a good amount of force and the slide will come forward all on its own”

    This is a terrible idea that will not only wear out the magazine components but also the slide lock as well. You also run the risk of an FTF. If you tried coating the inside of the mag well with a thin layer of Tetra Grease, I’d bet it would eliminate the difficulty in the insertion of magazines. Then again, you may have a defective model. I’ve tried the PK380 and never had any problems inserting the magazine.

    #2 “Unless the slide goes forward every single time a magazine is slammed home, hitting the slide release is the fastest, and, in my experience, the least error-prone way to get a gun refueled and back in the fight. Unless you are using a stock GLOCK, the idea that the release is too difficult to get to in a real fight is a myth.”

    Maybe that is true for compact and full size pistols. I’m guessing that you haven’t shot many subcompact and pocket guns, if any, because many of them have tiny slide releases that are so damn stiff, they are painful and difficult to disengage with just a thumb. IMO, sling-shotting the slide is the fastest way, and the least error -prone to get a gun back in the battle. And for small pocket guns with even smaller slide releases, it is also the least painful and frustrating way to do it. It works just fine for the PK380.

    I would think twice next time before making such sweeping generalizations as the two you made.

  19. avatar Pete says:

    “The trigger on the PK380 is, unsurprisingly, very good. This is, after all, a Walther.” — LOL that’s a good one (it’s Umarex gun, was developed before the merger).

  20. avatar JR Henderson says:

    A tire valve stem remover tool works perfectly, and is cheap.

    I purchased one with a handle as a spare, and one of the metal ones with a “spike” going through it at 90 degrees. I removed the “spike”, and ran a split-ring key ring through the hole, and keep it on my keychain so it’s always handy.

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