interams-ppks-with-beavertail-extension

(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)

By Adam Prestopnik

Bond. James Bond. The faux British accent didn’t even sound right inside my head as I spied the little Walther sitting under the glass at my local gun store. I’d been searching for a replacement Walther PPK or PPK/S since trading in my .22 version during the ammo shortages of recent memory. This time, however, I wanted a man’s caliber. Or, you know, a .380 for my man-purse.

The example sitting before me turned out to be a used PPK/S in 9mm Kurz (.380 auto for those of us of a less Teutonic bent) manufactured some time in the 1970s by Interarms. Having spent some time looking for a replacement PPK/S I snapped it up.

The PPK/S, though a derivative of the venerable German PPK, was made intentionally for the U.S. market to comply with the Gun Control Act of 1968 that made a regular PPK too small to import. The PPK/S essentially takes the slide and barrel assembly of the small PPK and marries it to the longer grip of the larger PP. The downside is a slightly larger gun, with an upside of one additional round in the magazine, bringing the total to 7+1.

Next time you see an aging hippie gun grabber from the 60’s, make sure to thank them for helping to introduce one of the most popular pistols of all time to the U.S. market. They really enjoy that.

Benefits of the PPK/S are of course the small size, about 6.1 inches long (though with a substantial unloaded weight of 1.4 pounds).

Reliability is a perceived selling point of these pistols– the original PP series pistols were first produced in 1929 for the German police, so there’s been plenty of time to get everything completely mostly right. In general, this is a gun that will always go bang when you pull the trigger.

The cool factor is undeniably a big deal with these guns. And if you’re worried that a PPK/S won’t satisfy your need to live vicariously through a fictional, martini-swilling POM (Prisoner of Mother England), rejoice! Daniel Craig uses a PPK/S in both Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.

interams-ppks-on-the-range

The Interarms produced version of the PPK/S differs a bit from original German made guns and the contemporary firearms that were produced under license by Smith & Wesson. The biggest difference comes in the design of the beavertail. On the Interarms version the beavertail is relatively short. I didn’t realize this was any different than any other version until two years into owning the gun. One day at the range I experienced slide bite for the first time. It was fun.

With the Interarms pistol, anyone with a larger hand (or in my case simply a fat, doughy hand) will experience the webbing between their thumb and forefinger slipping over the top of the beavertail and experiencing first hand the joys of being run over by a piece of steel traveling at 25 feet per second. No, it doesn’t hurt very much, but your accuracy goes down the toilet when you start to wince right before every shot. Luckily, a fellow enthusiast victim makes a beavertail extension that works great if you have this problem. These are available for about ten bucks on eBay.

So, how does it shoot? In a word, great. The gun is always more accurate than I am, and once you get used to the surprisingly high felt recoil of a .380 in a small, but heavy frame, it becomes a breeze. In the ease of use department however, the pistol suffers from three mild, but annoying flaws.

interams-ppks-target-showing-da-shots

First, the double action trigger pull is 17 pounds. That’s a hell of a pull, and good luck having your first shot land anywhere near where you’re aiming on a quick draw. After that, single action settles in, is crisp, and feels great. If you take your time with the double action pull it’s possible and actually quite rewarding to see the round land where you aimed. If finger aerobics aren’t your thing, you can always just pull the hammer back for the first shot and save your workout for the gym.

Second, I think the recoil spring on this gun might have come off the suspension of a tractor trailer. Seriously, this thing is stiff. The blowback design of the gun requires a stiff spring, but racking a round into the chamber is doomed to failure if you don’t do it with gusto. Then again, this pistol is only 40+ years old, so I’m still really just breaking it in. I’m sure it will loosen up some in the next 40 years. For those of you who can’t wait a lifetime, reduced weight recoil springs are available from several suppliers.

Third, this gun is a bit of a picky eater. If you peruse the forums you’ll find about a 50/50 split on folks who say their pistols eat anything and folks who experience the issues I have. If the ammunition is round nose jacketed you’re fine. It doesn’t seem to matter what brand of ammo or bullet grain you use. Round nose FMJ will work just about every time. Flat headed rounds will cycle, but expect to have a failure to feed where you’ll need to send the round completely into battery manually every few shots. Hollow points aren’t even worth talking about in my experience, but if you carry this gun defensively, spend some quality time making sure your carry ammo actually cycles. Taking special care when cleaning the feed ramp will also help.

Since owning this pistol I’ve put a few thousand rounds through it of varying types. 95 grain Fiocchi FMJ seems to cycle well, as does 95 grain Federal American Eagle FMJ.

For this review’s range test I used a mix of Fiocchi, Federal and a Bulk Winchester White Box of 95 grain flat head rounds from 20 feet. After shooting about 200 rounds I had a few expected failures to feed with the Winchester rounds, but good luck with the others with no issues. The gun is always more accurate than I am with the exception of the heavy double action trigger pull. Shots from double action are noticeably right for me, while single action is essentially dead on.

While the pistol has a few eccentricities on the range, if you use the proper ammunition and remember that the spring is a fighter, you’re in for a pleasant shooting experience with a looker of a gun that’s bound to get a few jealous stares or some friendly conversation.

Where I live, in the People’s Republic of New York, the seven round magazines are not considered ‘high capacity’ (anything over ten rounds for those of you in the United States). For such a small gun, and with one in the chamber, that’s still a decent amount of lead to send down range before reloading considering how old the design is. If carrying chambered makes you nervous, the pistol’s combination decocker/safety might make you feel more comfortable. That, coupled with the heavy double action trigger pull, means this gun is not going bang unless you want it to go bang. Additionally, holsters of every design are readily available for this pistol. Finding the proper carry rig for you won’t be a problem.

Fit and finish on the Interarms pistol is great. All the parts fit snugly, the action is smooth and the quality is high. Both of my magazines are original, and they still function flawlessly. The only low point is the stock plastic grip panels. Functional, but after 40+ years they’ve smoothed out to the point where my purchase on the pistol is hard to maintain – something I can’t blame anyone for. Luckily, grips for this gun are plentiful and come in a seemingly endless variety of woods, resins, rubbers and fine engraved ivories, golds and silvers if you’re willing to shell out a bit extra.

interarms-ppks-dissasembled

Disassembly is simple, but if you aren’t familiar with the design it may confuse you at first. You must first pull down on the trigger guard, which actually pulls out of the frame (similar to the Makarov design) and then move the slide back and up. This seems very difficult at first, but is much less awkward once you’re used. Pulling the hammer back first makes life much easier. From there, everything is set up beautifully for cleaning. The barrel, which is not removed from the frame, is easily accessible, and the recoil spring and slide are the only two components other than the magazines that detach from the frame for normal cleaning.

Reassembly is simply the opposite procedure.

With the proper ammunition this is a great little gun. While I have since replaced it as my primary carry pistol, many still carry these daily. As a range toy this fits right at home in my collection. Interarms examples of the Walther PPK/S are easily found for a price between $400-$500 or lower, and despite a few flaws, are a version of this pistol I would highly recommend.

Specifications: Interarms Walther PPK/S

Caliber: .380 ACP
Slide Material: Steel
Frame Materials: Steel
Overall Length: 6.1″
Slide Length: 5.6″
Width: 1″
Height: 4.3″
Barrel Length: 3.3″
Magazine Capacity: 7 rounds
Trigger Action: DA & SA

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability: * * * *
This gun still goes bang when you pull the trigger 40+ years later. As long as you use the proper ammunition you’ll never have a major problem.

Accuracy: * * * *
The first double action pull will go wild if you aren’t careful. After that, it’s smooth sailing.

Ergonomics: * * *
The gun itself is a joy to hold, but that short beavertail will leave you with a chewed up hand if you grip to high.

Customization: * *
You can switch the grips out and replace some springs and other internal parts, but do you really want to change up the Bond gun? What’s wrong with you?

Overall Rating: * * * *
These guns are well made, fun to shoot, and easily found for a fairly low price.

Recommended For You

57 Responses to Gun Review: Interarms Walther PPK/S

    • Spent some time down under. They said POM for Prisoner Of Mother England there. Don’t know why it didn’t have an E. (Or maybe it does and I spelled it wrong).

    • Interestingly enough, those acronyms came long after the word “pom” or “pommy” was in use. The best origin story I’ve read is that it’s a NZ or OZ contraction of “pomegranate”. which kinda sounds like “immigrant” and the residents weren’t too fond of the Brits showing up.

      (I got interested in the etymology when the Burt Munro character in World’s Fastest Indian used the word.)

      Oh, PPKS. Had one for decades. Not gonna give it up. Ancient tech, but quality.

  1. Nice review. I have shot a few of these and always liked them. If I stumble across one at the right price, it’s going home with me.

  2. This review doesn’t stir me and I’m certainly not shaken. A Bersa costs less, keep the money that woulda been taken.

    I happen to prefer the Walther knock-off, the South American Bersa (originally Bersa 95 in .32acp) Thunder .380.

    They fixed the slide bite issue, too.

  3. I love steel Walthers.
    Feeding hollowpoints was always an iffy situation and you had to make sure your pick would feed.
    The accuracy of these pistols is stellar. Fixed barrel and precision machining.

    “Similar to a Makarov” – Actually, the Makarov is similar to a Walther. The PP/PPK design was one of the copied formats in the pistol world. Feg, MKE, Polish P64 – all copies of the PP platform.

    I would not feel unarmed with a PP, PPK, or PPK, or PPKs.

    • The Makarov comment was just to compare it to another common firearm people may be familiar with. In my opinion, Makarov actually improved the take down part. Examples I’ve used lock when you pull the trigger guard down. My Walther requires you to keep downward pressure on the trigger guard while you take it apart.

      • Yeah the mak has enough wiggle that you can lock it outside the frame. Doesn’t surprise me that it didn’t start that way in the pp.

      • Try this:
        Hold the pistol in your shooting hand, trigger finger alongside the trigger guard.
        Pull the trigger guard down with your other hand- when it clears the frame, push the guard sideways with your trigger finger; there should be enough play in the guards hinge for you to hold it out of the frame likethis while your off-hand pulls the slide back/up/over the barrel.
        Easy.

  4. My experience with a Smith PPK version is pretty similar to yours. Sexy little beast, but with some real drawbacks. I had to do some work to make mine function consistently, including polishing the feed ramp and changing out the recoil spring. I also swapped out the garbage mags and got some from MecGar.

    Mine won’t eat most hollow points, with the one exception being Remington Golden Saber’s. Those have mostly round heads so they might work for you. However, I’ve read they are old technology and you don’t get the same performance as modern hollow points. I figure they’re better than nothing.

    One thing to mention is the sights. They are tiny and have very little room in between the posts. This can lead to great accuracy, but good luck finding them quickly in any self defense situation.

    I strongly recommend changing out the plastic grips. I found some phenomenal wooden grips from an online retailer and they totally change the feel of the gun.

    As strange as it is to say, I feel a bond to my PPK after all the work I put into the gun to make it function consistently. It’s my favorite range toy and will be the last gun I sell.

  5. My early 80’s Interarms PPK/s is flawlessly machined. It is usually stoked w/ Magsafe and HydraShock, practice with any FMJ. It functions with all ammo I have tried, but chokes on Blazer aluminum.

  6. The PPK, along with the Colt 380 Government (M) were two of the guns I owned for their cool factor, and happily sold for their not so good at anything factor.

    • I have an Interarms Wather…pretty gun, but the only hollow points it’ll eat are Remington. Even then, I worry about it. The weapon is too unreliable to carry for defense. I carry a small hammer-less .38 S&W, and a Sig Saur P230. The little wheel gun is awesome…kicks like a mule, but I know it’s going to shoot every time. Same with the Sig. Same basic design as the Walther, but MUCH more reliable. I can put anything in it and it will eat it up.

  7. Yes, you can buy the Bersa version of the PPK. You can also buy the Toyota version of a Porsche. And the Jos. A. Bank version of a Hickey Freeman suit. The possibilities are endless for the value buyer.

    • I second that. The Bersa does not choke on hollow points. It has a more linear feed mechanism than the PPK. I have owned several, traded several, and always come back to it after trying other things. It also has a really smooth double action trigger, and a good single action trigger as well.

  8. Great review. I have a more modern S&W version and have seen most of the same drawbacks. It will feed Hornady Critical Defense just fine, but most other hollow points keep the slide from going completely into battery. The biggest problem I have with the design is the sights. In low light conditions, you’re not going to see them. Worse, there’s no way to replace them short of heavy duty machining that I hesitate to do to an otherwise perfect gun.

  9. In the late 80’s surplus West German police PP’s were sold off here for less than 200 bucks. Holster and 2 mags came with it. .32 acp.

    Sleek is a word that comes to mind with these guns. Not chunky or blocky. And they feel of quality, not polymer.

    My walthers are long gone. I replaced them with a Makarov. Same gun. Just a Russian twist to the theme.

  10. I have had one for 30+ years. Carried in all sorts of manners and locations. Yes, it is heavy but also solid. I am one of the lucky 50% I suppose as mine always goes bang with any type of ammo. Funny thing, I recently bought a Taurus TCP also in 380 for those times when I need something much more pocket friendly. I always feel a little less than adequate with the TCP, I never felt that way carrying the PPK/s.

    I don’t know what is the double action trigger pull but I know it is well withing a minute of bad guy at reasonable engagement range. The biggest drawback I have found is magazines. One of my original magazines has gone missing and replacements are stupid money. $40+…wtf?

    Even though they are old guns, they are great guns. Always cool, always work. Even non-gunners understand when you tell them it is a “james bond” gun. Don’t hesitate to get one if it appeals to you.

  11. I have a German PP in .380
    Bought in 1979
    Really nice pistol.
    Think I paid $ 299.00 for it (I think – it was a while back)

  12. The safety design is useless, seconded by 17-lb trigger pull. Nice toy but would never carry it

    A Shield is a much better option for carry.

    • I’m puzzled why you find the PP series safety system useless. The gun is designed to be carried hammer down/round chambered/safety OFF, relying on the stiff DA trigger pull, the inertial firing pin return spring, and the hammer block pin and plunger (that prevents the hammer from contacting the firing pin unless the trigger is fully pulled, safety on OR off). The gun CAN fire, as can any gun with an inertial firing pin with no blocker, if dropped on the muzzle from a distance. However, that’s rather rare; Most handguns, and that includes the PP series, are rear weight biased and tend to hit the ground on the hammer (they rotate as they fall–try it, with an UNLOADED gun over a soft surface).
      When using the decocker aspect of the safety, the safety barrel as it rotates places a solid piece of steel between the hammer and the firing pin before the hammer can fall completely; It also wedges the firing pin firmly in place with a cam slot that rotates over cuts in the pin itself, fully preventing the firing pin from moving at all. And, it disconnects the trigger bar from the sear completely. On ‘safe,’ there is no way for the hammer to touch the firing pin, and no way for the firing pin to hit the primer. The gun also has a loaded-chamber indicator.
      All of that sounds fairly useful to me.

      • Excellent comments. I fully agree with your analysis. I’ve carried one for years (since 1995) with a pachmyer grip and use Hornady critical defense loads. I have a S&W M&P Shield 9mm that is also a very nice gun, but I carry the Walther just because of the safety components you’ve listed here. There is no safer gun to carry with a load in the chamber than this Walther. When the gun was new, I also had a few feed issues that had me lose confidence in its ability to be trusted. Those issues disappeared after 300 rounds of break in. The Hornady round is designed so the hollow point is no longer hollow, allowing the round to chamber correctly each time. Very reliable, very safe, very accurate and totally dependable. I can afford the most expensive of weapons, and have many in my collection. In my opinion, no amount of money can equal the dependability of this 80 year old design.

  13. I probably don’t need another blowback operated pistol….except a PP (Walther or Manurhin)…and maybe another Mak…and maybe another Czech something…

    But I do need a martini (gin, dry & dirty)

  14. “Next time you see an aging hippie gun grabber from the 60’s, make sure to thank them for helping to introduce one of the most popular pistols of all time to the U.S. market. They really enjoy that.”

    HA! Awesome. Great review.

  15. Great review. I’ve thought about picking up a PPK/S on and off for years but every time I see one I feel it’s over priced. Apparently the dealers think that the Bond factor is worth more than I do.

  16. Owned one for many years before I retired. Ankle gun.

    Ran incredibly well, but, IMNSHO, it had two issues:

    (1) Serrations on the slide would saw up the web of my hand whenever I was shooting it. I don’t have a big-beefy hand either. Choking down on the grip just made it feel awkward.

    (2) (By today’s micro gun standards) WEIGHT. Heavy little monster. Never flung out of ankle-holster though (even with lots of running about chasing people).

    Sold it after I retired to someone else who still has it as their ankle gun today. Like my Sig P238 and Shield much more now. 🙂

  17. I had a German made PPKS purchased new in 1978.
    It never fired more than three rounds of any ammo without jamming.
    I shelved it and finally sold in 1993.

  18. This was my first carry gun and I could not get rid of it fast enough! Endless issues! Color me completely unimpressed with this POS. It’s only redeeming factor was that it did look nice.

    • You should hold an interest in this firearm, as the next skinhead you choose to pick a fight with in a restaurant accompanying your queen and four sons may be semi-legally carrying one.

  19. I had one of these, never even shot it. Bought for CC but it was so “pretty” I could not bear to scrach and bang it up. So it sat in it’s factory box for several years then sold it for a tidy sum. Mine was marked 9mm Kurz. I think? Had a good solid feel to it AND shiny!

    • Right. .380 ACP in the States is 9mm short abroad. “Short” typically in the language of the manufacturer (Kurz in German/auf Deutsch). Except the Brits, who call it 9mm Browning.

  20. You might want to give the ARX round a try. The performance in gel tests is good with a better wound track than FMJ. I carry it as a 380 anti-animal round when I am in the woods and not worried about bears

    • Not saying the ARX round isn’t good, but against large animals you want heavy for caliber and lots of penetration. Personally I would carry something from buffalo bore.

  21. Good review. Great little gun but definitely obsolete and relegated to “cool for historical factors” status. I wouldn’t carry one today any more than I’d drag race a Tesla with ’69 Camaro. The S&W shield, Sig 938/238, Kahr CM/PM9, Glock 42/43 do everything the walther does, and do it with higher speed and lower drag. That said, I have one in my gun safe, cuz Roger Moore.

  22. Very Good review. I have one and use it still in my carry rotation. Slide bite is eliminated if you position your thumb to touch the fourth finger rather than the third.

  23. I have one of the clones- a Polish p-64 in 9×18. I love it. Replaced the springs (including the trigger spring, which broke after the first mag), but that’s hasn’t tamed the recoil any. The safety was so stiff as to be unuseable, so I chucked a bit of rod in the drill press and turned a new one- works fine now. It’s a quality gun, and the price is really low.

  24. I have a stainless Interarms .380 PPK I bought in 1990. I had the ramp polished and frame “dehorned” when I lived in a state where I could carry. I took it to the range today with Winchester range ammo, Critical Defense, and SIG ammo. I could not get through two mags of any of it without a stovepipe or soft hammer strike. Anyone know a good gunsmith in the Trenton/Philly area? Right now I would not recommend a PPK to anyone.

  25. Try $650 to $800+ In 2016. Just picked up an interarms ppk on gunbroker in like new shape, 2 mags, no holster for $795. Been watching them awhile too. $500 range is going to show serious wear, pitting, bad grips, 1 mag,etc. New ones by s&w new for $650 range online…but no stock anywhere.

  26. I would agree with the comment on higher prices in 2016. It appears there is a licensing issue contributing to the lack of S&W units being produced. Supply and demand at work again. As for the WI hunter carrying a 9mm in the woods unless your close enough to shoot a bear in the roof of the mouth good luck penetrating their tough hide with any successful results, no matter what round you carry. Most agree .44 and .357 mags are prudent rounds and concealed carry in the woods is not an issue.

  27. I own a S&W PPK/S-1 which I purchased used back in July of 2016 for $500. So far it has proven 100% reliable with both Hornady American Gunner XTPs and Polycase ARX Inceptors.
    Unfortunately, prices have been on the rise ever since it was revealed by Walther Arms that their current production of the PPK(/S) out of Fort Smith Arkansas had been suspended indefinitely due to a licensing issue with their parent company in in Germany.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *