The Walther PPK Pistol

By David Tong [via] 

One of the most iconic pistols of the 20th Century has to be Walther’s “Polizeipistole Kriminalmodell,” or police pistol detective model.

The Walther PPK pistol was a shortened version of the 1929 Model PP, and was first produced in 1931. I once owned one of the commercial, pre-war and pre-Nazi pistols with the 90-degree safety lever in brightly polished blue finish, in the then usual 7.65mm / .32ACP caliber that all WWII pistols were chambered in, as well as several postwar examples. Postwar they were also produced in .22LR and .380ACP / 9mm Kurz.

Essentially the Walther PPK is a shorter (both length and height) and thus lighter version of the Walther PP handgun.

Walther PPK Pistol Specifications:

  • Type: Double and single action semi-automatic, blowback operated
  • Length: 6.1”
  • Width: 1.0”
  • Height: 3.9”
  • Magazine capacities: 8rds in .22LR; 7rds in .32ACP, 6rds in .380ACP
  • Weight: 21oz for all steel models. Postwar PPK/L with aluminum frame 16oz.

The PPK has some differences from its parent PP. Primarily, the rear grip frame strap was removed and replaced by a single-piece wraparound checkered plastic grip to further lighten the pistol. Its shorter butt also reduced the magazine capacity by one round from the PP for each caliber as a result.

Both pistols featured a fixed front sight milled integrally with the slide, a fixed barrel that is press-fitted and cross-pinned into place on the receiver. A rear sight is drift adjustable for windage only. Both sights are rather small and hard to see, to this day.

Walther PPK chambered in .380 ACP
Walther PPK chambered in .380 ACP

The trigger pull on the .32ACP version is a fair bit lighter in double-action than on the .380ACP, as is the recoil spring compression. This makes the .32 much easier for the smaller or weaker handed people to manipulate the pistol’s slide for loading and unloading. The .380 also recoils far more than the .32, and it borderlines on harsh depending on how much experience one has.

As a blowback auto, whose recoil attenuation is merely the slide being held closed upon firing by its weight and recoil spring, and in the absence of other mechanical delay such as the ubiquitous tilting barrel short recoil Browning system, this recoil feels harder than the even smaller aluminum framed SIG-Sauer P238 that shares the same .380 chambering.

However, the Walther PPK Pistol is a joy to use nevertheless. It is dirt simple to field strip for cleaning, and equally easy to clean. With an empty magazine in place, rack the slide to the rear to allow the internal slide stop / ejector to lock it open. Remove the magazine, pull the trigger guard down and move it slightly to either side so it rests on the bottom of the frame.

Grasping the slide firmly, retract it to the rear as far as it will go, lift upward on it and slide it over the barrel area of the frame. Remove the recoil spring from around the barrel, and it is ready to clean and lubricate.

Reassemble in reverse order, by placing the tapered end of the recoil spring back over the barrel (it is directional, so friction holds it into place). Grab the slide and slide the barrel/spring through the hole in the front of the slide and pull it backward and then down to allow the slide to engage the slide grooves of the frame. Let the slide seat by moving it forward until it stops.

Pull on the trigger guard downward again, and let it gently be seated through the rectangular cut that it is located with. This retains the slide during firing as it limits rearward slide travel. Replace magazine and you are done.

During my experiences with the Walther PPK Pistol, I did find the .32ACP version much easier to shoot accurately than the .380ACP. At the 50’ indoor ranges I once inhabited, I was easily able to place all my shots within a 2.5” circle from two magazines when my eyes were much younger. The .380 is probably as accurate, but the recoil level in such a small and light pistol with an unlocked breech makes it more of a chore.

There have been five major manufacturers of the PPK. The original, Carl Walther Waffenfabrik, was originally established in Zella-Mehlis, Thuringia. This was occupied by the French, and they continued production for a time at that location, but moved operations to its native firm Manuhrin (“Manufacture D’armes du Rhine”).

Manurhin actually was responsible for the first 20-30 years of postwar machining production of the PP and PPK, and many were marketed under their moniker. However, Walther, now relocated to its current factory in Ulm, Germany, also has been stated to have imported these unfinished pistols and fully finished and proofed them at their factory so that they were then “German” made.

These pistols were made up until 1968, when the infamous Gun Control Act of that year’s ATF points system barred the importation of “small guns.” A stop gap measure was created with the introduction of the “PPK/S,” which married the short slide and barrel of the PPK to the longer and heavier frame of the PP. Interarms was the American importer until the early 1990s and the death of its founder, Samuel Cummings.

For a few years, Interarms also had US made production done by an Alabama firm under license from Carl Walther. Smith and Wesson bought the licensing for the PP and PPK in the mid-2000s, and produced them in their Houghton, Maine plant. It is said that Ruger produced the investment cast frames for the S&W pistols.

These pistols differed from all earlier ones in one functional way. They were the only ones I am aware of when a single machine cut eliminated the “two feed ramp” original design and turned it into a pistol that was completely functionally reliable with modern jacketed hollow point defensive ammunition. This is no small matter for those who wish to carry a pistol with cartridges that are considered at best, marginally powerful for the job.

Current Walther PPK w/ long frame tang
Current Walther PPK w/ long frame tang

While S&W abandoned licensed production of the pistol about 2011, the new Walther USA firm is now also building them under license here in Arkansas.

All models are still made with the other major S&W refinement, the longer frame tang to help protect the skin of the web of your hand from being sliced by the very low rear slide rails and help those with thicker hands, but are otherwise mechanically identical.

While I think that the PPK is slightly obsolescent in this day of sub-miniature pistols that are all the rage these days, it remains viable to those of us who prefer real steel in our handguns, for the implied balance and durability advantages they offer.

Notwithstanding a healthy dose of history, mind you.


  1. avatar Ed says:

    They also stopped making them in .380 acp. They are now .22lr only….that sucks.

    1. avatar Waffensammler98 says:

      You could always get a Bersa Thunder in .380 *laughs hysterically*

      1. avatar gman says:

        And pay a lot less for the Bersa for the same reliability.

      2. avatar Ogre says:

        Nothing wrong with Bersas – I have a .380 Thunder and it is just the Argentine version of the Walther – only priced far less. I’ve had mine for years and it has yet to fail me. I also have a .45 subcompact Bersa and it is a champ, too. Maybe not up there with the $3k 1911s, but it works and is accurate, and that’s all that matters to me.

        1. avatar Vhyrus says:

          And I had a bersa that failed catastrophically at 300 rounds.

        2. avatar Waffensammler98 says:

          Glad you had luck with yours. I’ve heard too many horror stories about ’em. Vhyrus, don’t leave us hanging, what was the catastrophic failure.

      3. avatar JDS says:

        Nothing wrong with the Bersa Thunder. I have an older plus with thousands of rounds through it. However my CZ 83 (old school version) in 380 is a far better built pistol, than either the Walther or the Bersa. It’s heavy enough to tame any harsh recoil that some people may experience and 100% reliable.

      4. avatar Aaron says:

        Bersa Thunder is a great value. It’s a smart choice for a starter on a budget.

    2. avatar Madcapp says:

      Help me out on this “detective” thing…

      Polizeipistole Kriminalmodell

      Okay, we got…
      Polizei = police
      pistole = pistol
      modell = model
      So you’re saying “Kriminal” = “Detective”? That just sounds, well, wrong to me. My guess would be that “Kriminal” = “Criminal” (or something reasonably close). Since the PPK is a short model, I could see “k” representing “kurz”, but my point remains…where does “detective” come from?

      1. avatar Jason says:

        Detective is a stupid word. What are they detecting, exactly?

        A German police officer who does the work we would assign to a detective, is someone assigned to the Criminal division. Like our Homicide division. And so, as we might call an officer a Homicide officer or a Vice officer if they focus on those kinds of crimes, Germans have Criminal officers. And this gun was designed to their needs, so to speak.

        PS: this is why machine translators like Google will always suck. Cultural context matters.

        PPS: My Bersa Thunder 380 feeds hollowpoints just fine after I polished down the edge where the feed ramp meets the throat.

  2. avatar David Markland says:

    RIP Roger Moore

    1. avatar C Otto says:

      beat me to it.

  3. avatar The Rookie says:

    I don’t think Walther offers the 32 ACP version anymore, at least in the American market. Might be wrong about that, but it would be in keeping with the trend of so many other gun makers dropping their U.S. 32 Auto offerings in recent years.

    1. avatar George says:

      Can’t say I’m too surprised. Given the scarcity and skyrocketing prices of .32 ACP that began several years ago, it takes a small fortune to have any meaningful range time with a .32 of any kind, which in turn makes it a really impractical caliber for EDC. If I ever hit the lottery, I might seek out a .32 PPK or PPK/S, but only for the sake of having it.

      For discreet carry under a suit jacket though, the .380 PPK’s are still quite handy and comfortable. I’ve never found them overly harsh to shoot, but to each his/her own.

      1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

        Pfft. .32 ACP is no more per round than .45 ACP and people manage to afford range time with their .45s.

        You can get a box of 50 for about $13-$14. I have no trouble springing for that on a regular basis.

      2. avatar cutlass81 says:

        I wait for deals and pick up .32 ACP for about 20 cpr on Sportsman’s Guide. My Savage 1907 functions as an excellent gun for pocket carry while still giving me a 10rnd capacity.

  4. avatar former water walker says:

    Yes RIP Roger Moore. BREAKING NEWS! 16000 Florida CCL holders have info hacked. The FOX doofus actually stated “why would anyone want this information??” Duh…

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      Heh. Just about the only time I’ve ever heard “because guns!” as a good answer.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        “The FOX doofus actually stated “why would anyone want this information??”

        Because the hack includes Social Security numbers, TV news guy…

  5. avatar Joe R. says:

    FEG PA-63 9X18 Makarov was better. With Wolff springs it was better-er.

    1. avatar The Duke says:

      My wrist and trigger finger disagree, having both the PPK and PA-63 in 380 I much prefer the former. Think it’s the extra snap from the aluminum frame of the PA-63 versus the all steel PPK

      Although I agree the Wolfe springs make the PA-63 a night and day difference

    2. avatar jwm says:

      Makarov pistol. PP on roids. Best of both worlds.

    3. avatar Ed says:

      Those Pa-63s are great guns. 9×18 snd lighter than the Walther.

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        Lighter, disassemble easier/faster (same way, just easier/faster). Very accurate, and I think the Makarov is superior to the .380 in lots of ways except for availability. Poland has a few equivalents but that they are usually harder to find and in rougher shape than you can get an FEG.

        The Wolff trigger spring replacement, is a YUUUGE difference, and the heftier recoil spring makes it a really great every day shooter.

        1. avatar Jack Gordon says:

          And none of the guns that use the Makarov round, the 9X18, is drop safe; that’s especially the case with the Polish P-64. Drop it with a round in the chamber and you’ll likely have a hole in the linoleum….if you’re lucky.

  6. avatar Docduracoat says:

    I bought the Smith and Wesson made Walter PPK/S .380 for my wife
    We both love it with crimson trace laser grips
    It is a high quality all steel gun
    Soft shooting due to the weight, with an excellent trigger pull in single action mode
    Very accurate and reliable once you find what ammo it likes and stick to that
    Mine likes Golden Saber hollow points and Winchester White box truncated cone target ammo
    It does not have a slide release lever, so you have to slingshot it every time you reload
    It will last for generations as opposed to all the plastic guns that are so popular now

  7. avatar Mr. AR says:

    I have the “Walther Railroad track” scar above my right thumb.

  8. avatar GP35 says:

    A few corrections- the PPK was made in 380 pre-WWII. I owned one. They could be identified at a glance by the heel mag release, rather than mag button. This was done so that the magazines, lacking a catch slot, could not be locked into a 32.

    Aluminum frames called (Dural) and 22 caliber guns were made pre-war as well.
    On early PPK slides the rear sight was milled in as well. At this time the loaded chamber indicator was optional.
    The trigger pull does not have to be atrocious. The 32 is much more pleasant to shoot, it’s true. My 1939 PPK has a smooth trigger, light by modern PPK standards.

    Manufacture post war was never at Zella-Mehlis, at most some parts already made were assembled at a later date. The factory ended up in Soviet hands and Walther never got their records, schematics, or any tooling. Walther had no factory at all at first after the war. They had to give extant pistols to Manurhin who reverse engineered them and sent the finished guns to be proofed and marked in Germany.

    The current 22s are actually made by Umarex, who owns Walther, in their plant at Arnsburg, they are totally different in design from the steel originals and are not made by the Walther employees.

    As for the new ones in Arkansas, I’ve been waiting 2 years now to see anything other than the couple of pre-production examples they’ve trotted out at shows. The claimed issue is some German/US paperwork problems in getting the slides (which are supposedly made in Germany) okayed to export. I’ll believe the assembly line is running when I see them on a LGS shelf.

    1. avatar Mike W. says:

      NEVER heard that theory about the “heel” magazine release before. For .380acp Walthers, it’s a RARITY so I’m not so sure that’s what it was about. MOST German guns had that sort of magazine release as opposed to the PP normal position. Oh well, no big deal.

      1. avatar GP35 says:

        It’s not a theory, it was the pre-war Walther method. The PP series was designed in 32 and had a mag release button from the start, they only acquired heel releases when the gun received a slight redesign to make them in 380. This was not a German industry wide standard, other companies heel mag releases had nothing to do with caliber. The magazines were identical but for the catch slot. Meaning a 32 mag could be used in a 380 (and it will take 380s and load) but the 380 mag would fall out of a 32 well. Post war they made the 380 magazines have a rib so it’s impossible to insert wrongly, and all the PP series had mag release buttons. I have owned pre- and post war versions of all the 380 and 32 PP series, this is not hearsay.

  9. avatar Madcapp says:

    Help me out on this “detective” thing…

    Polizeipistole Kriminalmodell

    Okay, we got…
    Polizei = police
    pistole = pistol
    modell = model

    So you’re saying “Kriminal” = “detective”? That just sounds, well, wrong to me. My guess would be that “Kriminal = Criminal”. Since the PPK is a short model, I could see “k” representing “kurz”, but my point remains…where does “detective” come from?

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Just guessing. But maybe cause the ppk was issued to plain clothes and the pp was issued to uniformed officers.

      When the West Germans upgraded their sidearms they surplussed a bunch of the pp’s here. For 2 bills I got a pp, 2 mags and a flap holster.

      Wish i’d kept it.

    2. avatar Andy says:

      My limited German( stationed in Germany late cold war) There is a branch of the Polizei( Police) which are largely State Police. States are regions like Bayern( Bavaria) Baden-Wurtenberg, Rheinland-Pfalz, etc….There is “KrimPo” which is short for Kriminal Polizei which I believe serves the Detective function for that particular state police force. This might help from Hesse:

    3. avatar Jason says:

      Posted to repeat to your repeat…

      Detective is a stupid word. What are they detecting, exactly?

      A German police officer who does the work we would assign to a detective, is someone assigned to the Criminal division. Like our Homicide division. And so, as we might call an officer a Homicide officer or a Vice officer if they focus on those kinds of crimes, Germans have Criminal officers. And this gun was designed to their needs, so to speak.

      PS: this is why machine translators like Google will always suck. Cultural context matters.

      PPS: My Bersa Thunder 380 feeds hollowpoints just fine after I polished down the edge where the feed ramp meets the throat.

  10. avatar Rene Marquardt says:

    American forces occupied Zella-Mehlis in Thuringia, not French ones.

  11. avatar Mark Kelly's Diapered Drooling Ventriloquist's Dummy says:

    For those those that love and admire the PPK but may be turned off by the price there is an alternative, the Astra Constable and Astra Constable II, both though out of production like the PPK were made in .32 and .380. Prices start at around $239-$269 common variations in great condition with just some holster wear.

    Fun Facts:

    The blued “Walther PPK .380” wielded by Liberal d-bag Robert DeNiro aka Travis Bickle in the movie Taxi Driver and the nickle plated “PPK” in Goodfellas that Henry Hill’s wife Karen (Lorraine Bracco) stuffs in her panties during the police raid on her home are also Astra Constable II’s

  12. avatar Mark says:

    Bought a PPK/S 30 years ago and it is by far my favorite pistol to shoot. I’ve probably ran 4-5000 rounds thru it and so far not a single malfunction. Occasionally I still use it for CC and the only thing I don’t like about it is the small built in sights. With aging eyes they are hard to see sometimes but I wouldn’t sell it for anything.

  13. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The PPK’s trigger has been a source of annoyance for users for decades.

    Fortunately, they can be improved by a gunsmith with the right polishing stones and trigger jig, and can be made reasonably nice.

    They are what they are – a very light, deeply concealable semi-auto. There are several choices in this class of pistol out there, most of which will be available in the used gun market.

  14. avatar Mike W. says:

    ANYONE have ORIGINAL Walther PP magazines for the .22lr caliber? They are VERY difficult to find.
    Of COURSE the new ones DON’T work in the old guns, why that would make some sense ! !

  15. avatar AZgunner says:

    When I was a teenager I went shooting with my father and his friend who owned a PPK. I distinctly recall it being incredibly accurate and comfortable, probably the most natural and comfortable handgun I’ve ever shot. I’m not sure it would fit my hands the same way now though, I was 14 at the time. I would still love to own one though. If I ever happen across one at a decent price I’m not going to hesitate to buy it.

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      Get yourself a brand new Bersa Thunder or Firestorm. They are Argentinian-made PPK clones that are good quality at a low price. You can get a brand new one for under $300.

  16. avatar Coyyote says:

    95% of the time my CC is a 1911 Govt. The other 5%, when some issue of dress prevents carry of my 1911, i just shove my PPK w Crimson Trace Grips in my pocket and carry on.

  17. avatar DetroitMan says:

    I have shot a few in both .32 and .380. They are fine little guns, and deadly accurate once you learn how to use the sights. I wouldn’t feel under-gunned carrying a .380 with good ammunition, especially if clothing would not allow me to conceal more. The .380 recoil is harsh but not unbearable. It doesn’t make for a pleasant afternoon of shooting, but firing a box to practice shouldn’t be an issue. A PP or PPK is on my wish list.

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