Walther PPK/S, Hornady .380 ACP ammunition, ammo, pistol, handgun

Walther PPK/S

Sometimes it takes a little public relations boost for a product to achieve the recognition it deserves.

By Dick Williams (RSS)
June 8, 2011

Case in point: the Walther PPK. Recognized by knowledgeable handgunners as a jewel of German engineering, it was a fictional English spy who made the little semi-automatic almost a household word. The compact pistol was a perfect choice for James Bond to carry beneath the impeccably tailored tuxedos and expensive suits he wore almost nightly in the great casinos of Europe.

While I’ve never owned an Aston Martin, I did recently acquire a Walther PPK/S during my search for the “shaken, not stirred” way of life. As it turns out, the PPK/S is a nifty concealed-carry gun.


My Walther is a stainless steel model distributed by Smith & Wesson. It’s a simple blowback action, like most semi-autos chambered for .380 ACP. Barrel length is 3.25 inches, about .6-inch shorter than the original PP barrel. The PPK/S is larger and heavier than more modern .380s with polymer frames and even shorter barrels—something you will appreciate when firing the gun.

A true single-action/double-action pistol, the little Walther can be fired when the hammer is cocked and the trigger is in the rearward position (single action), or when the hammer is down and the trigger is in the forward position (double action). As you would expect, its trigger pull is much lighter in single-action mode, which translates to better accuracy. Unlike many double-action semi-autos, the PPK/S is compact enough for shooters with medium-sized hands to get enough finger on the trigger to effect a controlled double-action pull.

Walther PPK, Timothy Dalton, 007, handgun, pistol

Timothy Dalton carried this Walther PPK in “Licence to Kill.” It, and many other Hollywood guns, were on display at the National Firearms Museum through April 2011.

The safety lever is mounted on the slide rather than the frame, and it is quite interesting. If engaged while the hammer is down, the safety prevents the hammer from being cocked and the trigger from being pulled. On the other hand, if engaged while the hammer is cocked, the safety rotates a block and drops the hammer safely against it while locking the trigger in the rear position. This safety is not as easy to operate as that of a 1911, but it is manageable.

Its magazine release is a frame-mounted button located just behind the trigger and below the slide. Both the magazine release and the safety are set up for right-handed shooters. The grips are plastic with molded checkering—nothing fancy or elaborate, but more than adequate to maintain your grip when firing the relatively mild .380 ACP cartridge.

The PPK/S is sold with two, seven-round magazines. One has a flat base for easier concealment, while the second has an extended finger rest for more comfortable shooting.

My first range session with the PPK/S was unusually fun but perhaps less than scientific. I had some time around hunting camp, so I set up a couple of pie plates at 10 yards and used several brands of .380 ammo. The focus was on verifying the little pistol could function under rapid-fire conditions with repeated kill-zone hits.

There were two malfunctions, specifically failures to feed, and both occurred with the same Federal ammunition that seemed to be a touch longer than rounds from other manufacturers. The magazine and ejection port dimensions are rather tight, which probably explains the difficulties I encountered when trying to chamber rounds with a slightly greater overall length. The rest of the ammo I tested reliably transitioned from magazine to chamber 100 percent of the time. I also found loading the single-stack PPK/S magazines was more difficult than loading 1911 magazines.

Keeping all shots in the 10-inch plates was fairly easy when running at a rapid, but controlled rate of fire. The safety functioned flawlessly and magazines dropped clear of the gun when the release button was pushed.

Slapping loaded magazines into the gun demands a little care. The heel of my shooting hand protrudes well below the pistol and tended to block a new magazine from fully locking into place. It seemed easier to reload with the extended magazine than the flat-base model, but I still needed to rotate my shooting hand off the grip to ensure proper seating.

The PPK/S comes with conventional fixed sights: a small front blade and a rear notch. The front blade has a red dot in it while the rear sight has a red mark under the notch. In bright daylight, the sights worked fine, but things changed dramatically as light faded. I had trouble seeing either the sights or the red marks, and when I could see red, I couldn’t tell whether I was looking at the rear or front sight. This probably had more to do with my poor eyesight than the pistol.

Regardless, I needed to make a correction to ensure I could handle a defensive scenario in low-light conditions with the PPK/S. I shipped the gun to XS Sight Systems for the company’s Big Dot treatment. Three weeks later Marketing Vice President Dave Biggers brought the remodeled Walther to me at Gunsite with the new sight system installed.

With the Big Dot sights, the PPK/S proved to be an excellent defensive firearm for low-light scenarios. The big white front dot is visible (if not perfectly focused) to my naked eye so I can put it on the center mass of a close-range threat and feel confident of making hits. The small tritium bead in the center of the white dot is visible in even lower light.

Did I surrender some precision in longer-range shooting? Yes, although several of us demonstrated it is possible to put hits on a torso-sized target at ranges beyond 25 yards with the XS Big Dot. But keep in mind a defensive scenario suggests engaging targets at very close distances, and it is here where the XS sight excels.

I mentioned the PPK/S is considerably heavier than its modern, polymer counterparts. This means you will have to put a little more thought in how you choose to carry it. Galco’s Pro 436 holster fits the PPK/S beautifully. And with its rough-side-out finish, the holster holds its position inside the pocket perfectly when drawing the Walther or when just moving around.

Whether or not the PPK/S is too heavy for pocket carry is a personal decision. To me, the Walther’s minimum width suggests that an optimum carry technique would be in an inside-the-waistband holster with the grip hidden by an overhanging shirt or other garment. Obviously, when venturing out in evening wear, one should feel obligated to continue the Bond tradition of using an under-the-armpit holster made of luxurious black leather. Since I don’t have a tuxedo, let me know how that works.

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25 Responses to Walther PPK/S

  1. mike gigler says:

    Thanks for the + comments on this neat little gun. I bought mine for the panache first,(and it was well priced used). I haven’t shot it much,and am advised it’s not a gun for shooting hundreds of rounds continuously; too much bite. I carry it easily in my Galco OWB with thumb break. I’ll be sure to avoid the Federal ammo.

  2. Dave says:

    I’ve been wanting to pick one of these up and this just solidifies that decision. The comments on the sights were helpful.

  3. Frank Heller says:

    Bought a PPK/S Had it back tp S&W three times for Malfunction and broken parts. On the 3rd try they replaced the pistol. NO problems since.

  4. midnitelamp says:

    Far more comfortable in 32,which is probably what it was designed around.

  5. Chris Grenier says:

    bought a ppk/s 3years ago carry it iwb w/crossbreed
    holster,found the sharp edges on the slide will slice inside of thumb.never fails to fire and pretty accurate.
    did you have to machine in the big dot sights?Have them on my M&P.

  6. oruze says:

    mine is ss model imported by interarms – i got a great deal on it from a retired police officer that was selling it. Mine had some trigger work done and polished a bit to feed hollow points. As for ammo preferences, it does not like Aguilla fmjs – they seem to dirty up the action quickly.

  7. Luuis says:

    On my 2nd PPK/s, first was stolen out of my truck. My First one was with out a fualt, second one from GM, went to S$W, no problems since, no amo, feed or concern of any kind. It’s my carry unit. I also have 2 9mils, a very nice 45 and so on, this is my choise for my self defence, a great little gun.

  8. Rich says:

    I have a PPK/S that I bought in 1993. It is of the Interarms era and I am happy to see S & W taking the helm. This has been a great handgun, extremely reliable and easy to maintain. It is a great carry gun and though I have a variety of other more powerful carry guns, I still go to this one regularly when I need something really concealable. I’m of the original Bond era, so thanks Mr Connery!!

  9. Daniel says:

    I have a Interarms PPK/S. I carry it as both a primary and/or secondary CC weapon. It was handed down to me from my father so I am not 100% on the date of manufacuture. The PD round I carry with the Walther is the Remmington Golden Saber 102gr JHP. This nasty little round I would go so far to say it would have similar stopping power and a standard .40 cal round at 6-10 Ft.
    True, the “James Bond” effect gets lots of “ooo’s” and “aaah’s” when I am at the range. When I ever I produce it at the range I am always asked if they can fire it.
    With the “Blow Back” action of the weapon you have to keep a stiff wrist when firing. Proper control when firing will keep the weapon from mis-feeding along with quality ammo. I think one of the better qualities of this weapon is that when running through “point and shoot” exercises accuracy is not lost. Ok, I have gone through a lot of training and practice scenarios very often. However, hitting center mass with 3 rounds (about a 3 inch patern) is excellent with a small frame pistol.
    I also agree with the shoulder holster. Get an excellent quality “made of luxurious black leather” holster. The ladies love it and all the boys will be jealous, I know my wife diggs it.

  10. Frank R Walker says:

    I have had mine for a long time. Carried concealed as well. Shoots great and handles well. 32 may not be recognized as a big stopper, but if the rounds are well placed it works as a close in protection round.

  11. Dhul Waqar Yaqub says:

    I purchased my .380 PPK about 1966, in Germany, while serving in the military. I’ve used it as my only concealed carry weapon for 40 years. During range sessions I’ve never had a malfunction using 95 Grain FMJ rounds by Winchester. I’m very comfortable with this weapon’s stopping power although I’ve been very lucky by not having to use it in an actual defensive posture.

    • Robert J. Aquaro says:

      I have had a SS model for about a year. It is the Smith and Wesson version. I replaced the grips with Rosewood. At first, I had problems with every ammo I tried. I kept going and the more I shot it the better it got. I carry it only when I am wearing a jacket. I use a very simple belt holster. I love this gun. And yes, whenever someone sees it they all want to fire it. It is an ou and ah gun, no doubt.

  12. John says:

    I carry a new (2012) S&W – blued Walther PPK 380. A Bianchi shoulder holster works well and even while wearing custom made suits (very trim tailored to my body) it conceals perfectly.

    It really is a well designed handgun which is an excellent balance of size and features. Sure it may not be a great “target shooting gun”, but I trust my PPK for self defense. (accuracy out to fifty feet is perfectly fine)

    On the negative side, I agree, the sharp edges can bite in and slice the webbing of your hand near your thumb. The safety works, but it takes a little getting used to and isn’t the easiest to manipulate.

    The double action trigger pull works well to avoid unintentional discharges and in a stress situation, with adrenaline pumping, there is no problem at all squeezing it, after the first round the single action pull is light and easy to maintain each following round on target.

    Ian Fleming made a good choice when he switched Bond from the small Beretta to the Walther PPK.

  13. Art B. says:

    I have smoothed and “deburred” the sharp edges on my PPK/S, so there is no “bite”. I also thank Sean Connery for helping to make the PPK popular; it doesn’t matter to me that he is “anti-gun” — he brought James Bond to the “masses”, and Bond’s weapon of choice IS the Walther PPK. Fantastic little gun, fun to shoot, and it will be my preferred carry weapon.

  14. Floyd Smith says:

    I own to Smith and session pp series pistols,a PPK with the blued finish and a PPPS in stainless. Both of these weapons performed flawlessly out of the box and continue to do so.I carry them both in a Ritchie Leather Stake out with matching mag pouch and a Ritchie leather horizontal shoulder holster with a double mag pouch that offsets the holstered pistol on the left side.This is a pull through holster that works very well and is as beautiful as it is fuctional.Iove both of these pistols and I carry one of them on a daily basis. Both of these pistols are in .380 cal. And I use a custom round made up by Tug Hill Cartridge, Inc. Out of Camden NY that uses the Hornady XTP bullet.This round functions very well and is very accurate out of these pistols. These pistols have a lot of class and they carry very comfortably.

  15. Kristina says:

    The only thing I would disagree with is the right-handed magazine release. I am a lefty with very small hands and I can not drop the mag when I shoot this right handed without readjusting my grip away from the firing grip. However, I can very easily release it with my left index finger while shooting left handed.

  16. LordV says:

    I love these guns, I own two the SS and the Blue models. While precticing I shoot Sellier & Bellot 92 Grain FMJ Bullets, I never had a failure and the recoil is very light.

    • Mike Tyahur says:

      I have recently purchased a new PPKS 380 ACP. Have not shot too many rounds thru it yet, but found it very accurate even at 25 yards. I do find the 13 lb trigger pull to be hard to work with. Anyone know how to fix or know a reliable gunsmith that can adjust the pull to 7 lbs?????

  17. I sent my PPK/S to Perry’s Gun Repair,LLC
    roger@gunshooter.com he is a vet and I spoke to him on what was needed first. He replaced the recoil spring, hammer spring, extractor spring, hammer cock spring and firing pin spring. Recut the angle on the extractor for positive feeding. Repainted front sight, rear sight and safty indicator to factor standard. Ultrasonically cleaned and lubricated the pistol and mag. He test fired 25 rounds with Federal 95 grain FMJ and Winchester 95 grain FMJ to make sure no feeding problems. He told me to use FMJ only to make sure there is no problems The cost is $125 plus your shipping. He does not do trigger work and advises to stay with what the factory built. Roger is great to work with and being a vet I went with what he recommended. Turn around time was very good and great to work with. E-mail him and he will get back to you he even called me and answered all my questions. At least check into it and judge for yourself if you would like for him to work on your handgun. Good luck

  18. Chuck black says:

    Bought a knickel PPK S in 22. What a fun gun. It likes cci ammo. I love to take mine when I go stomping around the timber. Oh everyone loves this gun! It feels right in your hand , is safe. , shares some history with the more powerful 380 and did I mention that everyone loves this sweet Walther!

  19. Tripp says:

    I have a West German built PPK/S that is my favorite carry. I have had it for years, and it has never let me down. A word of caution though, about the PPK ‘bite’. If you don’t keep a firm wrist it can misdeed and nip the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. It’s a blowback recoil fed system so if you shorten the movement by letting it rise during firing, it will malfunction. If you own a PPKS from Germany, there is a two digit date stamp on the receiver indicating the year it was made.

  20. James Kissinger says:

    I bought first stainless model from S&W when it came out.My first handgun in 1973 was a blued interarms model PPK/S.A fantastic weapon in Kurt 380.Loved that gun.It went thru serious abuse and after a takedown cleaning kept on purring.Sold it due to duration of travel time . sadly after recall for decor problem and a hacksaw feed ramp with multiple ftf. And a broken extractor that internally looked smelter from aluminum they repaired and polished ramp [(]professionally[)] and it continued it’s ftf.2009 I was sick of it and left in safe till a week ago.Contacted S&W and they sent me to Walther now a separate co.Walther said no go to Smith they said no go to Walther.Now I have A nice paper weight.I guess that why they are off Cali.market.Have talked to others same problem.Nice history and mine must be one of the lemons.Thats why I shoot Kimber, Beretta, Glock, Colt, Chiappa, Ruger and Sig.Hope you all have better time and I’m sure glad Adolph’s worked? Or am I?

  21. Russ Hobgood says:

    On the sights; I put a drop of Rustoleum safety yellow in the front sight cavity on my PPK/S; helps with sight alignment. I will look into the XS system.

  22. superman says:

    Looking for affordable option, which one you recommend?

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