The Ruger LCP is small enough to lose in your hand. This gun has got to be one of the smallest and easiest to shoot .380’s for the size.
Both, disassembled. The Ruger, left, has the separate, floating barrel design that sits with the slide. The PPK to the right has the barrel integral to the frame.
The Walther’s sights are far superior to the Ruger’s; however, this is a close-in gun. In reality, you will most likely be point shooting.
Comparing the Classic Walther PPK to the Ruger LCP – Is Newer Really Better?
By Brian Jensen
Smith and Wesson:
With the explosion of concealed carry permits throughout the United States, gun manufacturers have risen to the occasion with mini pistols made specifically for the civilian concealed market. These pocket pistols are often chambered for smaller rounds, such as the .380 ACP.
The Walther PPK
The pocket pistol is nothing new. The Colt Model 1908 Pocket was a small .25 caliber pistol introduced in 1908 in the US (and in 1905 by FN in Europe). However one pistol that made a remarkable impact in history was the Walther PPK.
The PPK was a small, traditional double action pistol by Walther in Germany, chambered primarily in the .380 Auto and .32 Auto cartridges. It carried a six round magazine in .380, and with its 3.3 inch barrel, it was easily concealable. Another feature that some like, and others may not, is the slide mounted safety that doubles as a de-cocker for the hammer.
These were seen in blued versions from Germany, then later in stainless steel when production moved to the US under Interarms. When the Gun Control Act of 1968 came about, a newer version, known as the PPK/S was developed to give the gun enough import “points” to come into the US. It mated the full-size frame of the Walther PP (the PPK’s predecessor) with one round more capacity with the more compact slide of the PPK.
However, no mention of the PPK is complete without covering its impact on pop culture, courtesy of Ian Fleming’s James Bond. In the opening scenes of Dr. No, the first 007 movie, Bond is forced to give up his small Beretta .25 for a Walther PPK in 7.65 Browning (.32 Auto) which Bond’s boss claimed that the CIA had great success with. The PPK was with Bond for many years after that, and the Bond connection is credited by many, with its success in the 1960’s to now.
These guns have been carried by people throughout the decades; from German officers in WWII to modern day cops, even today. Hitler is even reported to have exited this life (a few years later than the world would have liked) with a Walther PPK. (In fact, when I first began in Law Enforcement twenty years ago, the “in” gun was still a stainless PPK/S.) For many years, the PPK/S was the standard for the .380 pistol by which all others were measured.
These guns are still currently in production under license from Smith and Wesson, and enjoy a loyal following for the newer versions. However, the price for one of these goes well into the high end $1000’s for collector grade and rare models. If you want an older version, there are many early US-made versions under Interarms or French versions under the Manurhin name for sale.
Enter the LCP
Few guns have hit the US Market like the Ruger LCP. The LCP (Ruger’s Lightweight Compact Pistol) is an example of today’s ultra mini .380 pistols, carrying six rounds in the magazine, plus one in the chamber. This DAO gun rivals the firepower of the PPK in a very concealable package.
That’s not the truly exceptional part of this pistol. This weapon is smaller, and lighter than what most have come to expect from our little .380’s like the PPK, Sig P232, or the Browning BDA. This gun measures well under an inch in width, and weighs less than 10 ounces empty.
The 2.75 inch barrel allows for easy carry, and its slim profile disappears in a pocket without any effort. The only control levers are the magazine release and a small nub that acts as a slide lock. There are no manual safeties to accidentally fumble with. Thanks to the glass-filled nylon frame mated with a hardened steel alloy slide its light weight makes the gun feel more like a toy than a pistol; even when loaded it feels a little surreal. Since this gun was meant for concealed carry, it carries a set of fixed sights that are small and low-snag on the top of the gun. They don’t look like much, but they do work.
When the LCP first came out a couple of years ago, stores couldn’t keep them on their shelves. Then, a brief recall to correct some safety features occurred, but this didn’t dampen the appeal of the little gun. In fact, it is one of the few guns priced reasonably so anyone could afford it. It became known in some circles for a small gun you knew you would carry just because it’s so light that you’ll never have an excuse not to carry it. Currently at my police department, officers have flocked to the gun for off-duty and backup carry, making it one of the most common types used.
The gun gained even more popularity when Texas Governor Rick Perry killed a coyote with one of these little guns while out on a walk with his daughter’s dog. The incident left the predatory coyote as “mulch” per the Governor. It even spawned a special edition gun to capitalize on the story.
Fit and Finish
OK, fit and finish is a relative thing for people. For someone who just wants a utilitarian pistol for CCW, they will likely favor a corrosion resistant finish to protect the gun against the sweat and salts that occur when carried. To someone like this, stainless steel, a coating finish, or metal a treatment like Melonite will be high on their list. However, for those who collect, or just like the old school look of traditional bluing they will want something less high tech and more old school.
For the utilitarian in you, the LCP has a pretty no-nonsense finish most will be happy with. It offers decent corrosion resistance, and if that’s not enough, the slide can be refinished easily by such companies as CCR Refinishing for a very reasonable price.
The Walther excels for the traditionalist. Mine has the traditional bluing, which looks classy, and will wear with that traditional look that a well-used (and even loved) weapon will get. It will need a good wipe down with a cloth and oil from time to time to keep it in good condition. Again, there are those who can refinish these guns, for a price, to make this more resistant to corrosion. Or, you can opt for a Stainless Steel version that will be excellent for CCW with far less worries, yet still hold that bit of class.
Like I said before the Ruger feels almost like a toy since it’s so light. That works highly in its favor in making it very easy to carry. There were no rough spots to snag your clothes, or your skin for that matter. With a finger extension, it is very comfortable to hold with a 3-finger grip. Without it, you need to hold on tight with two fingers while you wrap your little finger under the grip.
The Walther feels much more substantial with its 21 ounces of steel. That’s more than double the weight of the LCP, but not too heavy for a CCW weapon. Then again, it is an all-steel gun. (Personally, part of me prefers the feel of a metal gun sometimes, but to each their own.) There is more room in the grip using the traditional finger extension to hold the gun with your whole hand – making it feel natural to grip, while the longer barrel makes it feel a little more balanced than the LCP.
At the Range
OK, so we’ve fawned over these two diminutive pistols, how does it feel when the rubber meets the road? They can look or feel good all day long, but how do they shoot?
I took both to the range and tried not only ball, but some of the newer .380 defensive ammo in the Hornady Critical Defense 95 gr and the Remington Golden Saber 102 gr. JHP.
OK, now I kind of expected a lot from the Walther, due to it’s history, but what I failed to realize, was that this gun was designed to carry and be fired close in to your target. That means, a painfully long initial heavy trigger pull. Afterwards, it was a crisp single action pull.
The sights on the Walther were far superior to the LCP, but the first double action trigger pull was a bear – I’d realistically estimate it as north of 15 pounds, maybe even closer to 20. But then came the single action pull, which was crisp and light in the neighborhood of 3-4 pounds. This allowed for very accurate shooting compared to the primary trigger pull.
I called Walther to ask about a lighter hammer spring to drop the trigger pull weight, and they said recommended against it. They explained these guns are meant for close in shooting, and while a lighter hammer spring may drop the trigger pull weight, it may also make it so the hammer will not drop with enough force to reliably strike the firing pin / primer. I opted to keep it stock as a result.
Recoil was pretty stout for an all-steel pistol. This is because the barrel of the Walther is fixed to he frame of the PPK, whereas pistols such as LCP use a floating barrel that sits inside the slide assembly. This translates recoil a bit more abruptly to the shooter’s hand, unlike a design like the Ruger.
Accuracy was difficult to judge for the little PPK. The first shot double action was difficult to be accurate, however, everything after that was fired single action and was pure silk smooth. Three to four inch groups were the norm slow fire, even with the long and nasty first trigger pull.
The Ruger fired well, but recoil was also noticeable since it is such a light gun. I definitely wouldn’t call this a gun for lengthy sessions at the range. I qualify with mine once a year, and practice a few times in between those shoots – that’s plenty. After about 100 rounds, my hand is a little tired. Partly from recoil, and partly from the tedious way I have to hold the gun because it’s so small.
Accuracy was outstanding for the Ruger, being such a small pistol with very rudimentary sights. I can put everything in a 2-3 inch pattern at 7 yards during slow fire. The down side is that since this is such a small pistol, I had to grip the gun very deliberately to make sure I had my finger on the trigger correctly. Otherwise I had too much of my finger on the trigger and would “push” the shots to the left.
While the Walther will lock back on an empty chamber, the Ruger will not, so you need to count your shots to be ready to reload. If not, you need to be ready to reload as soon as you hear that deafening “click” and rack the slide.
I shot both with 95 FMJ ball, 102gr Remington Golden Saber and 95gr Hornady Critical Defense. I had one slight hiccup with the Golden Sabers on the Ruger, but I have fired dozens of those rounds through the gun, so I would normally chalk that up as a fluke. Both gave good accuracy as I mentioned before. Definitely up to par for self defense shooting.
And the Winner Is…
The guns are two different examples of eras over 75 years apart. Yet both offer something. Both can be had for anywhere from $300 to $550, and both were reliable with all types of ammunition used. I really believe both have something to offer to today’s shooter.
The Ruger wins hands-down for its ability to drop into a pocket without notice. It is thinner and lighter than the Walther by a fair margin. Not to mention Ruger makes fine, reliable, and durable firearms. In going for the concealed carry market, they hit a home run with this gun.
The Walther has some things going for it as well. It has better sights, the slide lock-back on an empty chamber, and the ability for a single action trigger pull. For those who want a manual safety the Walther comes with one.
I have to say, if I had to go with just one, it would be the Walther. To me, there is just something about a steel pistol; call me a traditionalist, but I know a few PPK’s from WWII that still work. But either way, both would be good choice for a .380 as a concealed carry weapon.
Smith and Wesson: