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The Walther PPK may be an older design but, like the storied Model 1911, it remains a popular personal defense gun. The reasons are many. It’s an easily concealed, compact gun with inherent accuracy, simplicity of operation (reliability), and excellent ergonomics. The fact that it’s a good looking gun amongst a host of black slabs doesn’t hurt either . . . provided you do your part.
Why do you need two Walthers?
In the world of self defense, shot placement trumps caliber or capacity every time. Stopping the threat quickly means destroying the central nervous system or taking out a major blood vessel. In order to gain the skill to place your shots with precision requires training. You can accomplish a lot with dry fire training, of course, but there’s no substitute for live fire drills.
Training can be fun. The downside is that it can also be expensive. Ammo in .380 auto runs from around $.30 a round for Russian Silver Bear full metal jacket (FMJ) ammo, to almost $2 a round for G2 Research RIP hollow points (HP). Fiocchi, Remington and Winchester hollow points, the most popular self-defense rounds, cost $.70-.80 apiece. To put a couple hundred rounds downrange in a typical outing will cost roughly $60 to $160, depending on whether you shoot the cheap stuff for practice or shoot what you’ll have loaded when you’re carrying. One outing obviously isn’t going to give you the skill you’ll need to perform at your best in an armed confrontation. That takes repetitive training to make drawing and shooting instinctive. So multiply the ammo costs by a factor of five to ten, including follow-up training, since shooting is a use-it-or-lose-it skill.
Fortunately, Walther makes a full size .22 model of the PPK/S. The diminutive .22 long rifle ammunition runs about $.15 – .20 a round for a savings of $30 – 130 an outing. Personally, I’d rather use my money to buy another gun than to buy more expensive ammo, and it won’t take long to hit the break-even point if you shoot enough to be able to confidently place your shots. Besides, the .22 is a lot of fun to shoot.
There are obviously much smaller guns than the PPK/S in .380 and even 9mm. However, I prefer the Walther because the slightly larger size and weight makes it much more comfortable to shoot. I happen to also like steel guns and double action/single action triggers. The added length of the grip on the PPK/S is also welcome, to say nothing of the additional round it carries over the earlier PPK.
Sometimes I think the industry has gone too far in trying to make guns smaller and smaller. I know that they’re just responding to customer demand, but smaller is not always better. Picture a tiny .380 auto that you could hide in your nose. Perfect for concealability, not so much for shootability. (All right, maybe that’s not a very reasonable example. My point is that there’s a point where smaller and lighter makes a gun difficult to shoot well.) Your biggest concerns for a defense gun should be that it is utterly dependable and that it helps you place rounds where you want them to go. For me the Walther PPK/S is the perfect size and weight. It is thin, small enough to disappear on even the smallest person, a joy to shoot, and has the ultimate qualities of dependability and accuracy.
While the PPK/S is fine for pocket carry, even with light summer clothing it’s easily concealed either inside the waistband (IWB) or outside the waistband (OWB). I’m fairly thin and find IWB carry uncomfortable with most guns. However, with a Remora sticky holster (http://www.remoraholsterstore.com/Default.asp), I can comfortably put the Walther into my waistband wherever I like, and it’s just as easy as sticking it into your pocket.
SPECS: Walther PPK/S
Caliber .380 auto .22 long rifle
Finish Stainless Steel Nickel Plated
Mag Capacity 7 rounds 7 rounds
Weight (no mag) 21.4 ounces 21.2 ounces
Weight (full mag) 25.5 ounces 24.5 ounces
Barrel length 3.3” 3.3”
Overall length 6.37” 6.1”
Width 0.98” 0.98”
Height (no magazine) 4.2” 4.2”
Trigger weight: DA 13 lbs. 17 lbs. 8 oz.
SA 5 lb. 6 oz. 5 lb. 2 oz.
MSRP 679.99 469.99
Street Price (approx.) 550.00 390.00
The Walther PPK/S .22 is nickel plated, has a smooth action, crisp trigger, and external hammer. I actually like the look of the nickel plating. It has an appealing color and the gun is nicely polished which gives it a quality look. The .380 auto is stainless steel with a non reflective finish. The .22 comes with two pinky rest magazines which hold ten rounds each. They’re steel with a composite bottom plate. The .380 also comes with two magazines.
Like its bigger brother, the .22 PPK/S has a safety/decocker mounted on the left rear of the slide. Down is safe and the forward position is ready to fire. Since it’s double action/single action, the first pull of the trigger requires more force. S&W lists it as 17.5 pounds and it’s all of that. Once the first shot has been fired, however, the hammer is back and you’re in single action mode for the remainder of your shots. The trigger has little creep and a clean break at just over 5 pounds. Of course you can manually cock the hammer and skip the double action stroke but if you’re using it (or the .380 auto) as a daily carry gun, it’s safer and easier to carry with the hammer down and the safety off. The greater weight of the double action pull makes it unlikely that you’ll have a negligent discharge, just like with a revolver; especially if you carry in a holster that covers the trigger. With the hammer down, it rests on a hammer block so there’s no risk of an accidental discharge from it being hit or dropped.
Because the PPK is a non-locking, simple blowback design, meaning that the expanding gasses from the cartridge simply force the brass and slide to the rear, it has a fixed barrel which makes for better accuracy. The downside is that it requires a fairly stiff recoil spring which can make the slide difficult to manipulate for those with weak hand strength.
Shooting from the widely used defensive distance of just over 21 feet, it was easy to place rounds within about a 2” inch group shooting offhand. The PPK is a close-in self defense gun; you shouldn’t have to shoot any farther than that in a personal defense situation. Some reviewers have been able to get 3” groups from a bench rest at 25 yards so it has the accuracy for longer shots. It’s just that with any gun this diminutive, you have to be really good to shoot effectively at longer ranges.
There were two things that I should comment on with regard to the dependability of the .22 PPK/S. First, it did not cycle reliably with regular pressure ammunition. Like most full size .22 partner guns, the gun needs high speed ammo. I shot both German and American ammunition and the gun performed flawlessly with both. The only thing I didn’t like was that when you insert a fully loaded magazine and chamber the first round, the second round in the stack rides the slide forward slightly. This makes it difficult to remove the magazine if it’s full or nearly full. You have to pull it until the top round pops free of the magazine. Not a big deal, just a minor annoyance. I guess when you don’t have any big problems with a gun, the little things stick out more.
Firing with the Huntertown Arms Guardian 22 SS silencer attached was even better. There was no noticeable change in the point of impact shooting offhand. What little recoil there is was further reduced, and the longer site radius made point shooting even more accurate. I can’t shoot cans, clay targets or exploding targets at my range, but plan to take it out of the city and do just that. The pistol isn’t silent, of course, but the sound level is reduced enough to shoot comfortably without ear protection. (Note: Our lawyers asked me to tell you that you should always wear ear protection when shooting regardless of whether or not you’re using a sound suppressor, and that you should always engage any safeties on the gun when carrying.)
The Guardian is an excellent silencer at a modest price – $289 MSRP (not counting the $200 Federal tax). Made by Huntertown Arms (http://huntertownarms.com/g22ss.php) the Guardian SS 22 is all steel with stainless steel baffles and comes apart easily for cleaning. You just have to buy an adapter to fit the gun on which you’ll be installing it. The adapter for the Walther PPK .22 was $35 from the Silencer Shop (http://www.silencershop.com/). By-the-way, it fits my Ruger 10/22 with the adapter removed so if you buy one for your 10/22, no adapter is needed.
Firing the .380 auto was identical to firing the .22 with the exception of a little lighter double action trigger weight (13 lbs.), and the added recoil from the bigger, more powerful round. The weight of the gun keeps recoil moderate, however. Some writers describe the .380 as a “snappy” round. That’s not true of the Walther. All guns experience the same recoil from identical rounds of course. The perceived recoil varies however, due principally to moving parts, weight of the firearm, and distance from the grip to the barrel. The Walther is ergonomically well designed with the barrel at the top of the grip which also makes sighting more instinctive. The weight of the gun serves to slow the recoil impulse so that, combined with the slide moving rearward, the recoil is spread over a longer duration than with plastic featherweight guns. It’s definitely NOT “snappy.” I’ve fired hundreds of rounds in one outing and could have happily continued if I’d had more ammo.
By now you’re probably getting the idea that I’m a PPK fan. I admit it, for better or worse. I don’t like a carry gun that’s too heavy or too light, too big or too small. This is definitely my Goldilocks gun. Sure, I‘d prefer more firepower and a bigger cartridge, and I also sometimes carry bigger guns depending on clothing, activities, etc., but with modern ammo the .380 auto will definitely do the job if you do your part. The Walther PPK/S design makes getting good with the gun fun and easy. It’s also easy to conceal and comfortable to carry, which is probably why I carry it so much.
The .380m auto version comes with 2 Magazines – one with the pinky rest and a composite bottom plate, and one with a flat steel bottom plate. The latter is slightly easier to conceal and I prefer an all steel magazine. With all the talk you hear about capacity and the advantages of a semi-automatic pistol over a revolver, there’s one point that’s never mentioned — the magazine is the weak link in a pistol. For example, I’ve fired thousands of rounds through a Glock 19 with not a single malfunction of the gun. However, I have had the bottom plate of the magazine fail on the first shot, dumping the rest of the rounds onto the ground and rendering it a single shot. So before you start bragging about how many rounds your gun holds, believe me when I say it can turn into a single-shot in an instant. That doesn’t happen with revolvers. And the reason you should always carry a second magazine if you carry a pistol isn’t for more firepower (unless you’re a member of Law Enforcement or the military where you might get into a running gun battle against large numbers of bad guys.) From what I’ve read, the average civilian gunfight lasts 3 seconds and 3 rounds are fired. That sounds reasonable. As a civilian, you need to carry a spare magazine in case your primary magazine fails! I’ve had three composite magazine base plates fail over the course of my shooting career; all from high quality original equipment manufacturers. Two of them had only been fired a few times. I know that’s not many failures, but please believe me as someone who’s been there – – if you’re ever in a gun fight, you want to know with absolute certainty that your firearm will function perfectly and that you’re prepared for any and all potential malfunctions. Shit happens. You may not get a do-over like you do at the range.
Train often. Stay safe. Have fun.