By Max Archer
Every man has wanted to be James Bond, especially these days with so many women drooling over Daniel Craig. Yet owning a Walther PPK and drinking the occasional martini is about as close as most of us will ever get. And now that rimfire rounds are becoming a bit less scarce, you might wonder if the PPK/S in .22LR would make a good cheap trainer for the real-deal PPKs in .380ACP. I was, too. When I first heard that Walther was making a rimfire version, I thought I’d write a “buy this, it will be a great .22LR analog trainer” article, but that would be a gross misrepresentation of the .22LR version of the PPK. It is so much more than that, and deserves more attention.
Fit Feel, Finish, Features & Functions There have been a number of changes to the PPK designs over the years. Some would call them refinements; others would say perversions. Yet most will agree that the .22LR PPK is a different animal entirely from the original PPK design. This PPK-S has a longer grip, a lighter slide and a number of changes internally to make it function as a rimfire pistol, such as a different extractor, firing pin, hammer and strut assembly, and barrel retention and mounting. Still, the classic Walther fit and finish carries through in the PPK/S .22LR, and overall it is a gun that you will be proud to own. From a distance, the PPK/S .22LR version looks like… well, a PPK. However, picking it up you notice a little weight difference because the slide is an zinc alloy instead of steel. The gun has a 10+1 magazine capacity.
The Walther PPK/S’s 3.3” steel barrel is chambered in .22LR with a nickel plated alloy slide and receiver construction. Capacity is 10+1 rounds with a double-action 17.5lb and single-action 6.6lb trigger pull. Overall dimensions are 6.1″ long and 4.9” tall with a slim .98” width. The front metal sight is fixed and the rear metal sight is drift adjustable and provides a total sight radius of 4.2”. The PPK/S .22 weights in at 1.5 lbs. The Walther drops the magazine, just as the regular PPK does, via the high mounted button which delivers a drop-free magazine. For those who are able to obtain Suppressors, the PPK/S .22LR does have a threaded barrel, but it does require the thread protector to be removed and to add a screw on adapter for standard 1/2x28TPI suppressor threads. And then there is the trigger….
Where the big brother .380 ACP powered Walther PPK has a 13.4 lb. double action trigger, the PPK/S .22LR version has an absurdly heavy 17.5 lb. double-action pull. Honestly, I think it has to be the heaviest trigger pull in the industry. This seems to be a reoccurring problem in the industry, where the .22LR look-alike pistol version has seemingly twice the trigger pull weight, such as the Sig Mosquito and Ruger LCR that many feel also have excessive trigger pulls. The single-stage trigger is excellent and relatively light feeling after the first round goes off and the slide begins cocking the hammer for you. That full double-action pull, which is fully cocking the hammer, is heavy for a reason. Generally, .22LR primers can be pretty stubborn, and occasionally downright unreliable, if they don’t get a hard whacking. Knowing that it would be used defensively at some point by someone, Walther wanted to assure as much reliability out of the .22LR version as possible. So they’ve put in some serious springs. On the positive side, you aren’t going to pull this trigger accidentally, at least not without cocking the hammer first.
The Defensive .22LR Conundrum So here is the conundrum about the PPK/S .22LR: it is not only a plinking, practice or analog trainer for its .380 ACP chambered brothers. Instead, the PPK/S .22LR, in stock configuration, is really a good defensive tool for the recoil sensitive. I can hear it now, “Are you nuts? A .22LR for defense?”, “Why would anyone buy this?”… etc. Well, there is a market for new shooters who find the recoil of the .380 ACP is too much to handle. Now Walther provides this option. Personally, I would never use or recommend a .22LR for self defense. And yet, for some, it is the only acceptable option in terms of comfort and control. With those limitations in mind, the Walther .22LR would be an excellent recommendation and it offers a perfect transition to the .380 ACP model if the shooter begins to become comfortable with firearms.
Frustrations I spent the better part of an afternoon cursing and swearing over problems the PPK/S .22 had with all manner of standard match and high-velocity 1200 fps .22LR ammo, from CCI Standard Velocity to M-22 Winchester bulk boxed ammo. The PPK .22 was regularly short-stroking rounds with the standard velocity match ammo, and the bulk high velocity ammo was not much better. This may be due to the springs mentioned earlier.
Then I ran a mag of CCI Mini-Mags and suddenly had a properly cycling action. The Mini-Mags are just a bit hotter than the bulk ammo I was running, and I finished the box with no malfunctions. The “ah-ha” moment happened, and I pumped through two full boxes of CCI Velociter (1400 FPS) rounds through the gun and again had zero failures of any kind. Then I tried another 100 rounds of CCI Stingers, and they worked perfectly on a gun that had not been cleaned at this point in over 400 rounds. So my conclusion was simple. Walther designed this pistol around very high velocity .22LR rounds, and it will take a lifetime of the abuse these hot .22LR rounds can dish out on a light alloy slide gun. However, it may not be fun or reliable to shoot with whatever ammo is cheapest on the shelf. With the PPK/S .22, the hotter the ammo the better. I’ve read a lot of other write-ups of this gun, though, and others aren’t seem to have the gun running fine (even with subsonic loads with the gun open or suppressed).
The problem is that it is actually easier to find .380 ammo than it is .22LR ammo these days, and specifically the good .22LR CCI that functions well in the Walther. In addition, the .22LR ammo and the .380ACP rounds are nearly the same cost. Ten years ago, I would have said this was the gun to have if you were a Walther PPK nut. However, today the ammo it needs to operate reliably is really hard to find at any price.
There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for those wanting the Walther PPK/S .22LR to become a cheap plinker, trainer and cheap-to-shoot fun gun: swapping springs. I have heard that some have used the reduced-force .380 Walther Wolf Springs with success, but this would not be my recommendation for any gun intended for defensive use. The Wolf recoil/slide and hammer springs can be had for around $15 and are a reversible upgrade, so it may be worth the investment to give it a try at that price. Or, if you aren’t going to use it for defense, take it for what it is, and don’t let the occasional hiccup get you down. Accuracy No one expects miraculous accuracy with any 3.3” .22LR pistol. However, once I had the right ammo in the magazine, I was able to put 10 rounds in a 1” circle at ten yards. At 25-yards, groups were more in the 4”-6” range. The PPK/S .22LR has a fixed barrel and was more accurate with Match ammo, with groups about half the size of the high-velocity Velociter. However, as noted, we ran into reliability issues and basically had to hand-charge some rounds. Given the intent of this pistol, the accuracy I experienced is perfectly acceptable for defense or plinking.
Final Thoughts To clear the air, the PPK/S .22LR is probably one of the best small semi-auto .22LR pistols for defensive use on the market and is extremely reliable with top-shelf hyper-velocity ammo. That said, given the ongoing ammo shortage, I wish Walther had designed the pistol to be more accommodating to the entire range of .22LR ammo. It would have been a better plinker, trainer, fun gun and far more practical.
After Shot Show 2014, I picked up both the .380 PPK and this .22LR PPK/S, intending to write an article around using the .22LR version as the trainer, however that idea did not work. If you are a plinker, you will need patience to find the very hard-to-find hyper velocity .22LR rounds required to make the PPK/S go bang each and every time. The PPK/S .22LR is a fine design, well made, and even a great option for those with a need for a light-recoiling .22LR for defense. Just do not expect it to deliver joyous reliability with bulk ammo.
PPK/S .22 Specifications
Model: 5030320 Caliber: .22 L.R.
Finish: Nickel Plated
Barrel Length: 3.3″
Trigger Pull: DA: 17.5 lbs / SA: 6.6 lbs
Capacity: 10 rnds
Overall Length: 6.1″ Height: 4.9″ Width: 0.98″
Sight Radius: 4.2″
Weight (empty mag): 1.5 lbs