Intro: Meet the PPK/s
I guess it’s worth starting by addressing the obvious elephant in the room – What on earth was Smith & Wesson doing making a Walther? Well, for a time, Smith & Wesson owned Walther and hence had access to the PPK for manufacture. It cranked out PPK variants from 2001 to 2012. But the real reason was that demand for the James Bond gun never really went away.
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Walther has since cut ties with S&W and set up shop in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to relaunch its own Walther U.S.-made PPK line in 2019. Demand remained high, so that makes sense, but there’s no denying the pistol has a lot of years under its belt. Walther’s original design for the semi-auto double-action/single-action gun dates back to 1929.
While James Bond’s “PP7” was more often chambered for .32 ACP, the boost to .380 ACP packed more power in the blowback pistol for self-defense. But does the design still stand up?
Specs & Function
It’s a simple blowback system with a long history – much longer than even Walther’s classic design. Small straight-blowback sidearms were popular among private citizens and military officers – often as personal purchases in .25 and .32 ACP – even before World War I. But Walther’s often-replicated design has certainly become one of the most recognizable and respected.
The PPK/s, like other PPKs, hosts a fixed barrel surrounded by a recoil spring. Only the slide reciprocates when fired, ejecting casings and chambering the next round. The single-stack mags only host seven rounds of .380, but the entire package is quite slender and concealable as a result. It is, however, strikingly heavy when compared to the wide variety of modern micro-9mm handguns that host higher capacities of a generally more powerful round in a lighter, smaller package.
Here are some general specs:
Weight (Empty Mag): 1.475 poundsLength: 6.7 inchesSight Radius: 4.1 inchesWidth (Widest Point): 1.2 inchesHeight: 4.8 inchesCapacity: 7+1Double-Action Pull: 11.5+ pounds (advertised 13.4) Single-Action Pull: 4.4 pounds (advertised 6.1)
The weight of the double-action trigger maxes out on my gauge at 11.5 pounds, but it’s advertised at 13.4 pounds, which seems right. That might seem like quite a bit, but it’s remarkably smooth with very little stacking. In truth, it feels like a heavy but clean double-action revolver trigger. The break for the double-action trigger is abrupt, making it a bit hard to find exactly where the wall is located.
That said, after your first double-action pull, the gun moves into a nice and light single-action trigger. There’s about a quarter inch of slack to the take-up, minor mush, and a very short reset. My gauge had the SA trigger at 4.4 pounds. The reset is light enough that I occasionally struggled to shoot slow follow-up shots over the mandatory one-shot-per-second limit at my range.
Finally, this DA/SA gun hosts a safety/decocker that might feel a bit awkward to American hands. Mounted on the left side of the slide, the safety uses a forward sweeping motion that is basically the opposite of a 1911, requiring a forward and upward push to disarm the safety. The reverse motion activates the safety and simultaneously decocks the hammer. Smith & Wesson issued a limited recall on select PPK/s pistols back in 2009 over concerns with the decocker, which was remedied in-house on affected guns and updated for new ones.
Accuracy & Range Testing
The all-steel sights are basic but effective with a red dot at the front and a notched rear. The rear shows some of the design’s attention to detail, hosting a rear ledge for added visibility, while the top of the slide is nicely textured with a glare-reducing wave pattern.
While it has a bit of heft, that weight isn’t all bad. It does a nice job of eating recoil. There is still some snappiness, especially with self-defense loads, but I don’t want to overstate it. The gun isn’t unpleasant to shoot if you can forgive the frequent reloads needed with a 7+1 capacity.
Overall, the weight actually gives the gun a comfortable, authoritative feel in the hand. In fact, the entire gun feels like it fits like a glove, even with my larger hands. It points naturally and wields smoothly regardless of the weight.
The first double-action pull is a bit heavy, but it’s more of a rolling pull that allowed me to keep the gun on target while shooting. In a testament to the gun as a self-defense piece, I was able to quickly put multiple rounds on target in a sub-2.5-inch group at 10 yards thanks to the trigger, sights, and controllability.
For my testing, I ran 500 rounds through the PPK/s. The bulk of my shooting was 94-grain budget FMJ ball ammo mixed with 100 rounds of flat-headed lead-free 70-grain Federal indoor-training loads, and 100 rounds of 99-grain Hydra-Shok Deep hollow-point self-defense loads.
All ammo fed and ejected reliably. Better yet, the light trigger with a short reset allowed me to run the PPK/s with a fair amount of speed, which is appreciated in a self-defense pistol.
We could have a nice, long-winded debate about .380 as a self-defense round, but that’s kind of been done to death (see below link). Suffice it to say I wouldn’t want to be shot by any .380 ammo…ever. Plus, it actually has some extra merit in the fixed-barrel straight-blowback pistol game. There are limits to what you can safely do with recoil and pressure in such systems, and .380 strikes a nice harmony between power, reliability, longevity, and controllability.
RELATED: .380 ACP vs 9mm for Self-Defense – What’s the Real Difference?
Honestly, my primary concern when testing the PPK/s for carry was its weight at 1.5+ pounds loaded. The shape concealed nicely in a variety of holsters at both the appendix and 4-5 o’clock positions. The broader hybrid holsters that came with this PPK/s as a used gun from the Guns.com Vault did a fine job of spreading out the weight. After a few days of regular carry, I can say it was comfortable and easy to carry.
My biggest issue turned out to be the safety. Sure, this one is a bit of a training issue, but the forward motion to flip off the safety feels clumsy compared to a downward stroke. I have to break my grip slightly to do it reliably from a draw, and I’ve just never liked that particular design on any pistol.
Pros & Cons