Walther PPK/S

The Walther PPK/S in .380 Auto was the first gun I bought myself. Mine is made under license by Interarms in Alexandria, VA. I bought it shortly after divorcing my first wife. It's not that I needed protection from her, it's more like I needed new hobbies / activities after a big life change. I had been interested in firearms all my life, but with us arguing at home about all manner of issues, having a loaded gun in the house seemed like a non-starter....

It's been too many years (17 at this writing) for me to remember all the reasons why I wanted "this gun". I know I was looking for an easily concealed "pocket pistol", as I had just got my Washington State concealed weapons permit. I know I wanted a quality gun; so many .380 pocket pistols have a reputation for cheap manufacturing and failures. And I'm sure the whole "James Bond" thing played into it as well.

For all of these years, this gun has been the smallest one that I carry around. It stows easily (invisibly) in a jeans front pocket. It will do this on its own, but I find it handles a little better (i.e. grip is right side up and ready to draw) with a Blackhawk Size 4 pocket holster or a Galco PRO 204 pocket holster.

After spending time at Frontsight, I've been adding the Galco D919L magazine pocket pouch for my other pocket. This works equally well with my HK P7 magazines.

When ever we're out for a co-ed shoot, this gun always attracts the attention of the women; they want to shoot it because it looks 'cute'. Unfortunately for them, the 'physics' of a small gun means it barks (recoils) a lot more than a larger caliber gun with a larger frame (say, a Beretta 92FS in 9mm). I also spend a little bit of time making sure folks don't grasp it too high; it's easy to get some meat above the beavertail and get "bit" by the cycling slide. FWIW, I don't think I've ever asked Mrs. Peach (yes, I re-married) to shoot this gun. She is not an enthusiastic shooter, but she shoots the guns that I ask her to defend herself with (Beretta 92FS, Sig Sauer P226, HK P7) and does very nicely at close range. Setting her up with the Walther just seemed like it would be a negative experience. I did have my daughter, Sarah, shoot the PPK/s. I think she was about 18, and she was into it. Gave her bragging rights to her buddies and all that.

Charming gun, right? So why do I like it? For one, it aims where I point it. This is one of those almost indefinable attributes of handguns. You grasp a gun, you snap it up instinctively and point it at a target. *Then* you find the sights / sight picture. With this little Walther (or "Walter", as he is nick-named), the sights are already on target when I point it. In single action mode, this gun is deadly accurate at what I consider reasonable pistol-fighting ranges (out to 21 feet). The pointability / grip angle has something to do with it, as does the barrel fixed to the frame. This is a straight blow back design, which also accounts for the bark / recoil.

If it has a fault, it's the really nasty first (double action) trigger pull. I don't know what it measures out at, but I wouldn't be surprised to find it's 15-18 pounds. I rationalize it this way. If I'm in a "knife fight" (close contact range), that muzzle is going to be on target almost by definition as I wrestle with the trigger. If I have a half a second of warning, I'll cock the damn hammer the first time anyway. Problem solved.

I bought a Pachmayr grip for this gun, thinking it might tame the bark a bit. I would have to say that it does, but at too much cost (loss of features) for me. The grip is bulky, and interferes with the gun slipping in and out of a pocket. It also interferes with the aforementioned "pointability" of the gun (which leads be to believe that at least some of what I'm referring to is the slim profile of a single stack weapon). Lastly, it interferes with the magazine dropping free when the release is pressed. I haven't had the Pachmayr on the gun in at least ten years.

From my time as a photojournalist, I've nurtured this philosophy that if a tool is important to you, central to your workflow, you should have more than one of them (backup camera bodies, backups to key lenses, backup flashes, etc.). Towards that end, I bought another PPK/S, but this one was from Germany. It was a damned pretty gun. I don't think most of the parts were interchangeable between the two guns (I didn't actually try). I had that German PPK/S for about six months. I finally realized that the gun was so pretty (really a cut above on the depth of blueing, etc.) that I was afraid to carry it around and get it scratched! A pocket pistol that's afraid of pockets is of no use to me, so I sold it.

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