Thursday, May 14, 2015

Walther PP - The Simplicity of Firepower

The Wather PP (police pistol) was originally produced in 1929 at a factory at Zella-Melhis, which lies in what is now Eastern Germany.  Even being a bit late to the automatic pistol party, compared to such pistol manufacturers as Mauser, Luger and Colt, it was still considered a marvel in simplicity and accuracy.

The PP was one of the first commercially successful double action pistols, with an exposed hammer, a single column magazine and a fixed barrel, which acts as the guide rod for the recoil spring.  First issued to European Police and sport shooters, they became popular for both concealability and accuracy. During WWII, Walther produced many PP series pistols for the Wehrmacht (the uniformed armed forces of Germany during 1939 to 1945). It also became a popular sidearm for high ranking Nazi officers and party leaders (collectors will find some embellished and marked to denote the party or ministry and even the title of the person).
A model in simplicity and accuracy, they were one of the more copied pistols, with the exception of the venerable 1911, soon to be found all over the world, manufactured over the years in .22, .25, .32 and .380 calibers. The Walther PP, in any caliber, is straight blowback. More simply put, when the gun is fired,the barrel does not move rearward with the slide until chamber pressure diminishes. What retards the slide is simply its weight, the recoil spring and the main spring.

The PP's were part of a series that included the Walter PP, PPK (appearing in 1931), PPK/S and later, PPK.E. The PPK, with it's shorter grip and barrel is much more well known to people who aren't necessarily firearm collectors, being the pistol (a 7.65mm/.32 ACP) that was James Bond's signature guns in many of the films based on novels of Ian Fleming, who created the fictional character. That choice of a weapon had an effect on not only its popularity, but its recognition

The newer series are manufactured in Germany or the US, but this pistol is of decided German origin, 1945, and chambered in .32, the original chamber of the piece. Before ending up in the safe at the Range, it belonged to a long retired Midwest Police Officer. How he ended up with it, I did not know, as his family had little history, but many Walthers were brought back as trophies by returning GI's after WWII.
It is what is known as "AC marked", denoting a late wartime pistol from the Walther factory with milled finish (high polished finishes not being a priority during war time).  The AC proofmark is found on the side of the slide, and many of these firearms had neither Walther inscription or trademark, though this one does. You will find some with (pressed) wood grips and some with cross hatched plastic. During late war production, about anything was used and finish become progressively more crude as conditions for the German's deteriorated, though functionality remained quite good. Even so, Wartime PP's are favorites of collectors and those in mint condition can command a very good price.  Post War finish of the PP's and PPK's is still among the finest found.

Handling.  It's pretty much the same as most conventional DA/SA semiautomatic pistols, with a slide-mounted decocking system that's been emulated on many other pistols. The only other firearm in the series I've handled is the .380, which is more common. I think the sights on the .32 are a little bit better regulated for point of aim equals point of impact than the .380 and the double action was a bit smoother. But outside of that and barrel length I didn't see much cosmetic difference.
Another  advantage of the PP (and later PPK/s) over the PPK is that it has a full steel backstrap. That will provide a grip surface even if you manage to drop the piece, breaking a grip, or have one go missing. (if you drop the PPK and break the grips, save it for breakfast because at this point, it's toast, as far as firing)

The .32 also was also a little less "snappy" which any of you who've fired smaller firearms know what I mean.

Sights - fixed, about as simple as it gets, plain black front sight with the "U" notch in the rear.
Field Stripping.  To remove the slide, after checking that the magazine is removed and there is no round in the chamber, you must first pull down on the trigger guard. This is where an extra hand would be handy. Some people will twist the trigger guard slightly to one side to hold it against the frame. Twisting  parts on something that old is not always a great idea (any of you over 40 who have done Yoga will attest).

After clearing your firearm, you can use a pencil between the trigger guard and the frame (the equivalent of a slide catch on a sig) which takes the block out of the way so the slide can then be moved forward ("Gunsmithing with the No. 2 Pencil"- Firearm Bestseller - FAIL).

Being a fixed barrel design you must pull the slide rearward, lift and then slide forward. Still, it's quite easy with a little help.

The grips come off easily to access the internals and overall cleaning is pretty standard.  If you've field stripped any other PP model or most Sig's it's very intuitive.

Concealed carry. It is small, the barrel a bit less than 4 inches and slender so it's easy to conceal.  That being said, I'd certainly want something more than .32 if meeting up with someone intent on my serious harm or death.  But in the pocket, while in the garage, it would make a nice back up gun, chambered in something such as PMC 71-gr FMJ or Hornady 60-gr XTP. The FMJ does have decent penetration but some folks prefer a more expanding bullet, which would result in a wider wound channel. Personally, I'd use the XTP. Even if it's not as aggressive in its expansion, it would likely give you better "bad guy penetration" than the FMJ and it's a load that's been reliable for me.
Biting the hand that feeds you. As I've said before, the DA trigger pull on the .32's are a bit smoother and lighter than the .380s. Perhaps Walther added an increased power mainspring in addition to the recoil spring, or something else. In any event, the double action on the .32 is NICE.

But don't be fooled by light and pretty. This gun has sharp pointy teeth. The slide is mounted low enough that it is VERY easy to get your shooty hand bitten by the edge of the slide. My hands, as far as palm size and finger length, are about the same as most guys my height. Once when the moon was full and I was bitten by the first of the small pocket pistols, I was cursed with continually getting my hands nipped, even adjusting the way I held on to it. The Walther PP is no exception.You may go unscathed, but if you have big hands, considered your self forewarned.  Keep off the moors, stick to the roads.
Still, I'm glad this one found its way home. Although it has seen some use and wear, it's still a very elegant little piece, quite aesthetically pleasing with the long barrel.  It has some history, including from times in our world that we hope are never repeated. Yet, whatever its journey, it ended up in the hands of a good man, where it defended and protected for many years before making its home here. I'll keep it fed and clean and hopefully, with the proper stance, set of the mouth and a gentle hand, it will domesticate well.


  1. I keep looking for an affordable pre 80s (or wartime) PP, PPK, or PPK/S on gunbroker and at shows. Not a collectable, a shooter.

    The hunt continues.

  2. My dad brought one back. Swastika over eagle stamped in it. 32 acp.
    Kept it in a cigar box in the attic.
    I became very familiar with it as a young teen.
    Diassemble, reassemble, fire, clean, replace.
    He never knew. Til a few years before his death.
    He gave it to his brother.
    I miss it still.

  3. Saw a pre-war at a gun show, once. IN THE BOX, with butterscotch-colored Bakelite stocks!
    Oh, how I with I'd had the gazillion dollars asked...


  4. It is a classically elegant design and better looking than the PPK in my honest opinion. I have the pleasure of owning a postwar example in .32.


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