Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quest for the Holy Handgun: PPK

Does the thought of an ultra-concealable pocket pistol appeal to you?  Do you think the ability to have a pistol with you at all times is worth the tradeoff in firepower?  Do you take your vodka martinis shaken, not stirred?  Then I present the PPK, From Walther With Love.

Any bets on how many cheesy 007 references I can work in here.
The Walther PP was released in 1929 and developed a huge following.  Two years later, demand for a smaller, more concealable pistol led to the release of the PPK, which is basically a scaled down version.

During WWII, the PPK was issued to German police and Nazi soldiers.  (According to Wikipedia, Hitler actually shot and killed himself with a PPK chambered in .32ACP.)  However, the gun's biggest claim to fame, as I already alluded to, is that it served James Bond as an everyday carry gun from early in his career up until the Pierce Brosnan movies.

"Suck it Trebec!"

Ian Fleming actually originally wrote Bond to carry a Beretta in .25ACP until a firearms expert from Scotland (last name Boothroyd) wrote Fleming and said the cartridge was woefully underpowered, and no self respecting secret agent would carry a gun chambered in it.  Fleming made up the character Q and had him set Bond up with a PPK in .32ACP, and named him Major Boothroyd in thanks.

When every man wants to be you, it only makes sense that every man wants to carry your gun.  The PPK has soared in popularity over the past 50+ years, and has inspired quite a few lookalikes (including the CZ-82 we looked at a few weeks back by way of the Russian Makarov pistol) and proven itself as a great concealed carry option.  Let's break it down a little bit and look at the details.

Reliability: Do a search on PPK reliability and you'll find a mixed bag.  It seems that Smith & Wesson has taken over manufacture of PPKs in recent years and reliability has fallen off a bit, sometimes requiring a person to shoot their gun a bit, identify the issues, and send it to a S&W gunsmith to straighten out any issues.  However, it's much easier to find negative things than positive, especially secondhand from the internet.  In any case, all reports seem to agree that the earlier German/French made models are more reliable.  Doesn't seem to be a huge issue and this also isn't a gun that you'd be out shooting tens of thousands of rounds through due to it's size so reliability shouldn't be an issue.

Capacity:  The standard magazine for a PPK in .380ACP is 7 rounds.   Yeesh.  Then again, when you're buying this gun, you're not buying a gun to carry with you into Kandahar.  You buy this gun to stick in your pocket or inside your jacket in case some crackhead corners you in the parking lot.  Still, if you look at modern pocket guns, you can regularly get 7-8 rounds of 9mm, which is a much more powerful cartridge.  Modern guns in .380 still run around 7-8 rounds but are much smaller and more concealable.  The PPK's capacity doesn't impress.

Price:  The PPK can regularly be had for around $500 new.  This puts it roughly $200 above similar pistols (pocket .380s such as the Ruger LCP and Kel-Tec p38t) and right on par with many of the full sized service pistols with over double the capacity in a more effective caliber.  Couple that with the fact that .380 is still pretty expensive from the "Obama Scare of '08" (Basically everybody bought as much ammo as they could, assuming that the Democrats in power would implement crazy gun laws, raising the cost of everything, especially .380, which had blown up in popularity because of the likes of the aforementioned LCP and p38t.).  .380 usually runs about 1/3rd more expensive than 9mm, so you'll have to fork over more cash to get a bunch of practice ammo to get proficient with it.  the PPK certainly isn't a budget option.  However,  one of those guns inspired by the PPK is called the Bersa Thunder, is almost an exact copy, has some good reviews, and can be had for $200-250.  So anyone looking for a PPKish gun on a budget should check them out.

PPK for tightwads.

Caliber:  The .380ACP round is regarded by most as the bare minimum for self defense. The muzzle energy is only about 1/3rd of the 9mm Parabellum round but most self defense loadings in the cartridge will penetrate around the FBI recommended 12" and achieve full expansion.

I certainly wouldn't want that ripping through my midsection.
The .380ACP round isn't the best option out there but if things were to get bad, it'd be better than throwing punches.

Carryability:  One of the PPK's greatest strengths.  It is on the upper side of "pocket pistol" size but would definitely conceal very easily in just about any other position, be it inside waist band, outside waist band, shoulder carry, jacket pocket, etc.  Outside of modern pocket pistols/derringers that slide easily into a jeans pocket, this is as good as it gets.

Looks:  When I look at other pistols, I give them points for looking like a PPK.  Enough said.

Unless they look like this one.

Customizability:  No accessory rail kind of limits your options here.  This isn't a gun you load flashlights, lasers, and a red dot on.  There are custom grips, you can always DuraKote it a different color, and there are different internal modifications you can make.  Plus you can always gold plate it. Other than that, not a whole lot going on.

History/Track Record:  If it's good enough for Hitler...  Um...  Er...  Seriously though, forgoing any bias against it for being carried by the Nazis, the PP series has been used in combat by a couple dozen different militaries and police departments.  The track record is there to back it up.

So how do I feel about it?  It's an awesome piece of history and for me personally the cool factor is off the charts but I can't justify the extra cost.  If I were looking for a pocket gun, I'd look first to the modern pocket 9mm guns that cost half as much, use a much more powerful round, and have just as good capacity (if not better in some cases).  Like the Kel-Tec p11:

10 round magazine, three times the muzzle energy, half the cost.
Also, you might have noticed that I left out the PROs and CONs.  I feel like alot of this is subjective and contextual.  For example, there's no way you can compare the PPK to the Glock 17 in terms of capacity, because they're made for different things.  Also, what may be a PRO for me could be a CON for you so I guess I just prefer to lay it all out there, compare it to similar guns and then give my overall opinion on it.  Then you can tell me how you think it matches up.  Sound good?  Sound terrible?  Let me know.




Clif said...

You make good points, but you didn't mention (for good reason) how it shoots. I thought it's light weight made aiming easier...but maybe I'd like those other pocket guns you mentioned the same way.

Don't lose the pros cons, I'm too lazy to do the comparison myself. Just word it in a way that makes clear when the comparison isn't fair.

Savage said...

During summer months i carry the Ruger LCP. It is very light and easy to carry even if you are in shorts and t-shirt. I would like to point out that with the correct holster you can conceal a bigger pistol than you think. Walther makes a good product.

Mark said...

Clif- Totally forgot to mention it. That lower power cartridge in a steel gun would definitely make for a lower recoil overall. I'll bring back the Pros/Cons in the next edition.

Savage- I don't have a doubt that I'd be able to conceal a full sized handgun somewhere on my 6'5" frame but it would be nice to have something that will just slide in a pocket and go. The pocket pistol market will definitely get another look from me when IL gets CCW.

Mark said...

Bought the Bersa for my wife. She likes it - it fits her hand nice and comfy, she can operate the controls, and generally we can't complain. The worst bit is that they only come with one magazine, and mags run about $40 a pop. For ammo reliability in a carry ammo, I got Hornady FTX 90 grain rounds. The bullet profile makes for highly reliable feeding in just about every gun.

Mark said...

I don't blame you Mark. If I were to get a PPKish gun, it'd be the Bersa. I don't think I could bring myself to spend twice as much just for the Walther brand.