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The Walther PP series pistols are blowback-operated semi-automatic pistols.
They feature an exposed hammer, a double-action trigger mechanism, a single-column magazine, and a fixed barrel which also acts as the guide rod for the recoil spring. The series includes the Walther PP, PPK, PPK/S, and PPK/E.
They are manufactured by Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen in Germany, Manurhin in France following World War II, and then in the United States by Interarms in Alexandria, Virginia and currently Smith & Wesson. All production has been under license from Walther.
The PP was released in 1929 and the PPK in 1931; both popular with European police and civilians, for being reliable and concealable. During World War II they were issued to the German military and police, the Luftwaffe, and Nazi Party officials; Adolf Hitler killed himself with his PPK in the Führerbunker in Berlin. Moreover, the Walther PPK pistol is fictional secret agent James Bond's signature gun in the films and most novels. Ian Fleming's choice of the Walther PPK directly influenced its popularity and its notoriety.
The most common variant is the Walther PPK, the Polizeipistole Kriminalmodell (Police Pistol Detective Model), indicating it was more concealable than the original PP and hence better suited to plainclothes or undercover work. Sometimes, the name Polizeipistole Kurz (Short Police Pistol) is used, however the accuracy of that interpretation is unclear. The PPK is a smaller version of the PP (Polizeipistole) with a shorter grip and barrel and reduced magazine capacity.
The PP and the PPK were among the world's first, successful double action semi-automatic pistols that were widely copied, but still made by Walther. The design inspired other pistols, among them the Soviet Makarov, the Hungarian FEG PA-63, and the Czech CZ50. Although it was an excellent semi-automatic pistol, it had competitors in its time. The Mauser HSc pistol and the Sauer 38H pistol (a.k.a. model "H"), were successful in their own rights. Sauer pistol production ended at war's end, but the refined SIG P230 and the P232, owe much to the Sauer 38H.
Walther's original factory was located in Zella-Mehlis in the state (Land) of Thuringia. As that part of Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union following World War II, Walther was forced to flee to West Germany, where they established a new factory in Ulm. However, for several years following the war, the Allied powers forbade any manufacture of weapons in Germany. As a result, in 1952, Walther licensed production of the PP series pistols to a French company, Manufacture de Machines du Haut-Rhin, also known as Manurhin. The French company continued to manufacture the PP series until 1986. In fact, all postwar European-made PP series pistols manufactured until 1986 were manufactured by Manurhin, even though the pistol slide may bear the markings of the Walther factory in Ulm.
In 1978, Ranger Manufacturing of Gadsden, Alabama was licensed to manufacture the PPK and PPK/S; this version was distributed by Interarms of Alexandria, Virginia. This license was eventually canceled. Starting in 2002, Smith & Wesson (S&W) began manufacturing the PPK and PPK/S under license. In February 2009, S&W issued a recall for PPKs it manufactured for a defect in the hammer block safety.
Walther has indicated that, with the exception of the PP and the new PPK/E model, S&W is the current sole source for new PPK-type pistols.
PPK versus PPK/SEdit
The PPK/S was developed following the enactment of the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA68) in the United States, the pistol's largest market (Hogg 1979:164). One of the provisions of GCA68 banned the importation of pistols and revolvers not meeting certain requirements of length, weight, and other "sporting" features into the U.S. The PPK failed the "Import Points" test of the GCA68 by a single point. (See image of ATF Form 4590 for the complete list of qualifying points). Walther addressed this situation by combining the PP's frame with the PPK's barrel and slide to create a pistol that weighed slightly more than the PPK. The additional ounce or two of weight of the PPK/S compared to the PPK was sufficient to provide the extra needed import points.
Because U.S. law allowed domestic production (as opposed to importation) of the PPK, manufacture began under license in the U.S. in 1978; this version was distributed by Interarms. The version currently manufactured by Smith & Wesson has been modified by incorporating a longer grip tang, better protecting the shooter from slide bite, i.e. the rearward-traveling slide's pinching the web between the index finger and thumb of the firing hand, which was a problem with the original design.
The PPK/S differs from the PPK as follows:
- Overall height:
- Weight: the PPK/S weighs more than the PPK
- The PPK/S magazine holds one additional round, in both calibers, the PPK/S and the PPK are offered in the following calibers: .32 ACP (with capacities of 8+1 for PPK/S and 7+1 for PPK); or .380 ACP (PPK/S: 7+1, PPK: 6+1).
In the 1950s, Walther produced the PPK-L which was a light-weight variant of the PPK. The PPK-L differed from the standard, all steel PPK in that it had an aluminium alloy frame. These were only chambered in 7.65mm Browning (.32 ACP) and .22 LR because of the increase in felt recoil from the lighter weight of the gun. All other features of the postwar production PPK/S (brown plastic grips with Walther banner, high polished blue finish, lanyard loop, loaded chamber indicator, 7+1 magazine capacity and overall length) were the same on the PPK-L. In the 1960s, Walther began stamping "Made in West Germany" on the frame of the pistol right below the magazine release button. The 1950s production pistols had the date of manufacture, designated as 'month/year', stamped on the right side of the slide. Starting in the 1960s, the production date, designated by the last two digits of the year, was stamped on the exposed part of the barrel which could be seen in the ejection port.
First marketed in 1972, this was an all-steel variant of the PP chambered for the 9x18mm Ultra cartridge. Designed as a Police service pistol it was a blowback operated, double action pistol with an external slide-stop lever and a firing-pin safety. A manual decocker lever was on the left side of the slide; when pushed down, it locked the firing pin and released the hammer. When 9mm Parabellum was chosen as the standard service round by most of the German police forces, the experimental 9mm Ultra round fell into disuse. Lack of sales caused the PP Super to be pulled from the Walther catalog in 1979.
At the 2000 Internationale Waffen-Ausstellung (IWA - International Weapons Exhibition) in Nuremberg, Walther announced a new PPK variant designated as the PPK/E. The PPK/E resembles the PPK/S and has a blue steel finish; it is manufactured under license by FEG in Hungary. Despite the resemblance between the two, certain PP-PPK-PPK/S parts, such as magazines, will not interchange with the PPK/E. The official factory photographs do not refer to the pistol's Hungarian origins; instead, the traditional Walther legend ("Carl Walther Waffenfabrik Ulm/Do.") is stamped on the left side of the slide. The factory announcement mentions that the PPK/E is made with "new manufacturing technologies," presumably in an effort to reduce costs.
As of May 2008, the PPK/E bore a suggested retail price in Germany of 441 euros, almost 200 euros cheaper than the PPK and PPK/S models imported from the U.S. The PPK/E is offered in .22 LR, .32 ACP, and .380 ACP calibers.
- Walther (Germany)
- Smith & Wesson's American Walther site
- Official Walther Classic Pistols page
- Walther PP/PPK instruction manual
- Walther PP spare parts drawing
- Walther PPK/PPK-L spare parts drawing
- Walther PPK/S spare parts drawing
- Walther PPK/E exploded view
- Photos of the Walther PPK
- Modern Firearms
- James Bond's Walther PPK at the CIA Museum
- Gun's World
- Walther PP on GunsTribune