Today I’ll be mortally wounding two fowl with one projectile, so to speak. I’ve been promising my online pals over at Walther Forums a review of my new .32 ACP Walther PPK, and today I’ll be comparing that pistol with my earlier acquisition, a .380 ACP Walther PPK/S. (Sad note: The .32 version of both the PPK and PPK/S were discontinued in the spring of 2013)
Both the PPK and PPK/S are derived from Walther’s PP, first produced in 1929 and initially developed for the .32 ACP cartridge (or 7.65mm, as it’s known in Europe). As such and in conjunction with the design’s blowback operation, the much more powerful .380 ACP (or 9mm Kurz) iteration can be a real bear when it comes to recoil. But not so with the originally intended .32 ACP cartridge. With this round, the PP-series becomes a very controllable weapon that is a real joy to shoot over extended range sessions.
This is made even more so by the Smith & Wesson redesign and enlargement of the tang, or beavertail, at the rear of the gun, located just below the hammer and directly above the grip. Indeed, this redesign significantly improved the shootability of even the .380 ACP version, allowing for relatively pain-free range sessions well in excess of 100 rounds. This enlarged tang also seems to allow for better recoil management and quicker reacquisition of the target for faster follow-up shots.
That enlarged tang provides additional protection to the hand from the rearward travel of the slide—the infamous “Walther bite,” in which the slide on older versions would sometimes contact the upper portion of the hand above the web between the thumb and forefinger, causing two parallel but minor wounds to appear if you weren’t careful in your grip of the pistol.
But it hasn’t been all good news with the Smith & Wesson version of this classic pistol. They got the tang right. They also redesigned the feed ramp to make the pistol more reliable in loading modern defensive ammunition such as hollow points. They even attempted to reduce the heavy double-action pull by tinkering with the internals, however this is where Smith & Wesson notoriously screwed up, and that resulted in the recall of every PPK/S and PPK pistol S&W made over an eight-year period. Apparently, this well-intentioned redesign led to sporadic failures of the hammer block safety mechanism, which could (and occasionally did) result in the pistol inadvertently firing when the safety was engaged while the hammer was in the cocked position. Not good. And then there were numerous reports of the pistols coming back from S&W far less reliable than they were before making the recall trip. Also not good, especially if you rely upon your PPK/S or PPK for defense.
Fortunately, both my PPK/S and my more recently acquired PPK are of post-recall manufacture, and both have so far proven reliable after initial break-in. Both pistols took approximately thirty rounds before they settled down and functioned reliably, but it’s still too early for me to say that I would trust the PPK, as I’ve only put around 130 rounds through it as of this report. As for the PPK/S, I’ve had only two failures to properly feed ammunition in nearly 800 rounds. One of those malfunctions occurred when someone else was firing the pistol, so that particular failure may be attributable to any of several operator-induced problems.
Now for the actual firing of the PPK in .32 ACP: As previously noted, this is the caliber for which this weapon was designed, and it shows. Recoil is light and manageable, follow-up shots are quick, and accuracy is exceptional. My PPK/S has always been the handgun with which I am most accurate, but this PPK proved its equal in my tests. Simply put, it’s just darned hard to miss with these pistols. The grip is so natural and the aim of them is so intuitive that using the sights almost seems an afterthought when it comes to acquiring your intended target. I find that I can reliably place headshots at a range of seven yards (6.4 meters) all day long, and center mass shots are easy to perform at over twice that distance. Try that with the new breed of double-action only compacts coming out on the market today. And combining that incredible accuracy with the lighter recoil associated with the .32 ACP round and the improvements in the enlarged tang at the rear means that follow-up shots can be performed very quickly.
I simply cannot express how pleased I am with this double-action/single-action pistol. If it continues to prove reliable after additional testing, I may very well place it in my concealed carry rotation along with my .380 ACP PPK/S and my 9mm Walther P99c AS. I may also find myself recommending the .32 ACP PPK to recoil-sensitive individuals looking for a compact, easy to conceal weapon that can fit in anything from a small purse to even the occasional pocket. And if that lady in your life gets the flinches from firing larger caliber weapons, this could very well be the handgun of her dreams. The elegant lines and art deco styling are wardrobe friendly, making this a wonderful fashion accessory.
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