A Rare Find — Walther PP .32 ACP Made in Post-War Germany

Walther PP in 7.65mm (.32 ACP)

Walther PP in 7.65mm (.32 ACP)

Because of the popularity of a certain fictional English spy, many people in the U.S. are familiar with the German Walther PPK — a very compact, highly concealable handgun originally designed around the .32 ACP (7.65mm) cartridge.  What is lesser known is that the PPK, originally produced in 1931, was in turn a redesigned, more compact version of the 1929 Walther PP, and that the Walther PP was one of the most popular police weapons ever produced.  Indeed, only recently have some national police departments discontinued their use and, yes, believe it or not Wikipedia still lists the PPK variant as being in service at MI6.

A third variant, the PPK/S, mates the larger PP frame to the smaller PPK slide and barrel, and has been exceedingly popular in this country since its inception in 1968 (in response to the ill-conceived and poorly written Gun Control Act of that year).  It is still produced to this day by Smith & Wesson in both .32 ACP and .380 ACP (9mm kurz).

S&W Versions of the PPK (.32 ACP) and PPK/S (.380 ACP)

PP, by the way, is short for Polizei Pistole (which translates to “police pistol”), and PPK is Polizei Pistole Kriminal (meaning police pistol detective model).

Shorter, lighter PPK frame on left; larger, heftier PP frame used by the PPK/S on right

After World War II until 1986, all .32 ACP and .380 ACP Walther-authorized European-made PP-series pistols were produced by Manurhin of France.  That includes even those Walthers with West German proof marks.  Walthers displaying West German proofs were in fact shipped from Manurhin to Ulm for final assembly and testing.  Only from 1986 onward, until the late 1990s, were Walther PP-series pistols once again made in Germany — at Walther’s manufacturing facility in Ulm.  (see:  Fun Photo Friday — 1940 Zella-Mehlis Walther PP for an earlier all-German Walther PP)

Walther PP in 7.65mm (.32 ACP)

Walther PP in 7.65mm (.32 ACP)

That means that most post-war PP-series pistols in the U.S. were either made in the U.S., first by Ranger Manufacturing for the now-defunct Interarms Company and later by S&W, or are of either German or French manufacture.  Other variants exist (many being illegal copies, especially from the former Soviet Block countries), but those are exceedingly rare here.  As for pre-war versions, those are all exclusively from Germany, and many were brought to the U.S. by returning servicemen or imported by Sam Cumming’s International Armament Corporation (Interarmco, and later Interarms) before he acquired the rights to manufacture here in the U.S. under the Walther banner the PPK and PPK/S versions.

German Proof Marks

German Proof Marks

On a side note — Sam Cummings was quite a character, and it’s reputed that his Interarms was initially a front company for the CIA.  Sam Cummings (more on him here) was the inspiration for the character of Sterling Heyward (and his father) in my murder mystery The Globe, and Interarms was the basis for the fictional InterGlobal Armaments mentioned in the same book.

German Proof Marks — Closeup; the “KC” code indicates a 1992 manufacture date

So, why am I bringing up this firearms history lesson?  Blame Saturday, and blame my favorite local gun store.

Post-war PPK and PPK/S pistols may be found practically everywhere in the U.S. (mostly of U.S. manufacture).  The post-war PP is a bit more of a challenge, as none were produced in this country.  Finding a true, post-war, West German-manufactured Walther PP is flat-out difficult.  Finding one without any import markings is even harder.  Finding one in .32 ACP (never a very popular round in the U.S. where caliber is king and .380 ACP is deemed by many to be the minimum cartridge suitable for a defensive round) is indeed rare.  Finding one in near pristine condition is practically impossible.  Finding one at an affordable price . . . well, forget it.  Or so I thought.

Here’s what my good friends at El Paso’s Collectors Gun Exchange were dying to show me the moment I walked into the store:

Original Box

Original Box

Post-war Walther PP in case

Post-war Walther PP in case

How good a deal was it?  I snagged this remarkable example for less than the suggested retail price of a new S&W PPK or PPK/S.

Expect a full review once I get this gem out onto the range.  As an added bonus, I’ll be comparing it to an Interarms PPK/S (.380 ACP), a Smith & Wesson PPK/S (.380 ACP), a European PPK/S (.22 LR), and a Smith & Wesson version of the iconic PPK in .32 ACP.

Interarms-imported, German-proofed Walther PPK/S in .22 LR

And now a mystery:  The Berlin Wall came tumbling down in early November, 1989.  The reunification of Germany became official on October 3 the following year.  So, why does a Walther made in 1992 bear the mark “W. Germany” on the slide?



Filed under Firearms

13 responses to “A Rare Find — Walther PP .32 ACP Made in Post-War Germany

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  2. Nice article, Doug. I’m not interested in firearms (the ones I once owned as tools of my trade were long ago consigned to my gunsmith for sale) but I do like to hear an expert talk on his subject.

    • Thanks for stopping by, André. Glad you enjoyed the article even if you found the subject wanting to your tastes.

      But now you have me intrigued. What firearms did you once own, and what was the “trade” that required their possession?

      • I spent one college vacation clearing the crocodiles out of an African river. I’m afraid I wasn’t really a gun collector. I used mostly a custom, scoped Mannlicher that was given to me by someone who saw that without the scope I was a danger more to my party than to the bad guys trying to take our skins, and I used it only as often as my bearer advised me was necessary to impress on the men that I could and would use it, And I had an “elephant rifle”, a Weatherby Magnum, for heavier stuff. Most people don’t know this but the most dangerous African animal isn’t the lion, a lazy cat, or the leopard, or even the elephant, which can get drunk and reckless on the fermented berry of the marula tree, but the hippo, a foul tempered brute that can bite chunks out of a truck cab. You need to throw a hefty bullet to stop one of those on a charge. Also a brace of nice engraved shotguns that had belonged to a relative who dressed for dinner. That sort of thing. I wasn’t much of a shooter, or a shot, for that matter. There’s a typical episode described at message 30 on http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/541710-the-robust-commonplace-book#comment_35105908

        • Fascinating story, André — the one on Goodreads, I mean. You’ve led a pretty interesting life. What type Steyr Mannlicher were you using?

          I’d heard that hippos kill more people than all other animals in Africa, but I thought that was mostly by holding their victims under water and drowning them. I definitely wouldn’t get between a mother hippo and her offspring, that’s for certain.

  3. Interesting article, Doug.

    I’m not much of a gun expert for obvious reasons, but I think I can help with the W.Germany marking. After the official unification in October 1990 (it took a little less than a year between the fall of the Wall and the political unification, when East Germany ceased to exist), a lot of companies still continued to mark their products “Made in West Germany” for a while, partly because it took time to change molds, etc… and partly to emphasize that this was a West German, i.e. quality product, since East German products did not have a good reputation, which continued for a while after the unification. Or maybe they were just using up old stock.

    Walthers are pretty common over here (well, common for a country where guns in general are rare) and I often see them in the display window of a hunting/weapons shop in town. I don’t know how many they actually sell, since licensing requirements are pretty strict, but they always have them in stock.

    • Thanks, Cora. Doing some research, it appears Walther continued to so mark their products until the very end of the PP line in 1999.

      We have several European members (especially German, Swiss, and French) on my favorite gun forum — dedicated to Walthers, of course — and they get their old Walthers at unbelievably low prices compared to here in the States. On the other hand, we get the newer stuff far cheaper here, such as the P99 (my favorite concealed carry weapon) and the newer PPQ and PPX.

      Glad you found the article interesting, if not your cup of tea. And thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment (as well as some great information).

      • Probably a case of “Why update the molds and markings for a product we’re phasing out anyway?”

        I’m not surprised that old Walthers can be had a lot cheaper in Europe, considering they were made here and extensively used by the police and military, so there were (and perhaps still are) a lot of them lying around in attics and basements. Though I predict that there will be fewer old weapons for sale in the future, at least in Germany, because the latest revision of the licensing laws also targets (figuratively) people who kept grandpa’s old WWII pistol or a vintage hunting rifle stored in the attic or basement with the respective license, but never actually used it. Hardly anybody wants to buy a gun safe for a family memento and sales to collectors involve lots of paperwork, so people hand them over to the police instead to avoid the hassle. The hassle gets even worse if it turns out that grandpa’s hunting rifle can’t be found, because no one has seen it in twenty years. We had a situation like that in my family.

  4. Need to post videos of test-firings. I particularly would be interested to hear the “pop.”

  5. John

    Excellent description of the difficult process of trying to find a Walther PP (7.65) in decent condition without paying $1000+. In my youth I served with the Army in W. Germany prior to the wall coming down. I always thought the Polizei had the greatest weapons and bought several while there and when i came home. I sold everyone getting through school and lo these many years later I’ve had the opportunity to pick up several as the Polizei replaced their inventories with newer pistols. But PPs in excellent condition are difficult to find. Yours is exquisite. Let me know if you are ever willing to part with it;-)

    • I’m afraid that this one is a keeper that will be staying in my collection, John. Hope you find another one in like condition at an affordable price.

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