Most of you reading this probably already know about the origins of the PPK/S specifically, but it’s worth explaining just in case some of you haven’t.
The PPK/S is simply a hybrid of the Walther PP and PPK. The barrel and slide of the PPK are merged to the frame, grip, and magazine of the PPK.
This was because of the Gun Control Act (GOA) of 1968, which forbade importation of the PPK into the United States because it was deemed too small for importation under the Act’s point system. The PP, however, was large enough to be imported.
This wasn’t good enough, however, because most people who wanted the PPK wanted the real thing, the ‘James Bond’ gun. By combining the PP and PPK together, Walther was able to create a gun that had the same look and profile of the PPK while still being barely large enough to be legally imported.
The ‘S’ stands for ‘Sport’ because it was determined that the PPK/S scored enough points to be considered enough of a ‘sporting’ pistol and be allowed importation into the United States.
Advantages of the PPK/S
Even if the PPK/S was never intended to be built by Walther until the GOA of ‘68, many people (myself included) would argue that it’s the best entry out of the three primary pistols in this family (PP, PPK, PPK/S).
The PPK/S has a slightly longer grip than the PPK. While some argue that the shorter grip of the PPK makes it easier to conceal, having conceal carried a PPK/S off and on for years, I can assure you that the pistol is already very small and easy to hide.
The concealability advantage of the PPK is negligible at best, and the longer grip of the PPK/S also affords you to get a better grip over the gun.
When I hold a PPK with a magazine without the baseplate pinky extension, for example, my little finger tends to fall off the end of the grip. This doesn’t happen for me with the PPK/S, and I can always get a firm grip on the pistol.
Furthermore, the PPK/S has a solid steel backstrap over the back of the grip, which encompasses the mainspring. I find this to be more durable than the wraparound grip of the PPK, which exposes the mainspring when the grip is removed.
Additionally, the PPK/S carries one additional round than the PPK in either caliber (.32 ACP and .380 ACP). I would rather defend myself with the PPK/S’s 8 rounds of .32 than the PPK’s 7 rounds (or 7 vs. 6 in the .380 version), but that’s just me.
The West German PPK/S
This particular PPK/S is a blued West German produced model made sometime in the early 1970s. As I alluded to above, these guns were also produced out of France.
The initial phase of the PP-line up was produced by Walther out of their factory in Zella-Mehlis from 1929 to 1945. The PPK/S didn’t exist back then.
After the conclusion of the Second World War, there was an eight year hiatus where no PPK pistols were produced. This was because of laws that forbade the production of pistols in West Germany.
To get around this, Walther (which by now had established a new factory in Ulm, Germany) outsourced the production of the components of their pistols to a French manufacturer called Manurhin in 1953.
Long story short, the parts for PP and PPK pistols were produced by Manurhin, before they were finished, labeled, and assembled at Walther’s factory in Germany. This was permissible under the laws at the time.
So, in essence, PP-variant pistols labeled as “Made in W. Germany” were technically made in France and then assembled in West Germany. In 1968, the PPK/S was born as discussed above, and Manurhin also handled the production of those pistols.
These guns were then shipped to the United States and distributed by Interarms, which is why most of them have Interarms markings on the slides as well.
Some PP-variant pistols are actually labeled as Manurhin because they were completed and distributed from the Manurhin factory, but that’s a story for another day.
In the mid-1980s, Walther transferred production of the PPK and PPK/S pistols to the United States to be handled by Interarms and Ranger Defense, but that’s also another story for another day.
The West German PPK/S is simply a supreme work of engineering. The action of the gun is buttery smooth and racking the slide is very slick. The bluing is very well done as well, and the gun has an attractive and almost glossy appearance to it. The gun feels solid in the hand and screams quality just by holding it. Walther knew what they were doing when they produced this gun.
Reliability has been excellent as well. While I’ve experienced .380 ACP PPK/S jamming before, this .32 ACP version has been flawless thus far.
The only negative with the West German PPK/S I can think of is the fact that the trigger pull is admittedly heavier than more modern PPKs (like the kind that Walther produces today out of their Fort Smith factory in Arkansas), but it’s more than manageable.
.32 or .380?
There’s one more thing that’s worth mentioning here: the .32 ACP is an infinitely better caliber to use in the PPK platform than the .380 ACP.
The PP-platform was designed for the .32 ACP originally, and it shows when you fire the gun. I previously owned a PPK/S in .380 ACP, but now that I own the .32 version, there’s simply no reason to own the gun in .380.
Simply put, the PPK/S in .32 ACP is an absolute joy to shoot while firing one in .380 ACP is punishing by comparison.
I could shoot the PPK/S in .32 all day and be happy (limited only by the fact that ammunition is expensive). In contrast, after shooting about 20-30 rounds of the .380 version I would always be ready to put the gun down thanks to the pain and red marks I sustained in the webbing of my hand.
The main reason why Walther introduced the PPK pistols in .380 ACP in the first place was for the American market. .380 has always been a more successful round than the .32 in the United States. And while the ballistics of the .380 may be a little better than the .32 on paper, the PPK/S in .32 is still far more enjoyable and easy to shoot.
The .32 PPK/S also carries one additional round than the .380 version. Since the .32 PPK/S is far easier to shoot and with an extra round, it’s the clear winner to me over the .380 even at the sacrifice of the ballistics being somewhat less impressive.
Ultimately, both the .32 and .380 are small calibers, and I believe what matters more is your ability to shoot the gun well than the actual caliber. I shoot the .32 PPK/S far better than the .380, so for that reason alone the choice for me is obvious.
I’m not trying to say that the .32 is necessarily a better caliber than the .380, but I am saying that having experience with both, I would take a .32 PPK/S any day of the week over the .380 version. But that’s just me.
Conclusion: Walther PPK/S Review
I love the Walther PPK/S.
Even in the face of more modern pistol designs, I keep returning to it if I want to conceal carry a small automatic pistol.
It’s not only a classic gun, it’s a classic gun that I find very comfortable and that I’ve always shot well. When chambered in .32, this gun is right at home.
Nick Oetken is a writer and firearms enthusiast based out of Idaho. He specializes primarily in writing about the outdoors, firearms, and disaster preparation. Nick is a published author and has written for major firearms publications like Guns.com.