Seventeen countries’ armed services and police departments have used the P.P. and PPK. In addition, this handgun is forever etched in history as the weapon with which Hitler ended his own life.
The Walther PPK, made famous by “the world’s most famous secret agent,” Commander James Bond, aka Agent 007, and the Walther P-38, made famous by their appearance in countless war films and actual use by the Wehrmacht during WWII, are two of the company’s most recognizable firearms. The company Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen, established in 1886 and has its main offices in Ulm and Arnsberg, Germany, and a branch in Fort Smith, Arkansas, is known for more than just those two firearms. In light of this, we should look at the best five Walther pistols available today.
When the great and late Ian Fleming began writing the Bond books in 1931, the series had already earned a reputation for quality outside the highly inflated world of spy fiction. Initially, a variant of the Walther PP, one of the first successful traditional semiautomatic handguns, the Police Pistole Kriminal, was meant to be more concealable and better suited for plain clothes or covert work.
Seventeen countries’ armed services and police departments have used the P.P. and PPK. It is also remembered as the weapon with which Adolf Hitler shot himself in the head in his bunker.
In 2005, Walther partnered with American firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson to make the PPK and the PPK/S under license. In 2011, I purchased one of these Smith PPKs, opting for the 32-caliber version as any self-respecting 007 fan would. Even though it’s not as accurate as my 9x18mm Makarov, the gun still serves me well as a pocket handgun. These Smith & Wesson PPKs (in a sense) have an improved ergonomic grip tang that prevents the shooter from experiencing the painful hammer-pinch and slide-bite that plagued earlier models.
While the P.P. and PPK use direct blowback, the P38 was one of the first handguns to use a chamber-loaded indicator and the first to use the DA/SA trigger in conjunction with a locked breech. The pistol used a falling locking block to keep the slide and barrel locked together until enough pressure had decayed to allow the slide to reciprocate safely, as well as an open-top slide to prevent stovepipe jams which the Beretta 92F/M9 eventually used.
Production of the Heeres Pistole, a pistol designed for the Nazi German army, began in earnest in the middle of 1940, after the first three prototypes had been given to the government in 1939. Thankfully, Nazi Germany lost the war, but not before the gun earned a reputation for effectiveness in battle. The P38 was given new life in the post-World War II Bundeswehr as the P1 in 1957; the sole difference between the P1 and the P38 is that the P1 has a black-finished aluminum alloy, whereas the P38 had an all-steel frame. Until 2004, when it was eventually replaced by the Heckler & Koch USP, the P1 was still used by the Bundeswehr (P8).
When I was stationed at Scott AFB, IL, in 2003, I bought a P1 and holster from the Bundeswehr because they had extras. Despite its antiquity, this firearm has proven to be quite reliable. Although the P38’s or double-action P1’s trigger has been criticized for being too hefty and irritating, my particular example is fine with this flaw. I used it in an IDPA classifier and did well enough to earn the Stock Service Pistol Marksman rank.
The P5 is one of the most unusual semiautomatic pistols I’ve seen; to my knowledge, it’s the only auto pistol that ejects spent brass to the left rather than the right. Between 1977 and 1993, it went into production. The dual side-mounted recoil springs, the tilting firing pin, and the non-tilting barrel are further noteworthy additions to the Walther P5, which, like the SIG Sauer pistols, lacks manual safety.
Even though 100,000 P5s were made, the P5 was not widely used by the military or police worldwide. Only the Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate police forces used it.
Around the turn of the millennium, I visited the Los Angeles Gun Club in the heart of Los Angeles and shot a rented P5. However, even though the ergonomics felt great and the reliability was rock solid, the barrel was so worn out from excessive use at the range that the accuracy could have been better.
When it came out in late 1988, the famous Guns & Ammo writer Wiley Clapp called it the most accurate 9mm handgun in the world. He said it was even more accurate than the SIG P210. The double-action and single-action triggers were described as “exquisite” by him. The pistol was Walther’s last metal-framed service handgun, and it possessed features like an ambidextrous decocking lever and magazine release that made it appealing.
The only downside was the price—$1,600 in 1988 dollars. I know other shooters who adore their P88s, but when I shot one at L.A. Gun Club, it didn’t feel worth the extra money over a Glock or SIG.
This gun’s development started in 1994 and was completed in 1996. “Designed by former Glock and Steyr engineers,” Kyle Mizokami writes, “the P99 was also the company’s first handgun to utilise plastics for the frame and grip.” Now used by law enforcement in 14 nations, including Ireland and North Macedonia, this weapon is still available.