From WWII to the big screen, the Walther PP Series has forever been tied to history.
Why The Walther PP Series Is Collectable:
- First commercially successful DA/SA pistol.
- Popular police sidearm in Germany.
- Later issued to Nazi officers.
- Famously used by Hollywood spy James Bond.
- A number of companies have manufacured PP series pistols.
- Available in .22Lr, .25 ACP, .32 ACP and .380 ACP.
The Walther PP (Polizei Pistole) occupies a significant place in firearms history as the first commercially successful double-action semiauto pistol. It operates on a straight blowback system and a double/single action with a double-action trigger pull for the first shot and a lighter single-action pull for follow-up shots. This type of action has set the standard for double-action pistol manufacturers worldwide during the past 90 years. Features included a visible hammer, loaded-chamber indicator, hammer-block safety and a combination safety/decocking lever, all still commonly found on many DA/SA semiauto designs.
Introduced in 1929, the PP became a popular police sidearm in Germany and later were issued to officers in Hitler’s army. A popular variant, the PPK (Polizei Pistole Kriminalmodell, or Police Pistol Detective Model) was introduced a few months after the PP. It was designed for undercover use and had a shorter barrel, frame and grip. Both the PP and the PPK were initially chambered only for the 7.65mm (.32 ACP), but the .22 Long Rifle and .380 were soon added. (A few pre-WWII PP and PPK pistols were chambered for the .25 ACP, but these are very rare and pricey.)
The PPK became famous in the early 1960s as the main sidearm of fictional British spy James Bond. Just as Clint Eastwood’s Inspector Harry Callahan in the 1971 film “Dirty Harry” caused prices for S&W Model 29’s to soar, Bond made the PPK a big contributor to Walther’s bottom line. Serious Bond fans know the story of Geoffrey Boothroyd, a retired Army Major and gun collector, told Ian Fleming that the .25 Auto Beretta featured in his novel Casino Royale as Bond’s main gun, was not powerful enough for the job.
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There are many variations of the PP series, with numerous finishes, grips, engraving patterns and special editions, making collecting the PP series somewhat of a challenge. More than 70 different listings for PP and PPK values are found in Standard Catalog of Firearms, and many are included in the sidebar on the next page.
One variant was the result of the infamous Gun Control Act of 1968 that prohibited the importation of small handguns. The ATF came up with a point system that determined whether a gun could be brought into the USA, and the PPK didn’t make the cut. Walther engineers came up with a simple solution, which was simply to mount a PPK slide onto a PP frame. A new model was created that passed the point system and it was named the PPK/S. While not quite as concealable as a PPK, some shooters find the PPK/S to be more comfortable to shoot.
In addition to the Walther company, several other manufacturers have made the PP series of pistols. Walther produced both the PP and PPK until 1945. The factory had been destroyed in WWII, and because firearms production was prohibited in Germany after the war, Walther contracted in 1953 with the French company Manurhin to make the guns. Manurhin made all the post-war PPs and PPKs until the Gun Control Act of 1968 went into effect. Some of these models were marked with the Manurhin name.
Following the reunification of Germany in the 1980s, Walther built a new factory in Ulm, Germany, and some of the pistols were finished and proofed there after being machined in France by Manurhin. Since they were proofed in Germany, these models could be marked as German made. PP and PPK/S guns were imported by Interarms until the early 1990s.
Walther licensed Emco in Gasden, Alabama, to manufacture the PPK and PPK/S in 1983, and production continued until 1999. Smith & Wesson became the licensee to produce the guns beginning in 2001, an arrangement that continued until 2012.
In 2013, Walther USA was established in Arkansas and is currently importing PPK and PPK/S models — along with a dozen or other Walther pistols — that are made in Germany. These current models, including those made earlier by Smith & Wesson, have an improved feature that’s appreciated by some shooters. This consists of a longer frame tang, designed to prevent injury to the web of the shooter’s hand, which can be caused by the edge of the slide breaking the skin, especially on those with larger hands.
WALTHER PP SERIES PISTOL ESTIMATED VALUES
Estimated values courtesy Standard Catalog of Firearms 28th Edition, Gun Digest Books 2017.
.32 Chrome finish
.32 Gold finish, full coverage engraving
.32 NSSK on slide w/proper holster
.32 NSDAP Gruppe markings w/proper holster
.380 Bottom mag release, Waffenampt proofs
.32 Duraluminum frame
.32 Chrome finish
.32 Gold finish, full coverage engraving
.32 Party Leader grips
.22 or .380 50th Anniversary Commemorative
.22 or .380 50th Anniversary CommemorativePOST-WAR PPK/SEditor’s
Note: This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.“The World’s Greatest Gun Book”Gun Digest 2019 73rd Edition is jammed full of comprehensive information that firearms fanatics crave. No matter if your passion is long-range rifles, fancy shotguns, gritty Old West single-action revolvers or sleek semi-auto pistols, Gun Digest 2019 delivers. Get Your Copy Now