The Walther PPK Made the .380 ACP Cool, but the G42 Made it Practical
Major Pandemic 06.27.15
It’s a funny thing when you think about the .380 ACP round. Although modern ammo technology has exponentially increased the lethality of the .380 ACP round from anemic to acceptable defensive levels, there still are more than a few chest thumpers bagging on the Browning 9mm Short (aka .380 ACP).
Even back three decades ago when men were men and .380 rounds were primarily just ball ammo, the Bond films made everyone still want a PPK–even if that did mean they were carrying a wimpy little .380 ACP. I can hear everyone whipping out their gun to measure against the tiny dimensions of the little Walther PPK, but Bond didn’t care about the size; it was what he did with it.
Part of that attraction and acceptance of the .380 round was the legend, myth, and sex appeal that Bond brought to the screen with arguably one of the smallest production calibers of the time. Back around the time the Bond films were introduced, there were certainly significantly more powerful pistols and revolvers.
The S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum carried by Dirty Harry was introduced just after the books were released and could have been used in the film adaptation. Plenty of .357 magnums and .38 special snubbies were on the market, and a host of 1911s as well. So why the little .380 Walther?
It’s possible that Fleming authored in the gun to make some sort of subtle reference that phallically, Bond only needed a little gun due to his “superior abilities” in all other areas. The other point is the Walther PPK is a timelessly sexy design, which aside from a few off years, delivers a very reliable, highly concealable, quick reloading pistol. It featured 6+1 capacity, which delivers 40% more capacity than a similarly sized five shot snubby. The PPK even has controllable recoil, a quieter report, and is very accurate.
One of the most significant reasons I still love the PPK has been the very slim format, which disappears completely when carrying concealed. Concealability was the main reason many undercover officers internationally carried the gun. Also with the cold war raging, PPKs were all over Eastern Europe, which meant that someone finding a PPK would likely not scream, “He is a secret agent!”
Tactically, it was a sound decision for Fleming to write in the now famous PPK as Bond’s gun. The books and films undoubtedly skyrocketed the popularity of the PPK because it was the one thing of Bond’s that Bond fans could actually own. The millions of dollars of spy gadgets and tricked out custom Aston Martins were significantly more than a PPK. Walther thankfully picked up the old bastardized PPK design and restored it to its former glory. I would actually argue the new models are better than the highly coveted original models.
In my case, I know that Bond never carried a stainless model, but my PPK is in stainless and has accompanied me to almost every high class suit and tie affair my wife and I attend. Like everyone else who owns a PPK, I love the little gun and I will admit to feeling cool and secret agent-like with it in my waistband.
Bond made the PPK cool, but today in the midst of a sea of striker fired polymer pistols, defensive muscle memory, and the familiarity of designs mimicking Glocks, the Walther PPK falls short from a practical perspective. It is still a fine firearm, but its heavy trigger, double/single action design, 1.5lb heft, and safety all scream to me that it’s not a striker fired polymer gun once it hits my hand. This is a bad thing when faced with an immediate shoot now defensive requirement–oh wait, the safety was accidently engaged.
From defensive practicality, most would opt for the simplicity of the striker fired gun even in .380 ACP. As it were, most of us would rather have a current firearm design protecting us instead of a legend designed in 1929. This is also my feeling on 1911 designs as well.
Glock so loved the firearm world that it produced a gun no one asked for, and we said thank you. As it turns out that PPK sized format was a giant void in the marketplace, but no one but Glock realized this. Currently the G42 is outselling all other Glock models combined; about a quarter million units were sold last year alone and demand is not slowing in 2015. The first time I put a G42 in my hands, I said Glock just made a striker fired PPK. Now that I own two G42 pistols, I only feel more strongly about that comment.
Glock took all the great and wonderful attributes of the PPK’s slim, concealable pistol design and put them in a modern format that conveys the same confidence that every other Glock is famous for. I actually sold my Ruger LCP .380 because I never carry it any more even though it’s smaller. The Glock G42 is just small enough to be uber concealable and still be a dream to shoot.
Even though the PPK had marginal recoil, the G42 feels like you are shooting a .22LR rimfire pistol. It’s just amazing how the recoil springs and polymer soak up added recoil. The G42 does all this with about half the weight of the Walther, with a crisp Glock trigger and in a format that I find comes on target faster and more confidently than the PPK.
The PPK is a wonderful gun whose beauty and cool factor guilts me a bit every time I am stuffing the ugly Glock G42 into my waistband instead of the PPK. The PPK still gets carried, but no where near what the Glock sees. For me, the Walther showed me the comfort of shedding 1-2 lb of firearm weight when I am just running to the opera. The PPK made me appreciate what the .380 ACP offers, but the Glock made it practical for me in a faster, lighter, and lighter shooting pistol.
Maybe Bond was right. All we really need is a small little .380 that we have confidence in for practical defense to get us out of a situation our brain and charm cannot. It begs the question, is a .380 enough? For me I feel fully and confidently armed with my PPK or G42–but I am pretty charming.