This article was written by Caleb Daniels of @CommandoBond
Undoubtedly one of the most iconic handguns of the 20th Century, the Walther PPK has a unique legacy as both the first true concealed carry pistol and 007’s most constant companion. Its stunning profile catches both the eye and the imagination. From the first scenes of Dr. No, we hear just why Bond ought to carry the Walther. Fleming’s prose, perfectly translated to the screen captured our imaginations and immediately forged an unbreakable Bond between 007 and the PPK. Today I am thrilled to share with you a brief history of this icon and its relationship with Bond, while discussing the handgun’s real world features and functionality as well.
Ian Fleming’s 007
Ian Fleming was a lover of classics. When one reads his writing, it is incredibly clear. From Bond calling his car “the locomotive” to the Beretta 418, his original handgun, the reader feels Fleming’s longing for days since past. While the use of the Bentley is acceptable, as it is supercharged and enhanced to meet Bond’s needs, the selection of 007’s sidearm rubbed people the wrong way. The Beretta was outdated and underpowered, it didn’t suit Bond as his adventures continued to get grander. It fit Fleming’s romanticized vision of the past, but didn’t suit an agent who was soon to be recovering stolen nuclear missiles. This became so clear that one fan, an individual by the name of Boothroyd, wrote him and demanded Bond carry something different. After a few rounds of correspondence, Bond’s relationship with the PPK was born, and the Beretta was put to rest. When reading Chapter 2 of Dr. No, or watching the famed scene in the film, you meet a “Major Boothroyd” and see Bond receive his most reliable ally in the franchise.
Bond’s Innovative Upgrade
The Beretta 418 is a pocket pistol. It is striker fired, meaning unlike the PPK, there is no external hammer, and it is in a smaller caliber, .25 ACP. Bond carried it with a variety of odd customizations, including the removal of the front sight and grip panels to further streamline the already ultra-thin pistol.
Prior to Carl Walther’s PPK, the Beretta 418 and similar handguns were the preferred concealed carry weapon on the market. They dropped easily into a vest or pant pocket, and were easily hidden away. Frankly, at that time choices were limited, and one had to pick either a micro pistol like that or the “long barreled Colt” that Fleming wrote about for carrying. Something in a slightly larger caliber and frame, yet still easily concealed was missing.
In 1929 the first PPK’s found their way to market, filling this huge market gap. They were intentionally designed to be carried covertly and became the first real concealed carry pistols. The PPK was designed with all the shortcomings of the current product offerings in mind, and was a massive commercial success because of it.
One of the things the Walther was designed around was a genuine concern for user safety. Safety was a huge concern in the late 20’s because striker fired, micro handguns were becoming notorious for accidental discharges at the time. This is awkward when looking at Bond’s Beretta, as the removal of the grips panels severely increases the likelihood of a negligent discharge, as it exposes the trigger bar. If it wasn’t for the saving grace of plot armour, our hero might’ve put a hole or two in himself with his Beretta, severely limiting the number of his adventures.
So, while striker fired handguns are some of the safest and most reliable today, and are used worldwide by LEO’s and military forces, they were gaining a very negative reputation at the turn of the century. All of this was in Fritz Walther’s mind as he began designing the PPK. After years of designing and beta-testing, the PPK was released in 1929. It featured an exposed hammer, manual safety (which also functioned as a decocking lever) and a loaded chamber indicator. All three of these items were intentionally included to create something entirely new for the market, something fit for a 00.
Understanding the Safeties
The manual safety/decocker forces the hammer forward without firing the gun. This means the first pull of the trigger is longer, and heavier, as the hammer is drawn back and then released forward with the pressure placed on the trigger. Provided the decocker is not re-engaged after the primary shot, the hammer will remain back and follow up shots will be crisper, and with less trigger travel. This additional safety feature is called “double/single action” or DA/SA. Simply put, it forces you to take more care with the first shot, in theory preventing an accidental discharge into the user or an incorrect target.
For an agent who is carrying deeply concealed, and then engaging threats in potentially highly populated areas (like a chase up the Eiffel Tower perhaps?) these safeties, both active and passive, are appreciated. They also require a lot of practice and familiarity to make sure the user is confident in their operation. From the very beginning we see Bond taking the time to meticulously check over his kit and dry fire to keep sharp. Just look to Casino Royale, where Bond unloads the Beretta, does a function check, and reloads it before heading down to the Casino. If you take care of your equipment, it takes care of you. It’s a cheesy line, but very true. Moreover, Bond’s commitment to training makes the PPK a perfect fit for Bond to be sure.
A Field Agent’s Best Friend
Another thing that makes the PPK such a great gun for 007 is its simplicity. Field stripping the PPK takes absolutely no time at all, making it easy to clean rapidly. Throughout the books and movies, we see Bond fight through an obscene amount of gruesome situations, explosions, and fights. Being able to quickly clean your handgun between these bouts is critical to ensuring mission success. The last thing Bond wants to happen is a jam or failure due to his own negligence. To break down the PPK, you just pull straight down on the trigger guard, pull the slide back and up, and then forward. The slide then is released, and boom -- you’re field stripped. No floating barrels or loose parts. Simple, easy and effective. The tool of a man on the move, a licensed troubleshooter.
An Unbreakable Bond
Bond’s relationship with Walther and the PPK is one that has stood the test of time. From an operational standpoint, the handgun may be a bit dated, but it absolutely can still hold its own. It’s slim, easy to conceal, and comfortable to shoot due to its steel frame (more mass = less recoil). Aesthetically, it’s hands down one of the most stunning handguns on the market. Like anything else, a firearm tells you its story the moment you look at it. The blued finish and sleek, rolling lines create a profile unlike any other. The Walther banners and checkered grip panels speak to the heritage and functionality of the firearm simultaneously. While often mimicked, none compare to the original. The Walther PPK is well worth our praise, and every Bond fan ought to shoot one at least once. Nothing screams 007 more than the sleek, recognizable lines of the PPK, held by a man in black tie, at the other end of the gun barrel. If you’re interested in learning more about the PPK, and Walther’s recent re-release of the PPK on the market, check out this video I had the opportunity to do with Ray from The Bond Armory and Cody Osborn of Walther Arms!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks again to Caleb at @CommandoBond for this amazing article! Make sure to give him a follow for some awesome Walther PPK and James Bond Content.