Anyone who nurtures the idea that wee handguns should be left to the milquetoasts has likely never been in a bad situation or is just plain ignorant to the art of self-protection.
The hideout gun has been a sought-after instrument for a long while, starting with the small, blackpowder flintlock and percussion handguns used centuries ago. These little guns, tucked in a sock, waistband pocket, or any other place imaginable, saved the hides of countless pistoleros over the years. Pocket pistols such as the Colt 1849 revolver, the Derringer over-under, and others were popular backup or traveling guns in the 19th century. Through the 1900s yet another century of hideouts were designed, and some of them are still in service today. The Colt 1908 .25 semiautomatic was an extremely popular backup pistol in the early 1900s, used by lawmen and outlaws alike. Many fine examples of small, concealable pistols were manufactured abroad, and some would become extremely popular in the U.S. Among the most popular were the Walther PP and PPK pistols.
Walther PP pistols were among the most significant semiautomatic pistol designs of the years between the first and second World Wars. Manufactured between 1929 and 1945 in large numbers, the PP and smaller PPK were widely used as police and military guns during Hitler’s reign. After the war, manufacture of both pistols continued in France by Manurhin under German license. Production later began again in the Walther factory in the city of Ulm. These pistols have been used extensively by civilians and police alike, and many noninfantry military officers in various European countries have used them for personal defense. Knock-offs of the Walther PP were produced after the war by Hungary, Romania, East Germany, Turkey, and the United States.
The Most Famous Walther
The most famous gun of the Walther PP series is the Walther PPK. PPK is a German acronym meaning Polizeipistole Kriminellmodell (Police Pistol Detective Model). The acronym Polizeipistole Kurz (Police Pistol Short) is occasionally used. The Walther PPK is a smaller version of the PP (Polizeipistole) and has a shorter grip and barrel and a lower magazine capacity.
My first experience with the Walther PP was in the late 1960s when my dad was working as an investigator with the U.S. Customs Service on the Mexican border. During that assignment, he carried a number of firearms on duty, including a Colt 1911 outfitted to his personal specifications, a Smith & Wesson Model 19 (again highly personalized), a Thompson submachine gun, and several others. His main pistol when a good hideout was needed was a Walther PP in .380. My dad frequently carried auto pistols inside his shirt, in the left side of the waistband. He was an expert at drawing from that carry style, and I later picked up the same habit. He carried both the 1911 and Walther PP in this manner. I have many memories of hearing the phone ring, him answering, and after some grumbling him getting dressed and slipping the Walther under his shirt and hitting the road on the way to a surveillance or other narcotics-smuggling operation. Sometimes we wouldn’t see him back for a couple days. I was lucky enough to catch a story or two from him as to what had happened during those operations, but he generally kept quiet about the details. After his retirement from the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1974, Dad still packed that PP when he went into town to the post office and such. I’m sure the gun would have a few exceptional stories to tell.
When I graduated from the New Mexico State Police academy in 1984, my duty sidearm was a Smith & Wesson Model 586, a fine choice for uniformed police work. Working the highway in remote areas, especially at night, can be hazardous duty, for sure, and I’ve known several officers who found themselves in predicaments during which a backup gun saved their bacon. Dad had one of the new Walther PPK/S .380 pistols distributed by Interarms, and since he’d had such good luck with his old PP, he let me talk him out of it.
I qualified with the PPK/S on the NMSP pistol course, and the little gun performed very well. I wanted to fire at least 500 rounds through the pistol before using it as a full-time carry gun and did so without mishap or malfunction. Some of my partners and I had many discussions regarding the effectiveness of the .380 cartridge as a defense gun. One day a friend involved in the agriculture business in Lincoln County called me and asked to borrow a pistol, as he was putting down a pair of slaughter hogs. I obliged, showing up at his place with the PPK/S.
“Don’t you have anything more powerful than that little peashooter?” he asked when he saw the Walther.
My friend’s reservations ended when one shot between the eyes from about 6 feet dropped the first 400-pound hog deader than a hammer. Any skepticism I might have had regarding the .380 at close range was put to rest.
One of the problems in carrying a hideout gun, particularly in uniform, is where to hide it. The NMSP uniform was (and still is) black with a black, basketweave Sam Browne duty rig complete with suicide strap. I found that the Walther fit perfectly tucked between my Sam Browne and trousers on the left side, crossdraw style. Since the PPK/S was blued with black plastic stocks, it blended in perfectly with the black uniform and could hardly be seen, especially at night. This carry technique proved to be effective, as the gun was easily and quickly accessible and fit snugly and comfortably.
When I left the New Mexico State Police for an assignment as a federal investigator working the Mexican border, my PPK/S went with me. I carried the .380 as a backup for a number of years, and it made a dandy complement to my duty sidearm. I still have that well-worn little .380, along with Dad’s old PP, a trusty pair of pistols for sure.
Walther PP, PPK, and PPK/S pistols are now made in the U.S. by S&W under license from Walther. Any shooter looking for a fine, concealable pistol in .380 would be very well armed with a Walther, particularly when combined with some of the potent new ammunition such as Hornady’s 90-grain FTX Critical Defense stuff.
Indeed, some wee pistols really aren’t.