Walther PK380 Review: An Accurate Compact 380, With A Few Twists
If you mention the words “Walther” and “380” to almost any gun nut or spy movie aficionado, they’ll immediately think of James Bond and his iconic Walther PPK, chambered in .380 ACP. Today we’re discussing Walther’s PK380, which is a horse of a somewhat different color than the legendary movie gun. While it uses the same cartridge and double action/single action (DA/SA) operating system as Bond’s PPK, we find out in this Walther PK380 review, the two pistols have little else in common.
The PPK has a metal frame and uses a traditional blowback action to eject the spent cartridge after it’s fired.
The PK380, on the other hand, has a polymer frame and uses the same locking delayed blowback action as all the other pistols in this test. While the PPK is known for being a compact gun used by covert operators on the silver screen, the PK380 is actually one of the larger guns in our test. It holds eight rounds in its single-stack magazine, and there is a short length of Picatinny rail at the front of the frame that allows you to add a light, laser, or other accessory.
Walther PK380 First Impressions
Right out of the box, the PK380 felt good in my hands. It’s one of the larger guns in this test (similar to the S&W M&P Shield 380EZ). As such, it felt like I was holding a compact 9mm rather than a compact .380. Unlike the other guns in this test, the PK380 is a double action/single action (DA/SA) pistol (more on that in a bit). It has a manual safety mounted on the rear of the slide, which operates in manner similar to other slide mounted safeties. You simply flick the safety with your thumb as you point the gun towards the target.
Because of the DA/SA action, the PK380 has two different trigger pulls. The first is the double action pull, which both cocks the hammer and releases it. The second is the single action pull, which only trips the hammer. This gives the PK380 a light trigger on single action, needing just over four pounds of effort to fire the gun. The double action pull is a still-manageable seven pounds.
The PK380 is flat out fun to shoot. The gun’s large frame and long sight radius, combined with a lower-powered .380 ACP cartridge, make it easy to deliver fast and accurate shots onto the target. The gun’s safety, however, is a bit different.
Unlike most guns with safeties, the PK380’s trigger can be pulled and the hammer will fall when the safety is engaged. But, the firing pin will not go forward and the gun will not shoot so long as the safety is engaged.
According to Walther, this is intended to add an extra layer of protection when dry-firing the gun at home. The gun, when on safe, operates pretty much the same as when it is ready to fire (except for the loud “bang” and a hole appearing in something). I don’t know about you, but I prefer a more traditional safety that disables the trigger and renders the gun completely inoperative when engaged. This lets me know the gun is on safe, and I can respond as needed. With the PK380, the only way to tell if the gun is on safe is to look at the safety. This is not the case with the PK380, and that can lead to confusion as to why the gun is not firing when it should be firing.
Locking The Slide
Another little quirk showed up when I tried to lock the slide back. When I went to use the slide lock lever I discovered there was no slide lock lever to be found. This was not an issue for me on the range since my habit is to bring the gun into action by racking the slide, not using the slide lock lever. However, locking the slide back for storage or maintenance requires the use of an empty magazine. This takes some getting used to.
The PK380’s magazine release is located on the rear of the trigger guard. This is a feature found on other European-designed pistols. While it was a change from the usual frame-mounted magazine release, I found it easy to use and it didn’t slow me down at all.
The PK380’s long slide radius, light trigger, and large frame helped it turn in some of the best groups in our test. The gun was comfortable to shoot; it was no trouble at all to shoot 500 rounds through it in just one session.
Chronograph: Shooty Alpha
Chrono Distance: 10 ft
Distance to Target: 15 yds
Blazer Brass FMJ
Average Velocity: 907 fps
Average Group Size: 4.9 inches
Federal HST JHP
Average Velocity: 996 fps
Average Group Size: 3.72 inches
Average Velocity: 981 fps
Average Group Size: 2.17 inches
Cumulative Group Size: 3.62 inches
Average Trigger Pull (SA): 4.4 pounds
Average Trigger Pull (DA): 7 pounds
Combined Trigger Pull Average: 5.7 pounds
Average Slide Rack Effort: 11.96 pounds
I experienced only two issues with the PK380 during the 500 round reliability test. On round 278, an empty case from .380 Blazer Brass failed to eject, and on round 324, a round of Remington Golden Saber also failed to eject.
250 Rounds Tula 91 Grain FMJ
100 Rounds Blazer Brass 95 grain FMJ
50 Rounds PMC 90 grain FMJ
50 Rounds Fiocchi 95 grain FMJ
20 Rounds Federal Premium 99 grain JHP
25 Rounds Remington Golden Saber 102 grain JHP
20 Rounds Hornady Critical Defense 90 grain FTX
Round 278: Stoppage (Failure to Eject), Blazer Brass
Round 324: Stoppage (Failure to Eject), Remington Golden Saber
Total Issues: 2
Wrapping Up The Walther PK380 Review
The PK380 delivered top of the charts accuracy. Its size and heft made it easy to place round after round wherever I wanted. That being said, the unusual safety gives me some pause, as a greater amount of care must be used to make sure the gun is empty when it should be empty and loaded when it should be loaded. At an MSRP of $399, the PK380’s price is right in line with the other guns in our test. And with a true Picatinny rail up front, it offers the option to mount lights and lasers, which many of the guns in our test do not.