Two years ago, my wife decided to accompany me to the range and see what all the excitement was about. Secretly I think she thought I must have found a girlfriend up there, because I was always going. She came along and shot a couple of my pistols. Come to find out, she was a fantastic natural shooter, and really enjoyed herself. We live down at Fort Hood, Texas, and after the Fort Hood shooter incident, she decided that she might want to get a CHL permit. I already had one from Virginia, so we both went and got our Texas permits, using my XD9 to qualify for the course. Then of course, she wanted her own pistol for carrying. This review will explain a little bit about her final choice, the Walther PK380, and my thoughts about the gun.
For those not familiar with the Walther PK380, it is a single stack, semi-automatic composite pistol very similar to the P22 model from Walther. Most folks when they hear my wife owns a Walther immediately think of the James Bond PPK of old, however this is a modern single action/double action firearm with 8+1 capacity, ambidextrous safety and magazine release, external hammer, and integrated rail for attachments. The size fits somewhere in between a pocket pistol and a compact. This pistol is very lightweight, and is probably the smoothest firing pistol I have ever shot.
How did she come about buying this pistol you may ask yourself? There are three main reasons my wife chose this pistol, and they are: ease of functioning, price, and conceal-ability. Before going into the details, let me set the stage quickly. The wife never likes to spend my heard earned money, unless she really has decided what she wants. After spending hours at multiple gun stores, pawn shops, sporting goods stores, and mega outdoor outfitter stores and literally fooling with thirty to forty different guns she decided on the PK380. Although this may seem time consuming, I quite enjoyed it as I got to go to all my favorite stores, and handle multiple different weapons. My wife made them take the trigger locks off of the weapons so she could dry fire, work the actions, and even disassemble some of the guns. I recommend if you are shopping and your store allows it, that you do the same. You really will never know how the gun truly feels or will function if you don’t do this.
The first thing nice aspect of this gun is the price. The PK 380 we bought sold for $369. Not to expensive, but not cheap either. I found this gun to be well priced for the quality German engineering. My wife had shot the Bersa Thunder 380 during her CHL class that a friend brought to the course, and she enjoyed that weapon as well. It sold for $279 at the same store, and in the end these were the top two finalists on my wife’s list. More on that decision later. But in the end, she picked the PK380 for the overall good value at $369. The pistol came with two magazines, and the standard lock. The gun also comes with a 1 year warranty through Walther’s partner Smith and Wesson.
The next factor to review was how it functions. Point blank, this is a great shooting pistol, very accurate, easy to take apart, and most importantly easy to work the action. The main reason my wife bought this pistol, is that of all the pistols she tried, she could literally pull the slide back with two fingers. It is so smooth. She tried several Taurus pistols during the quest and a couple Berettas that had very tight actions. Being new to shooting, she could barely get the slide back, much less manipulate her fingers to engage a slide lock. The PK380 also has no slide lock. The only way the slide will lock back to the rear is by, pulling it back with an empty magazine in the weapon, or shooting your last round. Our range at home requires actions to be open when you come on the range, so my wife always keeps an empty magazine in the gun when we go there so she can lock the slide back, drop the magazine, and then leave the gun in open configuration for the range officer. If this is a big deal to you, I would skip this gun, but if you can live with it, then it is no big deal. My wife actually likes the fact that there is no slide lock, less to think about she says. The second function worth mentioning is the magazine release is on the trigger guard as opposed to the grips. I was used to a grip mounted magazine release, but my wife being new to shooting did not seem to mind. In fact, now when I shoot hers, it seems more ergonomic and quicker to execute a rapid magazine change with the Walther configuration. One thing I would change is that it requires a small tool to unlock the slide for disassembly. I prefer a weapon I can take apart with no specialized tools, that way I don’t lose the little key for example. However, cleaning the few parts of the gun is quite easy.
The final point I’ll review is conceal-ability. This gun is bigger than the Walther PPK, but smaller than the PPS. In short, it really fits in-between a pocket pistol and a sub-compact. It conceals nicely in a baggy jacket pocket, or in a specialized inside the waste-band holster. However, as it is not a pocket pistol, it does imprint on my wife sometimes if she has tight jeans on. So a good conceal of this weapon would require some baggier clothes. Also, you could not fit this gun in your front pocket of a pair of trousers for example. My wife either carries it in her purse, a jacket pocket, or a Super-Tuck Deluxe from CrossBreed holsters. However, she’ll be the first to tell you that she is interested in something smaller that conceals a little easier.
In short, the Walther PK380 is a great pistol because it is reasonably priced, and shoots and handles as good as any gun I have shot. What would I change? I would make the same gun, just a little smaller and easier to conceal. Also, I wrote Walther about this gun and asked them to make this in a single stack 9mm. They pointed me to the PPS; however, this gun is different than the PPS which has no external hammer. Walther could easily take on the Kel-Tec PF9 market by offering the exact same mount as the PK380 but in a single stack 9mm, a lower cost version of the PPS for example. I guess not enough folks have emailed them yet to ask for this. In closing, I would recommend this gun for the ladies just due to the ease of operation, especially for a first gun. Shoot on!