– Maj. Boothroyd, to 007, in Dr. No
And so James Bond reluctantly retires his Beretta 418, in .25 ACP — and takes up the Walther Polizeipistole Kurz (police pistol, short) as his issued weapon, in both the original novel and the movie. Ian Fleming had Bond’s original Beretta catch in his holster in From Russia, With Love; but in 1956 he was chastened by a letter from real-life firearms expert and Bond fan Geoffrey Boothroyd. “I dislike a man who comes into contact with all sorts of formidable people using a .25 Beretta. This sort of gun is really a lady’s gun, and not a really nice lady at that,” wrote Boothryd. In the subsequent novel, Dr. No, a certain Major Boothroyd recommends a change of weapon — duplicated in the movie version’s dialogue above.
Of all the iconic weapons in film — Dirty Harry’s “most powerful” .44 Magnum, Rooster Cogburn’s Winchester 1894 lever-action repeating rifle, Indiana Jones’ Webley Mark VI, Scarface’s “little friend” — the Walther has endured. It is the only device used by all the Bond actors (exploding pen or speargun, anyone?); yes, even that guy from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. While Pierce Brosnan’s Bond switched to the updated Walther P99 in 9mm Parabellum, and Daniel Craig carried that handgun over to Casino Royale, the Walther PPK returns in Quantum of Solace and got some snazzy updates in Skyfall.
So, why the Walther?
Naturally, every job requires the proper tool. The limited stopping power of the .32 ACP round and parsimonious firepower of a single-stack magazine that holds only seven rounds certainly gives pause; however, Bond is a spy, not a soldier. While his stint in the SAS made him a crack shot, his principal methods are stealth and subterfuge. A 9mm pistol with a high-capacity, double-stack magazine would provide more firepower and stopping power, but attempts to carry one concealed would result in a noticeable bulge, even if one’s tailor pays attention to details of dressing left or right. The lines of a bespoke Savile Row suit, or a Brioni or Tom Ford for that matter, remain undisturbed with the petite PPK.
Other Notable Bond Issued Sidearms
“His last action was to slip his right hand under the pillow until it rested under the butt of the .38 Colt Police Positive with the sawn barrel. Then he slept…” – Ian Fleming, Casino Royale
The gun Bond originally has before being issued the PPK. Boothroyd refers to as a “lady’s gun.”
In 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, Pierce Brosnan switched from the PPK to the Walther P99; Craig returned to the classic PPK in Quantum of Solace. Purists approved.
With the original PP, Walther introduced the first double-action auto-loading pistol, with an exposed hammer for first-round single-action firing when manually cocked and safety features that made loaded carry safe, and the design quickly become popular (the Soviet Makarov is a knock-off). In response to demand for a concealed carry variant, the PPK came out in 1931, featuring an abbreviated 3.3-inch barrel, and a shortened slide and grip: the perfect choice for the man under cover. Issued to German military police and pilots, the smaller pistol quickly become the darling of German senior military officers. (Notably, Hitler killed himself with a PPK.) Subsequent to the war, the PPK was a prized trophy within British circles, and likely how it came to Mr. Boothroyd’s favor.
Featuring a blowback action with a fixed barrel, the PPK, with accessories such as the aforementioned silencer, is the perfect choice for wet work: a suppressed weapon in a small caliber for a reduced signature — swift, silent, deadly. The design itself precludes a larger caliber (more powerful cartridges would destroy a fixed barrel), but more importantly, Bond relies on shot placement for results, and the fixed barrel gives him the precision and accuracy to do so. In Skyfall, note that Bond switches to the more powerful .380 (9x17mm) with a 6+1 load; seems the .32 wasn’t quite doing the job.
Still, the Walther PPK isn’t perfect. The gun requires a heavy slide return spring that makes racking the slide noticeably more difficult to someone accustomed to a moving barrel, but Bond’s physicality makes that a nonissue. The left-side-only safety presents a challenge for left-handed shooting (using a two-handed grip, sweep the lever up with your right thumb as you present the weapon to the target), and the 13.4-pound double action/six-pound single-action trigger pulls are a couple pounds too heavy for accurate firing — “Q” was originally called the “Armourer” for good reason, as he would surely have sweetened (lightened) the trigger to improve accuracy. The original design was also prone to “slide bite” for large-handed shooters — catching the webbing between the thumb and the forefinger under the slide during firing. Good thing Craig is a small(ish) man.
I dislike a man who comes into contact with all sorts of formidable people using a .25 Beretta. This sort of gun is really a lady’s gun, and not a really nice lady at that.
Designed for military use, the separately machined frame and barrel feeds work fine with military-issue full metal jacket (FMJ) rounds, but jacketed hollow points tend to catch in the barrel throat, resulting in potentially fatal stoppages (which seem very un-Bond). Since 007 isn’t constrained by international agreements requiring use of FMJ, no doubt “Q” Section’s armorers have modified his weapon to accept the more lethal hollow points.
Bond is, after all, an assassin.
Gun enthusiasts are as energetic about gun preference as Bond enthusiasts are about their favorite Bond actor. Whether you’re a big-bore fan or a Connery booster, there is little argument that the PPK — a calm, accurate shooter — belongs in Bond’s hands. If your work calls for discreetly slipping into exclusive cocktail parties, Third-World countries, and the lairs of international criminals/terrorist/despots, then the Walther might just be the right tool for the job.