The Insider: A Little Big Gun: Walther’s PP .22


Walther PPs, .22 LR (left) and .32 ACP (right). Roy started with the .32
then discovered the joys of the twin in .22. Finish is Robar’s NP3 on the .22.

That’s six shots at 15 yards. Roy zeroed the sights by welding and carefully filing the front to match CCI Mini-Mag HP ammo.

I’m a firm believer in .22 autos like the classic Rugers, Browning Buckmarks and modern models like S&W’s “Victory” .22s introduced a few years ago. I’ve owned and shot all of them extensively. They’re all accurate, reliable and most work very neatly with a scope or red dot mounted. But none of them are what I’d call compact pistols.

At the other end of the spectrum are guns like Ruger’s newer LCP II .22 LR, Beretta’s 21A .22 LR and their kin. All are true pocket pistols and are highly concealable and fun to shoot but aren’t the best trail or “tractor” guns.

It wasn’t until a happy coincidence I had in the middle 1980s I realized there was another category of personal .22 auto I call “Little Big Guns.” I’d long been a fan of the Walther PP series, especially in .32 ACP. In the late 1970s, I picked up a nice, clean PP in .32 ACP and enjoyed it a great deal. I bought and later sold several PPK/s guns in .380 because I just found them not nearly as accurate as that PP .32 and not nearly as fun to shoot. They were snappy, and unless you really kept them clean and paid close attention to your grip, locked wrist and ammo, they tended to malfunction now and again. The little PP .32 ran like the proverbial three-year-old toward the candy counter and the almost nonexistent recoil and “shoot the jackrabbit at 30 yards” accuracy spelled sheer delight in the field.

Then I got to handle a good friend’s PP in .22 LR. I was smitten instantly, especially when I realized it had a “Duraluminum” frame. Those Germans knew what they were doing. But alas, not only are those models rare, they’re dear too. Can you say thousands? Then that coincidence occurred.

The Ruger autos seem “small” until put next to a Walther PP in .22 LR. Roy
finds the tidy size of the PP makes it handy on the tractor or when stashed
in a back pocket on his property.

Take down on the .22 is classic Walther PP series.

Import Dreams

If you remember the old Shotgun News, it was a newspaper format newsprint monthly chock full of great gun deals, surplus goodies, ammo and sundry other such wonderfulness at often tantalizing prices. I always zeroed in on the surplus stuff, and when my latest issue arrived right after seeing that Duraluminum gun, an ad jumped out at me. “Surplus Walther PP pistols in .22 LR. Limited numbers, so order fast!” These were all steel, but close enough. I grabbed the phone.

For $132 (!), one was shipped to my local FFL, and that’s when I discovered “modest field wear and use” meant rust pits and cracked grips. But I could see past that, paid my transfer fee and soon had my “sort of dream gun” in hand. Some research led me to learn my gun was one of a batch sent to, of all places, the Ministry of Defense in Great Britain during 1974–1975. I was never able to learn what the MOD did with them, but mine had been used hard and put away very wet. Nonetheless, the bore was bright and the action tight, mirroring what so many law enforcement and military guns exhibit — carried a great deal but fired little.

I soon learned the little gun was a delight to shoot, accurate as all get-out and, unlike the .32 sister gun I had, didn’t eat me out of house and home when it came to ammo costs. I also discovered something else. It was effortless to carry tucked into a back pocket, tossed into a pack or in a simple belt slide holster. I soon found my Ruger .22 Standard Auto tended to stay home when I went wandering in the high desert. The Walther did everything I needed, but in a tidy, 23-oz. package.

Can’t find a PP in .22 LR? Nose around, and you’ll likely find a good deal
on a classic Beretta Model 71 in .22 LR, about the same size.

Roy calls the PP .22 a “Little Big Gun” since it handles like a big gun but
is compact and handy. Note the lanyard loop on this former military pistol.


The PP series was introduced in about 1929 and just pre-war really leapt into being as a military and police gun for the Axis. Post-war, various iterations continued to be made, extending into today, where Walther here in the states still manufactures these classic pistols. You can even get a PPK/s in .22 LR, but not a PP, which I think is more elegant and handles better.

I eventually sent my gun off to Robar, and they were kind enough to clean it up, get rid of much of the pitting, then apply their amazing NP3 finish. The result was a very business-like look and a newfound life for the old pistol. I was always a bit bothered by the fact it tended to shoot a tad high at 15 yards, so I recently carefully added a bit of TIG weld to the top of the front sight, then re-shaped it and zeroed it perfectly. If you do such a thing, keep in mind the Walther sights are hard as diamonds for some reason, and a standard file glides right off. I use diamond hones.

These days, the Walther rides with me often around the property here, most usually tucked into a back pocket. It’s spent hundreds of hours on the tractor with me and is often in the hands of new shooters here too. Keep your good eye open, and just maybe, you might get lucky and have an interesting coincidence like the one I had. You might also keep your eye open for an old Beretta Model 71 in .22 LR. It sort of does the same job. Or maybe get both?

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