The 380 ACP round and guns that fire it have experienced a renaissance of sorts in recent years. John Browning designed the round to be the most powerful one could get in a cartridge for use in small, blowback operated pistols. It was a 380 pistol that started World War I and the round remained popular for years with European and Latin military forces and police, with a limited following here in the US amongst civilians. As pistol technology advanced and concealed carry permit systems became a reality, the need for small carry guns have kept the cartridge going, if it is not more popular now than ever before.
New generation 380 guns tend to be very small, very light, and with nonexistent sights. They also operate on the old blowback mechanism. In guns so light, the moderately powerful 380 round can be hard to handle despite the round’s reputation for being mild on the shooter. Though convenient and powerful enough, there has to be a better way.
Enter the Walther PK380, introduced a few years ago by Walther. It boasts some full sized features in a relatively compact, yet lightweight gun. Here is the skinny:
The PK380 is a polymer framed, double/single action hammer fired handgun made by Walther—the same company that makes one of the most legendary 380s out there, the Walther PPK.
The frame is, of course, black polymer, and the slide comes in either a stainless or black matte finish. Externally, the PK380 is very similar to the P22 it is based on, but in a more serious and reliable cartridge, 380 ACP. The pistol holds a fair number of them: Nine, Eight in the magazine and one in the chamber. Fully loaded, the gun weighs just 21 ounces.
The magazine release is ambidextrous and located at the bottom of the trigger guard. The firing pin block safety, is also ambidextrous.
The sights are highly visible and consists of a fixed blade front sight dotted in red and an adjustable white dotted rear sight.
Note the rail for use with mounted lasers or lights.
Unlike most 380s, then and now, the PK380 operates on the Browning locked breech system.
The PK380 is no slouch in operation. Equipped with one hundred fifty rounds of Privi Partisan 94 grain FMJ rounds and an equal number of Remington Golden Saber 102 grain hollowpoints. After expending all my ammo, here are my impressions:
The PK380 is a pleasure to shoot on the range. Recoil is very light thanks to the locked breech design that absorbs recoil far better than the heavy spring on a blowback operated gun. This also means the gun is butter smooth to operate when reloading. The slide is big enough to manipulate and the slide serrations help. If you choose to stick with the single eight round magazine provided with the gun, you will be reloading a lot so getting extra magazines is highly recommended.
The double action and single action trigger pulls break cleanly and smoothly and the single action pull has a nice short reset. The gun points naturally, yet lightly and a full grip gave confidence. The magazine release does require a shift of grip to release, but which would you rather?—Retaining the magazine or losing it when you are under stress?
So how about accuracy and reliability?
In my brief testing, there were no malfunctions, even with the hollow points. The gun has great accuracy and shoot ability that most micro 380s can’t achieve in the hands of an ordinary user—like myself.
At a distance of ten yards, I was able to achieve off hand groups of about two and a half inches. The easy to pick up sights definitely help in this department and reaching out further would be easy. Firing as fast as I could, I was still able to put eight rounds into a foot sized group at that distance.
Ten yard groups: left is slowfire, right is rapid fire.
Out of curiosity of what the 3.66 inch barrel affords in velocity and power, I ran the selected rounds over the chronograph for a 3 shot average of:
Privi 94 grain FMJ—936fps
Remington Golden Saber 102 grain—962fps
Once the fun is done, in order to disassemble the pistol for thorough cleaning, one requires the use of a small wrench that’s included in order to free the take down lug to take the slide assembly off the frame.
From left to right: 380 ACP, 9X19mm, and 38 Special.
Is the PK380 right for you? Well, it all boils down to what you want out of a handgun. Would it be a good range gun/ home defense weapon? How about concealed carry?
The PK380 boasts better capacity, better sights, better handling features and recoil management than just about any popular 380 pistol on the market today. Not to mention the excellent trigger and good old Walther quality. But it all comes at the price of being bigger and less concealable than the 380s we have today. One could also beef about getting only one factory mag or the tool required take down process, or perhaps the addition of an unnecessary safety. On the other hand, you get more enjoyment out of it and therefore more practice and proficiency, despite the relatively high cost of 380 ACP ammunition. This is very important to those who are inexperienced and new to shooting or are otherwise recoil sensitive. The Walther PK380 lives up to the promise of a 380 that’s actually accurate and soft shooting with features well above its class.