Walther PPK vs Makarov: Which Is The Better Pint Size Pistol?
If you think the plastic guns were the first single-stack compacts, you are deluding yourself; the Walther PPK or Makarov pistols were common carry guns decades before Gaston Glock first thought “you know, I’m getting sick of this folding shovel stuff.” Both have old-school appeal, but are actually good carry guns.
But which one to get?
Both guns have a lot in common, which are well known…but there are some big differences. Which should you get?
The Walther PPK has been in continuous production for longer than almost any other gun; only the Smith and Wesson Model 10 and the 1911 pistol rival it for continuous manufacture.
The Walther PP series – Polizeipistole, or police pistol – was first released in 1929 as a police sidearm, followed by the Polizeipistole Kriminalmodell or PPK – a sleeker detective’s model – the following year.
The firing mechanism was cutting-edge for the day. The PP family uses blowback rather than recoil to cycle the slide. The barrel is fixed to the frame, which makes exhaust gases push the empty cartridge rearward and cycle the slide.
The PPK has been offered over the years in .22 LR, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, 9mm Ultra (a short-lived German clone of 9mm Makarov) and, of course, .380 ACP, which is now all you can (or should) get it in.
The pistol got famous when Ian Fleming was convinced by one George Boothroyd, a British firearms expert, that a .25-caliber Beretta is a poor choice of sidearm. He wrote it into the books, which made it into the movies and here we are today.
The pistol is double/single action, but features a slide-mounted decocking safety, which is where Beretta, Smith and Wesson and others got that idea. The PPK also had a loaded chamber indicator and firing pin block as well from the very beginning.
You get 6+1 of .380 with the PPK or 7+1 with the PPK/S, which has a slightly longer grip. The frame and slide are metal, with black or stainless being your choices of finish. The PPK stands 3.8 inches tall, 6.1 inches long and 1 inch wide, and weighs 22 ounces unloaded. The PPK/S is 4.3 inches tall and weighs one more ounce with one more round in the magazine. Trigger pull is a stiff 13.4-lb first shot and 6.1-lb follow-ups, which has long been a complaint about this gun. Sights are fixed and small.
Like other classics, it has a bit of a price tag. They go for about $700 in most stores, when available…and that’s not often, because they tend to fly off the shelves.
From Russia With Gun: The Makarov
The Makarov pistol came about after World War II. Before the war intervened, the USSR had been planning on phasing out the Nagant M1895 revolver and TT-30 Tokarev pistol, but they had to put those plans on hold. Then peace broke out and they were able to get back to the drawing board.
The design team, headed by Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov, took an existing design and tweaked it a bit. Walther couldn’t do anything about it if they wanted to since they were (then) based in Thuringia, which was in East Germany and thus under Moscow’s control. However, the Makarov was greatly simplified compared to the PPK, with much fewer moving parts (only 27 in total not counting the magazine, which is kind of astonishing) and is therefore very easy to service and keep running.
Today, you’d probably have Walther vs Makarov in court, but in Soviet Russia, patent infringes you.
Basically, the Makarov is a Walther PP that’s been slightly scaled up for a slightly larger round, the 9x18mm Makarov. 9mm Makarov employs a slightly bigger case and a little bit more powder to get a little bit more zip on the round. Basically, it’s halfway between the 9mm Para and .380, with a 95-grain bullet doing 1000 feet per second with about 210 to 230 (depending) foot-pounds of energy. Plenty were also made in .380, however.
Just like the PPK, it has DA/SA operation with a slide-mounted decocking safety, blowback operation and a fixed barrel. The takedown procedure is even the same.
Did it work? You bet your borscht it did; the Makarov is one of the the longest-serving duty pistols ever invented. It was first issued in 1951 and is actually still in service in various military and police units in Russia and elsewhere. It’s lean, mean and while lacking for refinement makes up for it by being iron-tough. Nikolay Makarov was awarded the Order of Lenin twice (among other commendations) for his work in arms design, so he knew what he was doing.
The double-action trigger is no picnic, but Makarov pistols are known for being rugged, reliable, accurate enough for government work and easy to pack in the bargain.
It does make a good CCW gun. Barrel length is 3.7 inches, and overall dimensions are 6.36 inches long by 4.875 inches tall by 1.14 inches wide with the Bakelite grips. Capacity is 8+1 of 9x18mm, and the pistol weighs 26 ounces unloaded. A bit of heft, but it makes for soft recoil. Sights are drift-adjustable, though iron and on the small side.
It’s actually one of the most popular Soviet surplus guns for concealed carry for these reasons, so it’s not a bad pick. Price depends on condition but also origin; East German and Russian Makarovs in pristine conditions can demand a premium, though Bulgarian Makarovs are more common and cheaper.
Walther PPK Vs Makarov
So…Walther PPK vs Makarov. Which should you get?
Ultimately, both are good buys in the grand scheme of things. Both have logical operating systems, are safe for carry and both have been used to successfully defend the person carrying it from attackers. Both have a serviceable though arguably not the best chambering, since 9x19mm isn’t an option.
Don’t fret much about caliber, however. The .380 and 9mm Makarov rounds are effective if you shoot accurately and carry a quality hollow point.
Neither are competition pistols but that isn’t what they were invented for. These pistols were made to use up close and personal, inside of 20 yards. Granted, that range is where most defensive gun uses occur anyway, and either gun will get the job done.
So, what sets one apart from the other if one was mulling PPK vs Makarov?
The PPK can be bought new. The Makarov cannot. You can find one in great condition, to be sure, but not new. Some people care, but some people don’t.
The PPK and PPK/S are a little smaller, a little lighter. Not much; like 10 percent in any dimension but that can make a difference to some people. That said, the Makarov will have a fuller grip, which will make it a little more comfortable, a little more shootable. That makes a difference too.
A pistol that you can shoot well is one you’ll be confident in, which is what you want in a carry gun.
However, there is a hitch with the Makarov, namely the ammunition. While 9x18mm Makarov is made by plenty of manufacturers – selection is okay by mail order and some reputable brands make JHP – you aren’t going to find any in stores. Maybe a box of hardball, but not much else. There is scads of .380 about, however, which IS something to bear in mind.
As to price, a new PPK will – as mentioned – probably run you $600 to $700 new. Used models will go for less. Makarov pistols, depending on origin and condition, often start around $250 in many surplus stores but run up to almost $1,000 for unissued German or Russian models.
If you’re weighing these pistols, go out and handle both. Shoot both, if possible The one that you’re most accurate with, and you like shooting the most, is the one to carry.