The good, the bad, the ugly, and the utterly fascinating
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
For years I’ve wanted a Walther PPK pistol; much like my dad always wanted a Rolex wristwatch, but never throughout his life did Dad own a Rolex even when he had the money and then some to make the purchase. “Money comes by too hard,” he lamented. “There’s so much need.”
Dad was right. But there’s another way to look at it: Some purchases, like some high-end Rolex models, are a clear investment. Not all purchases are over-the-top expensive. Some purchases may be seen as future gifts to beloved heirs. Some are celebratory expressions of a given life event; maybe a tangible mark of some rite-of-passage. And some purchases – as in the case of a special albeit simple weapon like a Walther – are a literal capturing of history and culture.
Weapons are unique like that and they always have been.
LEGACY OF KNIGHTS
Centuries ago when a young man was knighted, he spent his last night as a squire or knight-candidate standing watch (vigil) over his newly acquired weapons and armor: Not out of a sense of materialism or a self-centered pride in possessing something, but in a far more spiritual sense. There was the unspoken idea that there was some sort of transcendental connection between a man, his weapons, and God.
THIS was hammered into us as young Marines with our incessant drilling, snapping-in, shooting, cleaning, sleeping with and sometimes showering with our weapons and our recitation from memory of the Marine Rifleman’s Creed.
“THIS IS MY RIFLE!” we shouted in unison. “There are many like it, but this one is mine! My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life… I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will… Before God, I swear this creed.” and so on.
CARL WALTHER’S POLIZEI PISTOLE KRIMINAL
So to my new Walther PPK .380 and why I’m writing about it: A Walther is certainly not the only or the most significant weapon I’ve ever owned, but it’s one of the more interesting to be sure.
The namesake of gunmaker Carl Walther (1858-1915) the model PPK stands for Polizei Pistole Kriminal. The original “PP” meaning police pistol, and the “K” to differentiate between the standard police issue and the criminal-investigations (detective) issue. The Walther PP was introduced in 1929, the year both my dad and my stepdad were born. The PPK criminal-investigations model was introduced two years later.
Firearms only, not counting combat knives or dress swords, each piece in my own collection has a story – most stemming from the years I’ve owned them and the experiences and memories gleaned from those years – beginning with my old Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun which I worked for and purchased with my own money when I was only 16-years-old, a few inherited weapons since, a regretfully SOLD Sig Sauer P220 with the Soviet-era West German stamp on it, an old British .303 bolt-action with bayonet, my stepdad’s cylinder scarred .38 Smith & Wesson revolver, and my big boxlike FN (Fabrique Nationale) .45 ACP, among others.
All of this brings me to my latest acquisition, a lightly used (pre-owned in automobile parlance) Walther PPK, the same make and model weapon carried by fictional British MI6 operations officer and Royal Navy Commander James Bond, code-named 007.
JAMES BOND’S (IAN FLEMING’S) WEAPON
The reason Bond carried and carries a Walther PPK was and is twofold –
FIRST, Bond originally carried a Beretta .25 ACP until British weapons expert Geoffrey Boothroyd admonished Bond creator and novelist Ian Fleming for arming the world’s premier fictional secret agent with what Boothroyd believed was “a lady’s gun,” the tiny .25 automatic.
SECOND, Fleming, a Royal Navy intelligence officer during World War II, agreed with Boothroyd and quickly armed his character Bond with the very weapon he (Fleming) carried during the war. Yes, the real-life Fleming carried a Walther PPK.
Brits aside, the Germans were also armed with the PPK during WWII. It was and is after all a German-made sidearm.
THE DREADED NAZIS
True, we tend to associate the Swiss-made LUGER Pistole Parabellum with WWII German soldiers. The Luger was indeed widely carried by the officers and men of the Wehrmacht, but the Walther PPK seems to have been the sidearm of choice for the SS (primarily SS officers); the RHSA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt), a particularly brutal leadership organization within the SS; the Waffen-SS which was the ground-combat branch of the SS; the Gestapo; and the Luftwaffe.
Adolf Hitler himself was armed with a Walther PPK, and it was a Walther PPK that Hitler used to commit suicide on April 30, 1945, exactly 14 years to the day before I was born in 1959.
So it’s all in some way connected: The bad and the ugly. What about the good?
Was reading several nights ago about the late great Fleming, his wildly successful spy novels, his wartime service that served as the inspiration for his stories, and the fact that he also carried a Walther PPK.
MY FRIEND BRUCE BRUTSCHY
A few mornings later, I phoned my good friend Bruce Brutschy, a national martial arts tournament champion, 10th-degree black belt, and an inductee into several martial arts halls-of-fame including the elite S.C. Black Belt Hall of Fame,
Bruce is a something of a legend in martial arts circles and beyond: a local criminal-thwarting legend who years ago, and on more than one occasion, happened to be in the right-place at the right time with a truckload of dash, daring, moxie, and martial artistry. And everybody still remembers.
Bruce is also a weapons collector and weapons expert who I thought might be able to get me a good deal on a PPK through one of our area retailers. I had decided it was time to make that special purchase for my nephews’ future, my history, and me, and Bruce seemed to be connected to all the gun collectors, firearms dealers, and shooters in central S.C.
Bruce surprised me by telling me he actually owned a Walther PPK he had purchased from a family friend years ago. He thought about it for a while and then said he was willing to part with the weapon for nearly half the price of what it would cost me to buy a brand new one (I know because I had priced PPKs online).
Bruce is also a close friend of many years, so I had to step back from my subjective perspective for a moment and consider the objective fact that this particular PPK had been part of Bruce’s extensive weapons collection for years, and the fact that it was part of the great Bruce Brutschy’s collection made it all the more valuable to me or to anyone else who might’ve been fortunate enough to buy it.
In the end, the acquisition was made. Very affordable. Beautifully balanced. Surprisingly accurate (for a pistol). It’s a Brutschy owned weapon (he’ll roll his eyes when he reads this) with a fascinating model legacy – Fleming, the good; Nazis, the bad; Hitler, the ugly. My heirs will be the beneficiaries. History lives.
W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine Infantry leader and a New York Times bestselling editor. Visit him at http://uswriter.com.