In Dr No – both the novel and the film – James Bond is met with orders from the armourer to hand over his Beretta .25 semi-automatic. In its place he recommends switching to the Walther PPK, a 7.65 mm semi-automatic pistol “with a delivery like a brick through a plate glass window.”
While Bond would employ other firearms as circumstances dictated, the Walther PPK became his principal side arm, and joined the “shaken, not stirred” martini as one of the quintessential props of the character.
Although today’s Bond has moved on to the heavier Walther P99 9mm, as the change was not clearly commented upon in the films it has gone largely unnoticed among the general public, which still identifies the PPK as the pistol of choice for Commander Bond.
History of the PPK
The PPK first entered service in 1931, as an evolution of Walter’s popular Polizeipistole, or PP. The PPK stood for Polizeipistol Kurz, or “short police pistol,” and was expressly meant for use by plainclothes policemen and detectives.
Such work demanded a smaller firearm that could be easily concealed and would not attract attention, sacrificing high-powered ammunition (such as the .45 and 9mm cartridges) and greater ammunition capacity for stealth.
It was a reliable and compact automatic pistol at a time when there were few designs that were either, and became an instant success. The handgun saw widespread use with German police and the Luftwaffe (German Air Force), and indeed it was with a PPK that Adolf Hitler shot himself in 1945.
Bond adopts the PPK
The PPK found its way into Bond’s hands based on a bit of fan correspondence. Geoffrey Boothroyd first wrote to Ian Fleming in 1956, shortly before the publication of From Russia With Love.
He told Fleming that he loved the novels, but hated Bond’s choice of weapons and the Beretta .25 in particular, an easily concealed pocket pistol with the drawback of shooting a very light round – a “lady’s gun”, Boothroyd informed Fleming.
Fleming had initially assigned Bond the .25 pistol on the basis of his own espionage work during the Second World War, but Boothroyd suggested that the PPK would be a better choice. It was only slightly larger, packed more of a wallop, and the ammunition for it was in widespread use.
This was one of several firearms criticisms that resulted in Boothroyd becoming the basis for the armourer, the character who developed into the much loved Q of the movies.
Guns have changed a lot since Ian Fleming wrote Dr No. The Walther P99 is only 10 mm longer than the original PP, 25 mm longer than the PPK, and yet uses a more powerful round and carries more ammunition than either of them. However, it is still a Walther semi-automatic that sits in Bond’s shoulder holster, and the legacy of that fine German pistol-maker continues.