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Walther's New Hammer-Fired PD380 Compact Carry Pistol: Review

Tired of compact striker-fired carry pistols? Walther's new PD380 is a hammer-fired, double-action/single-action compact carry handgun that is feature-packed at a great price.

Walther's New Hammer-Fired PD380 Compact Carry Pistol: Review

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Walther has a longstanding tradition of innovation with .380 ACP-chambered concealed-carry pistols dating back to the introduction of the Polizei Pistole (PP) in 1929 and the Polizei Pistole Kriminal (PPK) in 1931. Fictional British secret agent 007 James Bond popularized the model, and many people consider the PPK the first modern concealed-carry pistol. With its short grip and sleek profile, the PPK was clearly slanted toward concealment. In 2009, the PK380 became Walther’s next take on the .380 ACP carry pistol. Although slightly larger than the PPK, the PK380 was lighter thanks to its polymer grip. Its longer grip made room for your little finger and accommodated an eight-round magazine rather than the PPK’s six-rounder. PK380 ergonomics were far superior to the PPK, and the slide on the former was considerably easier to rack. The classic PPK and the seven-round capacity PPK/S are here to stay, but Walther’s new PD380 is sending the PK380 into retirement.

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The PD380 is a hammer-fired semiauto that’s easy to operate. It features a slide-mounted safety and an ambidextrous paddle magazine release.

“The PD380 is an updated design on the PK380, replacing it entirely. It was always one of our most popular guns due to its simplicity to operate and how easy it is to shoot,” Walther’s director of communications and channel marketing Cody Osborn told Handguns. At 6.6 inches long, the PD380 sports a 3.7-inch barrel with a 1:10 twist. It’s 5.2 inches high, 1.2 inches wide and weighs in at 20.6 ounces. Those dimensions make it easy to carry concealed. But if a pistol isn’t easy to shoot, how well it carries is of little consequence. Fortunately, the .380 ACP chambering, combined with its grip length and ergonomics, makes the PD380 very shootable, with recoil that’s easy to handle. The minimal recoil means the shooter is bound to practice more and, in doing so, he or she will build both skill and confidence. The PD380 shares many of the PK380’s features, including similar dimensions and shape. Both are double-action/single-action pistols with a thumb safety, ambidextrous paddle magazine release, and internal slide stop. But despite these similarities, the PD380 incorporates design features from Walther’s PDP, making it a superior pistol to the PK380.

Walther PD380 Features

The PD380 features Walther’s Performance Duty Texture, which is aggressive enough to lock the pistol into your hands, but thanks to its tetrahedron, triangular pyramid design, it’s non-abrasive. The texture is comfortable, and it won’t snag on your clothing during your draw stroke. Another improvement on the PK380 is the SuperTerrain slide serrations, both front and rear. Rather than being cut into the slide like the serrations on most pistols, the SuperTerrain serrations are raised above the slide, providing better purchase for easier and more reliable slide manipulation. This equates to more efficient loading and malfunction clearing—important features of a carry pistol. Despite the popularity of red dot sights, the PD380’s slide is not cut for an optic. Instead, it features “industry standard” plastic three-dot white sights, which means they’re based on the Glock pattern. The rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation. While the sights aren’t anything special, they can be swapped out, and aftermarket sights built on this pattern are plentiful. I suspect many people who want to carry this gun will replace the sights for a more robust and user-friendly set.

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The PD380 can be carried with the hammer down or cocked and locked, thanks to the non-decocking safety. The Performance Duty grip texture helps lock the PD380 in your hand, and Nance found the gun really easy to shoot thanks to its minimal recoil.

Not everything on the PD380 is industry standard. Take, for instance, the slide-mounted ambidextrous safety. The safety is engaged when flipped down and disengaged when flipped up, making it counter-intuitive for many shooters, especially those accustomed to 1911s—although as Osborn noted it’s the same as you’ll find on any slide-mounted safety. And I found it’s easy to operate. Another peculiarity with the safety is that it doesn’t double as a decocker. “The non-decocking style allows the user to still shoot in single action safely and easily,” Osborn said. When you attempt to lock the PD380’s slide to the rear, you’ll notice another oddity: There’s no external slide stop lever. This is another design element carried over from the PK380. To lock the slide to the rear, you’ll need to have an empty mag in the pistol. If you typically use the slide stop lever to send the slide forward after loading a magazine, you’ll have to have to get used to cycling the slide instead. While the former is faster, the latter is a more surefire way to chamber a round. Not only is cycling the slide a more gross motor-based movement, but it also ensures the slide is propelled forward under full spring tension. Ejecting a magazine from the PD380 will also be foreign to many Americans. Rather than the standard magazine release button, it features a paddle magazine release at the base of the trigger guard. “The paddle magazine release is still popular for the uses of being a deep concealment gun and being fully ambidextrous,” Osborn said. “There’s no chance of it releasing the mag if the gun’s carried in a bag or pocket.”

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SuperTerrain slide serrations provide a solid purchase for easy slide manipulation, and the accessory rail permits simple installation of a light or light/laser.

Like the thumb safety, the magazine release is ambidextrous. All the features work well, but they’re not what most U.S. shooters are used to. The PD380 can be carried as a double-action gun with the hammer down or, again, “cocked and locked” like a 1911 thanks to its non-decocking safety. Walther lists the double-action trigger pull at 10 pounds and the single-action trigger pull at 5.6 pounds However, the model I tested averaged 7.4 pounds in double action and 4.6 pounds in single action. Walther triggers are widely regarded as some of the best in the business, and the PD380’s trigger is no different. The trigger has a short length of travel and a distinct break. The reset is short and clearly discernible, making the pistol easier to shoot with speed and precision. The PD380’s trigger is curved to match the contour of your finger and grooved to prevent your finger from slipping off it. In addition to the Performance Duty Texture, the PD380’s frame boasts other design features that make the pistol easy to shoot. The frontstrap has finger grooves that, when combined with the magazine finger extension, provide a consistent gripping surface.

The slightly undercut trigger guard and curved backstrap with palm swell facilitate a high hold, which further mitigates the already tame .380 ACP recoil. A two-slot accessory rail allows you to mount a light or light/laser combination. For accuracy testing, I bench tested the PD380 and fired at two-inch orange circles at 15 yards. I fired four five-shot groups using three different loads. Initially, my groups impacted about two inches high and five inches left. I adjusted the rear sight for both windage and elevation, but my groups were still left. It was then that I noticed the rear sight was positioned too far left within the dovetail. Although clearly out of alignment, the sight was at least tight. Unfortunately, I did not have a rear sight tool or punch with me to fix the problem. The sight alignment issue was a further testament to why the PD380’s stock sights should be upgraded, but I don’t consider this a big deal—and again, there’s no shortage of aftermarket sights of this type out there. I would look for steel sights with tritium inserts.

At the Range

Although not a target gun, the carry-oriented PD380 proved plenty accurate and, just as importantly, reliable. Some compact .380 ACP pistols can be finicky with ammunition other than full metal jacket, which because of its smooth bullet design tends to chamber much more easily than jacketed hollowpoint rounds. The PD380 did not incur a single malfunction during the testing process with any bullet. The PD380 was pleasant to shoot. The slide was one of the easiest I’ve ever racked. The trigger was reminiscent of Walther pistols of recent years, including the PPQ and PDP. Recoil was surprisingly light, even for a .380 ACP pistol. For those who scoff at the .380 ACP cartridge for self-defense, multiple hits with a less powerful round are inarguably more beneficial than misses with a more powerful one. And technological advancements make today’s .380 ACP ammo far more effective than in years past. While not as ballistically capable as the 9mm, the .380 ACP is potent. As an able bodied, well-practiced shooter, I’d opt for a 9mm carry pistol, but not everyone is as physically capable or experienced. Unfortunately, many carry pistols aren’t designed with such folks in mind, even though these groups are the most likely to be targeted by criminals. They need to be able to protect themselves, and a user-friendly .380 ACP pistol like the PD380 may be the solution.

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It’s certainly ideal for those who are sensitive to recoil, and firing a soft-shooting gun is an excellent way to develop basic marksmanship skills because there’s no hefty recoil to deal with. The PD380’s easy-to-rack slide and minimal recoil make it well-suited for new shooters and those with diminished hand strength; they won’t struggle to load and reload the gun. With more people than ever carrying concealed handguns, there is a need for an easy to carry, easy to operate .380 ACP chambered pistol. What better manufacturer than Walther, the company that put the .380 ACP pistol on the map, to produce the next generation .380 ACP carry pistol? The PD380 represents the evolution of the .380 ACP-chambered pistol. “The PD380 series is meant to be a simple, lightweight and easy to shoot carry gun at a great value. The hammer-fired design is vintage Walther style, harking back to the PPK,” said Osborn. The Walther PD380 is available in all black, as well as black with a silver slide, Angel Blue with a silver slide and purple with a black slide for those who want a little more in terms of aesthetics. It ships with two nine-round magazines and has a suggested retail price of $449. For new shooters or those with diminished physical capabilities, the PD380 can provide a sense of confidence and peace of mind.

Walther PD380 Specs

  • Type: Hammer-fired, DA/SA semiauto
  • Caliber: .380 ACP
  • Capacity: 9+1 rds. 
  • Barrel: 3.7 in. 
  • OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 6.6/5.2/1.2 in. 
  • Weight: 20.6 oz. 
  • Slide: steel slide, polymer frame
  • Trigger: 7.4 lbs. DA pull, 4.6 lbs., SA pull (measured) 
  • Safeties: Ambidextrous thumb
  • Price: $449
  • Manufacturer: Walther Arms, Inc. 



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