Pistols of James Bond

Ian Fleming's Suave MI6 agent James Bond is a planetary icon. Part of his inimitable presence is the comparably iconic handgun he wields.

Pistols of James Bond
Ian Fleming’s Suave MI6 agent James Bond is a planetary icon. Part of his inimitable presence is the comparably iconic handgun he wields. (Courtesy of MovieStillsDB.com)

The man sat alone with his thoughts in the cavernous interior of the RAF C17 Globemaster. The massive transport aircraft boasted enough cargo space to host a proper game of cricket, yet Commander James Bond had the plane to himself. The flight engineer gave him a nudge indicating that it was time to depressurize.

007 studied the stars from the open ramp. When the jump light flashed from red to green he dove headfirst into the inky blackness. The dark Colombian jungle spread expansively some five miles below.

Hector Antipas Jimenez, the twelfth richest man on the planet, was worth a cool fifty-three billion dollars. He made his money by murdering his way into control of the world’s most extensive drug cartel. This evening Hector was throwing a simply epic party. Bond’s nocturnal HALO jump stood in for a formal invitation.

007 straightened his black tie as he strode purposefully out of the darkness. Six minutes later Bond was assessing the quality of Hector’s booze while chatting up a young lady he vaguely recognized from a Sports Illustrated cover.


Bond excused himself for the WC. Turning into a dim hallway he instead found Hector’s empty business office. 007 set his cell phone down beside the glowing laptop, and a progress bar marched slowly across the screen as the device copied Hector’s hard drive.


The door opened unexpectedly yet Bond remained motionless, his back to the newcomers. He identified three men by the sound of their footsteps. Jimenez would be in the middle flanked by generic muscle.

Hector Jimenez killed men for sport. He enjoyed an IQ of 147 and an NFL linebacker’s physique. His natural gifts combined with a congenital lack of conscience made him breathtakingly successful in his peculiar business. Bond detected the sound of a pair of Glock pistols sliding out of kydex. He stood erect, his hands held loosely at his sides.

Bond turned his head as he surreptitiously raised the suppressed Walther PPK/S underneath his dinner jacket. The little gun coughed four times from his right armpit in two 2-round bursts. The pair of henchmen collapsed to the floor, their personalities now dripping liberally down the back wall. Bond turned and strode purposefully toward Hector Jimenez, his Walther locked onto the drug lord’s face as though set in a vice.

Pistols of James Bond

Bond tilted his head ever so slightly as Hector opened his mouth to speak. The German automatic coughed again, and Bond shot the billionaire through the throat. He stepped over and put another round through the dying man’s forehead before swapping magazines and returning the compact little gun to its holster. Bond retrieved his phone and locked the door behind him.


Bond made his way to Hector’s sprawling garage, the tipsy Sports Illustrated model now adorning his muscled arm. He took care to conceal the ragged holes in his jacket as he identified the black Lamborghini Sian FKP 37 that matched the fob he had taken from Hector’s cooling corpse. In less than an hour he was heading up to his regular suite in the Four Seasons Hotel Bogota Casa Medina.

The girl was too drunk to walk, so he helped her into the main bedroom where she passed out, snoring sweetly. Bond retired to an anteroom, connected to hotel Wi-Fi, and sent the stolen files to Q via wetransfer. It had taken him less than two hours’ worth of wet work to dismantle the largest narcotics distribution syndicate on the planet. Surely M could now grant him a couple weeks’ leave.

Larger Than Life

Pistols of James Bond
Bond always gets the girl, every single time. (Courtesy of MovieStillsDB.com)

James Bond. 007. Women want him. Men want to be him. Ian Fleming’s fictional creation was originally named for an otherwise unremarkable ornithologist. His adventures were inspired by Fleming’s real world wartime exploits.


Across fifteen novels, two short-story anthologies, and twenty-six films, the adventures of Her Majesty’s most public secret agent have raked in more than $7 billion. Spinoff radio shows, video games, television programs, and even a comic strip have taken in even more. Those irresistible theme songs have garnered a pair of Academy Awards.

Among some simply breathtaking cars, sundry fascinating gadgets, and the finest examples of woman flesh the species can produce, Bond will forever be known by his firearms. His personal armament has spanned the spectrum from ridiculous to awesome with everything in between. Here is a basic treatise on 007’s handguns.

Pistols of James Bond
From left to right, Bond’s service guns included the Beretta 418, the Walther PPK, the P99, and the PPK/S.

Genesis

Bond’s first firearm was a diminutive Beretta 418 chambered in .25ACP. This tiny little pocket gun armed 007 through Fleming’s first five tomes. A slightly refined version of the previous Model 1919, the 418 would easily hide in the front pocket of a pair of jeans.

Pistols of James Bond
Bond’s first handgun was fairly farcical. The Beretta 418 is woefully underpowered.

The 418 packs eight tiny little quarter-inch rounds into its single stack magazine. The magazine release is mounted on the heel after the European fashion. The manual safety rotates positively through ninety degrees, and the miniscule fixed sights are an afterthought. There is a splendid grip safety, and the grips can be found in either steel or plastic.

Pistols of James Bond
The Beretta 418 is absolutely tiny.

On the subject of grips, Fleming had Bond carry his 418 with the grips removed. He referred to the resulting stripped-down pocket gun as “skeletonized.” That seems a simply bang-up way to befoul your defensive pistol with pocket lint, but nobody asked me. However, in 1957 a dedicated fan named Geoffrey Boothroyd did take formal umbrage.

Pistols of James Bond
The Beretta 418 is absolutely tiny.

Boothroyd posted a letter to Fleming suggesting that perhaps Bond’s underpowered Beretta was a bit effeminate. The former British Army Major was a firearms expert and recommended the Walther PPK instead. That letter spawned a productive friendship.

Life Influences Art

Ian Fleming’s friendship with Geoffrey Boothroyd ultimately found its way into the pages of his novels. Q, Bond’s long-suffering armorer and gadgeteer, is named Major Boothroyd per the backstory. I have often wondered what might have been had Geoffrey recommended, say, the Mauser HsC.

Fleming had Bond make the switch to the PPK only reluctantly. In From Russia with Love Bond is nearly killed as his suppressed Beretta 418 snags on the waistband of his trousers. He finally takes Q’s advice and exchanges the .25-caliber Beretta for the definitive German heater.

Bond’s Gun—The Walther PPK

Pistols of James Bond
Removing the grips on your pocket pistol might seem like a good idea to a novelist, but it seems a simply capital way to gum up your gat to me.

The PPK began life as the slightly longer Walther PP (Polizei Pistole) in 1929. Originally chambered in .32ACP and featuring a truly revolutionary set of features, Carl Walther’s trim little pistol changed the way the world made combat handguns. A simple blowback design, the PP included an automatic hammer block safety, a combination safety cum decocker, and a loaded chamber indicator. It was in the trigger, however, where the real magic was to be found.

Carl’s slim police pistol combined the single action/double action trigger system of the combat wheelgun with the trim architecture of an autoloader. This mechanism allowed a long heavy trigger pull on the first round followed by a shorter pull on subsequent shots for improved accuracy. This same system eventually drove the P38, the SIG P220-series pistols, and the Beretta M9, as well as countless others. Until Gaston Glock perfected the striker-fired handgun in 1982 this was the trigger to beat.

The subsequent shortened PPK was released in 1930 and soon eclipsed its larger forebear. The K stands for Kriminalmodell (Police Pistol — Detective Model). It has long been assumed that K stood for Kurz or “short,” but the original marketing brochures from the 1930’s use the detective verbiage.

The PPK features a shortened slide, barrel, and frame along with a redesigned wraparound grip that is prone to cracking on original period guns. The PPK was eventually offered in .32ACP, .380ACP, .22 LR, .25ACP, and 9x18 Ultra. Though the PPK has been justifiably considered the definitive Bond gun, both Bond and his American CIA counterpart Felix Leiter used the longer PP pistols in Dr. No.

Pistols of James Bond
From left to right, Bond’s guns fire the .380ACP, the .25ACP, the .32ACP, and the 9mm Parabellum.

Adolf Hitler took his own miserable life with an engraved Walther PPK in 1945. The head of the South Korean CIA Kim Jae-gyu used a PPK to murder dictator Park Chung-hee in 1979, ultimately ushering in democracy in that thriving Asian country. Elvis Presley counted the PPK among his favorite handguns.

Variations

At the end of WW2 Carl Walther settled in West Germany intending to resume business. However, immediate post-war Germany was not a really good place to start producing munitions. In 1952 he moved his operation to France. The French Manurhin Company produced pistols and components for Walther until 1986.

In 1979 Ranger Manufacturing built PPK pistols under license in Gadsden, Alabama. Walther briefly produced the guns in Springfield, Massachusetts, from 1999 until 2002. From 2002 until 2013 Smith and Wesson built the pistols for Walther, though they suffered an embarrassing recall in 2009 over a defect in the hammer block safety. In March of 2018 Walther began production of the PPK in their new manufacturing plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas. They began shipping guns in March of 2019.

Pistols of James Bond
The classic PPK and subsequent PPK/S have been produced in a variety of places both in the US and in Europe. The gun remains in production today.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 mandated certain architectural stipulations for small pocket handguns to be importable into the US. The original PPK came up one ounce too light. As a result Walther combined the frame of the PP with the shortened slide and barrel of the PPK to make the hybrid PPK/S. This new pistol just barely met the weight limit while offering another round in the magazine. Bond uses the larger .380ACP PPK/S incorporating fictitious Smart Gun technology in Skyfall. Bond’s previous PPK’s were chambered in .32ACP.

Ancillary Heaters

Throughout the books and movies Bond actually uses a bewildering array of handguns ranging from a Chinese Type 59 Makarov to a Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum revolver. However, a couple of modern autoloaders warrant mention. For a brief time it seemed Bond’s holster might carry something other than his beloved PPK.

Pistols of James Bond
In Live and Let Die Bond even packed a .44 Magnum Smith and Wesson wheelgun. (Courtesy of MovieStillsDB.com)

Starting with Tomorrow Never Dies and indexing into The World is Not Enough Bond is seen wielding a Walther P99. This advanced polymer-framed autoloader was first commercially released in 1997 and has evolved through several iterations. The 9mm version packs 15+1 onboard.

The most popular variation was titled the P99AS or “Anti-Stress.” This gun featured an internal striker slaved to a single action/double action trigger. There was a decocker button incorporated into the top of the slide that allowed the striker to be released safely over a loaded chamber. Bond used the full-sized P99 through Casino Royale. In Quantum of Solace he returns to his familiar PPK and has used it throughout the most recent Spectre.

The P99AS offered literally everything you might want in a modern combat handgun. The pistol can be configured to run like a striker-fired Glock, or the operator can drop the striker and have the added safety benefit of a longer, heavier trigger pull.

Pistols of James Bond
The Walther P99 is a thoroughly modern polymer-framed combat pistol.

Bond uses a captured HK VP9 in Spectre along with a stocked FAB Defense KPOS in the opening sequence. The long unbroken scene that opens this movie is one of the coolest ever filmed in my humble opinion. I could rewatch that bit until I starved to death.

Bond’s Suppressors

Nothing marks a guy as a serious professional faster than threading some sinister black tube onto the snout of his gat. Bond employs sound suppressors on his weapons throughout the series. While the report is always that mouse fart sort of which movie Foley editors seem so fond, the technical details are comparably fantastical.

Pistols of James Bond
Little makes a cool gun cooler than a sound suppressor. Bond uses his to become extra-awesome. (Courtesy of MovieStillsDB.com)

The PPK uses a fixed barrel and a naturally slow cartridge, so it should be a superb suppressor host. However, an exposed threaded barrel doesn’t look as cool as the standard sort, so Bond’s suppressed PPK’s are internally threaded. While I’m sure somebody out there has pulled that off in the real world, I have never actually seen it myself.

The same goes for his P99’s. There is some seriously hard-core suppressed P99 action in Casino Royale, but we still never see an exposed threaded barrel. I have considered investing in a threaded tube for my P99, but these barrels are both hard to find and expensive.

Pistols of James Bond
Call me a heretic if you must, but I thought Bond was even cooler with the P99. (Both photos are courtesy of MovieStillsDB.com)

Ruminations

Pistols of James Bond
All of Bond’s guns shoot plenty straight.

80% of the PPK pistols produced for civilian consumption are sold in the US. Ian Fleming, Geoffrey Boothroyd, and James Bond bear responsibility for that. The steel-framed PPK is heavier than more modern offerings, and the gun produces surprisingly snappy recoil given its anemic chambering. However, dropping Bond’s trim little handgun into your waistband will reliably boost serum testosterone levels. Amidst the sundry minutiae of ear infections, lacerated digits, emotional problems, and the icky stuff that typifies my standard clinic workday, thanks to that awesome German gun I can still imagine myself as a suave British secret agent out to defy death, get the girl, and save the world. 

Pistols of James Bond
Velocities represent the average of three rounds fired across a Caldwell ballistic Chronograph located ten feet from the muzzles. Group size is the average of the best 4 of 5 shots measured center to center at fifteen meters.
Pistols of James Bond

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