Arkansas-made PPKs set to ship; Walther’s Fort Smith unit rolling out the popular pistols
FORT SMITH – The iconic and elegant Walther PPK is considered one of the most easily identifiable pistols in history and is currently being built in Arkansas at the gunmaker’s US headquarters.
The pistol is considered a classic by experts and casual gun owners alike. It was won as a trophy by World War II GIs who fought in Europe and later cemented its legacy in pop and gun culture as the firearm of the fictional super spy James Bond.
But since 2014 there has been no production of PPK or PPK / S in the USA. Prior to that, Smith and Wesson from Maryland manufactured the pistol for Walther from 1998 under contract.
Bret Vorhees, head of product development at Walther Arms – the American subsidiary of Germany’s Carl Walther GmbH – said it was time to bring production of the pistol back on its own so the company can ensure the quality is top notch. He said there are plans to expand machining capabilities over the next 18 months so the company can build more and more of the pistol components in Fort Smith. Currently, most of the parts for the pistol are supplied by third parties.
Walther recently opened up to orders for pistols and we have already spoken about the first year of production, said Vorhees. Guns are expected to be shipped in late January.
“It’s a comfortable place,” he said.
A Walther PPK pistol is on display at the Fort Smith facility.
A small station at Walther enables the pistols to be assembled. With maximum efficiency, a single employee can build, test, clean and prepare 35 guns for dispatch within a day. Vorhees said about 20 workers, including some temporarily employed during peak hours, will be hired to build the guns, which are offered for sale by the company’s 5,000+ dealers.
Greg Cornett, director of manufacturing at Walther, said the company is focusing on lean manufacturing to keep the assembly process streamlined and easily scalable. He said it takes about three days to train a worker to assemble the guns.
Cody Osborn, Marketing Manager at Walther Arms, said Walther plans to expand the number and type of firearms built at Fort Smith and the lessons learned from assembling the PPK and PPK / S pistols will be invaluable in the future.
“This is just a small step,” he said.
Walthers PPK is a small, semi-automatic pistol with a chamber made from .380 ACP. The pistol magazine holds six cartridges and is available in blue or stainless steel. The PPK / S is a similar pistol, only slightly larger and has a magazine with a capacity of seven rounds. Both models come with two magazines and have a suggested retail price of $ 749. Gun buyers usually pay less from a retailer.
Michael Bane, television presenter and producer at The Outdoor Channel for programs like Shooting Gallery and The Best Defense, said the PPK was developed by Walther and published in 1930. It was worn by the police and some branches of the German military during World War II.
The import of the pistol was banned under the Arms Act of 1968. The PPK / S, a slightly larger version, was designed to allow imports under the 1968 law. Later, in the 1980s, the PPK was built in the USA under various license agreements.
The Walther brand has been closely associated with James Bond for decades. In films, the spy created by author Ian Fleming exchanged a Beretta pistol for his signature Walther PPK in Dr. No, which came out in theaters in 1962. In the films, Bond wore the PPK and other Walther pistols on and off for the next 50 years and change, including the Walther PPK / S in Skyfall 2012 and Specter 2015. [Bond’s introduction to the PPK in Dr. No is available at arkansasonline.com/113drno]
Bane said the PPK and PPK / S really understood Americans after being so closely associated with Bond and his jet setting lifestyle. He said over the years it has become a popular pistol with gun owners looking for a statement that makes a gun with a certain flair. He noted that it was very popular with celebrities, including Elvis Presley, over the years.
Bane said the PPK’s gravitas are sure to be attractive in today’s concealed carry gun market awash with black polymer guns that appear to be the same as the untrained eye. He described most of today’s pistol offerings as prosaic – functional and practical, but with the style of a concrete block.
“Today’s market is all about fashion,” he said. “After a while, a gun owner thinks, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have something classic?’ and let’s be honest, the PPK is classic. “
Ashley Hlebinsky, the Robert Woodruff curator of the Cody Firearms Museum in Wyoming, said that much like the Thompson submachine gun, the image and reputation of the Walther PPK extends well beyond its humble origins. The Thompson, like the PPK, was originally used by the police, but was soon identified by newspapers and films as the weapon of choice for gangsters. The PPK owes its widespread recognition and pop culture appeal in large part to the Bond films.
“You recognize a Tommy Gun and you recognize James Bond’s weapon,” Hlebinsky remarked.
In the US, arms sales were solid in 2018. The FBI reported that the national instant criminal background checks for 2018 totaled 23.6 million through November. With December checks still to be tabulated, checks in 2018 are higher than the 2015 total, the third highest annual total since 1998 when follow-up began. The total number of checks in 2017 was 25.23 million, the second highest number in history, followed by 2016 with 27.54 million, the highest amount to date. While the FBI background check numbers don’t represent the number of guns sold for one, they’re generally used as indicators of gun demand.
According to a report by market research group IBIS World, the growth of the U.S. arms and manufacturing industry over the next five years will be primarily related to defense spending. Revenue is expected to grow around 2.3 percent per year to $ 19.6 billion. The segment includes not only weapons and ammunition used by civilians, but also machine guns, ammunition and other equipment sold to the military.
The report predicts that military spending will be a key component of revenue growth over the next five years. The report also notes that the industry’s market share for civilian consumers is expected to decline over the next five years as gun buyers become less aware of new regulations. Typically, demand is in part driven by fear of new, stricter gun regulations.
“The reduced chances of new regulation will mean that people are less likely to buy new industrial products at the same price as in the previous five-year period,” the report said. “This will likely help normalize demand in the short term, generate less sales, or at least keep growth to a minimum. However, if the prospect of stricter federal regulations increases, a surge in demand may return. Events in 2018 have already Discussions brought back by stricter laws and new regulations. “
According to the 2018 Report on the Economic Impact of Firearms and Ammunition produced by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Arkansas had 3,061 jobs directly related to the firearms industry in 2017 with annual wages of $ 102.6 million. Arkansas ranks second in the nation for total economic output per capita and sixth for firearms industry-dependent jobs per capita, according to the report. Nationwide there are just over 149,000 jobs directly related to the industry for total wages of $ 6.1 billion. The National Shooting Sports Foundation is a trade association for the firearms industry.
Sunday business on January 13th, 2019