December 01, 2023
Walther’s PD380 is a modernized and upgraded version of the outgoing PK380, which Walther introduced in 2009. The PK380 was one of — if not the first — .380 autos intended for concealed carry with a deliberately easy-to-rack slide design. The new PD380 continues all the proven functionality of the PK380, and was “tested to 40,000 rounds to ensure its reliability,” according to Walther Arms. Besides a name change, the PD380 was developed with a few noticeable improvements, and it more closely resembles the brand’s 2021 Guns & Ammo Handgun of the Year, the PDP.
The PD380 is a hammer-fired, double-action (DA) and single-action (SA) semiautomatic featuring a polymer frame. The frame has nearly the same dimensions as the PK380, only the PD380 features the Performance Duty Grip Texture designed for the PDP.
The PD380 uses the same 3.7-inch barrel, but measures 6.48-inches long and 5.15-inches tall. That height figure includes the extended fingerhook of the magazine basepad, which was also carried over from the PK380.
Aside from the grip texture, the biggest visual difference seen between the PK380 and the PD380 is the slide. The slide of the PK380 was manufactured by a metal-injection-mold (MIM), and very flat. The sides of the PK380 were almost slick with some shallow angled serrations at the rear. The slide of the PD380 is machined steel. The CNC work allowed Walther’s engineers to design a slide with the same aggressive serrations on Walther’s striker-fired PDP, which are cut at both the front and rear.
When Walther introduced the PDP in 2021, it was also a modernized, upgraded version of an outgoing model, the PPQ. Walther named the serrations as “SuperTerran,” “Super-” meaning “above,” and “-Terran” meaning “below ground” or “surface.” The serrations were raised ridges machined to protrude from the slide. Almost from day one, people misread “SuperTerran” as “SuperTerrain,” and after a couple of years Walther grew tired of correcting them, so it now markets this feature as “SuperTerrain” slide serrations with both the PDP and PD380. Congratulations, some of you broke Walther’s marketing department.
The flat-bottomed serrations are very aggressive and make it easy to grip and work an already easy-to-rack slide. The PD380 is unusual, though, when compared to other pistols in .380 ACP; it doesn’t use a straight-blowback operating system. Rather, the PD380 features a tilt-barrel design. In a straight-blowback gun, only the mass of the slide and the strength of the recoil spring absorb the recoil forces. Hence, the recoil springs of most .380 pistols are often stronger than those in a 9mm. Since the PD380 has a tilting barrel (like a pistol in 9mm, .40, or .45), the .380 produces less felt recoil than a similar gun in 9mm. The recoil spring is light, and cycling the PD380 slide by hand is quite easy.
The polymer front sight is a post with a white dot, and the polymer rear sight offers dots on either side of the notch. The rear is fully adjustable using tiny screws on the right side of the sight body. Walther did bring over something else from the PDP, too. Walther calls these the “Industry Standard”-pattern sights. No company likes to reference a competitor in its ad copy, but when Walther states that the PDP and PD380 use “Industry Standard” sights, it means “Glock-pattern sights,” which is a good thing. If you ever want to upgrade these, a lot of companies make alternatives.
As I write this, PD380 has yet to be announced. Guns & Ammo’s test gun is slightly rough-around-the-edges, a “pre-production sample.” I was sent the rough draft for Walther Arm’s press release and sell sheet, which lists the specs. The width of the pistol was described as 11/2-inches, which is thick. The number seemed wrong to me because the PD380 looks and feels flat in my hand. According to my calipers, the thickest part of the pistol is the grip; it measures just 11/4 inches. The slide is only .95-inch thick, so this pistol will easily conceal with a good holster and belt under the right choice of cover garment.
With an empty magazine, the PD380 weighs 22.8 ounces according to that same sell sheet, but in addition to the pistol feeling thin, it felt light, so I checked it against my digital scale. In fact, the PD380 weighed just 20.6 ounces with the magazine in place. And let’s talk about that magazine.
The PD380 is the same height as the PK380 that it is replacing, and it uses the same style magazine. But Walther engineers figured out how to increase the magazine capacity by one, from eight-plus-one to nine-plus-one. More ammunition is always better, but double-digit capacity in a carry gun seems to be a make-or-break point for many potential buyers these days. The PD380 is not a pocket gun, so having a 10-shot capacity makes more sense to me.
The pistol ships with two stainless-steel magazines. They have index holes on both sides and non-tilt polymer followers. In addition, to go along with the theme that the PD380 is an “easy-to-use pistol,” these are some of the easiest-loading magazines I’ve tested. The cartridges slide into place with almost no resistance, but both magazines worked perfectly. In fact, despite this sample being a pre-production piece, it proved completely reliable during testing.
Quite often, gun companies put a small cutout atop the barrel hood to serve as a loaded chamber indicator. This is officially a safety feature, and required for sale in certain states. Quite often, those cutouts are small and nearly useless. Walther, however, put the cutout on the right side of the barrel, around the extractor, which means that it is quite sizable and actually usable.
The serial number is etched into a steel chassis set inside the polymer frame. It is visible through a cutout on the right side, just above and behind the trigger. However, as this pistol is made in Germany, you’ll also see the serial number etched on the slide and the barrel to meet European government requirements. The same applies to the proofmarks, which indicate the PD380 pistols are safety tested with over-pressure cartridges in Arnsberg, Germany.
You can’t talk about the trigger system on this gun without discussing the slide-mounted safety. First, the PD380 has a DA/SA operating system. The first shot can be fired double action, where pulling the trigger cocks and drops the hammer. Subsequent shots are single action, where the slide cocks the hammer after every shot. Walther’s specs for the trigger pull are 10 pounds for DA and 5.6 pounds SA. The pre-production sample tested at 113/4 pounds for DA and a 6 pounds for the SA pull. The DA trigger-pull weight increased as it neared the break, but it was smooth. The trigger is polymer, of course, with a flat, grooved face. The trigger pull was one of the few complaints I have about this pistol. It’s not that it was objectively too heavy for a carry piece, but Walther is positioned to market this pistol to people who have compromised grip strength. A .380 produces minimal recoil, the slide is easy to cycle, and the magazines are easy to load. Some of those people, though, would probably have problems pulling a 10-pound DA trigger. Beretta, in designing its 80X Cheetah, gave that gun a sub-7-pound DA pull. (I’m just saying.)
The safety is a slide-mounted, polymer, bilateral lever. Flip it forward and up to expose the red dot; the safety is off and the pistol is ready to fire. If you flip it down to render the pistol safe, you are actually rotating a steel block around the firing pin so the falling hammer can’t physically touch it. The safety doesn’t involve the trigger or hammer components at all. Therefore, you can put the pistol on safe whether or not the hammer is cocked back or forward, and the safety does not work as a decocker. Technically, one could carry this pistol in Condition One, i.e., “cocked and locked.” However, due to the position and size of the safety I don’t think you’ll be able to easily deactivate it as part of the draw, so I don’t recommend this.
As for how to safely decock the pistol, presuming you wanted to carry it hammer down to fire the first shot in double action, Walther didn’t have a manual ready for the PD380, but I did review of the owner’s manual for the functionally identical PK380. In it, Walther says to engage the safety, then firmly grasp the hammer while pulling the trigger. Once the trigger is down, you can disengage the safety.
Either to stick to its European roots, or because it helps make the pistol slimmer (or both), the PD380 is equipped with a paddle magazine release. The steel lever is accessible from either side of the triggerguard. Paddle magazine releases are a European thing, and the original Walther P99 had one. Experienced shooters will prefer an American button-style magazine release, but new shooters likely won’t care unless they can’t figure out how to work the paddle. Paddles can be quick once you figure out a technique that works for you. Using your thumb requires twisting the gun halfway around to reach it, and many won’t like that. However, using the tip of your middle finger to depress the paddle, even though it doesn’t sound like it, is quick and easy.
- Type: Hammer fired, recoil operated, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: .380 ACP
- Capacity: 9+1 rds.
- Barrel: 3.7 in.
- Overall Length: 6.48 in.
- Height: 5.15 in.
- Width: 1.25 in.
- Frame: Polymer, Performance Duty Texture
- Slide: Steel, SuperTerrain serrations
- Sights: 3 dot; adjustable (rear)
- Trigger: 11 lbs., 12 oz. (DA), 6 lbs. (SA) (tested)
- Safety: Manual lever, firing pin block
- Weight: 1 lb., 4.6 oz. (tested)
- MSRP: $449
- Importer: Walther Arms, 479-242-8500, waltherarms.com
Enjoy articles like this?
Subscribe to the magazine.
Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine