Fleming presumably made his choice of weapon on the basis of design alone. And indeed, the PPK (in German it stands for “short police pistol”) is a cool little beauty. It looks like Nietzschean poetry in steel, with a thrust of decadent Weimar art moderne to it. And it is Weimar, the latest thing from 1931, with its radical double-action design. It’s light, thin, designed for undercover work, meant to be carried a lot and shot a little. It was already old-fashioned by the time Connery got his in ’62.
Its tragic flaw is that when it was designed, streamline was the hot lick, but nobody had heard of ergonomics; men adjusted to machines, not the other way around. And though it looks sleek, its edges are all razor sharp, while the trigger pull is like dragging a 75-pound rake across gravel. When you finally get the 10-pound lever far enough back to fire, the pipsqueak jumps like a snapping mousetrap as it recoils, the slide shooting back in supertime, then forward again as all those edges cut into your flesh. Shoot a box of ammo, and your hand looks as though it’s been put through a meat grinder. You probably haven’t hit anything either, because the sights are tiny and the barrel short.
So the gun, like the man, is an illusion. Its reality is pointless: Bond never had to aim, had hands made of asbestos and never missed. He could have fired a staple gun and put Blofeld away.
Stephen Hunter is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Washington Post critic and author. His upcoming novel, “The Third Bullet,” is out in January.
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