Gun Review: Walther PPX

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The Walther PPX for this review was provided by The Kentucky Gun Company

Walther is a company on the rise. As you can probably tell by all of the press attention, the venerable old German arms maker has really hit one out of the park with their PPQ M2. My initial impression of the PPQ M2 is that it may just be the best GLOCK clone made to date. Nonetheless, while the PPQ M2 may be all the rage, another new less expensive “entry level” Walther handgun recently hit the market: the PPX. To be honest, when I first unboxed the PPX, I thought it was a frickin’ Hi-Point. Which is to say that it’s rather, um, portly and homely in the looks department. And apparently I’m not alone in this observation. But after spending a couple of months testing the PPX, I’ve really warmed up to this plump princess . . .

PPX 2

One thing is for sure: this ain’t your pa-paw’s war baby P-38. Unlike the svelte lines of the all-steel P-38, the PPX is a stout, full-sized, polymer pistol with a weird bent handgrip that vaguely reminded me of the Colt All-American 2000. The polymer PPX, though, is much lighter than the P-38, appearances notwithstanding. Like a P-38, the PPX is made in the vaterland: Walther’s factory is located a few miles outside of Ulm, a medium-sized city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

 PPX 3

The PPX features no manually-operated safeties, and doesn’t have a decocker. The slide has an extremely high bore axis, which reminds me of shooting a SIG Sauer P-226 or an HK USP. As mentioned above, it also has a very pronounced hump on the back of the handgrip which will undoubtedly generate both praise and criticism. In my case it’s praise. This pistol is so darn comfortable to hold, I’m totally willing to overlook the fact that it is aesthetically off-putting. The PPX doesn’t feature interchangeable back straps like the PPQ, so it’s a one-size-fits-most affair. I guess that’s a feature you give up in order to get to the $400 price point. Fair enough.

What’s new about this pistol, you ask? While not offering any earthshattering advances in pistol technology, there are two “unique” aspects of the PPX. First, the PPX introduces manufacturing efficiencies into the design so that the weapon can be produced at a considerably reduced price point compared to other Walthers. In other words, it’s cheaper to build, and they pass the saving on to you.

As many gun dealers will tell you, $400 pistols are a lot easier to sell than $600 pistols.  In this regard, it reminds me conceptually of the SIG Sauer 250, which I believe was intended to be “entry level” gun that doesn’t sacrifice on quality, while selling for less than the price of a GLOCK.

Second, the trigger on the Walther PPX is both excellent and unique. At the 2013 SHOT Show, Walther reps were calling it a “DAO” trigger. The PPX trigger is, in my estimation, more correctly referred to as a “pre-set” or “pre-cocked” trigger. Pre-set triggers are most commonly encountered on striker fired designs such as the GLOCK, M&P, and Kahr pistols. These systems typically feature a striker that is “cocked” to an intermediate position by the operation of the slide, and the trigger then completes the firing sequence.  Most pre-set triggers lack de-cockers and can’t be re-activated by pulling the trigger a second time.

People have been debating for years whether these triggers are really “double action.” I hesitate to endorse the term “DAO” when referring to this trigger, though, because it is  really something in between a double action and a single action trigger. While it’s true that the BATFE classifies the PPX design as “double action only”, the PPX’s trigger can’t completely cock the hammer;  the slide must first be racked. Furthermore, the PPX trigger does not give you a second strike capability which, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the hallmarks of a true DA trigger. But perhaps even that point is debatable. In the final analysis, I suppose it doesn’t really matter so long as you understand how these various triggers work.

 PPX 5

As mentioned above, the PPX features a system that’s similar in concept to the GLOCK.  But unlike Gaston’s design, the PPX uses a bobbed hammer instead of a striker. Again, the PPX’s hammer is partially cocked when the slide is racked. The trigger pull then completes the cocking sequence and drops the hammer. Thus, the PPX doesn’t feel as heavy as a typical DAO trigger since it’s not completing that initial cocking sequence.  True DAO triggers typically have painfully long and heavy accuracy-robbing trigger pull weights of 10 lbs or more.

The PPX’s trigger, on the other hand, feels somewhat like a two stage rifle trigger. It has a fairly long, but easy (slightly progressive) take up, and then it reaches an obvious “wall.” At that point, pulling through the wall with what Walther says is 6.6 lbs of force makes the gun go bang. It then resets at approximately the half-way point of the full return travel. The trigger is relatively light and crisp, and frankly, it feels very similar (if not better) than my GLOCK 17, which has an (aftermarket?) 3.5 lb connector.

 PPX 4

Perhaps it’s worth mentioning, however, that the PPX’s manual states that its trigger should never be “stacked” the way a shooter would with a military two-stage trigger when a high degree of accuracy is needed. I don’t understand why Walther would advise against this practice, especially when target shooting, but it sounds like it’s some sort of lawyer thing.

All this discussion leads to the question:  should you carry the PPX with one in the pipe? Personally, I’ve always been somewhat nervous about carrying any of the GLOCKS/GLOCK clones with a round loaded in the chamber. I’ve heard too many stories about people, including cops, “accidentally” shooting themselves and the trigger on the PPX  feels even lighter than a standard stock five pound GLOCK trigger, even if it isn’t supposed to be.  I know lots of guys who carry GLOCKS with one in the pipe and they will tell you, correctly, that they are safe if you (a) are properly trained, and (b) you ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS carry the Glock in a quality holster made specifically for that particular gun that completely covers the trigger guard. Although I tend to be of the mindset that I need a manual safety on my concealed carry gun, these are matters of personal preference.

PPX 6

The Walther PPX has been designed so that the controls and sights are as snag-free as possible. The edges are beveled to increase the portability of the pistol. The slide stop and magazine release buttons are big, comfortable, and easy to reach even with small hands.

Walther’s marketing materials and website state that the slide stop is “ambidextrous,” but Walther’s Director of Marketing, Mark Thomas, confirmed to me that this is a typo.  No worries. I can’t seem to get a review published without a typo or two, so I feel their pain.

 PPX 7

Despite being an “entry level” gun, there’s really nothing in the look and feel of the PPX that’s second rate. The quality of the machining of the slide is top notch. Tool marks are non-existent.

The PPX’s Tenifer finish is both durable and attractive. What’s Tenifer, you ask? Basically, it’s a tough durable finish for gun metal. If you own a GLOCK or a Steyr, you’re already familiar with Tenifer. Other companies provide more-or-less the same finish under the trade name Melonite.

 PPX 8

There is no getting around the fact that the PPX is a “full size” pistol. The slide is truly massive. For purposes of comparison, I photographed a variety of 9mm pistols that I had handy (along with a HK USP-T in .45 ACP), and this photo above shows how big the PPX slide really is. As the photo shows, the PPX is almost as large as the HK USP-Tactical.  (From top:  S&W Performance Center “Recon 9” compact, Lionheart LH9, SIG Sauer P-6 (aka P-225), Steyr M9, GLOCK 17, Walther PPX, HK USP-T).

PPX 9

The PPX is slightly thicker (in width) than the GLOCK 17 and the Steyr M9. Note that although the PPX is the same overall length as a GLOCK, GLOCK’s designers managed to fit an extra ½ inch of barrel into the slide. A ½ inch longer barrel should result in slightly more bullet velocity which, in turn, should translate to a little more stopping power. (From Top: GLOCK 17, Steyr M9, Walther PPX).

The Barrel

 PPX 10

 

PPX 11

The barrel assembly is made out of three parts. This is not unprecedented – Post ’61 Browning Hi-Powers all feature 2-piece barrel assemblies.

The PPX is unique (as far as I know) because it acheives a certain amount of cost savings by using a barrel/breech block that’s partially made out of MIM parts. You can see in the three accompanying photos (above and below) that the barrel is not a one-piece design like a GLOCK’s. Rather, the locking mechanism consists of at least three separate parts.  It’s hard to tell if the barrel itself is pressed into the breach block, similar to the way that Steyr press fits the barrels on the SSG-69, or if another process is used. However it’s done, the feed ramp is added (welded?) on later. I emailed Walther about this process and here’s what they said:

Barrels that come in one piece can have a tendency to deform.  Our barrel comes from a design being used by many traditional bolt action and other hunting rifles.  We have patented this design for pistols so this is only new in pistol design.

Hmmm…. I’ve never heard of pistol barrels “deforming.” And it’s certainly not intuitive to me how a three piece barrel design would remedy that problem, if it in fact exists. Browning apparently used to make this same claim; they said that the two-piece barrel allowed for better “grain flow” through the cam lug area and that the finished product was actually stronger than a one-piece barrel. Not sure I’m buying any of that; I’m thinking it’s all about cutting costs. Otherwise, the PPQ would be made the same way, right?

No matter, Walther seems to be confident in their product:

Over a half million rounds have been put through the PPX over 3.5 years of development. We also do a battery of tests including drop tests, heat and cold tests along with technical tests on torque and wear. We didn’t release this handgun until it was ready.

Sigh. I can only dream of having a half million rounds on hand for testing.  For my test, I only managed to shoot 700 rounds of hard-to-find 9 x 19mm through the PPX, but so far so good.

 PPX 12

Walther takes a somewhat unique approach to the design of the PPX feed ramp and chamber face. In the photo above (the PPX is in the middle), you can see a pronounced funnel-like feature on all 360 degrees of the chamber face. This is very pronounced when compared to similar pistols. (L-R:  SIG Sauer P6, GLOCK 17 Gen 2, Walther PPX, HK USP-T, Steyr M9). In addition, the ramp design has a much smaller concave “spoon” design than is typical for these types of pistols.

I really like the idea of adding the 360° funnel. Walther wanted to design a system that worked well with almost all types of modern ammunition. Given that there are so many different types of bullet shapes on the market (especially in .40 S&W), the funnel should significantly aid the feeding process. Maybe it will even help “gangstas” who like to shoot holding their pistol sideways. (Photo below, top to bottom: SIG Sauer P6, Steyr M9, Walther PPX, GLOCK 17, HK USP-T.

PPX 13

The Picatinny Rail

PPX 14

The PPX features an integral polymer M1913 Picatinny rail for mounting lights, lasers, or any other silly thing you can think of. These rails are great for home defense guns, but I don’t like them as much on concealed carry guns.

 PPX 15

I’ve always been a fan of flashlights attached to home defense weapons.  Some gun gurus don’t like them, and you can read endless amounts of arguments both for and against them. For me it comes down to this: if there is a bad guy in my house in the middle of the night (assuming the alarm doesn’t go off), I will be lucky enough to have the presence of mind to snap out of my sleep-induced coma and grab my gun before the perp gets the drop on me. Remembering a separate flashlight may be asking too much, however. So when I do come to the realization that I need a flashlight to ID my target before shooting it, it will be nice to know that it will be right where I left it – on the fore-end of my gun. Again, YMMV.

 PPX 16

The serial number plate also provides information concerning the time and location of manufacture. The “DE” annotation is the country of origin, in this case Deutschland. The chicken flexing its muscles is called the “Bundesadler.” It’s the Federal Eagle coat of arms.  The “N” below the eagle means “Normaler/Nitro Beschuss”, indicating that this weapon has undergone normal testing procedures using nitrocellulose rounds. The “BC” annotation is the date of testing, in this case 2012. The antler is the mark of the Beschussamt Ulm proof house, located right down the street from the Walther factory.  This is where all German-made Walther pistols (and others, such as HK, etc) are tested. 

Magazines

 PPX 17

One area where Walther definitely went first class is with their OEM magazines. The pistol comes with two 16-round steel mags, which are manufactured for Walther by the Italian firm Mec-Gar. Mec-Gar is undoubtedly one of the top manufacturers of high-quality OEM pistol magazines, and its client list boasts the likes of S&W, Beretta, Ruger, Walther, Steyr, SIG Sauer, Colt, CZ, etc.

I immediately noticed a definite similarity in the finish of the magazines that came with my Steyr M9, as you see in the photo above (from left: Steyr M9 17 rd, Walther PPX 16 rd, Steyr M9 17 rd, Walther PPX 16 rd).  The Base plate is made out of plastic, but appears to be rugged enough to handle a fair amount of abuse. 

Sights

PPX 18  

Sights are one of those parts of a pistol where shooters tend to have very divergent views, and opinions about any one particular design will typically be all over the map. The PPX sights are a three dot steel variety. The dots are a bit larger than those found on most handguns, which makes for very rapid target acquisition. I’m good with these sights and would only swap them out if I can get night sights that will fit.

 PPX 19

The dovetail on the PPX appears to be a design unique to Walther, and my understanding is that the same dovetail can be found on the PPQ and PPS as well (although those pistols have a more sophisticated detent/plunger that allows for rear sights to be quickly swapped out without special tools).  I’m not aware of any other pistol that uses this dovetail design. I’m not sure why Walther would want to be different in this regard, but I assume there’s some efficiency factor that’s coming to bear on the design. Perhaps this?

Currently, Walther doesn’t offer night sights for the PPX. According to the factory reps, however, the company is researching the feasibility of adding night sights to the product line, and feel certain that they’ll be offered in the future.

Accuracy

PPX 20

In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess that I find the concept of accuracy on a handgun of this sort a whole lot less interesting than rifle accuracy. I’m a decent pistol shot, but I’m not going to get an invite to compete on Top Shot any time soon. For my purposes, so long as the handgun in question can, say, consistently hit apple-sized targets at 10 yards, I find that to be sufficient for my purposes. Minute of bad-guy accuracy, if you will.

And frankly, from the first second I held the PPX and felt its trigger pull, I knew that it would be a very accurate pistol that could meet or exceed my (admittedly low) standards.   The four groups above were shot at 10 yards using cheap bulk reload ammo. The photo below was taken from 7 yards, using the same ammo. The Walther PPX shoots to point of aim, and while I am very happy with the results, I suspect that it could – in hands of a more capable shooter – do better than the groups I have presented here.

 PPX 21

Other Features

PPX 22

  • Optional threaded barrel, .5” x 28 TPI. (Walther Press photo of PPX “SD” version shown above);
  • Loaded chamber indicator: The PPX has a loaded chamber viewport, which is similar to those found on the Smith & Wesson M&Ps;
  • Three safeties:  two drop safeties and a firing pin block;
  • The magazine release is in the traditional “American” position and is reversible at the operator level, so that southpaws can optimize the ergonomics without gunsmith assistance;
  • Front and rear slide serrations for increased grip;
  • The texture pattern on the grip is extremely well thought out, and provides a non-slip surface while still maintaining comfort for the user;
  • There is no magazine disconnect feature:  the PPX will fire even without a magazine inserted in the magwell; and
  • 1 year warranty.  Really, only one year?  Pretty lame, Walther.
  • Not rated for +P or +P+ ammo.

My test sample didn’t come with a threaded barrel. I hope Walther will make these available as a drop-in accessory. According to Walther’s marketing director, Mark Thomas, no decision has been made on this issue yet.

Conclusion

PPX 23

I’ve always been a fan of Walther pistols, if for no other reason that they tend to look cool. Whether you’re talking the PPK, P-38, P5, or P99, Walther pistols have always had that “look” of awesomeness about them. (P5 shown above). I guess the PPX is the ugly duckling of the family; perhaps not as ugly as the Springfield XD, but on the homely side nonetheless. But the PPX is good where it really counts: performance and value. You might say it’s the minivan of polymer pistols; not a looker but pretty darn practical and economical.

I think Walther’s press release for the PPX sums it up best:

We are very excited about the new Walther PPX because it has all the features law enforcement and avid shooters have come to expect from Walther but is affordable so it can fit in anyone’s shooting budget,” said Adam Blalock, President and CEO of Fort Smith-based Walther Arms, Inc. “This is one pistol that truly has to be fired to appreciate and it is certainly worthy of the Walther name.

I agree that the PPX is a pistol that grows on you when you fire it. While this pistol would not, in my estimation, be a good candidate for a concealed carry piece due to its bulk, relatively light trigger, and lack of manual safety, I do think the Walther PPX will serve very nicely in the role of an inexpensive-but-reliable home defense pistol or range plinker.

Bottom line: would I recommend the PPX to someone looking for an entry level pistol in the $400 price range?  Absolutely.  If the buyer has some additional coin I would probably steer them towards a PPQ M2 or an M&P.   My only real hesitation: I do wish the PPX were rated for +P and +P+ ammunition, as the 9 x 19mm needs all the help it can get in the man-stopper department.

The Walther PPX for this review was provided by The Kentucky Gun Company 

Specifications:

Calibers: 9mm, .40 S&W   Note:  The PPX is not rated for +P or +P+ ammo
Action: Semi auto, short recoil, locked breech.
Barrel length: 4 inches
Overall Length: 7.3 inches
Overall Width:  1.3 inches
Overall height: 5.6 inches
Weight: 1.7 lbs
Sights: Adjustable 3-dot steel
Finish:  Tenifer, black or stainless
Capacity:  9mm = 16rds, .40 S&W = 14 rounds
Suggested Retail Price: $ 499 (MSRP)   $389 – $429 (Street price) 

 

Ratings (Out of Five Stars): 

Accuracy: * * * * *     
A good trigger equals good accuracy, and Walther is really paying attention to its trigger design. I seriously doubt that there is any other 9mm semi-auto pistol in the $400 price that is more accurate than the PPX.

Ergonomics: * * * *
Pistol ergonomics can be kind of a “blonde vs brunette vs redhead” type of debate. You will either love the PPX or hate it, but you won’t know until you try it out. If you liked the ergonomics of the P-99, you’ll probably like the PPX. The slide lock is easy to reach, and since there are no manually operated safeties, the only real ergonomics issue is the grip. I find the Walther PPX to be comfortable in my hand. The mag well takes some getting used to, and I found it somewhat difficult at first to perform magazine changes because the handgrip appears to be vertically aligned while the mag well is more angled.      

Reliability: * * * * *
I shot over 700 rounds of factory ammo through the PPX and experienced no malfunctions of any kind. In the short term, I have total confidence in the fact that this pistol will go “bang” every time. Whether that will hold up into round 25,000(+) remains an open question, although Walther, naturally enough, proclaims confidence.

Durability:  * * * *  
I didn’t torture test this gun and, frankly, 700 rounds is hardly enough to give much indication about the long-term durability of a firearm. After 700 rounds, there were no signs of weakness in the materials or design. Well, other than one minor thing:  the hammer does appear to be pinged from impact. While this is largely cosmetic, it’s also not very confidence-inspiring.

Customization: * *  
Threaded barrels are available for this pistol as are 10-round magazines for those unfortunates who live in states controlled by controlling socialists. The picatinny rail allows you to bolt on whatever toys you want.  Holsters for the PPX are pretty still rare (non-existent?) at this point. No night sights yet, but I remain hopeful.

Overall: * * * * ½
The PPX offers a lot of gun for the money – undoubtedly it has to be one of the best pistols you can buy in the $350 to $450 price range. I can’t say “the best” because I simply haven’t had the chance to try everything out there. Yet. And besides, so much of what makes a pistol “right” for any given user is a matter of personal preference as to to fit, the look of the sights, the type of triggers, etc.

As I said before, this gun is really too fat and bulky to be my first choice as a concealed carry gun. But some guys will carry a full size M-1911 or GLOCK 17 with no concerns, so if you fall into that category, the PPX won’t present any unique concealment issues. But the PPX is an excellent choice as a range plinker or a reliable home defense handgun. It would also serve well as a duty pistol for those law enforcement agencies with limited budgets who can’t justify the purchase of a PPQ.

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