(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details – enter by December 19th!)
By Nick Oetken
Walther Arms has always been a gun company that’s taken higher steps in innovation with each new firearm. In 1886, they were a simple German manufacturer of target and hunting rifles. Twenty-two years later, the company had produced their first pistol, the Model 1 in 6.35mm. In 1929, Walther released the inventive PP in .32 ACP and a year later the even more concealable PPK, which we should all know as the signature weapon of James Bond 007. Eight years after that, the P38 9mm was adapted as the standard service pistol of the German Army and saw decades of service in numerous countries following World War II. In the 1970s and 80s, Walther produced two less-widespread but still highly respected 9mm pistols, the P5 and the P88 . . .
Walther took perhaps its biggest step forward in 1997 with the pioneering P99. Yes, the P99 was only the latest installment in the polymer pistol world that GLOCK had established, and yes, it did notoriously (though temporarily) replace the timeless PPK as James Bond’s sidearm to the polarized reactions of 007 fans. But the P99 built a well-deserved reputation for its advanced ergonomics, ambidextrous controls, and proven reliability. In many ways, the P99 is everything the GLOCK is…and then some.
Nonetheless, a couple of compelling criticisms exist with the P99. The trigger pull, especially on the first shot, is quite heavy. Many American shooters also voiced their discontent with the European-style paddle magazine release on the trigger guard. The P99 may have found noteworthy success among militaries and police departments around the world, but it just didn’t catch on in the good old U.S.A when compared to some other pistols.
Then in 2011, Walther changed the game again. They unveiled a new pistol that they claimed would not only fix the P99’s few faults, but would update its already advanced features and appeal to the American market: the Police Pistol Quick Defense, a.k.a, the Walther PPQ.
Did Walther succeed and raise the bar yet again? Let me put it this way…after six months of owning, carrying and shooting this pistol, I can safely state that the Walther PPQ is everything the P99 is…and then a whole lot more.
In all my shooting life, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a pistol that would be as hard to speak ill of as the Walther PPQ. A very modern and fine looking pistol, it arrives in a black Walther box, complete with the gun, two magazines, three backstraps, a speed loader, safety lock, instruction manual, and a test target from Germany showing the gun has been sighted in at fifteen yards.
This particular PPQ is the M2 model, which was released in 2013. It differs from the earlier M1 in that there’s a reversible magazine release button instead of a paddle, and it accepts different magazines as well.
Walther has enjoyed a reputation for producing some of the most ergonomic pistols on the market, but I’d definitely say they’ve broken new ground with the PPQ. When I hold the PPQ, it melts in my hand. This is easily the most comfortable pistol I’ve held yet.
For one, the grips are textured much more aggressively than the P99. This isn’t just for looks. It gives me a very secure grasp on the pistol. The three finger grooves on the grip also contribute to the excellent ergonomics.
Now listen, just because the PPQ fits so well for me doesn’t mean it will for you too. Every person is different, so that’s why the PPQ comes with three different backstraps. Simply pop the pin out with an Allen wrench or a screwdriver and the backstrap will pull right off. Place in a new backstrap, push the pin back in, and you’re good to go! I prefer the medium backstrap that comes fitted on the gun myself, though I assume people with larger or smaller hands will favor the large and small backstraps respectively. Whatever works for you is what you should go with, so try out all three before making your decision.
The front and rear flat-bottom slide serrations allow for a secure hold when pulling back the slide.
The PPQ is a very simple design in the vein of GLOCKs, and the few controls on the pistol are right where you need them to be. Something I love in particular is the slide release, which is not only larger than the GLOCK, but completely ambidextrous. My thumb easily reaches the release without having to alter my shooting grip at all. Even though I’m right handed, I practice shooting with my left as much as I can. Sure enough, my left thumb can release the slide just as effortlessly as my right.
The magazine release is also handy; Walther switched from the paddle release in order to appeal to the American shooting market, and by all means I feel they made the right choice. This release is also reversible; in a number of seconds, it can be refitted to accommodate a lefty.
A MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny Accessory Rail comes standard on the dust cover. While I’m personally not a fan of adding lights or lasers to my pistols, I know some other people are. It’s especially a nice advantage if this is going to be your nightstand gun.
When there is a round in the chamber, a red marking appears on the slide due to the extractor being pressed. It certainly beats having to manually pull back the slide and check the chamber each time!
The PPQ’s trigger is in the same style of a GLOCK; the pistol will not fire unless the drop safety is pulled. “Eh, just another GLOCK copy,” you say? Not so fast. The moment I first fired the PPQ, I knew the trigger was in a league of its own. If there’s only one novelty of the PPQ that can without question set it apart from other pistols on the market, this is it.
Walther calls it the ‘quick-defense’ trigger. The pull is so light and smooth at only 5.6 pounds, with a .1-inch reset (awesome!) and .4-inch travel. Trust me, with this kind of a trigger, you can’t only shoot the PPQ fast, you can shoot it accurately too. It’s a marked improvement over any other pistol I’ve ever fired, and it’s what I look forward to the most when I shoot the PPQ on the range.
The PPQ has a Tenifer finish applied to the barrel and slide. Tenifer is a ferric nitro carburized hardening that diffuses carbon and nitrogen. It’s one of the most corrosion/wear resistant finishes you could ask for on a production pistol.
To give you an idea of how well the Tenifer finish held up, this past summer and fall I packed the PPQ as my carry sidearm on everything from rough motorcycle/ATV trips in heavy dust to elk and deer hunting in torrential downpours up in Idaho’s wind chilly mountains. Several times, the PPQ went back into its case grimy, dirty and/or wet before I had the chance to wipe it down and clean it. Yet it still looks just as good as when I first bought it. There are only a couple of light scratches on the slide and no sign of rusting or corrosion anywhere at all. Wow.
Equipped with standard 3-dot, polymer sights, the PPQ has accompanied me on almost every shooting day since I purchased it, and for good reason. It has proven to be a very accurate pistol at 20 feet. I attribute this to many qualities of the pistol: the ergonomics, trigger, and good engineering from Walther.
When I’ve increased my distance from the target to around 40-50 feet, my groups do widen, but not significantly. Don’t get me wrong, by no means do I consider myself a professional shooter. I strive to improve with each trip to the shooting range, and this is the gun I plan on using for working on my pistol accuracy.
That being said, shooting the PPQ is a blast! Okay, shooting any gun to me is a blast, but I find a special kind of joy when I shoot the PPQ. Like I mentioned earlier, with the trigger being so smooth, I can deliver faster follow up shots accurately. This, coupled with the comfortable grip, means that I am in full control of this pistol when firing.
For cost reasons I am unable to invest in buying thousands of rounds just to test the PPQ to its limits. But in the six months I’ve owned it, at least five hundred rounds have been put through it between myself, my family members and friends. So far, the PPQ has yet to suffer a single jam or malfunction. This, coupled with the fact that many of those rounds were fired while I’ve carried the PPQ as my sidearm in some wet and rough conditions, makes me well assured in its reliability. I have yet to hear any major reliability issues from other people as well.
9mm rounds I’ve put through the PPQ include 115, 125 and 147 grain FMJ’s from Federal, Armscor, and Blazer, 147 grain flat noses from Federal, and some hollow points. I look forward in the future to putting more types of ammo through the PPQ and seeing if its reliability holds up, which I suspect it will.
Disassembly of the PPQ is straightforward and easy to get used to. When I first bought the pistol, I initially struggled with getting the take down catch to push down correctly, but after a few tries I got the hang of it. Now I can field strip the PPQ and put it back together again in an average time of thirty seconds. I’m still working on improving my time.
Unfortunately, it’s with the disassembly that I ran into my first real gripe with the PPQ: you have to dry fire the pistol before you can disassemble it. This may not bother some people, but it sure does irk me.
Here is the disassembly process for the PPQ:
1. Remove the magazine.
2. Check the chamber to confirm the pistol is unloaded.
3. Dry fire the pistol (irk!)
4. Press down on both sides of the take down catch.
5. Remove the slide.
6. Take out the barrel and mainspring.
In terms of overall application, I view the PPQ as an excellent alternative to the GLOCK 19. Both are mid-sized, polymer, striker-fired 9mm pistols, making them ideal for concealed carry, home defense or to serve as a go-to open carry sidearm. However, the PPQ is significantly more ergonomic, carries the same magazine capacity (15 rounds), is easier to disassemble, truly ambidextrous, and above all, has that dream like trigger. While by no means am I attempting to trash GLOCK, the only advantage I can think of that the G19 has over the PPQ is availability of aftermarket parts and accessories. This by the way, is where the PPQ meets its major roadblock.
Every gun has an Achilles heel, and for the PPQ it’s the limited number of aftermarket accessories. Compared to the Beretta 92-series, GLOCKs, Smith & Wesson’s M&P line, or Springfield XDs, the PPQ is simply lacking in this department.
I purchased an additional 15-round magazine for $42, and from what I’ve found, they sell for roughly the same price around the country. Walther does make an extended 17-round magazine, but I have yet to attain one and test it out for myself. I understand there’s also a set of grips called ‘traction grips’ that can be installed and supposedly have more aggressive texturing to give the shooter a better grip on the gun. Honestly though, I’m so satisfied with the factory grip on my PPQ anyway, that I won’t be changing it anytime soon. Beyond these items, there’s very little that Walther has to offer.
However, if the PPQ stands the test of time and finds favor with the American shooting market, I suspect (and dearly hope) that Walther will little by little introduce new accessories and add-ons over the years.
Walther has scored another hit with the PPQ M2, and it just might be their most innovative pistol yet. Desirably ergonomic, smooth firing, reliable, accurate, loaded with a double-stacked magazine of 9mm, large enough to serve as my go-to sidearm for outdoor activities and yet condensed and light enough to be my concealed carry piece if I need it to be, this is definitely one of my personal favorite handguns. Is the PPQ perfect? Obviously, no gun is truly perfect. But the PPQ is as close to perfect as I could wish for. My heart is beating at what Walther has in store next.
Action: semi-automatic, locked breech, short recoil operated
Caliber: 9mm, also available in .40 S&W
Capacity: 15+1 for 9mm, 11+1 for .40 S&W
Barrel: 4.0 inches for 9mm, 4.2 inches for .40 S&W
Weight Unloaded: 21.7 ounces for 9mm, 22 ounces for .40 S&W
Weight Loaded: 24.5 ounces for 9mm, 24.9 ounces for .40 S&W
Length: 7.1 inches for 9mm, 7.2 inches for .40 S&W
Width: 1.3 inches
Height: 5.3 inches
Additional Features: quick-defense trigger, three backstraps, ambidextrous slide release, reversible mag release, serrations on front and rear of slide
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Ergonomics: * * * * *
This is easily the most comfortable and ergonomic pistol I’ve ever held in my life. For me, it’s going to be a challenge for another pistol to usurp the PPQ in this department. Three backstraps accommodate different shooters as well.
Controls: * * * * *
Everything is not only right where I naturally need them to be, the controls on this pistol are fully ambidextrous or reversible.
Trigger: * * * * *
The trigger is a dream to shoot, the short reset in particular allowing for faster shots and superior accuracy. When I go to the range with this pistol, the trigger is what I personally look forward to the most.
Finish: * * * * *
The Tenifer finish is as tough as nails. I’ve put this pistol through a variety of conditions and all I see are a couple of very light scratches that take concentration to be noticed.
Accuracy: * * * * *
All though I am by no means a professional shooter, I was quite impressed with the accuracy for a polymer 9mm pistol. I would love to see how it performs in competitions in the hands of a pro.
Reliability: * * * * *
For the six months I’ve owned and hundreds of rounds I’ve had this pistol eat, I have yet to experience a single jam or malfunction.
Customization: * *
I hope Walther will be able to correct this in the future if the PPQ keeps up its popularity, but for now the customization options are sadly disappointing.
Overall: * * * * *
Looks like James Bond just found a new gun!