By Matt S.
Walther’s PPS, or Police Pistol Slim, has been on the US market for quite a few years now. It was here long before the Smith & Wesson Shield and Springfield XDs was available to consumers. To be honest, as I did my research before purchasing one, I was a bit surprised at how little press the PPS has received despite the fact that it offers some unique features that even the current crop of great handguns have not yet matched. My overall experience with the handgun has been very positive so far, and I believe anyone looking for a single-stack, easily concealable handgun should give the PPS some serious consideration. They can be a bit rare, but I believe it’s worth it . . .
The PPS is available in 9mm and .40 S&W, and I was able to pick up my example for $550. For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll be referring to the 9mm model. I’ve never been a fan of .40 S&W, having always found that cartridge to be a bit “snappy.” Must..not…start…a caliber war! Still, I can’t help but wonder if the .40 S&W cartridge would spoil the great handling characteristics that are present in the 9mm, however I can’t really speak to this seeing as how I’ve never actually shot one. But I digress.
What do you get with the Walther PPS? Pretty typical fare, I’d imagine. The plastic case is nothing to write home about – you don’t buy a handgun for the case, so I suppose that’s no big deal. Unless you get a Springfield XDm, anyway. Nestled within nicely fitted foam pockets is the gun, obligatory safety cable, and two magazines. Also included is the manual and a spent shell casing.
Magazine capacities are 6, 7, and 8 rounds for the 9mm model, and 5, 6, and 7 rounds for the .40 S&W. My particular example shipped with the 7 and 8 round magazines. The little Walther’s magazines are made in Italy, and appear to be of high quality. Capacity varies, depending on what floorplate is installed. The smallest magazine will sit flush with the grip, and I find that my pinkie likes to hang off and rest against the bottom of the magazine.
In my opinion it’s not the most comfortable grip, but by shortening the height of the gun you are definitely gaining even more concealability in an already impressively hide-able package. The 7 round magazine has an integrated pinkie extension, and I daresay it fits my hand perfectly. It enables me to get a full grip on the firearm, and is how the PPS rides in my holster 100% of the time. The 8 rounder, surprise surprise, is bigger still. The grip extension descends a fair amount beyond the palm of my hand, and I suspect it would enable even a large ape to comfortably hold the gun. This is one of the guns that can supposedly fit anyone, what with its different magazines and interchangeable backstraps.
Speaking of interchangeable backstraps, the PPS had them first among subcompacts, and up until the Springfield XDs came along, it was the only slim pistol to offer them. The S&W Shield, as I’m sure many of you know, does not offer the interchangeable backstraps that the rest of the M&P line does. You get two sizes with the PPS, and I find that the smallest backstrap fits me best. The larger palmswell tended to push the grip forward in my hand, thus angling the entire gun up slightly in my grasp. I found that when I swiftly brought the PPS up to my line-of-sight, the pistol was aiming slightly above where I was intending to hit.
Those backstraps also act as a kind of lock or safety for the gun – if you remove the backstrap, the gun will not fire. This is advertised as a way to safely store the gun, and as a way to field strip it without having to pull the trigger. It’s a neat and innovative feature, but…it’s also one of my biggest beefs with the gun. To be honest, it seems to be the answer to a question that nobody asked. And a quick perusal of other reviews will show that I’m not alone in holding this opinion. What if you lose your backstrap? What if the backstrap breaks? The gun’s operation depends on that tiny little nubbin of plastic on the inside of the backstrap. If that snaps off you are, to use the vernacular, “Screwed.” FUBAR. Up a creek without a paddle. You get the idea. My take on it? Find whatever sized grip fits you best, and leave it the heck alone.
Like it or hate it, another unique feature of the PPS is its euro-style paddle magazine release. There are no buttons to be had here – instead you press down on a small paddle than spans the bottom of the trigger guard. I hear that lefties (left-handed people, not Liberals) really appreciate the ambidextrous design. At first I thought this feature would irritate me, but I had no trouble getting used to it. It has become second nature for me to move the middle finger of my right hand up and tab the lever down to drop the magazine free. Besides being accessible from both sides of the gun, there’s also the added benefit of now having zero risk for accidentally releasing the magazine because you managed to sit on the gun funny or something of that nature.
Another unique feature, and one that I greatly appreciate and wish that other manufacturers would adopt, is a cocking indicator on the back of slide. It’s quite simple – if you see the red tip of the indicator, the gun is ready to fire. If not, you ain’t ready for action. But wait, doesn’t Springfield have something similar, you say? Walther’s design differs from Springfield’s on/off indicator in one very important way. As you squeeze the trigger on the PPS, the cocking indicator begins to protrude very slightly from the rear of the gun. I find it to be very reassuring to rest my thumb against the back of the slide as I’m reholstering. If anything became trapped in the guard and began to pull the trigger, I would know it immediately because I could feel that tiny post as it moved rearward.
The PPS has standard 3-dot sights that are fairly large and nicely painted. Still, I ended up purchasing some nail polish in a pretty orange color (THAT got me some funny looks) and colored the front sight. That extra bit of color is just what I need to help everything line up quickly. Aftermarket sights are a bit rare for the PPS. Supposedly sights for the Walther P99 will fit the PPS, but overall it’s slim pickings out there.
So, how does it shoot? In a word, “wonderfully!” Recoil is very manageable in my 9mm example, and accuracy is outstanding. It was very easy to chew out the center of the target at 5 yards – I wish I had pictures to show you, but please take my word for it that this is an accurate and a very sweet handling little gun. The PPS is certainly more accurate than I am, let’s just say, and for a defensive handgun it’s definitely more than adequate. Honestly, I wish I had more trigger time with the PPS, but thanks to the ammo drought, I’ve only put around 350 rounds down range. All of those rounds were sent on their way without any issues or malfunctions, which is reassuring.
Initially the trigger’s takeup felt a little, well, stiff and gritty. I have read that the trigger smooths out over time, and even with my relatively green example I can feel some improvement with use. I don’t have a trigger scale, but all reports say that the pull is right around 6 pounds. After that initial bit of gritty takeup you hit a distinct wall, and the PPS fires immediately afterwards with no over travel. The trigger resets with an authoritative “click” a short distance forward, and you’re ready to rock and roll again.
Another important question for a gun like this is, “How does it carry?” Now we’re getting into the good stuff! To be honest, I’ve always scoffed a bit when I read that such-and-such a pistol can disappear under a t-shirt. Yeah, right. Maybe I’m just being bitter – at about 5 feet 7 inches tall and 145 pounds with a 30 inch waist, I’m not the biggest guy out there, and hiding a handgun on my person is difficult for me.
My previous EDC gun was a 9mm Springfield XDm Compact worn OWB, and with some work I could indeed hide that. But I always felt the darn thing when I sat down, especially in the car. And let’s face it – double stackers like an XDM or a Glock 19 are chunky buggers. Then I tried on the Walther PPS with a Cleveland’s Holsters IWB holster, and boy oh boy, what a difference! I, even I, could make a pistol disappear! With a t-shirt! Hey look, what do you see? That’s right, nothing! Worn at 3:30-4, the PPS tucks right up against my side and is just plain gone. Other than the slide stop, the PPS is a fraction less than an inch thick all around. Finally, I had found a setup of handgun and holster where I could honestly say I’ve forgot I was even wearing a gun.
After gun shooting comes gun cleaning, as we all know. Fortunately, the PPS is a simple thing to break down – if you know how to field strip a Glock, you know how to field strip a Walther PPS. Drop the magazine and verify that the chamber is empty. There is a small opening on the back of the barrel hood where you can check the status of the chamber, but, you know, make sure you clear it the way you were taught. Now you can either remove the backstrap or pull the trigger. Trust me – just pull the trigger. There are two tabs on the side of the frame that you pull down on to release the slide. And…voila, you know have the slide, barrel, recoil spring, and frame. Now start scrubbing.
Well, now time for some final thoughts. While the PPS is a bit more expensive than competitors like the Smith & Wesson Shield and Springfield XDs, I believe the price is worth it. At least, it certainly was for me. I DO NOT like the manual safety on the Shield, and XDs did not interest me because, at the time, it was only available in .45 ACP. I prefer the greater capacity of the PPS, though the introduction of the 9mm XDs may change that calculus for you. Also, I’ve come to greatly appreciate the paddle magazine release of the PPS. But again, Your mileage may vary, as they say.
Some might argue that the PPS and its brethren are too small. It’s just a little too big to be a pocket pistol, and if you’re going to carry it in a holster you might as well man up and get something bigger. I won’t lie, I switched to a 7+1 capacity PPS from a 13+1 capacity Springfield XDm. But what I have on me will be the most useful when I need it, God forbid. I carry the Walther PPS a lot more because it is so much more comfortable than a double stacked handgun. For me, it’s the perfect fit. And while it may not be James Bond’s gun, it’s still a Walther. And that’s plenty cool.
Model: Walther PPS
Price: Approx. $550
Caliber: 9mm or .40 S&W
Magazine Capacity: 6-8 rounds in 9mm, 5-7 ronds in .40 S&W
Empty Weight: 20.8 oz.
Barrel Length: 3.2 inches
Overall Length: 6.3 inches
Overall Hight (With Magazine): 4.4, 4.9, or 5.3 inches
Action: Striker fired
Finish: Tenifer coated slide and barrel
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * * *
This is subjective, of course. I definitely like the way the Walther PPS looks. It’s blocky and purposeful…maybe a little too blocky, in all honesty. I think it looks cool, but I probably wouldn’t call it sexy. The German proof marks on the right side do add a touch of flare and speak to the quality of handgun. I won’t lie, I hold a certain amount of respect for the Walther name, and thankfully the PPS doesn’t disappoint.
Ergonomics (Carry): * * * * *
A solid five stars for carry. in an IWB holster, even on a skinny guy like me, this thin gun conceals very well. This is a perfect example of a tool that excels at what it was designed for, and in this case the Walther PPS was made to be a perfect conceal and carry gun. I think Walther succeeded.
Ergonomics (Firing): * * * *
Let me say that I personally do not mind the trigger on the PPS at all. But that initial grit may be offending to some, as well as the distinctive wall before the trigger breaks. Then again, I personally abhor the long-but-buttery-smooth Kahr triggers, for example. It’s all a matter of preference. And though I have never experienced it, there have been some reports that the gap between the frame and magazine can nip at a shooter’s fingers. I don’t mind giving four stars here because, again for me, the shooting experience has been very pleasant. The PPS is on the heavier side of the subcompact spectrum, and no doubt the added weight helps soak up some of the recoil. Some people might take offense to the paddle magazine release. I don’t – now that I’ve experienced it, I actually prefer it.
Reliability: * * * * *
Not a single failure thus far. Again, I admit that my example is a little green, but so far so good. It’s comforting to know that a gun will work reliably out of the box.
Customize This: * *
Oofta. The PPS takes a blow here. Sure, there’s a rail on the front, but on a pistol this small I personally don’t see the point of mounting any accessories. There are holsters available for the PPS, but usually they aren’t on the company’s “Quick Ship” menu. Two areas here concern me: the availability of aftermarket sights and being able to acquire additional magazines. I’ve seen Big Dot tritium night sights for the PPS, but not much else. And magazines can be a bit difficult to come by, and spendy when you do find them. I picked up a $55 6 rounder at my LGS, and I snagged another 7 rounder off of Ebay for around the same price. To me, that seems a bit steep for something that doesn’t even hold 10 bullets. I’m hoping that once Walther gets its feet under them here in the US, magazines will be more available.
Overall: * * * *
Can you tell I really like this gun? The issues I have with the obtuse backstrap safety thing are overruled by how well the gun performs its intended duties. I needed a slim gun that I would feel comfortable carrying, and that by being easily concealable would thus enable me to carry more. The Walther PPS perfectly slid into this role, and thus into my holster. Even with the slightly higher price point compared to its competitors, I still feel completely satisfied with my purchase. It’s definitely a case of, “You get what you pay for,” and this time it’s in a good way. Plus, it’s also a bit fun to have something that not every other guy at the range has, and it’s a Walther to boot. Would I recommend it to others who are considering purchasing at CCW handgun? I would, and I have. And that I think is the highest praise you could give any firearm.