Gun Review: Smith & Wesson SW99c

Smith & Wesson SW99c

(Travis Pike for TTAG)

One gun I chased for a long time was the Walther P99c AS. I love the P99 design, the DA/SA striker-fired system is brilliant, and the trigger has always been outstanding. The P99c is the compact variant with the same Anti Stress trigger system. The P99c is also as rare as hen’s teeth.

Do you know what’s not rare? The Smith & Wesson SW99c. The SW99c is the P99c with a dash of S&W spice.

Smith & Wesson SW99c

An interesting tag team: Smith & Wesson on the slide, Walther on the frame. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

You may remember that Walther and Smith & Wesson used to have a pretty good relationship. Smith & Wesson was the importer of Walther pistols for some time. It’s not uncommon to see S&W-marked Walther guns in used gun cases.

The SW99 and SW99c were functionally no different than the P99 and P99c. Smith manufactured the slide, and Walther manufactured the frame. There were some slight aesthetic differences, but ultimately the gun handles and functions identically to the P99c.

The most significant difference is that SW99c models show up on Gunbroker, Guns America, and Pawn Shops and at gun shows across the United States. Heck, today I went to the North Florida Gun and Knife show and spotted two SW99s, one beat-up model in 40 S&W, and one SW99c with the original box. If I didn’t already own one, I would have walked away with one today.

The Trigger System

Trying to explain the trigger system to non-Walther fans can be tricky. The Walther P99 trigger system is unique to say the least. However, it has been cloned by Canik and Magnum Research. It’s a rare striker-fired DA/SA design. Like a traditional DA/SA gun, you have a de-cocker, but it’s a small button at the top of the slide.

SW99c decocker

The decocker’s location just forward of the rear sight. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The gun can be carried in either double-action or single-action mode. In single-action mode, you can carry the trigger in Anti-Stress mode. This is single action, but results in a two-stage trigger. In this two-stage trigger mode, you have the same length of trigger pull as you would in a double-action gun, but the first stage has almost no weight to it. It clicks rearwards, and the gun locks into the standard single-action mode.

Smith & Wesson SW99c

I call that wart texturing on the SW99c’s grip. Your pinky will dangle with a flush mount magazine. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The Anti-Stress mode was designed for law enforcement with the idea that they wouldn’t have negligent discharges under stress. It’s a neat design, but it seems easier just to keep your finger off the trigger.

In Action

The SW99c is a very late 90s, early 2000s gun design. I’m currently watching the third season of the Sopranos and a character mentions needing to grab a Barenaked Ladies CD. That statement carries the same kind of early-aughts vibe as this pistol does.

The SW99c rocks a polymer frame, but lacks things like a rail or night sights. The rear sight is adjustable, and not something I’d choose on a carry gun. And your pinky will dangle from the fat, but short grip.

A pinky extension would be an awesome addition, and I think Walther makes them, but I can’t find them separate from magazines. Instead, I got a cheap P series +2 extension from CZ. With a little Dremeling, it fits in the SW99c just fine. That gives me a pinky extension and an additional two rounds.

Smith & Wesson SW99c

My poorly Dremeled, but functional magazine extension. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The trigger guard is seemingly massive compared to other guns, and it is textured to wrap your finger around. The grip checkering is those Walther dots that were unique to their guns. The front and backstrap are textured, but the texturing is rather soft and light. This gun is nowhere near some of the rough textured frames we have come to love.

Now, to be fair, outside of the adjustable sights, none of these things are complaints. The SW99c is fully functional, and for a standard concealed carry gun, it lacks nothing. I think sometimes we get a little prima donna-ish about our carry guns, but hell, this is America and capitalism rules. The SW99c is a very good, plain Jane compact pistol where the inside is what matters.

The single-action trigger is to die for. It has a blissfully short and light pull and I adore it. The double-action pull is also very smooth. It’s long and heavy, but very smooth and consistent—one of the best double actions out there. The SW99c keeps some of its German refinement after its citizenship service.

The Controls

The controls may seem weird, too. The first thing you’ll notice is that aforementioned decocking button on top of the gun. It’s decently large and easy to engage when necessary. The slide lock is massive, surprisingly large, and unfortunately, my thumbs pin it down while I’m shooting. It rarely works due to my thumbs continually pushing it downwards.

Smith & Wesson SW99c

I do love I like the European style paddle magazine release. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The magazine release is one you either love or hate. It’s that European-style paddle design that sits on the rear of the trigger guard. It’s an ambidextrous lever and is one of the older, much smaller design than the one modern Walthers have.

This trigger guard magazine release takes some getting used to, but is very ergonomic. If you have small hands and have to adjust your grip to reach a standard “American” magazine release button, you’ll probably love it.

The slide is surprisingly modern with both front and rear serrations to accommodate easy slide manipulation. These serrations are short and shallow, but usable enough.

Boom, Bang, Boom

Shooting the SW99c is a blast. The trigger is excellent overall and makes the gun easy to shoot accurately. The three-dot sights are adequate, but are made of polymer. I’d prefer fixed steel sights and have found the adjustable sights to be a bit fragile.

Smith & Wesson SW99c sights

I’m not a fan of the polymer rear adjustable sight. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I hate a hanging pinky and much prefer a full four-finger grip. However, the SW99c is rather large and heavy for a 9mm subcompact firearm. It’s roughly the same size as a GLOCK 26 and handles much the same. Sure the recoil is a little snappy from the short barrel and a 20-ounce gun.

Smith & Wesson SW99c

It’s a very sweet shooter that’s very concealable.  (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The SW99c is an easy shooter, but the size and design are still somewhat odd and stubby compared to more modern subcompact single stacks. Admittedly when compared to guns like the P365 or Springfield Hellcat, the SW99C seems terribly outdated. It offers the same capacity, but in a much bigger package.

However, the SW99c still has a certain amount of charm and lovable quirks that appeal to me and ensure the SW99c will never leave my collection. Best of all, the SW99c seems to have no collector value, and can generally be found in used gun counters for about $350. You can’t beat that for a high quality concealed carry gun with an outstanding trigger and a unique, very usable design.

Specifications: Smith & Wesson SW99c 

Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel Length – 3.5 inches
Overall Length – 6.6 inches
Height – 4.3 inches
Weight – 20.8 ounces
Capacity – 10 rounds
Price – $350 or so

Ratings (out of five stars):

Ergonomics * * * *
The ergonomics are hit or miss. The hanging pinky loses points with me, as does the slide lock being virtually useless. Other than that, the gun is well designed and easy shooting. The grip angle is comfortable, the decocker is easy to use, and the paddle style magazine release lever rocks.

Trigger * * * * *
Oh my, this trigger is outstanding. How do companies still put out standard crappy triggers without looking at how good a striker-fired trigger can be?

Reliability * * * * *
This thing eats all that I toss at it. It eats steel case, aluminum case, brass case, and beyond.

Accessories *
Well, good luck. The pistol has been out of production for well over a decade. Then again, there’s not much to see or upgrade here aside from better sights maybe, and that’s it.

Overall * * * *
This is an awesome gun and a great value. It has an old school factor that hasn’t be replicated since. The SW99c is a very good reason to keep an eye on your gun store’s used pistol inventory. The trigger is outstanding, it’s accurate, wonderfully reliable, and the price makes the juice very much worth the squeeze.

comments

  1. avatar Specialist38 says:

    I like liked the full-size pretty well. Did not care for the stubby version.

    Felt even weirder in my hand than a G26 (if that’s possible).

    I thought the de-cocker button was a pretty good feature. Better than on the Canik where it makes the pistol inoperable – that’s just stupid.

    It SW/P 99 was a comfortable pistol but just never got the love. Probably due to coming out during the Crime Bill era.

    There were a bunch of 40s on the market as they got surpluses out but never a lot of aftermarket support.

    Speaks to how many good guns we have when a good model like this falls by the wayside.

  2. avatar jakee308 says:

    Just buy a Canik TPSA9. Look the same. Have a real nice trigger. Decocker. cost less than $400 and you get an extra mag, cleaning tools and loader along with different back straps and a form fitting holster with both a paddle and a belt attachment all in a nice plastic kit.

    You’ll be glad you did.

    1. avatar John Bryan says:

      I think you mean the Canik TP9DA – the decocker on the SA deactivates the trigger along with deco king the striker – the DA works like the Walther system discussed by the article’s author.

  3. avatar Jake says:

    Bought it from saddle rock? I was eyeing it too. Jealous.

  4. avatar American Patriot says:

    I just happen to have “like” new Military Walther P99 I got as a gift but never liked the trigger. I have put 200 rds thru it total, been sitting in my closet for the last ?? yrs…..Would like to get rid of it…

  5. avatar Justin says:

    I ended up driving about 4 hours (one way) to pick up a SW99 in 45acp years ago. I still have the pistol and shoot it on occasion, but considering how much of a pain it would be to get parts for it I don’t end up shooting it more than a few times a year anymore.

    When I was shooting it regularly it was nothing but reliable and accurate (at least as accurate as I am) so for me it’s a keeper no matter how old it gets (or how old I get for that matter).

  6. avatar Prndll says:

    There are still a few 9mm pistols on my want list. I just don’t think 9 is a good way to go right now. Unless you can get something you already wanted at a very good price.

    I would be looking at other calibers.

    1. avatar Biff says:

      Why? Even now you can find 9mm ammo. It just cost a bit more. When it’s cheap again you can just salt away a few thousand rounds so you will be prepared for the next panic.

      1. avatar NJ2AZ says:

        if it is ever cheap again

        if one presumes Uncle Joe will be our next potus….yikes. i imagine 2008 on steroids.

      2. avatar Prndll says:

        Might be nothin’

        It just feels like a good time to look into something else like maybe 350Legend. I’ve been wanting a lever action in .357mag.

  7. avatar AP says:

    The PPQ (M1 in my case) is a nice refinement over all. I do have the P99c as the only subcompact PPQ is am M2 (mag buttons are the devil). I remember the P99c being very hard to find, once Walter started their own distribution and US operation they started showing up at the gun shows at well under MSRP (I paid ~$530).

    1. avatar Rusty - Molon Labe - Chains says:

      The problem with the PPQ M2 is the mag release. I couldn’t get through an entire magazine before the thing would drop out of the gun. Fortunately you can swap it to the other side so that doesn’t happen any longer. Suspect my problem is my slightly longer thumb, but after swapping over the release, everything works like it should.

      1. avatar AP says:

        I had a similar problem with the FNS-9, it would even eject the mag while holstered. Dropped that thing like it was hot. I had to cut some extra leather away from the hybrid holster for my P938, because it would occasionally eject the mag. Buttons are not an automatic deal breaker for me, but I avoid them when possible.

  8. avatar Retro says:

    The sights look the same as the current generation Walther pistols, at least the rear sight.

  9. avatar Lough Sun says:

    Just like jakee308 said go get a Canik. I had a S&W 99 and loved it and eventually traded it with two other guns and some cash to get a custom made bolt action 30 06 rifle. I always thought about that weapon over the years, and anyone that had one wasn’t interested in giving it up. Therefore, I gave up, and then the Canik came along. I waited until the TP9V2 came to market. I have loved the thing from the first life fire trigger squeeze. I have several pistol that, I consider to be of “better” quality; although, they were not manufactured under ISO 9000 standards they are “better.” However, I digress. I will never trade my Canik TP9V2 for anything because, I lost my old faithful S&W 99, and I was given a second chance when it reincarnated into my TP9V2.

  10. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    interesting, so that’s what those are. thanks for the info. i don’t think i’ve ever sen one in the wild.

  11. avatar Mark H says:

    Giganitc takeup with an SA striker fire at the end.
    So, everything bad about DA/SA triggers combined with everything bad about striker fired triggers.

  12. avatar AdamTA1 says:

    A little off topic but you mentioned it in the article… I went to a Barenaked Ladies concert just last year. Still a good band still a great performance. Those dudes crack me up during their concerts.

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