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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.