I love the Heckler & Koch P7, as it offers so many engineering features to geek out over. Some of those features appeared on a handgun for the first time with the P7, only to become ubiquitous thereafter (3-dot sights, for example*). A few of those great features have never been reproduced on another pistol. One of them is the gas-piston delayed blowback system, which hasn’t seen use again until the Walther CCP here** and its resurrection is a big reason why I was so excited to get my hands on this new Walther Concealed Carry Pistol. Does it deliver on Walther’s promises of soft recoil and easy slide manipulation? . . .
On The Range
Normally this is the last category but let’s do overall shooting impressions up top here and break it down later.
Walther tends to make a good barrel and an accurate pistol, and the CCP is certainly no exception on the range. You’d expect a fixed barrel to be slightly more accurate than a tilting or otherwise moving barrel, and it’s probably responsible for some of my steel target-ringing success with the CCP. Considering the pistol’s relatively small size and its sub-par trigger, I was actually quite surprised how well I shot it.
Some of this is also due to the action. Yes, it’s true, the so-called “SOFTCOIL” gas-delayed (because “gas retarded” as HK used to say isn’t PC these days) blowback system does actually make for a fairly soft-shooting pistol. At least considering its small size and relatively light weight, the gun is a soft shooter with less muzzle flip and felt recoil than most of its peers. Even with +P ammo, it was easy to control and comfortable to shoot.
With the striker released, the slide is among the easiest to rack of any centerfire pistol. This will be excellent for any folks with less grip and/or arm strength. With the striker cocked, however, there’s a distinct “bump” that the slide has to pop over while moving rearwards. Likely something in the trigger bar or maybe the firing pin block, etc, but regardless of what actually causes it, it makes the slide harder to rack if you’re doing it slowly. Rack it with purpose and you really don’t notice that bump. The two CCPs I had access to both did this, and both only with the striker cocked.
I found the grip circumference to be a little small for my large hands, as the fingers of my strong hand wrapped so far around the grip that I didn’t have a good place to put my support hand. After shooting it for a while, though, I started to get used to it and it became less and less of an issue for me. It certainly didn’t affect accuracy. For anyone with smaller hands than me (anyone on the small side of a men’s large on down) it’s going to be great, though. This combined with the easy-to-manipulate slide and the relatively soft recoil will make it an excellent pistol for ladies and smaller folks in general.
My only real on-the-range gripe is the trigger. Ugh. I hope the aftermarket addresses this, because Walther has really shot itself in the foot (metaphorically speaking) here on what is otherwise a really solid little pistol. Well, the takedown process is tragic also, but I’ll kvetch about that later and I don’t personally think it’s as important as the trigger.
Oh, the trigger. On a handgun made for concealed carry I truly do not mind a long, heavy trigger. In fact, I chose the Beretta Nano as my EDC due in part to the fact that it has a long, heavy trigger. But, the Nano has no safety. If you put a manual safety on a pistol, you don’t need a painfully long trigger pull. Of course, the length of the CCP trigger’s pull is the least of its worries, but more on this later.
In The Box
The CCP comes with some pretty good kit inside of the plastic clamshell box. In addition to the pistol itself, you’ll find the usual owner’s manual, NSSF safety card, warranty card, Walther advertisement flyer, and gun lock. The gun sits in a form-fitting cutout in the foam liner with a chamber flag and a magazine installed. A second magazine can be found in its own cutout, which also holds a baggie of tools and spare parts. These include a brass brush for the gas chamber, a Torx wrench for drift adjusting the rear sight, a hex wrench for removing the front sight, two spare front sights of different heights, a pin to punch out the gas piston’s roll pin, and a takedown tool that may or may not work for field stripping your gun.
A steel slide in Cerakote black or a satin-finished stainless steel slide sits atop a polymer frame. The frame is easily one of the nicest polymer pistol frames I have ever seen or felt. Everything about it screams quality, from scarcely visible mold lines to the texture, feel, cleanness, sharpness, uniformity, stiffness, etc. Apart from the area of the grip that has all of the stippling, you could easily mistake this frame for aluminum. It’s just so flat and hard and solid.
Likewise, the machining on the slide is very good, inside and out. Very few tool or machining marks. It looks like a lot of excess material was removed from inside of the slide to reduce weight, and it was all done very cleanly.
I’m sure some folks will complain that the underside of the slide wasn’t Cerakoted other than overspray, but I don’t really care. You can always get the stainless slide.
The CCP has no slide rails, instead using the fixed barrel and a frame hook on the rear to keep the slide on the frame. No rails doesn’t mean no steel in the frame, though, and the steel inserts are actually really big and burly, the front part holding the barrel in place and housing the gas cylinder. Gas cylinder?
How It Works
What H&K used to call a “gas retardation system” is now SOFTCOIL™ gas-delayed blowback technology. I admit I always felt weird about owning something German with a built-in gas chamber, so am happy to report that Walther refers to theirs as a gas cylinder. Nevertheless, this aspect of the P7’s design lives on as the CCP’s system for delaying an otherwise straight blowback action is functionally identical.
A small port lives in the bottom of the barrel just in front of the chamber:
Upon firing, pressure is high for as long as the bullet is in the barrel. That pressure goes down this port and into the gas cylinder below…
…where it impedes the rearward motion of the gas piston and attempts to prevent it from going deeper into the cylinder.
As the piston is connected to the front of the slide, preventing the piston from moving rearwards means preventing the slide from moving rearwards. When the bullet leaves the barrel, pressure drops and the slide is able to cycle. Thus, without any sort of barrel/slide locking mechanism, this system allows for delaying the blowback action until pressure has dropped to safe levels.
This is an old diagram of the HK P7, but it’s functionally the same on the CCP:
The end result is a blowback action that is very unique in its lightweight slide and light power recoil spring. Despite the light slide and light spring, though, you should still be in the clear for running +P ammo as the greater the pressure generated, the harder the gas piston should prevent the slide from cycling. Indeed, the owner’s manual has the usual blurb about +P being acceptable (when it’s acceptable for a firearm model at all, that is) with the caveat that it tends to increase wear and tear.
Other than this there is nothing particularly notable about the functional design of the CCP. It’s otherwise a fairly standard blowback-operated pistol with the recoil spring around a fixed barrel. It’s striker-fired — single action, meaning the slide must reciprocate to cock the striker — with a polymer frame.
For those who demand a pistol that can be broken down rapidly in the field with no tools, the CCP isn’t your gun. I know this is going to strike it off the list for a lot of you and may affect CCP sales, so I really don’t know what Walther was thinking. Unless this part was designed by Walther’s legal counsel and not its engineers.
To get your CCP looking like the one above, you’re going to have to push the plug on the rear of the slide inwards. Now, this is really common on blowback-operated pistols as a lot of them use a slide plug to hold the rear of the slide down onto the frame. See that hook on the back of the frame in the pic above? The plug hooks onto it and you can’t lift the slide up off the frame unless the plug gets pushed in far enough to clear the grasp of that hook. Like the $99 Cobra I checked out.
Unlike the Cobra and every other pistol I’ve seen with a slide plug, however, the CCP has a locking tab on its plug. That’s the little silver part on the top of the plug seen in the photo above. It’s a hook itself, and it hooks onto the top of the frame hook. Presumably this is to prevent the plug from moving inwards when you don’t want it to, but I’ve never heard of this happening on any other pistol ever. The plug is under constant, rearwards spring tension and shouldn’t be subjected to forwards force such that it could slide off the frame hook with or without its own safety hook. Lawyers?
Anyway, the special plastic tool that ships with the CCP has a little “tooth” on the top that’s supposed to lift up on that safety hook while you use the tool to press the plug into the slide. Mine didn’t work. It looked like the tooth was partially broken off from the factory, which seems reasonable as the hook on my CCP took concerted effort to lift. There was simply no physical way it was going to happen with that tool. ‘Luckily,’ the owner’s manual says you can use a screwdriver or other implement.
Simply push that tab hook upwards to clear it off the frame hook’s top hook, then push the entire plug into the slide far enough to clear the frame hook. Oh and then you need to pull back on the slide to bring the extractor out of the extractor notch. With your third hand, lift the rear of the slide upwards until the plug has cleared the hook. Now you can relax, and the slide will slip right off the front of the frame without a hitch and with a sharp reduction in swearing.
After doing it a bunch of times, it isn’t actually that difficult and I can accomplish it in 6 to 20 seconds depending on whether I mess up once or not (the plug can rotate and lock up). My other charitable comment is that a blowback action should not require cleaning for the purposes of reliable function as often as a pistol with a locking mechanism.
Glass half full thoughts or not, for a modern pistol, the takedown process is absurd. Heck, the P7 was designed in 1976 and you can see in my video above just how easy that gun is to field strip. Push a thumb button that releases the frame’s grip on the slide, then lift the slide up and off the front.
A manual thumb safety graces the left side of the CCP’s frame. It’s in a good location and is intuitive and easy to swipe off with your thumb. Unfortunately I think it’s a little too easy to engage, and I wish it had a more solid detent, especially in the “off” position. Strengthening both detents wouldn’t be a bad idea.
A thumb button-style magazine release is located on the left side as well, but this can be reversed to the other side for lefties.
I like the small slide stop lever, but found myself having the same issue with it that I had on the PPQ. Walther happens to put the stop exactly where I like to put my strong hand thumb, and riding the stop means the slide sometimes doesn’t lock back on empty for me. Most shooters probably won’t experience the same issue. When I kept my thumb away, the slide locked back just fine.
Walther nailed it again here. This stippling texture, which you’ll find on the PPQ and others, is awesome. I love it. The shape of the grip is superb and all of the bumps and grooves and whatnot work together to make for top tier comfort along with excellent control.
Now the grip diameter itself was a bit small for me, and this is the rare pistol where I actually desired swappable backstraps. I would have shot it better with a fuller grip, as the fingers of my strong hand wrapped around the grip far enough that I wasn’t really left with anywhere to put my weak hand. That is, I had a hard time making contact with the frame with my left hand. At first this was also causing issues with my left thumb as I couldn’t find a home for it either. Eventually, I adapted my grip to the size and got my support hand in a place in which it stayed still.
Overall, a non-issue once I got used to the pistol for a while and it would be a huge plus for anyone with smaller hands.
The relatively soft recoil, comfortable trigger shape, and easy-to-manipulate slide all contribute to solid shooting ergonomics. The recoil actually softened up for me after firing a few magazines, as I think some carbon buildup on the gas piston and in the gas cylinder help it seal up better.
The CCP ships with a pair of 8-round, stainless steel magazines. They’re single stack and the quality is nice. The magwell molded into the frame is pretty slick:
Of course, the contouring and ribbing and such makes me curious if Walther couldn’t have fit a staggered-round magazine into a frame of the same outside width.
On the plus side, the shape and width of the CCP’s trigger is quite nice. I’ll take the lack of a trigger blade “safety” thing any day.
Unfortunately any words of praise take a hard stop right there. The trigger pull itself is long, spongy, gritty, and squeaky. I do believe this is the first time I’ve called a trigger “squeaky,” but I can’t think of another way to describe the halting nature of the friction experienced during the trigger pull. It’s sort of like pressing two different materials against each other that slide decently well when moving fast but stick a bit when moving slow. It sort of jerks and squeaks as it slips and sticks, slips and sticks during the pull. In fact it literally, audibly squeaks a little. It’s also slightly gritty. And generally just spongy and squishy feeling.
Maybe you’re familiar with coefficient of static friction vs. coefficient of kinetic friction. If so, combined with the “squeaky” description above, you’ll understand why I have a hard time telling you what the trigger pull weight is. Walther claims 5.5 lbs, and I can sometimes get my gauge to read close to that if I pull the trigger relatively quickly. If I pull it slowly I’ll get readings up to nearly 8 lbs. As best as I can tell, the honest trigger pull weight on my sample with a consistent, smooth pull of a normal speed is ~6.5 lbs. Not bad.
The break itself isn’t the worst, but it’s a bit squishy. There’s really no audible or tactile reset of which to speak, and the trigger must be let out all the way for it to reset. When I first started shooting the CCP, there were a few times where I failed to release all trigger finger weight from the trigger and pulled it again, only to find it hadn’t reset. This stopped once I got used to it, but the solution is basically mandatory trigger slapping (lifting one’s finger completely off the trigger blade and then coming back onto it instead of “riding the reset”).
Actually, the trigger ruined my normally-decent trigger pull fundamentals. I had to slap the trigger to ensure reset, and I had to jerk it rapidly through the entire pull length to scare the squeak out of it and trick it into being smooth.
Somehow, despite this, I shot the dang thing really well and I still like the pistol a lot. I admit to becoming more and more of a trigger snob over the last few years, and I know a lot of people won’t think twice about this pistol’s bang switch. It works, it feels nice on your finger, and it’s safe. The most important thing is training and getting used to it, and for a self defense pistol, the trigger is very adequate.
If the gun didn’t have a manual safety I probably wouldn’t complain so much, but if you give it a safety, give it a good trigger. Give it the PPQ’s trigger. Heck, the PPQ has the PPQ’s trigger and it doesn’t even have a safety.
Sights are polymer, of the 3-white-dot variety. Point of impact was dead-on for me from the factory, but Walther ships the pistol with two additional front sight blades so you can install a shorter or taller one to adjust for elevation. Inside the base of the rear sight is a small bolt or set screw, and turning it with the included Torx wrench will drift the sight left or right to adjust for windage. Pretty slick.
The sights were quick and easy to pick up. They’re compatible in size with the P99, PPQ, and PPS sights so there are already tritium night sights, target sights, and other options available on the market.
Groups at 15 yards from a sandbag rest would have been better if the trigger were better. Still, I can’t entirely explain the vertical stringing that I saw with most of the following ammo brands. I didn’t seem to experience that on the range.
Perhaps I was having an off day, and I did forget to bring my LaserMax Micro to shoot a group while taking the human element of sight alignment out of it. May have to revisit this later, as I do feel the CCP is more accurate than the norm and should have turned in tighter groups.
I put 300 rounds through this gun straight as it came out of the box, and had only a couple of hiccups. Three times I had a stovepipe on the last round in the magazine. Were I not always riding the slide stop and the slide actually locked back on empty like it should have, I doubt these few ejection hiccups would have happened at all.
There were also two failures to feed during my first range session. I chalk this up to two primary factors. First, I was shooting reloads and they can sometimes be a bit loose on their dimensional specs. I’ve definitely had some pistols with particularly tight chambers that hated the reloads but ran factory ammo without a hitch. So I’m not really blaming the CCP for this.
However, the second factor is that relatively soft recoil spring. Less spring power means the slide returns forwards more slowly and with less force behind it. Visually I couldn’t determine that these rounds were out of spec and they dropped into the chamber fine for me manually. The very smallest bump to the back of the slide got both of them to chamber easily at the moment the stoppage actually occurred. I’m quite confident that were a stronger spring used — assuming the slide still cycled fully rearwards with it, of course — these stoppages would not have happened.
That said, it would have a negative affect on how easily the CCP’s slide can be manipulated and I had zero issues with any factory ammo, including two brands of hollow points. Both of those were +P, and the CCP felt great shooting them.
Despite ragging on the trigger and the required takedown tool, I really like the CCP and I think Walther probably has — and should have — a successful seller on its hands. My top 9mm-or-larger recommendation for most members of the fairer sex or anyone with smaller hands has historically been the Ruger SR9 (and/or SR9C or 9E), but I think that may now switch to the CCP. The size of the grip, the ease of manipulating the slide, and the soft recoil make it a great choice in this case. Any centerfire caliber? Walther’s PK380 wins for an easy to control, comfortable, easy to manipulate pistol with a small circumference grip.
I was accurate and confident with the CCP on the range. It outshoots its size category.
From everything I saw of my production CCP, quality is top notch. It’s a really nice pistol and I expect it to prove reliable and accurate for people. I’ve already seen a couple horror stories on the Walther forum of what were allegedly “leaked,” pre-production guns with appalling QC, but judging by the two legit, distributor-shipped, production CCPs I saw at my FFL I think this will be a good little gat. I’d EDC the CCP reviewed here without hesitation.
It’s larger and heavier than my Nano, but it’s still solidly within the concealed carry competitive market. It feels slim and nimble in the hand like the Shield, XDs, LC9s, P983, and other single stack 9s, but it’s actually a bit bigger by the numbers. In fact, it’s the exact same width (based on manufacturer stats) as a GLOCK 19, but it’s slightly taller. It’s a tad shorter in length than the G19 and 1.4 ounces lighter. Also from Walther and overlooked by many, the PPS is a top notch CCW choice. It’s smaller than the CCP here in every dimension and is a bit lighter as well.
Specifications: Walther CCP
Barrel Length: 3.54″
Overall Length: 6.41″
Weight w/ Empty Magazine: 1.39 lbs (22.24 oz)
MSRP: $469 in black, $489 in stainless
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Accuracy: * * * * *
Well above the norm for a compact or sub-compact pistol. My sandbag results were average, but the CCP outshines on the range.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Grip shape and texture are amazing. A bit small for me at first, but most people have smaller hands and I warmed up to it pretty quickly. Mag release and safety are in great locations, and most folks will really like the location of the slide stop as well. The slide is easy to manipulate.
Reliability: * * * *
It wasn’t perfect for me with reloads, although it did run a couple hundred without complaint, and it was perfect with all factory ammo.
Trigger: * *
I’ve played with a lot worse triggers, so this one comes in one star under average here. I’d say the average trigger in this category is just a bit better.
Customize This: * * *
Average. Sights are easy to swap out, and the mag release can be moved from one side to the other. No swappable grip panels and no aftermarket “tuning” at this time prevent a better score.
Overall: * * * 1/2
This would definitely be a 4+ star pistol with a better trigger and easier takedown. One more demerit for the fact that it’s thicker and taller than most of its single-stack 9mm peers. It still easily comes in above average for me due to being a near-ideal 9mm for a lady, youngster, or really anybody with smaller hands and/or less strength than it takes to confidently rack the slide on a lot of pistols. These features will be enjoyed by anyone, though. Quality is really high, and it’s a great shooter. Man, if only the trigger were like the PPQ’s I’d happily give it a very solid 4-star rating despite the takedown. I’m still bullish on it, and if you aren’t a trigger snob you should definitely consider it for CCW.
A big thanks to my usual FFL, Best Buy Surplus, for loaning me this new gun from their stock.
–//–* I’m pretty sure HK invented the 3-dot, and I think it appeared on the P7 first. The P9 was sort of there with 3 rectangles but that doesn’t count, right? ** So the South African Vektor CP1 borrowed an identical mechanism but the gun was not a commercial success and there are maybe a thousand of ’em in the U.S. The Steyr GB is also a gas retarded blowback system but it seals around the barrel instead of using a separate piston and cylinder.
HK P7 Comparison Notes & Photos
The P7’s frame right above the trigger guard was known for getting pretty dang hot — due to the hot combustion gasses entering the gas piston — when shooting somewhat rapidly. Subsequent iterations of the P7, beginning with the P7M8, included a heat shield there so you wouldn’t burn your trigger finger. In my experience this is slightly blown out of proportion, as you really have to dump a decent amount of ammo through it in fairly short order and then hold your finger on the frame in that spot to hurt yourself, but if I shot this in IPSC or other competition I’m sure it would have happened by now.
Anyway, the CCP didn’t have that issue at all. The polymer frame insulates the shooter from the heat generated by the gas system, and the large metal block seems to soak it up and then transfer it upwards towards the barrel. Eventually I found the sides of the slide on either side of that block were getting toasty, but they never got more than noticeably warm.
The P7’s frame isn’t longer, but thanks to a magazine that inserts in a very vertical fashion — it’s at a steeper angle than the grip — it does manage to fit a longer barrel:
The P7 definitely has a lower bore axis. Easily one of the lowest out there, actually.
The P7’s slide is just slightly longer, but it’s shorter vertically. The gas piston is longer and designed a bit differently.
One sweet feature on the P7 — and I think in the next week or so I’m going to write up a “why the P7 is the coolest pistol ever” article — that isn’t found on the CCP (or any other pistol I know of?) is the fluted chamber:
These flutes allow combustion gasses to float the brass out of the chamber air hockey style. Because of this, the P7 will run reliably with a broken extractor or with no extractor at all. I did not remove the extractor to see how it fares.