Click on the image here to download the coupon for the $50 rebate from Walther on the PPS. Like this gun wasn’t already a huge score now you can get $50 off! A direct link is https://www.smith-wesson.com/wcsstore/Walther/upload/other/promos/Walther_PPS_Coupon_062011.pdf
The Walther PPS could potentially be the best Micro-9mm (and .40S&W) on the market.
These are some of my 10 yard targets with the PPS. The ammo boxes you see in the picture were only a few of the types I used to try to make the PPS fail, including some old grubby reloads. The gun did not fail, no matter what I tried.
The trigger on the PPS broke cleanly at between 6 and 7 lbs. It is a little scratchy, both forward and back, but this is my only complaint with the gun and it doesn’t impede operation or accurate fire.
The Walther website on Smith & Wesson says that the PPS only comes with one 7 round magazine, but mine came with both the 7 and 8 rounders. There is also a 6 round that is probably a 2 finger grip.
The Walther Quicksafe(tm) is part of the interchangeable backstraps. The disabling safety system works as promissed, and you have to congratulate Walther on such a unique and innovative idea that actually works. This is far more effective and practical than a gun lock and for those of us living in states with gunlock statutes, it is the best system I have seen.
The extra backstrap that comes with the PPS also serves as a spare if you lose or break the one that fits your hand. There is a pin built into the backstraps that deactivates the disabling mechanism. Since Smith & Wesson handles all of the repair and parts issues for Walther, it should be easy to get a backstrap if you lose one, and at least you have a spare to keep the gun in service until it arrives.
This is the image from the Walther website PPS page explaining how Quicksafe(tm) works.
This year saw the flood of extremely small 9mm pistols into the gun market. I call them as a group, “the Micro-9mm.” Just about any gun nut will get excited about the promise of 9mm firepower in a small package that will fit in your pocket. And with the wave of new concealed carry laws across the US, tens of thousands of new gun owners have come into the market, all looking for the best Micro-9mm. I can’t say I have tested in hand all of the different offerings out there, but after extensive testing, I have to vote that the Walther PPS, if you did go test them all side by side, would come up on top. I’ll try to explain why.
When you have a lot of products that essentially do the same thing (think TVs), you have to figure out what the differences are, and which of the differences are important to you. Trigger action, a manual safety, not having a manual safety, thickness, price, capacity, etc. all factor in and will effect your buying decision.
The most important difference, however, is obviously reliability. Everyone will claim that they have great reliability, and you won’t find a real review of any of the guns either in print or online that says “I tried this gun and it didn’t work.” But not all guns work all the time in every instance, and understanding when and how a gun can be relied upon is extremely important, more important than all of those other factors combined. I want to be able to pick up my carry gun and expect it to fire every time with every ammunition if possible, and cycle correctly, chambering the next round to fire as reliably as the last.
With ultra-compact, or Micro-9mm pistols, reliability is particularly a huge factor. That size of pistol has traditionally been constructed to handle the .380ACP cartridge, and forcing it to handle the much more potent 9mm, or even .40S&W is a not a feat for the faint of heart. 9mm kicks much harder. The rounds are bigger and longer, and the barrel thicker. Yet “thin” is in when it comes to pocket pistols, so that means the parts have to be smaller. In many cases the Micro-9mm is smaller than any gun the company has ever made, even a .380. Add to this that many of the people making these Micro-9mm pistols have never made a small gun before at all, at least not that small, and you realize that the gun you buy to protect your life is actually just the realization of an engineer’s drawings that so far has worked, as far as you have heard. You may feel that this is true of most guns, but there is a huge difference between making a new model with variations on a gun you have been making for a while as opposed to a completely new gun with design challenges you have no experience dealing with at all.
I have been at the range on several occasions with someone who has purchased one of these Micro 9mm pistols as their first or sometimes second gun. Almost invariably they tell me that they have had serious problems with it, not chambering, not stripping the next round, failure to fire (because it didn’t come into battery), stovepipes (where the last round’s brass doesn’t make it out before the slide closes) and that kind of thing. This is common in several brands of Micro 9mm, not just one.
I generally first explain to them that those Micro-9mm guns can be very ammo dependent. Because of their small size, there is very little room for error with a Micro-9mm, so the springs are gauged for combat ammo, like Hornady Critical Defense. They don’t shoot cheap ammo very well. Some of the Micro-9mm guns even come with a list of recommended ammunition.
But what do people buy when they want to go take their significant other to go shooting for the afternoon? The cheapest stuff you can get, which is generally going to be either cheap surplus they bought online, some white box, or Wal-Mart steel-cased Tula ammo. When I ask them, “What are you shooting?”, they generally answer one of these things. I don’t know if they missed the memo on the suggested ammo, or they just forgot, or they never read the manual (always RTM), but they were on the verge of sending a gun in for service, completely ignorant that it was most likely working as promised.
GunsAmerica is of course a Hornady shop, and I nearly always have a 9mm pistol with me that I am testing, so I generally have plenty of Hornady Critical Defense with me. I offer them a handful of Hornady and they try it in their gun. Surprise, surprise, surprise! The gun works. And it usually works flawlessly. The Critical Defense makes a lot of smiling happy gun owners who now don’t need to send their gun in for service, but it always leaves me shaking my head. Not everyone can afford combat ammo, even to carry, and who knows if on the way to the range with your twelve bucks a box Tula you need your little 9mm to defend your life! You better get used to clearing jams and smacking the back of the slide before you try to fire every round if you don’t want to spend the money on real combat ammo. Your gun just isn’t going to shoot well without it.
I tried not only the 115 grain Critical Defense in the Walther PPS, but also Hornady TAP (124 gr. combat ammo), Hornady Steel Match (range/competition ammo), the white box Olin stuff, the Tula from Wal-mart, some old reloads I had, and some green box Remington, as well as a baggie of mixed leftovers from years past of all different manufacturers and bullet weights.
The PPS had not one failure to feed or fire.
Limp-wristing didn’t make it fail. My fire with two fingers test didn’t make it fail. I couldn’t make the gun fail no matter what I did. Short of putting 20,000 rounds through the PPS and seeing at what point if ever it breaks down, I have to say that the Walther PPS is the best Micro-9mm on the market, no exceptions.
Beyond that, the PPS is a high quality striker fired polymer pistol with an MSRP of $735. The street price is less, but this isn’t a $300 gun in any way, shape or form. It has a last round hold-open, interchangeable backstraps for different size hands, a nifty Walther ambidextrous magazine release that is part of the trigger guard (same as the PPQ and P99), loaded chamber and cocked indicators, three dot sights and a front rail. These are all features you would expect on a full size pistol, all standard in Walther’s Micro-9mm, the PPS.
My test gun came in 9mm with both 7 round and 8 round magazines, but the website says it only comes with the 7 round. For me, with short fat fingers, both of these mags made the PPS a three finger gun. They do make a 6 round as well, and that may be 2 fingers. The .40S&W version comes standard with a 6 round mag, and they make a 5 and 7 round.
The trigger pull on our test gun broke cleanly at a consistent 6 lb., with a bit of a scratchy take-up. If I have a complaint about the gun it is that the trigger could be a little smoother, both before the break and on the return for a reset, but it isn’t a huge complaint. The reset isn’t the .10 inch that the full size Walthers have, but it isn’t unreasonable either.
Unique to the PPS from what I can see is a unique new safety system from Walther called Quicksafe(tm). Instead of using a key or locking tool to make the gun unable to fire, you simply remove the backstrap and it can’t be fired. Both the normal and the extra large backstrap that come with the PPS have a pin in them that is used to activate this safety device. When you clip them back on, they disable the defeat switch, and the gun can again be fired. It is novel for sure, and a lot better than a little Allen wrench key you can lose. I don’t know if I would want it on a gun I rely upon. The magazine does protect the button that removes the backstrap, and the button is up and in the rear of the grip, not something you could or would bump by accident. But without carrying the gun for a long time I can’t say whether the safety mechanism would ever leave you unintentionally stranded with a disabled firearm. I wouldn’t suggest planning to fumble in the middle of the night with the backstrap however. That’s a bad plan right out of the gate.
A History of Engineering Expertise
Apparently the .40S&W model is the same 1.04″ thickness as the 9mm, which I think is amazing. Of all the manufacturers of these Micro-9mm pistols, (this would be a Micro-.40 even), Walther is one of the few with any history at all making small pistols. The PPK/S is somewhat ubiquitous as a pocket pistol and is thought of as the equivalent of the Smith & Wesson J-Frame for auto-pistols when it comes to small guns. Walther not only knows how to make small guns, they know how to make the next generation of small guns, and we have yet to see the limits of their ability to engineer a nearly flawless pistol.
If you are in the market for a Micro-9mm, or a Micro-.40 for that matter, and if you can afford it, buy the Walther. You will not regret it, and you may even make up the cost difference at the range, because you will have one of the few Micro pistols that can shoot the cheap stuff and go bang every time. The PPS from Walther is not just a winner, it’s actually the kind of gun you go home with, and once you have fiddled with it for a couple hours, you find yourself saying over and over to yourself, “Score!”