At first glance you might say ho-hum a couple of polymer striker pistols from Walther, but some industrial strength 21st Century engineering went into both the PPQ and the P99. They are two very different pistols for two very different schools of thought when it comes to handgun training.
If you have ever dropped your mag while drawing your pistol because you whacked the mag button on you or your holster, you will appreciate the new design from Walther. You do have to alter your grip a bit to drop the mag, but at least you won’t do it by accident.
If you believe in the traditional Glock-style polymer striker-fired pistol philosophy but you are looking for a more 21st Century inspired gun, the PPQ is one of the best in class, and Walther has not leveraged the brand as they could have to command a higher price. The PPQ is price competitive to all the guns in its class.
The PPQ ate everything I fed it, including inexpensive steel-case ammo. I shot it best with this Hornady 124gr. TAP ammo.
The Walther PPQ breaks at just over 5 lbs. consistently. It has no tendency to stack up, and the reset is so minimal it can’t really even be measured. Most important, the reset and the trigger pull are intuitive and annunciated very well, better than most if not all.
Our 9mm test gun came with an extra 15 round mag (17 round available from S&W), interchangeable backstraps, and something you don’t see often, extra front blades to match your sight picture with point of impact. Nice touch Walther!
The Walther P99AS is a truly unique striker-pistol. If you have trained your whole life with a double action/single action pistol, the P99 is a 21st Century update to this approach, and if you don’t believe in the Glock methodology (I hope I’m not being too transparent here), the P99 should be your choice. If you carry a gun every day for self defense or duty, the P99 is in my humble (ok, ok, I know) opinion one of best choices in the market.
The Walther P99 AS is very close in function to the classic Smith & Wesson 659 (this is a target model). But instead of having to deal with a lever that sticks out and has to be moved up and down, the P99 is a simple button, that is effectively ambidextrous, and that only requires one motion to decock.
The single action pull on the P99 has nearly the same feel as the long PPQ when it breaks, but the takeup is significantly lighter, as it would be with a DA/SA pistol. The full double action pull is extremely smooth and breaks about about 16 lbs.
The P99 shot to point of aim right out of the box with Hornady Critical Defense, and I was able to walk the groups around the targets with all the ammo types I tested. It had no failures to feed or fire regardless of my methods to try to make it fail.
At first glance you would think the Walther P99 and PPQ are the same gun, but when you look closer, the only things they really have in common are the way they fire (with a striker), their basic profile, and their weight, 1 lb., 8.3oz. The rest is different.
If your inclination is “Yawwwwwn” when you see a review of a modern polymer striker fired pistol, you aren’t alone. All but a few go bang every time, feel great in your hand, and don’t seem to break ever. They even mostly look the same. But there are differences, even major differences, and PPQ and P99 are two guns that deserve a hard look. Most of us think of Walther as an old time manufacturer of WWI and WWII pistols, and for the current PPK/PPKS, but both the PPQ and P99 are standouts in the polymer pistol world and should be taken very seriously.
The P99 is a totally unique pistol in the striker-fired world, and if given a chance by police armorers, could take a lot of law enforcement sales away from other brands. The PPQ will eat your Glock for breakfast at an MSRP of $729 and street price under $600. I was so impressed with both guns that I decided to put them in one article together in hopes that people would read about them both, rather than have to click two articles. Elite is the word that came to mind, and both pistols are truly elite in the handgun world.
Both the PPQ and P99 employ a unique Walther ambidextrous magazine release that is a part of the trigger guard. It is a little hard to get used to, but once I did, I liked it. The downside to it is that you have to alter your grip on the gun to drop the mag (or have really long thumbs), but the upside is that you won’t accidentally drop the mag in a gunfight because you whacked the button, or because the bad guy pulled a Jackie Chan and dropped it for you. I have accidentally pushed mag buttons my whole life so for me it was a welcome improvement.
The other features they share are an effective three dot sight, with a windage adjustable rear (nice feature), a standard 15 round magazine (17 available from Smith & Wesson), and loaded chamber indicators on the side of the gun. They both have interchangeable backstraps for different size hands, a front rail, and both come in a 9mm and .40S&W configuration.
The Walther PPQ
Since I already spilled the beans about the unique status of the P99, I’ll start with the PPQ. It is a straight shot Glock alternative and in my opinion a better gun. You may remember from SHOT Show that I was impressed with the 1/10th inch reset on the PPQ. Walther calls this the QDT, or “Quick Defense Trigger.” If you are unfamiliar with what a small reset means, think of a double action revolver. After you fire it, your finger has to travel all the way forward to catch the hammer for the next shot. This reduces your reaction time in between shots. A revolver is the extreme example of a long reset.
The flip side is a 1911 style pistol, that always fires single action. The reset is very short, almost none and almost feels like there is no reset at all. This means there is very little “let up” required to have your finger ready for the next shot. I won’t get into the advantages and disadvantages of a single action 1911, but take from it the challenge in a striker fired pistol. How do you provide both an even and steady long pull with enough resistance to prevent accidental discharges, with a tiny and easy to use short reset?
Walther’s answer to this is to cock the gun all the way when you rack the slide. The pull of the trigger does not finish cocking the gun as it does with a Glock. This results in a reset that is probably less than 1/10th of an inch. It is so short you can’t measure it.
This begs the question, “is such a system safe, for the first shot as well as for the short reset subsequent shots?” The answer is “yes” on both counts. Like most other striker fired pistols, there is no drop safety on the PPQ. The safeties built into the first shot are the little lever on the trigger, internal “dropped gun” safeties, and the long resistive pull that it takes to fire when the gun is cocked and the trigger allowed to return all the way forward. In the PPQ, the hammer is all the way cocked as I said, but you would never know it from the initial trigger pull. It has its own resistance applied, about 3.5-4 lbs. of it, before you reach the very distinguishable “wall” that breaks that trigger at just over 5 lbs of pressure.
For subsequent shots, as soon as you let up the trigger at all, even the tiniest amount you are able to creep your finger forward, the PPQ produces an audible click, and your finger feels that breaking “wall” again, at the same 5lbs and a few ounces. I dug through my safe and tried a number of other striker fired pistols from various manufacturers, and none are as short or as annunciated ( both audible and tactile), as the PPQ and P99 (they are the same). Whether you agree with the striker fired polymer pistol philosophy of safety is beyond the scope of this article (well actually, see below in the P99), but if you do, the PPQ is as safe or safer than any other pistol in its class, with flawless function, nextgen ergonomics, and a great price.
Unique to the PPQ is a textured grip system that Walther calls a “Cross Directional Textured Tactical Grip(tm).” It is a mouthful I know, but the grip on the PPQ is surprisingly different. It grabs your hand better than standard ridging, but isn’t abrasive like the skateboard tape feel of many extremely aggressive grip surfaces. The PPQ also has both front and rear slide serrations, and the one thing it lacks that you might expect is a cocked indicator in the rear. I was not able to test this gun in my Ransom Rest because they don’t make the panels for it yet, but in casual shooting at 10 yards I was able to easily keep it in a few inches, similar to other guns I have tested in this class in casual shooting from a bag.
The Walther P99 AS
Preventing an accidental discharge in or after a gunfight should be as important to you as the performance of the handgun itself. Most accidental discharges I have seen over the years have come from re-holstering the weapon. In the midst of severe tunnel vision that is almost guaranteed in advanced confrontation or an actual gunfight, the individual habitually attempts to holster the weapon without thinking and does not pull out his or her finger from the trigger guard. The finger catches on the holster as the weapon is pushed in and bang, you’ve shot yourself in the leg.
The P99 is from what I have seen the only striker fired polymer pistol with a “decocker.” To understand what this is, especially if you have come from a standard Glock way of thinking, go to a range with rental guns and try a Sig 226, or a Beretta 92, or this Smith & Wesson 659 I have included in the pictures. These guns are all called “double action/single action” (DA/SA) and have an exposed hammer with what is called a “decocker.” The decocker lever allows you to rack the slide to put a round in the chamber then drop the hammer safely without ever having to press the trigger at all. Your first shot is “double action,” which is heavier than single action and thus easier to not shoot someone by accident, including yourself. The subsequent shots are then “single action,” where the hammer is already back from the rearward travel of the slide and you only have to reset the trigger. I explained reset in the section on the PPQ, and it is the single action pull of the P99 that has that almost impossible short reset of the PPQ.
Training for this decock movement before you reholster the firearm has been part of the police, security guard, and concealed carry regimen for decades. Like driving a car, you just do it. Training for a decock with the P99 is the same way, but the P99 is a 21st Century alternative. There are no giant ears on the sides of the gun to catch on things. The decocker is integral to the frame. The trigger pull is not scratchy and doesn’t have a tendency to stack up depending on where you put your finger like a lot of DA/SA guns. It is butter smooth and extremely consistent at about 11 lbs.
The second shot is much the same as it is with a traditional hammer fired double DA/SA pistol, except that it has that almost impossibly short reset as seen on the PPQ. The audible and tactile annunciation of the reset is the same as the PPQ. The major difference is that if you let your finger all the way forward and don’t decock the P99, the subsequent long pull does not have the resistance of the PPQ. It is less than 2.5 lbs. You would train to decock the P99 as soon as the current threat has ended regardless.
The model we are talking about here is the AS version. There is also a double action only version, though I have not tried it. It would lack the decocker. Double action only versions of pistols are meant to mimic the function of a double action only revolver, which is required by many security firms. A double action only gun removes the ability to cock the gun to intimidate someone, as in click, click, “go ahead, make my day. ” It will only fire from a long, full trigger pull.
The P99 does have a cocked indicator in the rear, and it doesn’t have the front slide serrations like the PPQ. Some people train to hold the front of the slide to rack a failure to fire, but I don’t think this gun will ever fail to fire, except in the case of a hard primer. For that, the P99 is one of very few striker fired guns with a “second strike” capability. You can pull the trigger a second time and the striker will hit the primer again. Like the PPQ, the P99 seems as accurate as any other gun in its class I have fired. The MSRP on the P99 is $679 and the street price is significantly less. Walther is also shipping a compact of this model, though I have not seen one in person yet.
Both guns shot every type of ammunition I put through them, including the steel case Hornady Steel Match. They don’t bend brass on you, and the extractors show no signs on the case head. I know it gets tiring to hear over and over again, but neither gun failed to fire no matter how much I limp wristed them. If you are just researching for an alternative to the ubiquitous and tiresome Glock, or you are a serious professional looking to outfit a police force or security company, I would take a look at the Walthers. They are an elite class of firearm for a price competitive with lesser-guns, and the P99 is completely unique. Plastic pistols may all look the same, but don’t underestimate the Walthers.