Editor’s note: Usually when I go out to the range to break in a new gun, I have one example to work with. Unless I happen to own a few guns by one company (like my requisite gun-gear reviewer’s catalog of common GLOCKs), or I’m reviewing a gun that is made by multiple companies (like AR-15s, or 1911s), I don’t have much to compare a new gun to. That’s what makes this write-up different.
When we got the new .45 ACP PPQ in for review, I took it to the range. Jon Hodoway met me there with the rest of the guns in the Walther catalog. I’d shot the PPQ M2, and owned one for a while. It continues to be one of my favorite polymer pistols. But it was educational to see the entire line-up of Walther’s guns in one place, at the same time, and be able to shoot all of them.
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Walther may well be the most iconic pistol maker outside of America. James Bond saw to that. And then there was that whole WWII thing people keep yammering on about. That could have something to do with it. But the PPK and the P-38 are both distinctly European guns. They wear skinny jeans and drink beer you can’t see through. The care about soccer and some of them even release their magazines in ways that give John Browning indigestion. Un-American.
But if that’s what you think of when you think of Walther, you need to think again. The last decade has seen a new mine of guns that are as American as the Second Amendment itself.
But first, a detour:
Walther Time Line
- Until end of 1999 Walther is distributed by Interarms, Alexandria VA.
- 2000- 2002 Walther USA LLC Springfield MA.
- 2002-2012 Smith & Wesson acts as USA Distributor.
- 2006 Umarex USA created with Adam Blalock President.
- 2010 Umarex USA opens office in FT Smith, Ar for Air Rifles and .22 Colt Licensed Guns.
- 2012 CARL WALTHER Announces Formation of U.S. Based Walther Arms, Inc.
- 2013Walther Arms, Inc. begins operations in Fort Smith, Ar. Adam Blalock named President.
Meet the American Family
The Walther of today was established when Adam Blalock took the helm of the American division of the company. Prior to this, the company had always worked through an American importer to distribute their products in the States. With Blalock at the helm, Walther set out to prove that it could produce guns that were clearly made for Americans, and not just European imports.
Their first attempt to craft a gun to appeal to the American market was the Walther PPQ, a striker-fired polymer pistol in both 9mm and 40S&W. Some lessons are learned the hard way, and American discretionary spending (or the lack thereof) can be a great teacher. The first version of the PPQ was the M1, which is distinguished by the magazine release on the bottom of the trigger guard. You can guess how popular this was.
The PPQ M1 didn’t sell primarily because of the European design that allows the magazine to be released with the index finger. This ambidextrous method is an innovative idea, but most Americans are reluctant to relinquish the comfort of a thumb-release they have known their whole lives. In my opinion, this is a training hurdle that would have payoffs if jumped.
When sales slumped, the M1 was quickly modified, resulting in the M2 version. The new PPQ had a traditional thumb-release that could be changed to accommodate the left or right hand. Once the M2 hit the American market, some people began taking the German imports very seriously. And rightfully so.
Until recently, the manufacturing was all done in Germany, with sales and distribution handled out of Ft. Smith, Arkansas. This dynamic allowed Walther to keep its American focus sharp, leading to several line-extensions of the PPQ series. The 4” PPQ was joined by a 5” competition pistol, which incorporated lessons learned from the shooting sports: a fiber optic sight, and lighting-cuts to keep the longer slide the same weight as the original.
Responding to the popular trend of suppressed guns, Walther produced the Navy SD with a factory-installed threaded barrel. This same trend resulted in a 17-round (9mm.) magazine. The biggest feature that Walther brought to the game from the beginning was its world class trigger. The Walther trigger is a smooth, short pull of 5.6 pounds. That 5.6 feels more like 3.5. I don’t know how they make their triggers so good out of the box, every time, but their quality control is second to none. The introduction of the Walther trigger was a game-changer, and has forced every polymer gun-maker to respond.
Not resting on success, but rather continuing to respond to consumer demand, Walther brought out the PPQ .22 Rimfire. Contrary to what some caliber-elitists might have thought, this was not some toy made to look like its “Real Gun” counterpart, but a serious effort to bring the features that worked on the big gun down to the Rimfire.
This effort began with the 4” PPQ, and line extensions quickly followed with the 5” version and SD, sporting the threaded barrel. All of these guns took the same 12 round magazine, which allowed practice or training on the same platform and controls as the centerfire version of the pistol.
The Family that carries together
Throughout all this, the concealed carry crowd was not neglected, as the PPS (which I believe to be one of the best small centerfire pistols in the world) was already in production. The issue with this gun had always been the availability from the American distributor, which had a tendency to push their house brands while sitting on supplies of the PPS. That’s the nature of competition. With the agreement between Walther and the distributor expiring, the taps were finally opened up.
In my opinion, the PPS was always a good choice for concealed carry, and I still carry one as a backup gun on a regular basis. The general popularity of the PPS suffered due to the magazine release being on the trigger guard (those whacky Germans), and the availability of newer pistols from other brands that were smaller in size.
Walther aimed to address these issues with the CCP pistol, which features a soft coil system that allows some of the gas to be bled off to operate the cycling of the gun. The CCP is small, light and easy to conceal. With a street price of just over $400.00, it is also more than competitive with its counterparts in size, function and price.
The Big Brother
If you have any doubt about Walther’s commitment to America shooters, you should check out the latest Walther–the PPQ 45ACP. I have had one for a few weeks now, and there are no surprises when shooting it. The pistol has a great trigger, as I have come to expect from Walther, and it has operated with total reliability through every variation of ammunition I’ve fed it, maintaining a level of accuracy comparable to all others in its class.
This is a gun that the fans of Walther have been clamoring for on social media for years! I would put this gun up against any polymer pistol in 45 ACP ever made. I speak from experience, having owned most of the 45ACP guns out there: Glock, FN, S&W, Springfield, Sig Arms and H&K (In fact, I owned the first HK MK 23 SOCOM in the State I live in). You cannot go wrong by selecting the Walther PPQ 45ACP.
Treating you like family
One other item worthy of praise is Walther’s world class customer service department. When you call them, you speak to a live person (in the USA). I have had some of the worst customer service experiences from German gun companies, but never from Walther.
Glen runs the customer service and repair efforts by the Golden Rule, but with the addition of a sense of urgency. This means you get great service, quickly. I truly believe that all of his folks thoroughly enjoy their jobs, and that happiness shows in their efforts to please the customer. This one factor is enough, for me, to tip the scale if all other things are equal.
Lots have tried few have succeeded
What Adam and team have done has been attempted by many other companies. Most have found the learning curve of going to main stream America difficult and somewhat painful. Just ask Volkswagen. But Walther seems to have caught on. This isn’t a hard nut to crack. Americans will tell you exactly what they want, and they’ll show you exactly how much they’re willing to pay for it. The lesson for anyone else is simple. You can’t tell the Americans what they should want.
After you get past the placement of the magazine catch, there’s one clear American demand. We want diversity and options. And Walther’s got that down, too. I carry a single-action as my go-to gun for concealed carry. But the PPS is still in rotation as a back-up. Higginbotham, when he had the whole table full of guns to choose from, still went for the PPQ M2. It is all about options.
Speaking of options–when will we get our 9mm PPK? There are polymer framed 9mms that weigh half as much as the old steel-framed .380s. And there’s definitely a demand.
Read more–PPQ M2 45 ACP: https://www.gunsamerica.com/blog/walthers-first-45-the-ppq-m2-review/
Read more–The CCP: https://www.gunsamerica.com/blog/walther-ccp-new-gun-review/