In the 1997 film “Tomorrow Never Dies,” James Bond ditched his trademark Walther PPK for the new Walther P99. While there’s nothing wrong with the PPK (especially in the capable hands of an agent like 007), it’s befuddling that the master of high-tech gadgetry was seemingly the last on the block to update his carry pistol. In any event, the crime-fighting Casanova clearly went through women faster than he went through pistols.
The P99 was released in 1997 as a law enforcement sidearm and enjoyed moderate success, being the issued duty pistol of police agencies in Europe, Asia and North America. The full-size P99 was available in 9mm, with an ammunition capacity of 15 rounds, and the .40 S&W version held 12 rounds.
Although the P99 earned a reputation as being ergonomic, reliable and accurate, it is rather large for deep carry. This may explain why Bond went back to the PPK in 2012’s Skyfall. Frankly, based on his reputation, I’m surprised 007 failed to notice the P99’s younger, more sleekly-built sister, the P99c AS. The “c” stands for compact and the “AS” stands for “Anti-Stress” because, let’s face it, we all have plenty of drama.
Like the P99, the P99c AS is a striker-fired polymer pistol loaded with features distinguishing it from other pistols in its class. Even a passing glance will reveal several unique characteristics that enhance both form and function. Perhaps most apparent is the unusually placed decocker situated on the upper left portion of the slide.
Decockers are historically associated with hammer-fired pistols, as they enable the shooter to safely drop the hammer once cocked. So why would the striker-fired P99c AS have a decocker?
Unlike the vast majority of striker-fired semiautos, the P99c AS’s firing pin is under tension even when the trigger is completely forward. Pressing the decocker transitions the trigger from the default Anti-Stress mode to a traditional double-action mode. The trigger on the P99c AS actually has three modes. Here’s how they work.
When you load the pistol, the trigger is in AS mode. Although the trigger is completely forward, it is under virtually no tension initially. After the trigger travels about 1/2 inch, there is an audible click, as with a two-stage trigger on a rifle. Then, approximately 5 pounds of pressure on the trigger fires the pistol. The slide is cycled and the trigger returns to the position where the second stage of the AS trigger pull began. The pistol is now in single action mode, with a trigger pull weight identical to the AS mode.
The AS trigger pull can be bypassed simply by pressing the decocker, which produces an audible click. This results in a double-action trigger pull, requiring approximately 11 pounds of pressure for the shot to break. Subsequent rounds will be in single-action mode. In other words, when you bypass the AS feature, the P99c AS functions as a traditional DA/SA pistol. Conversely, to transition from DA mode to AS mode, pull the slide back about 1/2 inch and release.
For consistency, AS mode requires the same length of trigger pull as DA mode. The two-stage function of AS mode potentially lessons the likelihood of an unintended discharge of the pistol. For an inexperienced shooter, this feature (or simply carrying the pistol in DA mode, where the trigger pull is more than twice as heavy as AS or SA mode) may be preferred. However, experienced shooters know that unintended discharges of a firearm occur when your finger is on the trigger when it’s not supposed to be. Trigger pull weight is virtually a non-issue.
Getting to the trigger is simple, even for a heavily gloved finger, thanks to the oversized triggerguard. Wearing gloves is a given in certain parts of the country (and world), and a carry pistol should account for this.
The P99c AS’s striker status indicator is an interesting feature. The red tip of the striker extends through the slide end cap when the pistol is cocked. The protruding striker is easily seen and can even be felt. The pistol is also equipped with a loaded chamber indicator on the right side of the slide. When a round is chambered, a red mark is revealed below the rear of the extractor.
The slide stop is serrated and extends beyond the frame. The slide stop is easily manipulated with a right-handed shooter’s right thumb or, as I prefer, with the left thumb. After inserting a magazine, my left thumb naturally acquires the slide stop for a more intuitive reload.
Like many other Walther models, the P99c AS’s magazine is released by depressing a lever on either side of the bottom aft portion of the triggerguard. The obvious advantage is that the magazine release is ambidextrous.
The P99c AS feels good in the hand thanks to the beavertail-contoured backstrap, serrated and grooved front strap and knurled grip. Although the texture is relatively non-aggressive, it provides just enough traction. With the flush fit magazine, there’s no room for my little finger, but with the supplied extended grip magazine, I’m able to obtain a rock solid, three-fingered grip.
The backstrap is interchangeable. The pistol comes wearing the large backstrap, but for smaller hands the small backstrap is a better option. It is easily swapped by simply pushing out a single pin.
The steel slide on the P99c AS is bulky compared to the sleek polymer frame. The slide is quite tall, making for a relatively high bore axis for a striker-fired pistol. The accessory rail facilitates the mounting of a light, laser, or combination thereof.
The sights on the P99c AS are the standard three-dot design. The sights are replaceable, and the rear sight is adjustable for windage. The rear sight notch is rather wide, which can be good or bad, depending on the task at hand. While the wider notch is less than optimal for precision, it allows the shooter to quickly align the sights to an acceptable level of accuracy. For a defensive pistol, I prefer a wider notch.
Fieldstripping the P99c AS is a simple process. With your unloaded pistol pointed in a safe direction, press the decocker. Then pull the slide slightly rearward until the takedown catch is centered with the notch in the slide below the “P99c” marking. Press down on both sides of the takedown catch and move the slide forward until it detaches from the frame. At that point, the recoil guide rod assembly and barrel are easily removed.
A fan of Walther pistols and particularly their triggers, I was anxious to put some rounds downrange. To evaluate the P99c AS’ accuracy, I bellied up to the metal bench and took aim at a target posted 25 yards away. For a compact pistol designed for concealed carry, the Walther P99c AS proved plenty accurate during slow fire using a sandbag rest.
First up was Fiocchi 115-grain FMJ, which proved to be the most accurate round tested. The average of four, 5-shot groups was just 2.84 inches. Fiocchi turned out the only sub-three inch group average of the day.
Next was Black Hills 115-grain FMJ. The average group size produced with Black Hills was nearly an inch wider than with Fiocchi, at 3¾ inches.
HPR 124-grain FMJ ammunition printed an average group size of 3.58 inches.
Hornady’s 135-grain Critical Duty load performed nearly identically to the Black Hills 115-grain FMJ, producing an average group size of 3.74 inches.
Although the recoil was by no means intolerable, I found myself adjusting my grip higher on the backstrap a few times after it would slide down during recoil.
Accuracy testing complete, I fired several rounds offhand at a target posted 10 yards away. This is where the P99c AS really shined. I was able to fire rapid strings that produced fist-sized groups on the target. Had those rounds been directed at an enemy of the state, any top secret information he had acquired that would threaten the security of the United States would have gone to the grave with him.
The Walther P99c AS is a well-thought out, shooter-friendly carry pistol with curves that could turn the head of even the world’s most discriminating secret agent. But don’t be fooled: the P99c AS is more than just a pretty face. The AS trigger feature and ergonomic design contribute to its distinguished character. Its accuracy, concealability and reliability make the P99c AS a viable concealed-carry option from “The oldest name in personal protection.”