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New Wave Walther: Walther PPQ Review

by Patrick Sweeney   |  October 24th, 2011 10

One of the things Umarex did was make Walther a top-notch competitive air rifle maker again, but that’s a story for another time. Here we’re concerned with handguns.

When Umarex took over, the main bigbore pistol Walther had in the catalog was the P88. A high-cap 9mm, it was an entirely useful tool, but it was not something to be loved. It was heavy and bulky, and the trigger was not what American shooters wanted. The new team at Walther set about designing a replacement for the P88, and in 1997 the P99 was unveiled. While it was a great step forward, the feedback Walther received from we American shooters was pretty much the same: We didn’t like that trigger either. While one set of designers and engineers went to work on the trigger, the rest went to work on the exterior. In addition to giving the slide cleaner lines and a profusion of cocking serrations, they also improved the already good ergonomics of the grip.

The frame is your basic nearly indestructible polymer (and with a degree in chemistry, I can tell you that chemists obsess over things like abrasion resistance, solvent resistance and the ability to shrug off UV rays), while its surface has a very interesting texture applied. It is composed of a random pattern of raised crescents and dots. They do not rise high enough above the surface to be obtrusive, but when you grasp the frame, your hand gets locked to the surface of the polymer. On the back of the frame are replaceable backstraps, so you can modify the shape to your hand. I’m sure that you could even take a spare backstrap and experiment it to scrap, looking for the perfect shape for your hand. And when done, you can just get another one or two to replace it.

The magazines for the PPQ are those of the P99. Hey, they’re reliable, capacious and durable, and there are plenty of them to be had, so why go reinventing the wheel?

Little did I know, standing at the SHOT Show in Vegas this January looking at the two-story-tall banner with a photo of the PPQ on it, that I’d soon be visiting the plant where they were made.

In the interests of giving G&A readers the lowdown on this pistol, I ran the gauntlet of airport gropers and undertook the origami-like folding necessary to fit myself into airline seats for the trip to Ulm. There I visited the Walther plant, and my surprise upon walking in to the plant was twofold. One, I did not need the hearing protection I always carry along when visiting production facilities. The plant was not a library, but the machines were quiet enough that I did not need to shout to be heard. And the plant was so spacious, clean and well lit that they had potted trees growing in the aisles. No dark, smelly, cavernous and drafty place, the Walther plant is a space you’d want to work in even if you weren’t into guns. But the guys and gals working there are into guns.

I saw many interesting things on the trip, some of which I can’t tell you. Hey, Walther went to a lot of trouble to develop some of the tricks it uses to produce exemplary pistols. Why should I give its competitors a leg up? A few things I saw that I can tell you: Each CNC machine operator has a full set of gauges, and the blueprints posted, to make the part he’s working on. He doesn’t need to wait for an inspector to tell him afterward that his parts are in spec. He knows before he sends them on to the next guy.

One of the attributes of computer-controlled machining is that you can make parts to exacting precision and not have to hand-fit them. Well, Walther takes that a step further. I watched one of the assemblers, sitting at his bench with a bin of slides on one side and a bin of barrels on the other. He would snatch out a slide, grab a barrel and check for fit. If he didn’t like the way it would pop in and out of battery, he’d pull it out of the slide and set it on his bench. (He was careful to set barrels down ranked according to fits.) He’d try another, or a barrel off the bench, until he had one fitting the way he liked. Then he’d put that assembled slide and barrel on a frame and check striker movement with a special gauge. After adjusting things, he’d then cycle and dry-fire it until it felt “proper.” Then, and only then, would it go into the “done” rack.

With a PPQ you get the benefits of old-school and the digital age combined—computer-machining and hand-fitting.
The slide, frame and barrel are all serial-numbered. How can he build a PPQ, then? Simple: The serial number isn’t applied until after everything has gone together. You see, the steel’s so hard, it would rapidly destroy any marking dies, so the markings all have to be laser-cut. The proofhouse of Ulm is cool with that, and there’s a full-time inspector in the Walther plant to keep an eye on things. Tradition cannot be denied, however, and the polymer frame of each pistol is stamped with the appropriate proofmark.

In addition to being inspected and proof-fired, each Walther pistol is test-fired for accuracy and zero, and each target is packed with its pistol.

After viewing the plant and seeing the pistols being made, I then had some time to spend on the indoor range using a computer-scored targeting system the cost of which I really didn’t want to inquire about. (If it wasn’t ferociously expensive, I’d probably want one for Gun Abuse Central.)

All fun times come to an end, and with a sigh I had to leave Bavaria and head home to wait for the arrival of the test PPQs being sent to me. When they did arrive, I had a thought and asked the Walther plant when they had been made. In an interesting twist, they had been assembled the very day I was standing there in Vegas, admiring the huge Walther poster. Funny how life works. I was curious to see if the ones sent to me were as good as the ones I had seen being built—and that I’d fired—in Ulm. In a word, yes.

The big change Walther made, the one you are most likely to notice right away, is the trigger. Oh, you’ll most likely get a warm, fuzzy feeling when you pick it up, as the frame shape has been tested, sculpted, altered and adjusted to be as comfortable as Walther can make it. But the trigger is the big thing. You see, unlike previous Walthers, the PPQ has a relatively light (just under five pounds), crisp trigger with a very short reset.

Now, I’ve spent a whole lot of time shooting revolvers, and short reset for me is not a big deal. I suspect that, at speed, my trigger finger slaps against the inside front of the triggerguard on reset. But if you want to slow down a smidge and make precise shots, a short reset is very advantageous.

Combine a short reset with a light, crisp trigger; package it inside a hand-filling frame that doesn’t slip; add a hand-fitted barrel; and you get a pistol that’s easy to shoot. The weight is nice, while not being excessive. After all, a 9mm pistol that holds 15+1 and tips the scales at just under 25 ounces isn’t exactly an anvil. Yet it is soft in recoil. I had to dip into the ammo locker and come up with some +P+ before I felt I was actually working—recoil was that soft.

The PPQ is also available in .40 S&W for those who feel that the 9mm isn’t manly enough. There you’ll be able to find some ammo that will smack your hands when you touch them off, but they’ll still feel softer in the PPQ than they will in a whole host of other pistols.

Accuracy is everything you’d want in a high-cap 9mm. The magazines are solid, dependable and—since they’re the same ones used in the P99—easy to find. Changing the backstraps is easy, as is disassembly. The backstraps not only change the shape and size of the frame, they have a slot at the back. Combined with the retention pin, the slot acts as a lanyard loop, so you can attach your sidearm to your person, if you wish.

Takedown is simple: The ridged block above the triggerguard opening is the key. Unload, dry fire, pull the block down, and the barrel, slide and recoil-spring assembly come off the front in one piece. The recoil spring is a self-contained unit, and the barrel is a cam-lug Browning drop-tilt design. And such barrels!

The PPQ barrel is so well made, I really wish there were some way to fit it to other pistols. Walther starts with a bar of steel, then machines it to a precise cylinder. It gets drilled, reamed, honed, then button-rifled. Once rifled, it goes into a CNC profiler that carves the exterior to barrel shape. Then the hood is induction hardened, the barrels are bead-blasted clean, and it gets hardened again in a nitride process that gives it an inside-and-out super-hard and corrosion-resistant finish. This means the surface is hard, and the load-bearing portions of it are heat-treated to withstand many rounds of ammo. I was gratified to see the labor that went into it and more than a bit jealous that I couldn’t have something like that on other pistols.

There is only one fly in the ointment, and that’s the magazine release. The mag catch is worked by means of a pair of paddles that straddle the triggerguard. To release the magazine, you press down on either one, and through a very clever lever system, the magazine catch is withdrawn from its notch in the magazine tube. My only problem with this is that my grip—decades in the making—is so high and hard on the gun that neither my thumb nor my trigger finger can easily push the paddles down. My second finger is riding up so high and tight that it refuses to allow the paddles to easily move. Sigh. This is such a great pistol, and my own hands make it difficult for me to manipulate it.

For those of you who have not built such ingrained habits, the Walther mag catch system will be easy to learn. As for me, if there were some way to get a PPQ with a mag button where my thumb expects it to be, well, Walther would already have my check.

The PPQ—particularly in 9mm—is soft in terms of recoil and very easy to shoot.

  • XR1200X

    I think this is by far the best striker fired handgun on the market. I am not a fan of glock ergonomics but am a fan of reliability. So I had a decision between the FNS from FNH another amazing polymer pistol, and the PPQ. I got the wife the FNS 9 and the PPQ for myself and between the two hand over fist better than any other polymer I have ever fired. The PPQ and FNS perform as well or better than any modified glock I have ever shot. Being military I wish we had some smarter Armorers that understand you don't need a slide safety, although the FNS has this as the m9' exposed barrel is horrible in adverse conditions. I would stake my life on a Walther or FNH long before any other weapon besides the 1911 of course but the ones doing the work never get a say on the tools I guess.

  • M. Hutchinsion

    Out of all the 9mm I own and have shot in the past, I must say I like the PPQ the best. Walther definitely got it right this time. It has the recoil of a heavy .380….it is incredible. I dare say my .22 pistol has the same soft recoil. Accuracy is great. I placed night sights on this gun as I do all my handguns. That did two things. Got rid of the polymer sights…yes unfortunately just like Glock, the Walther PPQ uses polymer sights. That would be it's only fault. Placement of the magazine release horizontal to the lower trigger guard makes reloading magazines actually more quick once you start using your middle finger, yes…give it the bird, by pushing down on the ambidextrous magazine release. It requires less pressure and you'll have a faster mag change time. Back to accuracy. This gun at 25 yards standing on a range, no bags for stability, and I was putting rounds through the same holes. First shot takes out the 10 in the chest every time cold. It's wonderful. The .40 cal in recoil is just slightly more. Although it is a wonder in 9mm. When I first bought it I was considering the small framed Glock 18. For the $49 I spent extra to get the Walther, looking back I would have paid $100 more. Now that I have shot both guns side by side, it was the right thing to do, considering they are roughly the same size. Compared to the new FNX 9mm it is wonderful as well. The FN is a kicker and all over the place compared to the Walther. It's done too cheaply. And just like the Glock's Gen 4 prickly grip it's just uncomfortable to shoot. Compared to the near effortless Walther. The Walther PPQ is a dream for anyone who is considering a new 9mm. Simple enough to do all the work on it yourself, easy to break down and fully field strip clean in seconds and takes a ton of punishment. Great for CCW with a loose shirt as well. With the new ammo available like the Hornady Critical Duty and Defense rounds or the Federal Guarddog ammo, you need not worry about not enough knock down power and the Critical Duty rounds area an excellent choice regardless of caliber you may choose to carry. They meet all the FBI standards. I'm using both the Hornady and Federal rounds for Home Defense and Conceal Carry. Starting Nov. 2012 if you live in OK and have Personal Defense License (CCW) every where else we will have the right to carry in the open. But I suggest you be careful with that as well. All the same rules apply if not more. Just won't need to worry about imprinting. The Walther PPQ, is not an overly intimidating looking gun. It is sexy as far as guns look and God forbid you do get into that confrontation where your life is threatened or that of other's then the short reset on the trigger will give you the advantage. You not only can feel the reset which is just a couple of millimeter's, you can hear it as well.

  • Matt McKinney

    I quite like the idea of the trigger guard mag release, as it would solve the problem of unintentionally releasing the magazine during IWB carry, as I so often do with my Beretta Storm.

  • Lance

    I got ahold of a new in box PP QA and when I think about the proverbial question, if I could only have one gun which one would it be? This may be the one! Low recoil, great accuracy and it shot a variety of ammo without a hitch! I'm SOLD.

  • Chuck Ross

    I just bought my new in the box PPQ 9mm and I have found that this is one of the best handguns that I have had the honor to put in my hand. It fit like a glove and it was perfect out of the box. Triger pull was the best I have It far exceeds the Glock 19 that I have and put the Glock up on the shelf.

  • inspector.

    It seems that, Walther could capture the importance of "Human Factor" just one and half decades later. PPQ
    is a one third fraction of P99, it is cheaper, simpler and not safer than its derivation. It is , also, not safer than
    the main rival at plastics handgun category with its automatic trigger safety blocking directly the sear, but
    not the trigger.

    PPQ also prooves that, feeling of quality and handling is more important than what offered inside.

  • Proud Owner

    I own a PPQ 40 and love it.
    I just wanted to mention some fun stuff.
    I like the Mag release better than the button type, to me it seems more natural to use. And the magazine flies out!
    I use Frog Lube CLP on it. How is that fun?….it's non-toxic and biodegradable. It doesn't stink up the house or kill brain cells. It smells like mint and works exceptionally. So, to me cleaning time is kind of fun.
    It made all the moving parts work even better than new. It also made it look better, like a darker shade of black.
    The PPQ reset is so quick that you can rapid fire by just kinf of pulse squeezing the grip. A little bit crazy but if you get good at it , man, spooky.
    Here's a fun thing ; I can do everything with one hand.
    I know that's a funny thing to say but I practiced a lot and it's fun to do in pitch dark.
    I mean I can field strip, reassemble the pistol & magazine (my keys to poke in the mag spring), load, unload and rack, all in one hand, left or right. I can rack it holding it out in one hand and not touching anything. I can also do this and shoot it using either hand.
    I did mention I loved my gun right? Well that's how much I love it, I keep fooling around and getting more familiar with it. I feel this pistol helps me shoot better, or it has increased my skill.
    I'm pretty good with it now after owning it since 9-12. I can't imagine how well a professional like a cop or military guy would do with it. I get looks from my friends and family that shoot it…..You may know that look of "I wish I would have bought one of those instead of this" look. All liked it and no one didn't. Get one and see…. Resistance is futile.
    Right now I'm looking to purchase a 45 but can't seem "pull the trigger" so to speak, because I cant find one that compares to the PPQ. Closest to it being the S&W M&P. Walthers!……Make a 45 Please!

    • Chip

      Right you are. The Walther PPQ is the most solid decision I've ever made. I wanted a home defense gun that my wife could use as well. I was just about to plop down $ for a .40 caliber Ruger when the guy at the gun shop pulled the PPQ out. It was a 9mm the only one left. I was initially looking for a 40 but the way the gun felt in hand was incredible, the grip just melted into my hand. Also liked lack of safety features to get in my way when the cold be crucial. Looking into a 45 as well, so far I think I like the Glock 30s the best.

  • holdeninpdx

    Hmmmm…I might just parlay my P5 into one and finally get into the polymer generation!

  • Brandee

    Care to share the flash light model you have mounted?

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