Guns & Ammo Network

Collapse bottom bar
Ammo Handgun Ammo Personal Defense

Thin Is In – The Walther PPS

by Patrick Sweeney   |  September 21st, 2007 12

Walther, in concert with S&W, has produced a sleek, slick and stylish 9mm that may redefine the way we think about “pocket pistols.” Meet the Walther PPS.

Left isde view of Walther PPS 9mmThe Duchess of Windsor is noted as having said “One cannot be too rich or too thin.” I’m not sure she could have foreseen today’s world, where rail-thin supermodels charge a hundred grand for a photo shoot while wearing less cloth than the Duchess would have had in an embroidered hanky. While the rich part doesn’t apply to us, the thin part does when it comes to a carry gun. In fact, a daily concealed carry handgun cannot be too thin, too light, too compact or too easy to shoot.

Walther–in cooperation with S&W–now has a lock on this category. The advertising campaign for the new PPS is “Think thin.” The idea was to make a 9mm pistol that wasn’t any larger than the PPK/S and also make it as thin as possible. Well, they have a home run here. My initial reaction upon seeing the PPS was “Man, that’s not a pretty gun.”

I guess I’ve spent too much time with polished steel and walnut. I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to pick it up, as I figured such a small gun was going to be a hassle in my large-ish hands. Boy, was I wrong. Kudos to the ergonomics engineer who came up with the grip. It looks squarish and blocky but isn’t. It looks like recoil will hammer the web of your hand, but it doesn’t. It sure does look German.

The magazines come in three sizes, with the smallest holding only six rounds of 9mm or five of .40 and making the grip so short my pinky finger has no place to rest. The next size up has a finger rest, and it works nicely, while the longest magazine makes the gun so comfortable to handle that it would be my only choice.

Well, that and it holds eight rounds of 9mm. How good is the grip? My wife stands all of 5’3,” and for her a whole lot of handguns are just too big. She wrapped her hand around the PPS, got a smile on her face and asked, “How much is this?” (No, my checkbook did not quake in terror.)

In being thin, the PPS is far ahead of other pistols. You give up some capacity to get that thinness, but after carrying a gun all day you may come to question the wisdom of a hi-cap magazine. How thin? How about 1.04 inches? My standard “grab and look” comparison of grips is the 1911. As the smallest large-bore pistol in the grip area, it has a very good caliber-to-grip ratio. When I grab a 1911 I usually end up with the end of my thumb at the first knuckle of my second finger.

Walther PPS pistol stripped detailWith hi-caps of any caliber, I can’t get my thumb that far onto the second finger. On the PPS my thumb is significantly forward of where it is on a 1911. Combined with the interchangeable backstrap, you can alter the grip diameter and angle for your own hands.

Me, I preferred the larger one, while my wife liked the smallest. The only pistols I recall handling with a smaller grip are the old Colt Model M pistols and the Browning .32 and .380s with enclosed hammers. Those are flat and easy to pack, but they are not 9mm Parabellums. The PPS comes closer than any to the Colt M size, and you’ve got a much better chambering than they ever had. At 21.4 ounces on my postal scale, it isn’t the lightest subcompact available, but for the size I can put up with a couple of ounces of extra weight.

TYPE: Semiauto, double-action only
CALIBER: 9mm, .40 S&W
CAPACITY: 8 (9mm)
BARREL LENGTH: 3.2 inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 6.3 inches
WEIGHT: 21.4 ounces
SIGHTS: Fixed three-dot combat
STOCKS: Polymer
PRICE: $662

I was really curious about how much velocity I’d get out of such a short barrel. It being 3.2 inches in length (chamber included!), you’ve got to figure it won’t give you much in the way of speed. Wrong. I compared it to my Novak Hi-Power with its Bar-Sto barrel, which is the fastest 9mm barrel I have in the safe. At 4 3/4 inches for the BHP, I figured I could really make things tough on the little PPS. Wrong again. In the 115 to 124 bullet weights, the smallest difference was 46 feet per second, with the greatest being 94 fps. Give up 94 fps to gain the compactness of the PPS? Is that a trick question? In the heavyweights, the smallest difference was 22 fps and the largest 38. Even the Remington +P Golden Saber load was not objectionable to shoot.

Walther PPS recoil springAs for accuracy, I sure hope the production guns are as good. Even if they are only close, they will be spectacular. Again, I was not anticipating a fun time. I mean, a two-inch barrel, a compact gun–what can it deliver? The crisp trigger made it fun to try, and the first few targets were very encouraging. I learned yet again the need for correct follow-through when using such a compact little blaster, but once I settled down I was able to shoot bragging groups.

I’m sure there’s someone reading this who will say to the guy next to them, “Four inches at 25 yards? He calls that accurate?” You bet I do, and that reader should get out more. If someone sent me a Bianchi gun, or something built for Camp Perry that only did four inches at 25 yards, I’d be outraged. But a pocket pistol that literally fits into the cargo pocket of my Woolrich trousers? Delivering four inches all the time? That is impressive.

The load that posted the first “I’ve got to take a picture of this” group was the Black Hills Red, a 115-grain JHP going just over 1,100 fps.  I then sat down and shot equal groups with three other loads. So this gun, anyway, isn’t some drama queen that insists on one and only one load to shoot well.

I wasn’t really looking forward to shooting it when I first had a chance at an industry function. I figured a compact little 9 was going to hurt me. Wrong again. For a compact little gun, it is a soft-shooting one, so much so that the others had to practically pry it out of my hands in order to slam the falling plate racks themselves. I immediately told S&W that I wanted one to test and, if at all possible, that very one. I was told that would be no problem.

I don’t know if the soft-shooting feel is due to the dual-spring recoil system or if some clever engineer with a CAD/CAM program looked into the angles of the locking parts and made some adjustments. Whatever the source, the result is a compact pistol that doesn’t thump like you’d expect. The PPS is rated for +P ammo, but they do warn you that its use will wear the pistol faster. S&W suggests not using +P+ ammunition in it, and I’d have to agree, but only on recoil grounds.

I don’t care how good a recoil spring or what the cam angles might be, you go shooting +P+ ammo out of a short little gun like this and bad things will happen. Maybe not now, or soon or for the rest of your life, but trying to use +P+ ammo in a short barrel like that will be noisy. With such a short slide, recoil will be violent. Your hand and shooting skills will pay the price.

The PPS is listed as being available in .40 S&W. I would think that would be too much of a good thing. Then again, my first sight of the PPS wasn’t too encouraging either. When those come in I will have to try them, just to see if the Germanic trickery in this one carried over to the .40s.

  • Redneck_fury

    whould you say this is better than the stupid no slide lock PPK

    • Bulldog

      If u know how to operate a weapon you would know you don't need a slide lock on the ppk. As a professional weapon expert I can tell you the ppk is a fantastic system that never jams. The new pps is basically the same system but in a bigger caliber. It is very accurate and fires true. Either weapon is top quality and will be a lot of fun.

      • gentaquatech

        I have a TPH, PPK, PP, and P99. Im very satisfied with my little babies!

      • James Sams

        A “professional weapons expert”? What exactly is that? People pay you to know a lot about weapons? Where do we sign up? Also, the PPK design, whether you are talking about the prewar German made guns, the postwar French made guns (marked as German made), or the American made guns have a fairly poor reputation design wise for general reliability comared with more modern designs.

  • Rogerpps

    I like my PPQ, its comfortable to shoot for a compact pistol. Its not my PPQ but its a great carry pistol

  • Tom Wozniak

    The .40 version does bite a bit with my large hands. I've switched to the flat backstrap to see if it helps. Any ideas for eliminating pain in the web of my hand? Otherwise great gun, good groups, no malfs ftf, fte. Groups need work on my part. 200 rounds with no problems.

  • John W Shultz

    I own a S&W/Walther SW99 in .45cal. I am a loyal diehard believer in 45cal for home/personal defense, and while there are many outstanding firearms manufacturers, I don't think a person can go far wrong using something jointly produced by S&W and Walther. I haven't really seen or read too much about this handgun, so I was curious what other owners/users had to say about their experiences with the SW99?

  • @Monderno

    One thing you can always say about Walther is that they get ergonomics right…

  • Tom Wozniak

    I bought the .40 version. I'm 6'3" and over 200 lbs; the maximum at a session is 50 rounds before the bones in my hand begin to hurt and tell me to stop. The newer groups in an outing are pretty good at 12 yds, they get larger with the second 25 rounds. Best of all my 5'3" wife shoots 50 plus rounds with no pain at all. Guess who likes my new PPS? It's really not mine anymore, she's adopted it. I think it's great for the groups she gets at 7 to 10 yds with the thing. I just wish it had a larger mag capacity.

  • Leadfoot

    I'm 6'4" and about 270 lbs, and I wasn't much interested in the 9mm, but I couldn't wait to get the .40, and I love it. The accuracy is amazing with my green laser, so I know the gun shoots great and any problems with accuracy will be with me. Suprisingly pleasant as far as recoil, too. I've also had a Walther P22 for a few years, and I swear I'll never get used to Walther's mag release!

  • Capt. Kev

    Just bought the 40 cal pps. I shot it after a long sssion with my xdm and it put a grin on my face. Accurate, low recoil, and just plain fun to shoot. I'll be getting the extended mag for the range, but the little 5 shot mag is perfect for CC. I'm really liking this one. She's my first Walther and now I get what all the rave reviews are about. Very impressed.

  • Terry Gizzmo

    Looks big for a small gun

back to top