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Walther PDP Match Steel Frame: Full Review

The performance-minded steel version of Walther's PDP handgun is here.

Walther PDP Match Steel Frame: Full Review
(Photo by Mark Fingar)

If you’ve been paying attention, you knew it was going to happen. Walther produced a number of different variants of the PPQ after it was introduced in 2011. The last two were the Q5 Match (2018) and Q4 Steel Frame (2020). Then, Walther reworked the PPQ into the PDP (2021), which became Guns & Ammo’s Handgun of the Year for 2021. So, it isn’t a surprise to me that a new steel-­frame was created for the PDP. Reviewed here is the Walther PDP Match Steel Frame, new for 2024, but Walther is also offering a near-identical version with a polymer frame.

This initial PDP Steel Frame model is a 5-­inch “longslide.” It was meant for competition. You can expect to see other steel-­framed PDP models more suitable for concealed carry soon. “PDP,” after all, stands for “Performance Duty Pistol.” The photos in the owner’s manual are of a smaller steel-­framed PDP, so the cat’s out of the bag.

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(Photo by Mark Fingar)

The PDP is Walther’s current flagship pistol. It has supplanted the Walther PPQ. Both are based on polymer-­frame, striker-­fired designs. While the PPQ had a great run, only the Q-series remains. Remember when the first PPQ had a paddle lever-­style magazine release? Well, the folks at Walther realized that if they wanted to sell pistols in America, they needed to have an American-­style button magazine release, which resulted in the PPQ M2. The continued advancing that mentality by developing its Performance Duty Texture, incorporating Glock-pattern sights, and standardizing an optics-­ready slide. The PDP Match is a longer variation of the duty-­size PDP, squarely aimed at the competition segment. The Steel Frame version sports a few bonus features not found on the polymer-­framed model.

The standard, full-­size PDP is fed by flush 17-­round magazines. The polymer-­frame version of the PDP Match includes one 18-­round magazine, which also has an aluminum basepad that supports proper seating with the aluminum magwell in place. The PDP Match Steel Frame model comes with one 18-­rounder and two 20-­round magazines.

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Once an optional accessory to the outgoing PPQ models, the PDP Match Steel Frame features Walther’s Dynamic Performance Trigger. It’s an aluminum, flat-face trigger with safety lever. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

When shooting a pistol in competition, size and weight are your friends. However, this is the opposite of what most people look for in a carry gun. The PDP Match Steel Frame is 8.4 inches long, 5.9 inches tall and feeds from either an 18- or 20-­round magazine. It’s also 1.4 inches wide at the bilateral slide release. The standard polymer-­frame 5-­inch PDP, with an empty mag inserted weighs just 26.9 ounces; the PDP Match Steel Frame, with magazine and the aluminum magazine well installed, weighs 42.7 ounces. That’s a difference of nearly a pound!

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The trigger return spring is similar to the part found in other PDP models, which ensures reliability. Despite the external appearance, the PDP shares several parts with the outgoing PPQ. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Putting the PPQ Behind Us

First, let me get this out of the way: We can’t talk about the Walther PDP without mentioning that it evolved from the PPQ. The PPQ was a great pistol. It proved reliable and, at the time of its introduction, it offered the best trigger pull of any striker-­fired, polymer-­framed handgun. The PPQ never had a reputation for being problematic, so Walther took the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach when designing the PDP. Externally, the PDP hardly resembles the PPQ. Internally, the PDP is nearly identical though. Many parts even interchange. The PDP retained the PPQ barrel and striker assembly, as well as the same checkered steel magazine release as the Steel Frame Q-series. The PDP Compact uses the same standard PPQ magazine, too, and full-­size PDPs use the same PPQ-­pattern magazines, only longer.

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The 5-inch steel barrel of the PDP Match Steel Frame is not ported or threaded. Sights are a cost-savings polymer design based on the Glock pattern, meaning they’re easy to upgrade. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The PDP incorporates the Performance Duty Trigger (PDT), which uses trigger components that have the same external dimensions as those in the PPQ. However, the takeup has been shortened and the wall has been made more robust for a crisper-feeling break. In the PDP Match Steel Frame, there is an upgraded version of the PDT, called the “DPT,” or “Dynamic Performance Trigger.” (Yes, I know, that’s a ridiculous number of acronyms). The DPT has a trigger pull between 41/2 and 5 pounds, reduced travel, a shorter reset, a hand-­tuned sear engagement, and a crisper break. The trigger is aluminum, featuring a straight, flat face and a safety lever in the center. The trigger pull of Guns & Ammo’s sample measured 5 pounds, but it was so short and crisp that it felt even lighter. In truth, the trigger pull of the PDP Match is the closest in character and quality to a 1911 than anything out of a striker-­fired gun.

Just like the PPQ, the PDP has a single-action trigger system; the striker is cocked for every shot. Walther tends not to advertise it as the term “single action” since it tends to scare away police administrators.

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Slide cuts within the front SuperTerrain Serrations are machined to maintain the same slide weight as other PDP models. This keeps slide velocity and the recoil spring assembly the same. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The PDP Match Steel Frame has a 5-­inch barrel. It is visible through cuts in the forward section of the slide, but the barrel is not ported. The lightening cuts in the slide reduce its weight, and less reciprocating weight equals less felt recoil and muzzle rise. That is exactly what you want in a competition pistol. There’s another reason for it, as well: Walther designed the PDP to be modular. This longslide version uses the same captured recoil spring system as the shorter models. With the weight removed, the longer slide has the same weight as a PDP Compact, so this worked out.

With the PDP, Walther moved to Glock-­pattern sights, so aftermarket options are plentiful. The standard front sight is a short post with a small white dot. The rear sight is fully adjustable with white dots on either side of the notch. Both front and rear sights are polymer, and somewhat low in profile.

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The three-dot polymer sight arrangement is mediocre, and it doesn’t co-witness with optics. The rear sight is adjustable, though. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Here we arrive at the only complaint I have with the PDP Steel Frame. I’ll address it and move on: The factory sights work. They are definitely better than nothing, and may be all you want or need if you intend to run an optic. However, they are not what I think anyone should expect on a pistol intended for competition — especially at this price. Any serious competitor using the PDP Steel Frame at USPSA matches — and not using an optic — would have to replace these sights. At a minimum, the sights on this pistol should be made of steel, and the front sight should be highly visible, sporting a fiber-optic insert or something similar.

The biggest visual change between the PPQ and the PDP are Walther’s aggressive SuperTerrain slide serrations. They are deep. At the front, they curve up and over the top of the slide. This is exactly what you want on a competition gun or a gun meant for duty or self-­defense. Personally, I really like the way they look on every PDP model.

Recommended


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All PDP models are optic ready and come with a cover plate (above, top). A free mounting plate can be requested for a specific optic online at waltherarms.com/optic-plate-request. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The slide of the PDP is red-dot ready. The rear sight is not attached to the optic plate, so you won’t lose the rear sight if you attach an optic. This means that mounting tall sights later, for use with a red dot, is an option on the Walther PDP Steel Frame.

One mounting plate (of your choice) is provided with each pistol. They are mounting plates, though, not adapter plates. The plate is attached to the slide with screws, and an optic is attached to the plate.

As for the steel frame of the PDP, it adds a considerable weight. The extra weight reduces felt recoil, sure, but the recoil impulse is a bit sharper and shorter as well. Polymer flexes under recoil, but steel doesn’t. (At least, not enough in a pistol that you’ll be able to detect it.)

At the front of the frame is a long, five-­slot Picatinny rail for mounting lights or other accessories. The pistol has a long slide stop lever on each side, and each one works properly as a slide release. The magazine release is a big checkered steel button, which is also reversible.

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Looking underneath the PDP Match Steel Frame reveals a five-slot Picatinny rail for attaching lights. The triggerguard is squared, which is compatible with popular accessory backplates. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Though they appear similar, the contours of the steel frame are slightly altered from the polymer frame. The undercut beneath the triggerguard comes up a bit higher. This pistol has a small beavertail at the back, which adds a little style. The magazine well opening in the frame is beveled, too. The oversize aluminum magazine well is held in place by a roll pin, and is easily removed. The sides of the magazine well are relieved so you can grab a sticky mag by the basepad and pull it out if the need arises. The grip on this pistol is long enough that my fingers don’t touch the magazine well in the front, and the heel of my hand just barely touches it in the back.

Unlike with the polymer frame, the grips are a separate piece. The one-­piece wraparound polymer grip features the Performance Duty Texture (PDT) used on the polymer PDP frame. Because it is a wrap-­around grip, the PDP Steel Frame doesn’t have the replaceable backstraps of the polymer-­framed PDP. The frontstrap of this gun sports aggressive 20 lines-per-inch (lpi) checkering, as does the front of the triggerguard. It feels as good in the hand as it looks.

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The slide-lock/release lever is long, low-profile, and easy to use. In front of it is the takedown lever, rotated up for disassembly. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

As Walther is going after law enforcement sales with the PDP, Walther designed it to disassemble without having to pull the trigger. That is now a requirement with a surprising number of police departments to prevent negligent discharges. After rotating the takedown lever up, you can pull the trigger to release the slide — or you can lock the slide back and, using a handcuff key (or similar-size punch), pop the steel slide cover off and pull the striker assembly out of the rear. The slide will then come all the way off the front of the frame.

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The machined checkering on the frontstrap is excellent and includes serrations that continue to the magazine funnel and triggerguard undercut. Grip panels feature Walther’s PDT texture. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

At the Range

As I mentioned, while it’s got some updated bodywork, inside this pistol are the ultra-­reliable action parts of the PPQ. Between the PPQ and PDP, I’ve got years of trigger time. They are boringly reliable, and this pistol was no different. With an extra pound of weight added to the frame, felt recoil was significantly reduced. The 5-­inch barrel will extract every foot-­per-­second out of your ammunition. 

At my local club, I used the PDP Match to knock down plate racks, pepper poppers, and work through speed drills on USPSA targets. I took the opportunity to test Federal’s new Gold Medal Action Pistol ammunition, as well. It was very soft-­shooting, although not quite as soft as a dedicated 125-­Power Factor (PF) handload would be.

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Magazine basepads protrude from the aluminum magazine well. The magwell is notched for more purchase when grabbing the pad. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

A lot of high-­intensity competition experience behind various handgun platforms has shown me that heavier guns recoil less (obviously), but they also tend to remain steadier as you are pulling the trigger. Being a little rough or sloppy on the trigger with a light polymer gun can pull your sights off the target. That’s much less of an issue with a gun having the weight of the PDP Match Steel Frame.

While it was intended as a competition piece, the 20-­round magazines, and ability to mount a pistol light, make it a viable home-­defense handgun, too. To me, the PDP Match SF has almost a Sci-Fi appearance, and I like that. It is unusual enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hollywood using it onscreen. But performance is more than skin deep, as it always has been with Walther.

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(Photo by Mark Fingar)

Walther PDP Match Steel Frame

  • Type: Striker ­fired, recoil operated, semiautomatic
  • Cartridge: 9mm
  • Capacity: 18+1 rds., 20+1 rds.
  • Barrel: 5 in.
  • Overall Length: 8.4 in.
  • Width: 1.4 in.
  • Height: 5.9 in.
  • Weight: 2 lb., 7 oz.
  • Finish: Tenifer, matte black (steel)
  • Grip: Polymer panels; Performance Duty Texture
  • Sights: 3-dot, polymer, adj. (rear) (Glock pattern); optic rdy.
  • Trigger: Walther Dynamic Performance Trigger; 5 lbs. (tested)
  • Safety: Striker block, trigger lever
  • MSRP: $1,899
  • Accessories: One 18-­rd. mag., two 20-­round mags.; one optic mounting plate; mag. loader; lockable case
  • Manufacturer: Walther Arms, 479-242-8500, waltherarms.com
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