December 14, 2015
At first glance, you'd think the Walther CCP was a PPQ that someone left in the wash and the result of the dry cycle was that it shrank.
It has similar rounded contours, the same angular slide that is also not angular at the same time (a curious optical illusion) and the familiar kind of nonslip texture on the grip. Unlike the PPQ, which went through M1 and M2 versions focused on the magazine catch, the Walther CCP comes ready with an American-style magazine catch, which is a button behind the triggerguard.
The frame has a squared triggerguard with a set of serrations and a finger hook, which is right out of the era of a "Miami Vice." It has been a long time since I've seen someone shoot that way in a match, except for us old-timers, but it looks good, and it doesn't hurt.
The triggerguard is noticeably undercut to let you get your hand higher on the frame than you'd otherwise think. Out front is the now-obligatory accessory rail, where you can mount a light, laser or dual-use unit.
The magazine is a single-stack design, holding eight rounds of 9mm ammo, and it is an interesting artifact of engineering in its own right. The tube is a heavy-gauge stamping, with the main blank forming the front and sides. Then, Walther takes a stamped spine section and, fitting it to the folded front and side, presses them together into interlocking cutouts and welds them together.
There are a dozen on each side of the spine, and the result is a magazine so sturdy that you could step on it and the pistol wouldn't notice. When I jokingly mentioned that to the Walther Arms folks, their reaction was, "Go ahead, and tell us what happens." The magazine locks open the slide when empty and drops free when the magazine-release button is pushed.
I have a confession to make. When it came time to fieldstrip the Walther CCP, I spent a couple of minutes just turning it over in my hands, trying to figure out how. Not having a clue by then, I finally gave up, and despite the grievous deductions it made on my man-card, I read the instructions.
There's a disassembly tool in the box with the pistol and spare magazine; plus, you can also use a screwdriver. I'll bet in a short while, when a used Walther CCP shows up in a gun shop (assuming the owners get rid of them — an unlikely event), the first question will be, "Where's the spare magazine?" The second will be about the disassembly tool.
Unload the pistol. Dry-fire it. Push the tip of the disassembly tool against the bright tip you see in the striker assembly. Once you unlatch that, you can press the whole assembly into the slide. Retract the slide, but just far enough to clear the extractor, and lift up the slide. If you go too far, you reset the firing mechanism and have to start over. Once you get the hang of it, it's a snap.
Inside, wondrous things appear. The locking system of the Walther CCP is familiar to those who are up on their German firearms arcana. The slide has a pivoting piston pinned to it. The barrel is fixed to the frame. On the bottom of the barrel, ahead of the chamber, there is a gas port.
When you fire the Walther CCP, as the bullet passes the port, the expanding gases flow through the port and press forward on the piston. The gas pressure holds the slide closed until the thrust of the case on the slide overcomes the decreasing gas pressure holding it closed. Yep, it's an update of the old H&K P7 squeeze-cocker gas system but improved and named the Walther Softcoil technology.
The advantages of the system are simple: By not using a moving barrel, Walther eliminates a hatful of surfaces that have to be machined, inspected and hand fitted. It also eliminates the vertical space needed for the unlinking/unlocking tipping barrel of the Browning system. Last, the gas pressure takes the place of the leverage of the locked-breech Browning system but also of the heavier recoil spring needed to control that system. Working the slide, there's a slight hitch at the very beginning, coming from the striker system and its attendant safety parts, and after that the spring is quite light.
If you or someone you know has low hand-strength or dexterity issues and finds the usual compact pistol difficult to use because of the heavy recoil spring found in most pistols, the Walther CCP may be just the ticket. My wife, after 25 years of owning her own printing business, was left with reduced grip strength. Here, she has no problems working the slide of the Walther CCP.
The frame and the barrel and firing mechanism are intriguing bits of engineering. In the words of a novelist friend of mine, "Had I a hat, off it would be." There are no frame rails. That's right: The slide rides on the fixed barrel. The barrel is pinned to the gas block. The gas block and the ejector block are each pinned to the polymer housing that also holds the magazine. The part we usually call the frame is a plastic shell, a hell-for-tough durable one, but a shell nonetheless.
The serial number is on the gas block, on the shroud around the barrel. (This part is the actual firearm in the eyes of the ATF.)
Reassembly is easy. Stuff the barrel back into the recoil spring, in the slide, and run the slide back. The only fiddly part is getting the piston aligned with the gas-port tunnel, as the piston wants to flop around. I found that by holding the pistol vertically, I could watch the piston and tip the pistol until the piston was lined up. Once you get the slide back over the chamber, press the disassembly tool back into the striker assembly and the slide will snap down into place.
The safeties don't end there. There's a slot milled into the breech face for use as a loaded-chamber indicator. The firing mechanism has a drop safety. The Walther CCP does not have — praise be — a magazine disconnector. Most of us don't like them.
The grip is curvy, fits my hand and is comfortable to hold. It also has a thumb safety on the left rear of the frame, below the cocking serrations. My first thought was, That will never work. In the half-hour I spent handling it while doing the rough draft of this review, I picked up the Walther CCP a number of times and flipped off the safety. I never missed it. My thumb falls right where the lever is, and the safety popped off for me every time.
Getting it back on was a two-handed operation, but you don't have to put a pistol on Safe quickly or with one hand. Getting it from Safe to Fire, yes, but getting it back, no. I found that a very pleasant and useful mirror to the way I like my 1911s set up: safety 100 percent in function but firm to take off and very hard to put back on. That way, it won't be bumped back on inadvertently. If you don't like thumb safeties, just don't use it. It's not reversible.
However, the magazine catch is. The magazines are obviously made to be used right- or left-handed, and the catch is reversible. If you peer into the magazine well (unloaded, magazine out and slide locked back or slide removed from the frame), you can see a long, straight spring. Use a screwdriver to gently pry the spring up out of the notch in the magazine catch. Once it is free, pull the catch out, insert it from the other side, and pry the spring back to its former place.
The adjustments don't end there. The rear sight has a small opening at its base that is for the included adjustment wrench. Simply turn one way or the other to move groups left or right. Also in the box with the wrench are a couple of extra front sights. If you find that your favorite load is hitting high or low, disassemble the Walther CCP, use the wrench to loosen and remove the Torx-head screw holding the front sight on, and replace it with one that is the correct height.
Test-firing the Walther CCP was interesting. The original gas-delayed pistol, the discontinued P7, is much loved by many. I owned one back in the day and sold it. When they became available again, I snapped one up, then rediscovered why I had let go of one back then. For an all-steel pistol that weighed a pudgy 30 ounces, it had a not-fun recoil cycle. It was sharp, snappy and violent.
The Walther CCP, on the other hand, wasn't. In fact, if you went by recoil alone, you'd think you were simply shooting another tilting-barrel Browning derivative. You won't have a clue how the system works, going by the feel. The bore height over your hand is also on the low side, so the combined effect of recoil is to make it a soft-shooting pistol, as light as it is.
The trigger, on the other hand, is curious. The system is a striker-fired variant, with a drop safety and the aforementioned thumb safety. The pull is light, with a combined effort of 5 pounds needed. However, there is a lot of "plastic-y" rubbing going on that I can feel as the trigger travels back in its arc.
Someone new to the firearms field might be tempted to describe the feel as "gritty," "crunchy" or "jerky," but it isn't any of those. It is simply the impression of some plastic or polymer component rubbing on another surface. At first I was worried that this would be a hindrance to shooting groups, but it turns out not to be much, if any.
Don't get me wrong; this isn't a match trigger, not for IPSC, IDPA or PPC. At speed, I didn't have any impression of the trigger parts rubbing. It was only when I was focused on the front sight, working to shoot groups, that I could feel the rubbing.
As for accuracy, the Walther CCP is certainly more than up to the task of defense. Again, I wasn't shooting bullseye or PPC groups with it, but then it is a compact carry pistol. With a sight radius just under 5½ inches, you're going to be hard-pressed to shoot one-hole groups with any handgun, but the CCP shot groups smaller than the apparent width of the front sight, which is gratifying.
Not all is perfect. I had occasional stovepipes and failures to lock back with the Barnes ammunition. I was not at all surprised by this. The Barnes TAC-XPD is a load perfectly set up to give the Walther CCP fits. The load is a +P, so there is more pressure to hold the slide closed. Plus, the all-copper bullets don't need velocity to expand, so Barnes loads them to a speed that ensures expansion but keeps down pressures. This limits the momentum delivered to the slide to operate the mechanism.
The simple answer is this: If your Walther CCP doesn't work with a particular load, don't use that ammo. With all due respect to the Barnes, which is very good ammo, there are plenty of other options that will work perfectly in your Walther CCP.
Also, I noticed after a while shooting the Walther CCP that the frame, or polymer housing, just above the trigger was warmer than the rest of the frame. That's where the gas flow happens, and it will be warmer. It may even get hot if you do a lot of nonstop shooting. You also can't use lead-bullet ammunition in the Walther CCP, as the lead and lube will clog the gas port. Jacketed ammo only.
The standard deviation on the Hornady ammo is not a typo. I shot a second string just to be sure, and that lot in the Walther CCP delivered an SD that was just as low both times.
A compact, lightweight, accurate single-stack 9mm with an external safety and it's easy to work the slide? Sounds like Walther has a hot commodity in its catalog with the CCP.
Oh, and stomping on the magazine? All I did was make myself tired and alarm the dogs. The magazine didn't even notice.
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