February 16, 2021
MANY OF MY GUNS seem to speak German, but not this one. The new Personal Defense Pistol (PDP) wears Walther branding and has some familiarity with the PPQ, but it’s different. It’s as if it was made for America.
Sure, there’s still a German accent to the PDP, but I can easily understand what this pistol says for Walther. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the outgoing PPQ. When I learned that Walther was going to be discontinuing the PPQ, I asked “Why? It’s a great gun!”
Introduced in 2011, it doesn’t seem as though the PPQ was with us that long. I suppose that’s why it seems unfortunate, especially given that the PPQ was decidedly a better pistol than the P99 it replaced. In my opinion, the PPQ matured when Walther added the M2 push-button magazine release for the American market in 2013. However, the best variants didn’t appear until the Q4 was announced in 2017 and the Q5 Match arrived in 2018. Then life got better with the Steel Frame (SF) series in 2019.
Relax. “The Q4 and Q5 will continue,” said Cody Osborn of Walther Arms. He added, “Only the PPQ series will go away.”
Compact Steel Frame models were introduced just a year ago, but while many were clamoring for a sample of the Q4 Compact SF, Walther was already circulating a few pre-production prototypes of the PDP for jury testing. After shooting a sample in a pistol class with retired U.S. Army Special Forces veteran (now firearm training instructor) Larry Vickers (vickerstactical.com), I suspended all temptations to purchase a new striker-fired pistol until the PDP was launched. It shot very well, and Vickers agreed.
I now have two PDP samples that represent Walther’s first introductions. One is a full-size variant featuring a 4½-inch barrel, and the second is a compact model with a 4-inch barrel. Both have stepped chambers and polygonal rifling, which is known to produce accurate groups.
Though the Full Size PDP’s grip frame is longer than the Compact’s to accept 17-round magazines, and the compact PDP’s shorter for 15-rounders, the contours and texturing are identical. Walther includes interchangeable backstraps for the grip, which are great to tune how the frame fills the palm your hand and positions your index finger in relation to the trigger. On that subject, the frame of the PDP eliminates the finger grooves that were on the PPQ but continues the subtle finger humps on the sides. The bottom of the grip is still flared, too, which supports the high undercut at the back of the triggerguard to raise your hand position on the frame. It’s intuitive to fill the gap up and under the protective beavertail.
The grip frame and style of texturing is distinctively Teutonic. It works like the bolstering in the seat of a performance automobile that holds a driver through sharp turns. If this grip were designed by Americans, it would be comfy, dull or weird, to accommodate the maximum number of potential shooters. In contrast, the PDP’s texture is refined and covers a lot of surface area, not just certain areas and shapes. Gripping the PDP feels form fitting, tactile and purposeful.
The layout of the controls is reminiscent of Walther’s recent designs, but the PDP’s have been improved. The magazine release button, for example, functions like the M2, but the touchpoint now features positive texture. Before, the M2 button was simply scored with six striations.
The ambidextrous slide-lock lever is still ambidextrous, and functions with either hand. Its design makes it truly a slide stop or a slide release. The lever doesn’t protrude like a wart as stubby levers on some pistols do, and it’s long enough that any hand should be able to reach it from either side. Being as long as it is, some wonder if it could be operated unintentionally. I’ve shot this style of lever enough that I believe those concerns are not an issue.
Control enhancements on the PDP continue to the slide area. Walther has made the forward-raking slide serrations deeper, edgier and more pronounced. Unfortunately, they are also calling these “Superterran Serrations,” which might mean something in German but is lost on me. Manipulating the slide isn’t difficult, but the “super” serrations mean that you don’t have to squeeze it as hard to pull and overcome the recoil spring.
Of course, new to Walther’s new pistol is the fact that every PDP will be optics ready. If you want to keep the factory look, then simply keep the coverplate installed. However, if you have aging eyes, manual dexterity issues or find yourself needing to perform a one-hand slide manipulations, you might appreciate what an easy task it is to install an optic on the PDP. Without, you can still rack the slide with the factory ledge rear sight, but it is even easier if you opted for having a red dot mounted. I can’t recommend them enough.
On the topic of sights, Walther one-ups its German-speaking rivals by offering an adjustable rear sight — standard. The rear features two white dots, which tells us that the current trend of going all-black at the rear to keep focus up front hasn’t caught on in some parts of Germany, but I’ve got to praise Walther for not putting the rear sight on a removable sight plate as so many do. I’ve had a red dot fail in training, which got complicated without backup sights in place. If that happened while shooting the PDP, you could simply remove the optic with minimal downtime, and transition to run the gun with iron sights while knowing they’re already zeroed. My only suggestion to Walther regarding the sights is a request for taller sights so that they could be used in tandem with the optic’s red dot. That said, I appreciate why a company wouldn’t want to install so-called “shark fins” at both ends of a basic pistol. Most of us optic-sight users would just take care of that on our own later.
Lyman’s digital trigger gauge’s report of 5-pound, 1-ounce pull doesn’t do the factory trigger justice. Labeled the “Performance Duty Trigger,” it’s smoother and more predictable than those on most striker-fired pistols. Of course, a good trigger helps any shooter realize the accuracy potential of any gun, which explains why I was able to repeatedly cluster 1¾-inch groups from 25 yards with the PDP, using a Leupold DP-Pro red dot of course. To me, the trigger of the PDP feels a lot like the PPQ’s, and it turns out that they’re cross compatible. (This also means that the aftermarket trigger from Apex Tactical for the PPQ can be installed, too.) Walther told G&A that the shape of the shoe and safety lever appear identical, but the geometry of certain parts on the inside were changed for the PDP. The takeup was shortened and lightened versus the PPQ, and the PDP’s trigger has a more distinct wall.
Disassembly and maintenance are easy and familiar. Like the PPQ, with the magazine removed and free of ammunition, the PDP disassembles by pulling down on the spring-loaded takedown crossbar and pressing the trigger to release the slide forward off the frame. Compressing the recoil spring and guiderod assembly slightly takes little effort to remove it, and then the barrel is free to be pulled away from underneath the slide. This is as far as is necessary to disassemble the PDP for inspection and maintenance.
The texture on the PDP is more aggressive than that on the PPQ models, which has been a point of criticism of the PPQ. The PPQ feels snappier to some shooters because of the height of the slide and the reciprocating mass above the bore’s center axis. The PDP’s slide is better engineered for how slide mass is distributed, and the design of its new texture and grip mold resulted in better control than the PPQ offered. This became evident to me after shooting the PDP in a two-day pistol course where fatigue factored in my ability in manage recoil. The PDP is simply a comfortable pistol to shoot more for longer. The PDP would make an excellent option for a new gun owner wanting to purchase a pistol to learn with in class.
Associate Editor Jack Oller and I fired around 1,500 rounds each in training and testing through four samples, two of each model. Of all four guns sent to Guns & Ammo for testing, there have been no malfunctions. Time and ammunition availability issues during the COVID-19 pandemic prevented us from shooting thousands more for validation, but after using the PDP in a handgun class at The Site (thesitetraining.com), Oller supported my conclusions.
The PDP is the most modular and versatile pistol designed by Walther. Both configurations proved themselves to be more than qualified to serve you on duty or for protection. Utilizing the ability to mount a reflex sight can improve your speed and accuracy at distance, and I’m glad that Walther has taken the decision-making process out of the purchase price. Even without such modern amenities as an optic, the PDP is a must-see. The PPQ will be remembered fondly, and the Q series will always have its place among serious shooters. However, it’s easy to understand how the PDP will be the handgun that continues Walther’s evolution.
Walther PDP 9mm Performance:
Walther PDP 9mm Specs:
Type: Recoil operated, striker fired, semiautomatic
Capacity: 15+1 rds. (Compact); 18+1 rds. (Full Size)
Barrel: 4 in. (Compact); 4.5 in. (Full Size); polygonal rifling
Overall Length: 7.5 in. (Compact); 8 in. (Full Size)
Width: 1.34 in.
Height: 5.4 in. (Compact); 5.7 in. (Full Size)
Weight: 1 lb., 8.4 oz. (Compact); 1 lb., 9.4 oz. (Full Size)
Sights: 3 white dots, adj.; optic ready
Trigger: 5 lbs., 9 oz. (tested)
Safety: Trigger safety; striker safety, disconnect safety
Importer: Walther Arms, 479-242-8500, waltherarms.com
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