Monday, March 19, 2012

Guns: Walther PPQ review - Showing up right on Q


The Walther P99 has a decent reputation, but the handgun never really caught fire in the marketplace. The big institutional customers opted for other Teutonic polymer pistols (GLOCKs, H&Ks, SIGs), and the P99 failed to capture the hearts and minds of civilian shooters, despite its cachet of being the modern James Bond's sidearm of choice.

Enter the PPQ. It's not exactly a new pistol (basically a modified German-made P99 RAD), but it's probably the best gun Walther's put out in quite some time:

Out of the Box

The gun is comparable in size to a GLOCK 19, bu it's slightly heavier, taller, wider, and longer than the G19. The differences aren't dramatic or anything, but the GLOCK is noticeably smaller. The PPQ has a standard 1913 accessory rail; I didn't test any rail-mounted lights or lasers for this review.

In hand, it points fairly naturally, though the stippled grip doesn't provide as much traction as I prefer. The PPQ come with three interchangeable backstraps; the pin that secures the backstraps also serves as a lanyard attachment point. There are front and rear slide serrations that work fine.

Default PPQ magazine capacity is 15 rounds plus one in the chamber; +2 extended baseplate magazines are available should you need such a thing. Second gen P99 mags purportedly work in the gun; brand new factory PPQ mags cost upwards of $45 (!!) each.

The PPQ ships in a nice plastic hardcase with positive sliding latches. In the box is the pistol, 2 magazines, the backstraps, a mag loader, a better-than-average manual, a fired cartridge case, and a test target. The last item is pretty neat, actually - it isn't a computer readout of where the gun hit, it's the actual physical target shot by your gun at the factory:

As you can see, my PPQ's target shows about a 2" group at 15 meters. I assume this was shot from a rest of some sort:

Here's another test target from a random PPQ I saw in a gunstore. It shows a similar ~2" group:

Inside and Outside

The Walther PPQ ships with three-dot sights (rear sight is adjustable). They work fine, especially in conjunction with the tapered slide profile, but they're ultimately nothing to write home about. Tritium sights are available for the gun (night sights are actually standard equipment on the PPQ "First Edition").

The pistol has fully ambidextrous controls. I really liked the slide stop levers; they're big enough to hit under stress, but are also low-profile to prevent accidental slide lockback. The Walther/H&K-style mag release lever is a negative for me (since it's different than the button release found on almost every other pistol on Earth), but it does keep the pistol ambidextrous without forcing people to swap out any parts.

Field strip is simple and GLOCK-like, right down to the position of the takedown levers. You have to dry-fire the PPQ in order to disassemble it, which I prefer over the complicated sear gymnastics of guns like the M&P (if you can't be bothered to unload a firearm before you clean it, you should probably take up a safer hobby, like canasta). The gun comes pretty dry from the factory, so it's best to clean it up and give it a light sheen of lube before you shoot it.

At the Range

I thought it might be fun for longtime readers to see the indoor range where I usually test my handguns. On the table you can see my Ruger 22/45, the PPQ, my trusty CZ Kadet, and my Kahr CM9. Bringing other guns gives the review handgun time to rest between shot strings, and gives me something to compare the review handgun to in terms of shooting feel. It also helps ensure any accuracy/reliability quirks aren't related to my technique that day, or to particular ammo.

The PPQ's trigger is its primary selling point, and a marked departure from Walther's previous offerings. Operation-wise it's very GLOCK-like, pulling at about 5-6 pounds with some takeup and overtravel (that "spongy" or "springy" feel). The magic starts when you let out to reset the trigger; after barely 1/10" of movement forward, the trigger is reset, and you're ready to fire again:

It's a bit hard to see the super-short reset in the photos above, but suffice it to say that the PPQ's trigger is one of the best stock triggers available in a polymer pistol. The trigger reset has an audible and tactile click; it beats the heck outta the M&P and then steals the M&P's lunch money. In practical terms, the PPQ can be shot about as fast as a pistol can be shot.
The factory targets I've shown are pretty representative of what I could shoot - about 2" groups at 15 yards, offhand. Here's 10 rounds of Winchester 115 grain Value Pack at 15 yards:

I tested two PPQs, one from a friend and regular customer at RRPSI Firearms, and my own personal PPQ. Both ran fine through about 600 rounds of ammo, including the cheapo Tula steel-cased stuff;  I would expect nothing less from a defense-oriented pistol of this size. General reliability reports from other PPQ owners have been positive, though obviously the gun's longterm durability is unknown (it was announced at last year's SHOT Show).


The Walther PPQ is admittedly just an upgrade to the proven P99 design, but it's a big upgrade. At a price point of around $550, the gun is extremely competitive with other polymer offerings on the market, even before taking into account the excellent trigger and good all-around workmanship and ergonomics. This one's definitely a keeper, and all those other Germanic handguns better step up their game.


At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just got mine today and going to shoot it on Monday. I would have preferred it in .40S&W, but they only had the 9mm. It was a spur of the moment thing and I traded my Sig P239 for it. It just felt so comfortable in my hand, and I can already tell, it'll feel like a dream when I shoot it. I'll check back in Monday to give an update.

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Mulliga said...

Congrats. I'm interested to see how your accuracy/test target compares to mine.

At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, just as I expected, it tested magnificently! I also compared it the Smithn& Wesson M&P 9mm. Sooooo many similarities in these guns, but overall I liked the Walther better. It was easier to tell precisely when the gun would fire during the trigger pull, a bit lighter also. I'm a big Glock fan, and the Walther functions very similar to me. Accuracy was spot on. At 15 yards I was shooting a bit less than an inch spread. Then I loaded up the mags to full and gave it the speed test. Very fast gun. I love the grips, I love the trigger, I love the weight, the mag release is very interesting and new to me, and I like trying new things. A friend of mine came along and tried it out against the S&W, the H&K P2000, the Ruger SR9, and the XD9, and he decided to go with the Walther. Every gun store in our area was out of stock of the 9mm, so we're driving an hour our of our way tomorrow to pick up the only one left we could find.


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