All About Walther’s New PDP Steel Frame Series

New from Walther Arms are the Full Size Steel Frame 4.5 and Compact Steel Frame four-inch handguns.

by
at USPSA posted on April 1, 2024
Waltherpdp STEELFRAME 1
Walther’s new PDP Full Size Steel Frame 4.5 and Compact Steel Frame four-inch models are now available.
Jake Martens

Walther launched the PPQ series of handguns in 2011, first with the M1, followed up by the M2 version in 2014. The difference was a paddle magazine release versus a button magazine release. This was the same year that the five-inch model was added to the PPQ lineup. The PPQ lineup was highly praised in every review, but still flew under the radar somewhat, even with the release of the PPQ Q5 Match in 2018.

Walther PDP
The new Walther 4.5 Full Size Steel Frame and Compact four-inch models have the standard Performance Duty triggers.

 

The Walther Contingency Program, along with the launch of the Q5 Match Steel Frame, followed with the Q4 Steel Frame, saw the handguns used in more competition events, including USPSA, IDPA, IPSC and Steel Challenge. The PPQ was updated with the new PDP from Walther in 2021. There were several models to choose from right after the initial launch. All of the models were more focused on defensive use rather than a dedicated competition model. Along the way, Walther did have the option of upgrading the trigger to the Dynamic Performance system with a reduced trigger weight, take up and shorter reset, making an already great striker-fired trigger even better.

At the start of this year, Walther released the PDP Full Size Match and the Pro SD Full Size. Both are the polymer version of the PDP with the Dynamic Performance trigger. Then came the PDP Match Full Size Steel Frame, the flagship of the PDP series built for competition and ready to hit the range from the box. Now available are the PDP Full Size Steel Frame 4.5 and Compact Steel Frame four-inch models.

When you review the PDP series and see Full Size, no matter the slide length, this model will have the Full Size frame with longer grip that accepts the 18-round (or higher) magazines. The Compact refers to models that have the shorter grip and accept the 15-round magazines. All of the PDP models are optics-ready. All of them accept aftermarket sights that fit Glock sight cuts.

The new 4.5 Full Size Steel Frame and Compact four-inch models have the standard Performance Duty triggers. The Performance Duty trigger average pull on the Wheeler Digital Scale was four pounds, 7.8 ounces. The reset isn’t as short as the Dynamic version, but is still one of the best factory striker-fired triggers available.

Walther pistols
The 4.5-inch with the upgraded guide rod system, Vortex Defender-ST red-dot optic and Excaliber’s 124-grain load were a great combination.

 

The four-inch compact weighs just a little over 38 ounces with an empty magazine, and the 4.5-inch with the full-size frame is 40.6 ounces. All of the PDP Steel Frames have the same wrap-around grips that feature the Performance Duty Texture, offering a secure hold, complemented by a checkered front strap. The tetrahedron design on the grip’s surface helps to lock in your hands but is non-abrasive against your skin or apparel. All models also feature the large checkered magazine release button that is reversible.

The steel frame also has the same RDS (red-dot sight) ergonomics as the polymer models. The RDS ergonomics have been engineered to allow the user to locate the red dot faster when presenting by how the grip angle is designed for a natural aiming position and pinky pressure on the front lip of the frame. Basically, this bump-out forces the shooter to point the nose of the gun down, making the red dot easier to find when pushing the firearm out on the draw.

The guns have standard factory three-dot sights with an adjustable rear sight, but can be easily upgraded with most aftermarket sights that fit Glock sight cuts. The slides are optics-ready, and a free plate is available from Walther, as well as others from manufacturers such as ZR-Tactical. Before hitting the range, I mounted the new Vortex Defender-ST optics on both guns.

I also installed the ZR Tactical Solutions Long Stroke guide rod system in the 4.5-inch model. At the range I used an assorted selection of 9 mm ammunition, including the new 124- and 147-grain loads from Excaliber. I brought the five-inch Pro Steel Frame along that also had the new Long Stroke guide rod system installed for comparison.

Before hitting the range, I oiled up both guns and then proceeded to start with some 15-yard shots using the 147-grain AAC ammunition. Both guns were easy to shoot with the added weight of the steel frame—and like all Walther’s I have shot, they were accurate and were easy to keep all 10 rounds in nice groups in the upper A-Zone. The 4.5-inch with the ZR Tactical Long Stroke was fun to shoot through some Bill Drills and Near to Far target arrays. The 4.5-inch model has a little more felt recoil than the five-inch Pro, but the dot tracked the same between both models. I ran about 200 rounds through both the four-inch and 4.5-inch models with no issue.

The 4.5-inch with the upgraded guide rod system and the Excaliber 124-grain rounds were a great combination. I ran this setup with the Vortex Defender-ST for another 100 rounds, focusing on speed. I set up two targets, one at 10 feet and the other at 15 feet about 10 feet apart, drawing into the closer target with two rounds in the lower A-zone, one in the upper, and transitioning to the further target repeating the same shots, two lower and one upper. I did these three times, with a total of nine rounds on each target. I got 76 out of 90 points, with all the C hits in the upper scoring area.

The slides on the 4.5- and four-inch model both feature the same Super Terrain Slide Serrations as their polymer frame versions. These are effective, as the serrations are protruding from the slide instead of cut into the slide. The five-inch Pro model has porting of the slide under the serrations. The front of the slides on all PDP versions have a bevel out cut that aids in holstering.

The full line-up of Walther PDPs can be found on the Walther website. With the addition of the steel frame models, you now have just about everything you could wish for.

ZR TACTICAL SOLUTIONS

ZR TACTICAL SOLUTIONS

ZR Tactical Solutions, as the name implies, has come up with an innovative guide rod system for the Walthers. The Long Stroke guide rod system increases the slide stroke of the PDP to attenuate the recoil over a longer distance. In my review of the PDP five-inch Match, it featured the ZR Tactical captured guide rods with reduced spring weight. The captured guide rods made a noticeable difference in felt recoil, however; the Long Stroke guide rod is a game-changer.

ZR Tactical uses ultra-heavy 5/16-inch diameter stainless steel for the guide rod and a captured proprietary 14-pound flat wire spring. PDPs have a plastic spacer in the slides, but this is removed and the guide rod has a brass bushing instead. By eliminating the plastic spacer, the slide can now travel further to the rear, allowing more distance to slow and soften the slide as it hits its rearward stop. The steel guide rod is Swiss turned and, with the brass bushing, adds 40 grams of mass to further reduce muzzle rise.

I ran both the five-inch and 4.5-inch models with factory guide rod and the ZR Tactical Long Stroke with several different ammunitions. This is by far the best upgrade you can do to the PDPs. There was zero issue with any ammunition, the guns shot extremely soft, especially running the Eley and Excalibur competition loads. If you have a PDP or are getting one, check out the ZR Tactical Solutions website. You will not be disappointed.

RED HILL TACTICAL

RED HILL TACTICAL

The name Red Hill Tactical should not be new to any of us. Robert King at Red Hill has been pumping out Doubled Layer Kydex holsters for competitive shooters since 2015. The lineup of holsters has continued to expand, as well as all of the offerings from Red Hill. Robert ended up turning his online business into a brick and mortar store back in 2019.

Red Hill Tactial is a one-stop shop for gear, firearms, knives and accessories at the store, and online you can find just about everything you need. Robert and the Red Hill team have a full selection of colors and patterns, as well as ready-made stock with no waiting. The company also now offers Competition Holster Packages.

This starts with a top-of-the-line double-layer RHT holster and a Springer Precision Drop offset hanger. Added to this are four of RHT’s custom made magazine pouches along with latching loops. This is all set up on the made in Vermont USAQ Leather Ratcheting belt system. You have everything you need to hit the range ready to go and in style from Red Hill Tactical. If you already have a belt and just need a holster, then check out the selection at redhilltactical.com. You will find everything from range-ready packs, custom colors and holsters, as well as the full setup for your firearm.

HENNING

HENNING

When the new Steel Frame hit the market, Henning Walgren was already working on the new basepad that would work with PDP Steel Frame Match. The rear lower portion of the grip is longer than the polymer full-size grip, so the original basepads wouldn’t work, with or without the magwell attached. The new basepads from Henning now work with the magwell installed or with it off.

With factory spring and follower, it takes the capacity to a reloadable 22 rounds. You can use the Rune aftermarket kit for 23-plus-one or the MBX aftermarket follower kit with the new basepad for 24-plus-one capacity. These are available now at henningshop.com.

Article from the March/April 2024 issue of USPSA’s magazine. All photos by Jake Martens.

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