Range Review: Walther PDP Match Steel Frame

Walther’s new PDP Match Steel Frame is USPSA Limited Optics division-ready, and by removing the magazine well, it can be used in Carry Optics and Production divisions.

by
at USPSA posted on February 7, 2024
Waltherpdp SF USPSA Martens 1
As the name implies, the Walther Arms PDP Match Steel Frame (Item No. 2872200, MSRP: $1,899) is a full-size, semi-automatic striker-fired 9 mm pistol with a precision-machined steel frame.
Jake Martens

Walther Arms has once again raised the bar for performance and innovation with their latest offering, the PDP Match Steel Frame. This precision-engineered firearm is designed to excel over competition, delivering exceptional performance that surpasses all expectations. Walther's evolution from the P99 to the PPQ family of pistols and now to the PDP series has been remarkable.

I first reviewed the PPQ Q5 Match in January 2018 and revisited it after a year of extensive use. To this day, it remains my daily carry gun, and I've taken it to numerous competitions, including the 2022 USPSA Production Nationals and the 2023 IPSC Nationals. To say that I'm a fan would be an understatement. Additionally, in 2019 I reviewed the Q5 Match Steel Frame, followed shortly by the Q4 Steel Frame. In 2021, Walther introduced the PDP lineup, which I reviewed that same year. However, I had been eagerly anticipating the release of the PDP in a steel-frame version, and it finally arrived.

Walther PDP Match Steel Frame 9 mm pistol
Walther PDP Match Steel Frame pistol with Vortex Defender CCW six-MOA red-dot optic. (Photo by Jake Martens)

 

Cody Osborn from Walther Arms reached out with the details of the new release, and I couldn't wait to head over to Parabellum Firearms to get my hands on the new gun and put it through its paces.

The moment you pick up the Walther PDP Match Steel Frame, you can feel the substantial weight of the metal frame, but your hand effortlessly molds to the grip. Unlike the Q5 Steel Frame, the PDP boasts a longer frame and a higher-cut beavertail, resulting in a more comfortable and secure grip. The weight of the steel frame is a welcome feature for a competition gun, significantly reducing recoil compared to the PDP polymer models. The grip panel features Walther's Performance Duty Texture, offering a secure hold, complemented by a checkered front strap. The gun comes with a one-piece aluminum magwell attached by a roll pin, which doesn't interfere with your support hand and adds a nice flare to the wide magazine well. It's ready for USPSA Limited Optics division, or you can remove it for Production and Carry Optics divisions. The large, checkered magazine release is reversible for added convenience.

PDP Match Steel Frame with open slide
Slide serrations on the Walther PDP Match Steel Frame are fully cut through the ported slide, which differs from the polymer models. (Photos by Jake Martens)

 

One of the standout features of the PDP Match Steel Frame is Walther's Dynamic Performance Trigger. This trigger system provides a significant reduction in trigger weight, take-up and reset, resulting in a crisp and responsive trigger pull that aids in achieving faster and more accurate shots. My testing with a Wheeler Digital Gauge averaged three pounds, 6.2 ounces for the trigger pull. The wide, flat-faced trigger offers minimal pre-travel, a defined wall and a crisp break, with a short and positive reset. I also own a PDP PRO SD with a compact frame and a four-inch slide equipped with the Dynamic Performance Trigger, and it's hard to beat for a striker-fired trigger.

This pistol features a five-inch slide and barrel with a 1:9-inch twist rate, enhancing accuracy and precision. Notably, the slide serrations on the PDP Match Steel Frame are fully cut through the slide, which differs from the polymer models. The ported slide includes Walther's SuperTerrain serrations, a unique design that facilitates quicker and more responsive manipulation of the pistol.

Just like the polymer-framed PDPs, the slides on the PDP Match Steel Frame are optics-ready and come with a free cover plate. Shooters can also explore various optic-mounting plate options by contacting Walther, ensuring compatibility with their preferred red-dot optics. The sights retain an adjustable rear sight, and aftermarket sights designed for Glock can serve as replacements for the factory three-dot sights. Personally, I've found the Sevigny Performance Defense Tritium sights and Target sights to be excellent replacements for the factory sights on my PDPs. Sevigny Performance offers a range of options, including co-witness, tall, target and defense sights.

PDP Match SF grips
The grip panel features Walther’s Performance Duty Texture, complemented by a checkered front strap. Additionally, the PDP Match Steel Frame includes a one-piece aluminum magazine well attached by a roll pin. (Manufacturer photos)

 

The PDP Match Steel Frame comes with three 18-round magazines with factory-installed plus-two base pads, resulting in a 20+1 capacity. I reached out to ZR Tactical Solutions in Noblesville, Indiana, for aftermarket Walther parts. Zach, the owner of ZR Tactical, set up two magazines for me, one with their plus-four extension and the other with their heavy brass pad. The plus-four extension is made from billet aluminum with an anodized finish, and works specifically with the PDP 18-round magazine. It comes with an extra-power magazine spring compatible with the factory follower. The ZR Tactical Solution basepad is compatible with the Walther magazine well and other manufacturers’ magwells, and fits the magazine gauge without any issues. ZR Tactical Solution also offers a plus-two model on their website, as well as a standard black anodized aluminum baseplate.

Another notable offering from ZR Tactical Solution is the variety of optics plates they provide for various red dots compatible with PDP slides. Additionally, they offer various guide rods, both captured and uncaptured, allowing you to fine-tune your recoil system for your preferred ammunition. Factory handguns typically have a recoil system designed for duty ammo and hot factory loads, but many of us prefer competition loads. This is where the captured stainless guide rods from ZR Tactical come in handy. They are available with 13-, 15- or 17-pound flatwire ISMI springs. Uncaptured guide rods and various weights of flatwire springs are also available if you want to experiment with what best suits your ammunition and shooting style. The captured version installs the same way as the factory guide rod.

ZR Tactical Solutions flatwire springs
Indiana-based ZR Tactical Solutions offers captured stainless guide rods with 13-, 15- or 17-pound flatwire ISMI springs. (Photo by Jake Martens)

 

The PDP Match Steel Frame has an overall length of 8.37 inches and a height of 5.75 inches. With an empty magazine, it weighs 41 ounces, and my testing with the unloaded magazine, ZR Tactical plus-four basepad, and 15-pound captured guide rod installed recorded a weight of 42.6 ounces.

At the range, I initially ran the PDP Steel Frame with iron sights before transitioning to a Vortex Defender CCW six-MOA red-dot sight from another PDP with a factory optics plate. The Vortex Defender has proven to be an excellent optic in my experience, having used it on several different handguns over the past year. I loaded the factory 20-round magazines and the 22-round mag equipped with the ZR Tactical extension with various 9 mm loads, including Federal Syntech 150-grain and 130-grain, Eley 115-grain, 124-grain and 147-grain rounds, as well as some reloaded ammunition featuring SNS Bullets, 135-grain bullets over Vihtavuori N320 powder. I also had 100 rounds of AAC 147-grain and Magtech 124-grain ammunition on hand. The initial magazine, with the gun bone dry, experienced a few failures to extract with the lighter competition loads. I applied some lubrication to the slide rails and contact points on both the slide and frame, primarily using Magtech 124-grain rounds, which were the hottest 9 mm ammunition I had on hand, and ran 100 flawless rounds.

Walther PDP Match SF side-view
A hefty pistol, the PDP Match Steel Frame weighs 41 ounces, sans magazine. The additional weight from the steel frame is ideal for competitive shooters. (Manufacturer photo)

 

I proceeded to shoot 100 rounds of AAC 147-grain and my SNS 135-grain reloads, which are loaded to 1000 f.p.s. velocity. After oiling up the gun and firing 300 rounds for break-in, I encountered zero issues. During my testing, I initially used the factory guide rod while sighting in and breaking in the gun, then switched to the ZR Tactical Solutions guide rods, specifically the 13- and 15-pound captured versions, which performed exceptionally well with the 147-grain competition loads. Walther pistols are known for their accuracy, and this one was no exception. I found that I could track the red dot effectively with the 15-pound captured system and the 147-grain Eley ammunition.

The longer grip on the PDP, compared to the Q5 Steel Frame, is a welcome feature. With the factory magazine well attached, the texture of the grips and the checkering on the frame, my grip remained secure, and the heavy steel frame—combined with the best-in-class striker-fired Dynamic Performance Trigger—made it easy to consistently deliver accurate shots. Shooting a couple of Bill drills from the low-ready position posed no challenge, as I was able to keep all six rounds within the A zone at speed.

In the words of Jens Krogh, vice president of marketing and product development for Walther Arms, Inc., "The PDP Match Steel Frame is a game-changer."

With an MSRP of $1,899, the Walther PDP Match Steel Frame 9 mm pistol represents a significant investment for serious competitors and enthusiasts. It is versatile, ready for USPSA Limited Optics or suitable for Carry Optics and Production when the magazine well is removed. It fits into Modified division, Tactical and Limited in Multigun, along with Limited Minor division.

WALTHER ARMS PDP MATCH STEEL FRAME SPECIFICATIONS
  • Manufacturer: Walther Arms, waltherarms.com
  • Model: 2872200
  • Caliber: 9 mm Luger
  • Color: Black
  • Slide material: Steel
  • Frame material: Steel
  • Overall length: 8.37 inches
  • Height: 5¾ inches
  • Barrel length: Five inches with 1:9-inch twist
  • Weight with empty magazine: 41 ounces
  • Magazine capacity: 18, 20
  • Magazines included: Three
  • Trigger: Dynamic performance trigger
  • Safeties: Three, auto
  • Trigger pull: Five pounds (+/- one pound)
  • MSRP: $1,899

To learn more about this firearm and the entire PDP lineup, visit waltherarms.com. For aftermarket parts, not just for Walther but also for several other manufacturers, check out ZR Tactical Solutions at zrtacticalsolutions.com.

Article from the January/February 2024 issue of USPSA’s magazine.

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