The Walther PPQ was released about 10 years ago and was kind of a sleeper in regards to popularity. In the striker-fired pistol market, it was widely considered to have one of the best triggers for a stock striker-fired handgun. However, it didn’t see the same type of commercial success as other striker-fired guns released during the same time period.
Walther hit a home run when they followed up the PPQ with the competition model Q5 Match—sporting a 5-inch optics-ready slide. They also started the “Win With Walther” Contingency program and the gun gained popularity in USPSA and IDPA. They followed up the Q5 Match with the Q5 Match Steel Frame, bringing in a heavyweight optics-ready 9 mm handgun designed for competition out of the box. The Q4 Steel Frame followed the next year, with a 4-inch slide, re-engineered grip and a different profile around the beavertail area than the Q5 Steel Frame.
I have had the chance to review and shoot all of those models and I am a big fan of the PPQ/Q5 pistols. I have bought every one of the review guns, I have bought backup models because I believe competition guns should be treated like shoes and come in pairs. I carry a Q5 Match daily, I have 4-inch PPQs set up in nightstands and go bags and other places, just in case of when the SHTF. I even have PPQ 22s for Steel Challenge. So when Cody Osborn, the marketing manager for Walther Arms, reached out last August to invite me to the writer’s summit for a release of a new Walther, I was pumped.
Unfortunately, it was the same weekend as the Steel Challenge World Speed Shoot last year, and no matter how much I whined to Foley about how, “It would be important to have a representative of USPSA at the Walther Event,” this failed to convince him—so I missed out on the initial release of the new gun. [Mike Foley is the USPSA president and the author's boss—Ed.]
With SHOT Show being cancelled, Walther moved the release of the new Personal Defense Pistol (PDP) in 9 mm back and I didn’t receive the review samples until the week of the release. Since I wasn’t at the writers’ event in September, I didn’t know anything about the new handguns. I was excited to pick them up and get to shoot them. They showed up the day before I was leaving for the Florida Open followed by the USPSA Board Meeting in February, so all I got to do was open the box and check them out before packing them back up and heading out of town.
The first thing I noticed on the full-size was the grip was longer than the PPQ. Dropping the magazine out also revealed that it held 18 rounds now instead of the 15 rounds in the PPQ. Further inspection of the gun and handling showed that the new PDP had the same style of grip as the Q4 Steel Frame, with the same profile around the beavertail. At this point I may have grinned a little bit as these were a couple of areas on the PPQ that needed to be addressed. So we have longer grip, better feel and more ammunition—what else did the new PDP have to offer?
Let’s talk about that striker-fired trigger that Walther does so well. In the PPQ model, the striker-fired trigger system was referred to as the Quick Defense Trigger. The trigger itself is known for its short travel and reset. With the PDP pistol, Walther introduced a new and improved trigger dubbed the Performance Duty Trigger. This new trigger has the same outward appearance as the trigger on the PPQ; however, they have shortened the length of travel with the new PDT. There is also a more solid wall before the trigger breaks. My Q5s have tens of thousands of rounds on them, so I had to grab a less abused PPQ to compare the triggers. The takeup is noticeably shorter, but the wall felt the same to me in comparison as did the clean break between the two triggers.
The next area of the gun that is obviously different is the slide. The PDP models all come optics-ready. The slides feature a more aggressive serration pattern that Walther refers to as the Superterrain Serrations. Most handguns include serrations or grooves that are cut into the slide, or a subterrain style of serration. Walther’s Superterrain Serration design raises the serrations above the surface of the slide that allows for a more positive grip on the slide when working it.
One of the features that I liked about the Q5 and Q4 Steel Frame models was the texture of the wraparound style of grips they feature compared to the smoother surface of the PPQ models. The Performance Duty Texture on the PDP provides an aggressive surface to maintain a proper grip on the gun. Walther refers to the this as the tetrahedron design, which is non-abrasive to skin or clothing for those of us who like to carry inside the waistband. The texture wraps all around the grip of the gun, including the front strap and the interchangeable backstraps that the PDP comes with. Another updated feature on the PDP is the magazine release compared to the PPQ M2 style. The release extends just little bit more from the frame on the PDP, but what is also noticeable is the texturing on the release. The PDP magazine release is checkered and allows a more positive traction when hitting it over the smoother style of the old gun.
Walther is known for ergonomics in all its firearms and smart designs, and it shows in the grip on the new PDP. Besides the better texture and beavertail, the PDP has improved ergonomics for red-dot sights. The design allows shooters to locate the red dot easily with the forward sweep on the bottom of the front strap. Adding pinky pressure on the forward sweep allows the gun to come up in a natural aiming position, providing for a fast acquisition of a mounted red-dot sight. All of the models are red-dot-ready from the box. Each pistol comes with a free plate from Walther that you go online and order for the red dot you plan on mounting. When it comes to mounting red dots to guns, check out the plates from CH Precision Weapons. The CHPW plates for the PDP include the patented V4 T-nut design with twice the thread engagement over any other plate offered. They are available for all of the popular red-dot optics.
If you don’t go red dot on your new Walther, something else they did was use an established iron-sight setup. The new PDP iron sights are the same as any aftermarket Glock sight set for front and rear. The rear is the adjustable style from the box, with a three-dot-sight system. The footprint is designed to fit any Glock sights. So if you have a favorite style of Glock sights, you can install them on your new PDP without having to wait for the aftermarket sight companies to come up with a new sight for the new gun. Also, the sights are no longer part of the removable plate for the rear like on the PPQ slides. Now if you are mounting a red dot, you can have co-witnessed sights on your slide.
Modularity in firearms has become an important feature, and the Walther PDP is no exception. There are two distinctly different frame sizes, the ful-lsize and the compact. There are three different slide lengths available as well. Any slide can fit any frame. The full-size, as mentioned previously, is longer and accepts the new 18-round magazine. The compact frame is similar in size to the PPQ and takes the same original 15-round M2-style magazine. It is not recommended to use the 18-round magazine in the compact frame, as it can be overinserted and damage the ejector. The slide lengths are 4-inch, 4.5-inch and (just released) two 5-inch models. The guns come in five variations, the PDP Compact with 4-inch slide and 15 rounds, also available with the same 4-inch slide and full-size frame; the PDP 4.5-inch with full-size 18-round magazine and frame and now the PDP 5-inch Compact and full-size are also shipping.
Something else that Walther did that is a nice touch—all the models have the same MSRP of $649. It doesn’t matter the slide length or frame size because you are not paying more for slide length or frame size. Along with the ability to swap around frames and slides on the PDP models, many of the parts from the PPQ will also work on the PDP such as the recoil systems and barrels. You can even run your PPQ and Q5 slides on the PDP frames if you want.
With aftermarket support already available for sights, Walther made sure that when the new gun hit the market, there would be holsters available as well. A quick check on the Walther website has several manufacturers’ holsters already to go at the launch of the gun. For the review of the handgun, I reached out to champion shooter Randi Rogers at Comp-Tac to get the International belt holster for both the 4-inch and 4.5-inch guns. The International is Comp- Tac’s go-to competition holster. It is cut ready for a red dot and has a modular mounting design. The International model comes with three mounting options: Belt Mount, Paddle Mount and Drop Offset that is cant adjustable. The all-Kydex body is rigid and designed to fit each model of pistol, allowing for a fast draw and easy re-holstering.
For daily carry, I got a Dark Star Orion for Appendix inside the waistband. The AWIB Orion follows Dark Stars minimal design approach for less apparent footprint when carrying your firearm. The Orion is available in several color options over the standard black for an additional cost. Other options available are adding the Dark Wing, which is designed to help rotate the grip inward for increased concealment. You can choose to have an optic cut, and the belt attachment can either be the clip or loops. I prefer loops that snap over bending a clip over a belt. You can order the IWB conversion screws if you want to convert the AWIB with Dark Wing to standard IWB carry.
Once I arrived at the range in Florida, I headed to the back bay where the Steel Challenge stage Smoke and Hope was set up with the 4.5- and 4-inch models. I had a selection of different ammunition from Federal, SIG, Atlanta Arms and Precision Delta in different bullet weights. I started with 150-grain Federal Syntech Action Pistol 9 mm to sight the gun in on the stop plate standing about 15 yards back. First 10-round group one on top of the other and just a touch high of point of aim, so I left the sights alone and got to work loading mags and pulling the trigger. I was smart enough to have left my timer back in Indiana and excited enough to start shooting that going up to the club house to borrow one seemed silly. So instead I just started shooting, some from low ready, some from the draw, some from table starts at the steel target arrays.
After burning through 500 rounds of 9 mm, I started to get a little worried about having enough ammunition left to shoot the Florida Open. I ran both pistols, but shot more from the 4.5-inch full-size model than the 4-inch compact. Over the first 500 rounds, I had no malfunctions in either gun. I mixed different bullet weights and profiles in the magazines and everything fed, fired and ejected as it was supposed to. I ran the trigger as fast as I could on the steel targets with several 18-round magazine dumps. The guns were easy to shoot, plus the trigger was nice with a great reset and easy to manipulate at speed.
The next chance I had to get to the range with the PDP, I set up one of the drills that Aron Bright and I used to shoot on most reviews of guns we did together; the “Near to Far” drill, as Coach liked to call it. This is three targets set at 10 yards, 15, and 25, spaced about six yards apart. A draw from hands at sides gave me four alphas, one charlie and a delta on the far target in 3.48 seconds on the first run. Doing this several times, my best time and hits were 2.76 with 4 alphas and 2 charlies. In addition, I ran a few Bill Drills, with my best run at 2.11 with all alphas. Next, I ran my Q5 Match and had a 1.94 with five alphas and a just a bit outside-the-A-zone-perf C hit.
Parabellum Firearms and Indoor Range started the Carry Gun matches backup that Aron previously ran, so I decided to give the PDP a try at the initial match. The Carry Gun match is run from concealment so I used the Dark Star AWIB holster. The stages are all short course, Hit Factor scored minor and generally require reloads after six or eight rounds. Only two divisions are recognized—Open or Limited—basically, with or without an optic. That evening, I finished second overall out of 29 competitors, and first in Limited with shooting 75 percent of the points, with a few too many charlies and one miss.
Walther has done a great job of taking the best parts of the PPQ to build a great firearm that is ready when you are. Something to note—the launch of the new PDP has been phenomenal, from the continued YouTube releases featuring the firearm, the weekly Instagram Live events, to having the aftermarket holsters, sights and other accessories ready to go at launch. The guns sold out right away and the demand for the optics plates and magazines have exceeded capacity, but Walther is quickly catching up. Check out the Walther website for more information on the new Personal Defense Pistol.
Article from the May/June 2021 issue of USPSA’s magazine.
Read more: Olympic Team To Be Finalized At U.S. Smallbore Rifle Trials