By Steve Tracy
Walther’s newest full-size duty pistol boasts superb trigger and ergonomics.
The Walther PPQ is an evolution of the German gun maker’s P99 pistol. The P99 was their first striker-fired pistol, coming out in 1997 as a change in direction from the P38, P5, and P88 double action pistols. Walther’s nomenclature includes the classic “Police Pistol” designation that harkens back to the original Walther PP of 1929. The addition of the letter “Q” stands for Quick Defense, which relates to the PPQ’s trigger.
The PPQ is a polymer-frame, striker-fired semi-automatic pistol chambered for either the 9mm or .40 S&W cartridge. We all know that the Walther PPK is James Bond’s choice as a small, thin, .32 or .380 caliber pistol that is easily concealable in a shoulder holster under a custom-tailored suit. Walther Arms still makes the PPK here in the USA and the Arkansas-based company distributes the firearms made by Walther in Germany.
M2 with Standard Magazine Release
The original PPQ, introduced in 2011, came with a 4-inch barrel and Walther’s ambidextrous paddle magazine release. Some shooters liked the paddle mag lever because it was less likely to accidentally actuate. However, here in the States, we’re adept at the standard push-button magazine release (well, most of us, but not all as the range test proved) and we’re slow to change. Walther wisely came out with an M2 with a standard button mag release that is user swappable for left-handed shooters.
The PPQ M2 comes in a foam-lined, hard plastic case with two magazines, a loading tool, and three interchangeable backstraps (small, medium and large). The ability to tailor the grip to individual hands, regardless of size, is almost a necessity these days. One size fits all is not necessarily true, but three sizes fits most seems to work rather well.
Inside the case’s lid are the instruction manual and a unique item from a bygone era: the test target. A dated and signed target was fired upon at the factory to confirm that the sights were properly regulated. The test target is shot with five rounds at 15 meters and has the pistol’s serial logged too. In this day and age, it’s impressive to consider the manual labor it takes to hang each target, fire at it, retrieve it, and then note the information to match it up with the individual gun’s case.
The PPQ’s steel parts are Tenifer™ coated for durability against the elements. The barrel, slide, and frame are marked with matching serial numbers (another “German thing”). The pistol as tested came with polymer sights with the typical 3-dot white highlights. The rear sight is screw adjustable for windage and the front sight is replaceable with various heights. Metal tritium night sights are available as an option. There is a raised, striated section on the top of the slide to reduce glare in addition to the matte-black overall finish on the pistol. Front cocking serrations are in addition to the wide rear cuts in the slide. The left front angled cuts handsomely include the Walther banner.
The slide stop/release is located on both sides of the PPQ’s frame. For those who still like to use this device to release the slide after it has locked back on an empty magazine and a new magazine is inserted, the lever is long and extends much farther to the rear than the designs on other makers’ pistols. The PPQ’s slide release lever is about as far back as those on the Sig Sauer P-series pistols. This means there is no need to change your strong hand’s grip to release the slide; it is easily within reach, even for those with the smallest hands.
The PPQ’s width measures 1.3 inches and its height is 5.3 inches. The grip has slight finger grooves, which is to say they are not as pronounced (or as sharply pointed) as a Glock’s. For officers with average or small hands, the PPQ was found to offer a comfortable grip that pointed naturally. Of course, the three backstraps help fit the grip to each individual’s hand. For my large hands, I found the grip fine, but it is slightly shorter than other pistols’. The bottom of the grip curves forward to secure your hand during recoil and I could have used another 1/8-inch. The area where your hand contacts the polymer frame is nicely textured in a cross directional manner that can only be described as “swirly.” It works very well at keeping your hand on the gun, despite whatever slippery conditions police duty may throw your way.
The front of the trigger guard is squared off, ribbed, and large enough for use with gloves. A Picatinny rail under the muzzle mounts lights and lasers. The extractor is large for positive grasping of empty cases to fling them out the ejection port. The extractor also shows a red spot of paint when it bends in after a cartridge is chambered. This serves as a loaded chamber indicator when viewed from the top of the pistol. Magazine capacity is 15 rounds for the 9mm version and 11 rounds for the .40 S&W pistol. Mags eject and fall quickly free when the slide is locked to the rear and the large, round button release is pressed. The plastic bottom provides positive insertion of freshly loaded magazines. The Walther will fire with its magazine removed.
5-Inch Long Slide Version
The newest version of the PPQ, and the one used for this test, is the long slide model with the 5-inch barrel. It features six oval lightening cuts toward the front top of the slide. The longer barrel provides slightly more velocity and a longer sight radius, making it inherently easier to shoot more accurately than its 4-inch barreled brother. The PPQ M2 5-inch joins long barreled versions of popular pistols from Glock (34), S&W (M&P Professional), FNH-USA (FNS Long Slide), and Springfield Armory (XDM 5.25). Of course, the Colt 1911 full-size pistol has a 5-inch barrel too. For police work, the longer barrel’s velocity and sight radius is a plus. For competition, the sight radius is a certain advantage.
The Finest Trigger
Walther’s website claims, “The trigger is the finest ever on a polymer, striker-fired handgun.” This is a strong claim indeed. Having fired all of the 5-inch barrel pistols listed above, I cannot disagree with Walther’s statement. Their website further states that the trigger pull travels .4-inch prior to letting a round fly and requires just .1-inch of reset until the trigger is ready for another shot. A short reset facilitates a second shot or “split times” when talking about competition and speed.
There is a safety tab in the center of the trigger. Two drop-safeties and a firing pin block safety make the PPQ completely safe when holstered. As with many striker-fired pistols, there is not an external, manual safety. Walther cites the trigger pull of the PPQ to break at 5.6 pounds. The test pistol’s trigger broke at a precise 4.1 pounds on my Lyman digital trigger pull gauge. Everyone who tried the PPQ’s trigger (either dry fire or live fire) had the same reaction. They each had that pleased face of being impressed.
The reason for the trigger’s light pull is because the PPQ has a pre-loaded striker assembly. The trigger does not partially load the striker spring as it does on other manufacturers’ guns. Since the PPQ is always “cocked,” the striker does not show itself at the rear of the slide.
The action is standard Browning tilt-barrel cam-lug design. The barrels are forged and standard button rifled (so non-jacketed lead bullets are OK if you’re into reloading).
Competition Range Time
The PPQ was found to fit in a Fobus paddle holster made for the S&W M&P and the Uncle Mike’s Pro-3 Slimline, size 25, duty holster made for Glock and S&W M&P pistols. In addition to time spent at the range firing various brands of ammunition at targets, the Walther PPQ M2 5-inch was also used in an IDPA match, utilizing the Fobus holster.
The Walther PPQ M2 5-inch performed without fail on the various courses. When taping over the holes in the silhouette targets, the majority had double taps very close to each other. The long sight radius combined with the outstanding trigger pull and short reset kept the PPQ’s rounds centered.
Grouping was dead center at 7, 15, and 25 yards with the factory sights and all bullet weights (115, 124, and 147 9mm rounds) hit in the same place. The gentleman who signed the PPQ’s test target did a fine job of making sure this pistol hit right in the bullseye.
The PPQ was found to point instinctively and naturally. Coming up on target with a two-hand hold put the front sight immediately where it needed to be. No time was needed to readjust the angle of the wrist to compensate for a radical grip angle. Recoil was typical of 9mm loads, even +P cartridges, which is to say recoil was mild. The Walther PPQ is a gun that can be fired quickly, while still retaining accuracy, due to its terrific trigger.
Back to the Magazine Release
I found the large button magazine release to work fine and I had no issues with it. But, that’s why it’s a good idea to have other officers try shooting guns for review. Different opinions, hand sizes, and shooting styles give a more complete assessment. My grip keeps my strong-hand thumb away from the mag release. I can’t push that button on purpose, let alone by mistake.
However, two officers who fired the PPQ M2 accidentally caused the magazine to fall out of the pistol while shooting. Upon close inspection of their shooting grips, both officers tightly curled their shooting thumb in toward the grip and it rested on the button. Their tight grip, combined with recoil, caused the magazine to eject.
It goes to show that a new purchase should be made with care, handling a firearm and even shooting one if possible before plunking your cash down on the counter. Perhaps Walther did have a good idea with the paddle release design on their European models. Each of the officers were able to simply change their grip slightly to prevent the problem from occurring further.
4-Inch or 5-Inch
The Walther PPQ M2 lives up to its hype. Walther’s bold statements about the gun’s trigger are backed up in action. The 5-inch version was found to have very good balance when loaded. The 4-inch pistol would carry a bit more comfortably on duty without its muzzle poking down into your squad’s seat. The shorter barrel model would also work well for off-duty carry as its overall size, including the not-too-tall grip, isn’t very large and is still relatively light. PM
Steve Tracy is a 27-year police veteran with 25 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He is also an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force, less-than-lethal force and scenario-based training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- No matter what 9mm ammo was pressed into its 15-round magazines, the Walther PPQ M2 5-inch never failed to feed, fire, or eject hollowpoints or full-metal jacket bullets.
- A loaded chamber indicator shows red when viewed from the top as the pistol’s extractor detects the case of a chambered cartridge.
- The PPQ’s “Quick Defense” striker-firing trigger breaks at a combat perfect four pounds of pressure and has a very short, or “quick” reset.
- Who does this anymore? Walther does. A fired test target is included in the box with every PPQ pistol.
- Field stripping requires the trigger to be pulled after making doubly sure the chamber is empty. Then tabs on either side are drawn downward while the slide is released forward off the polymer frame.
- Six oval cutouts lighten the Walther’s Tenifer ™-coated steel slide.
- The PPQ M2 5-inch comes in a plastic case with two magazines and a mag loading tool. Extra 15-shot magazines were available to order online.
- The PPQ M2 with standard 4-inch barrel or the 5-inch barrel is a logical choice as a law-enforcement duty pistol. The Uncle Mike’s Pro-3 Duty holster for the Glock 17/S&W M&P also fit the Walther PPQ.