April 26, 2023
By J. Scott Rupp & Kourtney Fleming
Walther’s PDP F-Series is not the first gun designed primarily for women, but it may just be the best. As Jens Krogh, Walther’s vice president of marketing and product development, told me right off the bat, the one thing they didn’t want to do is “just pink it and shrink it,” as in make a PDP with color accents some women might find attractive and simply make it smaller. Instead, designers set out to rethink the company’s flagship pistol platform to make it truly better for female shooters.
For starters, it ain’t pink—or blue or purple or what have you. Just basic black, thank you very much, and it looks for all the world like the regular PDP. But looks are deceiving, and the F-Series departs from the PDP design in several key areas.
First is the grip. It has a slimmer circumference, but it’s not simply “shrunk.” Engineers made the extra effort to reduce it in specific areas to make it more likely to fit the shooting grip of a woman. It comes with backstraps of two different sizes to further customize the fit.
Second is a shorter trigger reach. These two aspects combine to make the gun a lot more shootable—and not just for gals, which I’ll get to in a bit.
Almost as importantly, the force needed to rack the slide is, according to the company, 20 percent less than the standard PDP. I wish I had had a regular PDP on hand for comparison, but I didn’t, so all I can say is this is one easy-racking slide.
While this certainly does not apply to all women, females in general tend to have less hand strength than men. It’s the reason why when a woman or a new shooter asks for first-gun advice, I point out that slide manipulation is something to consider—and if possible, they should compare different semiautos to see what works best for them.
Aside from these characteristics, the F-Series has all the same features the standard PDP does. The slide serrations are what the company calls SuperTerrain, and the slide is cut in such a way that the serrations are actually raised. They’re aggressive, and they work very well. Add that to the reduced racking force and it’s a gun basically anyone without major hand-strength issues, such as arthritis or injury, will be able to manipulate. The front of the slide is slightly relieved for easier holstering.
One of the things Walther concentrated on when it created the PDP, which succeeded its PPQ model, was the grip. The texture is what the company calls its Performance Duty Texture. It provides excellent “grippiness” without being overly aggressive.
The base of the grip features Walther’s Red Dot Ergonomics,” and that’s not just a marketing term. You’ll note a slight flare or kickout at the front of the base. This allows the shooter to apply more pinky pressure, which, in turn, essentially cams the front of the pistol down.
Why is that important? If you’ve shot a red dot very much, you know it can be hard to pick up the dot in the sight’s window, especially on the draw. It’s usually the case the dot is high and out of the window, so if you get the front of the pistol down, you can pick up the dot more consistently and more quickly.
The gun is, of course, red-dot ready, and the slide cover plate continues the SuperTerrain serrations, so if you’re shooting the irons you still get that benefit—plus, it looks better.
Walther has a nifty way of handling the fact that there are a billion red dot sights, and many of them have different footprints. Rather than ship the pistol with a bunch of different plates, driving up costs, Walther makes it super-easy to order the plate of your choice. Go to waltherarms.com/optic-plate-request to order your free plate. Unsure what you need? There’s an in-depth, informative red dot footprint guide on the page, and it will tell you everything you need to know.
The plates are aluminum, and they screw into the slide, and then the sight’s screws thread into metal inserts in the plate. It’s a secure setup.
The PDP has three-dot sights. The front is a plastic post with a white dot, and it screws into the slide and can be replaced if necessary. The rear is composed of a metal frame that protects a plastic insert with the notch and its two white dots. It’s fully adjustable, the insert traveling on screws that allow you to adjust windage and elevation. Walther thoughtfully provides a small tool that precisely fits the slotted adjustment screw heads.
Earlier I mentioned the shorter trigger reach, and in this case you’re reaching for the Performance Duty Trigger. I’ve long held the opinion that Walther triggers are the best factory jobs out there, and the Performance Duty Trigger is no exception. Pull weight on this sample was four pounds, 11 ounces on average, but what really impressed me was its consistency. Variation from pull to pull was only an ounce or two. Reset is short and nicely crisp.
How did it shoot? I mounted a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro on the gun, and the bench accuracy results are shown in the accompanying table. Solid accuracy, just as I had expected. Later, I ran the gun through a variety of drills: Bill Drill, Failure to Stop, and strong-hand-only/weak-hand-only exercises.
I freely admit to being a Walther fanboy, and I own a PPQ and a Q5 Match Steel Frame, along with a conversion that turns my PPQ four-inch gun into a five-inch gun. I’ve shot them all in training and in competition, and I love them.
I’ve also shot the standard PDP, mostly on the set of “Handguns & Defensive Weapons” (soon to be renamed simply “Handguns,” still on Sportsman Channel). I have to say—and I said as much to Jens Krogh—I like the F-Series better than the regular PDP.
I shoot it a lot better, because while I have medium hands and can work with most grips, my hand/finger dimensions match up perfectly with the F-Series grip and shorter trigger reach. For me the F-Series was lights-out on the drills I did, and if I didn’t already have a “favorite son” in my PPQ, I would buy an F-Series.
I think a lot of men would likewise find the F-Series to be just right for them. That opens a lot of avenues, depending on your situation.
A woman looking for a suitable home defense or carry gun (and here I should note it’s available with a four- or a 3.5-inch barrel)? Check. A man looking for a gun that possibly fits him better than what he currently has? Check. A couple looking for a gun they might both shoot really well for what might be their only home defense/carry gun? Double check.
Because the F-Series was designed specifically for women, I’m going to turn the rest of this review over to our “Handguns” co-host Kourtney Fleming, who has had a good deal of trigger time with this pistol and will lend her expert opinion from a female perspective.
I shot the Walther PDP F-Series quite a bit while filming the TV show last season, and I really enjoyed it. Up until now, companies have tried to appeal to women shooters with brightly colored pistols in pink, purple, teal, etc.—and typically small, subcompact pistols.
I tend to shy away from those, as the flashy girly stuff does not appeal to me. When I saw this pistol was designed specifically with the female shooter in mind and was none of those things, it was a breath of fresh air. Not only is it ideal for female shooters, but also it will appeal to a much broader spectrum of people who can take advantage of all the awesome features of the F-Series.
The grip is what really stood out to me the most. I have struggled with the fit on pistols for as long as I’ve been shooting. I have very small hands, so I typically lean toward shooting smaller-framed subcompact pistols, as they tend to fit me better. But with that comes additional recoil.
The Walther PDP F-Series is more of a full-size pistol. On other guns of this size, I’ve never been able to reach the magazine release with my thumb without adjusting my grip, so I’ve had to adapt and use my support hand for that. Because of the reduced grip circumference of the PDP F-Series, I’m able to use my shooting-hand thumb to activate the release.
I’m also able to get a high and solid grip on this pistol, which significantly helps with recoil management. The flare at the bottom of the magazine—Walther’s red dot ergonomics—has also helped me control recoil better along with being faster on the red dot sight.
The shorter trigger reach was a big deal to me, as I’ve also experienced that with many guns the distance to the trigger can be too long for me. Again, along with these small hands, I also have short fingers, so I’ve run into issues where I couldn’t reach to depress the trigger safety consistently. This could be a life-threatening issue in some cases.
The Walther’s shorter distance to the trigger prevents this from occurring. So not only does the F-Series have one of the smoothest striker-fired triggers, in my opinion, but also it’s a trigger I can reach without any issues.
I’ve been carrying the F-Series off and on for a few weeks while writing this article. It’s currently late fall and the temps are cool, so I’m wearing larger clothing and more layers. I noticed that the grip texture is not uncomfortable when on direct skin, yet it is still very effective for providing a secure grip while firing.
This pistol is a little on the large side for me to conceal in the months where a T-shirt is necessary, but right now when a baggy sweatshirt or a Carhartt vest is the garment of choice, I have no problem.
I would still carry this pistol in the warmer months, but I would probably use an off-body carry option such as a purse. I didn’t have a chance to try it, but the version with the 3.5-inch barrel could be the solution to year-round on-body carry.
While testing the gun, I ran through several different brands of ammo and types of bullets, from handloaded full metal jackets to Hornady Critical Defense, and all worked flawlessly. I didn’t have a single malfunction. I performed some of my favorite drills such as the Box drill, FAST drill and Mozambique drill. With the recoil being very manageable, I was able to shoot faster and be more accurate with both my strong hand and weak hand, unsupported, while executing the Box drill.
Because of the laws in Washington, I had to use Walther’s 10-round mags, so I had the pleasure of practicing a lot of mag changes. As I mentioned earlier, being able to use my thumb on my shooting hand for the magazine release rather than my support hand was a game-changer. It took a bit of retraining, but after running through it a few times, it made me faster and more efficient.
I also performed some malfunction drills. The slide manipulation portion of these drills was a breeze. I’ve never really had an issue with slide manipulation, but you can tell the difference between the Walther PDP-F Series and one with a slide that has a stiff spring and lesser slide serrations.
This pistol boasts Walther’s SuperTerrain slider serrations—both in front of and behind the ejection port. These provide superior grip, so your hand will never slip off the slide. The serrations pair nicely with the lightened spring, and that simplifies slide manipulation. Even if you’re capable of working the heaviest slides, this is still something you can take advantage of and appreciate.
I think Walther has really hit the nail on the head with this gun. The PDP F-Series is fun to shoot, reliable, comfortable, not pink, and uses the same holsters as the other PDPs on the market.
Some of these features are game-changers for me as a female shooter. However simple the gun’s modifications may be, they really bring the entire gun together as the best choice on the market for the female shooter. I hope this is the first in the line of many pistols that cater to the ever-growing female shooting community.
Walther PDP F-Series Specifications
- Type: Striker-fired semiauto centerfire
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Capacity: 10-, 15-round magazines
- Barrel: 3.5, 4 in. (tested)
- OAL/Height/Width: 7.25/5.4/1.3 in.
- Weight: 24 oz.
- Construction: Black steel slide, polymer frame
- Sights: 3-dot, adjustable rear; red dot ready
- Trigger: Performance Duty; 4 lb., 11 oz. pull (measured)
- Safeties: Trigger, passive internal
- Price: $699
- Manufacturer: Walther, WaltherArms.com