December 02, 2021
By James Tarr
It was 1997 when Walther introduced the polymer-framed striker-fired P99, and in 2011 the P99 was replaced by the upgraded and improved PPQ. The PPQ is now being replaced by the PDP: the Performance Duty Pistol.
The PPQ has been Walther’s flagship pistol. In designing a successor, the Walther engineers paid attention to what worked with the PPQ and where they and consumers thought it was lacking. They studied which pistol features are in demand, and they kept in mind the lessons they’d learned producing the recent steel-framed Q4 and Q5 pistols—although when it comes to reliability, the PPQ has never had a problem, so Walther took the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. The end result is the PDP, meant to be as suitable for law enforcement duty use as it is concealed carry by private citizens.
The PDP is a polymer-frame striker-fired pistol, currently available only in 9mm, with interchangeable backstraps. Initial models include a 15-shot compact with a four-inch barrel, and two full-size pistols with 18+1 capacity—one with a 4-inch barrel and one with a 4.5-inch barrel. For those who live in restrictive states, 10-round versions are available in all three. A five-inch longslide full-size PDP is planned at some point.
While externally it seems only to be a distant family relation, internally the PDP is nearly identical to the PPQ. It has a PPQ barrel and striker assembly, and it uses the checkered steel magazine release found in the steel-frame Q4 and Q5 models. The compact uses the same standard PPQ magazine. The full-size models use PPQ-pattern magazines; they’re just longer.
The Walther PPQ has the trigger pull against which all other striker-fired pistols are judged. The new Performance Duty Trigger (PDT—I know, I know, there’s a whole lotta acronyms starting with “P” going on here) uses trigger components that have the same external dimensions as those in the PPQ. However, the take-up has been shortened, and the wall has been made more robust for a crisper break. Advertised trigger pull across all PDP models is 4.8 pounds. That’s down from the official 5.6-pound trigger pull of the PPQ, although I’ve never shot a PPQ that had a trigger pull as heavy as the advertised number.
Let’s look at the compact, which I think probably will be the most popular version of the PDP. Dimensionally, it is nearly identical to the standard PPQ. It sports a four-inch barrel and overall is 7.4 inches long, 5.4 inches tall and 1.3 inches wide. With an empty 15-round magazine in place, it weighs 24.2 ounces. The magazine release is reversible. On either side of the pistol you’ll see long slide-lock levers.
While internally the slide of the new pistol is nearly the same as the PPQ, externally it is almost unrecognizable. The PDP sports what Walther calls SuperTerrain slide serrations. These are actually ridges that extend out from the slide body, and they are aggressive. They provide an excellent gripping surface for working the slide, and the resulting configuration also offers a wider platform for mounting a red dot. I like the aggressiveness as well as the looks.
I’ve always thought the PPQ had a high bore, but I realize now that was just a misperception due to the profile of the slide. The PDP uses a PPQ-pattern barrel and has the same bore height, but it looks like a shorter pistol with a lower bore simply because the slide is substantially wider at the top.
However, this means your PDP won’t fit in your PPQ holster. Luckily, Walther has been working with holster companies, and by the time you read this at least 13 holster companies will have holsters available for it.
Walther Defense Division
Walther’s new Defense Division is designed to provide customers with the tools and skills necessary to be ready in any situation, and it is staffed with experienced professionals. The Defense Division isn’t just about shooting, although every instructor at the PDP launch event was an expert behind the pistol. At the event we received instruction on shooting on the move; shooting from the ground and around vehicles; at night with lights and night-vision gear—as well as a four-hour block of instruction on emergency casualty care. The latter involved the proper use of tourniquets, wound packing and other first-aid skills you might need in the aftermath of a defensive shooting situation, something Walther thinks should be part of the defensive mindset of concealed carriers. Anyone who visits a shooting range knows accidents happen. Walther plans to offer basic trauma kits through its Defense Division, which might be a first for a firearms company this size.
The barrel of the PDP has the same external dimensions as that found in the PPQ, but it has been tweaked internally. The chamber of the PDP barrel is “stepped.” The rear of the chamber is a standard size, leaving a bit of room for gunk to build up without affecting reliability, but the front of the chamber, next to the rifling, is tighter. This provides a little extra accuracy as well as a bit more velocity. If you examine spent cases, you’ll see a ring around the case mouth.
Walther decided to go with Glock-pattern sights for the PDP. They are polymer, made by Walther, and have the same factory rear-sight polymer protector found on Glocks. The front sight has a white dot. The white-outline rear sight is both windage and elevation adjustable.
If you wish to swap out these sights, which I recommend since I don’t believe plastic sights belong on defense guns, every sight company offers four gazillion versions that fit Glocks—which is exactly why Walther went with this sight pattern.
Did your ears perk up at the mention of a red dot? Unlike Walther’s previous red-dot-ready pistols, the rear sight is not attached to the optic plate, so you get to keep the rear sight on the gun if you add an optic. This also means you can now install a tall rear sight to co-witness with a red dot, if you want.
When you buy a PDP, go to waltherarms.com/optic-plate-request to order one free plate of your choice. Plates are available for Docter, Trijicon, Leupold and Vortex footprints. If you’re unsure, the order page has an excellent footprint guide that lists about every sight out there.
These are mounting plates, not adapter plates. The plate is attached to the slide with screws, and your optic is then attached to the plate. If you prefer to run iron sights, the provided polymer slide cover has serrations that match the slide.
You’ll notice that with the PDP Walther has done away with the finger grooves found on the PPQ’s grip. You might notice something else: a pronounced kick-out at the bottom of the frame. According to Cody Osborn at Walther, this new grip—which it calls “red dot ergonomics”—was developed with Modern Samurai Project’s Scott Jedlinski to help produce more pinky pressure. This helps the red dot drop into the sight’s field of view faster.
Walther has also improved the grip’s texturing. The new Performance Duty Texture mimics that found on the grips of Walther’s steel-framed Q4 and Q5. Both sides of the grip and the backstrap have the Performance Duty Texture. The frontstrap has standard checkering, with matching checkering on the front of the trigger guard.
I would have preferred the more aggressive texturing on the frontstrap as well, but the folks at Walther were worried it would be too aggressive for some shooters. After spending serious time behind the gun, I discovered the provided texture mix works perfectly.
The recoil spring assembly is a captured design, and because Walther wanted the guns to be as modular as possible, the spring assembly in the four-inch compact is the same as in the four- and 4.5-inch full-size guns, as well as the planned five-inch gun. This means you will be easily able to swap barrels and slides between frame sizes.
As the company is specifically going after law enforcement sales with the PDP, it’s designed to disassemble without having to pull the trigger, which is a requirement with a number of police departments to reduce the occurrence of negligent discharges.
After you pull down on the takedown block, you can pull the trigger to release the slide if you want. Or you can lock back the slide and, using a handcuff key or similar small steel punch, pop off the steel slide cover and pull the striker assembly out the rear. The slide can then be removed forward, and the gun is ready for cleaning.
For the media roll-out for the pistol, Walther put on an intense two-day clinic run by the Walther Defense Division at The Site Firearms Training Center in Mount Carroll, Illinois (TheSiteTraining.com). It’s a fabulous facility, and I’ve been there close to a dozen times in the past 10 years for various events, including filming for various TV shows such as “Handguns and Defensive Weapons.”
For the first day of the event, I ran a full-size PDP mounting a red dot, in this case a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro. The second day I ran a compact PDP with iron (er, plastic) sights. I found I preferred the softer recoil impulse of the larger gun.
No surprise there, but I liked the way the shorter grip of the compact curved to fit my hand. The shorter grip put my pinkie right at the bottom of the grip, giving me a slightly better feeling of control over the gun.
In the end, I think it was a wash between the two models. Now that Walther is offering 18-round magazines, I could see carrying a compact with a flush 15-round magazine in place and having an 18-rounder on my belt for a reload.
There were eight of us at the event, and over the two days, we each put between 750 and 1,000 rounds through our pistols. I would like to be able to say no one experienced any malfunctions, but Walther was having the same problems obtaining ammo last year as everyone else, and what it did find turned out to be less than satisfactory. There were a lot of light-loaded rounds that produced short-cycling malfunctions: failures to extract, eject and so forth.
Considering the PDP is basically a PPQ on the inside, and the PPQ has proven itself to be completely reliable, I don’t think anybody had any problems with their guns, only problems with their ammo. It did give us the opportunity to practice our malfunction drills, so there was a silver lining in that cloud.
We did speed drills at three yards and shot one-handed at night out to 50 yards—and worked hard at just about every distance in between, standing on our feet and rolling around on the ground.
Whether I was fresh and fully caffeinated or tired and shooting at night in the rain, I realized the texturing on the PDP was more than sufficient. I finished the weekend with Band-Aids on three fingers, sore muscles and a smile on my face.
Walther later sent me a sample of both the full-size and compact to test back home, and that’s where I did the accuracy testing you see in the accompanying table. I was also able to do my shooting in a more controlled, relaxed environment.
After putting an additional 300 or so rounds of high-quality ammunition through the guns—the hollowpoints you see listed in the accuracy table as well as several boxes of Black Hills full metal jacket—I experienced no further malfunctions, telling me the issues at the media event were all ammo-related.
The PPQ is Walther’s flagship pistol and is in use by many European law enforcement agencies as well as a few U.S. ones. Any replacement for this gun has to be built to the same tough standards, because Walther would like to acquire even more law enforcement contracts, especially in the U.S.
After the two-day event at The Site, I was asked my honest opinion of the new PDP. I said: “It’s not just designed to replace the PPQ; it is supposed to be better. It is.”
Walther PDP Compact Specifications
- Type: striker-fired semiauto
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 15+1
- Barrel: 4.0 in.
- OAL/Height/Width: 7.4/5.4/1.3 in.
- Weight: 24.2 oz.
- Finish: matte black Tenifer
- Sights: polymer 3-dot
- Trigger: 4.75 lb. pull (measured)
- Price: $649
- Manufacturer: Walther, WaltherArms.com