January 08, 2021
By James Tarr
The success of the Walther Q5 Match Steel Frame should have been a clue to everyone that far more people than just competition shooters are interested in competition guns. Competition pistols generally have superior sights, trigger pulls and easy-to-use features, so why wouldn’t they attract the attention of the gun-buying population at large?
The Q5 Match SF got a lot of attention, but it was a big, heavy gun, not at all suited for concealed carry. It weighs 41.6 ounces, some versions have a big mag well, and it’s nearly nine inches long. When it was introduced, Walther hinted it was just the first in a new series of steel-framed guns, and just over a year later, the company has delivered on that hint with the more compact and concealed carry-suitable Q4 Steel Frame.
The Q4 SF is a smaller version of the Q5 Match SF, and while it isn’t simply a steel-framed version of the PPQ, the resemblance is strong. It is a striker-fired pistol with a four-inch barrel and a 15+1 capacity. With its steel frame, unloaded weight of this pistol with an empty magazine in place is 39.7 ounces, which means you’ll need a good holster and a good belt to carry it.
The frame is machined from billet steel and sports a slightly larger beavertail than found on the ancestral PPQ. And unlike the PPQ, the Q4 SF comes with G10 laminate grips held in place by screws. The grips wrap around the rear and meet in the back.
One thing that has always struck me was how good the PPQ feels in the hand. The grip shape just seemed to fit my hand, and I wasn’t the only one. The PPQ has shallow finger grooves on the front of the frame. Those have been done away with for the steel-framed guns, but you won’t mind. In their place Walther has checkered the frontstrap of the grip and the front of the square trigger guard.
The texturing on the grips covers everything but the frontstrap and is also more aggressive than the factory surface on the polymer-framed guns. Combine the substantively more aggressive gripping surface with a heavier pistol that recoils less, and you’ve got a gun that just doesn’t move in your hand when shooting. While it is definitely thicker in the hand than the PPQ, it feels just as good.
The grip frame on this pistol is the same height as that on the larger Q5 Match SF, just shortened front and back. The pistol is 5.4 inches tall and is a bit thick side to side at 1.3 inches, thanks to the G10 grips that protrude a hair farther than the slide release levers.
Like other members of the PPQ M2 family, the Q4 SF features the American-style button mag release. The button is big and reversible for you lefties. The magazine well on the frame is generously beveled.
The Q4 SF uses standard PPQ magazines, and two 15-round magazines are supplied with each pistol. The magazines have high-visibility, red polymer followers, and the index holes on the rear are numbered.
The original Q5 Match SF was available with an external magazine well as an option, and if that’s something of interest to you, those mag wells are available from Walther in blue or black and will fit the Q4 SF. However, they do protrude below the bottom of the frame, dramatically reducing concealability.
One thing I noticed is a vertical slot at the bottom rear of the frame. This slot is used when attaching a mag well. With the mag well in place, your palm barely touches the slot. Without a mag well, the heel of your hand presses into a sharp corner at the bottom of the frame.
There are flat-bottomed cocking serrations on the front and rear of the slide. Every manufacturer seems to be going to this serration style, and I’m glad because they are more functional than the traditional angled serrations.
Unlike the polymer piece on the original PPQ, the recoil spring guide rod in the Q4 SF is steel.
You’ll spot “Q4 SF” on the left side of the slide. The top of the slide is flattened and serrated between the sights. The steel sights have three large dots on them that are white with a faint green tinge. The dots are photoluminescent paint, which gives you most of the performance of tritium-powered night sights for a fraction of the cost.
I tested them. If you take this gun from a lit room into a dark one, the sights glow dimly. If you take it from direct sunlight into a dark room, or hit the sights with the beam from a flashlight for just three seconds, the dots glow brighter than tritium night sights for at least three minutes. The rear sight is drift-adjustable in the dovetail for windage.
If you like the adjustable, plate-mounted rear sight setup like that found on the Q5 Match SF, Walther is also selling the Q4 SF OR (Optics Ready) pistol for $100 more. It’s identical to the Q4 SF except for the rear sight.
The Q4 SF sports Walther’s Quick Defense trigger, its standard trigger system, with an advertised pull weight of 5.6 pounds. The PPQ has consistently had one of the best trigger pulls of any striker-fired gun on the market, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever tested a PPQ trigger that actually had a pull weight as high as the advertised weight. Trigger pull on my Q4 SF was 5.25 pounds, with a smooth take-up and a relatively crisp break.
The Q4 SF is not a small or a light gun. It’s not even a compact gun (whatever that is), being roughly the size of the original PPQ, which is considered a full-size duty gun. It weighs as much as a full-size 1911. However, plenty of people carry 1911s, and you know what you get when you chamber a 39-ounce pistol in 9mm? A very, very soft-shooting pistol.
A lot of high-intensity competition experience behind various handgun platforms has shown me that heavier guns obviously recoil less, but they also tend to remain steadier as you are pulling the trigger. Being a little rough or sloppy on the trigger with a light polymer gun can pull your sights off the target. That’s much less of an issue with a gun the weight of the Q4 SF.
At the range I spent time running a plate rack to get used to the recoil cycle of the pistol. I then did some double-tap drills on IDPA targets, moving back and forth to see if the weight of the pistol was an issue. It wasn’t. Most of the weight of the gun is back in your hand, not way out front, so I found it transitioned between targets like a lighter gun.
The Q4 SF was a smooth shooter. When working the slide by hand, once the barrel unlocks all you feel is the recoil spring pressure, there are no hitches or bumps. Pressing the trigger provided just as silky smooth of an experience. This is a gun you can shoot all day.
If you’re one of those people like me who “incorrectly” wraps the index finger of their support hand around the front of the trigger guard, you’ll really appreciate the design of this pistol. Between the little finger hook on the trigger guard and the checkering, your finger stays exactly where you want it.
Remember the corner of the frame I mentioned earlier? It was noticeable when I was manipulating the gun at home, but it didn’t give me any problems while shooting. In fact, I didn’t notice it at all. Because of its weight, this pistol doesn’t have much recoil, and because of its rounded backstrap, it tends to rock in the hand instead of recoiling straight back into your palm, and that corner is pulled away from your hand.
When it came time to pull out the sandbags and do some accuracy work, the Q4 SF was a tack driver. As my testing of this piece occurred during the great pandemic lockdown of 2020, with its accompanying runs on guns and ammo, I found myself using some of my emergency ammo stores to test its reliability. The gun ran perfectly, even when I was feeding it 30-year-old Norinco FMJs. Shooting hot +P-level “9mm NATO” ammo was a quite pleasant experience.
The Q4 SF weighs nearly a pound (15.2 ounces) more than the polymer-framed PPQ, the pistol it most closely resembles. Both would be excellent duty or carry guns. So why steel, instead of polymer, on a carry gun? Some people—a lot of people—just don’t like “plastic” guns. Period. End of discussion.
Other people like the recoil-absorbing weight of steel. If you don’t happen to be carrying this pistol and just shoot it at the range, or keep it loaded and wearing a light in your nightstand drawer, the extra weight is nothing but a positive feature.
Finally, the fact that the grips are now a separate piece allows for additional customization not possible with the standard polymer PPQ/Q5 Match. If you’re the kind of person who likes customizing your pistol, the fact that the Q4 SF is a derivative of the competition-oriented Q5 Match and Q5 Match SF means there are all sorts of factory and aftermarket goodies available to you.
Walther itself sells the magazine wells I mentioned earlier, as well as a tungsten recoil spring guide rod for more weight near the muzzle to tame recoil. Note that the company’s Q5 Upper Conversion kit, which was reviewed in last issue “Speedloads” section, does not fit the new Q4 SF.
As of right now, Walther isn’t offering grips with different profiles, but if you want alternatives, you’re in luck. LOK Grips is making replacement grips for the Q5 Match SF/Q4 SF. These grips are G10 and available in different colors and textures. The company also offers thin grips that are both narrower and have a reduced backstrap.
The standard capacity 15-round PPQ magazines not enough for you? Do not fret. The factory sells 17-round extended magazines or +2 aluminum mag extensions to turn your mags into 17-rounders.
Taran Tactical Innovations offers extended capacity +3 and +5 base pads, and if that still won’t do, Taylor Freelance offers +6 and +12 mag extensions.
I find it interesting that 30 years ago gun manufacturers started abandoning metal-framed pistols for polymer-framed designs as plastic was the future. Now those same manufacturers—it’s not just Walther—are offering metal-framed versions of those polymer guns. That’s because, in many ways, there is just no substitute for steel.
Walther Q4 Steel Frame Specs
- Type: Striker-fired semiauto
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 15+1
- Barrel: 4.0 in.
- OAL/height/width: 7.4/5.4/1.3 in.
- Weight: 39.7 oz.
- Finish: Matte black Tenifer
- Sights: Steel, 3-dot, photoluminescent
- Trigger: 5.25 lb. pull (measured)
- Price: $1,299
- Manufacturer: Walther, WaltherArms.com
Walther Q4 Steel Frame Accuracy Results