The Walther PDP F-Series 9 mm pistol has been making waves because it is supposedly designed for women, or at least for smaller hands. I’ve heard all that before, though, so my curiosity about it was tempered with skepticism.
But, upon picking up the gun, a difference was immediately noticeable. Walther didn’t just shrink a full-sized gun and call it new; they took the task seriously and genuinely redesigned every aspect to fit the biomechanical needs of us smaller-handed folks; in fact, they not only worked with female pro shooters on the design, but also scanned about 1,000 women's hands to determine the perfect grip angles. The grip circumference is narrower and more upright with no palm swell on the backstrap. The reach to the trigger is shorter and the trigger’s travel is noticeably reduced (which can take some getting used to if you’re accustomed to longer or sloppier trigger pulls). My hand intuitively fit right into an ideal high grip, which of course helps to manage recoil. The steel slide has excellent positive serrations (sticking out slightly from the slide) to aid in racking; it is also somewhat easier to rack thanks to its two-piece striker.
The PDP F is somewhat modular, with one slightly smaller-than-compact frame and either a 3.5- or 4-inch barrel. The backstraps are interchangeable, and the 15-round magazines are compatible between the Walther PDP Compact and PPQ. The slide dimensions on the F Series are also the same as the other PDPs, so most holsters should be interchangeable. It is optic-ready, with the optic plate customizable and free with the purchase of the gun. Different sights are available for perfect co-witnessing, but these will low-witness with most optics anyway.
It’s not small enough for me to easily conceal the gun on my 5-foot frame in any configuration, nor is concealment my goal in having a gun like this, so I chose the 4-inch barrel for testing. I also stuck with the standard three-dot sights.
And, after shooting it … I flat-out love it. The ergonomics of the PDP F are excellent, and it shoots very accurately, very reliably and with about as little recoil as you could manage in a polymer-framed 9 mm (and even superior to several all-metal guns I can think of). The tetrahedral grip texturing feels great—sticky enough to keep your hands in place all the way through recoil, but not aggressive in a way that gets your attention after a lot of shooting. The trigger was indeed easier to reach, with a shorter pull and a perfect reset (noticeable, but again not distracting). The gun ate everything I fed it without complaint, though I did encounter a few issues with the slide not locking back on empty, possibly because of the controls’ position with my grip.
Only two negatives came up. First, after about 300 rounds, I started to notice the very-thin safety blade in the trigger. Probably 250 of those 300 trigger pulls were complete ones, however, not merely to the reset. Plus, 300 rounds is a higher round count than casual practice necessitates. Second, the rounds often ejected right at me. As I’m usually the shortest instructor on the line, and thus accustomed to hot brass flying at me, I rarely flinch from it, but I found myself starting to do so when shooting from a bench rest with this gun, even with a high collar and a ballcap on. And, while such “ejection attacks” are not uncommon, they’re an annoyance; however, it was not nearly as noticeable a problem when standing.
It’s probably worth noting that the PDP F is not the answer for every person with small hands. I was able to have a few other women try it out, and one woman’s hands were still just too small for an ideal fit—perhaps it would’ve been better with the smaller backstrap, but I didn’t think to change it out. (However, this tiny-handed individual was not very experienced and still somehow shot very well with this gun, so take from that what you will.) It’s also perhaps not perfect for those with super weak hands—while slide racking is easier, it’s not at the level of the Smith & Wesson’s M&P Shield EZ, and the gun will not necessarily cycle correctly with a weak grip.
Those special cases aside, though, every woman I asked to try this gun really liked it, just as I did. The ergonomics are undeniably superior, making it a real joy to shoot. Its 15+1 capacity and the endorphins generated by its great-shooting feel combined to deplete my ammo stores much faster than I intended. I will be recommending it particularly to those with small hands who want a serious, duty-worthy 9 mm … and that’s a lot of people.