The Walther Arms company continues to reach for its share of the modern pistol market by evolving its polymer handguns, building upon prior models and including current trends and advances. Everyone reading this magazine is likely aware of the 136-year-old German company’s model PPK, made famous by James Bond, and still used by concealed carriers for its rounded steel lines that make drawing from a suit pocket as slick as a silk handkerchief. But after high-capacity, concealable, striker-fired guns, such as Glock’s Model 19, began eating the PPK’s lunch in the “shootability” category, Walther responded with its P99 in 1997. It further iterated with the PPS, PPQ, Q4 and Q5 Match.
The last three years have witnessed a sea change in striker-fired guns, largely due to trends such as optics-ready slides as well as higher-capacity magazines even in sub-compacts. As usual, Walther responded, but while the rest of the gun industry chased the micro-compact, double-stack market, Walther pulled a “Crazy Ivan.”
The PDP is a series of full-sized and compact striker-fired handguns with the fit and features to make them some of the most shootable in their class. When I say shootable, I refer to a combination of the gun’s size, weight, grip, grip-to-bore-axis, trigger, sights and build quality—all the features that help make a handgun inherently accurate on the first shot, while mitigating its recoil to facilitate fast and accurate follow-ups.
The most-noticeable feature of the PDP is its square, blocky slide, with slight beveling on top and deep “SuperTerrain” serrations that Walther claims ease cocking by increasing surface area and therefore reducing the pressure required. While this is a legitimate goal, I’m not sure how necessary it is, and if the byproduct is a blocky muzzle, I’m not sure it’s worth it. But, then, I must remember Walther set out to create the ultimate striker-fired gun to shoot—not necessarily to carry in a suit pocket. (Sorry, 007.)
The PDP’s grip design is notable in that it not only places the hand in an optimum position to point, aim and accept recoil, but also to maximize surface area so both hands can guide the gun and spread out the recoil impulse, thereby mitigating flip and kick. This is not a new idea, but Walther’s approach to it is. The grip is molded to feature subtle palm swells, or ripples, so it fills the hand comfortably; it loses the finger grooves common with past Walthers that work for some people but not for others; and it features interchangeable back straps to accommodate hand sizes. The grip’s surface pattern consists of hexagonal, raised micro-pyramids to provide gripping bite without discomfort. I put it among the best grips ever.
The PDP trigger is also excellent, registering less pull weight on my gauge than advertised and less than most other premium striker-fired guns. It has a short and crisp reset. A blade-style safety is located within it.
The PDP’s slide release is a departure from the little bent metal tabs found on most polymer/striker-fired pistols. While its design looks like the bar-type release found on H&Ks, the PDP’s is ambidextrous. In function, it proves somehow easy to find, yet difficult to punch while firing. The gun’s magazine-release button is large, round, etched and reversible.
To not include an optic-ready slide, as the PDP does, would’ve been tantamount to marketing disaster—that much is clear in 2021. In addition, the PDP wears a poly windage-and-elevation adjustable rear sight with a polymer-blade front. These are serviceable and accurate, but I wish they were steel.
On the range, it became evident that the full-sized PDP is closer to a match/target-style gun than nearly any polymer/striker on the market. At 15 yards, I could hardly miss 6-inch plates regardless of how fast I fired. I’d paste the front post on the plate, pull the trigger and hear the ring of steel. With a Burris red dot installed, I hit the target at 100 yards routinely. It is simply one of the most-accurate polymer/striker guns going. On the other hand, a “striker-fired target gun” is a bit of a misnomer, because if you wanted a true target gun, you’d likely go for a single-action 1911-style gun with a 2-pound match trigger and match barrel. Considering this, then, I asked myself if the PDP holds up as a combat/defensive handgun. It does. While larger than most comparable guns due to its slide profile, it performs very well thanks to the features I’ve mentioned, but also thanks to intangible features that are tough to measure on paper, such as how it sits in the hand and feels to run.
This gun is a pleasure to shoot. In firing 500 rounds, I experienced zero malfunctions. Its barrel is accurate, its trigger is superb and its grip is one of the most comfortable in the business. The PDP’s only downside lives in my own eye: to me, its profile could’ve been slightly less blocky and more carry friendly. But as a duty or outside-the-waistband carry gun, 18+1 rounds of 9 mm delivered swiftly and accurately is exactly what Walther set out to do, and they certainly did that.