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Reviews : Arsenal

Walther P99 Duty Pistol

A hallmark of Teutonic technology, the P99 offers innovation and rugged reliability in the field.

April 01, 2002  |  by Roy Huntington

The almost straight-line feed from magazine into the chamber helped to assure reliable functioning during our tests of the P99. A wide range of ammunition from Federal, Winchester, PMC, Black Hills, Remington, and some “junk” reloads all fed without problems.

The finish is Tenifer but unlike some makers, is not Parkerized afterward. Tenifer is a "wunder-koating" and it's said that you can make a file skip right over anything coated with it. Plus, it is at the top of the heap in corrosion resistance. So if you leave your P99 out in the snow, it won't be mad at you when you find it the next day.

Our test gun was the "Military Model" and the only difference between it and the "Police Model" is the dandy O/D green of the frame on the military version. With all the tactical black dye being sold these days we found it refreshing to see something other than "tactical black" in our hands. The green sorta' grew on us and might look nice coupled with a cordovan leather set-up. If only those police chiefs had some sense of style, eh?

Going To Pieces

Take down is-dare we say it-quick and easy. First, unload the thing. You know the drill. Magazine out, lock the slide back, look into the black hole, look into the now empty grip frame, look at the loaded magazine on the table, look at the lonely round you took out of the chamber, look into the gun again, etc., etc., until you're sure.

Now, lower the slide and decock the gun. Pull the slide to the rear about an eighth of an inch and while holding it there, pull down on those two little buttons on either side of the frame, just above and in front of the trigger. Now nurse the slide off the front of the frame and feel smug. The captive recoil spring comes out, the barrel follows and you're finished.

The innovative decocking button located on the top, rear portion of the slide seems strange at first, until it’s used. Either the shooting-hand thumb or, perhaps more conveniently, the weak-hand thumb seems to fall naturally in position to activate it.

Notice the flawless machine work. We were not able to detect a single tool mark anywhere on our test P99. Not a mark, not one, anywhere. The major metal parts appear to be simply "created" somehow and mysteriously made to appear in the shape of a P99. It's wonderful to behold in this day of semi-crude stampings, plastic parts with the flashing still left on, and gritty, spongy trigger pulls. Our collective Smokey hats are off to Walther in the workmanship department.

Reassembly is kinda' tough and requires some finesse. Take the slide in one hand and the frame in the other. Put the slide on the frame and push it on. You're done. We lied about it being tough or needing finesse. Actually, we weren't sure what finesse exactly was, but we thought we might need some when we first did it. We were wrong.

Tight Groupings

Did it shoot? In a word, yes. Just for grins we shot it at 25 yards and got tired of measuring 1.95, 2.15, 2.25 inch groups. Need to take a head shot at 25 yards? Go ahead. The P99 can do it.

The double- to single-action transition was smooth and easy to get used to. All the usual drills were accomplished effortlessly from a Lou Alessi belt holster. This pistol makes you want to shoot it and in about 250 rounds didn't bobble once. We're thinking it could run for thousands of rounds with nary a whimper.

All in all this was an exceptionally impressive duty gun. At about 24 ounces (the weight of an all-steel Walther PPKS) the P99 is light and handy and would work well for concealed carry or off-duty use. There is serious talk about a .45 ACP version soon and with the built-in sight rails on the dust cover and well-thought-out features, this would be a no-brainer as a duty gun for any agency.

The P99 is entirely built in Germany and like a Mercedes Benz, delivers the goods in a quietly authorative manner that instills a calming sense of confidence. We wanted to keep this one. Badly.

Walther P99 pistol

CALIBER: 9mm, .40 S&W
ACTION TYPE: Browning style, dropping barrel design, striker-fired.
SIGHTS: Abbreviated ramped rear sight, adjustable for windage. Three extra front sight blades for height adjustment. Optional tritium sights
TOTAL LENGTH: 7.08 inches.
BARREL LENGTH: 4.015 inches.
HEIGHT: 5.31 inches.
WEIGHT W/O MAGAZINE: 21.51 ounces
Magazine Capacity: 16 9mm, 12 .40 S&W
Cost: Approximately $600 retail

Roy Huntington is the former executive editor of POLICE and now finds himself in the hot seat once again as the new editor of American Handgunner magazine. He was last heard muttering "But wait, let me explain ..."

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