The current trend among handgun manufacturers is to produce subcompact pistols that are chambered in a substantial caliber and have magazine compatibility with larger, high-capacity pistols of the same make and caliber.
Walther's new Police Pistol Slim (PPS) bucks that trend. It's a subcompact chambered in a substantial caliber, but it won't take magazines from other Walther pistols, and it is by no means a small version of the company's P99 duty gun. Available in 9mm and .40 S&W, the PPS offers six-, seven-, and eight-round single column magazines.
There are good reasons for wanting as much ammo as possible in a concealed carry or backup gun, so the PPS may not be for everybody. But you have to ask yourself, how much ammo is enough? Let's face it, having immediate access to lots of bullets is not as important as delivering excellent shot placement and using the right tactics for the occasion.
My attitude has always been: If I could routinely go into harm's way armed with nothing more powerful than a five- or six-shot .38 caliber revolver back in the old days, I can certainly go anywhere armed with a subcompact 9mm or .40 caliber pistol with a single column magazine. After all, a six-, seven-, or eight-shot subcompact 9mm or .40 S&W caliber pistol is considerably more powerful than the average five- or six-shot .38 Special revolver. This is the main reason why I transitioned from a five-shot .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver to a 9mm Kahr Arms pistol with a short polymer grip and a standard 3.5-inch barrel as my favorite ankle holster gun.
As a subcompact, the Walther PPS is designed to serve as a backup gun or off-duty gun. The PPS is also ideal for undercover work.
However, it should be noted that even though the PPS is incredibly slim and has a short 3.2-inch barrel, this pistol is similar in overall length and height to a Smith & Wesson M&P Compact, which has a 3.5-inch barrel. This is further confirmation that looks can be deceiving.
The PPS Pistol is made in Germany and is distributed in the United States by Smith & Wesson. It has a 3.2-inch carbon steel barrel and utilizes a single-action style, striker-fired, six-pound double-action-only trigger system.
The 9mm Walther PPS has an overall length of 6.3 inches, is 4.4 inches high, and weighs 19.4 ounces unloaded. The PPS chambered in .40 S&W weighs 20.8 ounces unloaded. Both have a Picatinny accessory rail, two interchangeable back straps, and three-dot fixed sights. The interchangeable back straps are also part of the Quick Safe System that prevents the PPS from firing once the back strap is removed from the pistol.
I was really impressed with the 9mm model of the PPS. Its captive dual recoil spring and excellent ergonomics combine to make an extremely soft shooting pistol. In fact, it's the softest shooting subcompact pistol that I have ever tested.
The PPS also benefits from Walther's attention to detail and quality finishing. For example, the slide, barrel, trigger bar, and takedown lever on the PPS are treated with Tenifer, which provides corrosion protection for the internal and external components of this pistol. According to the folks at Smith & Wesson, Tenifer is a nitrocarburizing process that provides excellent protection against corrosion.
Another great feature on the PPS is the loaded chamber indicator on top of the slide. There is also a cocking indicator on the rear of the slide facing the operator. When this pistol is cocked, a red button protrudes ever so slightly through a small hole in the rear of the slide to notify the operator that the PPS is ready to fire.
The PPS is also very easy to disassemble and reassemble. In fact, it is not even necessary to pull the trigger in order to remove the slide from the frame.
A rather unique magazine release lever is incorporated into the design of the PPS trigger guard. This long, curved lever can be pressed using your thumb or index/trigger finger. Unfortunately, it is necessary to reposition your hand to engage the magazine release lever, which is built into the bottom of the trigger guard.
One concern that I have regarding the PPS involves the use of such a unique magazine release lever. I say this because human beings are creatures of habit. As a result, we develop muscle memory when we practice or train to perform certain functions certain ways. I'll talk about this more in relation to shooting the PPS and switching to other pistols at the range.
I also have a problem with the extra plastic that protrudes from the rear of the PPS's six-, seven-, and eight-round magazine floor plates. As far as I can determine, all the extra plastic does is cover the opening on the bottom of the two interchangeable back straps once they are snapped onto the rear of the polymer grip. In my opinion, Walther should produce traditional single-column magazines for the PPS that are very easy to carry and use.
The PPS is a very flat pistol with rounded edges and stippling in all the right places on the polymer frame. (The width of the PPS frame and slide is 1.04 inches.) One feature that you will notice right away is the deep grooves that are cut into the rear portion of the slide. These press check-style grooves are the best in the business and are cut deep enough to make it incredibly easy to manually operate the PPS slide. This includes when you manually release the slide during a combat reloading drill. The slide release is also protected to some extent by a small ledge that is built into the polymer frame.
Walther produces three different magazines with different size floor plates for the PPS. The six-round 9mm PPS magazine has a flat floor plate and provides the best concealment. The seven- and eight-round 9mm PPS magazines are designed to add an extra round or two of ammunition and improve ergonomics by providing a place for your pinky to rest while gripping the pistol in your shooting hand.
Shooting the PPS
Unfortunately, the first PPS test pistol that was supplied to me malfunctioned twice, occasionally ejected empty brass in the faces of two shooters, and consistently shot low. After putting 20 magazines through the first test pistol, I decided to send it back to the factory for inspection and possible repair. Smith & Wesson was very cooperative and immediately offered to provide another test pistol while the first PPS pistol was inspected by a factory technician.
As soon as I received the second test pistol, I cleaned and lubricated it, then I headed out to the range. I conducted the first range session with the second PPS test pistol with my buddy Jack, a police equipment sales representative from my local police supply store. During this range session, Jack and I put 150 rounds of 9mm Speer Lawman 124-grain FMJ ammunition through the second Walther test pistol.
The reputation of the PPS was redeemed when the second test pistol proved to be accurate and flawlessly reliable.
During this range session, my buddy and I had no problem hitting a nine-inch white paper plate at various CQB distances. A metal plate the size of a POST Firearms Qualification TQ19 Target was also successfully engaged while using both one- and two-handed holds on the PPS pistol at a distance of 60 feet.
I can't stress enough how easy it is to operate and accurately shoot the Walther PPS while using a strong- or weak-hand hold. Remember, if a pistol is prone to malfunction, it will probably do so when you fire it while using a weak-hand-only grip. During my range testing, the second PPS test pistol provided rock solid performance regardless of how it was shot.
While test firing this pistol, I also executed a timed combat reload to see if I had any problems using the rather unique PPS magazine release lever while operating under some stress. Even though I had no problem executing a combat reload with the PPS, I did attempt to lower the trigger guard on another subcompact pistol, when I needed to remove a magazine from a Springfield Armory XD later on during the same range session. This confirmed my fears about muscle memory and going from one system to another. Hopefully, this will never happen again once I train more with the PPS and with other pistols that use a traditional magazine release button.
As someone who is a little recoil sensitive because of arthritis in my hands, I found the Walther PPS to be an extremely comfortable pistol to operate and shoot while using a variety of FMJ and standard velocity 9mm hollow-point ammunition. *Note: Smith & Wesson advises against using + P ammunition in the PPS.
During this T&E, seven different standard velocity loads were put through the PPS, including:
147-grain Federal Flat Tip FMJ
124-grain Federal FMJ
124-grain Federal HST HP
147-grain Federal Hydra Shock HP
124-grain Speer Gold Dot HP
147-grain Winchester Ranger SXT HP
124-grain Speer Lawman FMJ
The PPS also proved to be a fun gun to use against smaller targets like tin cans. Remember, it is always a challenge to engage small targets that are placed on the ground as opposed to shooting at targets at waist or eye level.
Even though I do not like the magazine release lever, or the way the magazine floor plates are designed, I like the Walther PPS enough to consider buying one. At the very least, I am intrigued enough with the PPS to continue field testing one.
To its credit the Walther PPS is reliable, ergonomic, extremely soft shooting, accurate, and lightweight with a super thin profile. I also recommend this pistol because the PPS has a super smooth striker-fired trigger that I consider to be the best in the business next to the trigger on a Springfield Armory XD. I am also becoming a huge fan of pistols with interchangeable grips.
I also like pistols that are constructed to withstand exposure to harsh conditions, including salt water. Even though you may never swim in the ocean with your pistol like a U.S. Navy SEAL, you may end up in a Katrina-type situation and could benefit by possessing a handgun that has corrosion-resistant qualities. The Tenifer finish that is used on the PPS should do an excellent job of protecting your Walther pistol from harsh elements and corrosion.
If you have no problem carrying a pistol with a somewhat limited magazine capacity, I suggest you consider buying a Walther PPS. Clearly, the Walther PPS has certain qualities that make it a worthwhile subcompact pistol to have in your battery of personal defense weapons.
The author is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and former police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty.