Carl Walther produced his first pistol, appropriately named the Model 1, in 1908. His sons took over his firearms company when he died in 1915. Fritz Walther produced the world’s first single / double-action semi-automatic pistol, the Walther PP (Police Pistol) in 1929.
The PP and the even smaller PPK (Police Pistol Kriminal, meaning it was used by police to apprehend criminals) of 1931 continue to be made today and are still considered the standard by which all other compact firearms are judged. After WWII, Fritz built a new Walther plant in Ulm, Germany, which still manufactures firearms today.
The original model PPK is a flat, easy-to-carry, and reliable small gun chambered in the adequate .380 ACP cartridge. The Walther PPK has been a very popular with police officers for decades. It has served as a backup gun for uniformed officers and for off-duty or plainclothes detective carry. But, today’s competitive market has pushed manufacturers to create some very compact and lightweight handguns chambered for the more powerful 9mm cartridge. Walther did not want to relinquish its former dominance, so the company brought a brand new semi-automatic pistol to the compact 9mm table.
The Walther PPS (Police Pistol Slim) has features designed to incorporate both safety and ergonomics. It is so innovative that some of its operations initially confounded officers who are usually quite knowledgeable about firearms. Quicksafe Backstrap
The PPS has a polymer frame and a matte black steel slide. It is striker fired and has a trigger safety quite similar to that of the Glock pistols. Officers familiar with the Glock method of field stripping will immediately notice the same type of take-down lever system. However, the PPS boasts Walther’s new “quicksafe” backstrap. Other manufacturer’s pistols require the trigger to be pulled before the weapon can be field stripped for cleaning, but not with this Walther. The PPS’s backstrap is quickly removed by pinching a plastic tab at the bottom of the grip.
When the backstrap is removed, the firearm is rendered safe and unable to fire. This extra step ensures that a round will not be accidentally discharged before cleaning the weapon. The takedown lever is then pulled downward, and the slide is slightly retracted before it can then slide off the front of the frame. The captive dual recoil spring comes out easily without fear of the spring flying across the room. The 3.2-inch barrel then lifts out.
Two interchangeable backstraps come in the hard plastic case, which has a fitted foam interior. The small backstrap is flat, and the larger one is arched. My big hands preferred the small one, but some officers liked the feel of the larger, curved type even better. It’s obviously a smart move on Walther’s part to include both.
The case also contains a factory test target, fired in Germany. My old 1966 PPK came with a test target, too. It’s a classy touch that proves the gun performed the way it was supposed to.
Unusual Magazine Release
The magazine release is an ambidextrous lever that is actually part of the bottom of the trigger guard. I found it impossible to use my strong hand’s thumb to work the magazine release without radically shifting my grip on the pistol. Only one officer could accomplish this, but he admits to having “monkey thumbs.” I found that using my trigger finger worked exceptionally well. So did everyone else. It took some getting use to, but mag changes were speedily accomplished in this manner.
The gun comes with a flush fitting 6-round magazine and a second extended 7-round magazine (an 8-rounder is available as an extra purchase). The bottom of the steel magazine’s plastic bumper pad extends rearward to cover the “quicksafe” backstrap. Police officers are familiar with bumpers that extend forward, and it takes some initial attention to be sure you do not insert the magazine backwards.
The sights are excellent, with a standard white three-dot setup. They are big and easy to see but also rounded and snag free. They are numbered, and there are four different front sight heights available. The test gun’s front sight was a number 4 and the rear was a number 2. The rear sight is drift adjustable. Some other firearms require an expensive sight-pushing tool for adjustment, but not the Walther PPS.
Under the front sight, inside the top of the slide, is a large screw for replacing the front sight. If department-issued ammunition hits too high or low in your gun, you only need a standard screwdriver to attach a different height front sight. This system will allow simple swapping of aftermarket sight systems, including night sights.
Loaded Chamber and Cocking Indicators
When the PPS’s striker is cocked, it is flush with the rear of the slide instead of being recessed. This cocking indicator has a red dot painted on the striker, which is then visible when cocked. A small rectangular hole in the top of the breech block allows a chambered round’s brass case to be visible.
The slide release had very positive actuation. The polymer frame has a ridge that prevents the shooter’s hands from pushing the release up and accidentally causing the slide to lock back.
Shooting the PPS
Custom target pistols with hand honed, super tight tolerances may require a few hundred fired rounds to “break in.” However, a gun used for self-defense must work right out of the box and should not require a break-in period. I applied one drop of gun oil to each of the PPS’s slide rails and then headed to the range.
More than 250 rounds of various makes of ammunition were fired through the Walther PPS with no malfunctions of any kind. The slide always locked to the rear when a magazine was empty. The empty magazines jettisoned smartly from the grip. Several officers shot the PPS, and when they were finished, they simply held the gun in their hands and stared at it with a smile of admiration on their face.
Recoil was virtually non-existent. The gun exhibits very little muzzle flip, which in turn allows fast follow-up shots. The grip is high, which allows the bore axis to sit low in your hand. The extended grip overhang will not allow your hand to be bitten or pinched by the slide in any way.
There is no magazine disconnect, so the gun will fire with its magazine removed. Walther’s literature states the trigger pull to be 6.1 pounds. It felt much better than that. My trigger scale measured a crisp break at an even 5 pounds. That’s right where you want it for a small carry gun.
I found the PPS to shoot just slightly to the left with my first groups. I used a brass punch and hammer to tap the rear sight a small amount to the right. Then the PPS hit directly in the middle. At 7 yards (21 feet), groups were impressively tight. The sights were easy to use at further distances of 15 and 25 yards. The Walther PPS was a pleasure to shoot.
The 9mm cartridge does not overwhelm a polymer frame pistol of this size. Groups were consistently inside the 10-ring of a standard silhouette target at combat distances. The excellent ergonomics of the grip frame, the sights, and the trigger pull combined to make it easy to score hits at 25 yards.
One officer had a hidden holster sewn into the underside of his outer bullet-resistant vest cover. He placed the flat and lightweight PPS inside this vest holster. He was impressed that he couldn’t even feel the PPS compared to the larger backup weapon he was used to.
An Excellent Choice
The Walther PPS is a compact and lightweight gun. I laid my old PPK on top of the PPS and the length, height and width are all comparable. But the PPS is chambered in the much more powerful 9mm cartridge, which is definitely an improvement over the .380 ACP round. A PPS chambered in the .40 S&W caliber is to be released soon, and it will have the exact same dimensions as the 9mm. The grip of the PPS is 1.04 inches at its widest point (the slide release). To my hand, it feels more like the standard of thin guns, the Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless.
The PPS disappears in your waistband and is both comfortable and unobtrusive when carried in plainclothes. The Walther PPS is a logical choice as an on-duty backup gun. It can also serve a second use as an off-duty weapon. A flashlight or laser may also be attached to the frame’s tactical rail.
Walther entered into a distribution alliance with Smith & Wesson in 1999. This network has allowed much greater advertising exposure for Walther’s products. The new PPS proves that Walther is not living in the past. Instead, the company is forging ahead on the cutting edge of the future with compact firearms.
The great German gun manufacturer is more than happy to use one of its greatest assets for its advertising benefit. Current television commercials for the PPS, aired on The Outdoor Channel, remind us that James Bond carried a Walther. Maybe Britain’s most famous secret agent will be packing a PPS when the next 007 film is released in theatres.
Steve Tracy is a 20-year police veteran with 18 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He also is an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force less-than-lethal force and scenario based training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.