Why Walther pistols may be the best service pistols you’ve never fired

The Walther Arms Q4 Steel Frame shot like a laser beam during SHOT Show 2020 range day


Sometimes it’s hard to explain why certain firearms capture the interest of the buying public, while others are largely ignored. I suspect that marketing and advertising has a lot to do with that, but I’m certain that the designs that are most popular aren’t always the ones that perform the best or have the best features and qualities.

In the world of service pistols, one of the marques that doesn’t seem to get its due is Walther. The guns from Walther are popular with European police and foreign militaries, but their success in these overseas markets hasn’t translated into a similar interest here in America. That’s a shame because the Walther pistols are excellent guns probably the best service pistols you’ve never fired.

Why so unknown?

The Q4 Steel Frame has excellent heft and balance in your hand. (Photo/Mike Wood)
The Q4 Steel Frame has excellent heft and balance in your hand. (Photo/Mike Wood)

One of the reasons most cops are unfamiliar with Walther is that they didn’t have a competitive service pistol when the “Wondernine Wars” kicked off in the mid-1980s. Walther’s P5 pistol, then in use by numerous European police forces, was a single-stack pistol and couldn’t compete with the double-stack designs from Beretta, SIG Sauer and Glock. By the time Walther developed the improved P88 and P99 pistols (with their rather unusual controls that didn’t appeal to American tastes), the other European makes had already taken all the seats at the American military and police service gun table.

The more recent Walther designs also suffered from being overshadowed by the legendary guns that wore the same banner. Mention “Walther” to the American gun buyer, and they’ll immediately think of the 1930s and 1940s-era guns that were popularized by novelists, filmmakers and returning war vets. Famous guns like the PPK and P38 were the first Walther firearms most Americans had ever seen, and they defined the brand for many decades.

Lastly, Walther struggled to establish a toe hold in the American market. The brand rotated through a host of importers in the post-war years (including some who were more interested in promoting their own brands, than Walther’s), and struggled to achieve continuity with any of them. The supply chain was intermittent (for new guns and parts), and the lack of a robust marketing, sales, distribution and warranty network doomed the brand’s chances of gaining traction.

New life

All of this started to change for the better when American-based Walther Arms, Inc. was established in 2012. With its feet firmly planted on American soil, in a large and modern facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Walther was now in a position to expand the brand’s influence in America. The company also had the competitive products needed to compete with other well-established brands, such as the excellent PPQ and PPS series of guns, which have been continuously enhanced with the addition of changes requested by American customers (such as an “American-style” push-button magazine release, and models chambered for the most-American of calibers, the vaunted .45 ACP ‒ All Rise!).

Since its inception in 2012, Walther Arms, Inc. has stepped up its marketing game too. It is aggressively pursuing the American market with a well-coordinated advertising campaign, and ‒ in a move that’s very important to the PoliceOne audience ‒ the company has introduced a robust Individual Officer Purchase Program that offers a significant discount to law enforcement officers who want to purchase a Walther. The generous savings are available to officers who complete a simple application and will enable more officers to get their hands on these excellent guns.

Shots fired

I’ve shot Walthers for decades, and have followed the growth of Walther Arms, Inc. with great interest over its eight-year history. I’ve been fortunate to shoot most of the pistols in the current Walther catalog at SHOT Show events, and have been impressed by them. I’m personally glad to see the American market is waking up to this “sleeper” of a company, and discovering that there’s something special going on down in Fort Smith.

At this year’s SHOT Show Media Day Walther was highlighting two exciting new designs that should interest the PoliceOne audience. These two guns occupy opposite ends of the size and weight spectrum and are worth a quick look, here.

CCP M2 (.380 ACP)

We’ll start with the smaller gun, first. New for 2020, Walther Arms has chambered its excellent CCP M2 pistol for the popular .380 ACP caliber.

The CCP M2 is a lightweight, single-stack, compact pistol designed for concealed carry. The most unique feature of the CCP M2 is its “Softcoil” gas system, which operates much like that on the revered Heckler & Koch P7. When a cartridge is fired in the CCP, combustion gases are tapped off the fixed barrel and directed into a piston, which exerts force to resist the rearward motion of the slide. When the bullet exits the barrel, the gas pressure drops, and the slide is free to recoil against the tension of the recoil spring and begin the process of extraction, ejection and reloading.

The CCP M2 in .380 ACP is a compact carry gun with excellent handling and shooting qualities. (Photo/Mike Wood)
The CCP M2 in .380 ACP is a compact carry gun with excellent handling and shooting qualities. (Photo/Mike Wood)

The advantage of this kind of system is that it decreases perceived recoil and muzzle rise by retarding the slide. Furthermore, because the gas piston delays and slows the movement of the slide, the gun doesn’t need as strong of a recoil spring to absorb the slide’s energy. This means that the slide on the CCP M2 is easier to rack because the recoil spring offers less resistance. This can be a huge advantage for shooters with hand injuries or strength issues, making the CCP M2 easier to operate than other guns in its class (particularly other compacts and subcompacts, which usually rely on heavier recoil springs than their service-size counterparts).

The CCP was initially introduced in 9mm a few years ago, and while the gun’s excellent ergonomics, trigger and Softcoil system make it easy to shoot and manipulate, the 9mm was still a little too much cartridge in this small gun for some shooters. So, Walther Arms has chambered this excellent carry gun for the milder .380 ACP, and based on my short introduction to this gun on the range at SHOT Show 2020, it’s a winner. The CCP M2 .380 retains the excellent feel, trigger (5.5 pounds, short travel) and controls (including the “M2” push-button magazine release) of the 9mm version, but recoils softer, and allows you to have better control of the gun.  This means you can make fast, accurate, follow-up hits on target.

PoliceOne readers looking for a compact, easy shooting, .380 ACP pistol for backup or off duty use are highly encouraged to check out the CCP M2 .380.

Q4 Steel Frame

The little CCP M2 .380 weighs only 19.4 ounces, and is dwarfed by the other Walther I fired at SHOT Show ‒ the 39.7 ounce, Walther Q4 Steel Frame.

The “Q Series” pistols from Walther are optics-ready derivatives of Walther’s outstanding PPQ M2 service pistol, with a mounting surface at the top rear of the slide for a reflex sight (red dot). Although the 5” barreled  Q5 Match M2 was conceived as a competition gun, the shorter Q4 TAC M2 pistol, with its 4”, suppressor-ready barrel, is eminently suitable for police service.

The Q4 TAC M2 (and the PPQ it is derived from) has exceptional ergonomics and (in my opinion) the best striker-fired, production trigger on the market. Its polymer frame keeps the weight down to 25 ounces, which is right in the target zone for this class of gun (the comparable Gen 5 Glock 19 MOS is slightly lighter at 23.81 ounces and the comparable FN 509 Tactical is slightly heavier at 27.9 ounces).

The lighter frame makes carrying the gun easier, but it also does little to dampen the muzzle rise and perceived recoil when you’re shooting it. To gain a competitive edge, Walther gave its polymer-framed, Q5 Match M2 a heavier, steel frame in 2020, which prevents the gun from moving so much during recoil, and they also brought its sibling ‒ the polymer Q4 M2 ‒ along for the ride as well.

The resulting Q4 Steel Frame can be purchased with or without a slide cut for optics.  I spent most of my time at SHOT Show 2020 with the plain slide version and found it to be one of the best shooting pistols I’ve ever handled.

The Q4 Steel Frame is an all-metal brother to the polymer-framed PPQ M2. (Photo/Mike Wood)
The Q4 Steel Frame is an all-metal brother to the polymer-framed PPQ M2. (Photo/Mike Wood)

Every now and then, you pick up a pistol and it feels like it was tailor-made to fit your hand. That was the impression I got when I first picked up the PPQ M2 a few years ago. The contours of the modular grip (a concept borrowed from the groundbreaking P99, now copied by many) were perfect and provided an excellent match for my paw. Before the PPQ M2 came along, I thought the Sig P226 was the best feeling service pistol in my hand, but the PPQ M2 quickly replaced it as a favorite.

The Q4 Steel Frame has a recessed slide release and slightly extended beavertail. (Photo/Mike Wood)
The Q4 Steel Frame has a recessed slide release and slightly extended beavertail. (Photo/Mike Wood)

However, when I first hefted the Q4 Steel Frame this week, I forgot all about the PPQ M2. At 39.7 ounces, the Q4 Steel Frame weighs 15.2 ounces more than its polymer-framed cousin, and the extra weight gave it a reassuring balance and heft that the lighter gun lacked. If you can imagine making a fist around a lump of steel modeling clay, that’s how the pistol felt in my hand.

The Q4 steel frame shares the best-in-class, striker-fired trigger of the other Walthers, as well as their perfectly located controls. The ambidextrous slide release is slightly recessed, and the beavertail is slightly extended. The rear sight is a fixed blade on the non-optic version, and on the optics-ready version, it’s adjustable.

The Q4 Steel Frame (top) shoots as well as the larger Q5 Match Steel Frame.  (Photo/Mike Wood)
The Q4 Steel Frame (top) shoots as well as the larger Q5 Match Steel Frame.  (Photo/Mike Wood)

On the range, the gun shot like a laser beam. With all that weight, muzzle rise from the 9mm cartridges was negligible, and I was able to rip off rapid-fire strings of 3-4 rounds that grouped tightly since the gun didn’t track around, and stayed locked on target. Just for kicks, I shot the longer and heavier Q5 Match Steel Frame as a comparison, and I was surprised to find there was no perceptible difference in recoil ‒ the 4” carry gun shot like the 5” match gun.

Walther markets the Q4 Steel Frame as a gun that’s suitable for defensive or law enforcement carry, and you would certainly be well-armed with this steel pistol at your side. However, it’s a lot heavier than the guns typically carried by law enforcement or armed citizens these days. At 39.7 ounces, it’s in the neighborhood of a 5” Government Model 1911, or a 4” S&W Model 686 revolver. This is a chunk of steel, and if you currently carry a 24-ounce Glock 17, it’s going to take some getting used to.

You could use it as a duty gun for patrol or as an off duty carry piece, but you’re not likely to. It might work for a tactical team, where the extra weight would be a huge aid to placing fast and accurate fire on target, but you wouldn’t have to lug it around all day long. It would also be an extraordinarily effective home defense gun and a marvelous trainer for the recoil-shy shooter (assuming they didn’t get too fatigued from holding it on target). Of course, it would shine as a competition gun.

Don’t worry too much about finding a justification for it. Once you shoot it, you won’t need to be convinced...you’ll just want one.

There’s an optics-ready version of the Q4 Steel Frame that will readily accept a red dot sight. (Photo/Mike Wood)
There’s an optics-ready version of the Q4 Steel Frame that will readily accept a red dot sight. (Photo/Mike Wood)

Check ‘em out

Make sure to check out these guns, and all the other great guns from Walther, on the Walther Arms website, and don’t forget to take a look at the company’s Individual Officer Purchase Program for some great savings on these excellent pistols.

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