The Walther P99 is a German original that is still running strong in the German police forces after 20 years. The pistol came into being in the early 1990s and still holds it’s own against other big manufacturers. The P99, in my opinion, is a supreme example of high quality German production that will last for decades and even long after we are gone.
Walther has been around since 1886 when Carl Walther started the company making rifles. The company started making pistols in 1908, and started getting a name for itself when their Walther Model 1 Pistols became popular in WW1. These little pocket pistols were striker fired and chambered in 6.35 MM, and were apparently very commonly found in the pockets of German Officers. In 1929, the ever popular PP(Police Pistol) model was developed. Soon after in 1931, the PPK(Police Pistol Detective) models were released. The PPK was offered in a variety of calibers to include .22 LR, .380 ACP, .25 ACP, and .32 ACP. It wasn’t until 1938 that Walther got their first big contract through the Third Reich to make the P-38 to replace the P-08 Luger. After WW2, Walther was all but shattered until Fritz Walther, Carl Walther’s son, started the company back up in 1953. The company resumed production of the P-38 for the new West German Army in 1957. It wasn’t until 2004 that all the P-38’s were phased out of the German army in favor of the P8, which is similar to the H&K USP9.
The Walther P99 was released in 1996 with the standard P99 AS model, which was the main model that Magnum Research used to produce licensed copies of the pistol for import into the US. S&W imported the frames from Walther and was licensed to make slide assemblies in order to produce their own version of the pistol, the SW99. S&W even made a .45 ACP version of the pistol for a time. The Walther P99 saw a generation upgrade in 2004, which brought it to the version I am reviewing, with a great many upgrades that improve the comfort of running the pistol. There are a total of 4 variants of the P99 out there that Walther produces. They make the standard AS model, standing for Anti-stress, and it uses a double action striker fired trigger system. Then there is the DAO which has, as the name implies, a double action only trigger that was made to decrease the likelihood of a negligent discharge by an officer. Then there is the Q, displayed below, which replaced the RAD/QA model in 2011 and retains the appearance of the AS/DAO models. You will notice that it resembles the PPQ, yet retains the P99 marking on the grip, and the P99 trigger and paddle release. The PPQ is a variant of the P99, but the name was just changed to PPQ when imported for US sales.
The Walther P99 grip is a unique one to say the least. It can feel awkward and slippery at first, but it still seems to work when you get used to it. The pistol comes with three backstraps and the size differences are enough to fit most sizes of hands.
I use the small backstrap so that I can have maximum reach on the trigger when it is in double action mode. The palm swell on the backstrap and the horizontal serrations are the two things I would say that are the primary things securing the pistol in your hand. The horizontal serrations on the front help prevent vertical movement, while the palm swell helps prevent side to side movement and encouraging you to put your hand higher on the grip for a better hold. The grip is pretty nice and comfortable, despite the lack of conventional texturing. There is ever-so-slight grooves for your fingers on the front, which I find to work very subtly and without even noticing they are there.
The Walther P99 has a very simple set of controls, but I feel like people get freaked out just because they are different. The pistol has a paddle magazine release, as opposed to a button that would have you shift the gun in your hand to release the magazine. I would just like to note that Walther probably makes the best paddle magazine release I have ever used. It runs virtually the entire length of the trigger guard and pops the magazine out with force, even with the slide locked to the rear. You don’t have to move your hand at all in order to activate the release, let alone to manipulate the next control.
The slide stop is best described as a paddle as well, in my opinion. With the size of it, you can use the slide stop without adjusting your grip, but you don’t really have to worry about it snagging. It is a pretty sturdy piece of stamped metal, like the Glock slide stop, but very long and low profile. The real control that gives this gun it’s uniqueness is the decocker. It is a cutout on the top of the slide and to operate it, you simply press down to actuate it.
Some people have shown distaste for this method of decocking a pistol. The biggest complaint is that the shooter cannot actuate the decocker without moving one of their hands to do so. In my experience, if you are going to decock the pistol, you are also ready to holster it. For this reason, I find the spot for the decocker to be of no issue. I personally will decock the pistol with my support thumb just before holstering.
The sights on the Walther P99 are made of a very durable polymer. In the previous picture, you see no damage from me doing manipulations on the rear sight. The three dot sight picture is just like the PPQ, for those familiar with that pistol. The rear sight has a wide gap between the two rear dots with plenty of room on each side of the front sight in order to help you acquire a rough sight picture quicker. Some people complain about this type of setup being the reason they cannot hit well and accuse them of being inaccurate due to the space on each side of the front sight. Well my answer to this particular complaint is that I have rarely seen people properly applying the fundamentals have issues with any sighting system. Unless the sights themselves are misaligned or the barrel is damaged, I see no reason for people to not shoot well with these sights. They are not the most visible sights, or the highest quality, but they are far from the reason for missing.
The Walther P99 trigger is one of the best double action triggers in my opinion. The smooth and lightly rounded trigger face is nice and gives the feeling of a lighter pull. The curve of the trigger is very much like the curve on a CZ75, but is much more comfortable on the pull. The double action on the P99 pulls around 10 pounds when you first get it. When you break it in with about 2000 rounds, you may find the trigger to drop a couple pounds on the double action pull alone. The single action is where this pistol shines and people like myself fall in love with it. The trigger is very light(4 lb) on the single action pull with an almost non-existent wall before the break. The trigger pull goes all the way to the rear and the trigger will actually touch the back of the trigger guard. The reset on the pistol is incredibly short and tactile. You barely have to move your finger in order to make the trigger reset.
As you shoot the pistol more, the trigger pull becomes smoother and lighter. You can do very little to improve the trigger pull aside from shooting and dry firing the pistol. I recommend a generous amount of the latter anyways, just to get proficient with whatever you intend to shoot.
Shooting the Walther P99 is a little unusual at first. Once you shoot it for the first time, you may come away feeling like the pistol recoils more than it should. This is a common observation, even by myself. After shooting it for a few thousand rounds, it has calmed down exponentially on the kick. To be clear, it wasn’t “flipping” and being difficult to bring back on target, but it does give the impression that it is a bigger caliber than it really is. But like I said, this pistol doesn’t actually “flip” much at all, and in fact I found myself able to make very quick follow up shots with great accuracy. The reloads on this pistol are very easy, and almost straight up fun with how simple the magazine release is to use. The slide manipulations will need to be done firmly for a few thousand rounds because the P99 uses a .40 caliber recoil spring, which makes the action a little stiff. Funny note, I got the P99 so hot that I made the recoil guide rod droop a little. The guide rod is just fine and this is not a problem by any means, just so we are clear.
I have over 3000 rounds through my P99 and I will be putting more rounds through it in the future. This is a very young round count for this pistol and most pistols for that matter, so there is still a good amount of room for the pistol to grow, if you will. That said, I have had zero malfunctions with this pistol, even after putting it in Alaska mud.
Through the years, the Walther P99 has stayed very relevant, and has seen a respectable amount of use in various police forces in Europe in all of its different variants. I would not discount this pistol if you are looking at pistols with a good light DA pull and a PPQ-like SA. This pistol actually is reported to have a better SA trigger than the PPQ. The one thing people have constantly complained about is the paddle release. There is no need to change your grip and it takes zero training to learn, so I don’t understand where the disconnect is. Other than that, I can’t think of a reasonable reason why this pistol would not be on your list of pistols to check out. It is reliable, durable, easy to shoot, and has a proven track record in Germany and other European police forces. This pistol is an example of why Walther pistols stay in the holsters of militaries and Law Enforcement agencies for such a long time.