Walther PPX 9mm: The Perfect First Home Defense Pistol
Major Pandemic 12.30.13
The new face of Walther has become far more than just a legacy of James Bond’s Walther PPK. Today the company is delivering both top end firearms as well as some truly innovative firearms at a value price point, including the new $400 street priced PPX line.
While at the 2013 SHOT show, I had a chance to speak with Mark Thomas from Walther about why a $400 street priced Walther was created, given that it now competes with their own line of premium $600-$800 Walther firearms.
His response was, “This gun (the PPX) was developed so we could provide a full length, full sized, and fully featured Walther at a value price. We really didn’t have a feature rich gun at a value price and now the PPX does that. We didn’t sacrifice quality in making the PPX, but with so many new shooters coming into the sport, we wanted those folks who were just learning to shoot to be able to have a quality firearm with a lot of features at a price they could live with.”
After testing, it is now my perspective that this might be the best home defense/full-sized handgun a first-time buyer could reach for.
New shooters have a very hard time developing proper trigger control and pull. The Walther helps easily develop and train good trigger habits with a clearly defined but very soft initial trigger pull take-up followed by a crisp second stage 6.1lb break. This trains new shooters to start thinking about proper trigger staging instead of trigger slapping. Many firearms have dubious feeling stacking trigger stages, which can be tough for even great shooters to control. The trigger delivers confidence to a new shooter.
The overall design feels extremely comfortable in the hand, but its beefy feel adds a bit of mental psychology that you have a big gun to handle any situation. Friends and family gun newbies that I’ve trained have really gravitated to the design because it looks substantial.
I am a firm believer that a defensive firearm should not have any external safeties, as I have seen shooters forget to disengage them or accidentally engage them during high stress drills. The PPX design did it right and integrated the three safeties into the trigger actuated firing control. If you want a safe gun, leave the chamber empty and draw, charge, and fire, per the Israeli Mossad method.
This brings up another point: the PPX is super easy and smooth to charge due to the ergonomics and smooth action. The simple but effective 3-dot sight system has become industry standard and provides the beginner with the perfect sight system to learn by. The gun is very accurate as well, but it is the maintenance that I think is targeted perfectly to the novice.
To disassemble the gun for routine cleaning, simply insert an empty mag and lock back the slide. Next, turn the take down lever and hit the slide release, and the slide will slip right off. Pull off the captured slide spring, lift out the barrel, and the parts are ready for cleaning. To reinstall the slide, simply reassemble the barrel and spring, and then slip on the slide, lock it back, and flip the takedown lever back. The new user does not have to deal with any three handed, align-this-slot-with-that-mark stuff, and then drive out a pin which is held in place by the force of God. Just lock back the slide and flip the take down lever. Everything about this gun is about making it easy on the newbie and giving the pros an inexpensive gun to fall in love with and beat on.
Fit, Finish, Feel, and Features
Despite the “husky” looks, the gun is only around 1/8” wider and otherwise dimensionally similar to competing firearms. It looks big fat and chunky, but once in the hand or side-by-side with a competing gun, you see that its husky, full figured looks are quite deceiving.
The finish is equal to the other Walther models. It still has all the super precise molding and highly detailed grip texturing, and the metal parts are all still finished with a durable Tenifer finish just like the rest of the lineup.
Even from a feel perspective, the PPX is just as comfortable as the more expensive PPQ M2, but it does lack the PPQ’s adjustable/interchangeable grips. The lower receiver of the PPX seems every bit as nicely contoured and thought out as its other Walther siblings, and it also shares a variant of the pre-cocked modified striker firing system.
What is considerably different is the slide assembly.
Where the other Walthers clearly have serious machine time dedicated to creating beautiful curves on the slide, the PPX is milled on a set of 90 and 45 degree angles to significantly cut costs. The pistol does have graduated and increasing bevels on the top edges of the slides, but this is hardly the sophisticated milling required on the other, more expensive models. The absence of the interchangeable/adjustable grips and the simple, blocky slide drastically reduces manufacturing costs. Add in a stamped versus milled slide release and a few other polymer based internal parts, and you have a $400 street priced gun that would seem to perform terrifically well, all wrapped up in a very easy-to-use, ergonomic format.
Where most manufactures have focused on exclusively standard striker fired designs, Walther has developed a “pre-cocked” firing control system that blends the best of striker and hammer fired mechanisms. Like nearly every striker fired system, the striker/hammer is partially pre-cocked by either manually cycling the pistol or automatically pre-cocking after a round is fired. In this case, the PPX has a small, snag-free hammer which is partially pre-cocked just like a striker would be. As the trigger is depressed, the three internal safeties are disengaged, the hammer is pushed to a fully cocked state (extending only 1/4” from the rear of the gun), and the hammer hits the firing pin to detonate the round. The end result is a handgun with an awesome trigger pull, probably the best of any striker fired or pre-cocked firearm I have handled. The greatly improved trigger feel was a primary reason Walther decided to move to this pre-cocked, hammer fired design.
The features of the PPX are impressive: steel three-dot steel sights, 16+1 round capacity, a 360 degree beveled chamber for reliability, 2 magazines are included with a hard TSA approved case, 1913 spec picatinny accessory rail, front and rear slide serrations, excellent grip texturing, and even a reversible magazine release for all the lefties out there.
Function and Accuracy
The goofy looking PPX angled grip stopped me cold, but after I handled, tested, carried, and shot the pistol my thought was, “OK, now I get it.” Despite the grip’s looks, it is super ergonomic and actually is more concealable due to the hump. Once I mounted a ClipDraw to the side of the gun and slid it into my waistband, that goofy angle breaks up the grip pattern under the shirt and it looked a lot more like a fat roll than a gun butt. I was shocked how much better I could conceal this pistol than I could my Glock 17.
Federal and Hornady were nice enough to spare me a few rounds of really nice defensive ammo for accuracy testing after I burnt up 400 rounds of Hornady tipped handloads. The PPX is very accurate for a defensive semi-auto 9mm. With the Federal Guard Dog, Standard Hollow points, and Hornady defensive rounds, I was able to consistently deliver 1.25” 25-yard groups off the sand bags. At defensive 7-yard distances, I was able to essentially deliver single ragged hole groups during slow controlled offhand shots. Definitely what sets this gun apart and enables the accuracy is that incredible trigger and firing control mechanism.
There are a few things that I wish Walther would change about this gun. First, it would be great to see them add in some type of firearm lock, especially for a firearm focused on the first time buyer. This could be a simple paddlock to place the shackle behind the trigger to prevent the gun from being fired. The sights are very high quality, but the front of the rear sight should be square at the front to allow the gun to be charged single handed via catching the rear sight on the belt or pocket.
Those two minor issues aside, I am both delighted and pleasantly surprised by this gun. Walther may have been attempting to hit a value price, but in the process they have delivered an outstanding and confidence inspiring, quality firearm for the novice or the expert.
- Low profile three dot polymer combat sights (Note: mine were metal)
- Rapid aiming and target acquisition. Rear sight drift adjustable for windage.
- Tenifer™ coated slide and barrel – Resists corrosion
- Loaded chamber viewport
- Front and rear slide serrations
- Hammer fired action
- Slide locks back on empty. Slide stop is extended for easy gloved operation.
- 3 safeties – Two drop safeties and a firing pin block for safe carry.
- Ergonomic Walther grip
- Reversible push button thumb-operated magazine release
- Constant 6.5 lb trigger pull
- Mil-std-1913 Picatinny accessory mounting rail
- Model: 2790025
- Caliber: 9mm
- Finish: Black
- Trigger Pull: 6.1 lbs
- Barrel Length: 4″
- Capacity: 16 rnds
- Overall Length: 7.3″
- Height: 5.6″
- Width: (B2 = Slide) 1.3″ B2 = 1.14″
- Sight Radius: 6.3″
- Weight: 1.7 lbs
- MSRP: $449
- Street: $399