Firearms

Walther PDP: A Growing Family of Superb Pistols

Walther PDP in hands

Walther Arms recently marked the third ‘release’ anniversary of its first Performance Duty Pistol (PDP). As the PDP product line becomes more diverse, the writer in me finds it hard to define them succinctly. So far, they’re all 9mm, striker-fired handguns with a distinctively squarish slide. I was an early adopter of the model, having purchased a 4.5-inch full-size PDP almost three years ago.

In recent months, I’ve had the good fortune to test two newer variants. Sadly, I can’t speak for every model of this rapidly expanding line. However, I feel its wide acceptance for multiple user types is sure, but overdue. 

Design and Modularity

The modularity that’s customary these days has been taken to a new level with the PDP — the slides and frames are interchangeable — so, it’s possible to create a custom gun of sorts that’s not marketed as a single firearm. The backstraps are interchangeable too, but we’re used to that. 

Several variations of Walther PDP pistols
My gun safe is currently a little PDP-heavy. The F model is the only one I wish I could compare these to. These three guns are different in important ways, but their triggers, handling, and accuracy is very comparable, and enjoyable.

This isn’t an inexpensive gun. Average retail prices range from $600 for the compact F model to nearly $2,000 for the steel-frame Match. Others are just south of $1,000 (without an optic). However, the value included in the PDP lineup is significant. Each gun ships with three mags. Capacity is an industry standard for the frame size — 15 or 18 rounds. Each is optics-ready and Walther ships the buyer their choice of mounting plate to fit most popular optics. 

Before anyone scoffs at the idea of a mounting plate, and I am included in that crowd for certain brands, Walther has made a solid system, though it’s evolved over time. My own PDP has the original plate design. I use a full-size Holosun optic on it and have since receiving the plate in the mail. With proper mounting and judicious use of threadlocker, that optic has stayed solid through lots of heavy wear on my hip and range shooting. It has earned my confidence far more than other indirect mounts I’ve used. 

My personal experience with PDPs has been on an original 4.5-inch full size (18-round mag), and more recently the polymer frame Match model and PDP Pro, the latter currently available for agency sales only. The consistency of performance of all of them was remarkable. I’ve never had a malfunction — even when mixing a hodgepodge of brass or aluminum cased — FMJ and HP ammo into the mags. The triggers on these guns are excellent, with short take-up, short reset, and no grainy feeling at any point. 

It’s easiest to group PDPs by ideal use, rather than features, so I’ll describe them that way, in order of when they showed up on the market, most recent first. 

Walther PDP Match Optic Mounting
My experience with the original PDP optic mounting plate system has been positive. The slide/plate interface has evolved a bit since my gun was new. This is the updated slide plate receptacle on the Match model.

PDP Match for Competition

Are you ready for some competition shooting? The PDP Match was made to win. There are two versions: one with a polymer frame and one with steel for ease of staying on target. Sizable lightening cuts, a long five-inch slide, flat-face trigger, and fat magwell rim (not removable, I tried) make this gun competition ready. 

I’ve had a PDP Match in hand for a while and have run lots of rounds through it. Like my original, it’s never malfunctioned. Even with a moderate drop-style holster, my short self must exercise a little to draw and re-holster that long barrel. I’ve shot the Match with its lightening cuts, alternating three-shot groups to compare with my non-perforated, 4.5-inch PDP, and honestly cannot feel a difference in recoil

On a lark, the first round I shot through the Match model was at a 10×18-inch steel target at 50 yards. It was an easy hit with iron sights. These guns lack nothing in the accuracy department.

Walther PDP in hands
PDP Match, polymer style, with big ports in the slide. This big five-inch barreled gun is also offered with a steel frame. My short self must put in some effort to draw and holster this one, even with a holster that has a bit of drop.

PDP-F for Concealed Carry

The PDP-F was made with female shooters in mind. While it’s not specifically advertised for concealment, but for ease of use by smaller hands, it happens to be an increasingly popular choice for concealment by informed shooters of both sexes. Its outstanding ergonomics, most significantly the short backstrap-to-trigger face distance, relatively easy racking, and lack of redundant safety features makes this a top choice for concealment. Its dimensions, with a 3.5- or 4-inch slide and 15-round capacity, put it on par with popular conceal carry guns such as the Springfield Hellcat Pro and SIG Sauer P365 XL. 

Walther PDP and Spare Magazine
Enjoy this look at the 18+1 PDP Pro, currently only available to law enforcement agencies and the only one with tritium sights. The Aimpoint ACRO is directly mounted to the slide. Of the three PDPs, my own copy and this one are my top picks.

PDPs for Defense and Duty

Interchangeable frames that hold 15- or 18-round mags and several barrel length options mean one can go from compact to full-size within this category. I’ve already mentioned many great attributes of my original duty-size PDP. It runs like a top, has a great trigger, and the optic plate mount has remained solidly attached. I like its normal magwell and U-shaped magazine floorplates. This is a great-performing gun that I can carry at work as an armed courier, shoot in matches, use as a demo gun in classes, and shoot all day as a student. 

I’ve had the chance to test the PDP Pro, currently not available on the civilian market but widely offered to agencies in the U.S. and elsewhere. This gun shares more in common with the Match model than my original duty-oriented PDP, with a swollen magwell opening and flat trigger. However, it doesn’t have lightening cuts, which is wise on a gun whose job might entail up-close encounters.

Significantly, the PDP Pro has the famously tough, Aimpoint ACRO red dot — directly mounted into the slide. It also features three-dot tritium night sights. I’ve compared these three guns outdoors at night, with plain sights, a Holosun green dot optic, and the ACRO/tritium. While no gadgets replace training, I can confidently say the Pro is an advantageous setup. The PDP Pro might be available on the civilian market someday, but it isn’t now.

Walther PDP with Red Dot optic
This five-round group was fired using the Pro model from 25 yards, standing, taking my time and using 115-grain LAX FMJ. This gun allows a shooter to make the most of their ability to be accurate.

No Gun Is Perfect

There is nothing perfect under the sun, and that includes the Walther PDP. But the faults, as I see them, are minor and number only two. The first is the backstrap pin. It’s rolled aluminum and easily wallows out if wailed on at anything other than a perfect straight angle with a perfectly matching punch.

Naturally, it wasn’t my intent to slightly deform the pin on the Match model. However, I decided mid-shoot I’d like to change backstraps and proceeded to do so with an improvised range tool. People can say nasty things about polymer components, but I’ve never had one start to mangle like that pin did. I quickly realized my error, stopped, and got a proper punch before it got too bad. 

My other beef is the magazine floorplates. Especially on a duty gun, one should be able to feel that floorplate in the dark and know what direction the mag is facing. My old PDP has normal, U-shaped plates. But the Match and Pro, with its magwell extensions, have a near-perfect rectangle shape. As an instructor, it’s nice to be able to tell the direction a mag is facing in a pouch at a glance. These don’t allow that. Yep, it’s minor, nevertheless, I feel Walther fixed something that wasn’t broken in earlier PDP designs.

Walther PDP magazines
Mag baseplates on a standard PDP (left) and Match or Pro models (right). Although the Pro and Match are fantastic performers, I could do without its flared magwell and a baseplate that’s not index-able by feel. I have yet to see data showing that bulky flared wells save any time on reloads for well-trained pistol handlers. If it exists, please share in the comments.

As with most new guns, holster choices could be better, but the market is coming around with good choices for competition and duty. Dara Holsters makes a fine Level 2 duty holster that fits all three of the PDPs I have in hand. When it comes to mag pouches, your choices are few — or so I thought. When I discovered that my full-size Canik TP9 magazine pouches are a good fit for PDP mags, life got a little easier. 

“P” is for Privacy?

If you tend to be concerned for privacy in an Orwellian world, you might (as I did) panic a little when removing the backstrap of your Walther PDP to find a labeled socket for an RFID chip. Don’t worry; this is a feature built in for agencies that buy made-in-Germany PDPs en masse. When I first got my PDP, I was so concerned that I called my FFL to announce I might want to exercise my warranty (Walther has a good one), and found someone who’d x-ray the gun to see if a chip was present. It wasn’t and isn’t. 

Two Thumbs Enthusiastically Up

This is a big family of guns. Though I’ve tried three variants, thanks to modular design, there are many other possibilities that can still be called a Walther PDP and enough diversity in the collection to please just about anyone. 

Walther PDP flat trigger
The Match and Pro models feature the flat-faced Dynamic Performance Trigger. Its operation is as good as the standard curved trigger, but with trendy design.

Despite their big look, every PDP I’ve handled has been a pleasure to operate. The mini-pyramid textured grip is just right. The ambi controls are within reach for most shooters. And the concept of encouraging pinky squeeze thanks to the shape of the grip assists not only with a solid grip, but also helps effortlessly drop a red dot into just the right place. 

Walther also delivers a top-rate user manual. It provides pictorial instruction on disassembly/reassembly and maintenance of the striker and extractor, not just the usual takedown/cleaning covered by most. 

What will we see in the Walther PDPs of the future? I’m thinking there’ll be more and maybe a complementary pistol caliber carbine. Surely, there’s a micro-compact on the drawing board. 

Have you logged any time behind a Walther PDP? What are your impressions? Share your thoughts in the Comment section.

  • Walther PDP shooting
  • Walther PDP curved trigger
  • Walther PDP flat trigger
  • Walther PDP F-Series
  • Walther PDP in hands
  • Walther PDP in hands
  • Walther PDP Match Optic Mounting
  • Several variations of Walther PDP pistols
  • Walther PDP and Spare Magazine
  • Walther PDP with Red Dot optic
  • Walther PDP magazines
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Comments (15)

  1. I only have one “plastic” 9mm. A Ruger LC9. Bought it for special purpose; carry concealed. That said, I am comfortable with it. Works fine for me. I do prefer hammer fired steel frame pistols. I appreciate this article as Walther is scarce where i live. Good article. NOW as for those who say 45ACP or nothing; it appears Jeff Cooper Is still alive and well. I started in 1964 with a surplus Luger and a 1911. I like both. Try a lot of pistols until you find what you are comfortable with and that will be your CCW.

  2. I am going to stray a little off target. I have owned a Walther PPQ Match Steel Frame PRO Q5 for about 4 years. The firearm is absolutely a pleasure to shoot and “dead balls on center”. There is NO
    DOWNSIDE to this gun. Like one of the previous comments, I prefer a full size ALL METAL gun due to
    my size 13 hand. If the young lady is concerned about bears, I would carry a 10 mm but the gun manufactures are trying to sell products to the average citizens.

  3. The tone of the majority of these expressed views surprises me. I began shooting at 7 years of age, when my father took me & my older brother to the range with him. That first time was using a Colt 1911, a Walther P38, and a S&W 38. I fell in love with shooting that day and that love has never diminished. I am now going on 72 and I still hit the range 3 – 4 times a month. I own and shoot mostly metal framed firearms including 1911’s, a Sig P227, a S&W Registered-magnum .357 with the 8.75″ barrel, a CZ 75 SP01, A CZ P01, and others. I liked the ergonomics of the full-sized Walther PDP 5 inch when I picked it up about a year ago. My local range was running a sale, so on a whim, I bought it. I had never thought much about owning polymer striker fired pistols, as I like the heft of a metal frame and prefer to carry with a safety or decocker and have a round in the chamber. I’m a 6’7″ guy with really big hands. The Walther full-sized PDP, with the large back-strap installed, fits my hand perfectly and is just a pure pleasure to shoot. It is so light that it felt like a toy at first after shooting steel pistols for so many years. But it shoots accurately every single time I squeeze that trigger, and it is lightning fast on follow-up shots. It makes me remember those early days when the love of shooting first took hold of me. I still prefer metal, hammer-fired pistols for carry but that’s just what I’m used to. But that PDP is just plain fun to shoot.

    My father was a collector, and I grew up shooting Walther’s P38, and PPK; both great steel pistols. But having put over 3k rounds through the PDP, and another 2k through a Walther PPQ SC that I purchased and then later transferred to my daughter, I can strongly state that Walther’s polymer pistol offerings are very much worth the money. I enjoyed the article.

  4. This pistol is as accurate as a laser beam. On a whim I bought one, a full size 4.5 inch, since I didn’t have a pistol with an optic, and Walther made it very easy with their free choice on a mounting plate. I went with a Holosun 507 and have had zero issues with it. This is easily the best striker fired trigger I’ve ever used; better than the P320, VP9 and far better than a Glock. It’s a slightly heavier trigger than the PPQ (that’s a good thing!) but still breaks like glass with a very short reset. I’m still not as good picking up the reticle for my first shot as a set of tritium sights, but when I do this will replace my Sig P226 as my nightstand gun.

    This pistol was so accurate and easy to use, I had to buy another; my wife took the first one as her own!

  5. I purchased the Walther PDP and throughly enjoy it. This is my first Walther. The weight is light and you can carry it all day. I found the PDP to be very accurate. The grip angle and texture is fantastic also.

  6. I purchased the Walther PDP and throughly enjoy it. This is my first Walther. The weight is light and you can carry it all day. I found the PDP to be very accurate. The grip angle and texture is fantastic also

  7. As the owner of one of the first PDPs and a close cousin, the Q4 SF, I’ll stand with Eve and say to you nay sayers, “you just haven’t tried it.” Among the approximately 65 semi-auto pistols I’ve been privileged to review over the past 5 or 6 years, the triggers on those two Walthers, if not the best, they’ re very close and right now I can’t think of a better one. I agree with Eve, when it comes time to shoot well, like for me my biennial LTC Instructor renewal, the PDP is often t he first choice. BTW this isn’t a first-time review for Eve as someone intimidated She has been in the business for years.

  8. Owning a wide range of firearms from Barretta to Walther, I can say the PDP 9mm 4.5” is one of the best I’ve used. The trigger is excellent, and the gun puts shots reliably on target. This are an upgrade from my PPQ, more reliable than my Sig 320s, better quality than my S&W M&P. I do like steel frame, so the PDP SF is on my list!

  9. It’s unfortunate that some people are still caught up in caliber myopia when shot placement trumps all. As for me, for EDC and work I’ll happily carry more rounds of lightweight, less expensive 9mm HP. It’s better for my back and bank account. Ballistic testing has its limits but maybe do some research and comment with actual comparisons. If I lived in bear country, sure, my choice would change and it’d be moving faster than 45 ACP and making a bigger hole than 9mm. SInce 9mm is the choice of most every police and mil orgs. worldwide, it remains in generous production and economical for both factory and reload purposes. To each their own.

  10. I have to agree with ALL of the comments thus far… In addition, I would have to remark that the author’s intent might have been well placed (she can write, and her grammar isn’t too bad) – but there’s still no way (as far as I know) to make real gold from fools gold… It is also STILL IMPOSSIBLE to turn apples into oranges !!

    Perhaps Eve got off to a bad start, and we should ‘cut her some slack’.. but…. well… Hmm…
    Obviously, no amount of add-ons will turn an ugly, polymer, striker-fired Walther into something it isn’t.

  11. It seems that every time a new gun becomes available on the market it’s always in 9mm caliber. The gun manufacturers always seem the leave out the people that have a love for the .45 ACP caliber.

  12. Same issue with all these new pistols. They are built in a ‘minor’ caliber. When they start making them in real calibers I might start looking at them.

  13. “PDP Pro, the latter currently available for agency sales only” is not going to win any plaudits from the buying public. Walthers have become blockish and full of odd angles, speed holes, bumps, and ridges. This is a marketing ploy that has turned into a fetish. I still prefer the sleek lines of the PPK, 1911, Luger, and Hi Power.

  14. A rousing meh. $600 is too much for a plastic framed pistol, and there are way too many vsriants of plastic 9mm on the mqrket. Walther’s forte is all-steel pocket pistols.

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