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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.