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Gun Review: The Walther PDP Compact 5-Inch Barrel

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The pistol illustrated is a result of my diligent searching for interesting pistols to own, shoot, carry and report on. It has been quite a while since HK introduced their polymer-frame P9 and almost as long since Glock introduced their game changing Glock 17. Polymer frame striker-fired handguns are easily the most popular pistol on the market. They may not engender emotional attachment or the affection of some more prominently styled firearms, but they will definitely save your life when needed.

Another pistol with the big “R,” as in reliability, and a little “m,” as in maintenance, is the Walther PDP. The Walther Performance Duty Pistol is a first-class service pistol that stands on the foundation built from the company’s PPQ pistol. The earlier P99 was a good pistol of its time but not the type of handgun we find in police holsters these days. We don’t see a lot of Walthers either because they are not the low-bid attraction. Sure, ergonomics, handling and accuracy are superior to most polymer frame pistols. But they are not a low-cost piece when it comes to government bids and there are certainly plenty of other pistols out there that can get the job done. I own Glocks, and Glocks are good to have. I own Walthers as well, and there’s a reason. They are great guns and they have style.

PDP Features

The PDP is offered in full-size, mid-size and compact versions with either 18- or 15-round magazines depending on the frame size. Walther offers 21 models of the PDP in barrel lengths ranging from 4 inches, 4.6 inches, 5 inches and 5.1 inches and two-tone green, two-tone gray and two-tone tan colors. The pistol features well-designed controls that are positive in operation, a simple enough take down and a very nice, crisp trigger. It isn’t particularly light as pistols of this size go, but it is extremely smooth operating with a rapid trigger reset for multiple or follow-up shots.

The sights are ok and pretty much Glock-like. Glock aftermarket sights fit the PDP, and you will probably want to replace the sights with XS Night Sights or something similar as you acclimate to the pistol.

The texture, gripping and balance of the handle is superb. In fact, those features are what attract many fans the first time they hold a Walther. The polymer frame features an accessory rail for mounting combat lights or a laser. Forward and rear cocking serrations offer excellent leverage when working the slide. Walther calls the cocking serrations SuperTerrain. The cocking serrations may be more sloped than some. As best I am able to measure the cocking grooves are 1/8-inch deep. That is deep, and the grooves are wide enough for good purchase. Clearing a jam or making the pistol ready isn’t difficult, even with gloves on.

The front strap features 25 lines-per-inch checkering. The pistol offers plenty of abrasion for handling with cold, wet or numbed hands. The trigger is a big deal, a huge deal to most shooters. My example breaks at 5.1 pounds, lighter than the Glock and easier to handle. I also find the Walther trigger superior to the HK VP 9 and just about anything else. There is a compromise in triggers, and you really don’t want a trigger much lighter if at all lighter in a duty and personal defense pistol. I like the PDP trigger better than the very similar PPQ trigger action.

I don’t know how important it is, but Walther designed a stepped chamber into the PDP barrel. The stepped chamber, in basic terms, is simply tighter toward the barrel leades. So, it is more open where it feeds a round into the chamber but tighter where the bullet actually enters the barrel.  The prime benefit from this design is accuracy. It also seems the stepped chamber helps increase velocity. Barrels in exactly the same gun may differ as much as 35 fps in velocity due to many factors, and a fast barrel may be a slow barrel with a different load, but these are generalities. The PDP is often a “fast gun” as far as velocity goes compared to similar barrel lengths in different makes.

The PDP is also optics ready. I did not explore that option for my test gun, I usually leave fixed sights on my duty guns. The rear sight is adjustable and these sights feature white outlines. They are fine for most uses; they work well enough for shots (and my eyes) out to 25 yards. But there are tons of options for the Glock-compatible-sized base. At this point PPQ fans may ask why did Walther introduce a replacement for the excellent PPQ when the PDP is actually a bit wider? Optics compatibility is one answer. The wider PDP slide is more useful for optics and the grip angle better suited to bringing a red-dot sight to bear.

Then you may ask why I chose the compact frame and 5-inch barrel model. It makes a lot of sense for those of us with average-size hands and those wishing to conceal the handgun. The compact grip frame protrudes less than the service pistol grip frame. The slide is easily concealed inside the trousers in a good IWB holster. When the gun is drawn, you have a fast-handling, well-balanced combination with a decent sight radius for better, more accurate aiming. You even have more velocity in a 5-inch gun if that matters at personal defense distance. Many will prefer the standard compact for concealed carry. I suspect my compact frame with 5-inch barrel gun will be the least popular among the PDP versions. And that’s fine because those of us who like it will really love it!

At the Range

Firing the pistol is a positive experience. I lubricated the cocking block and barrel hood and loaded the three supplied 15-round magazines. I have used some of the cheapest 9mm ammunition I could find the past few years including Armscor, Fiocchi, MagTech and PMC, and it all fed, functioned and fired normally from the gun. Indeed, the Walther has yet to fail to function out of the box.

The pistol isn’t slide heavy at all and balances well. Fast-shooting drills were easily carried out. I will probably replace the sights—they aren’t bad, but I am used to larger brighter sights. I would have no hesitation in carrying this piece for personal defense based on my range fire. The sights are properly sighted for 124-grain ammunition. I admittedly haven’t fired a ton of ammunition through it yet, but the first 200 rounds that I put through the barrel were promising.

Moving to personal defense loads, feed and cycle reliability were excellent as expected. I decided to benchrest three loads for accuracy. I have the greatest respect for Hornady ammunition when accuracy and reliability really matter. A favorite load for accuracy testing is the all-copper 115-grain +P Hunter. This load breaks 1160 fps in the PDP Compact 5-Inch. In ballistic testing, 20 inches of penetration and .65 expansion is average. The load is on the long end of penetration for field use, which is an impressive number. This load uses an all-copper bullet with elastomer to help instigate expansion. With the same penetration as most 147-grain loads but greater velocity and expansion, the Handgun Hunter is a good choice for those times when an attacker is bundled up for winter or behind cover. For personal defense, either the Hornady Critical Defense or Hornady American Gunner 124-grain +P would do well. The +P loading pushes the wrists just slightly more than the Critical Defense loading.

I really enjoyed shooting this Walther PDP Compact and believe it will be a pleasure to carry as much as it is to shoot. I think most handgun fans will agree if they get one in their hands though I admit, some will want the shorter-barreled version. Regardless of which version you like, you can expect incredible performance from the Walther.

Accuracy Testing

(solid bench rest fire, 15 yards distance, 5 shot groups)

Load                                                            Velocity                       Group

Hornady 115 grain Critical Defense                1151 fps                       1.0 in.

Hornady 115 grain Hunter +P                        1160 fps                      1.25 in.

Hornady American Gunner 124 grain +P         1221 fps                      1.2 in.

Results at 25 yards

Hornady 115 grain Hunter +P                         2.0 in.


Fit and Finish *****    Notes: It is a Walther after all.

Reliability *****         Notes: Same comment as above!

Concealment ***        Notes: If you carry a Commander .45 or Glock 19, this pistol isn’t going to be any problem for you. For day-to-day carry however, some carry fans will find it on the large side. When you are firing it, you will like the size, but maybe not so much on your hip.

Accuracy ****             Notes: Not quite as accurate as the Walther PPQ Match in my estimation, but then what is? Walther Match guns are phenomenal shooters.

Overall ****                Notes: Quite simply a great gun to own and shoot.

Walther PDP Compact 5-Inch

Caliber:                        9mm

Overall Length:             8.5 in.

Barrel Length:             5 in.

Height:                        5.4 in.

Width:                         1.3 in.

Magazine Capacity:    15 rounds

Weight (unloaded):    23 oz.

Average Price:             $620

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