Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Walther PPX 9mm Pistol Review

Walther PPX 9mm Pistol Review
Probably the Best Full Sized 9mm for the First Time Gun Buyer

As I noted in my Walther PPS review, the new face of Walther has become far more that just a legacy of James Bond’s Walther PPK. The company has lept into cutting edge designs; some gun buyers get right away like the fabulous little PPS and some are a bit tougher to understand for the seasoned shooter... that is until they handle them.  The PPX is one of those guns that you cannot fully appreciate until you handle it, grip it, shoot it and then really drive the living crap out of it. Once you do these things, you suddenly exclaim “ahh I get this marginally oversized odd looking gun and I really… really like it.”

Walther has a very long storied past which dates back to 1886 when they created the first semi-automatic pistol. Today over 130 years later they are a leader in manufacturing, design, and production of the most sophisticated firearms in the world. The company has now merged with Umarex (makers of premium .22LR firearms and air rifles) while still continuing to manufacture products for other manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson. Its impossible to encapsulate the very storied history of Walther in this article, but their history is much richer than just the old PPK design. Today they are 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 (Shooting Hunting & Outdoor Trade) show, I had a chance to speak with Mark Thomas from Walther about why a $400 street priced Walther was created and now competing amidst 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.” - Mark Thomas - Director Marketing, Walther Arms, Inc. 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 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 chunky beefy feel adds a bit of mental psychology that you have a big gun to handle any situation. Friends and family  gun newbies I have trained to shoot 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 provide the beginner the perfect sight system to learn by.  The gun is very accurate as well, however it is the maintenance which I think is targeted perfectly to the novice.

To disassemble the gun for routine cleaning, simply lock back the slide with an empty magazine in the gun and turn the take down lever and then 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 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 pin or 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 screams make it easy on the newbie and give the pros an inexpensive gun to fall in love with and beat on for not a lot of money.

Despite the “husky” looks, its only around ⅛” wider and otherwise dimensionally similar to competing firearms. It looks, big fat and chunky, however once in the hand or side-by-side with a competing gun, you see that intentional big strong husky full figured looks are quite deceiving.

While at the SHOT show, I had the opportunity to handle all the Walther firearms side by side and I can honestly say I saw no difference between the PPX’s fit and finish and the other Walther models.  It still has all the super precise molding, 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 does lack the PPQ’s adjustable/swappable grips. The lower receiver of the PPX seems every bit as nicely contoured and thought out as its other Walther siblings and 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 some serious machine time dedicated to creating beautifully convex and concave curves cut on and into 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, however this hardly is the sophisticated milling required on the other more expensive models. The absence of the interchangeable/adjustable grips and the simple blocky slide drastically reduce 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 which blends the best of striker and hammer fired mechanism. 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 ¼” 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. It has a definitive ½” of take-up and then a sharp crisp 6.1lb break.  Greatly improving the trigger feel was a primary reason Walther decided to move to this Pre-Cocked hammer fired design.

Some have noted that the trigger is so good and light that they feel a little hesitant to carry the gun with a round in the chamber, however again the design and feel are deceiving. Glocks for example have trigger pulls just under 6lbs, however the PPX trigger feels worlds lighter.  If the gun is tumbling around in a glove compartment, backpack or purse, a live round in the chamber is not the best idea with any semi-auto, however in a proper holster, I would see not issue carrying this gun fully ready to rock.

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.

Functionally the PPX shot and spit out over 400 rounds of my worst reloads however I must address that goofy looking PPX angled grip. Honestly my first thought was “what the hell?” 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 slide it into my waistband that goofy angle breaks up the grip pattern under the shirt and it looks a lot more like a fat roll than a gun butt.  I was shocked how much better I could conceal this pistol than my Glock 17. Another great carry method was to slip the PPX into my 5.11 Moab Rush’s hidden CCW compartment.

Despite the ammo shortage of 2013, 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.  The PPX is very accurate for a defensive semi-auto 9mm. With the Federal Guard Dog, and Standard Hollow points, and Hornady defensive rounds, I was able to consistantly 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. Walther may have focused on developing a great defensive handgun, however I may have to hunt rabbits this year with this 9mm.

A few things I wish Walther would change are adding in some type of firearm lock especially for a fire time buyer focused firearm. This could be a simple paddlock to place the shackle behind the trigger to prevent the gun from being fired. The sights are of very high quality, however 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, however in the process they have delivered an outstanding 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

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