March 29, 2016
Glock, Heckler and Koch, Luger, Mauser, Luger, and Walther.
With a long history of excellence in firearm manufacturing, Walther proves its rightful place in that great roster of gunmakers with the new PPQ M2 in .45 ACP.
The new Walther PPQ 45 is the company's first .45. In a marketplace filled with so many .45 autos, the Walther PPQ .45 ACP might seem a little late to the game. So, how does this Saxon import intend to challenge other .45s?
In a word: Comfort.
The .45 ACP is seen as a more difficult cartridge to shoot. The new Walther PPQ 45 changes that. Make no mistake, the power of the .45 remains, but shooting it produces a discernable push rather than a snap. It's powerful, but controllable.
The Walther PPQ 45 accomplishes this with several unique features.
For one, the ergonomic grip is well-contoured and comfortably fits into a medium-sized hand, despite the double-stack magazine well.
In fact, even though a 1911 is a single-stack, I find the controls on the PPQ 45 much easier to reach than those on Browning's famous service pistol.
In the Walther PPQ 45, the company has replaced the European-style paddle magazine release in favor of the American-style push-button release. In my opinion, there's just something wrong about daintily flicking a finger on the side of a trigger guard instead of mashing a good ol' "DO IT" button to remove the magazine.
The push-button release is easy to reach, even for small-handed shooters. And if you've got larger hands, don't fret. Walther includes an additional backstrap that thickens up the grip in the web of your hand.
Though the Walther PPQ 45 has the same caliber and terminal ballistic results as a 1911, it holds more rounds in the magazine. In fact, the Walther PPQ 45 holds 12 in a magazine, compared to a 1911 which will offer seven or eight rounds.
However, this added capacity comes at a cost. A standard .45 ACP round weighs 230 grains. There are 7,000 grains to a pound. This means that a fully loaded 1911 will weigh an extra .26 pounds, while a fully loaded PPQ 45 will weigh an extra .43 pounds. That excess weight is something to consider.
A benefit that might solve that problem, though, is the fact that the Walther PPQ 45 weighs in at 1.75 pounds empty, which is light for a .45 ACP. For comparison, the .45 ACP Glock 21 weighs in at 1.86 pounds empty.
Those considering its potential as a carry gun may be disappointed, however, in some of its other numbers. It's a full-size gun. The barrel is 4.25 inches in length, and the whole pistol is nearly 7.5 inches in length and is 5.8 inches tall.
Despite its full-size dimensions and double-stack magwell, the gun is only a mere 1.3 inches wide. That's virtually the same width as a single-stack 1911 with stock grips. My Springfield Armory Range officer has a width of 1.25 inches with its standard cocobolo wood grips.
And while we're on the subject of 1911 comparisons, let's talk about maintenance.
We love field-stripping a good 1911, but it isn't always the easiest procedure, especially if it has a full-length guide rod or lapped slide rails.
On the contrary, field-stripping the Walther PPQ 45 is easy. In fact, it's almost unbelievable how easy it is.
The Walther PPQ 45 has a little tab that wraps around the top of the frame just forward of the trigger. Drop the magazine, ease the slide back about half an inch and pull the tab. The slide will then come straight forward off the gun. Remove the recoil spring and pull the barrel out. Done.
The only potential frustration is that you can't pull the tab when the pistol is cocked.
Everything I've mentioned up to this point is a benefit, but the big story is the trigger itself.
The Walther PPQ 45 has a great striker-fired trigger. There's less than half an inch of take-up before it tightens, and it breaks at a clean 4 pounds, 5 ounces.
After feeling this trigger, I grimace whenever I slip my finger into my Glock's trigger guard, which breaks at a mushy 6 pounds, 12 ounces. There's just no comparison. Go to your nearest gun shop, ask to see the Walther PPQ 45 and dry-fire it.
It doesn't end there. Once fired, the reset is less than 1/10th of an inch. Follow-up shots are a joy with this pistol.
The .45 ACP is a powerful round, but that kind of power doesn't come without cost. Specifically, a financial cost. I compared the prices of seven popular self-defense loads in 9mm and .45 ACP. On average, the 9mm was almost $4 cheaper per box of 20. It isn't much, but that adds up over time. More money means fewer practice rounds.
I'm not a fan of its plastic sights. I'm sure they're durable, but I keep wondering how many rounds I have left before that front sight pops off. Fortunately, there are heavy-duty aftermarket options available from companies like Trijicon and Meprolight.
Also, and this is just a little thing, it's a good-looking pistol that's ruined by unsightly markings all over. The gun would look so much cleaner and nicer without Walther having to stamp every identifying mark possible on the slide, and the "Read instruction manual" molded into the left side of the frame irritates me.
Despite these few things, Walther's PPQ 45 is a triumph of engineering, and it's one of the best options for a striker-fired .45 on the market today.
Ammo for the Walther PPQ M2 .45
I tested Walther's new PPQ 45 by firing more than 500 rounds of varying loads, weights, manufacture and design approaches. With no cleaning and very little pause, I cycled round after round through the pistol.
Multiple parts of the gun's functionality were stressed by varying rates of fire.
The slide stop was checked for ambiguous function as a slide stop and a slide release. Both methods caused no issues with the gun.
The gun was fired with and without a magazine, and it fired flawlessly both ways. I am particularly pleased that this Walther has no magazine disconnect safety.
Shooting comfort was tested with both grip options offered by Walther. The removable grip pad is held in place by a single roll pin at the bottom of the grip. A firm push with a punch removed the pin, and the grip pads were easily switched back and forth. Tune as you desire.
I, with my smaller hands, preferred the skinnier grip pad, but the thicker pad offered more purchase in the webbing between the thumb and forefinger, as well as a more substantial fill in the palm of the hand.
Five types of ammo were run through the Walther PPQ 45, which were chronographed, measured for accuracy at 25 yards and tested for reliability.
The 114-grain PolyCase ARX shot very comfortably in the Walther. Recoil was hardly noticeable, and the damage capability of the ARX flutes was seemingly evident in the target, as the paper was shredded rather than hole-punched.
The snappiest round fired from the Walther PPQ 45 was Federal's HST, which is a dedicated defensive round. The power from Federal's hard-hitting 230-grain hollow point was very noticeable. It would not be my first choice as a practice round, but it stood out as a particularly powerful choice for a self-defense round.
Winchester's 230-grain Train load boasted the best group and best average of all five loads fired. This round stands out, however, because it is not a dedicated self-defense round. The Train load is a partner in Winchester's Train and Defend line. As the name implies, this is the training load that is intended to prepare the self-defense shooter in using Winchester's Defend load.
This is a test of a firearm's ability to cope with different stresses and pressures on the slide and springs. This is done by randomly loading rounds with different grain weights and powder charges into the magazine. The gun must adjust to the different rounds and function reliably. This test is an attempt to make the firearm fail.
Three typewriter tests were run through the Walther PPQ M2 .45. The gun did not experience a single failure during these tests. All rounds ran through the gun perfectly with no issues.
There was one instance where the slide locked back while firing, which I believe I can safely attribute to user error. I believe the slide lock was caused by an overzealous grip that pushed the thumb up into the elongated slide stop lever, causing the slide to lock back once the gun had fired. This was a one-time occurrence, however, through more than 500 fired rounds.
The Walther PPQ 45 performed remarkably in all manner of tests. It stands out among the pack as an effective and well-made striker-fired .45. You'd do well to put this gun at the top of your wish list.