To me, Walthers represent what all guns should be: impeccably engineered and dependable. We had one Walther next to a row of Anschutz rifles when I was captain of the rifle team in college. It was always in high demand.
The Walther P88 was authorized for personal purchase when I joined the U.S. Border Patrol in the 1990s. My goal was to carry that pistol on duty, but I left for another federal agency before my income climbed above the poverty line, so it was an unfulfilled dream.
Recently, I had the opportunity to shoot a bunch of Walther pistols at the Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous near Missoula, Montana. I took notes on virtually all the guns I shot there over three days. I looked back at my notes, and one stood out from the rest, Walther’s flagship pistol, the 9mm PPQ: “Awesome shooter.” No other pistol I shot over those three days got such immediate high praise.
Most of us are familiar with the Walther name, if only for James Bond’s iconic PPK. But Walthers were almost a myth in the real world. Apart from the wildly popular, pint-sized P22, they were virtually never seen at gun ranges, in duty holsters or even in movies in the United States. While their design and craftsmanship put them on equal footing with the best and most reliable firearms in the world, they were traditionally higher-priced guns with little publicity or public knowledge. But all that looks like it is getting ready to change, and Walther is poised to become the toast of Tinseltown.
Heading to Hollywood
Hollywood has finally taken notice, and Walther pistols have begun popping up in blockbusters. The Walther P99, first introduced in 1999, showed up in several James Bond movies, the Underworld movies and the first John Wick. This was a decent showing, but far from overwhelming. In 2011, Walther introduced the full-sized PPQ series. In 2016, it released a new version of its single-stack 9mm: the PPS M2. Then, in 2017, the company released the tricked-out Q5 Match pistol on the PPQ M2 frame. These pistols perform, but they also have iconic good looks. The PPS M2 can even be purchased with a Shield RMSc reflex sight already installed. It is eye-catching.
Josh Brolin’s character Cable deftly wields two Q5 Match pistols simultaneously in Deadpool 2. He even performs a press-check while holding both guns. The ported slide is unmistakable. But this is only the beginning, as Walthers retake the limelight once again. Something tells me that the Q5 Match and PPS M2 with the RMSc installed will keep showing up again and again on the big screen because of their high-tech looks. These guns truly stand out from the crowd.
On The Cutting Edge
While good looks are nice, they pale compared to the gun’s performance. I contacted Walther, and the company shipped me a PPQ M2 and Q5 Match, both in 9mm. Because they have identical frames, a lot of their descriptors are the same. Their ergonomics are superb right out of the box. When you pick them up, the guns fit your hands the way few polymer-framed pistols ever will. It’s as if you picked up a hunk of your kid’s Play-Doh and gave it a little squeeze. The gun just molds to you. But if you think that mold isn’t perfect, there are three backstraps to choose from to tailor the pistol to your hand size.
The ambidextrous slide release starts out stiff — a little stiffer than I like — but I could still drop it with my strong-hand thumb. It got easier with use, or my thumb got stronger. The reversible magazine release is easy to hit but doesn’t protrude into your hand while shooting. A raised area under the magazine release prevents accidental bumping.
But let me speak a little heresy: I love the paddle-style magazine releases that were originally offered on Walther PPQ pistols. I used my trigger finger to drop the magazine and thus guaranteed my finger wasn’t on the trigger. I was also faster with my reloads and I didn’t have to shift my hand on the grip to reach the button, which shaved off valuable time. In my mind, they are better in every way. However, triggerguard-mounted releases have never caught on in the American market, and it looks like the push-button magazine release is here to stay.
Unlike any other striker-fired pistol I have shot, the triggers here feel more like they have one long stage instead of two stages. The test PPQ M2’s trigger had an average pull weight of 4.8 pounds while the Q5 Match averaged 4.6 pounds. The guns actually have identical triggers, except the one on the Q5 Match has a blue finish. I thought the Q5 Match’s trigger was slightly better, but I don’t think I could tell one from another in a dark room. The resets were also short and crisp with very tactile “clicks.” I know “rolling” trigger pulls are all the rage, but I still reset my trigger and come up with some pretty fast splits.
The PPQ M2’s slide has subtle, but adequate, forward and rear cocking serrations. The PPQ M2 also has a 4-inch barrel, and the Q5 Match uses a 5-inch barrel, bringing their overall lengths to 7.1 and 8.1 inches, respectively. But the Q5 Match’s slide looks nothing like the PPQ M2’s. The forward portion has a series of stylized ports to help reduce weight, but the barrel itself isn’t ported. The front of the Q5’s slide is also narrower, which makes forward press-checks even easier than using the cocking serrations.
The Q5 Match comes standard with a fiber-optic front sight and a target rear sight that you can adjust with a screwdriver for windage and elevation. The Q5 Match can also accept optics, and Bushnell was kind enough to loan me a 5-MOA Advance Micro Reflex Sight, which was easy to install after I removed the Bushnell’s Picatinny rail mount. I like how easy it is to adjust the reticle’s brightness, too. Sighting in only took a few rounds.
Doubling Down on Walthers
At the range, I started by firing the Q5 Match from a seated position at 25 yards. And that is when everything changed. Firing first five-round group was jaw dropping. Then I fired my second. Then I rushed through my third. No matter how I shot this gun, it was as if a laser beam came out of the barrel. My groups with the Q5 Match were tighter than with any pistol I have ever formally tested. Ever. They were tighter than groups I’ve shot with custom 1911s. In fact, my 25-yard groups looked like 7-yard groups. I give some credit to the Bushnell sight and its crisp red dot, but this off-the-shelf pistol was outshooting most custom guns, and a good sight doesn’t do that on its own.
Then I switched loads. I figured I must have gotten lucky with some magical ammunition that meshed perfectly with the Walther Q5 Match. Nope. The next load was also dead on. And then it hit me. I write articles reviewing guns for money. I love the work, and I love the guns. But at the end of the day, I write for a paycheck. I was unhappy because I have been writing for gun magazines for nearly 15 years, and I have never actually kept the test guns. (In fairness, I purchased and transferred a few test on behalf of my law enforcement partner, but none for myself.) The Walther Q5 Match changed that.
For the first time, I couldn’t send the test gun back. I called Cody Osborn, the marketing manager at Walther Arms in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and asked him if gunsmiths had hand-fitted this pistol from the best parts to make it this crazy accurate. He laughed and said he never even sees the guns that are sent to writers. They just grab one off the shelf and ship it.
My next task was testing the PPQ M2’s accuracy by shooting five-round groups at 15 yards. This is a mid-sized gun and did not have the advantage of a reflex sight. But I still produced great groups with every type of ammunition I used.
Finally, it was time for some basic gun-handling drills on the range. Once again, both the PPQ M2 and the Q5 Match shot like lasers. Any misses were entirely my fault. The slides on both pistols did fail to lock back a few times, but that’s because I tend to use a very high grip, and my thumb rides on the slide catch on these and most other pistols. I also think I would prefer a bit more flaring in the magazine wells for faster, easier reloading, but at this point, I’m desperately looking for something to critique on these two top-notch pistols.
Star Power of Walthers
Walther Arms may not have the fan club or name recognition of some other brands of tactical pistols, but it certainly has a following. Shooting the PPQ M2 and the Q5 Match certainly made me a believer. And I can’t wait to see where these pistols end up on the silver screen. I’ll be there in the front row, rooting on these newfound “stars” when they arm heroes and villains in tomorrow’s blockbusters.
Walther PPQ M2
- Caliber: 9mm
- Barrel: 4 inches
- Overall Length: 7.1 inches
- Weight: 24.5 ounces (empty)
- Grip: Black polymer
- Sights: Low profile three-dot
- Action: Striker fired
- Finish: Matte black
- Capacity: 15+1
- MSRP: $649
Walther Q5 Match
- Caliber: 9mm
- Barrel: 5 inches
- Overall Length: 8.1 inches
- Weight: 27.9 ounces (empty)
- Grip: Polymer
- Sights: Fiber-optic front, adjustable target rear
- Action: Striker fired
- Finish: Tenifer
- Capacity: 15+1
- MSRP: $849
For more information, visit waltherarms.com.
This article is from the April/May 2019 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Get physical copies and digital subscriptions at OutdoorGroupStore.com.