The Overlooked Archetype?


Over the last couple of decades we’ve been inundated with new handgun makes and models. I’m not complaining mind you, competition among manufacturers means more and better choices for you and me.

The only problem is the temptation to chase after what is newest, meaning some real gems get overlooked. For me, one example is the Walther P99. When it first appeared it seemed to be just another high-capacity 9mm in an already crowded field. Recently I was able to shoot a current production model and found it most impressive.

The Walther P99 pistol became available circa 1997. Though not a runaway bestseller, it’s proven to be a solid success, being adopted by a number of police agencies at both city and national level. While police sales have been primarily in Europe, it’s been adopted in North America as well. Not a bad achievement in what is likely the most competitive segment of the handgun market.

The P99 uses the AS “anti-stress” trigger system that can be set to a long pull
shown) or a shorter, lighter pull. Note the unique magazine release lever in the lower
part of the triggerguard.

The P99 was one of the first service pistols to feature an interchangeable
back-strap system for customizing the grip.

It’s Just Right

The Walther P99 shown here is chambered for the 9mm cartridge. Operation is on the tilt-lock system with an abutment above the chamber locking into the top front of the ejection port. It’s what I think of as a “midsize” service pistol with a 4″ barrel, measuring 7.1″ in overall length, 5.3″ in height. Magazine capacity in 9mm is 15 cartridges. The empty weight is 24 ozs.

These dimensions are quite similar to the GLOCK 19, my favorite in the GLOCK lineup. In my view, midsize service pistols are an excellent compromise — full-power cartridge, high magazine capacity, easy to shoot well, yet fairly comfortable when worn concealed.

It’s a very practical size for a police officer to wear on an open carry duty holster while in uniform, or in a concealable belt holster while off duty or while working in plainclothes. Similarly, for a private citizen it may make sense to have one handgun suitable for both home defense and concealed carry. We handgun enthusiasts sometimes forget not everyone is looking for a reason to buy more handguns.

The Walther P99 comes with three interchangeable backstraps to suit different hand sizes. At the time it was introduced in 1997, this was quite innovative, though the concept has become fairly well accepted today. The smallest size makes the P99 exceptionally well suited for those with smaller hands, for whom many high-capacity pistols are simply too big.

The P99 from Walther has been around for more than two decades, but is
overlooked by many shooters. In my opinion, its excellent workmanship and
impressive quality makes it a great option for 9mm fans.

Touching One Off

The test pistol has the AS (“anti-stress”) trigger system. You have the option of a traditional first-shot double-action pull (around 9 lb. weight of pull with 0.6″ of trigger movement), or it can be preset to single-action mode with a 4.5 lb. pull and 0.3″ of trigger travel. In either case subsequent shots are fired with the SA pull.

After chambering a cartridge manually, you can move the trigger to its full forward position by pressing a release on the slide. The release is flush with the slide. Overall the controls of the P99 are nicely designed to be both accessible yet unobtrusive and unlikely to snag clothing.

The magazine release is an ambidextrous lever extending along both sides of the bottom of the triggerguard. To old timers (like me!) used to push-button magazine releases, this takes a bit of getting used to, but I could learn to like it. It’s readily accessible to either thumb or trigger finger yet well protected against accidental activation.

The ramp front and adjustable rear sights have tritium night sight inserts and give a good sight picture. There’s an accessory rail for fitting lasers or white lights. Takedown for routine cleaning is fast and simple, and doesn’t require the trigger be pulled for disassembly. The Tenifer metal finish is extremely tough and rust resistant.

The P99 was a pleasure to shoot, completely reliable, accurate and easy to shoot well. Quality of materials and workmanship is exceptionally high. It exudes a feel of rock-solid reliability and durability — and even to one whose tastes run to blued steel and checkered wood, it’s a pretty nice looking pistol.

For more info:
Ph: (479) 242-8500, ext. 507

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