The Walther PDP Full-Size Match 5-Inch

by Vern Evans

At the last Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous, I got my first experience shooting Walther’s new 9mm PDP line. It was immediately apparent that this handgun series was destined for greatness on the American market. Personally, I was drawn to the full-size Walther PDP Match, which I will discuss further here.

The Walther PDP Full-Size Match

Full disclosure—I’m partial to the big Walthers. I have the suspicion that shooters who aren’t haven’t tried one. Possibly because they were on the expensive side until relatively recently. High-quality German-made products tend to be on the expensive side.

As a financially challenged teenager, I was introduced to the brand via a WWII P-38 I borrowed from a vet. It seemed I couldn’t miss with that gun. The grip ergonomics worked for me then, and they’ve only improved them since. I still carry a .40 caliber P99.

The popular PPQ that followed the P99 ultimately evolved into a platform that was more practically featured for the average American shooter. However, that great series is being discontinued too. And now, the PDP is the next step in that evolutionary process.

A visit to the company’s website shows they’ve designed this pistol to meet just about every personal defense need. Specifically where micro compact size and deep concealment, or heavier caliber, isn’t the primary requirement. Likewise, there’s a PDP for every duty, recreational, and competitive need appropriate to the caliber.

Walther offers threaded barrel options for suppressor use and match upgrade features, too. German engineering and high-quality manufacturing traditionally command a high premium in the marketplace. But to my surprise, most of the PDP models have a very modest MSRP of around $650.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed. In case you think a Walther fan can’t be objective, the Pennsylvania State Police—one of the largest law enforcement agencies in America—recently chose the Walther PDP compact and PDP-F as their new duty weapons.

Finding the Right PDP Match for You

You can buy the PDP in standard polymer or steel frames and in a slightly smaller polymer PDP-F frame. The standard PDP polymer frame models come in two grip heights and three frame lengths. Correspondingly, the full-size grip frame accommodates the 18-shot magazine, while the compact grip has a 15-shot magazine.

The full-size grip makes the PDP 5.7 inches tall, compared to 5.4 inches with the compact grip frame. In addition, both size frames come in three different lengths matched to 4-, 4.5-, and 5-inch barrels.

Designed-in modularity allows you to pick your own combination of slide and frame, even if it’s not a factory offering. For example, you can put the 5-inch barrel slide on the compact frame designed for the 4-inch slide.

The heavy-weight, soft-shooting, steel frame PDP line has only three frame offerings: a full-size 5-inch, a full-size 4.5-inch, and a compact 4-inch. The PDP-F offers options tailored to shooters with less upper body strength and smaller hands and/or shorter fingers. It does this by reducing the force required to rack the slide by 20%. Likewise, it reduces both the grip circumference and distance to the trigger by about 10%.

The 15-round magazine capacity PDP-F frame comes in two lengths to accommodate 3.5- and 4-inch barrels. Additionally, the 3.5-inch PDP-F is the most concealable and lightest PDP at 23.3 ounces empty.

Designed for Optics

Modularity aside, the standard feature set of the PDP series is impressive. It was designed for optics from the start. The grip frame ergonomics were selected to help the shooter quickly acquire the targeting dot in the optic window.

The bottom of the grip’s front strap sweeps forward so the pinky can exert more pressure at that point and subtly cam the pistol’s muzzle downward. This is because shooters most often lose the dot above the optic window rather than below.

The closer an optic is to the iron sights, the easier it is to use. So, all PDP slides are milled to seat your micro red dots as low as possible. I like that the cut leaves the rear iron sight dovetail unmolested to preserve its zero.

The pistols come with a polymer optic cut cover plate installed. However, Walther will send each buyer the optic adapter plate of their choice free of charge. Additional adapter plates cost $40. Walther also offers steel front and rear sight sets tailored to co-witness with various optics for $90.

The factory iron sights are three dot, square front post, and rear notch. In addition, utilizing the Glock mounting pattern makes for a wide range of user customization. The factory rear sight is minutely adjustable for windage and elevation via two screws. Correspondingly, the tiny, included screwdriver just blasts “German Precision” like an Alpine horn.

However, it’s made of polymer rather than steel, and I wonder about its durability if the gun is dropped. That being said, you couldn’t ask for a more efficient and practical sight.

The PDP Full-Size Match in Hand

The PDP’s grip is wrapped in moderately aggressive peaked tetrahedrons (Walther’s Performance Duty Texture) on the sides and back at all points of palm contact. Similarly, the flat front strap has traditional fine-line checkering.

The squared front of the trigger guard and generously sized, reversible magazine ejector button are likewise checkered. While the grip swells remain on the sides, the PPQ’s finger depressions on the front strap are gone.  Like the P99 and PPQ before it, the PDP comes with three backstraps to customize the grip to your hand.

The most impressive change the new PDP offers is the new Performance Duty Trigger (PDT). Thank goodness, there appears to be a trend developing with manufacturers of striker-fired pistols. These companies are finally striving to improve the generally mushy and overly long trigger pulls that rob those pistols of their full accuracy potential.

Walther’s PDT is their finest refinement yet and is currently the head of the class. It is characterized by a short pull building to a predictable break. I’ve shot plenty of single-action autoloaders that didn’t have triggers as nice.

Another obvious new feature of the PDP is the sculpted look of the slide. Specifically, it narrows before and after the broad and deep Super Terrain Serrations at the front and rear. This makes them stand proud for a more positive hold when racking. In addition, the sculpting also serves to lighten the slide for faster cycling.

A Different Beast Than the Standard PDP

The Match model I tested differed from standard PDP in three main ways. The front of the slide was skeletonized with lightening cuts all the way through at the bottom of the Super Terrain Serrations. In addition to increasing the action’s cycling speed, it should also keep the barrel cooler in high-round count competition.

The Match has a removable aluminum Enhanced Magwell.  Its enlarged opening helps funnel the magazine into the grip faster. It also supports the side and rear of the hand at the bottom of the grip. Picking up this pistol, I feel like I’m putting on a glove.

Finally, the Match comes with an even better trigger. Walther’s aluminum Dynamic Performance Trigger has a pull measuring between 4.5 and 4.75 pounds. However, its flat face has more contact area, which made the pull feel lighter to me.

Its overall travel is quite short (no more than 0.20 inches) with two stages. This includes the take-up, followed by increasing pressure as you travel through a brief wall, ending in a predictable break with minimal overtravel.

I estimate 66 percent of the overall travel to the wall is the take-up. From the back of the triggerguard to the reset point measured around 0.013 inches.

The PDP Full-Size Match on the Range

On the range, the PDP Match was a refreshing change from all the compact and sub-compact concealed carry guns I’ve been testing recently. Groups fired from the bench at 25 yards varied from a little over an inch to nearly three inches. The overall average was about 2 inches. This was while using a mix of brands and bullet weights.

Offhand, I shot some fast drills from seven yards and tore a hole in the target. Like that old borrowed P-38, it seemed I couldn’t miss with the PDP Match. I’m sure the longer sight radius on this pistol helped. But probably not quite as much as the gun’s ample grip contact area and solid Walther ergonomic design.

For more information, please visit WaltherArms.com.

Walther PDP Full-Size Match 5-Inch Specs

Caliber 9mm
Operation Semi-automatic, recoil-operated, locked breech, striker-fired
Barrel 5 inches, 1:9 twist, polygonal rifling, stepped chamber
Overall Length 8.50 inches
Overall Height 5.88 inches
Overall Width 1.37inches across the frame/1.58 inches at the magwell
Weight Empty 26.9 ounces
Magazine Capacity 18+1 rounds
Controls Ambidextrous long arm slide lock release, reversible magazine release button.
Trigger 4.5-4.75 pound pull, flat-faced, Dynamic Performance Trigger
Sights 3 dots, fully adjustable, optics-ready slide
Finish Black
Accessories Hardcase, tools, lock, two extra magazines
MSRP $1,099.00

Performance

Brand Bullet Weight & Type       Velocity Best Group
SIG SAUER 115 FMJ 1,284 1.10
Federal Premium Hydro-SHOK 135 JHP 1,120 1.74
Winchester USA READY 115 FMJ flat point      1,227 1.97

Performance was tested with a series of five-shot groups fired at 25 yards from bench rest with a Competition Electronics Pro-Chrono Digital Chronograph set 15 feet from the muzzle.  Bullet weight is in grains, velocity in feet-per-second and the group size in inches. 

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