Walther’s Wonderful P99

Walther P99 Review (Walther’s Wonderful P99)

I’ve always been drawn to metal-framed handguns. There’s just something about the extra heft of a metal-framed pistol that I appreciate. 

That being said, there is one polymer-framed pistol (or family of polymer-framed pistols, to be more accurate) that I’ve always been drawn to. 

This pistol has just the right balance of ergonomics and pleasing aesthetics while also being known for its reliability and quality. 

The pistol I’m referring to is none other than Walther’s most wonderful P99. Keep reading this Walther P99 review to learn why it’s an excellent and innovative handgun and what Walther did right with this model…

Walther’s Innovation

As an arms manufacturer, Walther has always been known for their innovation.

Walther’s Innovation

True to form from Walther, the P99 was truly innovative when released and remains unique to this day. 

The PPK was the world’s first successful blowback operated pistol and has been copied by countless other guns since. The P38 was the world’s first successful double action/single action duty pistol and its design has likewise been copied and replicated by many other handguns since (including the Beretta 92). 

The P5 was noted for its unique appearance and left-handed ejection, while the P88 is considered by many to be one of the finest ‘Wonder-9s’ ever released. 

There’s just always something ‘different’ about a new pistol that Walther releases in contrast to the competition in the market. The P99 would be no exception. 

Enter the Walther P99 

By the 1990s, Walther needed to catch up with the times. All of the pistols they had in their line up (the PPK, P38/P1, P5, and P88) were known for their quality but were also showing their age in an era where polymer-framed pistols were starting to become the norm. 

In 1994, Walther began design work on a new pistol. The gun was intended from the beginning to be a polymer framed, striker fired pistol and would help herald Walther into the upcoming new millennium. 

In 1997, Walther unveiled the brand new P99. The gun represented Walther’s first foray into the world of polymer-framed, striker fired handguns that had been set by Glock. The release of the P99 officially represented the end of Walther’s metal framed guns (other than their iconic PPK) and the dawn of new polymer-framed guns that Walther would continue to release such as the PPQ, PPS, and PDP. 

Enter the P99 

The first generation P99 was a very futuristic looking handgun when it was unveiled in the 1990s. It represented the start of Walther’s transition to producing polymer-framed pistols.

True to form, the P99 was a very innovative design. It was the first ever polymer framed pistol to come with interchangeable backstraps, enabling the user to change the grip size. Unlike most other striker fired pistols that have a consistent trigger pull each time the weapon is fired, the P99 is actually a double action/single action trigger (more on this below).

The P99 would serve as a duty sidearm for a number of European military and police forces. The pistol also served as the basis for the PPQ and PDP, which both proved to be more successful in the United States because they were more conventional to American shooters. 

In 2004, Walther released a second generation P99 in which they added a Picatinny rail (the first generation has a proprietary rail), a rounded off trigger guard, removed the ‘ski hump’ inside the trigger guard, and extended the slide serrations. The magazine capacity was reduced from 16 to 15 rounds. 

All of these changes were made at the request of different European law enforcement agencies. A year later in 2005, the second generation P99 was updated with an extended paddle magazine release as well. 

Also in 2005, Walther released the P99 Compact, which is the same gun only with a shorter barrel slide, barrel, and grip with a 10-shot magazine. The P99 Compact, however, will accept the longer 16 and 15 round magazines as well. 

Explaining the P99’s Trigger System 

The P99’s most distinguishing feature is its double action/single action trigger system, which is unique for a striker fired handgun. The design was inventive when it was released and has been copied by a few other manufacturers, most notably by Canik in their TP9 long.

Basically, the first trigger pull of the P99 is a long double action pull. When the gun cycles, all subsequent rounds are in the shorter single action trigger pull mode until the gun either locks open or until the gun is decocked (which you can do by depressing the decocker button the side of the slide). 

On a hammer-fired double action/single action pistol, if you don’t want your first shot to be long and heavy, you can manually cock back the hammer to put the weapon into single action for your first shot.

The P99, having no hammer, doesn’t present you with this option. So what do you do if you don’t want your opening trigger pull to be a long and heavy double action pull?

Simple: you engage the third trigger mode of the P99, which Walther dubbed the AS (Anti-Stress) mode. 

Explaining the P99’s Trigger System 

When the AS, or Anti-Stress, mode of the P99 is engaged a red indicator will appear on the rear of the slide

Simply take the pistol’s slide and pull it back roughly quarter of an inch. When you hear an audible ‘click’ gently let the slide go back into battery. You’ll notice a red indicator appear on the back of the slide when you do this as well. 

The gun is now in the AS mode, meaning that the trigger is still in the double-action position but has a much lighter trigger pull. This makes the gun safe to carry while also giving you an easier and more pleasant first shot. Note that chambering a round will also put the pistol into the AS mode. 

That may sound a bit convoluted at first read, and it actually turned off from the P99 for a number of years. But when I finally ended up purchasing a P99 and trained extensively with it, it became second nature to me. Today, the P99 is my favorite polymer framed pistol. 

Finding the P99  

I had always been aware of the P99’s existence because of its use in a handful of James Bond films (specifically, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, and Casino Royale) where it briefly replaced the PPK as Bond’s favored sidearm. 

I handled one in 2014 and enjoyed the ergonomics, but I was put off by the trigger system and walked out of the store today with the PPQ (which is another great gun from Walther, but that’s a discussion for another day).

I kept reading about the P99, however, and I began to become more familiar with how it’s trigger system worked. In 2018, I bit the bullet and went ahead and purchased a brand new second generation P99 with the extended paddle release. 

I trained extensively with that gun for five years and became intimately familiar with the controls, to the point that I’ve come to appreciate the trigger system more than the standard striker fired mechanism like you’ll find on a Glock. 

I ended up selling my second generation P99 for a first generation model simply because I prefer the aesthetics of the first gen. I believe the first generation P99, which is the gun you see in the photos, is one of the nicest-looking striker fired pistols ever produced, but that’s just me. 

Finding the P99  

The P99 fits nice and snug in a Galco Summer Comfort IWB leather holster for concealed carry.

I also owned a P99 Compact for a couple of years at one time, but I ended up selling it because I ended up not carrying it as much as I had expected (I’ve always found the full-size P99 to be easy enough to conceal). 

I carry the full-size P99 in a Galco Summer Comfort IWB holster. The specific holster I use was actually originally designed for the HK USP Compact, but it fits the P99 (and the PPQ) beautifully.

The reliability of all the P99s I’ve owned has been excellent, which is what I’ve come to expect from Walther.

Conclusion: Walther P99 Review

Conclusion

Sadly, Walther announced that the P99 would be discontinued (along with the PPQ) in 2023.

I hope they’ll reverse that decision and at least produce the pistol in limited runs for years to come, but for now, the P99 and PPQ are sunsetting in favor of the newer PDP. 

In any case, the P99 remains a truly excellent and innovative handgun, and Walther did something right with the gun.

It may not be as conventional as a Glock or S&W M&P, but it will always be known as the definitive double-action/single-action striker-fired pistol. 

FAQ

Is the Walther P99 a Good Gun?

The Walther P99 is renowned for its quality and performance. It boasts features like ergonomic design, accuracy, and reliability. Users appreciate its trigger system and comfortable grip, making it a favored choice for law enforcement, military, and civilian use globally.

Why Was the Walther P99 Discontinued?

Production of the Walther P99 was phased out in favor of its successor models, which incorporate advanced features and technologies. The evolution of the design aimed at enhancing functionality, ergonomics, and performance to meet the ever-evolving needs of modern shooters and tactical operators.

Why Does James Bond Use a Walther P99?

James Bond uses a Walther P99 due to the pistol’s compact size, reliability, and modern design. The switch to the P99 in the Bond film series symbolized a transition to a more contemporary and technologically advanced firearm, aligning with the modernization of the character and the series.

Is the Walther P99 Still Being Made?

The Walther P99 is no longer in mainline production, having been superseded by newer models like the PPQ. The PPQ maintains the renowned quality and innovative design elements of the P99, while introducing enhancements in ergonomics, trigger design, and other features to cater to the modern shooter’s demands.

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