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20 Years of the Walther P99.
The top models tested

Walther P99

The Carl Walther GmbH (limited company) from Germany has been manufacturing polymer pistols for almost 20 years. It all began with the P99, but the family of pistols has since branched out in many directions – from compact pistols to special models for the authorities and budget versions there is something for everyone. all4shooters.com will take you on a journey through the history of Walther, investigate all the models from the P99 line and provide the results of the most important models in test shootings. The test was carried out by the magazine VISIER

Hamza Malalla and Matthias S. Recktenwald. Photos: Michael Schippers, Heinz D. Kupsch, Carl Walther GmbH

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The modest name P99 turns out to be misleading: Walther didn’t bring the first of the new model P99 pistols onto the market in 1999, but somewhat earlier in 1996. Similarly to its predecessor – the P88 which hadn’t come out in 1988, but two years earlier. In the 90’s it was recognised that, although unusual at the time, the future lay in grips made out of plastic – Walther also realised this. 

Glock had been going from one sales success to the next for several years. Rival competitors such as Heckler & Koch or Smith & Wesson had had their own models such as the USP and Sigma on the market for at least two years. With the P88 Walther had for the first time actually developed a sidearm with the popular Browning lock. But due to its solid basic construction and top quality the P 88 and its compact model were particularly expensive and didn’t really perform any better than the most established dural frame competitors of the time from Smith & Wesson, SIG Sauer or Beretta.  


Anti-Stress Trigger

In 1996 the Walther P99 combined some of the features of its direct competitors who were also using Polymer: Just like the Glock pistols the P99 also uses a hammerless firing pin lock. The ambidextrous magazine release lever behind the trigger similarly first turned up in the P 7 M8 from Heckler & Koch and has since been integrated by the manufacturer into every new pistol model. However with his trigger Walther wasn’t guided by Glock’s partially pre-cocked Safe Action System, but by the proven and at that time well-established Double / Single Action System. With this system only the first shot is fired when fully uncocked. 

However from today’s perspective the Walther P 99 “Anti Stress Trigger” (AS) is something of a curiosity. In contrast to traditional DA/SA triggers the trigger blade practically returns to the DA starting position after every shot despite the main spring now being cocked, as long as this is not prevented by the trigger finger. This overly long SA trigger travel should reduce the danger of “accidentally” firing the cocked P99 AS by briefly nudging the trigger blade even though the arm is cocked.    

The Walther P99 can be separated into the following parts when disassembling: slides, barrel, recoil spring section and frame. Some models have to be decocked before disassembly. In this case pull the slides back a little and move the ambidextrous levers down over the trigger
The Walther P99 can be separated into the following parts when disassembling: slides, barrel, recoil spring section and frame. Some models have to be decocked before disassembly. In this case pull the slides back a little and move the ambidextrous levers down over the trigger

The second feature of the AS trigger is the extremely short reset distance for the next shot: for renewed firing readiness a reset of about 3 millimetres is sufficient with this trigger. Over the last few years this extremely short reset has become one of the particularly highlighted assets of a variety of pistols. But in the 1990’s there was barely any discussion of the short reset although the Walther P99 was already equipped with it and older versions such as the third generation DA/SA fully metal pistols from Smith & Wesson were too. To ensure against walking around with a cocked sidearm after chambering a round, Walther integrated a decocker on the top of the pistol in the lock. A small inspection hole in the retaining plate of the firing pin indicates the status of the striker. The reddened end of the firing pin sticks out visibly if the system is cocked. 

With the P99 Walther introduced for the first time a detail which today seems indispensable for full price polymer pistols: interchangeable backstraps in different sizes. From today’s perspective there is nothing exciting and new about the locking principle itself. Like most modern large caliber pistols the P99 is equipped with an improved Browning lock with which the barrel is locked directly at the ejection point. The slide is guided on tracks moulded into the frame, the recoil spring can be removed as a completely encapsulated entity when disassembling the arm.

Alongside the classic P99 AS Walther brought out further models, although since then the manufacture of these has been partially discontinued again. This applies to the “DAO” line with a purely double action trigger and the “Quick Action” line with its permanently partially cocked trigger. Also their compact “C” versions are no longer available, however the regular P99c with Anti Stress Trigger is. Walther manufactures the compact versions with a 9mm Luger and .40 S & W. 

Until now the P 99 AS was anything other than a sweeping success on the governmental agency market.


Generational Conflict

Walther’s individual manufacturing periods cannot be so clearly defined as for Glock or Smith & Wesson DA pistols. However a Walther P99 AS from 1996 does have differences to the P99 AS from current production – the modifications were implemented over a longer period of time, without a new model designation being made. 

The frame of the Walther P99 Compact (right) was visibly shortened in comparison to those of the “full grown” models such as the P99 Q in order for the weapon to be better concealed when worn. The compact model is in fact only about ten percent lighter and one centimeter shorter than the large standard models. At the moment in Germany the P99 C is only available in the AS version with 9 x 19 mm caliber
The frame of the Walther P99 Compact (right) was visibly shortened in comparison to those of the “full grown” models such as the P99 Q in order for the weapon to be better concealed when worn. The compact model is in fact only about ten percent lighter and one centimeter shorter than the large standard models. At the moment in Germany the P99 C is only available in the AS version with 9 x 19 mm caliber

In 2004 and 2005 changes took place which particularly increased ergonomics and operability. The frame lost its unpopular, downward contoured horn-handle. The hump on the inside of the trigger guard was also dropped. It was actually meant to prevent the finger from inadvertently being caught under the trigger guard, but in fact it was only an irritation.  The idiosyncratic mounting rail at the front of the frame made way for a “real” Picatinny-Rail.

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