Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sweet Carryin’ 9s—A Four Part Series and a Tough Assignment

In this quad report we will look at four excellent carrying 9mm pistols, the Walther PPS, Para Ordnance PDA, SIG P239, and the Smith & Wesson CS9.

Although small, they are a tad too large for pocket carry, but are all excellent candidates for a concealment belt holster especially one of the inside-the-waistband varieties as they all have slide widths of about one inch or less.

We’ll start this series with the Walther PPS.
This pistol was introduced last fall with the typical amount of fanfare that a new firearm gets; appealingly slick magazine ads and plenty of positive ink in the mainstream gun press. However I wanted nothing to do with it. It seemed to be trying to fill the squeaky tight gap between the small baby Glock and the smaller Kel-Tec PF9 or Rohrbaugh 9mm. Gun dealers kept pushing it at me but I deemed it to be just a little too large for pocket carry (which was my primary mode of carry at the time), I did not like the finish, I did not like the profile, I did not like it’s looks, I did not like the texture of the polymer; I almost went into a vintage Dr. Seuss rant:
I would not shoot this little gun,
I would not shoot it, it would not be fun.
I would not take it if it was free,
I would not take it it’s not for me.
I do not care if it doesn’t jam,
I do not want it, Sam I Am.

Well a couple of weeks ago another dealer pushed a newer model at me that had a two-tone finish, (black steel slide, and blue/grey polymer frame) that appeared more ascetically pleasing to me. The polymer texture felt better than what was on the “first edition” models (although I would doubt if there was too much of a difference in their chemical make-up). The pistol is supplied with two backstrap options and when I first picked it up I did not like the ergonomic feel; it had the straight backstrap attached and the shorter 6 round magazine. The salesperson put the arched backstrap on and slid in the 7 round magazine with the finger extension on it. Now my whole hand could grip the pistol and the arched backstrap made it a natural pointer for me. Back home to the safe I went to find something that was out of rotation and prime fodder for a trade and back to the gun shop I went the next day.

Here are the specs:
Length: 6.3"

Height: 4.4"
Overall Width: .91"
Barrel Length: 3.2"
Sight Radius: 5.4"
Weight (with Mag): 22.3 oz.
Action: Striker Fire Double Action, Pre-Cocked
Trigger Pull: 6.1 lbs.

The PPS is deliciously slim making inside the waist band carry a breeze. There is no difference between the width of the slide and the width of the grips frame with both measuring a scant .91 inches. My fear with this pistol was that the thin grip would provide some painful recoil into the web of my hand like the Kahr P9 had done years ago. The PPS did not do this. Another plus for the PPS is that all of the checkering, serrations, ridges and other things molded into the grip of the pistol worked well to keep it from moving in my hand during recoil without shredding the skin from the web between my thumb and trigger into a pile that resembled grated parmesan ala the Kahr.

The specs on the trigger pull put it at 6.1 pounds and that is spot on with the 6 pull average I got from my Lyman digital trigger pull gauge. The PPS has the lightest trigger pull of the four pistols being examined in this series. The trigger is just a little gritty, but not to the point where it causes any problems at all, in fact it is really only noticeable if I fired the PPS after shooting something with an ultra smooth trigger.

The sights are easy to see for such a small pistol and are of the standard 3 dot variety, adjustable for windage only. My only complaint is that they are not night sights.

As with all modern centerfire Walther polymer pistols, the PPS has an ambidextrous magazine release attached at the bottom of the trigger guard; the shooter can use either their thumb or trigger finger to work the magazine release lever.

I personally find that my trigger finger works the best for me as I do not need to change my grips to activate the lever and drop the mag. Using my thumb would require me to shift the grip in my hand.

This pistol also has a loaded chamber and cocking indicator which is a red post at the rear face of the slide which is visible when the pistol is loaded and cocked.

I have fired 400 rounds of Mag Tech and Remington UMC 115 grain FMJ ammo and 50 rounds of defensive hollowpoint ammunition; the PPS has been absolutely reliable with no failures to feed or failures to eject.

Let’s go to the targets:
All targets were fired upon with Mag Tech or Remington 115 grain FMJ ammo unless otherwise noted.

Two from 21 feet:

Two from 31 feet

50 Feet

75 Feet --And this seemed to be a stretch for both the pistol and my abilities.

Speer 124 Grain Gold Dot Hollow Point ammo fired at 21 feet.

Speer 115 Grain Gold Dot Hollow Point ammo fired at 21 feet.

Buffalo Bore 115 grain +P+ JHP ammo fired at 21 feet.

Hornady 124 grain JHP/XTP ammo fired at 21 feet.

The MSRP on the PPS is $699 which seems a little pricey for a polymer pistol, but probably has something to do with the position of the dollar against the German Deutschmark. Nonetheless, I like this pistol. If Walther can have Daniel Craig brandish one in the next James Bond film, the PPS will become hard to find.

Average Joe is a proud contributor to the Shot Show Podcasts which can be found at