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Those Snappy Walthers... A Test

I had originally intended to have the article out first, but life gets in the way sometimes. As a result chances are you saw the video first. If not here it is:

Have you been told or experienced Walther PDP's being snappy? If so, please relate your story to us in the comment section.

The Reason: With the release of the PDP came great excitement as it was an update/replacement for the popular PPQ line that had been in the US for about a decade. As folks gobbled up PDPs reports started floating around the internet that they were "snappy". Professional shooters didn't seem to mind, and new shooters didn't know any better, but it became a narrative about Walther PDPs.

Theories: Assuming the PDP is "snappier" that other guns, there are only so many ways it could physically be true:

  • The PDP is lighter than other guns of the same size; less mass = more perceived recoil.

  • "High Bore Axis" seems to float a lot around the internet without seemingly little knowledge. A Browning tilting action pistol, like the PDP and the majority of firearms out there, has a limit to how high or low a barrel can sit because the barrel needs to tile to unlock and cycle. The tilt is what limits bore axis because either the muzzle end won't clear the end of the slide or the feed ramp will be too long to drop. there is a range of heights that can still function for a given barrel length, but in general "high" or "low" bore axis is a marketing ploy. The exceptions are if the pistol doesn't use a Browning action or if the grip is somehow shaped to give the user a higher grip, but even that has its limits. Too high of a grip and the slide will hit the hand. Do not confuse slide heigh with bore axis.

  • Reciprocating Mass might be a factor depending on the pistol you're comparing it to. A lighter slide will cycle more quickly and could present a "snappy" recoil impulse whereas a heavier slide will cycle slower and present more of a wave or gallop recoil impulse causing more muzzle rise and dip.

  • Spring Rate might be a factor if the the spring was excessively light, but that could cause feeding issues by not giving the slide enough force to properly strip a round from the magazine.

  • Walther's Stepped Chamber is one that we can test and is the subject of this video.

Walther isn't the only manufacturer to use a stepped chamber, and it's not new to the PDP. The PPQ and P99 used a step chamber as well. The intent is to create a better seal around the cartridge so that more of the expanding gasses do their job of pushing the projectile and operating the pistol. The idea that a Walther might actually make more muzzle energy than another pistol came about after a story I heard. A competitive shooter went to a match at a time when everyone was using the Federal Syntech 150gr Action Pistol loads. the first couple competitors didn't make power factor with their pistols and that ammo (meaning not enough power) but the Walther shooter did. Presumably the stepped chamber's extra sealing resulted in more muzzle energy and he was able to use the super-soft Action Pistol load you've seen us use in videos.

The Test

In attempt to see if there's anything to this, I compared a Gen 3 Glock 19 with a 4" barrel to a Walther PDP with a 4" barrel. I know Glock's rifling is supposed to have magical properties too and so it's not exactly a Walther Vs. Normal test, but with the Glock 19 being so ubiquitous it seemed like the broadest-audience comparison I could make that people could relate to.

We'd need to chronograph shots fired through each gun to see if there was any speed difference. If the barrels were identical any speed difference would be the result of ammunition inconsistencies. To make the results relatable common Winchester White Box 115gr ammunition was used as a baseline, then the high-pressure defensive load from Liberty Ammunition would be for a theoretical extreme maximum difference. The results were interesting.

Raw Results

  • What we can say with out conjecture is that the PDP made more velocity and had more consistency from Winchester White Box 115gr than the Glock 19. We can also see that the Glock 19 got more efficiency and consistency from the Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense 50gr +p.

  • What we don't know is why the Walther preferred the Winchester and Glock preferred the Liberty Ammunition. It could have to do with the difference in projectile shapes engaging differently in the rifling.

  • This does prove that different loads perform differently in different handguns. Is it enough to make a difference? That's up to you.

  • This quick test is not conclusive. In order to know for sure we'd have to test several different loads and fire a lot more than 5 rounds.

It is interesting to see that a handgun's efficiency with a round can vary depending on the round. Does a difference of 30fps make a handgun feel snappier or smoother? I doubt it.

What was accomplished by all of this? We've verified the importance of our What's For Dinner™ test, and deduced that there's really no physical evidence to support the idea that a Walther PDP is snappier than another pistol. One factor we haven't yet addressed is ergonomics: If a shooter has a poor interface with the pistol it can be difficult to control. The irony here is that the Walther PDP features a prominent toe on the stock to aid in red dot use, but also serves as an excellent point to apply pressure in order to reduce muzzle flip.

The toe of the Walther PDP's grip is great for controlling muzzle flip with pressure from the pinky finger.

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