After a 26-year run (1997-2023), the Walther P99 is finally being retired. Despite never enjoying much commercial success in the US (more on that later), The P99 is special to me. It was the first pistol I held and felt that handguns could be a good thing.
The Walther P99 is known as the first production pistol to offer interchangable backstraps, but that's not my favorite feature. What sets the Walther P99 apart are ergonomics and an uncommon striker-fired system.
Many striker-fired pistols have the striker only partially cocked, this leads to the "mushy" or "springy" feeling their triggers have. The P99 featured a fully-cocked striker which leves trigger duty at only releasing the striker (and defeating internal safeties), much like the crisp break of a hammer-fired gun. Adding to that, and the most unique thing about the P99 is that the striker can be safely decocked for either a double-action first shot, or to ease in cleaning without needing to pull the trigger. That second benefit sounds silly to handgun enthusiasts, but in organizations like militaries and law enforcement, it can be a life saver. The same goes for folks that are new to handguns and prefer as many safety features as possible.
While the decocker concept was only cloned once by Canik, the fully-cocked striker became a thing of legend and is why many regard Walther (and others who copied) as having the best striker-fired trigger. Walther continued the pre-cocked striker with the PPQ and PDP line of pistols.
Cult Status is a description that could fit the Walther P99 and it's fans. It seems folks are either fanatical fans or have never heard of the gun. It was revolutionary at it's launch, and when I first handled one in 2015 it was still ahead of the competition in ergonomics and features, but I suspect the trigger system is part of why it never caught on.
The P99 AS (anti-stress) effectively has three trigger modes with the third one offering the length of trigger pull of double action, but the weight of single action. Offering DA/SA in a striker-fired pistol is excellent for professionals, and for folks transitioning from revolvers (MIL/LEO), but as time went on and strikers became more of the mode than outliers I think the enhanced capabilities became a detractor. Modern shooters don't want to learn multiple trigger modes, especially if they're not going ot get much training (or maybe have a ton of training) or haven't thought about the risks associated with only having a short and light trigger. Walther even partnered with Smith & Wesson to make the SW99 and with Magnum Research for the MR9, but neither of them enjoyed much commercial success.
Walther tried to let the P99 die when the PPQ line was launched, but fans wouldn't let them stop making the P99, and military and law enforcement contracts around the world meant production could not stop. 11 years later the PPQ line was replaced by the PDP line and yet the P99 kept on, but it seems the time has come to finally stop production and so Walther has released the P99 AS Final Edition.
What Makes it Final Edition? Aside from a clear declaration that this is the end, the Final Edition Walther P99 AS is marked "Final Edition" on the slide, is made with a OD Green frame (a tribute to the early P99s), and comes in a nice, duty-grade hard case with challenge coin. See the tabletop video below for a better look.
Specifications are unchanged from the 2nd-generation P99 AS model that those cultists love:
BARREL LENGTH: 4″
TRIGGER PULL: DA: 9/SA: 4.5 LBS
TRIGGER TRAVEL: DA: 0.6/SA: 0.4″
CAPACITY: 15 RDS
OVERALL LENGTH: 7.1″
SAFETY: 3 AUTO
WEIGHT EMPTY: 24 OZ
MAG QTY: 2
REAR SIGHT: POLYMER WHITE DOT
FRONT SIGHT: POLYMER WHITE DOT
As low as $799 around the web* DO NOT buy from GrabaGun if you believe the Bill of Rights applies to all states.
I fell in love with the Walther P99 in 2015 and took it to multiple training courses. That was before I had reviewed approximately 400 handguns and trained with other models. Now, with a wealth of experience and a bias-defeating range protocol would I feel the same? The range protocol was as always:
Cold Shots: Truly our first rounds through the gun.
What's For Dinner™: A test to see what ammunition the gun will eat. Does the gun feed the round from slide lock, will it cycle and feed another round of the same type, does the slide lock to the rear on empty, and is there any notable point of impact change with different loads.
For this gun we used the following ammunition:
Priced and linked where found at the time this article was written
65gr Liberty Ammunition Civil Trainer
90gr 1776 USA Leadless (Obtained through our Ammo Squared account)
100gr Hornady Critical Defense Lite $23.89 / 20 at Global Ordnance
115gr Blazer Aluminum Case $17.59 / 50 at Optics Planet
115gr Wolf Steel Case: $13.77 / 50 at Sportsman's Guide
124gr Federal Premium Hydra Shok $19.79/20 at Optics Planet
124gr Federal Trainning Match $20.99/50 at Palmetto State Armory
135gr Federal Premium Hydra Shok Deep $37.99/20 at Optics Planet
147gr Winchester Defender $22.99 / 20 at Global Ordnance
150gr Federal Syntech Action Pistol $21.05 /50 at Palmetto State Armory
Sights & Trigger Control: on a 6" spinner target at a distance of 12 yards. We got this from Titan Great Outdoors and use it to gauge how learnable the trigger is and usable the sights are for forced, timed, precise shots.
Practical Accuracy: Five shots from a distance of seven yards at a one inch target. This isn't so much about printing a tight group as it is a culmination of our shooting experience and time for us to collect thoughts prior to making a conclusion.
After Shots: Final impressions and reflections from the range session.
You can watch the entire experience including some interesting notes learned while shooting in the Shooting Impressions video below:
Years Later, Is It Still Good? The question I asked myself when arriving at the range was, "Will I still feel the same 'wow' years and hundreds of handguns experiences later? I confidently started my range session as memories of rocking the P99 at Front Sight and other events flashed through my mind. I also noticed my performance is not what it was in my memory. Was this an experiential bias? My health, shooting performance in general, and mood that range day was not the best, but then again that's why we use the review protocols we do: personal bias of any type has little room to influence outcome. I believe my slower trigger finger was a combination of personal performance health and this being a new pistol without the thousands of trigger pulls polishing it like my old P99 AS. At the end of the video I try a side-by-side mini test and shot BETTER with the new gun than my old one.
To summarize it all, even 26 years after it came out, the Walther P99 AS remains a competent and quality firearm. I know recent trends towards optics may have some shying from this pistol (can't put a dot where the decocker button goes!), but for those unafraid of iron sights this is STILL an excellent pistol, and now with collector value.