The Walther P99 is a pistol that has always intrigued me. Part of the fascination comes from the fact that James Bond upgraded from the traditional PPK to the P99 in Tomorrow Never Dies. I’ve covered the P99 slightly on this blog (here, here, and here). The P99 was recently upgraded to the PPQ, and it appears that Walther took my advice on integrating some of the FB Radom enhancements to the pistol. Okay, so I can’t exactly take credit for the new pistol design. I am happy, however, that Walther has done something to upgrade the pistol.
Introduced in 1997, the P99 never really reached widespread market success in the US. I don’t really know why. One reason could be Glock’s dominance in police market. Another could be that the Assault Weapons Ban limited the P99’s 16 round 9mm magazine to 10 rounds. However, the number one obstacle in Walther’s growth in the US market is Walther’s US strategic partner – Smith & Wesson.
Losing market share and a court battle to Glock, S&W was looking for a change in their polymer pistol line up. The Sigma had been, and still is, a disaster. I’m not really sure why S&W still manufactures them, except to stay in the budget pistol business. Anyway, in 1999 Smith & Wesson entered into a strategic partnership with Walther to “distribute Walther branded firearms and accessories in the United States.”
Thus, the P99 was introduced to the States and S&W was able to produce another company’s plastic auto pistol design, while this time avoiding the court battle. Conveniently, the SW99 was priced below the P99 and was available not only in 9mm and .40S&W, but in .45 ACP as well.
In 2005, Walther had fallen way behind in the civilian polymer pistol arms race. Glock was well into their 3rd gen pistols. Springfield Armory had found huge market success with the XD. And Smith & Wesson dropped a bomb – the M&P. Walther’s strategic partner had finally developed their own polymer pistol.
Now, six years later, Walther has released an updated version of their pistol. Will it gain market success in the United States? I’m not sure and I have a few concerns. When was the last time you saw an advertisement for the P99 or the PPQ? Walther just doesn’t market to American gun owners the way that Glock, Springfield Armory, and Smith & Wesson do. Taurus markets their guns better than Walther.
There is also a HUGE conflict of interest with Walther’s strategic partner. No matter how superior S&W thinks the M&P is to the PPQ, the PPQ may not be marketed aggressively or priced competitively. Also, you probably won’t see the PPQ in any of the gun games, though competitive shooting might help the PPQ gain some notoriety in the industry (the PPQ is roughly the size of a Glock 19, so a Long Slide version would need to be released). Until these things start happening, the PPQ will continue to be dismissed within the American shooting industry.
What I’d really like to see is Todd G. at pistol-training.com do to the PPQ what he’s done to the HK45, the M&P, the HK P30, and the Gen 4 Glock 17. Put it through the paces and see how it stacks up to these other firearms. If it doesn’t stack up well then the industry can continue to ignore it. However, if it performs admirably, maybe Walther should rethink its strategic partnership with Smith & Wesson.