Little Big Brother: Walther’s PPQ SC

I recall when the Leatherman Multi-Tool hit the mass market. It was certainly an interesting piece of gear, but what was even more interesting was the speed with which the Swiss Champ on my belt was pretty much rendered obsolete.

I’d never seen anything get hammered that fast; even the electric typewriter was afforded the mercy of the word processor serving as a warning step between total dominance and total annihilation.

The Swiss Army Knife was not afforded such a luxury. When the Leatherman made its way out of tiny 2-by-2-inch advertisements in the back of sportsman’s magazines and into catalogs and brick-and-mortar stores, it was game over.

The SC was nimble and reliable, both on the range and in non-traditional (yet more pressing) circumstances.

The SC was nimble and reliable, both on the range and in non-traditional (yet more pressing) circumstances.

The Leatherman Multi-Tool is the only invention I’ve ever seen take out another design as quickly and effectively as the polymer-framed pistol took out the revolver in American law enforcement.

One day an entity was on top of the world as the global standard for a specific task, and the next it was under total assault by a device no one could have seen coming. Within months, it wasn’t necessarily all over, but the writing was etched into the wall with an acetylene torch. Smith & Wesson and Colt would need decades to recover from the damage “plastic guns” inflicted on their bottom lines, and the Swiss Army Knife became more of a nostalgic affectation than a go-to problem-solving device.

Walther crashed into the polymer-pistol world several years ago and did more than startle its biggest-name competitor; it forced many in the industry to admit that it had released a pistol that a lot of people found superior to said big-name manufacturer in everything but longevity in the marketplace. The PPQ’s trigger was better, the magazines were thinner, the ergonomics were superior and the general experience of shooting one was far more positive for the average woman or man than other … ahem … available models of perhaps wider renown in military and law enforcement circles.

Walther crashed into the polymer-pistol world several years ago and did more than startle its biggest-name competitor.

All right, as difficult as it is to discuss the Walther PPQ series of pistols without mentioning Glock, I’ll do what I can. The original PPQ was heralded as a “Glock Killer,” and though Walther hasn’t yet achieved Glock’s level of dominance in military and law enforcement, it’s made some enormous waves in the market and demanded the respect of casual and competitive shooters nationwide.

There was just one thing missing, though: The PPQ is a “full-sized compact,” meaning about the size of a Glock 19. Those who were looking for a smaller double-stack gun were left with relatively limited options.

Until now.

The Gun

The feel in hand of the PPQ SC is as you might expect: Picture a PPQ with the grip cut down to just more than 2.5 inches. For someone with sasquatch hands like me, this means that you’re going to be firing from what will amount to a one-point-five-finger grip: middle finger wrapped around the grip frame under the trigger guard, half of the ring finger where the mag well meets the magazine baseplate, thumb locked down around the left-side top of the grip and index finger occupied either up on the slide or down on the trigger. The sights are of the usual plastic three-dot Walther factory variety, and the magazines are available with pinky-rest baseplates that actually shake out to be more along the lines of ring-finger-rest baseplates for those with larger paws.

Specifications

Specifications

Like all others in the PPQ line, one of the finest features of this pistol is the trigger. It’s got a .4-inch travel, which makes for a very consistent and predictable shot, and the reset is 1/10 of an inch, which does wonders for the kind of extremely fast shooting that self-defense often requires. While a Glock trigger — which, don’t get me wrong, I adore — clicks, the trigger on the PPQ almost seems more like a very light, crisp snap.

As is becoming more common in the polymer-pistol market, the PPQ SC ships with a pair of interchangeable back straps, sized medium and large, which can solve a great deal of the issues suffered by shooters with larger or smaller hands. Similarly, the PPQ SC’s magazine release can be easily swapped from the left to the right side of the frame. As on the original and Gen 2 PPQs, the slide lock/slide release is long and, for lack of a better term, gentle; for shooters who elect to use the lever as a release rather than simply a stop, this makes for a far more pleasant experience.

A pair of magazines ships with the pistol: a flush-fit 10-rounder, and a 15-rounder with a slip-on grip extension, bringing the overall grip profile back up to about the size of the regular PPQ. Though I will caution you to train with your pistol like you’ll carry it, a longer grip and a heftier payload in the mag well is an awfully nice touch for open carry, home defense and situations that allow you to conceal a firearm with a larger profile. That 15-rounder also makes an outstanding extra EDC mag, especially in an IWB carrier.

Clinger Holsters supplied the gunleather from which we were drawing these pistols, and I would definitely encourage you to peruse their selection if you’re in the market for a new IWB or OWB rig. The seams were tight, the holsters held the pistols snugly and I don’t recall any of the other nine gun writers with whom I put this pistol through its paces experiencing any issues serious enough for me to hear about.

The Ammo

The PPQ SC ships with a pair of magazines: a flush-fit 10-rounder and an extended 15-rounder. The difference they can make is substantial.

The PPQ SC ships with a pair of magazines: a flush-fit 10-rounder and an extended 15-rounder. The difference they can make is substantial.

A new pistol calls for new ammunition, and that was handled courtesy of Inceptor, which provided a staggering quantity of 9mm +P Preferred Defense as well as their new “Sport Utility” cartridges.

The Preferred Defense sends a 65-grain copper-polymer projectile at a blistering 1,545 feet per second, delivering 345 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The projectile nose, which immediately reminds most shooters of a curved Phillips-head screwdriver bit, performs extremely well in ballistic gel-block testing, driving deep into the blocks and creating large temporary wound channels designed to mimic the hydraulic displacement of rounds like the .357 Magnum.

The “Sport-Utility” RNP (round-nose precision) rounds are also copper-polymer and are designed for target use. While any number of ammo manufacturers can claim that their target rounds are “designed for target use,” the main benefit of these units (apart from the fact that they had a tendency to go exactly where I and the rest of the gun writers in attendance asked them to) is that they can be fired at steel plate targets from short distances without endangering the shooter or bystanders.

Both varieties are lead-free bullets atop reloadable brass cases, and if you’re interested in giving them a shot, they’re available in what’s called the “Inceptor Combo Pack” — two boxes (100 rounds) of the RNP and a 20-round box of the Preferred Defense Inceptors bundled together and ready for the range.

The “Sport-Utility” RNP (round-nose precision) rounds are also copper-polymer and are designed for target use.

As controversial a topic as these new entrants to the ammo wars are, I found both varieties to be 100 percent reliable in the PPQ SCs and Q4 TACs we were testing. I am unaware of any malfunctions — gun- or ammo-related — during the several days of shooting, which is admirable by anyone’s measure. The projectiles and powder left the bores on the pistols almost clean; there was no copper fouling, no errant unburned powder or any of the other detritus left behind by lesser cartridges. This extended through the frame and mag well, and though it was clear that something had been happening in there, I wouldn’t call the guns dirty by any stretch of the imagination, even after hours of dedicated shooting.

Firing live rounds into terrorist targets with bullet-trap backstops under such a circumstance tests shooters with the kind of stress that can only be brought on by the odor of decay, the sight of destruction and the intensity of knowing that your pistol is firing man-stopping — rather than man-marking — rounds.

Firing live rounds into terrorist targets with bullet-trap backstops under such a circumstance tests shooters with the kind of stress that can only be brought on by the odor of decay, the sight of destruction and the intensity of knowing that your pistol is firing man-stopping — rather than man-marking — rounds.

The Trip

Walther and Inceptor invited the aforementioned other gun writers and I out to the small town of Hiawatha, Utah, to test these guns and ammunition. Hiawatha is actually beyond a small town … it’s a real-deal ghost town, a relic of the coal-mining boom in The Beehive State that lasted from the turn of the last century off and on into the 1970s.

A pair of representatives from Deliberate Dynamics, a tactical instruction firm, met us at the parts of Hiawatha that hadn’t dried up and blown away. Our instructors, who I will refrain from naming out of concern for their continued overseas employment, taught a fine set of instructional sessions over the next few days. As they had no idea who might be showing up to write about these new pistols, they began with basic pistol instruction: operation, firing and remediation, and safely drawing from the holster. (Just for the record, the USCCA, Guns & Ammo, Recoil, Shooting Illustrated and the other firms represented don’t send newbies to media events, but, as an instructor, I can’t blame these two men for wanting to know for sure.)

Though I joke about the desolation and deterioration of Hiawatha, I want to stress that as a training resource, it is without equal.

After they were confident in their students’ skill levels, we moved on to firing past, under and around vehicles, tactical movement alone and in teams, building-clearing and even a few nighttime sessions: one live-fire on the range, to acclimate the uninitiated to tactical flashlight use while shooting one-handed, and one cold in a dilapidated building that only appeared marginally safe to enter (though I’m no building inspector). Like the long-abandoned mine office complex we’d cleared earlier in the day, it was the kind of experience that would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. It’s tough to mock up the bizarrely narrow staircases, seemingly random and sometimes missing windows and doors, oppressive darkness and knowledge that a fall down (or through) the flight of stairs you saw the last time you popped your light could actually kill you.

Though I joke about the desolation and deterioration of Hiawatha, I want to stress that as a training resource, it is without equal. It’s one thing to go through someone’s shoot house that was purpose-built two or three years ago out of OSB and furniture sourced from the local curbs and thrift stores. It’s another to go through an office complex connected to a maze of locker rooms designed and built 50 years ago that’s been allowed to fall into an eerie, silt-covered state of disrepair.

Firing live rounds into terrorist targets with bullet-trap backstops under such a circumstance tests shooters with the kind of stress that can only be brought on by the odor of decay, the sight of destruction and the intensity of knowing that your pistol is firing man-stopping — rather than man-marking — rounds.

The PPQ SC proved itself in the daylight and in the darkness, both in an abandoned mine office complex (left) and in an abandoned residence (right, shown in daylight).

The PPQ SC proved itself in the daylight and in the darkness, both in an abandoned mine office complex (left) and in an abandoned residence (right, shown in daylight).

Clear Comfort

The battery of assessments through which I put the PPQ SC and Inceptor ammunition left me with no reason not to carry either. The pistol is quick on target, ultimately reliable, of extremely high quality and comfortable to carry and fire. The ammunition burns clean as oak and paired well with all of the pistols in attendance, never, to my knowledge, turning in a failure to feed, fire or eject. Especially considering how these items are offered for sale — an easily concealed subcompact with multiple back strap options and magazines, and a perfect trial-sized option for truly 21st-century ammo — it’s hard to find fault with anything I saw.

The assessment portion of the trip wound down with a dueling tree tournament and some informal plinking between the writers and instructors. It was pleasant; the field notes were all complete and what we were left with as the sun began to fall was the general fellowship present whenever a dozen or so newfound friends are kicking back with a little leisure shooting. We were all relaxed; everything had gone well. If everything doesn’t go well after the rounds are in the guns on a trip like that, it can make for some awkward phone calls after the magazines hit mailboxes.

No, we were relaxed. We were going to be able to write about the PPQ SC and the Preferred Defense as confidently as we would be able to carry them.

Sources

Walther Arms: WaltherArms.com
Clinger Holsters: ClingerHolsters.com
Inceptor Ammo: InceptorAmmo.com
Deliberate Dynamics: DeliberateDynamics.com

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