Release Me – Safely: Two Takes on the Walther PPS

I reviewed a .40 S&W Walther PPS for Concealed Carry Magazine last year. It isn’t Walther’s newest handgun, but it is generally overlooked and underappreciated. The gun is a fine piece of German engineering and the company has become more aggressive in the U.S., opening a warehouse and marketing office in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

The sub-compact PPS was designed for concealed carry—DAO with polymer frame. It’s a thin, lightweight, striker-fired semi-auto (0.9 inches wide, 6.3 inches long, and 1.3 pounds empty). The Walther PPS has two interesting features. One I love; one I hate.

Okay, Hate First

The PPS has a safety feature that its German peeps have named the “QuickSafe” system. The gun I received for review came with two interchangeable polymer backstraps, a large and a small. The PPS only spits bullets if a backstrap is snapped securely into place, because the backstrap has a built-in pin or nubbin that mechanically enables the striker. Removing the backstrap effectively decocks and blocks the striker, prohibiting the gun’s discharge during takedown should a cartridge somehow remain forgotten in the barrel.

Now, I’m all-thumbs when I help my girlfriend fasten her necklace or handle a priceless Han dynasty Chinese vase, and the backstrap and pin are brittle plastic. If I try to force them into place and they snap, I will not be able to fire this gun. If I can’t pull the trigger, a golf club would be better for self-defense. A heavier-duty backstrap—maybe built out of (or seriously reinforced with) metal with a rubberized grip overlay for comfort in the hand—would solve this problem-in-waiting, IMO.

Of course, Walther manufactured this part in plastic to cut down on weight. Designers argue that once you settle on the best backstrap fit for your hand, there’s no reason to snap it off again (unless you’re teaching a young person or more petite spouse or friend to shoot). That’s my recommendation, too. Once you decide on the larger or smaller grip with backstrap, don’t play with this part again, “QuickSafe” or not.

Love Is Next

The Walther PPS does not come with a magazine release. Not a standard release, that is, and no, this isn’t something you must purchase as an “optional accessory,” like real bumpers on your new pickup truck.

Instead, a paddle-style magazine release lever, taken from the earlier Walther P99 design, is fitted flush into the silhouette spanning the trigger guard. The trigger guard itself has a rounded front allowing it to slide into a pocket with less chance of hanging up.

Personally, I found the magazine release a bit odd at first, but after just a few fumbling attempts, my muscles got it—and then I liked it. I could quickly and easily release the magazine with the middle finger of my shooting hand. It felt simpler than using the typical standard button semi-auto magazine release—see, for instance, the similar striker-fired Smith & Wesson SD40 VE in .40 S&W. The SD40 is wider, longer, and heavier, but it is a 10+1 whereas the Walther PPS has three magazine lengths (S, M, and L— 5+1, 6+1 and 7+1).

Walther has not—and I feel this was a mistake, but I may be in the minority— continued building carry pistols with the paddle-style release. Its newer PPX, PPQ-M2, and PPK/S .22 are designed with an ambidextrous button release.

It will be fun to shoot their newest 9mm Walther CCP (Concealed Carry Pistol), but I already know that it does not come with the paddle-style magazine release.

Too bad. So much for innovation and distinctive styling ….

Related: Learn what to look for when choosing your best gun…

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