I wanted to do a review of the guns of James Bond. Then this new James Bond movie, Casino Royale, came out with a new guy playing Bond. I didn’t think I was going to like this flick. The new guy is blonde-haired and blue-eyed, and I’m not into card games or casinos. I went into the theater with no expectations. In fact, my buddy and I went to the theater to see a different movie altogether, but once we got there, we found that it had already left town. I don’t even remember what that flick was. Let me cut to the chase. I loved the new Bond movie. This one is like Batman Begins for James Bond, a total remake of the character. The old James Bond movies became cartoons on film. This one fixed all of that. Anyway, regardless of the stupid plot lines and bad scripts, every guy wanted to be James Bond. Bond was cool… Bond always got the hot chicky-babes… Bond always won the fights… Bond always has the slick gadgets… Bond always drove the cool cars… and Bond never broke a sweat. This new James Bond? No one wants to be the new James Bond. This new James Bond got his butt kicked left and right. He got broken and bloody. He wrecked his cool car. His hot chicky-babe died. Heck, he even died once. No one wants to be that guy. This isn’t your father’s James Bond. Take everything you ever knew about James Bond and toss it. This is why I’m not going to review all of the old Bond guns. This new Bond is the only Bond worth the price of the movie ticket. Sean who? This is why I’m only reviewing his handgun. The newest Bond gun is actually into the third Bond movie, but it is still worth looking at. This is the Walther P99 and the one I’m looking at is in .40 caliber. I’m not sure what caliber Bond’s Walther is in, but I suspect it is only a 9mm. I’m reviewing it in .40 for two reasons. First, I’ve done enough 9mm’s and .45s lately. Second, this is the only Walther P99 that I had access to. That’s how this works here.
Let’s look at the gun for a second. It looks cool. The design is deceptive. It looks compact, like a small gun that might not be quite as effective as it should be. The gun, once in the hand, changes your initial impression. It feels much larger than it looks. It has a good heft to it unlike a lot of other poly-framed handguns on the market. There is substance in the Walther that is not found in the XDs, M&Ps, Glocks, P2000s, or even the FN FNP that I reviewed in the last issue. I didn’t think I would like the molded finger grooves on the grip frame. Other pistols with these molded-in grooves never fit me right and my fingers would end up riding right on the raised portion. This is one of the reasons that I don’t like Glocks so much. The older generation was great, but then they put in those grooves and ruined it for me. The P99’s grip frame fits my hand wonderfully. The grooves work as they should and allow for a firm grip on the weapon. The trigger guard is also nice and roomy, which is not an important detail for most folks, but critical if you live in an area that gets cold and requires wearing gloves. All my test firing done on the P99 here was fired while wearing thick gloves that are meant for cold weather and keeping your fingers from falling off from frostbite. I had no problem firing the weapon or manipulating the slide.
The gun carries very well. For a gun offering full-size firepower, it carries like a compact. In automotive terms, this is a big engine in a small car, a hot rod. Concealing the P99 is no more difficult that concealing the smaller FN or the even smaller yet Kahr K9. Yet, neither of those guns offers the confidence of a full-size duty grade automatic like this.
There is one thing I have noticed on the gun that seems to be completely stupid. This P99 is essentially a double-action-only pistol, what Walther is calling a "quick-action." And it is quick. The striker is mostly cocked when the action is cycled, and the trigger only picks up the last bit before dropping it to fire the gun. So why does it need a decocker? The position of the decocker is another complaint. The decock lever is small and almost hidden up on the top of the slide, in front of the rear sight. This is the worst decocker that I’ve ever seen. Earlier, Walther had a larger decocker lever in the same location, but it seems as though Walther decided that since it was obnoxious and disliked, they might as well just make it even more spiteful. This is really the only flaw that the pistol has. This is the mole on Cindy Crawford’s lip. After a while, you not only forget to be annoyed by it, but it becomes a character trait and even a "beauty mark." Cindy kissed me once; a chaste, "Pleased to meet you," peck on the cheek. Trust me… I didn’t notice the mole. When handling the P99, you forget all about the decocker lever up there, out of the way, and all you can think of are the other excellent qualities of the pistol. In order to operate the tiny decocker, you would have to have a long, prehensile thumb with an extra joint. I don’t know who designed this thing, but they need to get one of those, "What were you thinking?" slaps on the back of the head.
The gun sits in the hand with excellent balance. This design puts the action further to the rear and lower in the hand than most autos. This allows the gun to point naturally with a high grip that makes the gun handle really well, like a sports car, like an Aston Martin DB5, if I might be so bold to say. If the P99 doesn’t fit your hand quite as well as you might like, the interchangeable back straps can be switched to allow a better hand-to-grip fit. Lots of guns do this now, such as the P2000, the FNP and the M&P. But let me point out the fact that Walther came up with this idea first. It comes with the medium-size grip installed, but if you like, there is a smaller one or a larger one if you see fit. You choose. The medium one works well for most folks, including me. With the medium one, the gun points naturally and instinctively. Making fast hits with a gun that points this well is easy. I’m not into "Point Shooting" (which is a technique I’ll let other editors talk about), as I prefer to use my sights, but the P99 points so well that the sights are only for verifying that the gun is actually pointing right at the bull’s-eye. When it comes to the front-sight-press, the P99 is one of the best that I’ve tested.
Reliability is excellent, even with wide-mouth hollowpoints. Ball ammo is child’s play with the Walther. This is a huge improvement over other Walthers that I’ve tested in the past. This gun loves to shoot and it seems like the hotter the ammo, the better. This is the bonus of the clever design and high grip position. The gun doesn’t just handle heavy recoiling rounds well; with the geometry of the way the gun fits the hand, it just comes together with some wonderful German alchemy that I wish other Teutonic weapons had.
Accuracy is well above average. This surprised me. I didn’t expect much in the realm of accuracy. I was guessing that the gun was only capable of throwing rounds in the general compass direction that I was pointing the weapon in. Why? Well, because the slide fits in the frame pretty much in the same way that pinewood derby cars fit on the track slots. This isn’t just loose tolerances. Comparing the fit to the FN that I just tested, it’s like The Odd Couple and the P99 isn’t the neat and tidy one. Sloppy. But the gun comes together and works very well, hitting the target where I mean for it to. I can’t ask any more of a handgun than this, especially from a DAO handgun in .40. One of the factors contributing to the accuracy has to be the Walther quick-action trigger system. The pull is a little heavy at a solid 8 pounds, but it is reasonably smooth, with a travel distance of only .31 inches. This is a good trigger by any measure. Shooting the gun quickly and accurately is about as easy as it gets with this type of pistol. The only triggers better than these are on single-action pistols, such as 1911s or High Powers. If you could lighten the pull up, it would be even better.
The .40 S&W cartridge is not an especially accurate cartridge. It is not even really all that powerful either. However, it does fit the role that it was cast to play, namely an intermediate option between the small and fast 9mm and the big and slow .45. The .40 S&W cartridge can be a handful to shoot. The recoil pulse is sharper, harsher and snappier, with more flash and bang than either a 9 or a .45. It is a good option for experienced shooters, getting bigger bore performance that is more like a .45, but with an increase in magazine capacity that is more like a 9mm. In most guns, you only give up two or three rounds of capacity by going to a .40 version. Some guys don’t mind that trade-off. Then Springfield came out with the XD45, which has a mag capacity of 13 rounds, compared to the XD40’s 12 round capacity. In my opinion, the XD pretty much negated the .40 caliber argument. But then we have the Walther P99 offering a good counter-point. This intermediate caliber’s performance in a package that handles and hits this well is something that will always be a weapon worthy of consideration.
I didn’t have any of my favorite .40 rounds for testing. My favorite was the 135 grain CorBon loads. So testing was conducted with 165 grain loads (Winchester SXT, Blazer Brass, and some Speer Gold Dots). I’ve grown fond of the Winchester SXT loads. Federal’s Personal Defense loads are not worth the time it takes to load them into your magazines.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being "the most fabulous object in the world" and 1 being a Hi-Point .380, I’m calling the Walther P99 a solid 9. This score shocked me. I honestly didn’t expect it to rate this high. I shot a 9mm P99 some years ago, shortly after it hit the market, and it didn’t impress me that much at all. But that was before I starting writing for CCM and looking at the guns that I shot with a critical eye. I might have to go back and start shooting everything all over again.
Thanks to our friends at the United States Concealed Carry Association for this gun review.