I’ll bet you didn’t know that Walther made a handgun chambered in the mighty and formidable .45 ACP round. But they did. Sort of.
After over a dozen years of marriage, Walther and Smith & Wesson are getting a divorce. Shortly after the mysterious and secretive Samuel Cummings (the inspiration for the Sterling Heyward character in my mystery novel The Globe) passed away in 1998, Smith & Wesson became the primary importer of Walther firearms into the United States, taking over this task from Mr. Cummings’ International Armament Corporation (Interarms). After the end of this year, that partnership will partially dissolve with the introduction of Walther’s own American-based distribution company—Walther Arms, Inc. Smith & Wesson will continue as the sole world-wide manufacturer of the Walther PPK and PPK/S line and will distribute Walther pretender pistols such as the Umarex-made (Umarex is Walther’s parent company), Walther-branded P22 and PK380.
But, as with many marriages, there are progeny involved. One of those children was the far too short lived SW99. The SW99 frame was made by Walther—based upon their much-vaunted P99 design (my favorite concealed carry weapon in compact form). Indeed, the Walther banner can be clearly seen on the frame above the trigger guard. The barrel and slide, however, were manufactured by Smith & Wesson. The SW99 came in standard P99 calibers—9mm and .40 S&W, but Smith & Wesson decided to go one better and offered the SW99 in .45 ACP as well.
Additionally, the SW99 came in multiple trigger configurations. There was the unique and innovative Anti-Stress (AS) trigger with three trigger modes; the double-action only SW990 and SW990L; and the Glock-style SW99 QA. Compact versions of the SW99 were also made.
Because of my very positive experiences with the P99c AS (compact version with Anti-Stress trigger), I decided to acquire a .45 ACP version of the very similar SW99 in the same trigger configuration. Thanks to my friends at Walther Forums, I was soon able to track down one for sale in Arizona. A deal was made and the SW99 was shipped to my favorite local gun store—El Paso Collectors Gun Exchange—where the required federal paperwork was completed and transfer of control of the weapon was made. I must say that the weapon was everything that was promised. It appeared to have never been fired outside of the factory. The original carrying case, spent cartridge, and all other factory-included accoutrements were received in like-new condition.
So, what is this “Anti-Stress” (AS) trigger? Basically, it’s a traditional double-action/single-action trigger much like that used in a modern, hammer-fired revolver. But in addition to double- and single-actions, there’s a third AS configuration that has the light feel of a single-action pull, but the longer trigger travel of a double-action pull. Anti-stress is the default trigger configuration immediately following the chambering of a round. If the de-cock button is pressed, the weapon reverts to double-action, which is the recommended configuration for concealed carry because the heavier trigger pull affords a greater margin of safety. The weapon goes into single-action following the first shot, and remains that way until the magazine is depleted or the de-cock button is pressed. The SW99 can be placed back into AS trigger configuration by racking back the slide a fraction of an inch, thus recocking the striker.
I finally got around to testing my latest acquisition this past Friday, and I was very impressed. Accuracy was incredible, with a tight eight-inch (20-centimeter) grouping of all thirty-six shots fired (only 36 because it was outdoors, hot, and I had three other weapons to test). Range was around twenty yards (18 meters). There was one failure to feed, but I believe that’s because the weapon had never been previously fired and, even though I broke it down and lubricated it beforehand, this SW99 has been sitting around since probably 2005 or 2006. Nevertheless, I’ll have more confidence in it when I break it in with another 100 more rounds or so.
As you can see in the photographs below, the SW99 has the ski-jump trigger guard and shorter magazine release levers (mounted in the trigger guard) of the original Generation 1 P99. If you compare the SW99 to the P99c AS photographed next to it, you can see the differences. Another difference is the rounded, slightly longer front of the trigger guard. That presents the unfortunate situation of preventing the SW99 from seating completely into the holsters made for my P99c.
As for the shooting experience, recoil is easily managed with no surprises. Consequently, target reacquisition is rapid and easy. Aim, as with most Walther products, is very intuitive and takes very little effort even with my corrected vision. Capacity leaves a bit to be desired for a modern, full-size weapon with a double-stack magazine (nine rounds versus, say, 13 for the Springfield Armory 45 Tactical I used to own), but overall this is a much more satisfying weapon despite that shortcoming. I’m also not a fan of plastic guide rods. That will soon get replaced with a metal one, as I did with the P99c AS.
And here are the photographs of the SW99 .45, with the Walther P99c AS alongside for visual comparison: