The Walther P99 AS died in 2021. Or was it 2022? Many sources site the former year, but I’ve recently seen one P99 AS with a CC date code, which translates to 2022. Or did the P99 AS die this year? In February, while Ursula and I were on our most recent travels, Walther announced the “Final Edition” of what is, in my view, the best striker-fired polymer-framed pistol ever devised. And that’s a real shame, but not unexpected. Walther has been one of the most innovative manufactures of firearms over the past century. Alas, incompetent marketing has always been Walther’s undoing. The P99 AS was no exception to this propensity to make great weapons, and then fail to follow up on actually selling the darned things. The double-action/single-action semiautomatic? Walther invented that entire genre with its PP in 1929, then let the design gather dust until it was too late to salvage it with the far superior PP Super that came out 43 years later. The dropping block locking system? Walther pioneered that concept in the P38, but when you think of the dropping block today it’s the Beretta 92 that comes to mind. A double-action/single-action striker-fired pistol? Others claim to make such a beast, but the P99 possesses the only true DA/SA system with two different trigger pulls… or is it three?
The AS (Anti-Stress) trigger developed for the P99 has a double-action mode that rates at 8.8 pounds/4 kilograms and a .55-inch/ 14mm trigger pull length, and a single-action mode measuring exactly half that amount — 4.4 pounds/2 kilograms — and a much shorter .31-inch/8mm trigger pull length. Channeling Ron Popeil, “But wait! There’s more!” There is in fact a third trigger mode, the Anti-Stress mode. That mode mates the single-action’s 4.4-pound trigger with the double-action’s longer .55-inch pull length. The intent of this design was to give police departments and military personnel a margin of safety in stressful situations should they opt to carry the P99 AS with a cocked striker.
A careful pull of the P99 AS will reset the trigger from anti-stress to single-action, although I don’t recommend staging the trigger unless you’re on target and ready to fire. You definitely don’t want to carry a P99 AS in that configuration. That’s just asking for trouble.
When you first chamber a round, the P99 AS defaults to the anti-stress trigger. So, how do you switch that to the even safer double-action? You depress the decock button atop the slide and within reach of your thumb if you’re a righthanded shooter.
There’s even a nifty indicator on the P99 AS that tells you if the striker is cocked. It’s at the back of the pistol, and it looks like this:
An added benefit to the striker indicator is that as you are pulling the trigger in double-action, the indicator emerges to give you a visual indication that the sear is about to trip.
But what if you need to place an accurate shot at a distant target? There’s no hammer to thumb back, as you would on a traditional DA/SA pistol or revolver. So how do you transition the P99 AS from double-action to anti-stress without racking the slide and ejecting the round already chambered? It’s actually quite simple. You merely snick back the slide about a quarter of an inch. The striker cocks, the indicator protrudes from the rear, and the trigger remains at the double-action pull length. This is quite simply the most versatile and, in my opinion, the safest striker-fired system ever devised. I mean, other than a manual thumb safety, what’s safer than a stiff, long double-action first pull? Answer: Nothing! Even better is that the P99 came in a smaller 10+1 capacity compact version, predating the SIG P365’s 10-shot double-stack wonder by two full decades. Behold the P99c AS, in which the “c” stands for compact:
That marvel weighs 20.8 ounces/590 grams (with an empty magazine). Other measurements are:
- Lenth: 6.6 inches/168mm
- Height: 4.3 inches/110mm (with flush-mount magazine)
- Width: 1.26 inches/32mm
- Barrel: 3.5 inches/89mm
- Capacity: 10+1 (9mm)/8+2 (10mm); will accept the full-size 15-round (12-rounds in 10mm) P99 magazine with a sleeve
Compare that to the more recent SIG P365:
- Weight: 17.8 ounces/504 grams
- Lenth: 5.8 inches/147mm
- Height: 4.3 inches/110mm
- Width: 1.0 inch/25mm
- Barrel: 3.1 inches/79mm
- Capacity: 10+1 (9mm); 12 and 15-round magazines available
Twenty-six years may separate these two weapons, but not much else does. I say twenty-six, but that’s based upon when the P99 hit the market in 1997. Development actually began about four years earlier.
When the P99 first arrived on the scene there was no “AS” in the name. It only came with the AS trigger, so that would’ve been redundant. But here’s where Walther falls down on marketing. Not content with the marvelous and innovative Anti-Stress trigger, Walther began copying inferior striker-fired offerings from less innovative companies. There was the P99DOA (Double-Action Only) and the P99QA (Quick Action trigger with emulated the partially loaded striker of, shudder, the Glock). But why? The Walther P99 AS trigger was already at the apex of striker-fired weapons, and additional trigger configurations only managed to confuse the market and any potential customers. If some police department wants to buy a cheap Glock with an inferior trigger, one does not dumb down one’s superior product going after that market. You instead shoot (pun intended) for those departments that recognize quality, innovation, and safety, and are willing to pay a bit more for it.
And then things got even more confusing. Smith and Wesson entered the picture with the SW99 and SW99c (2000-2004) with frames made by Walther and most of barrels and slides made by Smith and Wesson. Smith and Wesson then proceeded to further add to the confusion by coming out with the SW99O (Double-Action only with no decocker), SW99 QA (Quick Action trigger comparable to the, shudder, Glock), and the SW99L (basically a rebranded SW99 QA minus the decocker). The only thing good to come out of the SW99/Walther collaboration was that a version of the P99 in .45 ACP became available, the SW99 .45:
At least Walther’s next collaboration led to an actual improvement, but unfortunately that didn’t last long because Magnum Research followed Walther’s lead and botched their marketing as well. Behold a beautiful long-slide variant of the P99 AS with a 4.5-inch/116mm barrel, the elegant and refined MR9 Eagle:
And if that Magnum Research version of the P99 was too big for you, the MR9 also came in the original 4-inch configuration. The MR9 was produced between 2011 and 2015. By the way, if you take a closer look at the MR9 and SW99 you’ll note that the ambidextrous magazine release levers are much shorter than the P99 pistols shown in this article. These are the magazine release levers that adorned the original Generation 1 P99. Also carried over from the Generation 1 is the “ski hump” inside the SW99 trigger guard.
But enough about the collaborations. Let’s look at what comes with the typical full-size P99 AS right out of the case. As you can see below, Walther was yet again well ahead of the competition with modular backstraps to adjust the grip, front sights of various heights to adjust the point of aim, and an Allen wrench to install those sights:
There is one Walther P99 collaboration with Poland I’ve not yet covered. That would be Fabryka Broni Radom‘s double-action only P99 RAD. Yep. Another addition to the P99 confusion, and another example of why Walther is terrible at marketing.
And then there’s the unlicensed P99 AS clone from Canik of Türkiye (see also: Canik USA, importer Century Arms). It’s a remarkably close copy, right down to the decock button, striker indicator, and the operation of the three trigger modes, but the trigger on the Canik TP9DA is not nearly as refined as that on the P99. When I picked up a TP9DA and tried the trigger several years ago I gave the pistol a hard pass despite the much lower price. After Walther’s Final Edition runs out, however, the Canik may be your last shot (pun intended) at a new pistol with an Anti-Stress trigger. And, yes, Canik also cloned other P99/SW99 configurations as well: the TP9SA (single-action only with decocker) and TP9SF (single-action without the decocker).
Anyway, let’s peruse this P99 AS Family Portrait:
One last look, this time at the Final Edition P99 AS currently being offered by Walther in a hideous OD Green:
Слава Україні! (Slava Ukraini!)