Tag Archives: handgun review

End of the Road for the Best Striker-Fired Polymer Pistol Ever Devised

Walther’s superlative, innovative P99 AS and P99c AS

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?

A Walther P99 AS (Anti-Stress trigger) made in 2017 (BH date code)

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.

Walther P99 AS trigger position for anti-stress or double-action modes
Walther P99 AS trigger in single-action position

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.

P99 AS decocker for placing the trigger into double-action mode

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:

P99 AS indicating a cocked striker (either single-action or anti-stress modes)
P99 AS — if you don’t see red, the striker is decocked and the weapon in double-action

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.

Walther P99 AS with an aftermarket threaded barrel

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:

Walther P99c AS — my choice for concealed carry for a decade

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.

SIG P365 SAS over a Walther P99c AS

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.

Walther P99c AS dated 2014

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:

Smith and Wesson SW99 .45 ACP with 9+1 capacity

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:

Long-slide version of the MR9 variant; frame by Walther, slide and barrel by Magnum Research
Magnum Research MR9 and its progenitor
Full-size P99 AS vs Magnum Research MR9 long slide

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.

Smith and Wesson SW99 alongside the Magnum Research MR9
SW99 and MR9

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:

Walther P99 AS and included accessories

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:

Walther P99 AS Family Portrait, including cousins from S&W and MR

One last look, this time at the Final Edition P99 AS currently being offered by Walther in a hideous OD Green:

The End of the Road for the Best Ever Made

Слава Україні! (Slava Ukraini!)


Leave a comment

Filed under Firearms, Fun Firearm Friday, Opinion Piece, R. Doug Wicker

Revolver Week — Ladies’ Day with a S&W Model 60-7 “Lady Smith”

Smith & Wesson Model 60-7 “Lady Smith

Okay, ladies, admit it. The miniscule revolver pictured above is just so darned cute! Today’s Revolver Week article is on a gun that Smith and Wesson specifically marketed toward women, the Lady Smith variant of a S&W Model 60, change 7. And there’s quite a history behind the Model 60, as it began life as a Model 36 “Chief’s Special” which, as you may have guessed by that name, was designed in 1950 as a small-framed concealable revolver suitable for plain clothes police duty.

S&W Model 36 “Chief’s Special” (image from S&W online catalog)

The first thing you’ll notice in observing the differences between the Model 36 shown above and Model 60 is that the former is blued and the latter is made of stainless. The Model 60 presented today was probably made in late 1994, which would place it near the middle-to-late range of 60-7 production (1990 to 1996). These were the last Model 60 revolvers made before Smith and Wesson changed the line to the J-Frame magnums, which were able to take the much hotter .357 Magnum load in addition to the milder .38 S&W Special (hereafter the .38 Spl).

S&W Model 60-7 “Lady Smith

Once again, when dating any Smith & Wesson revolver, the serial number is the key. This example falls in the BRS range:

S&W revolver serial numbers are on the butt of the weapon

Change 7 is considered by many as the apex of the Model 60 design, so there is a demand for them. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, change 7 brought about a different heat treatment that strengthened the gun. Next, it was the last of the Model 60 revolvers to be chambered solely for .38 Spl. Why is that a factor? Because, let’s face it, does a .357 Magnum load in a compact, light, small-gripped, five-shot revolver really make sense to anyone? It doesn’t to me, especially when you’re throwing lead from a barrel that measures under two inches in length. So, why bother?

The five-shot S&W Model 60 sporting “Lady Smith” rosewood grips

Smith & Wesson Model 60-7 “Lady Smith“:

  • Length: 6.38 inches/162 mm
  • Barrel length: 1⅞ inches/47mm
  • Height: 4.41 inches/112 mm
  • Width (at cylinder): 1.30 inches/33 mm
  • Width (at grips): 1.22 inches/31 mm
  • Width (frame): .55 inches/14 mm
  • Weight (unloaded): 19.92 ounces/565 grams
  • Caliber: .38 S&W Special
  • Capacity: 5
  • Trigger pull (single-action, average of five pulls): 2 lbs. 10.4 ozs./1.2 kilograms
  • Trigger pull (double-action, estimated): 11 to 12 pounds/5 to 5.4 kg
Five-round cylinder of the S&W Model 60

As you can see from the specifications above, handgun is small, light, and adequate. It’s easily concealable in either a holster or a purse, although I tend to steer people away from off-body carry. Purses can to snatched; guns in retention holster, not so much. The grip is a tad small for the .38 Spl. My pinky has minimal purchase when I hold the Model 60, and my fingers wrap completely around the gripto meet my palm just below the thumb. But Ursula’s fi9ngers seemed better positioned when I asked her to hold the “Lady Smith.” I’ve yet to fire this example, but I doubt either I or Ursula would have trouble controlling it. But if it were a later .357 Magnum variant loaded for bear… well, that would probably be pretty painful

S&W Model 60-7

And then there’s that superb Smith & Wesson double-action/single-action trigger which I described in Monday’s article on the S&W Model 10-5. The trigger on this smaller J-Frame is not much different. Indeed, the single-action pull is even lighter than what I measured on the larger K-Frame. But in double-action there is a slight difference. Whereas the Model 10 had no take-up upon initiating the pull, the Model 60 has an odd millimeter or so of travel followed by a barely audible “click” before the trigger engages. After that, the double-action pulls are nearly identical between the two revolvers — smooth all the way to hammer trip. This clicking may or may not be related to the hammer spring, as the Model 10 uses a leaf spring, and the Model 60 uses a more modern sprung strut:

Model 60 hammer strut
With the hammer cocked, this Model 60 is in single-action mode

By the way, ever wonder about the actual difference between a “medium” K-Frame and a “small” J-Frame? You’ll recall on Monday I wrote about a K-Frame S&W Model 10-5 in .38 Spl. Today we’re looking at a J-Frame S&W Model 60-7 in the same caliber. So, let us compare. Both being .38 Spl, it made since for this comparison to line up the back of the cylinders in the below image. Mentally subtract the barrel and disregard the grips and you’ll note that there really isn’t a whole lot of dimensional difference between the 6-round Model 10 and the 5-round Model 60. The difference in cylinder widths is noticeable, as one would expect — 1.46 inches/37 mm (K-Frame) vs 1.30 inches/33 mm (J-Frame). But the real difference shows up in the height of the weapons, which is most impacted by the grips. It’s on that measurement that the J-Frame wins the concealability race by .71 inches/18 mm.

J-Frame Model 60 above a K-Frame Model 10

As I noted on Monday’s article, to check the Model and Change numbers on a Smith and Wesson revolver, just open the crane and check. Below you can see that this is a Model 60-7:

M 60-7; short for Model 60 Change 7

In the above photo of the Model 36 “Chief’s Special” you’ll see Smith and Wesson’s tradition checkered wood grips. The “Lady Smith” on the other hand sports smooth rosewoods in a deep, rich, reddish hue:

The stylish rosewood grips of the “Lady Smith” Model 60 variant

Gun sights are as you would expect for a weapon made for short range defense — fixed front paired with a channeled rear “sight” running along the top strap:

Model 60 fixed front sight
Groover rear “sight” of the Model 60

Put the two together and this is what you’ll see, which is probably adequate for ranges out to about ten to fifteen yards or so:

Model 60 rear sight view, but…
… when aiming a gun, focus on the front sight and place it on target

The “Lady Smith” variant of the Model 60 first appeared in the 60-6 in 1989. Indeed, all -6 revolvers where so marketed. It was only with the Model 60-7 that both “Chief’s Special” and “Lady Smith” variants were marketed under the same change number umbrella.

“Lady Smith” marketing stamp on this Model 60-7

I hope you enjoyed Ladies’ Day here on Revolver Weeks. Friday I’m going to present a fake. A fraud. An outright rip-off. But it’s a rip-off with a lot of history behind it, made by some of the most ingenious gunsmiths on the planet. Gunsmiths who operate furnaces in their backyards, manufacturing their own parts on a scale you simply will not believe. Until then, here’s today’s gallery of additional Model 60-7 “Lady Smith” images:

Comments Off on Revolver Week — Ladies’ Day with a S&W Model 60-7 “Lady Smith”

Filed under Firearms, R. Doug Wicker

Revolver Week — Military Monday with a S&W Model 10-5

Smith & Wesson Model 10-5

Next week we return to travel and travel photograph, but this is Revolver Week. And today we begin Revolver Week with a Smith & Wesson Model 10, change 5. Or, more simply, a Model 10-5. This particular example dates back to 1966-1967. I can say that because of the serial number (see below). The “C” range of serial numbers stretched from 1948 until they ran out in 1967. The range for 1966-1967 are serial numbers C810,533 through C999,999. As such, I guesstimate this one at probably around the late-first to mid-second quarter of 1967. But that’s a pure shot in the dark.

So, why am I calling this “Military Monday?” Because before Smith & Wesson changed the name to Model 10 in 1957, this line of revolvers was called Military and Police model, or M&P for short. And, yes, both the military and numerous police departments in both the U.S. and around the world used the M&P revolver back in its heyday.

S&W Model 10-5, formerly the M&P model

This line of revolvers has a long, long history, beginning way back with its introduction as the Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899. Since that time it has gone under several names, including the S&W Victory Model used during World War II and exported to various allied powers such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. But I digress. Today’s topic is specifically on the Model 10, and this example is the fifth change of that model.

S&W Model 10-5, hammer cocked

If the profile of this gun appears vaguely familiar to my readers, it’s because the Model 10 is a K-Frame (medium frame) revolver. And, yes, I’ve done a previous article on a rare pre-war K-Framed S&W K-22 Outdoorsman. Both have the classic tapered “pencil” barrel, but the K-22 is chambered in .22 LR, while the Model 10 and its predecessor the Hand Ejector Model of 1899 were made to handle the .38 S&W Special cartridge (hereafter referred to as “.38 Spl”).

.38 S&W SPECIAL CTG. (CTG. = Cartridge)

The bluing on this particular example is exquisite. Perhaps too exquisite. While the stamps and roll marks are incredibly sharp, my go-to guy Paul Lee, owner of my favorite local gun store El Paso Gun Exchange, looked over the weapon and thought he detected minute evidence of blued-over pitting on the frame backstrap. As I trust Paul, I’ll just go ahead and declare this one a probably reblued weapon. But you sure could fool me when you see this kind of clarity:

S&W trade mark
Smith & Wesson production stamp

That crispness extends even to the assembly numbers hidden beneath the left grip and inside the crane:

Assembly number stamped on the frame butt
Assembly number on the crane, matched to the number on the frame butt

While we’re looking at the stamps inside the crane, here is how to tell both the model and change number on a Smith & Wesson revolver:

MOD. 10-5; Model 10, change 5

The image below shows the frame backstrap, which Paul thought might indicate that the finish was not original:

Paul’s eyesight is a lot better than mine, apparently

So, how do you tell if a Smith & Wesson is a Smith & Wesson? Silly question:

SMITH & WESSON roll mark on a 4-inch tapered “pencil” barrel

The M&P and Model 10 were basic, dependable, well-built revolvers. As they were designed for military and police budgets, there aren’t a lot of frills here. That extends to the very basic sights — a fixed blade ramped front sight paired with a rear “sight” that is nothing more than the groove running alone the top strap. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, as this type sighting system has been a fixture of revolvers dating well back into the 19th century.

Rear “groove” sight running along the top strap
Front ramped “blade” sight

Now let’s discuss the particulars of the Smith & Wesson Model 10 with a four-inch tapered “pencil” barrel. The trigger pull in double-action is estimated, as it exceeded the limitations on my digital guage. Single-action measurement is an average of five pulls.

  • Length: 9.13 inches/232 mm
  • Barrel length (actual): 3.94 inches/100 mm
  • Height: 5.12 inches/130 mm
  • Width (cylinder): 1.46 inches/37 mm
  • Weight: 30.64 ounces/869 grams
  • Capacity: 6 rounds
  • Caliber: .38 S&W Special
  • Trigger pull (single-action): 2 lbs. 12.1 oz./1.25 kg
  • Trigger pull (double-action): approximately 11 to 12 lbs./5 to 5.4 kg
S&W Model 10-5 cylinder

The firing pin on the Model 10 is fixed directly onto the hammer. But you needn’t worry. Although this model lacks a transfer bar, there is an internal hammer block that keeps the firing pin safely away from the cartridge primer unless the trigger is pulled. Unlike the old West-style single-actions, it is safe to carry this gun with all six chambers loaded. When I released the trigger, the top of the hammer receded a full ⅜ of an inch/9.5 mm.

Firing pin on the hammer

Let’s discuss Smith & Wesson’s marvelous trigger, a feature I love with every older S&W revolver I’ve ever handled. It is, quite simply, superb in both double-action and single-action. Double-action is as you would expect — long and a bit weighty, but easily controllable through the pull. There is a slightly audible click just prior to halfway through the pull, but there is zero grittiness or hesitancy all the way to the trip of the hammer.

S&W Model 10-5 with hammer cocked

But single-action is where these old Smiths really shine. There is absolutely no take-up on the single-action pull, and the trigger weight is an almost uncomfortably light 2 pounds, 12.1 ounces/1.25 kilograms. I say “almost” because I’ve trained for years with DA/SA weapons, mostly older hammer-equipped semiautomatics, so I’m comfortable firing pretty much any weapon is either double-action or single-action. Those who grew up firing Glock-style, striker-fired weapons will probably be taken aback by the lightness of this trigger when the hammer is cocked back. On Wednesday I’ll be taking a look at a S&W Model 60-7, but I’ll tell you right now that trigger is even a couple of ounces lighter in single-action, so this superb trigger is not an anomaly with Smith & Wesson.

S&W Model 10-5, grips removed, cylinder open, leaf hammer spring exposed

Wednesday’s revolver is one for the ladies, another Smith & Wesson. On that article I will present to you a S&W Model 60-7 “Lady Smith” also chambered in .38 Spl, but in a more compact J-Frame. Until then, I’ll leave you with this remaining gallery of Model 10 photos:

Comments Off on Revolver Week — Military Monday with a S&W Model 10-5

Filed under Firearms, R. Doug Wicker