Tag Archives: SW99

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

Replacing a Home Defense Weapon

The FNH FNX-45 — 15+1 rounds of potent .45 ACP ammunition

The FNH FNX-45 — 15+1 rounds of potent .45 ACP ammunition

Before you get too far into this article, be advised that this is a non-shooting first-impression.  I will give a more in-depth review of the shooting characteristics of the FNX-45 at a later date.

The Entire FNX Kit

The Entire FNX Kit — Three magazines included

While I consider anything from .32 ACP on up to be perfectly adequate for concealed carry protection, I prefer the .45 ACP for home defense.  Barring a person stoned out of their mind, someone breaking into your home has already made a conscious decision to do you harm if they find you inside.  Sorry, but that’s just a fact.  As such, you want that person down and out as soon as possible, and the bigger the cartridge the better.  The .45 ACP with it’s heavy weight and low velocity (for reduced chance of over-penetration and consequent danger to innocents) makes it in my opinion the best home defense option outside of a shotgun or a semiautomatic rifle.

And when it comes to home defense, the more rounds the better (hear that well, those of you who would arbitrarily classify 10-round or even 6-round magazines as “high-capacity”).  Home invasions frequently involve more than one intruder, and the number of rounds necessary to stop a determined threat (depending on what study you read) can reach three or even more.  The last thing you want facing multiple dangerous thugs is to be one round short.

FNX, PT 24/7, and SW99

FNX, PT 24/7, and SW99

I now possess four handguns chambered for this proven, highly effective round.  One you’ve already read about:  SW99 — The .45-Caliber Walther.  The SW99 is a nice weapon, but at 9+1 rounds it lacks a bit in capacity.  Another is a SIG P220 Compact SAS Gen 2 which, at 6+1 rounds, is better suited for concealed carry and, with night sights, nighttime carry at that.  So, my initial choice for home defense became the Taurus PT 24/7 Pro DS with 12+1 capacity.  My previous XD45 Tactical with 13+1 was a weapon I just could never warm up to — neither double-action first pull nor external safety for me makes for a weapon that should not find a place inside your home.  They’re quite simply too dangerous to have around, as police department accidental/negligent discharge statistics on transitioning to the Glock have repeatedly shown (That’s personal opinion, so don’t shoot the messenger . . . so to speak).  The PT 24/7 had both an external safety and a double-action first pull, and the added benefit of allowing for cocked-and-locked configuration (something I wouldn’t do, but which fans of the 1911 will enjoy).

Cocked-and-Locked 1911-Style

Cocked-and-Locked 1911-Style

Alas, the PT 24/7 proved unreliable, and the more rounds I put through it the worse it became.  Eventually, I was experiencing multiple jams on each and every magazine.  It went back to the factory for warranty work and returned with vastly improved trigger and a short list of fixes accomplished, but I never test fired the repaired weapon as I simply had lost faith in it.  It’s going to my favorite local gun store on consignment where hopefully the next owner will be happy with the repairs made to it.

Length Comparison

Length Comparison

The lesson here is that you get what you pay for.  The Taurus is an extremely affordable handgun.  I purchased it new for just under $320.  But it turned out to be a false economy, and I began a search for a replacement.  That search narrowed to the Heckler & Koch HK45 and the FNH FNP-45, both reportedly finalists in the (unfortunately) cancelled DoD Joint Combat Pistol evaluation to replace the combat inadequate 9mm Beretta M9.  The FNX is an improved, fully ambidextrous version of the FNP, and the HK USP is the genesis for the HK45.  After considerable research and extensive hands-on testing of the trigger and ergonomics at my favorite local gun store (Collector’s Gun Exchange), I settled on the FNX-45.

Height Comparison

Height Comparison

The decision was not even close.  The FNX-45 had by far the better trigger in both double- and single-action modes.  The grip felt more natural.  The controls are easy to manipulate, intuitively placed, and fully ambidextrous — a nice feature for those times when walls, obstacles, or even injury may require you to fire using your off hand.  If you’re left handed, this has got to be a real plus.

Fully Ambidextrous Controls

Fully Ambidextrous Controls

As you can see from the above, these are not small weapons.  As such they are not really suited for concealed carry.  The two+ pound weight of the FNX along with an additional pound of ammunition once it’s fully loaded makes this an even sillier choice.  But, then, as I said this wasn’t the task assigned to this particular handgun.  Carry duty remains the function of my Walther P99c AS, Walther PPK, and Walther PPK/S pistols.  Different jobs require different tools.

Attached Laser Sight — A nice home defense option

Attached Laser Sight — A nice home defense option

Disassembly and reassembly of the FNX is the easiest and quickest of any weapon I have ever owned other than my PPK and PPK/S.  I can break down the pistol and put in back together in under half a minute, and that’s with no real practice.  Lock back the slide, rotate the take-down lever, release the slide and ease it forward off the frame, then remove the recoil spring and barrel and you’re done.  It’s just that simple, and notice that there is no need to pull the trigger to remove the slide — no need to “Glockify” this weapon with unnecessary trigger pulls.

Extremely Easy Disassembly and Reassembly

Extremely Easy Disassembly and Reassembly

Internally, this weapon sports a feature I’ve not yet seen in a polymer pistol.  FNH claim that the frame rails on polymer pistols are prone to wear after extensive round counts (I have to believe they’re talking in excess of 100,000 rounds here, but who knows?).  As such, FNH have installed into the FNX replaceable metal frame rails.  Nice feature, though I doubt most people would ever need to do that.

Replaceable Frame Rails

Replaceable Frame Rails

Regardless, this detail seems a testament to the attention which FNH have placed into the design of this weapon.  Now, let us hope that the performance equals the promise.

Now for my impressions on the triggers.  For this I added a fourth .45 ACP weapon to the mix — my recently acquired SIG P220 Compact SAS Gen 2.  I tested all weapons using both hands (dry firing) in back-to-back comparisons in both double- and single-action modes.

Double-Action Results:  The SIG P220 and the FNX weapons are both hammer-fired.  The SW99 and and Taurus PT 24/7 use strikers.  In head-to-head comparisons I found the two striker-fired weapons had lighter pulls.  All four though were perfectly acceptable, with a steady pull followed by a clean break.  The SW99 however had the best double-action trigger.  The SIG P220 was my second favorite because of the smoothness of the trigger, followed closely by the FNX.  The 24/7 brought up the rear because of the long pull and a less solid feel (completely subjective), but the trigger was much better than before the Taurus was sent in for warranty work.

Single-Action Results:  Here it was a hammer-fired weapon that came out on top — the SIG P220.  The SIG had a shorter pull, lighter trigger, and crisper break by far.  It wasn’t even close.  Next came the SW99 with a fairly short pull once the trigger was taken out of Anti-Stress (AS) mode and placed into single-action (see my SW99 review for an explanation).  The FNX placed third because of a mushy quarter-inch pause from the time the slack was taken up to the point where the hammer tripped.  The FNX wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as great as the SIG and the SW99.  I’m thinking this will probably improve after a couple of hundred rounds are pushed through it.  Coming in last (and proving once again that you get what you pay for) was the 24/7.  The trigger pull in single-action is ridiculously long — as long as the double-action pull — although the trigger does have a short reset if you ride it forward.  Once the excessive slack is taken up, the trigger broke cleanly and predictably.

All things considered, I would rate these weapons as follows:

  1. SIG P220 SAS Gen 2, which is also by far the most expensive of the lot.  Not related to the trigger, but — oh, brother, does SIG put on a great set of night sights on these things.  Too bad it’s so thick yet only holds 6+1 rounds.
  2. SW99.  For the price you just can’t beat the safety and consistency of Walther’s AS trigger system.  If you decide to get this discontinued .45 ACP (Walther made the frames; Smith & Wesson the barrels and slides), make sure you get the AS trigger over the other options.
  3. FNX, the second most expensive and, trigger-wise, not far behind the SW99.  However, taking into consideration that 15+1 capacity in .45 ACP, I would rate this over the SW99 when this feature is considered.  As a home defense weapon, it would even top the SIG P220 because of its high capacity.
  4. Taurus PT 24/7 Pro DS is the economy weapon of the lot, but not when you can pick up a used SW99 for the price of one of these brand new.  The trigger isn’t bad, it just doesn’t compare to the other weapons listed.  Capacity is great at 12+1, coming in at only one round less than my long-departed Springfield Armory XD45 Tactical (what a terrible trigger that thing had).  If you’re willing to take a chance and you get a Taurus that actually fires consistently without jamming, this may work for you if you’re on a budget.  Fortunately, the Taurus offer a lifetime warranty.  Unfortunately, they don’t offer reimbursement for your cost of shipping it out to them.  That’s pretty bad when you consider that this particular weapon was failing from the start, and only getting worse.

Let me close with a hearty “congratulation” to the citizens of Illinois in general and the those currently under daily siege in Chicago in particular.  Yesterday your state legislature overrode Governor Pat Quinn’s ill-advised veto of Illinois’ recently passed, court-mandated concealed carry law.  The law as passed is still ridiculously over-restrictive, but no longer is Illinois the last state in the Union to deny its citizens the right to defend themselves.  This is particularly fitting coming on the heels of this past weekend’s horrendous gun crime statistics — seventy people gunned down in Chicago, a dozen dead.  The day of waiting for the police to pick up evidence and the medical examiner to haul away the body bag is finally in sight.  It’s been a long, dangerous, and bloody haul, but soon the cowardly gang-banger who pulls out a weapon will have to consider if a law-abiding and properly trained citizen is going to return fire and make him the “victim” for a change.  Right now no such deterrent exists.  Rest assured, Chicago — your violent crime rate is about to take a dive.

1 Comment

Filed under Firearms