Tactical

Review: Walther PDP Match Steel Frame Pistol

In early December 2023, Walther released a steel frame match-grade version of the polymer 9mm PDP, the Walther PDP Match Steel Frame. Besides being the successor to the Walther Q5 Match SF pistol, the new PDP Match SF also showcases the best elements of the standard PDP pistol.

Walther PDP Match SF Overview

The PDP Match SF uses Walther’s execution of a Browning delayed-recoil system. Like its polymer-frame brethren, the PDP Match SF also ships with an above-average trigger, an ergonomic grip and a low-cut, optics-ready slide. This steel-frame pistol is fully ambidextrous, with slide stops on either side of the frame and a reversible magazine catch. A medium-size magazine well and three extended-basepad magazines are also included in the box. Two of these magazines hold 20 rounds while the third holds 18. I wish that the third mag also had a 20-round capacity instead of 18, especially because it already uses a nearly identical basepad anyway. The provided magazine well is only compatible with these basepads, and anyone who wishes to use regular PDP magazines will have to remove it; this might also be the case with aftermarket basepads. When it comes to adding an optic, if you enter the information on your optic of choice online, Walther will send customers a free optics plate with the footprint pattern of that optic.

The Trigger

The PDP Match SF ships with Walther’s “upgraded” Dynamic Performance Trigger that has a flat-face, aluminum construction and bladed safety. Prior to the break, the DPT has approximately ¼-inch of pre-travel, then breaks cleanly and feels like a precisely crisp button. Its shape omits overtravel, so once the trigger breaks it stays in the same position until reset, which is short. Ten trigger pulls averaged out to 4.6 pounds using a digital trigger pull weight scale,

Grip and Frame

The PDP Match SF’s frame shares similarities to its predecessor, the Q5 Match SF. For example, the takedown lever and its location on the forward left side of the frame is identical, and the frame forward of the trigger guard similarly tapers into the Picatinny-railed dustcover. This frame is slightly wider than the regular PDP frame, so holsters may not be interchangeable, but it’s best to verify this on an individual basis. 

Since the PDP Match SF is striker-fired, there’s no hammer/mainspring housing to worry about, so it uses a 3-sided grip module with the same moderate tetrahedron texturing that’s found all over the standard PDP, which Walther calls Performance Duty Texture. The frontstrap is decently undercut and is also fully checkered. The trigger guard itself is oversized and squared off. Having this interchangeable grip means that different shooters can source and swap grips that best suit them. The butt of the frame sports a gentle beavertail, if you can even call it that. I found that it didn’t interfere with draws from a competition belt nor from AIWB/concealment. With the factory magazine well removed, the bottom of the grip matches the standard full-size PDP. 

Barrel and Slide

German-made pistol barrels have a reputation for being over-engineered, and the PDP Match SF’s barrel is no exception. It has both a stepped chamber and polygonal rifling. This chamber essentially has an extremely subtle degree of constriction and is said to create a tighter seal between the mouth of the casing and the chamber. In addition to a tighter seal, the stepped chamber aids in accuracy by aligning the cartridge more concentrically with the barrel.

The PDP Match SF’s slide closely resembles the standard PDP slide except for the weight-reducing cuts found toward the front. These cuts are in place to keep the pistol neutral and balanced during shooting.

Even with plates, most dots sit low on this slide due to its lower optics cut. In fact, with certain sights, taller back-up iron sights may not even be necessary. The PDP Match Steel’s slide accepts Glock-pattern front and rear sights. Since nearly any type of iron sight can be had for a Glock, Walther decided to not reinvent the wheel. After all, the PDP series was built from scratch to be shot with mounted optics. The included iron sights are similar to factory Glock G34 sights.

Shooting The PDP Match Steel Frame

I’ve really enjoyed shooting the PDP Match SF after spending much of 2023 shooting a standard 5-inch PDP. Prior to the first range session, I disassembled the gun, wiped it down completely, lubed it and mounted a Gideon Omega reflex sight. This gun shoots beautifully. 

As one can imagine, its heavy frame does an excellent job at mitigating 9mm felt recoil. With most factory target ammo, the slide tracks just fine and doesn’t need tuning. The PDP Match SF handles neutrally during live fire, so the muzzle doesn’t buck or dip forward. I also appreciate the way the dot returns to zero during shooting. Conservatively speaking, my current round count is approximately 500. The PDP Match SF needs no break-in, but all the major parts have been gently wearing in. With respect to its stepped-chamber, I haven’t cycled any steel-case ammunition through this gun, but I have fired 500 rounds of CCI Blazer Aluminum through three different PDPs including this one with no issues. Besides the Blazer, the PDP Match SF has seen scores of Fiocchi 115-grain Range Dynamics FMJ, Fiocchi 115-grain Defense Dynamics JHPs, 124-grain American Eagle FMJs, 115-grain Winchester Whitebox, 147-grain Federal Syntech and my own 147-grain subsonic reloads. A handful of those reloads didn’t fully eject (a known issue with this batch), but all other ammunition fired and cycled without issue. Typically, handguns favor one bullet weight or another, but the PDP Match SF was remarkable in that it shot everything well. It provides the shooter much freedom, as the gun can shoot a wide variety of loads well, along with the added ability of being able to precisely zero with a dot-sight. 

On the maiden trip to the range, I scored  two separate 98s on NRA B-8 targets, freestyle at 25 yards. Given my skill level, I’m quite happy with that. During the sole match I caught prior to Christmas, I underestimated my skill with the PDP Match SF because I called a few long-distance shots as being misses or “charlies” while they turned out to be A-zone hits. I also shot a few Bill Drills to try and push the gun as hard as I could. I failed to clean all but one attempt, with a time of 2.59-seconds from concealment. On another run, I managed to shoot some .14-second splits–both personal bests.

The Takeaway

It’s no secret that competition shooters favor heavy, recoil-absorbing pistols that have easy shooting triggers. The new Walther PDP Match SF fits the bill as it’s well-made, well-balanced and extremely accurate. I have no doubt that it will bring some serious heat to hotly contested divisions like USPSA Carry Optics or Limited Optics classes. While its price tag is on the steeper side, retailing at $1,900, the PDP Match SF is still similarly priced amongst its peers. Though heavier than any polymer-frame pistol, this reliable Walther pistol wouldn’t be out of place in a tactical context either. The pistol is wholly reliable and ejects brass robustly. While it has a “match trigger”, it’s no hair trigger either. In fact, its trigger reminds me of the trigger one of the oldest and best-regarded defensive pistols of all times: the 1911.

The PDP Match SF and similar guns are showing up at an interesting time. Not only is there a modern trend of metal-frame, striker-fired pistols, but also, many models in the category seem to be closing the performance gap between striker and single-action triggers.

Walther PDP Match Steel Frame Specifications:

  • Country Of Origin: Germany
  • Make: Walther 
  • Model: PDP Match Steel Frame
  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Action: Striker-fired semi-automatic 
  • Optics-Ready: Yes
  • Trigger: Dynamic Performance Trigger
  • Trigger Pull 4 pounds 10 ounces
  • Overall Length: 8.36 inches
  • Weight: 42.2 ounces
  • Width: 1.6 inches
  • Height: 5.90 inches
  • Barrel Length: 5 inches
  • Magazine Capacity: 20 rounds

25-yard Accuracy Report:

Ammo: 9mm

Smallest Group
(inches)

Average Group
(inches)

Largest Group
(inches)

Fiocchi Defense Dynamics 115-grain JHP

1.00

1.39

1.80

American Eagle 124-grain FMJ

1.38

1.90

2.25

Nosler Advanced Stopping Power 124-grain JHP

1.50

1.78

2.00

Federal Synthech 147-grain coated TMJ

1.25

1.41

1.75

 

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