I've decided its time to write another review, after the success my P2000sk review
enjoyed on this and other forums. Since I have since switched my carry gun away from the sk, it seems only appropriate that the Walther PPS gets the nod this time.
Walther released the PPS in 2007, as a spiritual successor to the legendary PPK, used famously by James Bond to this day (although things were looking up after Tomorrow Never Dies when he got ahold of a P99.)
Bond in Casino Royale with his P99:
But I digress.
PPS stands for Polizei-Pistole Schmal, or Police Pistol Slim. It was built with concealed carry as the sole criteria, and it succeeded. It is 6.3 inches long with a 3.2" barrel, 4.4 inches high (with the smallest magazine), 0.9" thick without levers (1.04" with), and weights 21.3 oz. unloaded. Similar designs include the S&W M&P Shield, and the XDs, which are almost identical in size.
The PPS comes in 9mm or .40S&W. Being a big fan of the 9mm I have owned two PPS' in that chambering. The PPS has an accessory rail, a distinguishing trait compared to other single stack 9mms. It has excellent bright white three dot sites. The slide stop lever is very slim yet still very usable with either hand. The rear-only slide serrations work very well and look good too. The take-down tabs are identical to a Glock, which is probably just about the simplest and fastest method there is, with no removable pieces to lose.
The magazine release is the standard Walther and HK style paddle under the trigger guard. You either love it or hate it, but if you hate it, make sure you've at least given it a chance. I strongly prefer it ever since activating my mag release while carrying at the beginning of my carry career. Activating the release with my trigger finger is as fast or faster than a standard push button release.
One of my favorite design choices is the striker indicator on the rear of the frame. It is a red-tipped rod, and when the gun is cocked, it will be visible and flush with the frame. When the gun is uncocked, it will be hidden inside the frame. However, the best part is when the trigger is being pulled, it protrudes out of the frame. This allows the user to cover this area with their thumb when holstering the gun, preventing a negligent discharge in a way similar to riding the hammer on a hammer-fired weapon. For me, the lack of this feature is a deal-breaker on any striker-fired gun, and rules out the Shield or XDs in this size class. I may be more sensitive to this due to my propensity to carry in the appendix position.
Another simple but effective feature is a small cut out in the rear of the chamber that serves as a loaded chamber indicator, without the nonsense of a flag or red-tipped indicator. You can see the round or lack thereof simply by looking through this hole. It's something I wish all handguns had.
The one feature I will really criticize about the PPS, and which I consider to be its Achilles' Heel, is the QuickSafe backstrap system. Multiple backstrap options are great. However, Walther decided the backstraps would double as a key, which when removed, decocks the striker and disables the gun. This may be useful in a few limited scenarios (store the gun and the backstraps separately as another security measure), but for the majority of users it is just a potential for failure of the gun. Fortunately, reports of it actually failing are extremely rare, and seem to be most often attributed to users removing and adding the backstraps many many times.
There are two tricks here. First, don't overthink things here; take down the gun like a Glock, by checking the chamber, checking it again, and pulling the trigger before removing the slide. You don't need to take the backstrap off to decock the gun.
Second, if/when you do change the backstraps, do so with the slide locked back. This seems to remove some of the tension from the system, and makes removal and reassembly easier.
All in all, I have complete confidence in the system and the gun, but I could definitely live without the QuickSafe system, which Walther doesn't seem to have seen fit to put in any of their other guns.
An especially unique characteristic of the PPS is the three magazine size choices the user has. Whether you choose the 9mm or .40S&W version, the gun has available a flush-fitting 5/6 round magazine, a slightly extended 6/7 magazine, and an extended 7/8 round magazine, where the first number is the capacity in .40 and the second in 9mm.
The flush fitting magazine gives the gun a total height of 4.4". That's tiny. This is ankle and pocket territory, although the rest of the gun is a bit big for a pocket.
The standard, middle-sized magazine gives the gun a height just a hair under 5". This is widely considered to be ideal for concealed carry (think Glock 19 size). But you still get the slim profile of a single stack. For me, with large hands, it allows a full, comfortable firing grip with no wasted space under my pinky. For most, this will be the preferred size.
The extended magazine extends even further to allow a full-size gun grip with a nice, comfortable area under the pinky.
The great thing about these magazines is how much flexibility they add to the gun. With the smallest mag inserted, the PPS becomes a deep-concealment gun that is smaller than a J-frame and concealable in any dress. With the standard magazine, you have a perfectly-sized all around carry gun. With the full size mag, you are good to go for training, competition, or as a reload during carry. An 8 round magazine with two more on my belt is enough to get me through most courses of fire.
These features are available on other guns, where two choices are most common, but other guns won't go as short or as long as the PPS, giving it a slight edge in flexibility.
The PPS feels pretty good for a single stack. I have big hands and especially long fingers, but I still find the PPS comfortable to shoot. It comes with two backstrap choices, another differentiator in the class. I use the small backstrap because the large just seems to jut out a bit too much when combined with the slim profile of the grip. The gun is very comfortable to shoot for extended periods. I put 200 through mine to break it in in one range session, and nothing hurt at any point during or after. I can't say the same for other small 9s. From an ergonomic point of view, very little about this gun seems to be compromised due to its size. As someone who shoots their carry gun more than my others, this is a good thing.
The trigger on the PPS is a partially-cocked striker mechanism. It is advertised to have a weight of 6.1lbs; that seems a tad higher than what it feels like, but is probably right. It seems like just the right weight to not hinder accurate shooting, but also make sure you really mean it before you fire. Perfect for a gun designed primarily as a defensive tool. There is not a lot of creep, but just enough so I can stage the trigger before firing to get really great accuracy out of the trigger. Total trigger travel is average for a striker, but that isn't to say it is bad. All around the trigger feels like a standard, decent striker trigger, and its perfect for what the gun is.
Accuracy on the gun is outstanding. I have no problem putting everything in the 10 ring at 15 yards if I really concentrate. Firing at more realistic speeds, keeping everything in 4 inches or so is easily doable. I've read it many times online, and I agree; the PPS really does shoot like a full size gun.
I've always been drawn to Walthers (again, because of the Bond references above), and purchased a PPS somewhat on impulse last summer. I carried it off and on, and never had any complaints about it, but I found myself always reaching for my P2000sk. Eventually the PPS got sold to fund another purchase, even though I really liked the gun. Of course, that turned out to be a mistake.
Even though I love the P2000sk to death, the discomfort of carrying a double stack in the appendix position sometimes became irritating after 4-6 hours or so. Even though you wouldn't think so looking at them, the difference in comfort between the sk and the PPS is night and day in that position.
If I was someone who only carried behind the hip, at the 3:30-5:00 position, I would probably have no use for a PPS. It is too easy to carry a double stack there, and I am a believer in carrying the most firepower you comfortably can. But being such a proponent of appendix carry, there is a very solid place for the PPS in my lineup. Because of this, it is hard for me to recommend the PPS to people, even though I love it so much. I really think you have to have a need for a single stack before you should be setting aside the capacity a double stack gets you. For me, the benefits of AIWB carry outweigh the downsides of a single stack. So for me, the PPS is the best choice.
The fact that my state has banned magazines with more than 7 rounds in them is what pushed me to get another PPS, but I'm not sure I would go back now if I had the choice. The PPS has almost 40% less capacity than a Glock 26, but for me, it is far less likely to get left at home (or more realistically, taken with me but hated the whole time). That is worth a lot.
The PPS has more features and engineering built into it than many of its competitors. I don't want to turn this into a PPS vs. X review, but suffice it to say that the release of other similar weapons has not made the PPS any less of a great choice, even at its price premium. With Walther moving more heavily into the American market, I think the PPS is one of, if not the, best single stack concealed carry choices available today.