Pack’n less

My XD .40 cal Sub-Compact just wasn’t working out… so I’ve adoped the Walther PPS 9mm as my new choice firearm for conceal & carry.

In the fall last year I bought an XD .40 sub-compact handgun made by Springfield Armory. I had chosen the XD because I really liked the feel of the weapon, had fired a 9mm version and been very pleased, and the .40 offered substantial fire-power in a small form factor. I also loved the features of the XD line.

My intent was to carry it on a semi-regular basis.

That was a little more than 6 months ago.

Overall, the XD is a fantastic weapon, and I would recommend the XD line without reservation to anyone that asks. There are a LOT of good guns on the market, but the XD line is truly at the top of the heap.

Unfortunately, I have discovered some problems that have forced me to the conclusion that the XD sub-compact .40 is just not the right weapon for me personally.

After a couple thousand rounds of regular target practice, I just wasn’t consistent in how well I shot. Sometimes I’d do well, and others I’d hardly put one in nine rounds on the paper at 5 yards. I’m not naturally a “good” shot. But after that much practice I should at least be consistently bad. The gun itself was fine… other people pick it up and do fantastically well with it.

The other problem was the size of the weapon. I’m 6′ 4″ tall and weigh in at around 145lbs –tall and skinny. The XD is a sub-compact with a 3″ barrel and an overall length of about 6.5″. It isn’t a large weapon in those dimensions, but the slide is still a 2″ wide chunk of steel. No matter how slack I try and dress, the XD sticks out like a brick making wearing it concealed nearly impossible.

But it was the lack of consistent accuracy that forced me to admit that, while I loved the XD, it was not the right weapon for me. Not knowing if you can reliably defend yourself with your side-arm is far worse than just being unarmed in the first place. It’s safer for both you, and anyone else that happens to be around when the shit hits the fan.

So reluctantly, I decided to give up my XD and start looking for something that fit me better.

The search was long, and there were a lot of weapons to research and consider. In the end though it was the Walther PPS 9mm that ended up in my hands.

I didn’t get to shoot one of these before I bought it. It is a new weapon, and they are very hard to find. Fortunately, one local shop had one in stock, and after seeing it myself I decided it was worth the gamble… well, that and the fact that the shop’s owner gave be a reasonable trade-in price on my XD that put the Walther in range of my limited budget (the PPS retails for $650 – $750 when you can find them at all).

The Walther PPS is thin and light. It weighs in at about 20oz loaded, and is just over 1″ wide at the thickest point. And it measures just over 6″ long. It is significantly smaller than the double-stack sub-compacts like the XD, but still feels more substantial than the Pocket guns such as the Kahr PM9 or those made by Kel-Tec. The thin design it what makes it conceal well, though it is still a tad largish if you want to use a pocket holster. As thin as I am, the pockets on my Dockers slacks are deep enough to hide it well enough.

What impresses me most about the PPS is the recoil. I’ve fired a lot of 9mm handguns, and this is the softest shooting one I’ve yet to handle. While it is very thin, the backstrap is just big enough to spread the recoil evenly over you palm, and the double recoil spring design and the shape of the weapon itself do the rest.

The slide action is smooth, and the trigger action is great, though a bit stiff at the break point until I put a few hundred rounds through it.

Some people have problems getting used to the magazine release, which is integrated into the bottom of the trigger guard. I personally got used to the release mechanism very quickly, but if you have developed a habit of using a standard thumb button release, it might take you longer to get used to.

One of the features I like most is the choice of 3 magazine sizes. It ships with a 6 and 7 round magazine. The 6 round is flush with the bottom of the grip leaving your pinky exposed, while the 7 round adds enough extra grip to give most people’s pinky a resting point. There is an 8 round magazine as well which gives even people with large hands pinky support. It also ships with two backstraps… a small one for people with girl hands, and a large one for people with hands designed to break rocks.

The only real complaint I have is the “QuickSafe” backstrap mechanism. Removing the backstrap decocks the weapon and renders it un-firable. This also assists with takedown. If you remove the backstrap you can field strip the weapon by just pulling down on the take-down levers and pulling the slide forward. You do not have to pull the trigger or pull the slide back in any way. This makes it very simple to disassemble. Personally though, I would rather have a grip safety instead of the QuickSafe mechanism. It’s a minor point though.

One other minor complain for some people is the somewhat unpredictable direction the ejector will send your spent casings. Mine tends to throw them up and slightly to the right. If you are a left-handed shooter though, it might rain the casing down on your head. I don’t have a problem with it as the casing generally fly over my right shoulder, but there have been a couple of them bounce off the top of my head anyway.

I’ve only put a few hundred rounds through it so far, but I’ve found that I can shoot much more consistently than I did with my XD. I’m still not a good shot, but I can see improvement on each trip to the range now.

The biggest disadvantages to owning the PPS actually have nothing to do with the weapon itself. It is such a new weapon that it is very hard to find accessories for it. There are a few decent holsters on the market now, but not as many as with other more popular weapons. Magazines are the biggest problem as the cheapest I’ve been able to locate are in the $50 (each)  price range. And if you want lasers or custom sights you’ll find these even harder to come by. This makes the PPS an expensive weapon to own.

But the weapon is gaining popularity fast, and so more and more accessories are coming out for it every month.

If you are looking for a CCW weapon, I highly recommend you consider the Walther PPS.