007’s Sidearm For The Real World

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Combat Custom Walther.

The truth hurts, but the harsh reality is few combat pistoleros really carry the gun they train and practice with. I don’t make this statement lightly, but I have experienced it far too often to say it any other way. “We talk .45s, shoot 9mms and carry .38s.”

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The rear sight was flattened, widened and a chartreuse sight line added.

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The triggerguard was completely rounded and then stippled to give it a finished look.

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The one down side of the Walther PPS that cannot be fixed by custom
modification, is the European ambidextrous magazine release.

I can’t recall the number of times I have had students in one of my classes or have been at a training course and seen shooters practice with full-size 1911s or Glock pistols, and then switch to snub .38s or pocket .380s as they left the range. Now comes the really hard part to say — I have done it myself. While I adhere to the axiom of always carrying a full-size fighting handgun, I have found myself (especially when it is really hot) succumbing to the siren song of the light, compact handgun because it’s just easier to carry.

In my defense, I have never felt good about it. The truth is, I know better. Early in my police career, I took my young family out to dinner carrying only a Baby Browning .25 ACP. After all, it was easy to carry and what the hell could happen — it was in a nice part of town! While cutting my daughter’s food, I looked up to see a man enter the restaurant carrying a rifle. At that moment all sorts of things shot through my mind, foremost of which was how could I stop the threat to my family with “hardly a gun”? Just as quickly, I noticed the gun was a muzzleloader, and remembered there was an antique store above the restaurant. Both shared a common entrance. My wife looked over at me and said, “Are you all right? You look sick.” Truth is, I did feel sick — I had gambled with my family’s safety and it was a crummy feeling.

Fast forward several decades, and I began to slip into complacency once again. After all, I’m retired and won’t get into anything, right? How about the time I was in a store when it was robbed?! I won’t take action in a case like that now unless a life was in danger, but the Ruger LCP .380 in my pocket at the time was not as comforting as I would have liked. Would I have felt better if I had my Glock 19 or Ruger SR-9 in my holster? Hell yes! Both are a handful of gun, and since +P Gold Dot hollowpoints, I know if I do my part, the ammo will do its part. I decided I needed a compact version of my short-trigger carry guns, for those times when the larger guns just do not fill the need. The compact versions of the G19 and SR9 are merely 1/2″ shorter in length and height than their full-size counterparts, and I wanted something truly flat. My power threshold would remain at 9mm, so .380 pistols were out.

I started by thinking how small and flat I would feel comfortable with, if I were caught in an Active Shooter situation like the one at the Trolley Square Mall. While I would certainly try to avoid or evade the shooter for the most part in such a situation, I wouldn’t do so if children were in the line of fire — and that would not be the time for a snubbie or pocket pistol. I would want this compact to be as much like my larger guns as possible in feel, trigger, sights, etc. to keep the training curve tight. After looking over the field, I arrived at the Walther PPS in 9mm. I tried the .40 but it was just too hard on my hands and arms during prolonged shooting. For those who follow literature, the PPS is the new “official” James Bond gun in the most recent installment of the 007 series, Carte Blanche, written by Jeffrey Deaver. This PPS looks like a tall, flat Glock with a short, striker-fired trigger, including the safety in the trigger face. The grip is nicely curved with an interchangeable backstrap, and comes with 6-, 7- or 8+1-capacity magazines. It was the right package to start with, but it still needed some help.

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The slide was rounded and all sharp edges removed. Forward cocking
serrations were also added.

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The finger grooves that are standard on the PPS were removed, and a complete
360-degree stipple was added to a lot of the gun instead, including the extended floor plate.

Some TLC

First, while the trigger was short, it was crunchy, with too much creep and overtravel. The sights were okay, but could definitely be better, and the grip was too smooth to hang on to in rapid fire. Like so many guns I have had over the years, it was good but not great. Great would require help and I knew just who to go to: Bob Meszaros at Templar Custom Arms. Bob is a new kid on the block for building custom firearms, but has been building custom automobile and motorcycle racing parts for decades. His CAD based CNC manufacturing facility gives him the equipment he needs to custom modify handguns to the owner’s specifications, so I contacted him about the Walther PPS. Bob said he didn’t know much about the PPS now, but he would by the time I sent it to him. After a few back and forth telephone conversations (I know — low tech. But I just can’t communicate the way I like with a gunsmith via e-mail or text), I settled on what I needed and Bob went to work. I got the gun back a month or so later, and I was not disappointed!

The first thing Bob did was attack the trigger. He told me, “It’s somewhat like a Glock, but the stamped parts really needed some TLC. There were burrs and stamp marks on the trigger components needing to be polished out. Once I worked on the trigger, it was 100-percent better. The overtravel was substantial, but not hard to correct. The reset is a bit mushy compared to the Glock, but certainly functional.” Bob was correct in his assessment, and the updated trigger is a great improvement over the factory version. The weight had been reduced from a crunchy 8.5 pounds, to a reasonably slick 6.25 pounds. Shooting a six shot Bill-style drill, I was able to get shot-to-shot hits on an 8″ steel plate in .24 to .27, which I think is just fine. He then modified the factory sights by removing the white dot on the front, and replacing it with a large chartreuse (fluorescent yellow/green … think traffic vests) dot. The rear sight was flattened, and a larger notch cut. A chartreuse rear line was placed under the rear window, designed to line up with the front dot, for times when a precise shot is needed quickly.

Finger grooves are typically added to foreign-made pistols to add importation points. Unfortunately, they seldom work with my fingers, so I asked Bob to remove the grooves on the PPS. The small backstrap (the gun comes with two) fits my hand well, so I installed in and had a 360-degree stipple added. While the 9mm cartridge doesn’t recoil stiffly, the slim PPS grip is a bit harder to hold on to, and the stippling helps when shooting quickly. The triggerguard was rounded a bit more, and stippling added to give the gun a consistent look. Bob then rounded the corners on the slide and removed all sharp edges, taking off some excess metal along the way to give it a slightly lower profile. A small section of forward cocking serrations were added to the front of the slide because I like them. While controversial, I like to use the front part of the slide to perform a chamber check, as it offers greater leverage. If you are thinking about what you are doing, there is no reason to allow your hand to go forward of the muzzle. The one feature on the PPS that can’t be fixed by customization is the goofy, triggerguard-mounted magazine release. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get my thumb, index or middle fingers to engage the long, thin lever without shifting the gun in my hand. When combined with the short, thin magazines, the PPS is just not fast to reload … 2.1 seconds from shot to shot was the best I could do, and that was with considerable practice.

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Like all modern pistols, the Walther PPS has a rail on the dust cover
for the addition of lights or lasers.

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The rear of the slide was rounded, as was the area at the end of the grip tang.
No sharp edges or corners were left on the Templar PPS.

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The Walther PPS can be a potent self-defense tool when custom modified
at Templar Custom Arms and combined with other quality accessories.

The Proof Is In The Shooting

I headed to the range with a cross section of ammo styles to see how well the PPS would run. I knew before testing any of the ammo, the Speer 124-grain Gold Dot +P Short Barrel Load would probably be the best choice for the PPS. Designed specifically for guns with 3-3.5″ barrels, the PPS would certainly be maximized with this load in its chamber. I chronographed the Gold Dot in the PPS, and received a five shot average of 1,181 fps — which is more than fast enough to expand the projectile to twice its size. At 50′ offhand, any of the 9mm loads I had with me would shoot into a 3″ circle, with the Gold Dot producing a group in which five of six rounds almost touched one another. After 300 rounds of a combination of ball and hollowpoint ammo, the Templar modified PPS failed to stop or malfunction, giving me great confidence in the gun.

I selected three holsters for the PPS, two for strong-side belt carry and one for the ankle. The BLACKHAWK! (www.blackhawk.com) nylon IWB holster will not stay open once the gun is removed, but I’m not sure that is as important as it was when I was a working cop. The nylon clip has a locking hook on the bottom, so it will not become dislodged from the belt and is very comfortable to wear long term. For an outside the belt holster, I looked no further than NTAC (www.ntac.com) for their flat profile Kydex rig. Square Kydex belt holsters are in demand these days because they conceal very well. In the case of the NTAC PPS rig, the holster profile was less square due to the size of the gun, but it is still very fast to draw and easy to forget as it rode on my leather Milt Sparks belt. The ankle rig was from Gould and Goodrich (www.gouldusa.com), and is really nothing more than a neoprene leg band with sheep’s wool lining, and a pocket stitched to the outside. That said, it was also very comfortable and as fast to draw as an ankle holster can be.

The Templar Custom Walther PPS has become my go-to gun for those times when the larger Glock or Ruger just won’t do. I feel as if I have a pocket-size gun that still fills my hand, and fires a cartridge that can handle hostile action if it comes my way. Avoidance and evasion are the correct methods for handling conflict, but for those times when countering the threat is unavoidable, the Templar Walther PPS offers me a level of confidence that is reassuring. 007 would be so proud ….

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This 6-shot group was fired offhand at 50′, using the PPS and Speer Gold Dot.

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For those who chart such events, the Walther PPS is the new “official” 007
gun, introduced in Jeffrey Deaver’s new novel, Carte Blanche.

By Dave Spaulding
Published In The American Handgunner 2012 Special Edition

For More Info:
Templar Custom Arms
(330) 326-2111
Walther America
(800) 372-6454

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American Handgunner SE 2012

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5 thoughts on “007’s Sidearm For The Real World

  1. Rich Carpenter

    I envy the way you writers can speak about customizing handguns. Nary a mention of the bucks, me buckos. The current edition of the American Handgunner Magazine article on Dave Lauk being named ‘gunsmith of the year’ and showcasing some of his work stunned my senses! Wow!

    Anyway, back to reality! In line with this story….I always carry my S&W M&P compact .357 sig. The slide stop on the right side broke off the ambi assembly, so I sent it back to Smith-Wesson for replacement. That 3.5″ barreled auto drops into my back pocket as easily as my wallet, in a snap on holster, when I don’t need to print out it’s existence, on my person. I carried my Kimber super carry custom HD in the meantime.

    When the weather gets warm, that Kimber gets very hard to conceal, so having my M&P compact returned quickly was a priority.

    My point, through, I know what I can do with that .45. And, I know what that .45 caliber bullet can do. I also shoot a S&W model 657, which I’ve had for 25 years or so. But, if I say that 1911 is hard to conceal in the summer, that .41 mag, with 6″ barrel, is impossible.

    I have a lot of faith in the .357 sig round, and it’s S&W delivery vehicle. Yet, I’ve never heard or read any comments from Roy and the ‘boys’ at Guns or American Handgunner. Did I miss an issue?

  2. Mitko

    There are few classic guns in the world,like 1911,Browning HPand Beretta92fs. The mentioned above are proved in wars . Rain, mud and weather conditions could not stop them! Guns like Glogs are only to use them in movies

  3. Kim Campbell

    Good article and the PPS is a fine pistol.

    I would recommend a serious look at the S&W M&P Shield. Like the Walther, it’s thin and light. Its list price is $150 less than the Walther. The magazine catch is in the right place (but neither reversible nor ambidexterous),and the trigger is decent. If you then install an Apex Tactical Shield kit, you get a superb 4-5 pound trigger with smooth take-up, clean break, and minimal overtravel. My Shield in 9mm is a delight to shoot, and the .40 S&W is very controllable.

    I also agree with the first post about the cost of all those modifications. Fortunately, the Shield doesn’t need the touch ups. At the most some night sights and Talon grips are all you need to have a better and less expensive carry gun than the PPS. Its thin, reliable, and sufficiently powerful to carry out in the everyday world.

  4. Ric Fondren

    I guess I am just a old dog who thru the years has always carried large caliber with small back-up, 40XD or45XD 2 mags, Sig 232. So winter spring summer or fall thats what I carry. I am never uncomfortable making sure I can get the job done if need be

  5. Chris Edgington

    I guess a lot of it comes down to how one dresses and if they are willing to modify their manner of dress to better suit the carrying of a firearm.

    I typically carry one of two guns: an old full-size Kimber .45 or a Kahr P380. The Kimber gets carried in a Tucker Gunleather “Texas Heritage” IWB rig (shameless unsolicited plug: Tucker Gunleather is, hands down, my favorite holster maker) and the little Kahr in a DeSantis SuperFly pocket holster.

    When I carry the Kahr it is just out of sheer laziness since I simply put the little mousegun and pocket holster in my back pocket as if it were a wallet. The big Kimber, however, takes only a minute longer and is perfectly comfortable to carry if I’m wearing the proper attire. For me that is usually jeans, a t-shirt, and a BlackHawk CQC pistol belt. With my t-shirt untucked the Kimber is not noticeable unless I’m not careful and bend forward and let the grip poke out. Also, with the Texas Heritage rig I can still tuck in my shirt and the gun remains concealed. But tuck in a shirt? Who am I, Cary Grant?

    However, what about those hot Texas summers where shorts are more comfortable? Simple…I do the same thing except I choose shorts I can wear my CQC belt with to support my Tucker IWB holster. I know a lot of folks like to wear shorts in the summer that are like those that are issued for gym class and don’t have belt loops, but by simply wearing jean shorts, Dockers-type shorts, 5.11 Tactical shorts, or any other kind with belt loops I am able to conceal that big .45 just like I was wearing pants. So by careful short selection I can still have a big honkin’ Government sized gun and not be uncomfortable in the least. If you are into the Jim Dangle “Reno 911!” style shorts that are super tight, however, this might not work for you.

    I’ve heard that IWB holsters aren’t for all body shapes and maybe that’s true. I have personally found that the flatter and more narrow the gun is the better. My 1911s carry so much better in an IWB holster than most other pistols, even my beloved Sig P229. I’ve also found that with a good IWB holster the length of the barrel doesn’t really seem to matter that much and it is really the grip size that is important. I can carry my Government size Kimber just fine as long as I don’t forget about that big grip and bend forward. This causes the grip to poke out behind me and say “peek-a-boo” to all who care to see. When I win the lotto (or don’t have young kids and other bills) I’d like to try out a Colt CCO-style 1911. The longer barrel of the Commander model plus the shorter grip of the Officers model = ideal in my book.

    In the meantime I’ll still be schelpping around my Kimber Custom and the comfort of knowing I’ve got some big, fat 230 grain problem solvers with me.


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