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Walther PDP Match SF: Upgraded Heavy Metal Hitters [REVIEW]

In an age where the market places a premium on lightweight, conveniently sized pistols, we still appreciate a well-built piece of Big Iron riding on our hip. A few years ago, Walther launched their “SF” series of steel-framed striker-fired pistols: the Q4 SF and Q5 SF. 

The larger Q5 was clearly aimed squarely toward the competition circuit, offering a fantastic package pistol — magwell and three magazines included as standard — at a reasonable price for shooters looking to level up their gun gaming. 

The PDP Match SF (top) compared to the Q5 Match SF (bottom). Note differences in the locking block, ejector, and frame beavertail.

The Q4 SF came to the table with a 4-inch barrel and shorter 15-round grip frame, which, at least by dimensional measures, put it right in the sweet spot for carry, very closely mirroring the vaunted Glock 19 “standard” for what we’ll call a concealable duty pistol. 

Ironically, the weight of a steel-framed carry pistol is both its biggest pro and biggest con. In the plus column, the recoil impulse is greatly moderated by the increased mass and lower center of gravity, making such guns a dream to shoot. But then weight is also a thing that exists, at least on planet Earth. 

An extra-rigid belt purpose-built for concealed carry and perhaps even pants made from heavier fabric are a requirement to wrangle such a hand cannon into proper position on your waistline. If you carry for hours at a time, the additional weight hanging off and digging into your body creates palpable fatigue.

While you’ll have to decide whether these trade-offs balance out for you, Walther has never been afraid to put this option on the table and embrace it energetically. Over the last few years, they’ve been occupied with building and promoting their PDP line of polymer guns. But this year they make a valiant return to the steel frame pistol market with their new PDP SF line. 

Like it’s polymer framed PDP counterparts, fire controls on the Match SF are big and easy to use.

The sample gun shown here is the PDP Match SF, a full-size frame with 5-inch barrel, but by the time you read this two additional models will be available: a 4.5-inch full frame and a 4-inch compact frame. 

NOT JUST A NEW FACE

At first glance, we assumed that the PDP SF launch was simply a well-executed face-lift intended to bring the legacy Q4/Q5 guns into alignment with the more utilitarian PDP aesthetic. We were mistaken. This brings us to the closest thing we have to a complaint about the gun — which really stems from our own preconceived notions about it. 

Even though this gun is billed as a PDP and shares most of the ergos with its poly-framed brethren, it doesn’t share modularity with existing PDP models. Likewise, it also doesn’t share backward compatibility with the Q line of steel guns. The slide and frame of the PDP SF cannot be swapped with polymer-framed PDPs or with those of the Q4/Q5 SF. 

At first, we found this frustrating. One of our favorite features of the PDP line is the ability to swap uppers and lowers across barrel lengths and frame sizes to create a goldilocks pistol to suit any preference. It was also a bummer that we couldn’t drop our PDP SF slide onto our Q5 frame with aftermarket trigger and grips.

When we spoke with the team at Walther, they explained why. A steel frame doesn’t flex under recoil the way a polymer frame does. To compensate, the tolerances and material thickness of critical lockup points should be reinforced to withstand the additional beating they’ll take during firing. Specifically, Walther altered the geometry of the barrel lug, locking block, and disconnect slot. 

These changes were made to ensure that the PDP SF will stand up to high round counts and extended service cycles just as well as its poly-framed counterpart. Because the entire PDP line has been built from the ground up for professional duty use, the aforementioned areas were beefed up beyond even the dimensions of the Q5. While you do lose the element of modularity, you wind up with an absolute main battle tank of a pistol. Unless you launch it off a cliff with a trebuchet, the PDP SF is a pistol you can confidently assume will be inherited by your grandchildren. 

Of the three PDP SF models currently on the market, only the Match shown here comes with the magwell, pass-through slide cuts, and Walther’s PDT — Performance Duty Trigger — which features a straightened shoe and skeletonized safety tab not found on standard PDP triggers.

ROUNDS DOWNRANGE

We’ll start with the punch line: the PDP Match SF performed just fine, chugging through several hundred rounds of varying weights and velocities without a single hiccup. 

Unusual as it may be for us, we chose to leave our test gun stock to best compare it to its immediate successor, the Q5 SF. The Q5 lower sports a compact grip with full-length railed dustcover, while the PDP Match has a longer, true full-size frame. This gives the newer gun a slightly better sense of balance in the hand due to its more even proportions. But maybe the nose-heavy configuration is what made the Q5 feel ever-so-noticeably milder when it came to felt recoil. 

The PDP Match made light work (literally) of its mixed diet, but the return-to-battery stroke felt a little aggressive. Fortunately, we did get the chance to shoot a few mags after swapping in a ZR Tactical long stroke guide rod. Compared to the OEM recoil system, this heavyweight 5/16-inch stainless steel captured guide rod is loaded with a 14-pound ISMI spring and eliminates the plastic spaced inside the slide.

The increased mass of the steel guide rod combined with the increased length of travel gave our test gun a cushioned, wave-like recoil impulse as opposed to the quick back-and-forth shuttling feeling of the stock setup. We’re not sure if we really like one over the other. While the ZR long stroke impulse felt softer, the standard guide rod setup felt faster. Of course, that’s our subjective experience based on a sample size of one gun and two or three mags’ worth of comparison. Your mileage may vary, but the option is out there if you want it.

Barrel comparison, PDP SF on the left.

LOOSE BRASS

We’ve long felt that the PDP line is one of the best deals on the market for an ergonomic, high-performing pistol that actually comes out of the box in finished form. Based on our experience, we believe the steel-framed extension of this line will carry the torch. 

At $1,899 MSRP, this heavy pistol will leave your wallet feeling lighter. But for a well-appointed, optics-ready, rail-frame, all-steel handgun that includes a magwell and match-grade trigger, it’s a lot of gun by any metric. With more compact and slightly less expensive variants already listed on the website, Walther’s doing their best to ensure there’s a big iron out there for everyone. 

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