Umarex Walther PPQ M2 update

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I promised at the end of the Umarex Walther PPQ M2 review that I’d post an update, and here it is. Has my opinion of this replica changed since the first review? Well, let’s have a look…

Reading back over the original review, it’s interesting to see how my initial reaction has modified after around four months of ownership and after having had a chance to compare the PPQ M2 to other 6mm replicas such as the Cybergun S&W M&P 9c and the KSC H&K P10.

However, before I talk about what the Walther PPQ M2 does, it may be worth mentioning something it doesn’t do. After the initial review was posted, a couple of people have asked why I didn’t mention that the PPQ M2 can be set to fire in full-auto mode. The reason is that it can’t – the Umarex PPQ M2 is semi-auto only. If you look at the rear underside of the slide, the PPQ M2 appears to have the same switch that is used on the Cybergun S&W M&P 9c to swap between semi and full auto modes. However, the switch is non-functional on the PPQ M2. Good thing too if you ask me. Full auto on a short-barrelled pistol is fairly pointless for target shooting and accelerates wear on all components. It may be useful if you want to use it for CQB skirmishing, but otherwise I can’t see much point.

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Cybergun S&W M&P 9c (left) with fire mode selector switch (arrowed). The Umarex Walther PPQ M2 (right) appears to have a similar switch, but it is non-functional. You can also see the adjustment screw for the PPQ rear sight.

Quality and Reliability

Build and finish quality on the PPQ M2 seem very good indeed. Other than the issue with the slide failing to lock back (now fixed thanks to the Umarex repair service), I haven’t had any issues with this replica. There are no obvious signs of wear on any internal components and only slight wear to the paint on the top of the inner barrel. Otherwise the finish is holding up well. Looking at the PPQ M2 next to, for example, another VFC replica, the Cybergun S&W M&P 9c, the PPQ seems to be better made. Internal parts like the trigger system and the slide release are more robust on the PPQ and work more precisely. I also note that I failed to mention in the original review that the PPQ has a metal outer barrel and a brass inner barrel, both of which seem to very precisely made with good fit and movement. The slide and magazine releases are also metal, but the trigger is plastic, though robust and heavy-duty plastic.

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Good fit of inner barrel/outer barrel/slide probably contributes to accuracy

Since posting the initial review, I have read a couple of other on-line pieces suggesting that the PPQ M2 has reliability issues. In particular, it has been suggested that the metal slide can split at the front edge of the ejection port. The alloy is certainly thin in this area, but so far, mine has not shown any tendency to split. My example is still fairly new (I have fired somewhere under 1000 BBs with the PPQ M2 to date), so I suppose this could be an issue which only affects well-used versions. However, I am aware of a knowledgeable and experienced owner who has fired more than 12,000 BBs with his PPQ M2 with only minor issues (a small internal spring came loose and the slide occasionally fails to lock back on empty). So, overall, I see no reason to change my initial claim that the PPQ M2 seems to be well made and finished and reliable.

Ambidextrousness (is that a word?)

In the original review, I praised the PPQ M2 because it can be configured for left-hand operation. This involves swapping the magazine release from the left to the right side. Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that the photographs here show the pistol with the mag release back on the left. I’m embarrassed to admit that I found it hard to deal with a left-hand mag release. Although I soot mainly with my left hand, I guess that I’m so conditioned to swapping pistols to my right hand to drop out the magazine, that I can’t get used to doing it with my left. Time after time with the PPQ I’d automatically swap the pistol to my right hand to release the mag, only to realise that I needed to swap it back to my left hand. Finally, I gave up and reverted to a left hand mag release. If the PPQ was my only pistol, I’d probably get used to it in time. As it is, most other replicas need to be swapped to my right hand to release the mag, and I just can’t seem to get used to doing it the other way round on the PPQ. So, full marks to Umarex and VFC for providing a fully ambidextrous replica, and zero marks to me for failing to re-learn my pistol handling to take advantage of this.

Shooting

I gave the PPQ M2 reasonable marks for its accuracy at 6 yards in the original review, but I don’t think I emphasised enough that it shoots to the point of aim out of the box. This is so uncommon with replicas that it bears repeating. Fine-tuning with the hop-up (which incorporates a “v-notch” nub, claimed to give more stable spin to the BB) means that I can reliably place 0.2g and 0.25g BBs precisely where I’m aiming. This is very satisfying and is a massive help in any kind of action shooting. The fit of the brass inner barrel within the metal barrel and the fit of the outer barrel in the slide are very good indeed, which probably helps here. On many replicas, the opening in the front of the slide is oval, allowing the outer barrel to droop and the inner barrel can be a loose fit within the outer barrel, both of which can cause a replica to shoot low. Neither apply to the PPQ.

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The only slight issue with shooting is that the notch in the rear sight is rather wide. The foreshortening effect of a photograph doesn’t show this clearly, but with the PPQ held at arm’s length, the front post looks rather small within the wide rear notch. It’s not a major issue: the sight picture is still clear in all conditions and this does accurately replica the sights on the original.

Blowback is notably strong and snappy (see the video review below). Shooting the PPQ M2 side-by-side with a KSC System 7 equipped H&K P10 (System 7 is claimed to have enhanced blowback), the PPQ seems to have the stronger blowback and the slide on the PPQ appears to move faster and more freely than on the KSC replica. The trigger on the PPQ is very good indeed when compared to other replicas. The single action only trigger pull is short, light, consistent and with no discernible creep. I’m still not entirely comfortable with the fact that I can’t de-cock this replica, nor apply a manual safety before storing it. Putting it in its box cocked and ready to fire feels wrong somehow, and there isn’t room in the box to store it with the magazine removed. But that’s how the original works, and it would be possible to de-cock by pulling the trigger with the magazine removed.

Accuracy seems to have improved with use. There are now fewer flyers and these are generally closer to the main grouping. At six yards, freestanding, it’s possible to consistently put 90% of shots in or touching the 1½” centre circle on the target. Best accuracy and consistency seem to be achieved when using 0.25g BBs. Gas consumption is good with 50+ shots from a single fill and I have experienced no leaks or loss of gas when filling.

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The ergonomics of the Walther PPQ M2 are excellent. The grip has a pronounced hump at the rear, which looks a little odd, but this locks in to the base of the thumb, providing a comfortable, precise and firm grip. The slide and magazine releases are easily operated while gripping the pistol and the slide incorporates both front and rear cocking serrations.

Conclusion

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So, four months on, how do I feel about the Umarex Walther PPQ M2? I still think it’s an absolute cracker. A combination of good ergonomics, good build quality and finish and excellent shooting ability at a reasonable price make this a winner. There aren’t many Walther replicas available (Umarex and Walther belong to the same group of companies and so Umarex has an exclusive license to produce Walther replicas) and it also makes a nice change to shoot something other than the ubiquitous 1911/Sig/Beretta 92 clones. Overall, the Umarex Walther PPQ M2 is as good as any 6mm replica I have tried and better than most. You really need to try one of these.

Video update

Related pages

Umarex Walther PPQ M2 original review

Cybergun S&W M&P 9c review

KSC H&K P10 review

Buy

You can buy the Umarex Walther PPQ M2 at Pyramid Air here.

Classic handguns – the Walther PPK

Classic is an overused and seldom defined term. What exactly is a “classic” handgun? Ask ten people and you’ll probably get ten different answers, and ten different lists of “classic” guns. However, there are a small number of handguns which I’m fairly confident would appear on most people’s list, including the one I want to talk about here: The Walther PPK. Although it was introduced almost eighty-five years ago, the PPK is still available, virtually unchanged from its original form. That in itself is testament to good basic design, but the PPK is also perfectly sized, a decent shooter and of course is has an association with a certain British secret agent…

Development

The pocket pistol (what we’d now call a compact or sub-compact design) wasn’t a new idea in the 1920s. A number of manufacturers including Colt, Mauser and Steyr all offered small, easily concealed semi-auto pistols. However, most were of a hammerless design and were intended to be carried with a round in the chamber. Manual safeties were provided, often of the cross-bolt type, but accidental discharges due to light, single action triggers were frighteningly common. Revolvers, which required a long, double action trigger pull were generally safer, but less popular for concealed carry due to their greater bulk. What the market wanted was a compact semi-auto pistol which incorporated a revolver style double-action trigger.

Fritz Walther, the eldest son of founder Carl had persuaded his father to enter the pistol market in 1908. Recognising the need for a safer pocket pistol, in 1924 Fritz registered a German patent for a “self-loading pistol with magazine and revolver self-cocking lock and double action trigger“. Development continued until 1929 when the Walther PP (Polizei-Pistole) was released. The PP was a mid-sized, blowback operated design with an external hammer and double and single action trigger. Additional safety elements included a manual safety which also locked the trigger and hammer, a de-cocker and a loaded chamber indicator. Another notable feature was the takedown system – rather than using a separate lever or catch, the trigger guard of the PP was hinged at the rear. Rotating the trigger guard down and letting it rest against the frame allowed the slide to be removed. Reliability, safety and a reasonable price ensured that the PP immediately became popular both as a police handgun in Germany and as a civilian weapon in that country and elsewhere.

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The Walther PP

However, though it was smaller than a full-size military pistol, the PP was still relatively large and was mainly used as a sidearm by uniformed police. Walther almost immediately began work on a more compact version suitable for use by undercover and plain-clothes officers. In 1931, the Walther PPK was released. Visually and mechanically similar to the PP, the PPK featured a shorter barrel and grip and a smaller capacity magazine, making it the perfect concealed carry weapon. Incidentally, the “K” in PPK stands for Kriminalmodell (Detective model) and not Kurtz (Short) as is sometimes claimed.

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Early Walther PPK produced in Zella-Mehlis

Use

The PPK was an instant success, being quickly adopted by police and civilian users in Germany and elsewhere. Both the PP and PPK also became very popular as German officer’s sidearms. In this period, German army and navy officers were given an allowance to select and purchase their own pistols, and very large numbers chose the small and light Walther pistols and not, as Hollywood would have us believe, the larger and heavier Luger.

Why was the PPK so popular? The de-cocker and double action trigger certainly made it less prone to accidental discharge than some other pocket pistols and it was a reliable and effective shooter. It was also relatively cheap, being one of the first commercially produced handguns to use pressed steel parts. But most of all it was the perfect size. Very small handguns are difficult to grip and fire accurately. The PPK was just big enough to provide a good and comfortable grip while being small and light enough for concealed carry. Even more than the PP, the PPK was an instant commercial success.

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Post-war Walther PPK from Ulm, with “pinky rest” magazine extension

Initially, the PPK was manufactured at the Walther plant at Zella-Mehlis in Thuringia, Germany. Following World War Two the plant was relocated to Ulm in Baden-Württemberg, though for a number of years firearm manufacture was forbidden by the Allied powers. As a result, in 1952 Walther licensed production of PPK series pistols to Manufacure de Machines du Haut-Rhine, a French engineering company better known as Manurhin. Manurhin produced the PPK from 1952 until 1986, though their licensed versions continued to feature Walther markings. Production of the PPK at the new Walther plant in Ulm finally resumed in 1955, though early models utilised many parts manufactured by Manurhin. It wasn’t until 1986 that full manufacturing and production of the PPK was undertaken in Ulm and this continued until 1999. The only significant new version produced during the post-war period was the PPK/L, featuring a lightweight dural frame.

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Manurhin Walther PPK

In 1978, Walther also granted a manufacturing license to US company Ranger Manufacturing to produce both the PPK and the new PPK/S. These versions were distributed in the US by Interarms. The PPK/S was produced in response to the US Gun Control Act of 1968 which set minimum sizes and weights for imported handguns. The PPK was simply too small to comply with these new requirements, and the slightly larger PPK/S was produced by combining the slide and barrel of the PPK with the frame and grip of the original PP. From 2002 Smith & Wesson began production of a licensed version of the PPK/S in the US. S&W are now the only producers of the PPK and the pistol remains part of their current range.

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Interarms stainless steel Walther PPK/S

The PPK was produced in several calibres. The majority were 7.65mm, though a 6.35mm version was produced in relatively small numbers. The PPK was also available chambered for the .22LR round, principally to provide a police practice and training weapon which used much less expensive .22 rimfire ammunition. The PPK was also chambered for the 9mm short (9x17mm, also known as the .380 ACP) cartridge, but this was considered the limit for the strength of the slide, and no versions were produced using the more powerful 9mm Parabellum (9x19mm) cartridge.

Visual style

I don’t normally consider the appearance of a pistol separately. After all, a handgun is a functional piece of equipment which is principally designed to operate efficiently rather than to look good. However, there is something about the appearance of the PPK that I can’t entirely explain but which makes this pistol look as fresh now as it did in 1931. As is the way of things, I started to wonder why that might be…

The design of any item is inevitably influenced by events in the wider world. The Walther PP and PPK were designed at a time of political change and social turmoil in Germany. However, this period was also notable for the influence of the German Bauhaus art movement. Started in 1919 by German architect Walter Gropius, Bauhaus took the concepts and philosophy of high art and translated them into the industrial production of everyday objects. Rejecting the ornate and ostentatious Art Nouveau which had gone before, Bauhaus stressed simplicity, functionality, unity and ease of use and manufacture. A Bauhaus artist had to be not just creative in an abstract sense, but also capable of translating this into functional and useful manufactured objects. Though it’s notable that many of the things created by Bauhaus artists also have a timeless and elegant aesthetic that makes them as visually appealing as they are functional.

“It is harder to design a first rate chair than to paint a second rate painting – and much more useful.”

Walter Gropius, the Bahaus Manifesto

cppk14Take a look at this “cesca” chair above, designed by Hungarian architect Marcel Breuer, a leading member of the Bauhaus movement. Look familiar? The chances are that if you visit any modern office or public space, you’ll see something very similar to this 1928 creation. Why has this design lasted so long? I suspect the answer is because it’s comfortable, practicable and simple to manufacture and yet it somehow manages to appear contemporary more than eighty years after it first appeared.

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Tokarev TT-33 (top), Walther PPK (centre), Enfield Number 2 (bottom)

I haven’t found any evidence that the engineers at Walther who created the PPK were directly influenced by Gropius or the philosophy of Bauhaus. But by the late 1920 the ideas inherent in the movement, that industrial production could and should generate objects which had artistic value, were prevalent in Germany and elsewhere. Take a look again at the PPK and consider the Bauhaus ideals of simplicity, unity and ease of use and manufacture within a visually pleasing whole. Is the PPK a Bauhaus pistol? I certainly think so. Also, try comparing the PPK to a couple of roughly contemporary handguns – the British Enfield Number 2 revolver and the Russian Tokarev TT-33 for example. Both were perfectly adequate handguns, but unlike the PPK both now look very dated and neither could be mistaken for a modern design. Somehow the PPK looks as good now as it did in 1931, which suggests a design which, in some indefinable way is “right“. Whether or not its designers were consciously influenced by Bauhaus, I believe that the PPK embodies the ethos of the movement perfectly.

James Bond and the PPK

However, one of the reasons the PPK is so well known has nothing to do with its abilities, design or appearance. The James Bond novels of Ian Fleming were hugely popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Strangely however, for the first five novels Fleming provided his hero with a Beretta 418 in .25 calibre. Which is an ineffectual and rather rubbish gun for such a tough hero.

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Beretta 418. James Bond gun? Really?

In 1957 while he was writing the sixth novel, Fleming received a letter from Bond fan and firearms expert Geoffrey Boothroyd who pointed out that the Beretta was “a lady’s gun – and not a very nice lady at that!” Boothroyd suggested that it would be much more appropriate to provide Bond with a Walther PPK in 7.65mm calibre. Fleming agreed and Boothroyd went on to provide advice about firearms for the following Bond novels. In recognition, a new character was introduced in Dr No; – Major Boothroyd, the MI6 armourer known as “Q” who is described as “the greatest small-arms expert in the world”.

cppk9When Albert “Cubby” Broccoli came to make the first movie based on a Bond novel in 1962, the screenplay was based on Dr No, and so the movie Bond (then played by Sean Connery) exchanged his Beretta for a PPK from the very start. The PPK continued to be 007’s screen sidearm for sixteen more films and 35 years, until in Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997 it was swapped for a Walther P99. However, with the advent of Skyfall in 2012, the third film starring Daniel Craig as Bond, the character has once again reverted to using a PPK, albeit modified with a palmprint recognition system. The Bond connection gives the PPK additional cachet, and ensures that it is recognised by people who otherwise know very little about firearms.

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Walther PPK Replicas

Given the enduring appeal of the original plus the James Bond connection, there have been surprisingly few decent replica air pistols based on the PPK. Ignoring spring powered replicas, which are pretty dire, I’m aware of just two: The Umarex PPK/S in 4.5mm and the Umarex/Maruzen PPK in 6mm.

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The Umarex Walther PPK/S

The Umarex CO2 powered 4.5mm version was introduced back in 1999 and was the first Umarex blowback pistol. In some ways it’s a great replica – all metal, heavy with great fit and finish and strong and snappy blowback. Unfortunately in other ways it’s not so good. I don’t care for the moulded-in-place slide-mounted safety, or the actual safety which is a moving lever at the front of the right grip (though it’s similar to the safety fitted to some prototype PPKs). It’s also not terribly accurate compared to more modern BB shooters. However, the main issues for me are when I first bought one were the large and visible CO2 tightening tab at the base of the grip and the shape of the grip itself, which has been stretched to accommodate the CO2 cartridge. The tab has been replaced with a less obtrusive recessed allen screw, but there’s nothing you can do about the lengthened grip which, to me at least, completely loses the pleasingly squat profile of the original. However, this is overall a decent PPK/S replica and it does have the virtue of being readily available and relatively cheap.

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The Maruzen Walther PPK

The 6mm Walther PPK from Japanese manufacturer Maruzen is a much better visual and functional replica (it’s also licensed by Umarex, but for the sake of clarity I’ll refer to it as the Maruzen PPK here). It’s a gas powered blowback replica and the slide mounted safety, magazine release and takedown all work as they do on the original. It incorporates Walther markings and this version accurately replicates the short, squat grip of the original. Even the magazine incorporates a pinky rest, just like the original. The metal finish version looks particularly good and in 2011 a 125th Anniversary edition (celebrating 125 years of Walther) was released. However, this is an all plastic replica which is very light (around 375g) and it shoots only in the 220-240fps range, so it isn’t particularly powerful. It can also be very difficult to find new, and production seems to be sporadic.

Shooters Design (a company specialising in aftermarket parts for airsoft guns) produce a full metal kit for the Maruzen PPK, which replaces the plastic slide and frame with metal versions, though a heavyweight slide return spring is also required. I’m not sure if this kit is still in production and it is certainly hard to find. The Maruzen PPK has good functionality and looks good, but is too light to be an entirely convincing replica and it isn’t a particularly great shooter out of the box. Upgrading by using the Shooters Design kit is said to improve look, feel and function, but this is also a pretty expensive option. You can expect to pay around £125 ($200) for the basic pistol and over £200 ($325) for the upgrade kit, if you can find one. I have been looking for a Maruzen PPK and an upgrade kit for some time, and if anyone has either one they’d be willing to donate or sell for review, I’d be very happy to hear about it!

Conclusion

Whether you regard it as a piece of Bauhaus art, an industrial artefact from a significant historical era, a James Bond movie prop or simply a compact and pointable handgun, the Walther PPK doesn’t disappoint. It’s small, light, looks great, fits most hands and shoots better than its small size and relatively antiquated design would suggest. It’s no accident that in 2003, when Walther engineers set out to create a new compact pistol (the PPS), they used the weight and dimensions of the PPK as a guide to what looked and felt right. If ever a handgun deserved the “classic” label, it’s the Walther PPK.

It’s disappointing that the PPK is under-represented in the replica world. The Umarex and Maruzen versions both have good points, but neither is entirely satisfactory. We’re still waiting for a weighty PPK replica which is also a decent shooter and mirrors the functionality and distinctive look of the original.

Links:

The Walther PPK (on the Walther Arms website)

The Umarex Walther PPK/S

Shooters Design kit for the Maruzen PPK (on the redwolf airsoft site, but don’t get too excited because it’s currently out of stock)

The Bauhaus movement

Related pages:  

Umarex Walther PPK/S review

Modifying the CO2 tab on an Umarex Walther PPK/S

Classic Handguns – The Glock 17

Colouring brass inner barrels

A quick update to my Umarex Walther PPQ M2 review…

Regular readers (hello to you both!), may recall that I didn’t particularly like the very visible brass inner barrel on the PPQ M2, which slightly spoils what is otherwise a pretty decent looking replica. I had it in mind that I would try to make this a little less obtrusive, probably by painting it. However, painting brass can be tricky. Enamel and acrylic paints don’t stick very well to brass, tending to flake off. Folk who work with brass and need to mark it often use permanent marker pens. These pens apply a very fine layer of colour which is designed to be good at sticking to non-porous surfaces such as metal. So, it occurred to me that I might be able to use a permanent marker pen as a quick and easy means of covering up the brass inner barrel on my PPQ.

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Nice replica. Nasty, shiny brass inner barrel.

Finding a pen is easy, there are lots about and they’re very cheap. My wife is a teacher and has a large selection of pens, so I didn’t have to search very far. But you do need to find a permanent marker – non-permanent versions are water soluble, and will likely rub off as you handle the gun. Once you have your pen, remove the outer and inner barrels from the slide. There is no need to remove the inner barrel – it projects far enough out of the front of the barrel to be accessible. Then, use the pen to carefully draw over the brass. It will take several coats, leaving it to dry for a few minutes between coats. I did four coats, and I was surprised at how dense, black and glossy the result was.

ppqpen2Minutes later – done!

Overall this is a very quick, very easy and very cheap job. It requires very little preparation and dries in minutes. It’s much easier than faffing about with paint and it really does tone down the glare from the brass barrel, making the pistol look (in my opinion) much better. It could be used to colour any exposed metal on a replica and if it goes horribly wrong, or you just don’t like the result, acetone (nail varnish remover – just ask your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother) will quickly remove all traces of marker.

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The result. Better? I think so.

Will the colour flake off the first time I shoot the PPQ M2? Will my wife discover that I have been illicitly using her precious marker pen for gun stuff? Will I change my mind and end up painting it anyway? Anything is possible! Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode…

Related pages:

Umarex Walther PPQ M2 review