Walther P99 Following a full year of pre-release hype and promises, Maruzen has brought us the new Bond pistol whose advanced design in the real steel world represents a new era of user friendly weapons. Remember Judge Dredd? Well, alright so the P99 doesn't offer fingerprint recognition for disengaging the safety but its design and feel are by no means conventional.
The birth of the P99 is owed to a very large collective effort of many designers and engineers. Design for the real steel Walther P99 started in 1994 according to the demanding specifications of German Police pistols. After extensive market, Walther determined that it needed to manufacture the P99 as a lightweight and more cost effective alternative to its widely used but aging P88. The Walther P99 is an entirely new design and demonstrates ground-up research - and the result is simply impressive.
Most of you movie fans will know that the P99 made its debut to the silver screen in the James Bond Movie, Tomorrow Never dies. Some of you may even have noticed that Pierce Brosnan starts the movie with his age old PPK and reverts to the P99 halfway through the plot following an ambush by a quirky assassin Dr. Kaufman (note photo below where cocking pin is visible on his cocked P99 against assassin's head).
"Please, I'm just a professional doing my job!" Kaufman pleads. "So am I" quips 007 as he squeezes the trigger to celebrate the P99's debut, at the same time making the experience a truly cerebral one for our unlucky friend. The aim to produce a light weight pistol meant that Walther needed to use a polymer frame but it wanted to distinguish the P99 from the already popular Glocks and hence worked to develop an exclusive trigger action.
Ergonomics was also a must so Walther sought out Olympic champion shooter, Morini to help with the design. While Morini designs are much sought after in the professional shooting world, Walther didn't want a custom glove grip but rather wanted something that was also fit for the masses; from Schwarzeneger to Cindy Crawford (now there's a thought!). The result of all this effort was an exceptional piece; a polymer frame pistol with adjustable contoured grips for users of all hand-sizes. So how has Maruzen done to recreate P99? Our first impression of the P99 provided mixed feelings. The P99 is a splendid looking piece with an extremely authentic finish that replicates the Tenifer finishing on the real steel version; a process also used on Glocks but unlike the P99, Glocks are also parkerized after the Tenifer treatment.
Picking up the P99, we were slightly disappointed by its weight which totals 600g versus the unloaded weight of 700g for the real-steel version. Then again, 700g isn't a whole lot and we could've been unimpressed with the real steel as well! Having said that, we were impressed with the solid feel of the gun which feels much like a WA Sigma 40F crossed with a Tanaka Glock 17; the P99's slide is not as heavy as the Sigma's and it's balance is quite similar to Tanaka's Glock. The pistol also sports a front rail for mounting of accessories. The P99's grip is extremely comfortable and is contoured very well for my hand for reference, I wear a medium sized golf glove). Metal parts are quite limited on the P99 and include the disassembly latch, slide release tab, magazine, magazine release lever (both sides), decocking switch, and fake striking pin. Walther markings are prominently displayed all over the P99 including on the slide, grip, magazine butt plate and bolt chamber.
The german instructions "ACHTUNG: WARNHINWEISE BEACHTEN" (Read Safety Manual) are faithfully reproduced on the right side of the P99's frame. One humorous detail worth noting: Maruzen also imprinted the words "JASG 6mm Maruzen" in small print on the slide's right side to denote the gun's true caliber - we presume to prevent confused owners from stuffing 9mm BBs in the gun! And for you legal folks reading this - Maruzen licensed the Carl Walther name for use on the P99 in Japan.
The Maruzen P99 also faithfully replicates the Browning tilting-barrel system, which actually has some similarities to the Sigma and the Glock. The visual effect of this is that the barrel tilts upwards when the slide is pulled back. The most interesting feature of the P99 though is it's unique trigger action, which is made up of 2 separate modes that I'll deem here as the 1st mode and 2nd mode, translating into 2 trigger positions. When you pull the slide back and then release it to load a BB, the trigger is put into the first mode where it is all the way forward (see figure 1). As you pull on the trigger, it locks into the 2nd mode where the trigger is cocked into a pre-firing position (or what Walther deems as the "single action mode", figure 2). From here, a short pull of the trigger fires the P99. On cycling the next round, the trigger is put back into the 2nd mode and ready for the next shot.
To put the trigger back into the 1st mode, simply decock the gun by using the decocking switch. While on the reel steel P99, different trigger pressures are required to operate the 2 phases of trigger pull, the Maruzen trigger requires a uniform pull all the way through the entire travel from 1st mode to firing. The travel on the first pull is quite long and the design is meant to provide an added level of safety to prevent accidental discharge.
The magazine release lever is designed similarly to the H&K USP but it is far more subdued to prevent accidental release. It is located at the junction of the trigger guard and the grip and can be operated on both sides of the gun.
The P99 does not have a decocking lever but rather a flush mounted decocking button is located on the top right of the slide. The obvious question is "why isn't the decocking button ambidextrous as well?" No fault to Maruzen but more a question for Walther! When firing with our left hand, we actually were able to work this button with our thumbs so it's actually not a major problem. Glock owners will no doubt also ask "how do you know when the pistol is cocked?"
A cocked indicator is actually designed into the back of the slide where the striking pin (marked with an eye catching red dot) juts out to indicate the pistol is cocked and ready to fire. We found this to be quite effective as the dot is hard not to notice when you bring the P99 up for aiming. Pushing the decocking button decocks the striker pin which disappears back into the gun and voila - no red dot. The P99 is striker fired (as opposed to hammer fired) in real steel form but of course, that doesn't matter in the airsoft world and Maruzen's valve and hammer design are no different from its other pistol designs. The P99 uses a front blade sight and the dovetail rear sights flanked by two white dots. A little known fact is that German manufactured real steel P99's have white outline rear sights and the two dot setup is actually found on all exported models, which Maruzen's P99 is based on.
The rear sight is windage adjustable by way of a screw on the right of the rear sight, just like the real steel. The real Walther P99 also has a loaded-chamber indicator that provides both visual and sensory feedback to the shooter whether the pistol is chambered. Understandably difficult to recreate with a 6mm BB, Maruzen opted to pass on this function. While the real steel magazine holds 16 rounds, the Maruzen magazine holds 20 rounds (bonus!). One charge of gas will last for 35 rounds easily. The P99 is designed to take HFC134a but as with many other Japanese pistols, an additional 1 second jab of HFC22 adds a little punch without too much risk breakage. Blowback action is crisp and clean and is slightly stronger than the Tanaka Glock 17.
The P99 is also very accurate and we were able to attain 1 inch groupings from 15 feet. Power was clocked at 0.6 joules which is the equivalent of the Tanaka Glock, which is impressive considering the power source is HFC134a. We were able to consistently punch through 2mm packing cardboard but 3mm cardboard only yielded a 50% success rate of breaking through cleanly. Range is approximately 50 feet with no drop in projectile but beyond that, accuracy varies as the BB starts dropping. The adjustable hop-up does counter this effect and maximum range in our testing was about 100 feet which is quite decent. Like all other blowback pistols, the slide locks back on the last shot.
The grip features a changeable backstrap and the gun comes with the medium sized one installed. Other sizes are available and are sold separately. The pistol field strips just like the real thing but doing it quickly does take some practice. A big fat disassembly catch is located on the forward part of the frame (unlike the flimsy little switch on the Glock). To start the disassembly process, first decock the gun and remove the magazine. Then using your thumb and your finger, pinch onto the disassembly tab and pull downward firmly. The slide then pulls forward right off the frame. The tricky part is putting the slide back onto the gun. You start by pushing the slide back onto the frame and pull it all the way back just like you were cocking the gun. Slowly release it back to its normal resting and then pull it back again about half an inch, at the same time pulling back on the trigger from the 1st mode to the 2nd mode position. Finally, release the slide forward so the disassembly catch aligns with the groove on the slide. Push the catch tabs back up and reassembly is complete!
So how does the new P99 fair on the gaming field? We took it out for a night of CQB skirmishing and found it to be very reliable and quick. Holstered on my waist, the grip is so comfortable that my firing hand moulds quickly and naturally. While with other non-contoured grips on other pistols meant that sometimes I had difficulty gripping the gun properly in the heat of the moment, the P99's contoured grip forced my hand into position and provided sensory feedback to help with more accurate aiming.
Quick cycling times allowed rapid shots and the fairly strong blowback felt really great. The rail frame provides some interesting accessory potential but like most other airsoft enthusiasts, I prefer to keep it stock for that Bond look. For close range combat, the P99's power proved sufficient but I still prefer the CQB for serious skirmishing. We also did a Bond test and tried to carry the P99 is our tuxedo. Needless to say, the P99 was much harder to pocket like the PPK and probably would require a shoulder holster. How does 007 carry it? God knows. Oftentimes in the airsoft realm we see manufacturers making special edition versions of real steel pistols and we hope that will hold true for the P99 as well. One such possible variation could be the olive drab P99 that has been made for the German army. Walther has apparently also released a special James Bond edition P99 with "007" inscribed on the right forward part of the slide, and "Her Majesties Secret Service" inscribed on the left. This would be an exciting addition to Maruzen's lineup and we can only keep our fingers crossed!
All in all, the P99 is one of the most refined offerings from Maruzen to date, with quality rivaling that of Tanaka and WA. If you're getting tired of the Glock craze and crave for something more unique, then this is your ticket!
We would like to apologize for a mistake we made in this review. After more than 50 emails from our faithful readers that Bond in fact was not pointing a P99 at Kaufman in the scene from Tomorrow Never Dies, I would like to post the more accurate information. Our apologies for the belated admittance to the mistake.
"When Bond was ambushed by Dr. Kaufman, he still had a .32 ACP Walther PPK, and Kaufman has a Heckler and Koch 9MM P7 pistol. The pistol in the picture in your review was the P7. He used the Dr.'s gun on him. The pistol is in fact not the P99"
"In my opinion, the Walther P99 is the forerunner of the next generation of polymer framed service pistols. Light-weight, accurate, very reliable and durable, the P99 offers a number of very well-designed features not found on any other handgun of this type. Walther has once again stepped into the design forefront with the P99, a pistol that is bound to have the same impact on the future of combat handguns." - Tom Graham Combat Handguns Buyer's Guide 1998
Written by Redwolf
(Photos by RedWolf)
October 20, 1999 (edited May 26, 2001)
To get a P99 for yourself, check out our Gas Weapons Page.