By Dave Spaulding, GUNS Magazine
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.”
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.
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.
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 ….
Thanks to our friends at GUNS Magazine for this article. Need more? Just click here http://www.gunsmagazine.com.