I have been on a quest. It is the search for my ideal handgun. The ideal handgun for me may not be the same as the ideal handgun for you. If you have not yet found your ideal handgun, then perhaps the story of my search will give you some ideas and inspiration for your own search. If you have already found your ideal handgun, you may at least find this story to be entertaining.
Most modern handguns have an intrinsic accuracy that is more than sufficient to meet my needs. The problem is that I am not a human Ransom Rest. I can take two handguns with the exact same intrinsic accuracy and fire one of them much more accurately than the other. If I practice a lot and concentrate, the difference in my accuracy between the two guns may become smaller. But in a high stress situation, I will have a natural tendency to be more accurate with the gun that fits me the best.
The anticipated use for the handgun also impacts which one is ideal for me. For example, do I want to use it for competition, plinking, hunting, home defense, concealed carry, open carry, etc.? The gun I am looking for is for both plinking and home defense. For these uses, a larger frame and longer slide and barrel may give me better results than a smaller package.
On July 27 and July 28, 2019, SurvivalBlog.com published an article describing the beginning of my search. “A Beginner’s Handgun Journey” tells about my first handgun purchase, my efforts to master basic handgun skills, and my experiences with how well various handguns worked for me. It tells how I acquired a Smith and Wesson SW22 Victory, how I could shoot that gun more accurately than any others I had tried, and my search for a handgun in a self defense caliber that I can shoot as well as I can shoot the SW22.
Based upon the experiences described in that article, I concluded that there are a number of factors that make the SW22 work well for me: it fits my hand well, has an excellent trigger, good sights, and a long sight radius. I decided that those were the characteristics I should look for in my ideal handgun in a self defense caliber.
I decided that the next two handguns I would like to test were the Walther PPQ 5″ Standard and the Canik TP9SFL. The Walther and its Turkish imitator both have replaceable backstraps which allow a customized hand fit. Both have reputations for having excellent triggers. Their long slides give each a good sight radius. Their sights might not be as easy for my aging eyes to acquire as the fiber optic sights of the SW22, but that remained to be seen. Although the PPQ and TP9SF are both available in target versions, I decided that the standard versions might be more suitable for field holster carry conditions.
Up to this point, I had either purchased or borrowed each handgun I had tested. I was not aware of anyone who could loan me either the PPQ or the TP9SFL. The process of buying, testing, and reselling is cumbersome. Rental seemed like a more efficient option. There is a range in my region that rents handguns, so I checked out their inventory. Unfortunately, neither the PPQ 5″ Standard nor the TP9SFL were available for rental at the range.
I knew that manufacturers and distributors will at times loan handguns to those wishing to review their products for publication. With that in mind, I contacted Walther and Century Arms. (Century Arms is the American distributor for Canik). I asked to review their respective products for an article that I wished to submit to SurvivalBlog.com.
Century Arms ignored my request, possibly because Pat Cascio had already reviewed the Canik TP9SF for Survivalblog on April 24, 2017. His excellent article played a role in directing my attention to the TP9SFL.
Walther responded to my request promptly with information about placing a T&E order. This information left me in a bit of a quandary. Walther is kind enough to allow reviewers to purchase review samples at VIP pricing following testing. I compared the VIP pricing with the best pricing I could find online. CDNN Sports had the Walther PPQ 5″ Standard for $50 less than Walther’s VIP pricing. Since Walther currently has a 30 day money back guarantee, I could purchase the handgun from CDNN Sports, test it, and if I liked it keep it for $50 less than if I purchased it at VIP pricing directly from Walther. If I didn’t like the handgun I purchased from CDNN Sports, I could return it to Walther for a full refund.
With this in mind, I contacted Walther’s marketing department to see if they would match CDNN Sport’s pricing. That department regretfully informed me that they were not authorized to do so.
At this point, I needed to evaluate the probability that I would keep the handgun after testing. If I thought it most likely that I would keep the handgun, it would be less expensive for me to purchase it outright from CDNN Sports. If I thought it most likely that I would return the handgun after testing, it would be more convenient to borrow it via the T&E process directly from Walther.
After due consideration, I decided that there was a 51% chance that I would want to return the handgun after testing. I am currently committed to not increase the quantity of guns that I own. But I remain open to increasing the quality of the guns that I own. Because of this, buying a new gun carries with it a commitment to sell a gun that I already own. I liked the Walther P99 for which the PPQ 5″ Standard was a potential replacement. I hoped that the PPQ would merit taking the P99’s place, but felt it was very slightly improbable that this would be the case. With this in mind, I completed the T&E order with Walther. In surprisingly short order, I received the message that a PPQ 5″ Standard was on its way to my FFL.
Opening the Box
I picked the gun up at my FFL, took it home, and opened the box. The box consisted of a sturdy looking case. The latches were an improvement over those on the case for my P99. The PPQ case contained the firearm, a lock, documentation (manual, safety booklet, and warranty registration information), a target pierced with five shots from the gun fired from 15 meters, two magazines, a speed loader, and three interchangeable backstraps of which the medium sized backstrap was installed on the gun.
My first impression was that the gun was heavier than I expected. I have already mentioned that I own a Walther P99. It is very similar to the PPQ 5″ standard except that it has a shorter slide and barrel. The extra one inch of barrel and slide made a noticeable difference in weight.
I grabbed some ammo and set up some targets on the range behind my barn. I began by dry firing the gun 10 times to get a feel for the trigger. I felt a slight hint of grit on the first dry fire trigger pull, but the other nine were much smoother.
I then fired 10 shots each of four different kinds of ammo. For reasons that may soon become apparent, I will call them ammo A, ammo B, ammo C, and ammo D.
I first fired 10 rounds of ammo A from 15 yards. I put nine out of 10 rounds within two inches of the center of the target. This was the best group I had ever fired from a gun that I was picking up for the first time. I was happy and filled with anticipation. When I had first fired the SW22, I had put 73 out of 90 shots within two inches of the center of the target. During my most recent outing with the SW22, I put 85 out of 90 shots within two inches of the center of the target. It looked like the PPQ might give the SW22 a run for its money.
I then fired 10 rounds of ammo B from 15 yards. I put only three shots within two inches of the center of the target. I was disappointed. Ammo B was one of my favorites. I thought it was a shame that it did not work well in the gun.
I then fired 10 rounds of ammo C from 15 yards. I again put only three shots within two inches of the center of the target. An unpleasant suspicion began to nibble at the back of my mind.
I next fired 10 rounds of ammo D. I put six out of 10 rounds in the four inch circle.
I then tried again with 10 more rounds of ammo A. I put only three rounds in the four inch circle. The unpleasant suspicion was becoming a certainty.
Next I dry fired the gun 10 times. My suspicions were confirmed. To my horror, I noticed subtle hints of flinching. I did not have an ammo problem or a gun problem. I had a flinching problem.
My self image was bruised. I realized that I am the type of person who has a startle reflex to loud noises and fast movements near my face. I realized that I am recoil sensitive. It was difficult to cope with the recognition of flaws like that. I also realized that probably one of the biggest reasons that I can fire the SW22 more accurately than any handgun in a self defense caliber is that the low recoil and quieter report of the .22LR produced less flinch than the larger calibers.
Even more painful than the damage to my self image was the public shame. I had borrowed the gun from Walther with the understanding that I would write a review of the gun and submit it for publication. An honest review of the gun involved acknowledging in a public forum that I flinch. The story of my search would provide more information than I had bargained for.
After firing several more groups, I had put a total of 42 out of 90 rounds within two inches of the center of the target. It was not an auspicious beginning.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)