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Review: Walther Q4 Steel Frame

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Last year, Walther Arms launched its Q5 Match series of 9 mm pistols. The polymer-frame version, simply called the Q5 Match, was designed to meet customer requests for a tricked-out competition gun based on the duty-size PPQ 9 mm pistol.

The comfortable grip frame was left unaltered, but the slide was stretched to accommodate a 5” barrel, made optic-ready, beveled, vented and finished off with a set of fiber-optic target sights. It was the completion-ready PPQ folks had been waiting for.

At the same time, the company didn’t want to disregard customers who prefer the weightier feel and balance of an all-steel pistol. The other model in the series, the Q5 Match SF Pro, combines the souped up PPQ-pattern 5″ barrel competition slide assembly with a machined steel frame.

It is outfitted with a wraparound polymer grip and removable aluminum magazine well extension. The result is a recoil-taming target 9 mm that employs the same double-stack magazines and control configuration as the polymer-frame PPQ.

However, as is often the case when new models hit the market, the Q5 Match SF Pro inspired a fresh set of customer requests. These shooting enthusiasts were hoping that the company would use the heavier steel frame as the foundation for a trimmed down, duty-size pistol outfitted with a 4″ barrel and PPQ slide.

Such a gun would offer the same balance and control as the steel Match version while sporting a slide length and feature set suitable for law-enforcement personnel, civilian concealed carry and home defense. So, the company has released the Q4 Steel for 2020. Available in optic-ready or iron sights-only configurations, we had chance to take a closer look at the iron sight-only version.

The Q4 Steel is a double-action only, striker-fired semi-automatic with a Browning-type tilting barrel. Like the Walther Q5 Match series, the Q4’s PPQ lineage is clearly evident in the contours of the slide, configuration of the controls and its ignition system.

The PPQ-style carbon steel slide has a durable, matte-black Tenifer finish. The barrel, internal components and carbon-steel frame are also treated with Tenifer for improved wear and corrosion resistance.

The 7.4″ long PPQ-style slide features front and rear cocking serrations. The weight-reduction cutouts of the Q5 Match series are absent. The pistol I worked with was topped with a set of low-profile 3-dot Luminescent combat sights.

The large white dots of the front and rear sight contain a phosphorescent compound that glows softly when exposed to ambient light or brightly when briefly ‘charged’ with a tactical flashlight. The rear sight is drift adjustable for windage.

The slide’s top strap is grooved to reduce glare, and the ejection port has been beveled for improved ejection. The dimpled slide plate is metallic instead of the more common polymer plates found on the majority of striker-fired pistols.

When there is no round in the chamber, the 2″ long extractor arm recessed into the right side of the slide rests flush with the rear cocking serrations. Once a round is chambered, the back end of the extractor dips into its slide, exposing a red dot, which provides both a tactile and visible loaded chamber indicator.

Removing the slide reveals a 4″ barrels that features six grooves of 1:10″ twist right-handed rifling. Unlike the polygonal rifling favored by some manufacturers, a traditional land-and-groove configuration is well-suited to all pistol bullet types, including the less-expensive, cast-lead bullets preferred by competitors looking to reduce their ammunition costs. The steel guide rod features a single captured flat wire spring.

The Q4 Steel is one of those rare production guns in which the designers paid close attention to all of the frame’s touch points. Anywhere the operator’s hands come into contact with the steel, that surface has been thoughtfully smoothed out or treated with a just-right amount of texturing for positive purchase. The result is a frame that feels as good as it looks.

The steel frame is stamped ‘Carl Walther ULM/DO. Germany’ on the left side with the serial number applied to the barrel and slide as well as the frame. The dust cover is milled with a 1.4″ long 3-slot MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny accessory rail for mounting light or laser modules.

The metallic take down lever is found on the left side of the frame, along with the oversized polymer round-button magazine release, which is reversible for right or left hand operation. The ambidextrous slide-stop lever is recessed into the frame for a no-snag profile. Its extended length and textured surface make it easy to reach and operate.

The front of the roomy trigger guard is flattened, and treated to the same fine line checkering as the front strap of the grip to form a finger rest for the support hand. Where it meets the grip frame, the trigger guard is undercut for added comfort. The portion of the frame directly behind the polymer Quick Defense (QD) trigger is well-rounded for easier access to the trigger and magazine release button.

The QD trigger features and integral safety lever with a feel that is much better than the typically mushy and somewhat gritty triggers found in many of today’s striker fired polymer guns.

Featuring a short 0.4″ arch of travel with a 0.1” trigger reset, the trigger pull for this particular pistol was 5 lbs. 5 oz., which is 4 oz. lighter than the listed weight. When the trigger reaches the reset point, it gives an audible and tangible click that’s easy to recognize for quick follow-up shots.

Although the grip frame’s contours are inspired by the PPQ, this pistol does not have the interchangeable back straps of the polymer models. The one-piece polymer grip wraps around three sides of the frame and is secured in place by four hex head screws.

Walther’s Performance Grip texturing provides plenty of purchase without being overly aggressive. The Q4’s beavertail grip extension, which protects the shooting hand from slide bite, has been shortened and rounded to fit law enforcement-type holsters, which use retention hoods and to make the pistol more comfortable for concealed carry.

Weighing in at 39.7 oz. with an empty magazine in the grip, the Q4 Steel is shipped with two blued steel PPQ M Series 15-round magazines that have red polymer followers and flush-fit base plates. This gun also accepts magazines outfitted with +2 base extensions. It should be noted that the Q4 steel does not have a magazine disconnect safety. This means the pistol will fire with the magazine removed.

The Q4 Steel is easily disassembled for cleaning and routine maintenance. With the pistol pointed in a safe direction, remove the magazine and verify the pistol is completely unloaded. With the slide locked in the open position, rotate the take down lever clockwise from the 9 O’clock position to the 1 O’clock position.

While holding the slide, depress the slide stop and then ease it forward into the closed position. Fully depress the trigger and release it completely. The slide assembly can then be pressed forward off of the frame. Lift the recoil assembly out of the slide followed by the barrel. The pistol is ready to clean. Reassembly is conducted in reverse order without any tricky or unexpected steps required.

It’s not uncommon for a brand-new, all-steel pistol to need a break in period of 50 to 200 rounds. This smooths the contact points between the slide and frame so that the pistol will run reliably. Having broken in a few steel pistols along the way in this manner, I was prepared to give the Q4 Steel an extended workout before settling down into the accuracy testing.

However, no break-in was required with this model. The Q4 fed, fired and ejected reliably with no malfunctions from the first shot fired and throughout the entire testing process with a mix of practice-grade and premium ammunition. The slide cycled smoothly right out of the box and demonstrated clean fitting to the frame. The controls operated properly and the magazines dropped free of the grip when the magazine release was pressed.

But shooting from a bench rest has its limitations. It’s helpful for accuracy evaluation purposes but it gets in the way of finding out how the pistol will handle in more typical shooting situations. From a standing position with a two-handed hold, the pistol was fired quickly and slowly in various drills.

Getting off the bench allows this pistol to show off its excellent balance. It’s not enough to just make a target pistol heavier in order to improve its handling characteristics. The extra weight needs to be carefully distributed throughout the frame. Walther made sure this was the case with the Q4’s frame design. Paired with a top notch grip geometry, this pistol significantly reduces felt recoil for more satisfying group sizes down range.

In regards to accuracy, the Q4 shoots more like a competition gun than a carry piece. When I’m swinging the trigger on a well made semi-auto using the iron sights, 3″ to 3.5″ at 25 yards typically demonstrates that gun and I are both committed to a positive outcome. The Q4 performed better than that.

Gorilla Ammunition’s Silverback Defense 115-gr. solid copper hollow points printed a best group of 2.97″ with a five group average of 3.09″. SIG Sauer Elite Performance M17 Nato 124-gr. +P jacketed hollow points knocked out a best group of 2.42″ with an average of 2.53″. Winchester’s USA Ready competition grade 115-gr. full-metal jacket yielded a best group of 2.53″ with an average of 2.75″.

The Walther Q4 Steel is a handsomely crafted pistol which successfully blends an old-school frame composition with thoroughly modern features for a flexible platform capable of filling multiple roles. The company’s many years of high quality semi-automatic pistol production, including internationally recognized competition-grade firearms, is clearly demonstrated in this model.

I appreciate the fact that Walther is willing to accommodate those of us who prefer the level of control that a well-made, all-steel pistol provides. Despite their many other positive attributes, polymer-frame guns just don’t have the same feel or balance.

The use of so much carbon steel in a 21st century handgun may seem like an antiquated approach to some shooting enthusiasts. But in the end, shot placement is king. The Q4 Steel is a terrific reminder that steel frames still have a place in the handgun market.

Walther Q4 Steel Frame Specifications

Manufacturer: Walther Arms
Model: Q4 Steel Frame (2830019)
Action: Double-Action Browning Type Tilt Barrel Semi-Automatic
Ignition System: Striker-Fired
Caliber: 9 mm
Slide: Machined Carbon Steel, Front and Rear Cocking Serrations
Slide Finish: Matte Black Tenifer
Barrel: 4″ Match-Grade with Stepped Chamber, Tenifer Finish
Frame: Machined From Forged Carbon Steel, Tenifer Finish
Beaver Tail: Duty Optimized
Accessory Rail: 1.4″ 3-Slot MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny
Sights: Metallic 3-Dot Luminescent, Low Profile
Slide Release: Low Profile Extended, Ambidextrous
Magazine Release: Metallic Textured Round Button, Reversible
Trigger: Quick Defense with Integrated Safety
Trigger Pull: 5 lbs. 9.25 oz. (Listed), 5 lbs. 5 oz. (As Tested)
Magazine Well: Beveled
Lanyard Loop: Yes
Grips: Wrap Around Black Polymer, Performance Texturing
Barrel Length: 4″
Overall Length: 7.4″
Height: 5.4″ with Flat Base 15-Round Magazine
Slide Width: 1.1″
Grip Width: 1.4″
Weight: 39.7 oz. with Empty 15-Round Magazine
Capacity: 15+1 Rounds
Twist: 1:10” RH
Rifle Grooves: Polygonal
Accessories: Hard Sided Carry Case, Two 15-Round Magazines, Magazine Loader, Cable Lock, Owner’s Manual
MSRP: Starting at $1,399

Article by B. Gil Horman

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