The bulk of the handguns I evaluate trends toward small-to-medium-sized polymer guns that are optimized for size and weight but still give the shooter a viable gun for self-defense. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate guns built for other purposes or with other parameters. Especially when they are a work of art and engineering, such as the Walther Q4 SF.
When the Q4 was first announced, I was in a pool of writers all vying for the opportunity to get our hands on one of the limited number available for the press. As luck would have it, I got one of the first ones. That was a little over a year ago, and I’ve had the opportunity to use and enjoy the Q4 in various roles since that time.
A Little Background
All-steel guns. Aren’t they heavy? Why sure. Heavy like my 40-ounce Colt Q45 Marine 1911. Heavy like the new SIG 320 X5 Legion. Heavy like the SIG P226 the SEALs carry. Speaking of the P226, the Q4 fits right into a couple of my IWB/OWB holsters made specifically for the P226, and that’s saving me money.
I know people balk at the idea of carrying a gun that weighs anywhere close to two pounds, but lots of us carry them. It’s simply a matter of having the right belt/holster combination. I am admittedly a big guy around the midsection, but I have buddies who are beanpoles who carry big guns because they like them, and the right holster makes it not a problem.
What makes this gun worth even thinking about carrying it on your person? Let’s start with the name Walther. Technically it’s Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen. However, it is known around the world as simply Walther, makers of some of the finest pistols on the planet from ultra-small hideout guns to the Q5 Match and the Q4 which is the subject of this review.
The Walther factory was churning out police guns before WWII and P08s during the war — until the factory was destroyed near the end of the war. Production resumed after the war with a contract to equip the new West German Army with P38s — renamed P1. Walther was acquired by Umarex in 1993 and now has a distribution facility for the U.S. in Fort Smith, AR.
Walther has been responsive to the concealed carry market with several fine pistols including the easy-to-rack PDP (Performance Duty Pistol) that in appearance and operation is very much like the Q4, except the PDP is a polymer-framed handgun. Like the PDP, the Q4 is a smooth operator.
Walther Q4 SF Features
Cycling the slide, and operating the trigger, reminds me of driving my son’s Bimmer. The parts are fitted superbly, and the overall balance makes the weight seem inconsequential. The pistol is 7.25 inches from the crown of the muzzle to the back of the generously long beavertail. It measures 5.25 inches from the top of the rear sight to the base of the magazine. These are typical dimensions for a mid-size defensive pistol.
The Q4 is wider than many, measuring 1.37 inches at its widest point at the ambidextrous slide locks. Speaking of slide locks, these are some of the easiest to operate in the industry. They’re long and thin which helps in two ways — leverage and positioning.
Your thumb can operate it from wherever your thumb naturally rests, instead of having to reposition it to find a small lever. The slide locks are also recessed to help with concealability. The frame is machined from solid steel billet and interfaces with the slide as if they were hand-filed to match — German engineering at its finest.
The slide profile is a familiar one if you’ve handled other mid to full-size Walthers. The sides and front are rounded. There are cocking serrations front and rear with the Walther logo superimposed over the front ones.
The top of the slide has full-length, anti-glare grooves and large phosphoric night sights. A large opening is cut for ejection and a small window at the rear of the port on the righthand side serves as a loaded chamber indicator. The combination of the slide’s weight, the excellent machining of the steel, and the balance of the recoil spring make racking the slide an easy task — even for my arthritic hands.
The trigger guard is large enough for gloves and generously undercut to allow a high grip. The whole scheme of the grip promotes a strong grip. The metal wrap-around grip panel is aggressively textured but not painfully so. The palm swell produces a natural fit and the checkering extends to the front and rear.
You can operate this gun when it’s raining, snowing, or muddy, and you’re not likely to drop it. But if you do, there is a drop safety for the trigger. There’s also a blade safety on the trigger.
The front of the trigger guard is squared off with a small tab. I’ve read many instructors and reviewers who discourage putting the index finger of the support hand on the front of the trigger guard, and I think I was once in that group. However, these days as I’m dealing with age-related shaky hands, I find that position helps, and it works on the Q4. Ahead of the trigger guard, a three-slot Picatinny rail facilitates mounting your favorite light, laser, or combo. The big mag release button behind the trigger guard is reversible.
There are two things somewhat legendary about Walther handguns, both found on this model. One is the barrel, which is known to be very accurate for a production gun. The other is what Walther calls the Quick Defense trigger, hailed by many as one of the best striker-fired triggers in the industry.
I haven’t fired every striker-fired pistol out there, but I have fired a lot of them. I have to say this trigger is one of the best. There’s less than .25-inch take-up, then a very smooth break at about 5.5 pounds. Reset is almost too short to measure.
In addition to the firearm with two magazines, a magazine loader and the requisite lock in the plastic carrying case the Q4 arrived in, there was a 15-meter target fired by Heir Graetz at the factory with a group that I thought might be a challenge for me to beat. It wasn’t.
At the Range
The Q4 made me look good on the very first outing with one of my grandsons and his friend. As I invited them to shoot it, I discovered it made them look good, too. Most of the ammo I had with me that day was 115-grain. I shot some pretty good groups from 10–12 yards, but the best ones were with 135-grain Speer Gold Dot Carry Gun. That made me think the gun might like heavier rounds better.
On the next range trip, I shot heavier defensive rounds: Hornady 135-grain Critical Duty, Speer’s 135-grain Gold Dot Carry Gun, Speer 147-grain G2 and SIG Sauer’s 147-grain V-Crown. The SIG Sauer V-Crown rounds almost followed each other into the same hole. The other heavier rounds also grouped very well.
This was the first time for me to shoot Critical Duty in years because it hurts me to shoot it, but not with the Q4. My entire shooting session with these heavier rounds was comfortable because of the weight and action of the gun. I was in no hurry to end the shooting session, and I experienced no discomfort later.
My Walther Q4 left the factory before they started adding an optic-ready slide. Those are now available, and at a recent writer’s conference, I did get a chance to shoot a Q4 with a Riton red dot sight mounted on it. I found it a delight to shoot and easily blew the center out of a target that was 15 yards down range. If you’re looking for a quality handgun that will last several lifetimes, you can’t go wrong with a Walther Q4 SF.
Steel guns are not as in vogue as polymer designs, but like the Walther Q4, they have their following and fans. What is your preference polymer, steel, or both? Share your answer and why in the comment section.