Thursday, May 24, 2012


The Semi-Auto Polish RPDM Built by DSA
by Mishaco May 20th, 2012

In Russian, RPD stands for: Ruchnoy Pulemet Degtyarova which translates into: Degtyarov Light Machine Gun according to Max's ModernFirearms site, or hand-held machine gun of Degtyaryov according to Wikipedia.

The dust-cover has the Radom Circle11 proof mark and a date of 1960. I haven't had anyone to ask yet if all serials match or if they force matched the receiver to the original parts kit serials. It is the RPDM variant made in Poland; not an RPD Egyptian. They put out rifles built from both types of kits and no way did I want an Egyptian one. Really for two reasons. First I do not have any Egyptian guns but i do have several Polish, so a Radom RPD would fit my collection so much better. Second, the Radom guns had many of the late-model product improvements that I think are just neat.

The rifle came with: 4 - 50 round belts, 2 belt containers (aka drums), 2 drum pouches with shoulder strap and side pocket for stuff, a nice condition original sling, a drop-case, buttstock cleaning and tool kit, cleaning rod, large oil bottle, and blank fire muzzle adapter. So a pretty complete kit I'd say.

RPD Specifications:
Caliber 7,62x39 mm
Weight 7,4 kg empty, on integral bipod
Weight of Loaded Drum Container: approximately 1.4 kg
Length 1,037 mm
Length of barrel 520 mm
Feeding belt 100 rounds in drum-like box
Rate of fire 650 rounds per minute
Practical Rate: 150 rounds per minute
Muzzle velocity 735 m/s
Effective range 100—1,000 m sight adjustments
Sights Open-type sights with rear sliding notch and semi-hooded front post, 596.6 mm (23.5 in) sight radius. Both are adjustable for windage and elevation.


The RPD was developed by Vasily Degtyaryov during WWII. His design won out after a Soviet mandated trial to develop a new light machine gun that could fire the then new 7.62x39 M43 cartridge. In 1943, the government asked Vasily Degtyaryov, Sergei Simonov and Alexei Sudayev to each submit a new MG design for the new cartridge. The RPD by Degtyaryov was declared the winner in 1944 and it was authorized for further refinement and serial production. It was said that the RPD was more reliable and durable than the other designs and that could very well have been true. Its also possible that a bit of favoritism was shown to Degtyaryov as the Soviet Army had been using his DP machine guns in 7.62x54R for a number of years already. As well, Stalin was known to play favorites as with the TT33. The Man of Steel just liked Mr. Tokarev, so his designs got fast tracked. Maybe he liked Degtyaryov too, or maybe the RPD really was that much better than the rest?
At any rate, the RPD was ready for production and general issue by 1945, but the war's end delayed its deployment. A few RPDs were shipped to the Red Army during the 1940s for testing, evaluation, and limited usage; but it wasn't until 1953, that large numbers started to appear in the hands of Russian soldiers. The RPD replaced older DP, DPM, and DPT machine guns and fullscale production continued in Russia through 1959. I know 6 years doesn't seem like a long time, but remember this is Soviet Russia we are talking about here; the guys who manufactured over 20 million Mosin Nagant rifles alone while at the same time under invasion by Nazi Germany. So in peacetime and with the desire to do so, they could and did make a lot of RPDs during those years.
In 1956, both Poland and China also started producing licensed copies of the MG. Later, Egypt and North Korea also domestically built RPDs. In China it was known as the Type 56, in N. Korea as the Type 62, in Poland it was designated the RKM-D, and in Egypt as the RPD or Suez. So not that many nations actually manufactured the weapon, but many used it.

Here's a list of users from Wikipedia. 

The list was missing Poland of all nations, so I bet it leaves out others too, but it gives one a good idea of how prolific the RPD became.

It seems like Russia and China were the biggest global exporters, with Egypt selling mostly to other African and Arabic nations. Polish and North Korean production was mostly for domestic use.

The RPD was officially replaced by the RPK of AK design in 1959. The RPK was cheaper and faster to produce; being made of stamped steel parts instead of forged ones. Also, it used many of the same parts as the AKM and could accept the same magazines. So RPDs were slowly phased out of service in Russia throughout the 1960s and were mostly gone by 1970. According to Max's Modern Firearms site, many soldiers preferred the RPD over the RPK and resisted the changeover. He goes on to state that some RPDs can still be found in reservist arsenals in the Russian Federation even today.

It soldiered on in many other nations such as Poland, Egypt, Hungary, and Romania for many more years. It was the standard general issue machine gun for the North Vietnamese during their war with the US and was quite popular with VC soldiers. It wasn't replaced until well into the 1990s in fact. It was equally popular in Iraq during the 1980s Iran-Iraq War. The RPD served along side the RPK during that war and the Iraqi Army had versions from just about every manufacturer, but never actually had a domestically produced version. It is still in use today and has been used with and against American soldiers in both Gulf Wars. The RPD is still very common in Africa and some parts of East Asia. Its a simple, robust belt-fed that fires commonly available ammunition. They just keep getting traded around; going from one hot spot to another all around the world. RPDs will probably still be popping up on battlefields several decades in the future. See, when nations actually ship us in the USA their old guns and we convert them to be civilian legal, we are actually helping reduce global arms trading!

Technical Information

The RPD is technically a light machine gun or squad automatic weapon. In fact, it is in a way, the father of the whole idea of a SAW. It has a fixed heavy 21" long barrel with non-detachable folding tubular bipod. The barrel is threaded on the end for a blank fire adapter and otherwise will have a simple muzzle nut on the end. It is this barrel arrangement that limits the RPD as an LMG and that has earned it a great deal of criticism. Since it can't be quickly removed during a fire fight and swapped with a fresh barrel, if too many rounds are fired too quickly, the barrel can overheat. The weapon's mechanical rate of fire is 650 rounds per minute, but its practical rate is only 150. Any more than that and problems arise.

The barrel is screwed into a forged main receiver with hinged top-cover. This cover is made of rather thick steel and very durable. The weapon fires only in full-auto and from an open bolt. When the trigger is pressed, the bolt is forced forward by the mainspring, a round is stripped from the belt/feed-tray, and once it reaches the end of its travel, two flaps on either side come out and engage milled out slots in the receiver walls. Once the bolt is fully forward with a round on the bolt face, and the bolt is locked into the receiver by the flaps; a striker type firing pin is released and the cartridge is ignited. Then the projectile travels down the barrel and once it passes over the gasport located on the underside of the bore, gases behind it travel down and exert pressure on a long-stroke gas piston. The piston in turn strikes the bolt carrier, which unlocks the bolt, and everything travels rearward, ejecting the spent casing.

The RPD has an adjustable gas block with 3 positions to allow the user to assure reliability without over gassing the action. The main return spring is located in the top section of the buttstock. There is a manual safety located on the right side of the receiver above the trigger guard.
The front sight is adjustable for windage and elevation by use of a tool and has two protective ears on each side. The rear sight are mounted on the dustcover and can be adjusted by hand for both windage and elevation. The rear sight too is protected by two ears. There is a charging handle located on the right side of the receiver and a mounting block for the belt container/drum on the underside, with a lever that locks it in place. These drums are installed from the rear and are just hollow containers for the belts. Each belt holds 50 cartridges and 2 can be linked together. The first belt will have a starter tab and the second one is held to it by a linked round. The belt is fed in from the left and is non-dissintegrating and reusable. Each drum has a dustcover for the ammunition port and a carry handle. It can be opened from the rear also.

The machine gun's furniture is made entirely of wood: handguards, pistol grip, and buttstock. It is designed to be used with the bipod, but can also be shoulder or hip fired if required. The handguards completely enclose the barrel and gas cylinder. The pistol grip is made of two panels and the buttstock is paddle style. It has a storage compartment for a tobacco can style cleaning kit. The way the compartment opens is a bit unique. A spring loaded lip is depressed and at the same time the operator rotates the large cover. The cleaning rod itself is a single piece design and is stored on the left side of the receiver and runs from the gas block to just behind the pistol grip. It is removed by pulling up on the rear end and back towards the buttstock; not forward as on most other weapons.
Between initial design in 1944 and final production in Russia in 1959, the RPD was upgraded and altered in a few ways. One of the earliest improvements was that chromelining was added to the bore and gasblock. This increased the barrel's service life and made cleaning easier. Two very good things for a machine gun with a fixed barrel. Another early on change occurred with the rear sight as the windage adjustment knob was relocated from the right to the left side. Obviously this change meant the operator could use the off hand to adjust the sight, without reaching over the entire weapon.

In the mid 1950s, the charging handle was changed as well. With the original design, the handle was fixed to the bolt carrier and moved back and forth with it. The upgraded handle was non-reciprocating and also could be folded upward when not in use. Around the same time, a dustcover was added to the feed port. Now, I am unclear on something. With my late model gun, there are actually two dust-covers: a small one on the right side and a larger one on the left. I am not sure if both were added during the upgrade, or if only the larger one on the left was and the smaller on the right was always present? Either way, the weapon was made more resistant to dust and dirt.
It seems a final round of changes were implemented during the late 1950s. The gas cylinder was made slightly longer, i assume for better reliability or durability? Those seem to be the two driving features behind com-block weapons. Also, I have read in a few places that a recoil buffer was added inside the buttstock. Well, the mainspring is already in there, so I am thinking it might be something for it to ride in better or that lessons felt recoil? I am unclear on this last round of changes as sources are vague and there are not that many of them.

As far as who made which version, it seems Egypt mostly kept to the original design, even going so far as to retain the reciprocating charging handle. Poland on the other hand made mostly the fully upgraded/altered version, often referred to as the RPDM (M for Modern, like the AKM or PKM). China's Type 56 was very similar to the original Soviet pattern, but it later introduced the Type 56-1. This version lacked the fixed drum retaining hanger, instead relying on a modified dustcover flap to hook the drum onto. Also, it replaced the side mounted single piece cleaning rod, with a two piece version which was stored in the buttstock along with the other cleaning tools.

My DSA Semi-Auto RPD 

I decided to get an RPD after years of wanting one, but frankly until recently, not able to afored one. What pushed me over the edge was seeing one at my friend Bill's shop back in February. I was impressed with the quality of the milled receiver, trust the DSA name, and felt right you know? So the next week i called DSA and ordered one. The pictures you've been viewing throughout this thread and the gun I now own, are not the gun i ordered from DSA. The rifle i ordered from DSA never shipped to me.  So what happened? Honestly I have not a clue. Anyway, the rifle still isn't ready and the reason is murky to me.

So how do I like my rifle after 3 months of waiting? I love the damn thing. The build quality is great, they took the time to do all the little things like dust-covers, side mounted cleaning rod, and just a solid overall feel. This gun feels like an LMG and like it could go through combat no problem. I also love that they ship it with all the goodies rather than trying to sell them at an extra cost.

One thing to note, in the past, DSA would make the receivers for these and ship them to Wiselite who would actually assemble the rifles. Some of the Wiselite guns seem to have worked fine and others not at all. It was enough of a crap shoot that DSA cancelled their agreement with WLA and began building everything about the semi RPD in house. My friend Bill has sold 3 of these so far, not counting mine. He told me all of the DSA made ones have run fine. Here's to hoping all of my bad luck was just in getting it and now i will have a fun and unique shooter and keeper. I am going to give this one every possible chance as its really about the only belt fed I can afford to have and fire. The 1919s are about the same price, but 7.62x39 is a hell of a lot cheaper than 7.62x51mm NATO or .30-06. Also, with my Russian collection, the RPD just fits in better anyway.

Watch the video review here!

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Heckler & Koch Rifles and SMGs

 The H&K G3 Battle rifle: 1959

(the STG-45(m) prototype chambered in 7.92x33mm aka 8mm Kurz)
The famous Heckler & Koch G3 battle rifle really wasn't a new or innovative design when it was adopted by the West German Army in the late 1950s. In fact its roots can be traced back to the STG-45(M) prototype developed by Abteilung 37 at Oberndorf am Neckar (aka the special weapons development group at Mauser). The STG-45(M) never went into general production and only a few completed parts sets were even ever made, but it did pioneer the roller delayed blowback recoil system without the usage of a gas system. After the war, the design prints and even the designers themselves of the STG-45(M), went in two directions. Ludwig Vorgrimler took the blueprints to Spain and teamed up with Cetme. Some other German engineers from Mauser were convinced to relocate to France and put their expertise to work at the Ceam small arms factory.

French efforts to develop a roller delayed blowback carbine resulted in the CEAM Modèle 1950, which never went into production due to budgetary cutbacks. Cetme in Spain however, took the design and ran with it.

(Model 02 prototype in 7.92mm Cetme.)

The Cetme Model 02 was chambered for a proprietary 7.92x40mm intermediate cartridge. It was a roller-delayed blowback full-sized rifle without a gas system of any kind. The Model 02 drew the attention of the West German Bundesgrenzschutz, but they wanted it capable of handling a standard full power NATO cartridge. So next came the Cetme Model A, chambered for 7.62x51mm.

(The Model A chambered for 7.62mm Cetme.)

Unfortunately, the Model A could only safely handle a reduced power version of the cartridge and in 1956, the West German Bundesgrenzschutz lost patience with the development of the design and adopted the FN FAL as the G1 instead. Cetme however, did not give up on the system and teamed up with Heckler&Koch to develop the Model B.

(the Cetme Model B or Modello-58.)

The Model B still fired the reduced power 7.62mm Cetme round, but had an improved metal handguard, and could fire 22mm standard rifle grenades. It was officially adopted by the Spanish military in 1958, as the Modello-58. Further refinement of the design continued and a year later, the West German Bundeswehr officially adopted a modified version of the Cetme Model B as the G3.
The G3 differed from the Model B in several smaller ways such as sights, furniture, and bayonet mounting style; however, the most important difference was the fact the G3 could safely fire the standard 7.62mm NATO full power cartridge. It should be noted that the Modello-58 could also fire 7.62mm NATO if an improved bolt group and recoil system were installed. Later, the Spanish military would adopt a version of the Cetme intended exclusively for the NATO round.

(Original first generation G3 battle rifle.)

Two manufacturers were contracted with by the West German government for G3 production: Rheinmetall and H&K. Rheinmetall produced rifles until 1969 and in 1977, H&K negotiated with the government for full rights to the production line.

The original G3 battle rifle had a wooden buttstock and either a metal or wooden handguard. It also had a straight style of cocking tube and a different pattern of sights. The G3A1 was the same rifle, but with a 2 position metal collapsing buttstock. It was the G3A2 which introduced the now famous HK style of diopter sights and the tapered cocking tube. Originally, G3s were issued with 20 round steel box magazines.

(Standard issue G3A3 with polymer furniture.)
(G3A4 with metal collapsing buttstock.)

The G3A3 became the most common version in West German service and had a polymer buttstock and handguard with steel heat shield. The G3A4 was the same as the A3, but with a 2 position metal collapsing buttstock. The A4 was also offered in a carbine version with a 13" barrel, known as the G3KA4. Around 1964, H&K attempted to develop a disposable 20 round plastic magazine for the G3, but instead the now very common aluminum 20 round magazine was adopted. The aluminum magazine was easier to manufacture than a plastic one and was just as lightweight. Most G3s issued from the late 1960s onward had these magazines, though the older steel box magazines continued to be manufactured and used.

(The G3KA4 carbine, used by Special Forces such as the British SAS.)

The G3 design was adopted into over 50 militaries around the world and licensed produced in nearly a dozen factories. I am not going to type out all of the makers of the series, but i will say it was used in Sweden as the AK4 and in Norway as the AG3. These Scandinavian versions had a few minor upgrades including a finger sized serrated spot on the bolt carrier for manual closure like a forward assist, a slightly longer buttstock, and an all metal cocking handle. Most militaries retired the G3 in the late '90s or early 2000s. Naturally many can still be found in South America, Asia, and Africa, especially in the hands of paramilitary forces.

Click here to view Wikipedia's list of users.

(My G3A3 Clone: PTR-91GI.)

The G3 was also made by H&K as a semi-auto only rifle starting in 1962. Early semis were still marked G3 and had paddle mag releases and lower frames held in place by a push-pin. In 1964, the HK41 was introduced as the semi-auto version of the G3. Until 1974, the HK41 was produced with the same paddle mag release and push pin lower. A few did make it into the USA before the 1968 Firearms Act, but HK41s imported in 1974, lacked these military style features as well as grenade rings and usually did not have bayonet lugs. IN 1975, the series was renamed to HK91, but remained basically the same except for changes in the markings. In 1989, military style rifles were banned by an executive order signed by President Bush, and the HK91 was prohibited by name. A few rifles caught in transit were quickly renamed HK911. These rifles had a thumbhole stock instead of a pistol grip and military stock arrangement. They also had their flash hiders removed and muzzle nuts welded over the barrel threads. These modifications were done to make the rifles 'sporting' under the new restrictions. Finally, in the early '90s, a more permanent and sporting replacement for the HK91 was introduced by H&K the SR9. The SR9 was actually a series and featured a PSG-1 profile barrel, thumbhole buttstock, non-threaded barrel, and a handguard not capable of accepting a bipod. Even the SR9 was prohibited from importation in 1997, when it was declared still too evil because it could accept standard high capacity G3 magazines. I think after all this and because they were closing out the production line anyway, H&K just gave up on trying to export guns for US civilian consumers.

Springfield Armory also imported an HK91 clone under the SAR-3 designation. The SAR-3 was produced by Hellenic Defense Systems in Greece and was very similar to the original H&K rifle. The SAR-3 was also banned from importation in 1989, so Springfield responded with the sAR-8. This version, like the HK911, had a thumbhole stock and non-threaded barrel. SAR-8 importation ended in 1994, though Springfield did domestically produce more rifles named SAR-8 in the late '90s. These were built using US made cast receivers and surplus or unissued G3/91 parts sets.

Century Arms International has produced both Cetme and G3 Sporter clones since the late '90s, using military surplus parts sets and US manufactured receivers. Some use original barrels while others have US made ones. These can vary wildly in terms of quality and fit and finish. The Cetme Sporter is still in production, but it seems the G3 Sporter is not.

IN 2001, JLD Enterprises in the USA purchased tooling to manufacture the G3/HK91 from FMP in Portugal. Originally, JLD manufactured the PTR-91F as a target rifle version of the HK91 with a heavier barrel and .308 spec. chamber, but more recently, the PTR-91GI has been introduced. The PTR91GI is more like an original G3A3 with a thinner lighter barrel, and 7.62mm NATO spec. chamber. It is finished in a military style dark grey parkerization and ships with original G3 furniture. My rifle is a GI model. Originally it came with the standard PTR91 polymer lower, but I have installed a parkerized steel G3 lower that was clipped and pinned for a more original look. I also added a bayonet lug and mine has an original HK flash hider, which is good as the US made hiders that PTR uses are just a hair too wide to let a bayonet easily slip over them. Mine also shipped with an original HK trigger group and recoil spring guide. I am very happy with it and its been 100% reliable except for the very first round of Tula I tried firing. I think it was due to me not having removed enough grease from the bolt group. Since that one thing, no problems at all though. I am very happy with it the way it is, though i might have a paddle mag release installed eventually.

It is pictured with an original steel H&K mag in it along with a military leather 2 cell pouch and surplus leather sling. For a long time i wanted a close copy of the G3A3. The Century guns were quite close to original as they were built with original demilled G3 parts, but their quality just wasn't as high as I'd have liked. The PTR91Fs on the other hand had the quality I was looking for, but were too much of a target rifle for my tastes. So when the GI was released, it was perfect for my wants. Also, a price tag of $850 new wasn't at all shabby considering new Cetme Sporters from CAI are about $600 these days if you can even find one for sale.

My PTR91GI looks very nice next to my East German MPI-KM (AKM clone produced in the DDR) as together one can really compare what each German state was using during the Cold War.

The H&K HK33 Assault Rifle: 1968

 (Standard 1970s production HK33A2 with fixed buttstock.)

After the initial success of the G3 battle rifle, H&K decided to use the same operating principles and layout to create an entire family of rifles and carbines. Starting in 1964, the HK32 and HK33 went into development. The HK32 was of similar dimensions as the HK33, but chambered for the 7.62x39mm M43 Soviet cartridge. It was targeted at nations that were not allied with the Warsaw Pact such as Finland, but due to their close proximity to such nations did use the same 7.62x39 round. The HK32 never took off and only a few prototypes were ever built by H&K. Its sister design however, the HK33 did find respectable success. The 33 was chambered for the then very new .223 Remington round just starting to see some use by American forces in Vietnam. The 33 wasn't really meant to replace the G3 in West German service. It was targeted for export and special forces contracts rather.

The Hk33 used the same roller-delayed blowback system as the G3, but was scaled down for the smaller cartridge. It had a shorter 15.3" barrel, forearm, and cocking tube, but still retained the G3's general profile. From the outset, the 33 was offered with either 25 round steel or 40 round aluminum magazines. The latter magazines gave the rifle a distinct advantage over the Colt M16 with its 20 round magazines. Development and trials continued with the platform, until it was officially released for commercial sales in 1968.

Originally, the Hk33 had a barrel with a 1in12 twist rate for stabilizing the 55g .223 projectile, but in 1982 it was given the faster 1in7 rate for the new 62g 5.56mm NATO round. Another major change occurred in 1980, when the recoil buffer system was moved from the bolt carrier to the end-cap of the buttstock. A few other changes happened during the '70s including adding a finger sized serration to the bolt carrier as a manual closure forward assist, offering a wide 'tropical' forearm capable of supporting a quick detach bipod, and strengthening the buttstock. Usually a rifle with all of the modernizations is generically referred to as an HK33e. All in all though, the design did not really change all that much during its production run at H&K.

The design came in several versions. The HK33A2 was the standard rifle with fixed buttstock and the HK33A3 was the same, but with a collapsible two position metal stock. What about the plain HK33 and HK33A1 though? I suspect these were older versions with fixed or collapsing stocks. Its possible the HK33 differed from the HK33A2 by having a steel lower, only offered with a slim handguard, and the early buffer system; but I can not find any evidence of this designation being used to refer to such a model. Perhaps it was dropped before serial production began? It just makes since based on how H&K has organized their naming system with their other rifles.

(The SMG sized HK53 with the more common retractable buttstock.)
At any rate back to variants. As with the G3, a carbine version was also offered with a shorter 12.3" barrel and collapsing stock designated as the HK33KA3. An LMG version was marketed as the HK13 with a quick detach barrel and drum magazines too, but by far the most successful member of the family was the HK53. Looking around it actually seems like the 53 might have seen even more use than the basic HK33. The HK53 was a submachinegun sized version with a 8.5" barrel, short MP5 type handguard, and most later versions came with an open-ended 4 prong flash hider. Most all of the HK53s in service had the classic H&K collapsing buttstock. Its really no wonder the design was popular as it gave users a very compact and easy to handle firearm that nevertheless still fired a powerful rifle cartridge.

An interesting footnote in this rifle's history is the T223 prototype marketed by H&R of the United States in 1965-1966. The T223 was built from imported H&K parts by H&R and was very similar to the standard HK33, but also featured a last-round bolt hold open device. Special 25 round T223 magazines were manufactured to work with the BHO. The rifle could use standard HK33 magazines, but the bolt would not remain back on an empty magazine. About 50 such prototypes were shipped over to Vietnam for Navy SEALs to try out. Obviously, the design never took off and there is very little information on the T223 today. It had a slim handguard and was issued with original German 40 round magazines, as well as the US produced 25 rounders.

The HK33 did not obtain the same success as the G3 and MP5, but nevertheless several militaries and police departments did adopt some member of the family. It was manufactured under license in both Turkey and Thailand for their militaries. Malaysia also adopted the HK33, but did not actually manufacture the parts. Instead, virgin parts were shipped from Germany and final assembly occurred in Malaysia. The reason it seems that some are under the false impression that Malaysia manufactured licensed clones of the rifle domestically is because often "Malaysia and Thailand' are mentioned together in the same passage and it is true that Thailand has made complete T11 clones of the HK33 domestically.

Click here for Wikipedia's list of users.

As with the G3, H&K also marketed a semi-auto version of the HK33. The HK43 was sold in the USA in 1974 and was built with an original 15.3" 33 barrel and had a permanently attached flash hider. It did not have a grenade ring or bayonet lug, just like the late HK41s. A new 30 round steel magazine was created for and sold with the HK43. In 1975, H&K also rebranded the semi-auto .223 as the HK93. The 93 also was manufactured with a 16.25" civilian barrel and had a removable flash hider. It too shipped with 30 round magazines. It seems that most of the 93s imported had barrels with a 1in12 twist rate and only rifles brought in in the late '80s had the 1in7 twist rate. It was banned from further importation by name in 1989.

Not nearly as many manufacturers have built semi-auto, civilian legal clones of the HK33. Special Weapons did make some, though I know little about them and have not personally fired one. I am sure they are about like Todd Bailey's other offerings.

More recently, with the availability of thousands of surplus HK33 parts kits from Malaysia, Century Arms has been producing the C93 Sporter. The C93 is built from original military parts on a newly made US receiver and with a new 16.25" long barrel. The rifle does have most of the military features, many of which were not offered on the original HK93, such as a grenade ring on the barrel and bayonet lug. It also features a flash hider, wide tropical handguard, folding carry handle, and a rather ugly US made grip frame. The C93 is of decent quality, especially when one factors in its low cost and the fact it uses many original H&K manufactured parts. It does not have a paddle magazine release and comes with either a black or grey parkerized finish.
Just this year, Century has also introduced a semi-auto version of the HK53 as the C93 Pistol. The pistol has an 8.5" long barrel, shortened cocking tube, and MP5 type wide handguard. It is also built from surplus original H&K parts and as it is a pistol, it uses an original grip frame. It has an end-cap with sling swivel instead of a stock. These are honestly too new to know how well they will be accepted by the market, but initial reception has been mostly positive. Many of the US parts are manufactured by RCM, which is a good thing.

(My HK33 Clone: the Vector V93.)

Vector Arms in Utah has been producing a semi-auto clone of the HK93 using surplus parts for several years now. It is named the V93 and is built with a receiver flat imported from Turkey. It uses an original 15.3" long HK33 barrel and has its flash hider permanently attached to the barrel to give it a legal overall length. The V93 has a bayonet lug, grenade ring, and does have a paddle type magazine release. It also uses an original military grip frame, converted to semi-only. All V93s ship with the wide tropical handguard and come with either an a2 fixed stock or an A3 metal collapsing stock. They have a powder coat baked on finish rather than parkerization.

Here is my V93 with the A2 stock as that's what I prefer. I added a slim HK33 handguard to it from RTG and i really like the results. It is pictured with an original 2 pocket HK33 40 round magazine pouch and also with a com-block 4 pocket RPK pouch. The RPK pouch holds the taller aluminum 40 rounders very well. A sling made by POF I believe is on the rifle. I can't say how reliable it is as I have not fired it yet. That said, I've sold many of these and no one has complained yet to me about functional problems.

Vector also makes a clone of the HK53, as the V53 pistol. It is very similar to the Century C93 Pistol, but has the powder coat finish and paddle style magazine release. I believe the V53 is built with a US made barrel from RCM too.

The H&K MP5 Submachinegun: 1966
(The original HK54 design, which became the MP5.)

The MP5 began its life at nearly the same time as the HK32 and HK33 in 1964 as part of H&K's desire to have an entire family of weapons based on the roller delayed system. Originally the MP5 was designated by the company as the HK54. Primary development was conducted in 1965. The HK54 fired the standard 9x19mm NATO cartridge, derived from the earlier 9x19mm Parabellum round. It was an SMG sized weapon with an 8.5" barrel, short handguard, and polymer buttstock. After adapting the roller system to handle the full power 7.62x51mm and the intermediate .223 round, scaling the system to work with 9mm was an easy challenge to overcome.

By 1966, the HK54 was ready for full-scale production and it immediately took off. Within the first year it was adopted by the West German Federal Police, border guard, and army special forces. It was at this time it received its iconic designation of Maschinenpistole 5. The MP5 replaced some older Israeli made Uzis, designated in West German service as MP2s, but it should be noted that the West German Army continued to use the Uzi and never adopted the MP5.

Original SMGs from the '60s were slightly different from later ones. Most notably, they had slim handguards instead of the more recognizable wide 'tropical' ones later offered by H&K. They also used different sights with a blade type front and flip notch type rear. The barrel had a 2 slot compensator on the end. The original magazines were straight with finger grooves and held 30 rounds.
(Standard later MP5A2.)
(the MP5A3 with retractable stock)

In 1977, the 30 round arch or curved magazine was introduced along with a new shorter 15 round version for special purpose applications. I am not really going to say much on the MP5 as there are entire websites online dedicated to it and you might know a lot more than me about it anyway. Honestly, of the three H&K designs discussed in this thread, the MP5 excites me the least. Though i do admit i like shooting them.

The MP5 designation refers to the original configuration with fixed buttstock and metal trigger housing. MP5A1 is the same weapon but with a 2 position collapsable stock. MP5A2 is the modernized version with current drum diopter rear sights, protected front post, polymer lower housing, wide handguards, 3 lug adapter for a suppressor on the end of the barrel, and with a fixed polymer buttstock. Not surprisingly, MP5A3 is the name given to the version with the 2 position collapsing buttstock. Its worth noting that the MP5 uses a much shorter stock than the G3 and even shorter than the HK33 due in part to its shorter receiver. The A4 and A5 versions are the same as A2 and A3 but with a 4 position selector lever: safe, semi, 3 rd burst, and fully automatic.
(an MP5SD-3 with collapsing buttstock)
(An earlier MP5K.)

In 1974, the MP5SD was introduced. The SD was designed to fire standard ammunition suppressed. It has a shorter 5.7" barrel, integrated suppressor made of aluminum, a lightened bolt group, and different handguard style.

In 1976, the machinepistol sized MP5K was made available with a shorter 4.5" barrel, shorter handguard with vertical grip, shorter receiver, shorter bolt carrier, and end-cap with sling swivel only. The MP5K was most often marketed with the shorter 15 round magazine once it was available.
(The US Navy's MP5N SMG.)

The MP5N was designed per an United States Navy SEALs request. It has a slightly longer barrel with threading for a suppressor, factory night sights, an all polymer lower trigger housing, and additional macho points to make up for the fact an American soldier is firing a 9mm.
(An MP5PDW Personal Defense Weapon.)

Finally, in 1991, the MP5PDW was released. The PDW is based on the MP5K, but with a slightly longer barrel with a 3 lug adapter and a side folding polymer buttstock built for H&K by the American company Choate.

Click here to view Wikipedia's list of users.

(My MP5A2 Clone: the MKE AT94.)
As with the G3 and HK33, H&K also marketed a semi-auto only, civilian legal version of the MP5 in the United States named the HK94. The 94 was similar to the original but had a 16.5" barrel, no 3 lug adapter, and no paddle magazine release lever. Also as with the others, the HK94 was banned from further importation in 1989. Trying to work around the new restrictions, H&K introduced the SP89 pistol the same year. The SP89 was a semi-auto version of the MP5K with a 4.5" barrel and endcap with sling swivel. To comply with US laws, the pistol did not have a vertical foregrip, instead it had a slightly longer handguard. It was also banned from further importation in 1994.

The MP5 is the most cloned HK type in the USA. Special Weapons, Bobcat, Coharie, Vector, Velocity Arms, and more have built them from both surplus military parts and newly manufactured US parts. Quality can range from barely acceptable, to as good as an original HK94. One thing all clones seem to share is a pretty high price tag. There is no cheap way to own an MP5 clone.

American Tactical Imports (ATI) briefly imported some MP5/HK94 clones built in Turkey by MKE. Three models were brought in: a pistol with a 16" barrel and no handguard or stock, a carbine with a 16" barrel, handguards, buttstock, and pistol grip; and finally an MP5K style pistol with a 4.5" barrel and no handguard. The two pistols could take standard double stack 30 rd MP5 magazines and furniture. The AT94A2 carbine on the other hand, could only accept 10 rd magazines and had a modified rear section and a pistol grip and buttstock group which was welded together. I believe the ATF reversed their decision on the carbine and no more were allowed in after 1 or 2 batches. The pistols both are still legal to import, however, when it came time for a 3rd batch to be imported, ATI and MKE entered into a dispute over pricing. It seems MKE wanted to raise it and ATI did not like the idea much. As a result, no more AT94s have been imported in over a year.

This is my AT94, which began life as a pistol. It features a 16" long barrel that is slightly heavier/thicker than that of the HK94. It came from the factory with the paddle style magazine release, which is great; but did not come with a handguard, which was annoying. Now you can find slim MP5 handguards at RTG and HKParts, but when i bought my pistol, they were not available. Finally i found a few at Numrich of all places and ordered 2 sets. I bought an A2 buttstock from RTG, and an A3 collapsing stock from Numrich. Both are POF made, but i returned the A3 stock as i just frankly disliked it. I am a fixed stock guy. I picked up a barrel shroud/faux suppressor from E&L who make a specific version for the AT94's heavier barrel. Its a very nice fake can: lightweight, fits great, and doesn't attach directly to the barrel. Instead it has a screw which presses on a ring inside. So instead of having screws directly pressing onto the barrel, there is a metal ring which squeezes the barrel. I also replaced the MKE lower with an original HK MP5 lower that was clipped and pinned. Its worth noting that the AT94s have a powder coat finish as well.

Since mine started life as a pistol, it does take standard magazines. It is pictured with an earlier straight 30 rd magazine and West German magazine pouch. The sling is the original MKE one it shipped with, though I removed the 3 pt section to make it effectively a 2 point sling. Its ok, but I like the sling that is currently on my V93 better.

The AT94 is an awesome gun and I hope more will be imported eventually. Think about it, next to a real HK94, this is as good as it gets for a semi-auto only MP5 clone. It is produced in a factory which is licensed by H&K to produce firearms for Turkey's military and police forces. I definitely like that the AT94 has the paddle release from the factory; something the original HK94 did not even have. The only problem with the series is they are not auto-sear ready. There is a block installed in the receiver that does not allow for a full-auto carrier to be used. It was done for importation and I am not sure how easy/hard it would be to remove, but since I am not planning to purchase a registered sear, it does not matter to me a great deal. I just like that this is an imported gun that is well made and above all is very reliable. My gun at least has been 100% reliable with no exceptions.

(And a shot of all 3 together so you can compare sizes.)
Data on the G3:
Designer Mauser, CETME, Heckler & Koch
Manufacturer Heckler & Koch, Rheinmetall, SEDENA, Defense Industries Organization, FBP, Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfabrik, Husqvarna Vapenfabrik, Hellenic Arms Industry, Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk, MAS, Military Industry Corporation, MKEK, Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Royal Ordnance
Weight 4.1 kg (9.04 lb) (G3A3)
4.7 kg (10 lb) (G3A4)
5.54 kg (12.2 lb) with optic (G3SG/1)
4.1 kg (9.0 lb) (G3K)
Length 1,025 mm (40.4 in) (G3A3)
1,025 mm (40.4 in) stock extended / 840 mm (33.1 in) stock collapsed (G3A4)
1,025 mm (40.4 in) (G3SG/1)
895 mm (35.2 in) stock extended / 711 mm (28.0 in) stock collapsed (G3K)
Barrel length 450 mm (17.7 in)
315 mm (12.4 in) (G3K)
Cartridge: 7.62mm NATO (7.62x51mm)
Standard Magazines: 20 rounds steel or aluminium.

Data on the HK33:
Manufacturer Heckler & Koch, MAS, MKEK
Weight HK33A2: 3.65 kg (8.05 lb)
HK33A3: 3.98 kg (8.8 lb)
HK33KA3: 3.89 kg (8.6 lb)
HK53: 3.05 kg (6.7 lb)
Length HK33A2: 920 mm (36.2 in)
HK33A3: 940 mm (37.0 in) stock extended / 735 mm (28.9 in) stock collapsed
HK33KA3: 865 mm (34.1 in) stock extended / 675 mm (26.6 in) stock collapsed
HK53: 755 mm (29.7 in) stock extended / 563 mm (22.2 in) stock collapsed
Barrel length HK33A2: 390 mm (15.4 in)
HK33KA3: 332 mm (13.1 in)
HK53: 211 mm (8.3 in)
Cartridge: .223 Remington
5.56mm NATO (5.56x45mm)
Standard Magazines: 25 round steel or 40 round aluminum. 30 round steel magazines have been constructed for the HK43/93. MKE in Turkey also manufactures 30 round polymer magazines more recently.

Data on the MP5:
Manufacturer Heckler & Koch, MAS, Hellenic Arms Industry, MKEK, Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Royal Ordnance, Defense Industries Organization

Weight 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) (MP5A2)
3.1 kg (6.8 lb) (MP5A3)
2.9 kg (6.4 lb) (MP5A4)
3.1 kg (6.8 lb) (MP5A5)
2.7 kg (6.0 lb) fixed stock /
2.85 kg (6.3 lb) retractable stock (MP5/10)
2.7 kg (6.0 lb) fixed stock /
2.85 kg (6.3 lb) retractable stock (MP5/40)
2.8 kg (6.2 lb) (MP5SD1)
3.1 kg (6.8 lb) (MP5SD2)
2.8 kg (6.2 lb) (MP5SD3)[2]
2.8 kg (6.2 lb) (MP5SD4)
3.1 kg (6.8 lb) (MP5SD5)
3.4 kg (7.5 lb) (MP5SD6)
2.0 kg (4.4 lb) (MP5K, MP5KA1, MP5KA4, MP5KA5)
2.5 kg (5.5 lb) (MP5K-PDW)
Length Fixed stock: 680 mm (27 in) (MP5A2, MP5A4, MP5/10, MP5/40)
790 mm (31.1 in) (MP5SD2, MP5SD5)
Telescoping stock: 700 mm (27.6 in) stock extended /
550 mm (21.7 in) stock collapsed (MP5A3, MP5A5)
660 mm (26.0 in) stock extended /
490 mm (19.3 in) stock collapsed (MP5/10, MP5/40)
805 mm (31.7 in) stock extended /
670 mm (26.4 in) stock collapsed (MP5SD3, MP5SD6)
603 mm (23.7 in) stock extended /
368 mm (14.5 in) stock folded (MP5K-PDW)
Receiver end cap: 550 mm (21.7 in) (MP5SD1, MP5SD4)
325 mm (12.8 in) (MP5K, MP5KA1, MP5KA4, MP5KA5)
349 mm (13.7 in) (MP5K-PDW)
Barrel length 225 mm (8.9 in) (MP5A2, MP5A3, MP5A4, MP5A5, MP5/10, MP5/40)
146 mm (5.7 in) (MP5SD1, MP5SD2, MP5SD3, MP5SD4, MP5SD5, MP5SD6)
115 mm (4.5 in) (MP5K, MP5KA1, MP5KA4, MP5KA5, MP5K-PDW)
Width 50 mm (2.0 in) (MP5A2, MP5A3, MP5A4, MP5A5, MP5K, MP5KA1, MP5KA4, MP5KA5, MP5K-PDW, MP5/10, MP5/40)
60 mm (2.4 in) (MP5SD1, MP5SD2, MP5SD3, MP5SD4, MP5SD5, MP5SD6)
Height 260 mm (10.2 in) (MP5A2, MP5A3, MP5A4, MP5A5, MP5SD1, MP5SD2, MP5SD3, MP5SD4, MP5SD5, MP5SD6, MP5/10, MP5/40)
210 mm (8.3 in) (MP5K, MP5KA1, MP5KA4, MP5KA5, MP5K-PDW)
Cartridge 9x19mm Parabellum
10mm Auto (MP5/10)
.40 S&W (MP5/40)
Standard Magazines: 30 round straight, or 15 or 30 round arched/curved.

(Sources: Wikipedia, respective entries: Heckler & Koch HK33, Heckler & Koch G3, Heckler & Koch MP5.)

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Underappreciated Walther P99 Series

(Original P99, P99AS, P99cQA, and the new PPQ together.)

The P99 series is not mentioned often in the USA today, but fifteen years ago it was a pretty big deal, at least in some circles. Finally, Walther was releasing a truly 'modern' service sidearm at an affordable price.

History & Development
During the '70s and '80s Walther tried several times to regain both police and military contracts, with a wide offering of different models of pistols. However, all were essentially updated Older Walther designs. For example the PP Super was nothing more than a slightly scaled up PP firing a cartridge slightly more powerful than 9mm Short (.380). Likewise, the P4 was nothing more than a P1 with a decocker only safety, firing pin block, and a shorter barrel. The P5 looked like a new design from the outside, but it was internally very similar to the WWII P38. The P88 was really the companies only 'new' design and it failed. The P88 did not fail because it was a poor pistol, but because it was just too costly to manufacture and thus had an insanely high price-tag for that era. It was Walther's last effort at an all-metal traditional style handgun, though some of its features were later carried over to later designs.

P88 production ended in 1994, and not much was heard from Walther GMBH until 1996, when the polymer framed P99 was unveiled. Development began on the new P99 in 1994, but much was kept quiet and not much marketing appeared prior to the new gun's release. The technical design team for the P99 was lead by Horst Wesp of Glock fame. As a result, the P99 does share some similarities with the earlier Glock. It uses the same modified Browning style of short recoil system with one massive lug which engages the slide. It has a steel slide and polymer frame reinforced with steel, like the Glock.

The trigger however is quite different. The P99 was originally released with a striker firing system with a trigger which simulates Double and Single action modes, as if using a hammer fired pistol. In addition, the pistol featured a slide mounted decocking button; not lever. The frame was designed from the outset to be as ergonomic as possible. As a result, Cesare Morini was hired to contour the grip and frame. Morini became famous for designing Olympic class target handgun grips, so it is no surprise that the P99 ended up with one of the most comfortable grips found on a polymer framed handgun. The grip features finger grooves and various texture patterns. It was also the first of its kind to have interchangeable back straps, so its size could be adjusted to fit most hands. Of course this feature is copied by everyone today, but back in the late '90s, it was unique among polymer guns.

The pistol came with a proprietary 'closed' rail in the front under the barrel. Again, remember this was 1996 and no one had standardized upon a rail system yet. The gun's sights were also adjustable. Rear sights could be adjusted for windage by turning a screw. The front sight could be adjusted for elevation by replacing it with 1 of 3 sights provided in the box. The magazine was traditional double stack, single feed style with a steel body and polymer floor plate. Walther chose to use metal magazines instead of polymer because it allowed the P99 to have a slimmer grip. Original full capacity magazines held 16 rounds of 9mm NATO (9x19mm Luger/Parabellum). Finally, the P99 had an HK style ambidextrous magazine release located under the trigger as part of the trigger guard. The pistol field stripped by using a modified Glock style takedown lever. I personally find the Walther's lever much easier to use than the one on the Glock.

(My P99 with the 'Military' OD frame and AWB 10 rd magazines)
The P99 (Standard) was first offered to the public in 1996 or 1997 (sources are not 100% clear when the pistol was first commercially available). It was imported by Interarms and had just one trigger style and came in black only. It gained a lot of attention from gun reviewers and naturally Walther enthusiasts who had been waiting years for something truly 'new'. The P99 proved to be acceptably accurate, rugged, and very reliable. A couple of years after the introduction of the 9mm version, Walther released the pistol in .40 S&W caliber. This new chambering used the same frame but with a new ejector arm. It also used a new slide and barrel of course; but retained the same recoil spring assembly as the 9mm version. The P99 in .40 has a slightly longer barrel and slide and the slide weighs more. Pistols in this caliber hold up to 12 rounds in standard magazines. Walther also released a version in 9x21mm for markets that do not allow military calibers in civilian hands.

In 1999, the P990 was introduced primarily for law enforcement. The P990 is identical to the standard model but instead of having a DA/SA trigger, the P990 has a DAO arrangement and no decocker. The DAO pull on the P990 has the same weight and length of travel as that of the DA pull on the P99. In 2001, Walther introduced another trigger style; the P99QA. The QA or Quick Action trigger is like a Glock's with a partially charged striker. The QA's pull is consistent and somewhere between the long heavy DA pull and the short length SA pull of the standard model. The QA also featured a smaller decocker since it was less important.

(My P99c with the QA trigger and standard 10 round magazines. Note the 1 mag is a flush fit and the other has a finger rest.)

In early 2004, Walther released the P99 Compact or P99c. The compact has a shorter grip, slide, and barrel than the standard full-sized P99. Its magazine in 9mm holds 10 rounds and in .40 S&W; 8 rounds. The P99c is mostly parts compatible with its full-sized counterpart, especially in the trigger system. All three styles of triggers were eventually released for the P99c. Later in the same year, Walther redesigned the entire P99 family. Most of the changes were external; some cosmetic and others functional. The redesigned P99 has become known informally as the Gen 2.

(My P99AS with standard black frame and standard 15 round magazines)

The Gen 2 features larger slide grooves set further apart for easier grasping of the slide. The closed proprietary rail was replaced with a standard Weaver type rail to allow a wider range of devices to be attached under the barrel. The trigger guard was also redesigned. It became more rounded overall and the 'skii-hump' was deleted under the trigger. Originally this hump was there to keep the bottom of the trigger at the same distance from the top of the inside of the trigger guard, but enough people disliked it that Walther did away with it. Also the raised shelf below the slide stop was removed though I am not sure why. Walther began offering the P99 with an ambidextrous slide stop/release with this next generation, though it was an option, not a standard. At this time, the P99's magazines were also redesigned. Early magazines held 16 rounds, had viewing holes on both sides, and were smooth metal. The redesigned magazines now hold only 15 rounds but were made more reliable by extending the feed ramp of the barrel and lowering the front lip of the magazine body. Also the viewing holes were relocated to the rear and ridges added to the sides of the new magazines.

New generation magazines will function reliably in older guns, however because of the change to the feed ramp, older magazines should not be used in P99s made after 2003. IN 2005, Walther made one more important change to the series. The already ambidextrous magazine release lever was extended. This new release has become standard on all P99s made since. It is also worth noting that with the redesign, Walther took the opportunity to give the various trigger systems clearer model names. The P99 (standard. no suffix) became the P99AS (for Anti-Stress referring to the fact that the first shot in SA could have the same length of pull as the first shot in DA if desired). The P990 was renamed the P99 DAO and the P99QA retained its name. Compact models have the same names, just with a 'c' added such as P99cAS. All P99s with AS or DAO in their model name will be Gen 2 guns, with QAs you will need to check more closely.

While researching this writeup a bit I came across an interesting review from the late '90s. In this review, the author mostly praises the P99 but does have this to say about a few areas where it could be improved upon.

P99 update:
New Walther P99 9mm
by Gary Paul Johnston

"....During the development of the P99, Walther is reported to have solicited much input from German as well as other foreign military and police units for guidelines for an ideal 9mm pistol. What someone may have overlooked is that the pistol was going to be heavily marketed in the U.S. where American input might have been of value.

For one, I would like to see slide retracting grooves added to the front of the P99's slide, not only for use in cocking the pistol to the single action position, but in order to use the standard underhand manipulation to check the chamber. I would also like to see the retracting grooves wider apart for better purchase.

In the age where the value of the upswept "beavertail" design of pistol tangs is well established in getting on the pistol in a hurry, the P99 comes with a tang that's actually reversed to curve downward. Serving no purpose in a self-defense pistol, this tang can only make it more difficult for the pistol's grip to help funnel the web of the hand into position in a high stress situation. Luckily the lubricity of the P99's frame helps overcome this, but the tang would have been better designed with a slight upsweep.

If I dry fire the P99 in the double action mode, the left tip of the magazine release bumps the underside of my trigger finger just enough to cause discomfort after only ten pulls. I would file this part slightly to render it level with the inside of the guard. Others who tried this experienced the same "rub."

Some have observed that the magazine well mouth is not beveled. While I don't think this is necessary, beveling the front section of the mouth could improve speed reloading. There is plenty of stock there for anyone handy with a file.

As it is, the Walther P99 is a superb pistol, and my observations are personal, and of a desire to see the gun brought to its full potential, not only across the sea, but here where a huge market exists for state-of-the-art defensive handguns. I predict the P99 will be one of the great pistol designs of the decade...."

I find it very interesting that really all of Johnston's suggestions to improve the P99 were implemented during the Gen 2 redesign. The extended magazine release takes care of trigger finger discomfort he experienced even. The only suggestion Walther did not take was to give the P99 front slide grooves; however, this feature does appear on the new PPQ model, which was released in 2011 and is based on the P99Rad variant. Oh and the PPQ has a slightly beveled magazine well.

(my PPQ with standard 15 round magazines.)

The PPQ is a recent offering by Carl Walther GMBH. It is essentially another redesign of the P99 though. Internally, the PPQ is the same as the P99, except for the trigger system. The PPQ uses what Walther calls the Quick-Defense trigger, which is similar to a Glock trigger but with a very short reset of about 1/10th of an inch and with an average pull weight of around 5lbs. This means also that the PPQ's trigger is a further development of the P99QA's trigger. The PPQ does not have a decocker. The frame has also been reworked with a longer weaver type rail in front. To allow for this new rail, Walther reverted back to a more squared off trigger guard, which permits a bit more room for the rail. The grip was completely redesigned with new finger grooves and a semi-rough texture. The PPQ's grip might look like something an octopus would like to make love to, but in the hand it feels great. It retains the interchangeable back-strap system naturally. The PPQ has a redesigned slide too with both grasping grooves in the rear and in the front. It comes standard with the ambidextrous slide stop/release lever as well. The PPQ can use any new style of P99 magazine. This new pistol will most likely replace the P99QA in Walther's catalog, though it seems likely that the P99AS will remain in production for the foreseeable future.

Technical Information
 All P99s are striker fired and use a modified Browning type locked breech system. Basically the end of the barrel where the chamber is located is one massive lug which engages the slide and delays its opening until pressures in the bore have dropped to a safe level. In otherwords, it works like a Glock and most any other modern pistol. The frame is made from an impact resistant polymer reinforced with steel. The slide is made of carbon steel and is coated/treated with tenifer, as is the barrel. Sights are easily removed or adjusted. The P99 requires no tools to be disassembled for cleaning. Magazines have a steel body and spring and a polymer follower and floorplate. All backstraps are made of a soft polymer.

Here are some measurements given in Wikipedia...seems easier just to cut and paste them instead of retyping everything....

Manufacturer Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen
Produced 1996–present
Variants P99QPQ, P99 Military, P990 (P99DAO), P99QA, P99AS, P99TA, P99C, P99C AS, P99C QA, P99C DAO, SW99
Weight 9x19mm Parabellum: 630 g (22 oz)
.40 S&W: 655 g (23.1 oz)
Length 9x19mm Parabellum: 180 mm (7.1 in)
.40 S&W: 184 mm (7.2 in)
Barrel length 9x19mm Parabellum: 102 mm (4.0 in)
.40 S&W: 106 mm (4.2 in)
Width 9x19mm Parabellum: 29 mm (1.1 in)
.40 S&W: 32 mm (1.3 in)
Height 135 mm (5.3 in)

The P99 is about the same size as the 'compact' Glock G19 and the P99c is only a tiny bit larger than the Glock g26.
Cartridge 9x19mm Parabellum
.40 S&W
9x21mm IMI
Action Short recoil operated, locked breech
Muzzle velocity 9x19mm Parabellum: 408 m/s (1,339 ft/s)
.40 S&W: 344 m/s (1,128.6 ft/s)
Effective range 60 m (9x19mm Parabellum)
Feed system 9x19mm Parabellum: 16-round detachable box magazine
.40 S&W: 12-round box magazine
Sights Interchangeable 3-dot notch sight

3 sight heights provide range in height from .165 to .200 of an inch, each moving point of impact about five inches in elevation at 25 yards.

The PPQ retains the same dimensions as the P99 and uses the same sights. Most holsters designed for one will work with the other.

Limited Editions and Variants
The P99 has been produced in several forms, many of which were not widely available. To myself though, most of these variants seem relatively small in that few actual design changes were introduced.

MI-6 James Bond: about 1,000 made with a special piece of paper and serial
MI-6 2nd Edition: again, about 1,000 made with some special paper. Walther and the owners of the James Bond franchise disagreed over this edition so it was never officially marketed though several examples are in the USA somehow.
MillenniumEdition: 2,000 made to celebrate the year 2000 with some more special paper and a polished slide.
If i sound a bit dismissive of these editions, it is because I am. They are nothing more than normal P99s with a bit of engraving and some paperwork with them. To me they hold little interest. I have never gone in much for special/limited edition guns that are just that because of some minor changes.

P99 'split trigger': Early P99s were manufactured with a two piece trigger. This was done so that equal pressure had to be applied to both sides of the trigger in order to fire the weapon. Walther only produced maybe 6,000 pistols with this trigger before transitioning over to the now standard type of solid trigger. As far as I know, all of these were either imported by Interarms or Earl.
P99 Military: standard P99 but with an OD Green frame. This was a mass produced item.
P99TA: a unique version of the pistol made for police trials in Wurttemberg, Germany. The P99TA featured an ambidextrous slide release which would later be offered on the Gen 2 model, ambidextrous decocker, standard weaver rail, and rounded trigger guard. About 50 of this model were produced. The TA was not adopted by the police, but its design would influence both the P99 Gen2s and the P99Rad.
P99QPQ: QPQ stands for Quench, Polish, Quench and results in a matte silver slide which was installed on a black frame.
P99QSA: Basically a prototype of what would become the P99QA, but with a standard full-sized decocker button. Seven such guns were created. I believe 3 or 4 are in the USA today.
P99 Titanium: a normal P99 but with a titanium coated slide. Note that the slide is still steel under the titanium.
P99 Navy: These pistols were built for Naval trials in Germany around 2005-2006. They are slightly modified P99ASs with stainless steel slides and some other parts. Most had night sights. About 50 were created with about half winding up here in the USA thanks to Earl's Repair Service.
P99Rad: a line of pistols produced under license in Poland by Fabryka Broni Radom. The Rad has many features which would later come to the USA market in the form of the PPQ such as the slide with both front and rear grooves, ambidextrous slide release, longer weaver rail, redesigned grip, and extended magazine release. Radom produces the P99Rad with both QA and DAO trigger options. Its not clear if they also produce an Anti-Stress DA/SA version as well.

Users of the P99
 I am just going to copy this off Wikipedia again:
The pistol is used by the German Police in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate and has been ordered by Bremen, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, the Polish Police and the Finnish Army's special forces and military police, where it carries the designation PIST 2003 (Pistooli 2003).
Users Canada: SPVM (Montreal Police).
Finland: Used by the Finnish Defence Forces as the PIST 2003 (Pistooli 2003).
Germany: 41,000 P99DAO pistols purchased in 2005 for the North Rhine-Westphalia Police.[18][19] The State police of Rhineland-Palatinate procured approx. 10,000 units of the P99Q. The P99Q has also been ordered by the police forces of Hamburg (8,000 pistols), Bremen (2,000 pistols) and Schleswig-Holstein (8,000 pistols) with deliveries between 2009 and 2017.
Ireland: An Garda Síochána detective specialist units use the P99C.
Malaysia: Royal Malaysia Police (20,000 pistols).[22]

I can also add that both Spain and Portugal have purchased notable quantities of the P99. Some police departments in the USA have also authorized the carry of both the SW99 and P99. I have received into my shop several police surplus examples of each.

The SW99:
Upon the death of the owner of Interarms, the company dissolved. As a result, no one was importing the P99 for a time. S&W entered into a contract with Walther GMBH to mass import the line some time in 1999. Its also worth noting that Earl of Earl's Repair (CarlWalther US) has also been importing P99s since before the deal between S&W and Walther GMBH.
Smith&Wesson marketed a clone of the P99 and of the P99c in the USA for a time. This was known as the SW99 and featured a Walther made frame and an S&W built slide and barrel. The SW99 was cosmetically different from the P99 but used the same magazines. Some confusion has arrisen between the P99 and SW99 because of the Spanish and Portuguese contracts. At that time, Walther in Germany was so back ordered that S&W in the USA did build a few slides and barrels for the P99, to help keep up with demand. These guns are still P99s. SW99s have different contours. Smith&Wesson made about 3,000 barrels and slides for the .40 caliber P99. All 9mms are 100% German and only a small portion of the .40 cals will have S&W parts. The SW99 was chambered in both 9mm and .40 cal like the P99, but was also chambered for .45 ACP. The German P99 was never chambered for this caliber however. Even though the SW99 is now out of production, used examples are easily found and usually at around $300-$400. Many police surplus examples have also hit the market recently, usually in .40 S&W.

the MR9 and MR40:
With the introduction of their polymer frame M&P line, S&W discontinued the SW99 series. A few years ago, a new company picked up the idea of a half German, half US made P99 clone. Magnum Research has been importing German made frames from Walther and making their own barrels and slides, like S&W before them. The pistol is called the MR9 in 9mm and MR40 in .40 cal. It is mostly a clone of the Gen 2 P99 and even still uses Mecgar built magazines. I have not personally held or fired an MR9, so i can not say much. It's probably a decent reliable pistol, but its price tag is only slightly less than that of the P99 or PPQ. So why not just spend a little more and get a true Walther? At least that's my opinion. I have discovered that MR mags are identical to Gen 2 Walther mags and work great in P99s and SW99s. These mags cost nearly half of what new Walther branded magazines cost too. At least something good has come out of the MR9 venture.

P99 Magazines
(left to right: original 12 rd .40 cal, original 10 rd 9mm cal, 10 rd P99c, Gen 2 15 rd, and PPQ 15 rd)

As I have said, the first generation of magazines had smooth sides and viewing holes on both the left and right. In 9mm they held 16 rds and 12 in .40. To comply with the AWB, Walther shipped the P99 with reduced capacity 10 round magazines as you can see. Interestingly, the P99 Compact seems to use the same magazine body as the AWB 10 first generation, but with a different floorplate. The Gen2 magazine has ridges running vertically on its sides and the viewing holes relocated to the back. In 9mm Gen2 mags hold 15 rounds and 11 in .40 cal. The PPQ magazine looks identical to the Gen2 mag, but has a different finish. Gen2 mags have a polished blued finish and PPQ mags have a matte black finish. Early PPQs shipped with magazines labelled P99, but they were soon changed to say PPQ instead.

Dating Your Walther
 There will be a 2 digit date code on all P99 and PPQ pistols produced in Germany. On early models this code was located on the frame, but more recent ones will have it stamped into the slide. Its a pretty typical German style with A=0 B=1 C=2 D=3 E=4 F=5 G=6 H=7 I=8 and K=9. Note that J is not used. So a pistol with KI on the frame was made in 1998 or one with AK on the slide was produced in 2009.

P99 at ModernFirearms
P99 on Wikipedia

Plenty of other discussions out there on the P99. Just use Google.

Alright, I think that mostly covers the big points. I will add things as they come to me. Really though, more than anything, it would just be nice if more people went out and put a few rounds through a P99 or PPQ. They really do fit the hand well and are very pleasant to fire, especially in 9mm.

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