The Walther CCP: Addressing the Timeless Quandary of Big Bullets in Little Guns

By Will Dabbs MD
Photos by Sarah Dabbs

What would happen if you took the chassis from a lightweight, polymer-framed Walther P22, arguably the most popular .22 pistol in the country, and re-chambered it as a direct blowback 9mm? Dislocated fingers? Broken bones? The resulting gun might even eventually explode. Who knows, the local Orthopedist might finally get his boat paid off.

Well what if you took the gas piston from a Kalashnikov or FN FAL, miniaturized it, flipped it around backwards, and then pinned it to the front of the slide? Now you have a 9mm P22 that fits the human hand just about perfectly, launches serious bullets, shoots sweet, and in a pinch rides in the front pocket of a pair of jeans. In short, it is a truly revolutionary concealed carry pistol.

Carl Walther was a firearms luminary. His PP and PPK introduced the world to the single action/double action trigger system used in most of the world’s autoloading handguns in the pre-Glock era. These ground breaking pocket pistols came of age in the 1930’s and melded the concealability of an autoloader with the safety and convenience of a double action revolver. The subsequent P38 was arguably the most advanced service pistol of World War II.

In the years since the Second World War, Walther has been a consistent innovator in modern firearms design. The Walther MPL and MPK submachine guns represented the state of the art in the immediate post-war years and their combat handguns in the modern era are as good as they get. While James Bond is not a real guy, his tastes in firearms are well-vetted. Whether it is a customized PPK/S or a tricked out suppressed P99, 007’s handguns always seem to have Walther engraved on the slide.

Raising the Bar

It has been my lot to see a fair number of gunshot wounds up close. While I have carried quite a few .380 handguns myself, the argument could be made that for serious social work nothing less than a 9mm firing heavy 147-grain bullets is really consistently up to the task. The challenge is that, while the 9mm may seem anemic in an MP40 or an MP5, in a true pocket pistol this zippy little round can be punishing.

There are several accepted ways to ameliorate the recoil forces of a firearm. The most basic is manifest in the aforementioned Walther PPK and involves simply configuring a beefy slide and firm spring adequate to handle the recoil forces involved. While this approach works and it does lend itself to mounting a sound suppressor, the resulting guns can be heavy and exhibit snappy recoil, even in modest calibers.

The second broad approach is to contrive a mechanism that locks the barrel and slide together at the moment of firing such that these two major components recoil briefly as a unit before separating to enable ejection and feeding of a subsequent cartridge. While there are literally dozens of variations on this theme, most combat handguns in the world today subscribe to some variation of this locked-breech recoil mechanism.

It was the inimitable John Moses Browning who first observed the grass laying down in front of a firearm being discharged and had the epiphany that this wasted energy could be harnessed to operate a self-loading gun. Anyone who has ever fired a gas-operated firearm has tasted his genius. Examples include the AR15, the AK47, the M1 Garand, and any other sort of firearm that incorporates a gas port. The science behind this concept is well established. What is most impressive about the Walther CCP, however, is the way Walther engineers adapted this conventional concept in such an unconventional way. The guys at Walther took this basic gas piston operating principle, turned it around backwards, and used it to slow everything down rather than speed everything up. The result is mechanical genius.


The recoil spring on the CCP wraps around the barrel like its grandfather the PPK. The barrel itself is fixed, also akin to that of the PPK. There is, however, a nifty ancillary gas system mounted below the barrel that taps off propellant gases and uses them to impinge upon the slide indirectly via a piston to retard the opening of the action. The piston is attached to the front of the slide and orients toward the rear. This delivers several salient benefits.

First, the Walther CCP is really small. The CCP actually compares favorably to many full-figured .380 carry guns on the commercial market today and both looks and feels about like the esteemed .22 LR Walther P22 in the hand. This compact envelope equates out to comfortable concealed carry and easy manipulation for smaller-statured operators.

Second, the retarded gas system used in the CCP allows for a weaker recoil spring. This makes for a softer shooting gun that is easier to charge. As women represent an absolutely exploding slice of the concealed carry handgun market in America, the ease with which the gun may be put into action is a real plus. I’m a pretty average sized guy with pretty big hands and there are a few guns in my stable that are hard to charge when sweaty, rushed, or both. By contrast the Walther CCP slide is relatively light and easy to rack.

The Walther CCP has a reversible button-style thumb-accessible magazine catch and a pair of drop-free 8-round magazines. The gun itself is striker-fired for a consistent and predictable trigger pull shot to shot. The trigger is long and creepy with a surprising amount of crunch throughout. However, keep in mind that this is a pocket pistol. The argument could be made that a light target trigger on a gun that will be carried in deep cover is not necessarily an asset.

The slide is cut from stainless steel and is available in both raw silver and blackened finishes. There is a discreet manual safety that is easily accessible with the right thumb. The grip has finger swells and aggressive stippling molded in. The trigger guard is squared and undercut slightly to lower the bore axis.

Comfortable Carry

CrossBreed Holsters has established as its forte the most comfortable, accessible, and effective carry of concealed firearms possible. Their quality is impeccable and their designs ingenious. Their products are also very reasonably priced. Their SuperTuck CCP holster is fitted perfectly to the gun
and rides discreetly.

The SuperTuck is designed both for comfort and accessibility. The belt clips are adjustable for cant and the generous leather body of the holster spreads the pressure of the gun out sufficiently to ensure comfort. The polymer body of the rig is molded meticulously to the shape of the gun and is devoid of sharp edges that might abrade skin or clothing. I carry the CCP in a SuperTuck underneath a pair of hospital scrubs 12 to 14 hours a day and can honestly forget it is there. CrossBreed produces matching magazine carriers and top-quality leather gun belts as well. It seems to me if a holster lets you carry comfortably in what is in essence a pair of pajamas it is doing a pretty good job.

The CCP chassis is designed from the outset to be carry friendly. That means no extraneous appendages to catch on clothing or gouge sensitive anatomy. The slide tapers towards the top and the sights are low profile with the expected three dots. The rear sight is drift adjustable for windage and the front sight has three optional inserts to adjust for elevation.

The safety is mounted on the left and is small enough to stay out of the way while remaining large enough for easy manipulation. The polymer and stainless construction makes the CCP about indestructible in the face of sweat or rough handling. There is a length of Picatinny rail molded into the dust cover for accessories if desired.

Concealed carry of a firearm is a reflection of one’s personality. Some will want a round in the chamber and a quick access carry solution so as to be instantly ready for anything. I personally balance my desire for protection against a near-insensate lust for safety. I’m a physician and I have seen some terrible firearm accidents. That being said, with the safety on and the gun in a quality CrossBreed holster I am comfortable carrying the Walther CCP with a round in the chamber. Every cop in America carries this way and accidental discharges are thankfully quite rare. However, most of the armed citizens I met on a recent trip to Israel carried with the chamber empty and they do just fine thank you very much. Different strokes…

Range Report

The Walther CCP really does strike a nice balance. When stoked with some high-end Winchester Train and Defend ammo the gun is comfortable without being docile. Winchester’s Defend line of tactical handgun ammunition sports nickel-plated cases, low flash powders, and some of the most vicious expanding bullets in the inventory. Their Train counterparts push FMJ bullets that are ballistically matched to their more sinister counterparts only cheaper. Using this ammo you can save the good stuff for serious social work and train on rounds that run and feel exactly the same only at a lower cost.

Given the compact platform and creepy trigger I really had not expected the CCP to be any great shakes on the range. However, much to my surprise I dumped the first twenty rounds easily into a pie plate at 20 meters without a flyer. The gun shot quite well. Recoil is remarkably similar to a comparably framed .380 while the effort required to jack the slide is a marked improvement over comparable full-framed heaters. The gun feels about like my .380 PPK/S during the recoil stroke while launching a commensurately spunkier round. We ran half a dozen brands of ammunition through the gun without failures. As always, however, autoloading handguns are potentially sensitive mechanisms and deserve regular cleaning and maintenance if carried daily.

Disassembly of the CCP requires either an included tool or the tip of a screwdriver. The gun is a bit tougher to strip than your Glock but once you get the hang of it the details are not a challenge. The pure unfiltered brilliance of the reversed gas operating system is simply inspired.

Parting Shots

In a crowded field of self defense handguns the Walther CCP is a legitimate mechanical innovation. Combining most of the commonly-accepted features we demand of more conventional defensive iron with its revolutionary reverse gas piston system, the CCP is easy to carry, easy to shoot, and equipped with enough downrange thump to take the uncertainty out of a social exchange of gunfire. In addition, the CCP is also surprisingly reasonably priced. With the CCP, Walther has rewritten the book on concealable handgun design and in so doing taken pocket pistols to an entirely new
level of performance.


This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V20N2 (March 2016)
and was posted online on January 22, 2016


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