CONCEALMENT 19 Walther Q4 SF Optics Ready: Reviewing Heavy Metal Tom Marshall Join the Conversation By releaseing the Walther Q4, they bucked a trend. While interest in concealed carry and personal protection handguns has been growing steadily for several years, the last six months has seen an unprecedented flood of new purchases. An entire generation of fledgling firearms students was born in less than a school year, with most of them bringing little-to-no existing knowledge to the table. Instead they rely on the sometimes dubious wisdom of counter jockeys and internet pundits for guidance — many of whom continue to push two pieces of shaky advice. One is that smaller, lighter guns are ideal for easy carry. The other is that you can always get away with spending a little less. Walther Arms has chosen to buck both of these notions in full force with the release of their premium carry offering, the Q4 Steel Frame. Last year, we reviewed Walther’s initial steel frame offering, the Q5 Match SF (seen first in RECOIL Issue 43). As the name would imply, that pistol was designed from the outset to live and thrive on the competition circuit. Its 5-inch barrel, ported slide, and massive magwell begged to be run quickly on the clock. We said then that the SF line had potential for protective duty, even if that particular model was a tad too bulky to cover up effectively. More than a chopped-down Q5 Match, the Walther Q4 Steel Frame was built from the ground up for carry. While the full-bodied steel frame may cause some double-taking among the poly-framed pistol masses, this pistol isn’t necessarily meant for bulk consumption. We see it instead as high refinement of the striker-fired carry gun concept. NUTS AND BOLTS The most easily identifiable feature of the Walther Q4 SF versus its bigger brother is the barrel length. Walther took their steel frame concept down to a 4-inch barrel for ease of carry. They probably could’ve gone even smaller, but manufacturers, consumers, and SMEs have all reached the general consensus that about 4 inches is the ideal balance for a “general use” defensive pistol — the fine line between small gun concealability and big gun capability. There’s a reason the Glock 19, with its 4.02-inch barrel, has achieved bar-setting success as both a personal defense and uniformed duty pistol. Walther’s well-appointed Q4 Steel Frame includes front-strap checkering with a subtle trigger guard undercut, textured mag release, and beveled magwell. The frame was recontoured slightly for snag-free and reduced-printing carry. Most significant was the deletion of the Q5 SF’s large, upswept beavertail. Despite this bobtail treatment, the top of the Walther Q4’s backstrap is elegantly contoured, with shallow scallop cuts on every hard edge. There’s just enough mass to prevent slide bite and provide a secure nest for the web of your thumb, with absolutely nothing to snag or hang-up on. As mentioned earlier, our test sample of the Q5 Match SF also included a bucket of a magazine well that made mag changes nearly impossible to fumble. This funnel will fit on the Walther Q4 SF, but it’s purposely left off at the factory to keep the butt end lean and low-profile. The OEM grip is a one-piece wraparound affair with medium-strength honeycomb texturing and a prominent palm swell. While this grip unit gave us no issues, we swapped it out with clamshell G10 panels from Lok Grips, which offer an incredibly svelte profile, multipart texturing, as well as a rakish, straight backstrap reminiscent of the 1911. Walther’s optic mounting plates include an integrated rear sight notch. The slide was also retooled to optimize it for defensive use. The through-cuts of the Q5 SF were replaced with forward serrations. But a series of internal lightening cuts were added to minimize reciprocating mass as much as possible and keep the pistol from being excessively muzzle heavy. The Q5 Match SF included a set of red-dot mounting plates covering a gamut of available optics. While this was convenient, the plates didn’t feature integrated rear sights. This isn’t a big deal on a dedicated gamer gun that’ll likely get inspected before and after each match, but redundant sighting is still a staple requirement of a red-dot defensive pistol. Walther now produces plates with built-in rear sights, which can be ordered directly from Walther to accommodate your optic of choice. We tried the Trijicon RMR and both current iterations of Holosun — the 507C v2 and 508T v2. The domed top of the 507C seemed to print less than the hard corners of the 508T, so this was what we settled on for EDC testing. The only other change we made to our test sample was a trigger swap. The Walther Q4’s stock trigger is very respectable, as far as stock striker triggers go. But Overwatch Precision offers an aftermarket alternative that’s honed to laser precision. Their flat-faced shoe geometry, custom springs, and NP3-coated trigger bar all synergize to produce a 3.5-pound trigger with about 1/8-inch of take-up and no overtravel. ON THE RANGE We wrung out the Walther Q4 Steel Frame in a high-performance, high-round-count environment — Modern Samurai Project’s flagship course, their three-day, 1,200-round slugfest known as Path To Performance. It consists of a one-day, appendix-carry focus course followed by two days of red-dot-specific performance shooting. In addition to the wealth of knowledge we took away from the course, we were afforded a rigorous and unflinching look at exactly what the Walther Q4 Steel Frame brings to the table. In broad strokes, assessing a carry gun can be broken down to four factors: accuracy, reliability, speed, and ergonomics. The chances of out-shooting the Q4’s mechanical accuracy will be slim for most shooters. The author was able to score a 98/100 on a B-5 bull’s-eye at 25 yards while standing. We can’t think of a much better assessment of practical accuracy than that. As much as we’d love to put every single test pistol through a 3,000-round endurance test, time and ammunition constraints make that goal unrealistic. But between the Modern Samurai class and our own range sessions, we have approximately 1,800 rounds through the Q4 SF and have yet to see a single malfunction. Speed and ergonomics can be much harder to provide concise data on, since both rely more heavily on the shooter than the pistol itself. To address the former, we’ll say that this pistol is incredibly well-balanced, and nothing about it is even remotely sluggish. The full-steel frame helps keep the pistol’s center deep in your firing grip. Recoil felt bouncier and less snappy compared to similar-sized polymer guns. The muzzle seemed to be riding a wave, more than jumping up and down, under rapid strings of fire. When learning the ins and outs of defensive pistolcraft, people will often speak about recoil management — having to use things like grip and stance to overcome the impulse of the gun firing. In the case of the Walther Q4 SF, recoil seems to work naturally with the pistol, instead of needing to be actively managed by the shooter. Walther Q4 Steel Frame Optics Ready Caliber: 9 x 19 mmWeight Unloaded: 40 OuncesMagazine Capacity: 15 + 1Barrel Length: 4 InchesOAL: 7.4 InchesOverall Width: 1.3 InchesHeight: 5.4 InchesURL: www.waltherarms.comMSRP: $1,499 Accessories: Lok Grips Slimline Bogies: $107 | www.lokgrips.comOverwatch Precision TAC Trigger: $199 | www.overwatchprecision.comHolosun 507C V2: $300 | www.holosun.com Price as Pictured: $2,105 Holosun 507c-X2 for $309 at Optics Planet LOOSE ROUNDS Was the weight an issue? Not for us. Granted, you’ll need proper accessories. The substantial heft of this gun will quickly overpower flimsy belts or poorly fit holsters. But we wore the Walther Q4 in an appendix holster for days at a time. During our time with Modern Samurai Project, we went in and out of the holster dozens, if not hundreds, of times. There was no extra muscle strain or fatigue to speak of when compared to shooting similar courses with different pistols. For certain, you’ll never forget you’re carrying this gun. But the extra heft is a reasonable price to pay for raw performance that translates into rounds through center mass at the cyclic rate when lives are at stake. [Editor's Note: This Article First Appeared in Concealment #19. Photos by Niccole Elizabeth.] More from Walther Arms Reviewing the Walther Q5: Speed, Strength, Competition. Walther PDP: Match-Grade Performance with Bar Brawl Toughness. Quarantining with the Walther PPQ Airsoft. Walther Announces a Q5 Replacement Upper for the PPQ. Explore RECOILweb:TOPS Knives - Mike Fuller RetiresThe New Surefire XC2-IRC: Mighty and Tiny InfraredPreview - Desert StealthPipehitters Union 2016 Calendar: Gun Bunnies Need Not Apply NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included). Get your pack of 50 Print-at-Home targets when you subscribe to the RECOIL email newsletter. We'll send you weekly updates on guns, gear, industry news, and special offers from leading manufacturers - your guide to the firearms lifestyle.You want this. Trust Us.