It wasn’t that long ago when I first got my hands on the new Walther Q5 SF match pistol. To make its striker-fired, polymer Q5 match pistol even more suitable for competition, the folks at Walther released the new steel-frame model to help dampen recoil for faster shooting, and it was an instant success. From the match-grade trigger to the phenomenal ergonomics to the quite reasonable price point, the Q5 SF was, as they say, the cat’s pajamas.
In fact, after being reviewed by several shooters, the Walther Q5 SF took first place in our sister publication’s annual Ballistic’s Best of 2019 edition for full-size pistols. It also took the Reader’s Choice Award for the same category. I was among those reviewers and was quite taken with the pistol. With its wrap-around rubber grip molded to the curves of the steel frame, the Q5 SF felt like it was made for my hand. Unfortunately, I am not a competition shooter, so it was tough for me to justify its purchase. I reluctantly shipped it back to the factory with the hope that I’d have a chance to shoot one again in the future.
Behold the Walther Q4 Steel Frame
Much to my surprise, just five months later Walther introduced the new Q4 SF. Another steel-frame pistol, the Q4 was tailored for duty use with its shorter barrel and slide and its relatively lighter weight. And for the truly committed civilian, the Q4 SF was a much more viable option for daily carry, whether concealed or not. It took me all of just one second to agree to do this Q4 SF review.
Weighing 39.7 ounces, the Q4 SF comes in as a true heavyweight in a world filled with polymer-framed pistols. We’re talking full-size 1911 territory when it comes to the heft of the gun. However, the pistol distributes the weight, delivering a very balanced feel in the hand, mitigating recoil. Speaking of the hand, the Q4 SF incorporates the same great ergonomics of its polymer siblings but takes the experience to the next level with Walther’s Performance Duty Texturing found on the rubber, wrap-around grip.
The other beneficial holdovers from Walther’s polymer-frame lineup include an ambidextrous slide stop/release, Picatinny rail, reversible, button-style magazine release, and the company’s excellent Quick Defense Trigger. In my experience, Walther’s QDT is one of the very best triggers on the market for a striker-fired pistol—if not the best. There’s just a bit of take-up before the wall and then a fairly light, crisp break. According to my Lyman digital gauge, the trigger on the sample Q4 SF broke at an average of just 3.88 pounds. There was just a bit of rubbing felt at the end of the take-up, but I figured that would clean up with a bit of shooting later on.
Coming Into Sight
The sights on the standard Q4 SF are of the phosphoric, three-dot variety and one of the very few things that separates the pistol from perfection in my eyes. For a pistol with an MSRP of $1,399, I would have liked at least a set of true night sights, preferably with a high-visibility front sight like the Trijicon HD sights or the Ameriglo Pro-Glo sights. The phosphoric sights work well enough and are quite easy to pick up, but I like a high-contrast sight up front for faster targeting.
Walther does offer the Q4 SF OR, which is an optics-ready pistol that showcases Walther’s LPA sights. However, if an optic is installed via an adapter plate, the user loses the rear sight. Besides, I think it would be almost blasphemous to spoil the beautiful lines of the Q4 SF by mounting essentially a huge wart on top of the slide. But if the pistol is being carried for duty use and aesthetics aren’t a factor, then that option is certainly available to the user.
The Walther Q4 Steel Frame features a plethora of sweet curves and sleek lines machined into both the slide and the frame, giving the pistol a good amount of sex appeal despite its all-black appearance. That appearance is due to the Tenifer finish on both the slide and frame. Though it doesn’t have the visual appeal of a nicely brushed stainless steel, Tenifer is renowned for its corrosion resistance and rigor under abuse. Speaking of lines, the slide features top serrations for glare reduction and fore and aft cocking serrations, although they are slightly subdued. They work, but a bit more aggressive profile would make them significantly more functional.
Walther did some extra work on the beavertail to give the user a high hold on the pistol while shortening the beavertail enough to work with retention straps or hoods found on most duty holsters. That’s a nice extra touch, but to be honest, at its price point, I don’t see many departments making the Q4 SF standard issue. I might be wrong about that but time will tell.
Enter the T. Rex
No matter who carries the Walther Q4 Steel Frame, some quality stowage is required and that’s where the fine folks at T. Rex Arms stepped in to help. After reaching out to them, they sent over a couple of holsters to test with the new Walther. The first was the company’s IWB light-compatible Sidecar. The other was a tactical setup using T. Rex Arms’ Ragnarok holster with Safariland’s UBL Midride in conjunction with Safariland’s QLS Fork, QLS Receiver plate and a thigh strap.
The fit and finish on both holsters proved superb. I found the IWB Sidecar’s comfort surprising in the appendix position. With the Surefire X300 attached to the Q4 and with a spare magazine in place, the Sidecar provided a sturdy, stable platform for concealed carry. Granted, there was a lot of weight to tote around and the Q4 is not exactly a pocket pistol, but the Sidecar did the job superbly, all things considered.
I really, really liked the Ragnarok with the tactical setup for range days and sometimes around the house on the land. I especially appreciated the QLS Fork and Receiver arrangement since that allows me to swap the holster component quickly depending on what I want to carry without having to buy an entirely separate tactical rig. Plus, the offset drop works well for times when I’m wearing a heavy coat or jacket that might interfere with normal carry.
Polymer-framed pistols certainly have their place, especially where weight is concerned for all-day carry. However, they lack the feel and character of an all-steel handgun. And other than competition pistols and 1911s, you rarely see them introduced anymore. In fact, off the top of my head, I can’t think of a steel-frame, striker-fired pistol on the market for that matter. So, I was eager to get some trigger time with the new Walther Q4 SF and a couple of my friends.
The combination of its key features worked together seamlessly to provide an exceptional shooting experience as we tested it on a couple of occasions. The weight of the steel shooter stifled the recoil significantly, even with +P loads, making it very controllable and faster to shoot accurately. One friend even pointed out that, with standard ammunition, it felt like shooting a full-size .380 ACP pistol. To capitalize on that mitigated recoil, the Quick Defense Trigger offered not only a relatively light and crisp release, but also a minimal reset distance, which Walther lists at 0.1 inches. And the Q4 SF completed the hat trick with its highly ergonomic and recoil-absorbing grip that provided superb traction for absolute control during the entire process.
As good as those aspects were, the Walther Q4 SF still had more to offer as we carried on with the sessions. The low-profile, ambidextrous slide release was easy to access and engage without shifting the hand, as was the magazine release. The 15-round magazines popped out cleanly and positively for fast reloads as we ran various drills. Everything about the pistol felt natural, like it was simply an extension of the hand.
Fast & Accurate
While the sights weren’t my favorite, there’s no question that they are bright and easy to pick up in daylight. They were definitely good enough to leverage the Q4 SF’s superb accuracy. We test pistols with 4-inch barrels from the bench at 15 yards, and the review sample turned in multiple sub-1-inch groups with an assortment of premium ammunition from Sig Sauer, Federal and Hornady as can be seen in the performance table. For a standard defensive pistol, that’s exceptional accuracy.
However, the Q4 SF isn’t just another pretty face with a nice body. Flawless functionality punctuated the performance as well. With over 525 rounds of FMJ and hollow-point ammunition through it straight out of the box, our review pistol suffered zero malfunctions of any sort. Though not exactly a torture test, the pistol’s debut performance more than satisfied my requirements, and I knew I would be writing a check to Walther to keep the Q4 SF right here with me.
There’s little in life that’s truly perfect, but the Walther Q4 SF gets very close for a production pistol. The quibbles I had with it, like the slide serrations and sights, were minor but worth noting. With the steel frame, there’s no option to switch out backstraps for a more tailored fit as with a polymer pistol. It will either fit your hand or it won’t. Also, the chunky heater is quite heavy for a carry pistol. That’s just the nature of the beast and the trade-off one has to make for the benefits of a steel frame.
The Q4 SF feels (to me) like a pistol should—weighty and of consequence. You can’t just saddle up with the cheapest holster found on the interwebs. You’ll need a sturdy rig, like those found at T. Rex Arms, and a quality belt to comfortably support the extra weight. But if you can successfully negotiate that one aspect of the Walther Q4 SF, I think you’ll be just as impressed by its performance as I have been.
Walther successfully integrated striker-fired carry pistol best-of-breed features into a body built for the ages. Like the HK P7 or the SIG P210 before it, the Q4 SF has set a new benchmark. It will no doubt become a classic in the years to come. For more information, visit waltherarms.com.
Walther Q4 Steel Frame Specs
- Caliber: 9mm
- Barrel: 4 inches
- Overall Length: 7.4 inches
- Overall Weight: 39.7 ounces (empty)
- Grips: Rubber wrap-around
- Sights: Three-dot, phosphoric
- Action: Semi-auto
- Finish: Tenifer
- Overall Capacity: 15+1
- MSRP: $1,399
Walther Q4 Steel Frame Performance
- Load: Velocity, Accuracy (avg.), Accuracy (best)
- Sig Sauer 124 Elite V-Crown: 1,123, 1.06, 0.72
- Federal 124 HST: 962, 1.13, 0.88
- Hornady 135 Critical Duty: 1,017, 1.19, 0.94
- Black Hills 110 +P Honey Badger: 1,181, 1.25, 1.08
Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per second 15 feet from the muzzle by a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph and accuracy in inches for three five-shot groups at 15 yards.
This article is from the August-September 2020 issue of Tactical Life magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.