Over the years, I’ve taught quite a few officers with smaller-than-average hands, especially females. They invariably struggle with the most popular duty-size pistols due to their large grip circumference. Imagine holding a 2×4 on one end while someone violently jerks it back and forth.

That might seem an exaggerated analogy, but each time I say that in a class, I get frantic nods of agreement from our smaller shooters. That physical and mental discomfort usually results in pre-ignition push (flinches) and a substantial erosion of the student’s comfort and confidence in their pistol skills. This has been a figurative thorn in my side for years. While there are pistols out there that work well for diminutive folks, few are duty ready. Every cop should be provided with the gear they need to serve effectively and safely. I don’t think every department is doing that.  

Recoil is best managed when the backstrap of the pistol is supported by the web of the hand rather than just the thumb while still allowing the shooter to reach the trigger effectively.

What Makes a Duty Gun

My personal bare minimum qualities for a duty pistol are as follows:

  • At least 15-round factory magazine capacity.
  • At least a four-inch barrel.
  • Sights that are rugged and quick to access.
  • Usable for that particular officer, meaning:
  • Can they rack the slide with the necessary vigor consistently?
  • Is the slide lock large enough so the shooter can quickly and consistently lock the slide back if needed during a stoppage?
  • Can they reach the magazine release?
  • Does the trigger reach distance allow for a proper finger placement?
  • Does the frame’s circumference allow for a solid grip on the pistol?  

Walther PDP-F Series

Enter the Walther PDP-F Series. Walther was kind enough to send me a PDP-F to test and, more importantly, to see if their R&D bore out the intended results for our slighter cops. The PDP-F meets all of these criteria for people with smaller hands.  

The PDP-F has a reduced frame circumference and modified grip angle to better fit smaller hands

Walther didn’t just take their PDP, shrink it, and market it to female shooters. They scanned the hands of about 1000 women and worked with female competitive shooters on the design. That research resulted in not only a smaller frame circumference but a different angle and shape, as well. This allows the shooter to get their knuckles securely on the front of the grip while still allowing them to get the web of the hand behind the gun. That combination is crucial for trigger control and recoil management. See the 2″x4″ reference above.  

Another struggle I see these shooters having is effectively grasping the slide during loading, unloading, and stoppage manipulations. The slide serrations on the PDP-F aren’t just cut into the slide. The “Super Terrain Serrations” are cut into widened areas of the slide. 

 It’s noticeably easier to rack the slide on the pistol, especially with a 20% reduction in slide force due to a unique two-piece striker system. Like most duty pistols manufactured today, the PDP-F is optics-ready. Unlike most duty pistols manufactured today, the PDP-F does not require suppressor height sights due to the unique way the optics cuts are made in the slide.     

The PDP-F’s magazine release is easy to reach but difficult to accidentally engage.

Small Hands

I shared the pistol with as many miniscule-mitted folks as I could for three weeks. I’m a body language nerd, but I didn’t need that skill to gauge their reactions. Every puny-pawed person, including two male cops, reacted with palpable excitement. The questions ranged from:  What kind is it? How much are they? Where do I get one? That was before even shooting the pistol. There were also comments on the pistol’s noticeably lighter weight. According to my postal scale, the PDP-F weighed 23.3 ounces with an unloaded magazine and 30.2 ounces fully loaded with 16 rounds of 124-grain Federal HST.  

One of the most difficult tasks for small-fisted folks is locking the slide to the rear. Walther’s generous slide stop/release alleviates that issue.

Let’s Shoot

During those three weeks, I had as many cops and others shoot this pistol as possible. 

Several officers and citizens shot 400 “potluck” rounds through the F-Series, consisting of Federal HST 124 Grain +P, Remington Golden Sabre 124 Grain +p, and miscellaneous 115 and 124 Grain FMJ from various manufacturers. The PDP-F chewed up everything we put into it like an angry sewing machine. Even folks with average to larger hands also had success with the pistol.   

Walther worked with established female shooters to ensure the pistol met their needs. (Photo courtesy of Walther)

Just as crucial as reliability is shoot-ability with the targeted group: cops and citizens with smaller hands. 

I kept hearing the same sentiment: “It’s just easier to shoot.” The targets agreed. The young officers I’d recently seen struggle in class performed substantially better with the PDP-F because the gun actually fit them.    

Finding an acceptable duty pistol for less-than-full-sized cops has been a personal crusade for me for some time now. I’ve seen otherwise great officers leave the profession because of this particular issue. I believe that challenge has been addressed with the Walther PDP-F, and I hope we will see more manufacturers take notice and follow suit.

Instructors and administrators: Take a look at adding the PDP-F to your armory.  


About the author:

Warren Wilson is a captain, training commander and rangemaster with an Oklahoma metropolitan agency. He is a former SWAT team leader, current firearms instructor and writer with over 3000 hours of documented training. He has been a full-time law enforcement officer since 1996.