Heckler & Koch and I go way back. I first shot an H&K about 30 years ago. My opinion then was that it was a perfect example of Germanic over-engineering heavy, with snappy recoil, too many parts and everything about it expensive (just like German cars without the leather seats). Despite the vaunted H&K reputation for reliability, I even managed once to break the “anvil” of them all — an MP-5.
The relationship was apparently a mutual one, for despite repeated requests, this represents only the second time H&K has sent me something for review.
I was all set to roll out my snarky comments about “shoebox-proportioned slides” and oversize parts. I had all my snappy similes about H&K recoil ready to go. I’ve gotten in trouble in the past with the H&K masses for my less-than-gushing reviews of the H&K firearms I was able to test, even when H&K didn’t send me any. (Borrowed, not from H&K.) And then they sent me the P30.
The first thing you have to realize, which may not be apparent from the photos, is that this is a pistol that actually is proportioned for people. Where trying to pack your typical H&K pistol all day concealed could tax even the finest tailor, the P30 is the size of regular pistols. The grip is some sort of aberration It fits my hand. And in the current race of polymer pistols with interchangeable backstraps, the P30 goes one better You can fit one of three different-size backstraps and side panels on the grip. Mix and match if you like. Do you want the fat sidepanels and the short/small backstrap? Knock yourself out. Or form any other combo you can think of.
How far did H&K take this radical new idea of hand-fitting frame proportions? The finger grooves actually fit my hand. Not just my hand, but also everyone’s at my gun club I could convince to hold and shoot it (it wasn’t difficult). Usually, finger grooves on a pistol grip are proportioned for a gorilla or octopus , but those on the P30 are comfy. It also is about the same circumference as a 1911, and not at all like the fat-frame hi-cap 9s we’re all accustomed to. That grip encloses a 15-shot 9mm magazine. The magazine tube has ribs pressed into it, so the tube was obviously proportioned for a .40 chambering (hinting at future variants).
The slide-stop is ambidextrous and also serves as the takedown lever. Here’s how it works Unload the gun and verify it’s clear. Just forward of the slide hold-open notch is a rectangular gap. Use your left hand to hold the slide with that gap lined up over the front of the slide-stop lever. Then press the pin from the other side through. Well, partway through — the slide stop doesn’t come off the frame. It simply frees the slide (you can’t lose it if it doesn’t come off). With the slide off, pull off the captured spring and guide rod/cam piece, and let the barrel fall out. You’re done. Assembly is just as easy. The magazine catch is the current European favorite a dual paddle on either side of the triggerguard. Press down the paddle, and you release the magazine. It is ambidextrous, and it does work. I just find that my grip is so high and tight that sometimes when I press such paddles down, I’m pushing them against my second finger.
Notice the cam slot in the guide rod? It cams and supports the barrel, so there’s no need for a chunk of steel at that point in the frame. In fact, the only steel (that I could see) actually in the frame is the four rail pads, caught when the frame was molded. The other metal (probably steel, I didn’t check) molded into the frame is the serial-number plate, inset in the Picatinny rail as part of the dustcover.
The trigger mechanism is a traditional double action, with a long stroke to first fire it and a shorter one once it has cocked itself after the first shot. The trigger is nice. The initial pull is smooth and relatively light. The single action is clean. It has, as all such designs do, a bit of overtravel in single action. Some shooters complain about it. Me, I’ve done too much DA revolver shooting to even notice the relatively small amount of it that DA autos have. Right out of the box, the P30 is plenty good enough for practice, duty or defense. If you wanted to use it in competition, I’m sure any number of gunsmiths can figure out how to slick it up. With the trim grip, the trigger is not a long reach.
As with all DA/SA pistol systems, there is some sort of safety or decocker. On the P30, it is a decocker, and it is not at all obvious. Look at the rear of the frame, next to the hammer. See the serrated button? That’s your decocking lever.
Press it (it hinges on an interior pivot pin) and you safely drop the hammer. Once down, the hammer can again be cocked by stroking the trigger. With the decocker out of the way, you do not have the risk of engaging the safety or decocker when racking the slide in a malfunction drill. There is no magazine disconnector, so the pistol will fire even if the magazine is out, there’s a round in the chamber and you press the trigger.
The fixed sights are fitted with three-dot sights. I prefer plain black, but that’s me. If you like dots, you’ll love these. And as the sights are fitted into dovetails in the slide, trust me, it won’t be long before the night-sight makers will have sights for the P30. I would like to report that I shot truly impressive amounts of ammunition through it in an attempt to “test” the reliability of an H&K pistol.
I may have been grumpy about H&Ks in the past, but I never doubted their reliability. No, I only had this one for a short time, as it apparently was the only one in the U.S. at the time of this writing. So it arrived on a Friday and had to leave on the next Monday. There is a limit to how much ammo even I can shoot over a weekend. I did my best to get myself knee-deep in brass before I had to scrub it up and send it off to our photographer. The extractor is external, huge, also acts as a loaded-chamber indicator and never failed. If the thing were any bigger you could use it as a harpoon for fish in a survival situation.
What I found out from two days of shooting was quite interesting. First of all, this is one accurate little gun. I mean, pistols with barrel lengths of just under four inches aren’t supposed to shoot like this. Groups of two to 2 1/2 inches at 25 yards were the norm with any of the ammo I had along.
I had neglected to pack any of the super-accurate match ammo except for the Hornady XTPs, so the Remington 147s and the Cor-Bon Performance 9mm will have to wait until later. I’m sure they’d have also turned in spectacular groups, but how much more do you need for a carry gun? Plinking on the 100-yard steel plates was downright boring Press the trigger and get a plink. Press the trigger, get a plink. Repeat until you either run out of ammo or get tired of showing off.
What really impressed me was the lack of recoil. I didn’t notice it at first, as I was chronographing standard 9mm ammo after having done the same with a .357 SIG (so of course the 9mm felt softer). Then I shot some Winchester “Law Enforcement Only” 9mm +P+ through the P30 and over the chrono. It didn’t feel that much different from the standard 9mm. My 115s at 1,350 didn’t feel sharp? Waitaminnit! So I shot the two side by side an all-steel 1911 in .357 SIG and the P30 with the 9mm +P+. The 9mms were only nine grains lighter and 15 fps slower, but the H&K P30 felt markedly softer in recoil. More so than the small difference in weight and velocity between them. So I loaded up with standard 9mm and just shot, paying attention to the felt recoil. And this only strengthened my impression — this is one soft-shooting little gun.
Will there be a .40 S&W P30? I don’t know, but if the .40 is as soft-shooting for its caliber as the 9 is, I want one when H&K makes it.
Accurate, soft-shooting and holds a lot of bullets sounds like a great little carry 9 to me. With the well-shaped grip and the grip-panel options, it should fit a lot of hands. Where I think the P30 also has a bright future is in competition. In USPSA/IPSC Production Division, or in IDPA SSP, the P30 offers a lot. I’m sure shooters who find a well-fitting combination of grip panels and backstrap will then be hounding their gunsmiths for trigger work. You competition shooters might have to switch from your lead-bullet reloads. The H&K’s polygonal barrel won’t be happy with lead. The problem isn’t as marked in 9mm as it is in the bigger calibers, but you’ll probably see lots of leading.
Those of you who live in one of the various “People’s Republics” that do not allow more than 10-shot magazines will have to figure a work-around. I don’t know if the P30 will be offered with 10-shot magazines. However, if the sales take off as I expect them to, there will be a lot of interest. For most hi-cap 9s, 10-shot magazines are idiotic. Why have a big fat 9 and then only put 10 shots in it? But the P30 is slim enough that you won’t feel dumb, even if you’re limited by state law.
In all this exclaiming, I did manage to find one thing to be grumpy about, so my history with H&K isn’t completely abandoned. The backstrap is secured to the frame by means of a roll pin. To change the backstrap (and the backstrap holds the grip panels on) you need to use a drift punch and a hammer. Oh my. Everyone else has managed to figure a way to let the end-user do it either with his bare hands or with a tool built into the pistol. H&K requires a punch and hammer. Oh well, you aren’t going to be mixing and matching out in the field, and the roll pin is more secure.
I’m sure at least one of you has remarked “Great — Sweeney gets to tell us about his adventures shooting an H&K prototype and how neat it all is. What good is that for us?” Simple The one-and-only will — very soon — not be alone. Before this issue hits the newsstand, H&K will have taken delivery of what promises to be a steady stream of P30s.