Heckler and Koch P7
Little Bear Leather
The Innovative P 7 Heckler and Koch
Sometimes we use what we can, and other times we buy the best we can afford. A case in point of the Heckler and Koch Police Service Pistol or PSP. Widely recognized as one of the most reliable and effect service pistols of all time, the PSP and its modern counterpart, the P7, are simply too expensive for general issue. Even the well heeled handgunner may balk at a used pistol that brings well over a thousand dollars. While intermittently available as a new purchase, production is low and the new pistols retail for close to fifteen hundred dollars. A boon to interested handgunners has been the recent availability of used PSP pistols as a result of German police rearming with modern types. These are the original heel type magazine release P7 pistols rather than the Americanized Browning type magazine release P7M8. The offerings are characterized as A, B and C grade. As far as I am able to ascertain the difference in grading refers to external cosmetics. I have examined several and they appear to be in good condition internally. Just the same I fitted my personal example with a new recoil spring and new magazine spring from WC Wolff gunsprings. My A grade pistol appears to have a refinished slide and the takedown button is slightly damaged, perhaps from a left handed shooter banging the handgun on a police cruiser door.
The P7 has several unique features that deserve notice. The pistol is a blowback, unusual for a 9mm caliber handgun. The use of a simple blowback action allows the pistol to maintain a compact size and low bore axis. A gas cylinder and piston allows the pistol to safely contain the force of the powerful 9mm Luger cartridge. This system seems to work as well as the conventional locked breech demanded for cartridges above the .380 ACP level of power. The low bore axis, coupled with a 110 degree grip angle, results in a handgun that is remarkably easy to handle and use well. The PSP features a fixed polygonally rifled 3.8 inch barrel. Polygonal rifling is noted for high accuracy potential and greater average velocity than conventionally rifled barrels of similar length. However, lead bullets cannot be used safely in a polygonal rifled barrel. I think that the gas retarded blowback system would preclude the use of lead bullets in any case. This is more of a consideration than a drawback. I am certain Europeans view Americans as a bit wild for even considering using handloads much less lead bullets in a fine handgun! I am four square American in outlook and use cast bullet handloads for economy-but not in the P7.
The operating system of the P7 was designed with safety features but no manual safety. The intent was to produce a handgun that is safe at all times but instantly ready for action. This was accomplished by using a squeeze cocking lever in the front of the gripstrap. This lever requires about three pounds of pressure to depress but once activated less than a pound of constant pressure keeps it in place. When the lever is activated, the striker is cocked and the cocking indicator protrudes from the rear of the slide. The drawbar moves into place and the pistol may be fired. Single action trigger compression is quite crisp at three pounds with no creep or backlash. Naturally with any trigger the proper technique is to keep the trigger finger off the trigger until you fire. While safety is not something found in a mechanical device but in the shooter's gray matter, the P7 has mechanical features that make it among the safest of handguns. If you drop the handgun and release the lever, the strike is decocked without the handgun firing, the firing pin block is activated and the trigger bar withdrawn. The firing characteristics of the P7 are good. The pistol is easy to control due to the low bore axis and 110 degree rake in the handle. A combination of good balance, good sights and a good trigger make for high hit probability. The beginning shooter will sometimes attempt to grasp the handgun too tightly. A firm grip without trembling is best.
To load the P7, begin with the slide locked to the rear. Insert a loaded magazine. Simply depress the cocking lever and the slide runs forward loading the P7. If desired you may remove the magazine and top off with another round for carry. The pistol holds eight rounds in the magazine. I am not a fan of high capacity but firmly believe that accurate fire and a good handfit will carry the day. The P7 offers nine rounds quick and accurate, all we can ask for. The P7 is a good handgun for personal defense, but requires dedication to the system. The P7 has a reputation as one of the world's most reliable handguns. My example is a small sample but in firing well over two thousand rounds during the past year the P7 has never failed to feed chamber fire or eject. I have used an eclectic supply or ammunition including budget grade and surplus as well as the finest
premium ammunition. The P7 is not rated for +P and was designed before the advent of +P ammunition. Considering the blowback action and the fact that the frame in front of the triggerguard heats up considerably after firing a hundred rounds or so, +P loads are contra indicated in the P7. I have fired a good supply of ball ammunition from Black Hills, Cor Bon (performance match), Federal, Fiocchi, Speer, Winchester and Wolf with good results. Jacketed hollowpoint ammunition was no challenge. The single most accurate loadings are difficult to qualify as I do not use a machine rest, preferring to stay in touch with reality. But several loads have given good results off of the barricade. At present the best twenty five yard groups include several with the Winchester 147 grain SXT that have averaged just under two inches at twenty five yards. This is an excellent standard, better than should be expected from a 3.8 inch barrel service pistol of this size and modest weight. The average for premium ammunition is around three inches with some of the less expensive fodder and my own bulk handloads running perhaps four inches. A handgun's singular performance of two inches is not a true measure of accuracy potential, but an average three inch standard is my hands is impressive. Clearly the P7 is more than accurate enough for personal defense. The pistol is fast into action and easy to conceal.
I have carried the P7 in two good holsters, one a belt scabbard suitable for IDPA and practice and the other a deep concealment holster. The Raven Concealment (ravenconcealment.com) Phantom has given excellent results. This is a holster with a combination of good speed and security. For concealment under light covering garments, the Little Bear Leather (littlebearholsters.com) IWB , specifically the V 1 version, has given good results. Overall, in the P7 we have a mechanical marvel with good performance and more than a little pride of ownership. It is chambered for the most widely distributed personal defense and military cartridge in the world. This is a good choice for an all around defensive handgun, providing the user is willing to dedicate to the system.