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Registration date : 2007-06-27

PostSubject: IN PRAISE OF THE P7   Sun 05 Jul 2015, 13:27


Some pistols prevent you from performing to the best of your ability.
Some pistols allow you to perform to the best of your ability.
And a few pistols allow you to exceed your potential.
The Heckler and Koch P7 is in this third, exclusive, category.
In this article we are going to examine the history, design and application of this weapon.

[Den with P7]

Before WW-2 the German police were armed with a variety of semi-auto pistols from esteemed makers such as Walther and Mauser. After the war they were initially disbanded and disarmed, then reconstituted with S&W .38 revolvers. When the German arms industry was allowed to start again, the police were generally given Walther PPKs in .32acp. As Jeff Cooper observed “when we de-Nazified the Germans, we went right off the other end of the scale” Evidence of this tender attitude was the standard training target, which had the primary scoring zone on the right knee!
  Bad enough as this pistol was for self-protection, it was housed in the most egregious holster ever designed for police use; a full-flap leather “suitcase” with a security strap. In a fight the officer had to open the tricky swivel-catch, fumble the flap out of the way, then draw the pistol with the other. He then had to flick the safety catch up, and rack the slide, because regulations dictated empty chamber/on-safe carry. By this time the bad guy would have emptied his own weapon and legged it to the next jurisdiction.
The German police union lobbied for improved firearms, but it was the activities of the Baader-Meinhoff terrorist gang which brought matters to a head.
Starting in March 1974 the Standing Conference of State Minsters of the Interior set out a Pflichtenheft [book of requirements] for a new police sidearm. The fundamental requirement was the “convulsive shot”, the weapon had to be fired without the need to operate any catches or switches. Apart from that they was an ammunition requirement which effectively stipulated 9mm, and a size envelope to meet. Four major German arms manufacturers submitted designs for the new weapon, and three completed rigorous testing in 1976. These were the P5, a born again Walther P-38; The P6, otherwise known as the SIG-Sauer 225,  a revamped SIG-220, and the P7 from Heckler and Koch. Various states of the Federal Republic were free to adopt whichever of the three they wished.

Initially known as the PSP [police self-loading pistol, or, as Jeff Cooper preferred pneumatic squeeze pistol] the P7 was adopted by the GSG-9 counter-terrorist unit, as well as several SEK [German SWAT teams].
The original PSP had a European magazine release, located on the heel of the butt, a position disliked by American shooters. Actually, it was quite decent, because it operated by an inward push, and could be performed quite elegantly as you withdrew the spent magazine. Anyway, the P7M8 appeared with a mag release behind the trigger guard, and this is the model which eventually became well known. A later version, the M13 with a double-stack magazine, was adopted by the New Jersey State Police and the US Federal Parks Police.

So the PSP became the P7, which evolved into the M8/13. Many shooters just called it the “squeeze cocker” [as I did, until I introduced it to a class as the Heckler cock-squeezer”]

I first fired a P7 in 1983. I was contracted to train a group of Middle Eastern Aviation Security Police, and the training company supplied various weapons for the guys to try.

[Aviation security trainee with P7]

During a break I tried some fast headshots with the P7, and was instantly entranced. A few weeks later I bought one. To me the main features are:
1] Size. The P7 is a compact pistol, it is what one writer termed “size economical” in that it is just big enough to handle the 9mm round, and no bigger. In the M8 [my favoured] version, the weapon is very flat, making concealment a doddle. Mike Hargreaves, a confirmed Glock aficionado, once looked at my Galco beltpack and remarked “I have to admit, that thing just disappears”

[Galco beltpack with P7]

As well as being compact, the P7 is devoid of sharp edges, and easy to handle.
2] Squeeze cocker. This is a stroke of brilliance. As you gain the initial grip on the weapon, from the holster, you exert pressure on the frontstrap, which cocks the pistol as it lines up on target. Relax the grip and the weapon is totally safe again. Very natural and very safe. By the way, it takes about 16lbs to squeeze the cocker, but less than two pounds of pressure to keep it cocked.
Another function of this lever is to release the slide following a reload.

3] Gas system: A gas operated weapon uses the propellant gasses to cycle the action. A gas retardant weapon uses those gasses to delay the slide’s opening, and thereby reduce recoil. In the P7 gas is diverted through a tiny vent into a chamber under the barrel, where it impacts on a piton connected to the slide. As the cartridge case forces the slide back, the pistol counteracts this, reducing recoil considerably.
There was initial concern that the tiny vent could become blocked by firing debris. If you follow factory recommendations and use jacketed ammo, then there is no problem. It is wise, however to keep the weapon, especially the port, piston and gas chamber clean. [On an H&K armourers course Evan Marshall once asked “why is it only German pistols have gas chambers?”]
By reducing the recoil fast follow-up shots are easy. I once demonstrated the P7 to a close-protection class in South Africa. I shot a rapid string of headshots, a “cloverleaf”. The guys were impressed, until I had to admit that most of it was down to the pistol, and they could do the same, which they did.

4] Sights. At a time when many pistols came equipped with vestigial sights, the P7 had high-visibility, three dot sights.
5] Trigger. Unlike it’s Pflichtenheft bedfellows the P7 is a single action design. This gives a short, light trigger action for every shot, unlike the P5 and P6 with their  long/short DA/SA triggers. Although not as crisp as a custom competition pistol, the P7 trigger certainly allows accurate placement to the limits of the shooters’ ability. Taken together with the sights and low-recoil system, the P7 is ideal for rapid, surgical shooting.

[The last three shots fired through my P7 onto a playing card, before giving up the pistol during the UK handgun ban]

1] Price: With a cost of about £1,000 the P7 was by no means cheap. This probably stopped more police departments from adopting the weapon, it was in fact more expensive than the H&K MP-5 subgun.
2] Finish: Despite the high price the pistol has a basic blued finish, vulnerable to wear and corrosion. For their later USP design H&K developed their “hostile environment” finish. I don’t know if they will apply this as an aftermarket option for the P7. If not, then the NP-3, or, Back-Ti finish would be the way to go.
3] Heating: Because of the gas chamber the area above the trigger guard heats up alarmingly in rapid fire. A modification to the original P7 when it became the M8 was a plastic heat shield. It doesn’t help much. Shooting the P7 on a range in the Arizona desert was a revelation. We were doing quickfire drills, emptying two or three magazines at a time. I had to lock the slide back to try to get some air circulating as I checked my target between relays. Operating the slide after such firing invariably caused blisters.
4] Service. Heckler’s aftermarket service is legendary.....for being bad! I spoke to a sergeant from the Munich SEK,[German equivalent of SWAT] who were using M13s. They loved them, but were sick of trying to deal with H&K’s service department, and were changing to Glocks.

[The best of German steel, MP-5 with holstered P7]

[Den at the Heckler & Koch factory in Obendorf]

Working in VIP protection I found that the P7 was the choice of many professionals. A very concealable, reliable, shootable package, it was almost designed for the bodyguard. When I was working in Macau their VIP Protection Unit carried the little Heckler.

[Den demonstrating a transition from MP-5 to P7]

With the advent of the suicide bomb attack in major western cities several counter-terrorist agencies are looking at the problem of equipping covert personnel to deliver catastrophic brain shots to the terrorists. The spontaneous placement of shots to the brain-stem [the size of a walnut] to a moving head, in a hostage rich environment requires the very best equipment. I’d suggest that the P7 is top of the list.

In researching this article I made frequent reference to the series of articles on German police sidearms, brilliantly written by Heinrich Harke, in Handgunner Magazine issues 23-27.


Check Six,
Dennis Martin
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