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Heckler & Koch makes some of the highest-quality firearms in the world. That’s a pretty strong statement, but I believe most folks who’ve spent much time around an H&K gun would probably agree with me. The designs, the engineering, the materials, the craftsmanship…it all goes together to make some top-notch guns.
We’re going to look at the H&K P30L (L means longer barrel, more in specifications below). The gun shown above belonged to my brother – he brought it to my backyard range to wring it out. It is in .40 S&W but is also available in 9mm caliber. Let’s take a quick look at the company, then we’ll tackle the gun itself: specifications, photos, shooting, etc. This was one sweet shooter!
H&K – The Company
Heckler & Koch owns a couple of firsts…they were the first to produce a polymer-framed pistol, the VP70…
… the Volkspistole 70, “people’s pistol, 1970.” It was a double-action-only gun that was capable of firing three-round bursts. They also have the distinction of landing, in 2004, the largest American law-enforcement contract to date with the order for pistols. The contract was worth up to $26.2 million for up to 65,000 pistols and went to the DHS.
A Little Background
H&K is known for its law enforcement and military weapons. The very famous H&K MP5 submachine gun comes to mind for one example. Based in Oberndorf, Germany with subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, France and the United States, the company manufactures many different types of arms, including handguns, rifles, submachine guns and others.
I think, in order to fully grasp the complete product line of the company, we might need to visit some web pages. I always like giving background and history of manufacturers of the guns I review – I feel it helps us to understand the particular gun a little better. If we know about our reviewed gun’s “cousins”, we get a little better idea as to the construction, philosophy and design trends about that company. So, let’s check out some of H&K’s other products in order to more fully appreciate the P30L we’re going to look at in some detail below.
A quick look at their consumer website shows 19 different models of pistols ranging in caliber from .22 LR to .45 ACP and three AR-style rifles plus a separate upper assembly in either .223 or .308. The third menu option is “Limited Production.” This leads you to the USC, .45 ACP caliber personal defense (read about the best self-defense insurances) weapon with a 16-inch barrel. One link that does not pop up from the drop-downs at the top of the frame is the SP5K page – this is the semiautomatic version of the world-famous MP5K submachine gun. Check it out here.
The above items are what is shown to the general public as we visit the site. What is not shown are all the guns and other goodies available to law enforcement and military. To see some of those, you need to go here. This page shows the links to pistols (some of which are not shown on the consumer site), three submachine guns, four assault rifles, two machine guns, two precision rifles and five grenade launchers. This company almost does it all.
As you peruse the different products, you begin to get the feeling that this company knows what it’s doing where building firearms is concerned. They should – they are major suppliers to some of the world’s most elite police and military organizations.
I won’t go into a detailed history of the company, but here’s a short version… After WWII, the French were occupying Oberndorf, Germany and had the entire Mauser factory dismantled, with all records, etc. destroyed. Three former Mauser engineers – Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch and Alex Seidel – saved what they could and started a machine tool operation in the vacant factory that made non-firearms-related items. Later, they changed the name of that company to Heckler & Koch and got started in the firearms business with a contract with the Bundeswehr (West German army) for a new battle rifle, and by 1959 the G3 was adopted by that force.
A machine gun and the MP5 followed in a few years and the company was up and running. If you want more details, you can read about H&K in depth here.
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The P30 Series
If you look at the P-series pistols that H&K makes, you will notice that there are three variations. They include the:
P30: The P30 is the standard, compact version of the P series DA/SA line of pistols. It utilizes a 3.85-inch barrel.
P30SK: The “sub-kompact” version of the P 30. It has a 3.27-inch barrel.
And, the one we have in front of us, the P30L:
P30L: The “long”-barreled version. Its barrel is 4.45 inches. Here some other specs:
|Sights:||Three-dot, luminescent (shine a flashlight on them and they glow a while) or night sights|
|Sight Radius:||6.42 in.|
|Weight:||27.52 ounces, with mag; approx. 34 ounces, loaded|
|Action:||DA/SA with decocker|
|Capacity:||13 (.40); 15 (9mm)|
Please bear in mind that, even though there are only three P-series guns, each of the three has several variations. Here is a screen shot of the different models you can get the P30L in:
So, if you want a P30L, you have 12 to choose from. Each of the other two models have a similar listing. Notice that the MSRP varies with the model. I believe we have the fourth-from-the-top version, with two magazines and the rear decocker. This model did not have night sights, but as mentioned above, if you illuminate them with a flashlight, they will glow in the dark for a period of time. My brother pointed this feature out.
Before we get to the gun itself, there is one more thing that needs to be explained – the LEM trigger. This stands for “law enforcement modification.” This means that the gun has a two-piece hammer with an exposed spur that is connected to the main spring with its built-in cocking piece. After each shot, the cocking piece stays cocked and the hammer is lowered, which adds to the safety factor. The trigger pull is remarkably light for what amounts to a DAO-type pull – I experienced this recently with a P2000SK at friend Duane’s shop. Shooting from a hammer-lowered position provides a good blend of a smooth, if longer, trigger pull and safety. The pull weights range from about 11.5 pounds in double action after the first shot to a single action weight of around 4.5 pounds, for that first shot after you rack the slide. If you want the gun not to be cocked, there’s always the decocking lever you can press on the rear of the slide.
On a related note, SIG Sauer has a trigger system designed for law enforcement, as well…the DAK system that provides two reset points instead of one. These two companies sell a lot of guns to police units and have tried to cater to that market with specialized actions intended to help officers shoot more accurately and also add to the safety factor of the guns. For more about the DAK system, read my explanation of the SIG P226’s DAK trigger.
The gun I shot was a plain, ordinary DA/SA. It still had a great trigger pull, and the decocking lever’s position is extremely handy – next to the hammer right where you can get to it.
Anatomy Of A P30L
OK…time to take the gun apart and see what makes it such a great pistol. Let’s start with what it comes in when you buy it – the case…
No surprises here…just a nicely-made plastic snap-case.
This is what comes with the gun. Again, fairly typical. Owner’s manual, lock, fired case…but this gun includes things that many other guns don’t:
You get two extra backstraps and two sets of palm-swell grip panels. You can mix & match to your heart’s content. Also, notice the magazine loader in the background. This is a good idea. I have an Uplula loader and I love it – it saves my thumbs much pain. But, if you don’t have one, a one-piece loader like this one really helps. A few other companies throw these in with their guns, as well – I know Glock does, for one example.
Here’s what it looks like when you open the lid:
One of my personal sayings that is true at least part of the time is that a gun maker that cares about its product puts that product in a decent case. A lot of people store their guns in the case it came in (they should be in a gun safe) at least until they can make other arrangements, so a sturdy, hard case comes in handy. The reason I said above “at least part of the time” is that not all guns have been shipped in so sturdy a case…a personal example is the 8 3/8”-barreled S&W Model 629 .44 Magnum I own that came to me in that famous blue & white cardboard box. An heirloom-quality, hand-it-down-to-your-sons revolver in a cardboard box…the gun was made almost 40 years ago, and things were different then. All I’m saying is that if you have a nice pistol or revolver, treat it well and store it safely where it can’t be hurt, scratched, etc. If you are wondering about gun safes, check out my article on those. I’m not saying that the case should be fancier than what it holds. A gun’s shipping case’s cost should not be that great to the maker…just use a decent, protective case. Put any money you save from not including a top-line Cadillac-style case back into the gun. It looks like that’s what H&K do with their pistol cases. They are very protective – notice how thick the plastic is and how the foam is cut precisely – but they don’t overdo it. This is a good balance.
Here’s the gun:
Notice a couple of things here. First, look at the slide release. It’s ambidextrous and uses long levers. Being a lefty, I appreciate that. It’s also how the pistol is taken down – more later.
Also, while we’re talking about ambidextrous features, look at the magazine release. Notice- no button. There is a paddle with a little lever on each side of the trigger guard:
The advantage of this system is that it makes the pistol one of the very few truly-ambidextrous guns out there. Many guns will allow you to switch the mag release button from the left side of the gun to the right or may even have a truly bilateral release with a button on either side of the frame, but few will also mirror the slide release on the right side. Again, my left-handed-ness appreciates this. I’ve just about gotten used to using my trigger finger to drop the magazine on 90% of semiautomatic pistols I shoot. Now, I’ll never run a string of targets like a true IDPA champ, but I would like to get a little faster at reloading – this would be the way to do that, have a paddle to press on either side instead of a button on the “wrong” side.
As we continue to work our way around the gun, we see slide serrations both fore and aft, and an external extractor. The serrations are very sharp and lend themselves to positive slide retraction with no fumbling.
Here are the sights on the gun. As stated above, these are not true night sights but will glow for a period of time after exposure to a bright light.
As you can see, the sights are substantial. Made of steel, they are built to last. You would not expect polymer sights on a gun that is used for law enforcement or military purposes. (That’s not a slam on Glocks, but I still don’t know why they insist on using the sights they do. They could improve their gun a lot by making a minor sight change). Anyway, the rear sight is drift-adjustable for windage. The front sight is dovetailed, so if you want to replace one or both sights, you can do that. A quick online search revealed many sets of sights, and also several front-sights-only. The price seems to start around $50 for the front and $100 or so for the pair. The prices quoted are for Trijicons, from Optics Planet. This is just one example. So, if you want true night sights, it’s certainly easy enough to do. Just have a gunsmith or someone who’s done it before correctly install your sights. They were visible when I shot the gun, and my eyes are getting a little more finicky about sights the older I get. These worked well, except for the size of the dots – more on that below.
The grip texturing on this gun was just about right. If you’ve read any of my articles, I like a roughly-textured grip to help keep my hand attached to the gun. I prefer something on the order of 100 grit sandpaper…well, maybe not that coarse but I have stippled several of my guns’ grips. It does rough up the grips a bit. Add in the ability to custom-tailor the fit to your hand with the extra backstraps and side panels and you have one very comfortable gun. I had no trouble reaching the trigger or maintaining a proper grip on the gun.
Rail and Slide
The picatinny rail is useful for attaching whatever you would normally attach to a pistol – I’m pretty much a gimmick-free type of guy in that department – but if you want to run a light or a laser, no problem. You have five full slots – that ought to allow attachment of about anything you choose. The slide is beveled at its muzzle for easy reholstering, as you can see. It’s fairly angular, which really does help guide the muzzle into the holster. With the forward serrations, you have a very tactile slide that allows you to grab it easily, even if you’re only doing a press check. The serrations are cut to be fairly sharp, which aids in grasping and moving the slide, even with gloves on.
Slide Release and Takedown
The slide release is one of the best-designed I’ve ever seen. When I first looked at an H&K’s slide release many years ago, I had the thought that it looked “industrial-strength.” I was used to seeing the smaller, more “blended” (for lack of a better word) slide releases on 1911s and other semi-autos of the day. I did figure that the one on the H&K meant business, no matter which hand you held your fork (or pistol) in. A long, long lever – compared to other guns’ slide releases – gives you more leverage. I know, that’s obvious but it really helps, and it works. You don’t have to break your hold on the gun to move your hand to get to it.
Another impressive example of German engineering – the slide release doubles as the take-down lever. This minimizes the controls on the side of the frame, which in turn helps keep the width and complexity down. Here it is, performing its takedown function…
Notice the red “isidciatr” (quote from the owner’s manual – a typo that should say “indicator”). When you see red, you simply pull the slide off. The slide release/takedown pin stays on the frame-no parts to lose. It comes apart like pretty much any other semi-auto, into the following components:
The captured recoil spring is interesting. Look at the poly buffer installed on it…that really helps prevent frame battering, and no doubt gives the pistol longer intervals between tune-ups and spring replacement. Also note the barrel – the gun uses a short-recoil, Browning-type tilting barrel design. It is highly polished, with a very slick feed ramp. I couldn’t find one machining mark on it.
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Shooting The P30L
We’ve seen where the H&K company came from and looked at some of their products. We’ve taken the P30L apart and have seen that it’s very well-built. But… how does it shoot? The oldest, best, top-notch etc. gun maker’s product is useless if it can’t shoot. So… what about the P30L?
I shot the gun with a few different .40 S&W loads, just to get a feel for it. The target above was shot at 25 yards from a bag rest. The ammo I shot was a mixture of three different 180-grain FMJ range-type loads – Federal Champion, Winchester White Box and Sig. I also ran a few rounds of Federal JHP ammo through the gun – no problems at all with feeding, extraction or ejection. The above target could represent any of the four loads I shot. The accuracy was decent for a defense/range gun, but honestly I was a bit disappointed. Granted, it was the first time I’d shot that gun and the sights’ dots were a bit small for my trifocals (I’d like to blame any inaccuracy on my glasses, as I have new ones waiting to be picked up but honestly it must have been me that day…). I do believe that the pistol, in other hands, would put the holes in the target a bit closer to each other than I did. I can’t blame recoil, either – it was a little brisk but nothing that should detract from your accuracy. After all, this is a full-size duty-type weapon and the recoil should be controllable for an approximately-34-ounce gun, fully loaded. If I owned the gun, I would upgrade the sights to night sights or the larger XS-big-dot type of sight. That’s what would work for me – your needs would most likely be different. I could see most folks being happy with the luminescent sights that are on the gun.
My Experience With This Gun – Looking Past The Target
While shooting the P30L, I was impressed with a few things. First, the ergonomics are great. The gun truly fit my hand very well. The very slight finger grooves in the grip did help line things up properly with my grip, and the right side of the gun was comfortable for my support hand. Secondly, when the slide would lock open after the last round, a very moderate press of that long release lever would send it back into battery with a new cartridge loaded into the chamber. The leverage that the long release lever exerts helps. It is not too pleasing aesthetically, but it sure works well.
One other thing that stuck with me when I shot the piece was its true ambidexterity. As I said above, this gun works exactly as well for left-handers as it does for righties. I know of few other guns that work so well. It seems that I’ve seen a Walther or two over the years that worked like this H&K, and that was mostly because of the paddle mag release that they used. Something in common here…both were designed in Germany. I guess this tells us something, but I’m not sure what. Another example is the Walther PPS subcompact 9mm. When it first appeared, it had the paddle release – I remember thinking what a great idea that was for us southpaws. But, the vast majority (around 90%) of shooters are right-handed and they did not like the paddle – it wasn’t a button on the left side of the frame like all the other guns had. So, Walther dutifully brought the M2 version of the pistol with the standard behind-the-trigger-guard push button. Then, they really started selling the PPS. I would like to have one of the originals.
I really liked this pistol and can see why H&K sells so many of them and similar models.
So, what can we take away from all this? Let’s sum up with a few pros and cons, speaking strictly from my personal experience with the gun…
- Well-built, quality construction and materials
- Great company reputation where design and execution of firearms manufacturing is concerned
- Good sights, for the most part
- Totally ambidextrous slide releases and magazine release
- Slide release is easy to reach and to manipulate from either side
- Decocker lever thoughtfully placed next to trigger
- Ergonomic grip with both extra backstraps and side panels
- Easy take-down with captured recoil spring
- Packaged in a sturdy, well-thought-out case
- Accuracy was not what I expected
- Sights, although good, were a bit hard to use – small, greenish dots that did not contrast much with target (again, my experience – may not be yours)
- A third magazine would be nice at this price point, $719 MSRP
I guess the pros far outweigh the cons, and this was born out in my handling and shooting of this gun. Would I like this gun in my gun safe? Sure. Who wouldn’t? Even though I don’t own a .40, I could see this particular gun in a holster as I roam my wild backyard. I reload a lot of 9mm and .45 ACP ammo and have not seen the need for a .40 S&W, but this gun sure got me to thinking…
If I Could Pick Just One…
If I had to narrow it down to just one reason that I like this gun, it would be the total ambidexterity the gun exhibits. As a lefty, I’ve had to learn work-arounds with almost every handgun I’ve ever owned. Even double-action revolvers (that I like a lot) have the cylinder release on the wrong side of the frame for me. So, I got used to shooting lefty in a right-handed world. At least that issue doesn’t rear its head with this or other similar guns. I can drop the mag, insert a fresh one and release the slide, all from the frame’s right side. In my opinion, that’s a really good thing.
If you own a H&K pistol, feel free to chime in below. As always, thanks for stopping by and be safe!