H&K P30L .40 S&W

H&K P30L: Hands-On Gun Review

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We’ll look at the H&K P30L .40 S&W (L means longer barrel, more in specifications below). The gun I used for this review 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.

Heckler & Koch makes some of the highest quality firearms in the world. Most gun owners 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.

Now, let’s take a quick look at the H&K P30L .40 S&W pistol.

Heckler & Koch: The Company

H&K P30L .40 S&W the company

Heckler & Koch owns a couple of firsts. For instance, they were the first to produce a polymer-framed pistol, the VP70. Short for Volkspistole 70, also known as the “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, especially the H&K MP5 submachine gun. 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.

Now, let’s check out some of H&K’s other products to fully appreciate the P30L we’ll look into later.

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.

As you peruse the different products, you begin to feel that this company knows what it’s doing where building firearms are concerned. They should — they are major suppliers to some of the world’s most elite police and military organizations.

Here’s a short version of the company’s history. 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.

G3

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.

H&K P30L MP5
MP5 with retractable stock.

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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 are the following:

  • 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 P30 is the standard, compact version of the P series DA/SA line of pistols. It utilizes a 3.85-inch barrel.
  • P30L: The 4.45-inch long-barreled version.

H&K P30L Specs in .40 S&W

Length:7.71 in.
Height:5.43 in.
Width:1.37 in.
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:

Configurations

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.

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.

H&K P30L Decocker trigger

Anatomy Of the H&K P30L Pistol

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.

H&K P30L Closed case

No surprises here — just a nicely-made plastic snap-case.

H&K P30L .40 S&W case manual

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:

H&K P30L Extra backstraps

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:

H&K P30L Gun in case

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 cost of the gun’s shipping case should not be that great to the maker. They could at least use a decent, protective case. And it looks like that’s what H&K do with their pistol cases. They are very protective. The plastic material is thick, and the foam is cut precisely.

Photos of the H&K P30L Pistol

Left-side
H&K P30L Right-side

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 on this later.

Also, while discussing ambidextrous features, look at the magazine release. There’s no button. There’s also a paddle with a little lever on each side of the trigger guard:

H&K P30L Mag release
H&K P30L Mag release
The bottom of the frame

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.

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.

H&K P30L Sights

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.

Front sight
Rear-sight from side
Rear sight

The sights are substantial, made of steel, and built to last. You would not expect polymer sights on a gun that is used for law enforcement or military purposes.

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. 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 to 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.

H&K P30L Grip

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 — 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.

H&K P30L 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 does help guide the muzzle into the holster. With the forward serrations, you have a tactile slide that allows you to grab it easily, even if you’re only doing a press check. The serrations are cut fairly sharp, which aids in grasping and moving the slide, even with gloves.

H&K P30L Slide Release and Takedown

The slide release is one of the best designs I’ve ever seen. When I first looked at an H&K’s slide release many years ago, I thought it looked industrial-strength.

I was used to seeing the smaller, more blended 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 helps, and it works. You don’t have to break your hold on the gun to move your hand to get to it.

H&K P30L slide release right-side

H&K P30L Takedown

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.

takedown lever

Notice the red 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.

H&K P30L torn-down

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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Here’s a video showing you how to disassemble and lubricate the H&K P30L:

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 seen it’s very well-built. Now, let’s look into its shooting performance.

H&K P30L with target

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 with no problems 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 would work for me, but your needs would most likely be different. I could see most folks being happy with the luminescent sights on the gun.

My Experience with the H&K P30L: 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 the 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 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.

H&K P30L Pros and Cons

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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Accuracy was not what I expected
  • Sights, although good, were a bit hard to use. For me, they’re small, greenish dots that did not contrast much with target (My experience, may not be yours)
  • A third magazine would be nice at its price point

I guess the pros far outweigh the cons, and this was born out in my handling and shooting 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 roamed 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 got me thinking.

Wrap Up

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 an H&K pistol, feel free to chime in below. As always, thanks for stopping by, and be safe.

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15 comments
    1. I own many hk’s and absolutely love them all. The p30 line is pretty much a modified USP. It’s not a better pistol, it just offers a better grip for someone with smaller hands, is very lefty friendly, and is a lot cheaper than the usp series because it’s manufactured in America and the usp is not. Its just as amazing as the usp in every way. The benefit of the usp series is you can change the setup as far as trigger options, safety, no safety etc. It has about 13 different possible variants. The p series of pistols you have to buy the variant you want from the factory and cannot change it. The usp is more of a blocky type pistol and a little heavier. The full size is just to big for me but their compact version is incredible. If you look at hk’s VP series, the p30 grip and frame are identical in terms of feel and both have modular grips. Hope this helps.

      1. John, thanks for your contribution. I’m sure you’ve helped many readers with your comparison. Glad you like your H&Ks…they’re great guns. Thanks for writing!

      2. The P series and VP pistoles use identical frames and can share mags. This helps when trying find 2nd mortgage free mags.

        1. Scott, that’s good to know. It makes the availability of mags greater, if one can do double duty. Thanks for writing!

    2. Vista, according to my sources the P30 is a direct descendant of the USP. That gun came out in 1993 and was successful. H&K wanted to upgrade the ergonomics and other features of that gun. The immediate result was the P2000. After more requests for upgrades, the P30 family made its appearance around 2006. One big upgrade was totally ambidextrous controls…the main reason I like it. Hope this helps…thanks for writing!

  1. When I first saw the Smith & Wesson .40 caliber pistols come out, which some police departments switched to, I thought I might like one — but looking @ the S&W website, they don’t make the original models anymore. Then I read about case ruptures & other problems — see, e.g.,
    https://www.gunsamerica.com/digest/5-reasons-hate-40-short-bus/

    One police dept. I know of switched from .40 caliber to 9 mm & given the choice of a .40 pistol or a 10 mm, I’d definitely buy a quality 10 mm. I really like my 9 mm pistol & there’s absolutely no reason to replace it, but I may buy a 10 mm model in the future — I would not even consider a .40 caliber pistol.

    1. Art, you’re right – the .40 did have some teething problems but I think they’ve got it pretty much figured out now. The main issue was firing +P ammo or hot reloads in a Glock, I think. The Glock’s chamber is not fully supported – check out my article on the Glock 20 10mm, coming out soon. I will say the later generation Glock barrels are better than earlier ones in that regard. I have a photo of the chamber in the piece. The 10mm is a good choice, as you can fire 40 S&W-pressure rounds to around 1000 fos or go all out with hunting loads at 1300 or 1400 fps. Thanks for writing!

      1. Another topic you may want to consider & write about Mike: I don’t like double-action-only pistols or the Glock’s action & I am definitely not alone. My 9mm can be fired DA on the 1st shot, but it’s SA from then on & can be carried “cocked & locked” like a SA-only 1911 type pistol. If there’s a round in the chamber I can cock the hammer & the pistol will work like a SA-only 1911 & I use it that way. With a long & heavy trigger pull, I tend to pull up & to the right, but using the pistol as SA-only I never miss.

        I would not buy a Glock because for all practical purposes, Glock’s “Safe Action” is double-action-only; you cannot cock the hammer (there isn’t one) & the trigger pull is both long & heavy. For a semi-auto pistol I’ll always go with one based on the Colt 1911A1 or Browning Hi-Power design & there are several manufacturers which make them, in different calibers, SA-only, or DA & SA. Examples include Taurus PT92 (a better version of the Beretta 92) & Sig-Sauer P226.

        1. Art, the DA/SA pistols are still popular. I like the DA/SA guns, too… I just reviewed one – the Sar K2P. Look for that write-up on this site. It’s a traditional DA/SA CZ75 variant. The trigger is great and it can be carried cocked & locked. Thanks for writing!

  2. I have a P30L in 9mm. It is beautifully made. It functions exceptionally well. You did not mention the weight/compensator that H/K makes in three different weights. These attach to the accessory rail. I bought the middle one (weight-wise.) It is a useful and fine accessory for this pistol.

    1. Vince, I was not aware of those weights. I had the gun for review but had not seen those weights on the website. I’m glad to know about them-thanks for informing me! Glad you wrote.

    2. Vince, I was unaware of the weights for these guns. It sounds like a great idea, and I’m glad you use it and like it. Thanks for writing!

      1. I bought mine directly from HK. mine is black anodized steel. I have my eye on buying the heavier brass one. The weight reduced muzzle flip and reduces recoil a bit. I have also bought a threaded barrel and flash compensator from HK. I think that the weight works better. (The compensator does not fit when the weight is attached.)

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