P30 Thursday: Week One

7-May-09 – 12:28 by ToddG

3,148 rounds
0 stoppages, 0 malfunctions, 0 parts breakages

p30-billboardLast Saturday, we announced that pistol-training.com was teaming up with Heckler & Koch to perform a 50,000 Round Endurance Test of the HK P30 LEM. With one week of testing behind us, the pistol has reached 3,148 rounds.

Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that all 3,148 rounds were fired through just two magazines, because that’s all we have so far. We’re waiting on a shipment of spare magazines from HK. Apparently, the P30 has become a bit popular. 

Initial impression of the gun has been extremely positive. Fit and finish rival any production pistol manufacturer on the market and exceed most. The gun has been unerringly reliable with factory-approved ammunition (more about that later in this post) and exceptionally accurate. Initial accuracy test results, as reported previously, delivered an average of 1.92″ at 25 yards with the 124gr +p Gold Dot from five 5-shot groups, fired from the bench.

How does it shoot? This was the big question. After eighteen months of dedicated training with the striker fired Smith & Wesson M&P9, how hard would it be to transition to a hammer-fired gun with a much different trigger mechanism and higher bore axis? Internet wisdom tells us it should be slower and harder to shoot. But was it?

p30-magreleasesideThe LEM (Law Enforcement Modification) trigger mechanism is HK’s answer to market demands for a lighter, consistent trigger pull. It uses a two-piece hammer, one part internal and one part external. When the slide is racked (loading the gun or during the firing cycle), the mainspring is compressed and kept in place as with any single action mechanism. However, the external part of the hammer moves fully forward and so does the trigger. In essence you have a cocked pistol that doesn’t look cocked. The first shot is long like a traditional double action pull, but it’s not any heavier than subsequent trigger pulls. The reset for subsequent shots is certainly longer than most striker-fired guns or a 1911, but it’s only about a third of the total trigger travel arc. Three different configurations are available:

V1: nominal 4.5# trigger pull; uses standard trigger return spring and standard firing pin block spring

V2: nominal 7.3# trigger pull; uses extra strength trigger return spring and extra strength firing pin block spring

V4: nominal 6.1# trigger pull; uses the extra strength trigger return spring but a standard firing pin block spring

We received a V2. Trigger pull, measured using an official NRA weight set, was seven pounds ten ounces out of the box. After 1,000 rounds the pull dropped by two ounces and has remained at exactly 7.5# since then. Sometime during the next week, we’ll be replacing the firing pin block spring to covert the pistol to a V4.

p30-3x5Accuracy was no problem at all with the LEM. Doing a standard 3×5 Card walkback drill, I went 5-for-5 at 3 yards, then 5, 7, 10, 12, and 15. Deciding to keep going, it was still 5-for-5 at 17, and then moved up in one yard increments. I got five out of five offhand on a 3×5 card at 23yd but after thirteen slow fire groups, a combination of fatigue and reality set in. At 24yd, I only scored two out of five.

Speed was also no problem after a few boxes to become acclimated with the LEM trigger. While the trigger pull is heavier than I’m used to and the reset is longer, hits on a 5×8 target at 25′ with splits around or below .20 seconds were the norm. The extra-power trigger return spring is a big part of the LEM’s speed. Though the reset is longer, the spring pushes the trigger forward faster than you could move your finger by itself so the actual time between shots is shorter. 

As expected, the higher bore axis of the P30 caused no problem. Even with my relatively short fingers, the adjustable grip options on the P30 (27 possible combinations) made it easy to wrap my hands around the gun in a strong 360-degree grip. The recoil guide mechanism of the P30 also incorporates a substantial buffer which HK claims reduce both felt recoil and frame battering. All I can tell you is that the muzzle hardly moves even when firing hot 115gr +p+ or 124gr +p ammunition.

An impromptu run of the F.A.S.T. a few times turned in a score of 4.93 seconds, clean. As mentioned below, the stock night sights on the gun are not optimal for speed shooting, so with practice and better sights we should see that number drop further.

The pistol points very well for me. While the compact slide seems oddly mated to the full size frame at first sight, the balance is perfect. All else being equal, the shorter slide means less mass for faster follow-up shots. In my experience, that’s a good trade-off against losing some sight radius. Though for folks who prefer a longer slide, the 4.4″ barrel P30L is available.

p30-magreleasebottom

Reloads were generally fast due to the great paddle-style ambidextrous  magazine release and easy to reach ambidextrous slide catch lever. I’ve always set up my Berettas, SIGs, and M&Ps for a “reversed” mag catch, because I prefer to use my trigger finger instead of my thumb to drop the mag. With the HK, it works exactly the same way. The magazine well would benefit from a bit of beveling, however, so one of my wife’s emory boards will make the ultimate sacrifice soon.

Ammunition fired has been varied: 115gr +p+ Remington JHP, 115gr CCI Blazer FMJ, American Eagle 115gr FMJ, American Eagle 124gr TMJ, Pro Load 124gr +p FMJ, and Speer 124gr +p Gold Dot.

We did have one bobble with the Blazer. The P30 manual clearly states that aluminum and steel case ammunition should not be used. True to their word, a combination of inadvertent thumb pressure on the slide and the not-recommended ammunition led to a double feed. I was able to reproduce the problem with that ammo only so long as I pressed against the slide. While it’s certainly unfortunate that the P30 is incompatible with such a common practice load, because the ammo was not within the P30’s specifications we’re not counting it against the gun.

It’s also noteworthy that even with fairly low powered ammunition like the incredibly soft shooting 124gr American Eagle TMJ, I could not reproduce the stoppage when pressing against the slide. Half a dozen other shooters have tried this P30 so far without any stoppages, either.

A few days into the test, we received a set of HK/Meprolight night sights for the gun. There was another bobble. The rear sights was apparently out of spec and after a few hundred rounds my POI began to shift. For about an hour I was trying to figure out how my shooting skill deteriorated so quickly with a gun that had been working so well for me! Thanks to NRA Range Officer and fellow pistol-training.com contributor Tom Ives, we proved that two men, a hammer, and a screwdriver can fix anything. After deforming the hollow in the sight base a bit, the rear sight is holding up perfectly.

The sights leave a bit to be desired. While they are adequate for accuracy work, the incredibly narrow rear notch combined with a fairly thick front sight make sight tracking slower and more difficult than it should be with this gun. The 3-dot design is also busy, especially after using Warren Tactical 2-dot sights for so long. The Heinie QWIK Straight Eight sights are available for the p30 and have received great reviews. We’re hoping to get a set on the test gun as soon as possible.

p30-looperThe great folks at Custom Carry Concepts sent along an appendix carry version of their very popular Looper holster in anticipation of this test. I’m wearing it now, as the P30 will be my everyday carry gun for the next six months. The HK is about an ounce and a half lighter than my full size M&P9. The HK is half an inch shorter front to back, as the Smith has 0.40″ longer barrel and 0.55″ longer sight radius. The two guns are about the same height and the HK is 0.17 inches wider, though that depends on which grips you’re using on both guns.

Carrying the P30 in an appendix holster raises one final but important point. Holstering a hammer-fired gun such as an LEM adds a substantial level of safety against accidents. As we discussed here earlier in the year (see The Safety Sin), even the best & brightest make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes lead to injury. But with a hammer-fired pistol, the proper way to reholster includes placing the strong side thumb on the hammer to prevent its movement. Because you are putting as much force forward on the hammer as you put backwards on the trigger, the gun will not go off if your finger, a strap from your gear, or some other random bit of flotsam finds its way inadvertently inside your trigger guard while putting the gun away.

Next week’s update will come from Montana, where I will be gearing up to teach a private class for some federal, state, and local law enforcement officers. Before that, the P30 will also be coming with me to Pennsylvania for an Aim Fast, Hit Fast program tomorrow and Saturday. We’re supposed to have rain of biblical proportions, so expect a report on the P30’s corrosion resistance. And if I get struck by lightning, my heirs can describe how well the German steel conducts electricity!

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 22 Responses to “P30 Thursday: Week One”

  2. Great review, Todd.

    Other than external differences, are the sighting dimensions/proportions of the Mepro night sights similar to the stock P30 sights?

    Another thought struck me as I was pondering the Blazer problem. Unlike other 9mm chambers, HK utilizes a step in their chamber, the purpose of which I can only speculate. Perhaps that step presents a unique challenge to aluminum and steel cased ammo not experienced with typical brass? There’s no doubt that all of my brass ejected from my P30/P2000’s exhibit a distinct ring around the case from the brass obturating to the stepped chamber. My guess is that the natural lubricity and/or malleability of the brass is compatible with this method, whereas the aluminum/steel could “grip” the chamber too tightly and extraction/ejection suffers???

    Tim

    By Timothy Slemp on May 7, 2009

  3. interesting note on the aluminum/steel cased ammo Todd. do any other manufacturers recommend against such ammo being used?
    does this pistol also produce the weird hump in the ejected case? I noticed the new guns that our Federal Corrections officers are getting do this, the P2000. it’s almost like the chambers have a recessed ring in them just forward of the base of the case.

    By Rob E on May 8, 2009

  4. Tim — I’m thinking it’s the same thing regarding the step/cut in the chamber, but I can’t say for sure. Hopefully, I can get some feedback from HK about it.

    While I’ve seen other manufacturers use Blazer or steel-cased ammo as an excuse when a gun had a problem, in my experience those brands of handguns generally worked fine with Blazer.

    By ToddG on May 8, 2009

  5. I own the P30-V4, I still have to get used to the heavier trigger pull (compared to others I have).

    One question: I think You mean the “Trigger Rebound Spring” and not the “Trigger Return Spring” might be the same thing but for me it was irritating because I could not find it in the HK manual, right?

    I think it’s the same as in the P2000 (Page 38/39 Part #20 – http://www.hk-usa.com/images/shared/P%20Series%20Manual.pdf).

    Like You once wrote, every shooter should be able to manage a 6 lbs trigger pull… I promise that I’ll practice and do my best! ;-)

    ps: sorry if it’s a double post, I did not receive a verification.

    By dan on May 13, 2009

  6. “I’ve always set up my Berettas, SIGs, and M&Ps for a “reversed” mag catch, because I prefer to use my trigger finger instead of my thumb to drop the mag.”

    You know, as much as I absolutely love the paddle release on my USP Compact, it’d never occurred to me to reverse the catch on more traditional designs for the same effect. Time to pull my P226 apart. Thanks for the project, Todd. :D

    By commandar on May 16, 2009

  7. commandar — Just be careful, if you get the mag catch pin in upside down, you’ve permanently disabled the gun and it will have to go back to SIG for serious repair.

    By ToddG on May 18, 2009

  8. Yeah, I noticed that the catch pin was *not* symmetrical when removing it and was especially careful about getting it back in the right way. I’m really loving the feel of the gun with the catch reversed so far. Thanks again for implanting the idea in my head. :)

    By commandar on May 20, 2009

  9. “P30 manual clearly states that aluminum and steel case ammunition should not be used.”

    Does this eliminate the usage of Hornady Critical Defense ammo? “..Shiny silver nickel plating prevents corrosion, and is easily visible in low light situations…”

    Also…How difficult is it to change your P30 from V2 to V4? Can it be changed to V1? Does it have to be sent out to do the switch?

    By AaronC on Mar 1, 2010

  10. AaronC — Nickel plated ammunition is fine.

    Changing a V2 to V4 is pretty easy, it’s just a matter of removing the firing pin and firing pin block, replacing the firing pin block spring, and putting everything back together. Going to a V1 is a bit trickier because you need to change the trigger return spring, which requires three hands, a vice, special tools, and the Grace of God.

    By ToddG on Mar 1, 2010

  11. ToddG, I wanted to thank you for all the info you have posted about the P30. I am new to handguns, and the only pistols I have ever shot were a sig p226, p228 (qualified with it) and a glock 23. Hated the Glock, Loved the P228. I have been searching around for a pistol that was as comfortable as the Sig, and stumbled on the P30 at a gun show. Didn’t have the cash at the time. Since then, I have devoured everything I could find on the P30, and now, I am looking for someone with a good price on a P30 .40 V3.
    I was already excited about the P30, but your articles have sold me completely.

    By Hawk on Mar 1, 2010

  12. Hawk — Glad to hear the test has given you some of the info you needed to help make your decision. I might suggest checking out HKPRO as a good source of used, private sale P30 pistols and other HK stuff.

    By ToddG on Mar 1, 2010

  13. As of today’s date, is the P30 V4 available for purchase in the US?

    Also…what is the pistol-training.com P30 I’ve been hearing about? Cosmetic or internal changes?

    I agree with Hawk. You have completely sold me. I was going to purchase the V3, but now I’m going LEM all the way!

    By AaronC on Mar 1, 2010

  14. AaronC — At this point, no official word on whether we’ll be doing a pistol-training.com P30. HK and I discussed it briefly months back but haven’t revisited the issue lately.

    The V4 is supposed to be the new standard LEM model that HK will import beginning this year. The last shipment was V2 but once those are gone, everything coming into the US (LEM, anyway) should be V4.

    By ToddG on Mar 1, 2010

  15. Todd,

    How do I tell which trigger pull set-up I have on my P30 9mm?

    Thanking you in advance for your response,

    Tim

    By Tim Alexander on May 15, 2010

  16. Tim — The box should indicate. It’s almost certainly either a V3 (DA/SA) or V2 (heavy LEM).

    By ToddG on May 17, 2010

  17. Todd,

    I recently purchased the P30 in 40S&W. That model comes with an ambidextrous safety as you know. My question is does the custom carry looper holster hold the 40cal model or does the safety get in the way? I am looking for a conceal carry holster and still haven’t found one.

    Thanks man.

    By Andrew Allen on Jul 21, 2010

  18. Andrew — Best advice I can offer is to contact Custom Carry Concepts directly and ask. I’m confident Rich at CCC can make a holster that will work.

    By ToddG on Jul 21, 2010

  19. Nice review. I just bought a HK P30. We fired it at the store range just after purchase and it jammed 3 out of the first 15 rounds. We had just finished shooting a HK2000 and a Glock (used gunes, only ones you can shoot at the store) and did not have a problem. One reason we sprung for the big bucks for the HK was because of the reputation for reliability. It was very disappointing. The store clerk suggested maybe I was “tired” from shooting too much and wasn’t providing enough resistance for the recoil/loading, but my husband also shoot it with the same jamming problem and my accurancy was equal (for the shots it did fire) to my accurancy with the used guns. My husband is now laughing at me for spending so much money. What are your thoughts?

    By linda on Dec 12, 2010

  20. Linda — It’s difficult to evaluate without knowing more.

    Was the P30 you purchased new or used?

    What ammo were you putting through it when it malfunctioned?

    What exactly happened when it malfunctioned? Was it a failure to feed, fire, extract, or eject?

    Have you asked any more experienced shooters to try the gun to see if the problem could be replicated?

    While it’s very rare, it’s certainly possible that your gun has a problem and needs to go back to HK for service. But before taking that step, it’s going to be easier to diagnose the issue and see if there is some more immediate way to remediate.

    By ToddG on Dec 13, 2010

  21. Hi! The gun was new. It was the demo one in the gun store’s case but they do not allow the new guns to be fired without being purchased. He did not have any other new ones, so he put this one back in the original box. The ammunition was PMC bronze, 115 grs. Out of one 15 round clip it failed to feed a live bullet correctly and failed to eject 2 casings. The indoor range is in the basement of the store. We went back up to the store to tell them what happened and see if the manager could go fire the gun, but they were so busy with holiday shoppers they just did not have time. I am hoping to go back this Friday to have the manager shoot the gun with me. Do new guns tend to have these type of problems? Now I wish I had bought one of the used ones that we were able to shoot! linda

    By linda on Dec 13, 2010

  22. Linda — Had you cleaned and lubricated the pistol prior to shooting it?

    I’d wait to see what the range owner thinks first. The P30 is also pretty heavily sprung. I’d recommend putting 100-200 rounds of higher pressure (+p or NATO specification) ammunition through the gun if possible.

    By ToddG on Dec 14, 2010

  23. Todd,

    Looking at the parts break down for the various LEM triggers are the two key springs # 13 Firing Pin Spring and #22 Trigger bar detent spring from the parts diagram? Trying to replicate your version 4 with the option of a version 1? Thanks. 29

    By Nikuraba29 on Feb 22, 2011

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