0 stoppages, 0 malfunctions, 0 parts breakages
Last 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?
The 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.
Accuracy 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.
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.
The 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