HK45 Endurance Test: Week Fourteen

15-Jul-10 – 00:31 by ToddG

18,578 rounds

0 stoppages 0 malfunctions 0 parts breakages

(this week’s report comes from TCinVA after he spent all day Saturday running the pistol during Speed Kills)

When  Todd offered to give me the HK45 test gun for the duration of the “Speed Kills” class held over the weekend, my first thought was “Free ammo!”. My second thought was “…but it means shooting a polymer .45.” I actually pondered it a bit because in all honesty I didn’t really like shooting non-1911 .45’s all that much. The 1911’s all steel construction and crisp 4-5 pound straight-travel trigger make it an extremely forgiving handgun to shoot with accuracy and some pretty impressive speed. In a class with Larry Vickers some time ago someone asked him why the 1911 was used for so long in his former unit despite the herculean task of maintaining such a finicky beast with their round count. His answer was simple and concise: “Because it’s the easiest centerfire handgun to shoot accurately under stress.”  While I have nothing approaching the experience and background of Mr. Vickers, I had come to the same conclusion which prompted me to sink a lot of money into 1911’s as carry guns. After having my pistol skillset rebooted under the excellent instruction Mr. Vickers provided, I finally embraced the wonders of polymer guns and bought myself a bunch of M&P’s, including a couple in .45.

I’ve done a class or two with the .45 M&P and I got along with it fairly well, but the extra recoil compared to my 1911 and M&P’s in 9mm was a bit offputting. I was also significantly slower with the polymer .45’s. Add to that the extra expense of .45 ACP ammo and it’s just not something I wanted to spend a lot of time shooting. Free ammo, however, is my kryptonite, and so I agreed to run the HK45 test gun to see how I liked it.

My key concerns initially were the recoil of the weapon and the trigger characteristics. I’ve spent quite a bit of time working on my grip in the last year or so, refining and tweaking to produce a grip that will let me best manage the recoil of a handgun…but I had gotten a bit lazy with it. With a 9mm you can get away with a sub-standard grip because the gun doesn’t move all that much. With a .45 if your grip isn’t just right you’ll get separation of the hands during recoil, which will slow subsequent shots considerably. I played with my grip some before the class, and did some live-fire experimentation during the opening Dot Torture drill. I didn’t shoot my best possible score during Dot Torture because I was primarily using the drill to work on my grip…but I did manage to figure some important things out during those 50 rounds. I rotated my left wrist forward a bit more than normal, I pulled the left hand backward into my right hand with more pressure, and I gripped the mag well like I was trying to crush it. For some reason I also found that curling my thumb down seemed to add a bit of oomph to the grip over my usual thumb pointed-at-the-target practice. By the last segment of Dot Torture the gun was moving predictably under recoil and the front sight was dropping right back on target after each shot. When we moved on to the press-out drills, I wasn’t timing my splits, but subjectively they felt every bit as fast as what I could manage with my M&P 9 on a good day. Using my best guestimation, the cadence on some of my speed strings may have been off .05 – .1 of a second. The grip improvements are definitely keepers.

Since I had a decent amount of time on the P30 test gun, I didn’t feel too much trepidation about the trigger characteristics. Right off the bat I noticed that the reset on the HK45’s LEM trigger system was considerably shorter than it was on the P30. Way cool. The trigger break, on the other hand, was not as smooth as the P30’s trigger break, which made it a bit easier to anticipate the shot. Between the attempt to really battle recoil and the slight hitch in the trigger just before the actual break, I developed a bit of an anticipation problem that frankly wouldn’t have been noticeable on a standard target, but the majority of shooting during “Speed Kills” is done on tiny targets. For the majority of the class, the 3×5 card is the big target, which is not terribly forgiving if you try to smash the trigger to the rear so you can begin fighting the recoil of the pistol. I frequently forgot to apply that bit of learning during the day.

When I remembered to do my part on the trigger the pistol was scary accurate. During the weak hand only segment of Dot Torture I fired 5 shots into 2 holes inside the 2” circle. Three shots into the string I looked at the target and I saw one hole. I panicked a bit and looked all over the target for the other two shots and I couldn’t find them. “Holy crap…am I completely missing the paper? At this distance? Am I really sucking that bad today?” I set up my aim again and then deliberately aimed a tad lower, and the fourth round went exactly where I was aiming. I fired the fifth shot at the original point of aim and I actually saw the paper move slightly right around the first hole. I managed to hit the lower third of the first hole, enlarging it slightly. When I managed to work the trigger and the sights consistently, the HK45 obediently spit bullets very close to one another.

I found the ergonomics of the HK45 to be generally quite nice. The grip was certainly somewhat bigger than what I was used to, but it wasn’t a hindrance. I only had one failure to lock back on empty due to my grip deactivating the slide lock the entire day…a problem I have with a number of different pistols due to my, as Todd puts it, “freakishly high grip.” The only real annoyance on the pistol was difficulty reaching the magazine release with my strong hand thumb. Fairly early on I figured out that it was simply more efficient for me to use my trigger finger to drop the magazine. This also had the benefit of not compromising my strong hand grip at all.

I fired 565 rounds of Federal 230 grain aluminum cased Blazer ammo through the pistol during the course of the day and the pistol digested every round without issue. According to Todd the weapon hadn’t been cleaned in about 8,000 rounds, which explains why it was slinging crud all over me. It apparently hadn’t been lubricated in some time either, as it was bone dry and actually squeaking when I cycled the slide. This created a distinct high pitched chirp every time the weapon cycled. Despite all of that, the gun ran smoothly leaving no impression of bogging down or hiccupping in the slightest.

By the end of the day I was pondering what in my collection I was going to sell off to buy one of these things. An old fashioned 1911 guy reduced to lusting over a plastic, double action only .45 handgun. Somewhere in the afterlife John Moses Browning felt a disturbance in the force. I liked the gun…a lot. Better, in fact, than my M&P .45. All things considered, the HK45 is probably as good as it gets in a polymer framed .45 handgun. The work Ken Hackathorn and Larry Vickers put into this gun shows in the way it handles and the way it shoots. It’s a vast improvement over the USP in .45 which handled like a cinderblock. If you’re a recovering 1911-a-holic and you are looking for a capable .45 that doesn’t have all the maintenance issues of the 1911, this might just be your ticket.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

Previous HK45 Endurance Test posts at

  1. 14 Responses to “HK45 Endurance Test: Week Fourteen”

  2. Got to agree with pretty much everything you wrote. My limited time on that pistol won me over pretty quickly. The only thing I’d change is the mag release. While I don’t mind the lever style I do prefer a button. I’d also like to try a DA/SA version of the gun.

    By Rob E on Jul 15, 2010

  3. Very good AAR!!!

    When Todd let me run the gun some at AFHF in OKC, I had to go out and price one!!! I’v not bought it yet but it is high on my list!!

    By prdator on Jul 15, 2010

  4. Generally speaking, the DA/SA triggers on H&K’s are nothing to write home about. When I first heard of the LEM system I thought it would be horrible because H&K’s DA triggers, in my experience anyway, sucked out loud. When I actually spent some time behind the LEM system I was pleasantly surprised, as I think it feels vastly superior to any of H&K’s DA triggers.

    On a side note, Todd’s evil genius is only now apparent to me. I’ve started contacting some folks looking to unload some guns so I can buy a P30. I really liked the P30 but after shooting the HK45 during “Speed Kills” I absolutely must have one (or seven) of these HK handguns.

    Darn sneaky HK salesman…

    By TCinVA on Jul 15, 2010

  5. TCinVA- You may be onto something there. I’ve been following the endurance tests going back to Week 3 of the M&P 9 test and my wallet shudders in fear every time I visit this site…

    By Will on Jul 15, 2010

  6. TCinVA, I suspect that the LEM trigger feels better than H&Ks DA triggers because the LEM is essentially a SA trigger with a lot of take up.

    While it looks like DA (long trigger pull and moving hammer), internally it functions more like SA. The most important difference between a LEM and a DA trigger is that unlike a DA gun the main spring of a LEM system is not compressed by pressing the trigger, but rather by the action of the slide.

    I’m sure you’ve seen it, but for others that haven’t, Todd’s comparison of H&Ks LEM and SIGs DAK is a good read.

    By Tom on Jul 15, 2010

  7. Zero Malfunction,stoppages,parts breakage, awesome handgun….great..

    By alex on Jul 15, 2010

  8. Todd, have you ever tested any other gun that has gone over 18K rounds without a single problem? I am highly impressed with its performance so far.

    By Regularguy on Jul 15, 2010

  9. Regularguy — Neither of the previous test guns managed it, no.

    I had a P226R-Navy while I was working at SIG that had numerous ammunition-related problems, but with the exception of one light primer hit at about 9,000 rounds (which may also have been ammo-induced) it otherwise did well up until 28,188 when the extractor broke in the middle of the S&W Winter IDPA Championship.

    By ToddG on Jul 15, 2010

  10. Darn! I couldn’t even get 18 rounds through my HK P30 w/o a problem…

    Could be me. I had reliability problems w the M15 .38 revolvers Uncle Sam issued to me 32 yrs ago too! As well as the M1911A1s that followed up to 1988. All of ’em were pretty old and beat up by the time I got ’em though. The M9s and M11s I had ’til 1998 were much better; never had a prob w any I was issued, saw few from others.

    This state requires a 25 round Q course for CCW. Amazing how many expensive guns can choke in just that 25 rounds. Know of some S&W Sigmas that have made some Glocks look bad, and this week a new S&W SD40 that beat the snot outta a SA TRP and Kimber SIS… Ya never know?

    I get what I like, or flip a coin and like what I get. Until I flip again. And again…

    By MikeO on Jul 16, 2010

  11. I’m dying for one of these, but I can’t buy one in Kalifornia.

    By Jeff on Jul 16, 2010

  12. Interesting review. I have tried the HK45 and while it was accurate, is a much different animal than a 1911.

    By marshalldodge on Jul 17, 2010

  13. It’s certainly different than the 1911, but that’s going to be true of any polymer handgun. I think, however, that your average 1911 diehard can learn to get along with the HK45 quite well.

    By TCinVA on Jul 17, 2010

  14. WHOA!!!

    Todd, you mean to tell me you are going to “God’s Own Gun”!?!? EXCELLENT. Sorry I haven’t been around in quite a while – busy with work, hopefully you remember me!


    By Bill on Jul 19, 2010

  15. TCinVA and Tom:

    The LEM trigger is way better than the DA on a DA/SA HK but for very high speed shooting at moving targets at any distance I find the stock imported HK LEM is far too heavy stacking at the break point. The SA on the HK–despite its overtravel and mushiness not giving much feedback–is good for the “slapping technique.” If you are a big “feel the reset” guy then I imagine you’ll think the SA is imprecise and prefer something with a nicer feeling trigger (or one with more break/stacking weight) such as LEM. The P2XX Sig have some very nice feeling DA/SA triggers out there but are “cheating” with their metal frames. While the SP2022 has (had?) a nice feeling SA trigger I found the Walther P99AS to be the best real DA/SA polymer body factory trigger I have shot–that SA rocks–and has LEM like features.

    By P30man on Jul 23, 2010

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