By Massad Ayoob, GUNS Magazine
The latest in Heckler and Koch’s series of hammer-fired pistols is the P30SK. Angela Harrell at HK tells me the suffix comes from German spelling: SubKompact. With a stubby 2-finger grip frame, 10+1 9mm Luger cartridge capacity, 1.37 inches thick and 6.42 inches long, it seems designed to compete squarely in the market now dominated by the Glock 26.
The P30SK can be had in traditional double-action first shot/single action thereafter mode, with its odd push-button decocker on the back of the slide to the left of the hammer, or in LEM configuration. Our sample was the light LEM. LEM stands for Law Enforcement Modification, a concept going back to when double-action-only, hammer-fired autoloaders were all the rage.
On our test sample, serial number 214-000260, the trigger pull averaged 6.13 pounds on a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge from Brownells. It has “second strike” capability without racking the slide in the event of a misfire, but this brings the shooter to a default trigger pull almost double the LEM’s standard weight at 11 pounds on average. Fortunately the test pistol never misfired and we never needed that long, heavy second chance at a recalcitrant primer, but it never hurts to know the capability is there.
The fixed sights have good visibility, aided by luminous inserts front and rear. Europe seems to regard Tritium the way “progressives” regard the Confederate flag, and we see a lot of these sights on guns from the Continent. Usually, they need 15 or 30 seconds of flashlight beam to get a good glow on, but the ones on this HK lit up almost immediately.
Another feature is long, slim ambidextrous slide-lock levers. This speeds reloading and administrative handling for southpaws, and for anyone the front edge of the slide stop lever provides a very handy felt index for keeping the trigger finger in register on the frame in any sort of ready position. A good and often overlooked safety feature, methinks. However, a straight thumbs grasp can override the lever and cause the slide to fail to lock back when empty.
The P30SK’s external extractor is designed to act also as a loaded chamber indicator when its red part shows. Be wary: it extruded enough on our test sample to show red whether or not a round was chambered.
The P30SK’s relatively high bore axis gave some muzzle rise, but wasn’t noticeable (arrow shows flying brass).
HK P30 unique magazine release design allows very fast reloads. The arrow shows empty mag falling, while a fresh one is en route to the pistol.
Race day. In front of 30-person audience, P30SK still delivered perfect qualification score. The arrow shows the low hit in the A-zone and Mas says
was all his fault. Final qualifying target scored 300/300 despite low shot.
Press Contact Range
A big positive, I think, is the recoil spring guide on this SK aligns with the muzzle in such a way the slide won’t go back out of battery at press contact. If the gun has to be rammed against a homicidal attacker’s body and fired, this means it will actually discharge, while many competing products will go out of battery and fall silent.
From the Caldwell Matrix rest on my 25-yard bay, we group tested the P30SK with the three most popular bullet weights for 9mm Parabellum. Representing 115-grain was the famously effective Federal 9BPLE, a jacketed hollowpoint at +P+ velocity. Five shots formed a 2.45-inch group, with the best three in 1.75 inches. The 124-grain choice proved most accurate: Black Hills’ standard pressure load with the Hornady XTP bullet delivered five shots into an exact 1.50 inches, with the bullet holes measured center to center. The best three were in 1-3/4 inches. Finally, the 147-grain subsonic in the form of Winchester’s WinClean training load with jacketed truncated cone bullet drilled five rounds into 1.85 inches, and delivered the tightest “best three” cluster of 0.95 inch.
This is impressive from a subcompact concealment pistol with a 3.27-inch barrel weighing 24 ounces unloaded. The test gun did shoot high, though, with the 124-grain centered about 3 inches high at 25 yards, as did the 115-grain, and the 147-grain subsonic’s point of impact was more like 5 inches north of point of aim. Nothing a replacement front sight couldn’t fix, but still a bit disappointing.
Trigger reach was comfortable, and the LEM trigger pull itself was quite manageable once I took a few shots to re-familiarize myself with it. Unfortunately, I was also re-familiarized with my hand’s incompatibility with the P30 series since it came out. On the inside bottom surface of the triggerguard a little bump sits directly in line with the toe of the P30’s pivoting trigger, and it tends to pinch my index finger. Nothing I can’t get over, but I wouldn’t want to take a 1,000 rounds a day immersion shooting course with it. While I’m not the only person who has this problem with the P30 series, most folks don’t. Dry fire it in the gun shop and if it’s gonna be a problem for you, you’ll recognize it immediately.
To test a deer rifle, you’d want to take it deer hunting. To test a defensive pistol, you want to do some combat shooting with it, which means either an action pistol match or shooting a police-type qualification or teaching a class with it. There weren’t any IDPA or similar matches that fit my schedule, so I took the P30SK with me in June 2015 to teach a MAG-40 class for Thunderbird Tactical Academy in Wichita, Kansas.
The HK worked out well for the course, though to teach reloading, I borrowed a student’s pistol. Most autoloaders have a side-button magazine release, but a signature feature of the HK series is the ambidextrous paddle along the bottom edges of the triggerguard which, when pressed down, dumps the mag. This also has the useful benefit of getting your trigger finger out of the guard during the process. While unconventional, the HK’s mag release setup is fast once you get used to it. When this system first came out on the HK many years ago, the great Ken Hackathorn said it was the fastest auto pistol to reload he had yet seen. It was certainly quick for yours truly.
The Green Force Tactical IWB worked great in several days of constant concealed carry.
Mas shot this 60-round group practicing for qualification with the P30SK.
Before leaving for the class, mindful of the fact the gun shot high, I took it for a test drive over the MAG qualification course, a 4- to 15-yard 60-shot compendium of various long-standing police handgun quals. Using the same target as Bianchi Cup and the GLOCK Sport Shooting Foundation, I was able to keep 59 of the 60 shots in the 4-inch-diameter center X ring. One drifted out into the 10-ring, resulting in a score of 600-59X out of 600-60X possible. The group ran about 4-1/2 inches.
But, as my old friend Tom Campbell used to say when he was building his reputation as one of the International Practical Shooting Confederation’s great champions, “practice ain’t race day.” The time came to shoot a “pace-setter” qualification on the last day of the class. Using a deep 6 o’clock hold because I knew this particular pistol shot high, I managed to honk a shot low in the “A” zone of the IPSC targets we were using.
This forced me to bear down, and I managed to finish the run with a 300 “possible” score, but nowhere near the 4.5-inch practice group. (Congratulations to Andy Padilla of the Thunderbird staff, who beat me with the same 300 score and an inch tighter group for tie-breaker.)
Continuing with the “How do you test a deer rifle” analogy, you test a carry gun by, well, carrying it. The P30SK spent about 10 days on my right hip, mostly in a Green Force Tactical Kydex inside the waistband holster, which fit it perfectly and was delivered with alacrity. The makers will make it the way you want it. I like it without a sweat shield to allow a full grasp before the draw begins. For outside the waistband wear, I found a Galco Cordovan holster for a GLOCK 30 fit the P30SK adequately. In all-day carry, I found no sharp edges or abrasive grip surfaces. It felt as if I was carrying a GLOCK 26 with a stubby little hammer spur.
The best performance of the day came with this Black Hills 124-grain JHP 25-yard group of 1.5 inches.
Winchester’s 147-grain subsonic stayed under 2 inches at 25 yards.
Federal’s street-proven 115-grain +P+ grouped under 2.5 inches at 25 yards—exceptional performance in a subcompact.
Noting the most important thing—no malfunctions of any kind in several hundred rounds—I was by and large happy with the P30SK. Except for the pinched trigger finger, I liked most of its shooting characteristics. A relatively high bore axis gives it a bit more muzzle rise than most of its striker-fired competitors, but it didn’t feel like a handicap in shooting. The price of $719 is reasonable given the evident quality and performance, though $59 per spare magazine tends to raise eyebrows. On balance, I like the HK P30SK.
Law Enforcement Modification Trigger Pull Sequence
A The LEM trigger pull from the user perspective is slightly different from other DAO trigger pulls. Here, the P30SK, it is at rest. At initial contact, the trigger finger feels light resistance, and at this point the hammer is coming back and finger is feeling more resistance.
B Here, hammer is full cocked and trigger finger is a whisker away from the release of the sear, hammer falling and discharging the round.
C The trigger needs to return only this far forward to reset for next shot. Note position of hammer at this point. Once your finger is completely forward, so are trigger and hammer, to position seen in “A.” In firing most shooters learn to run it forward only to reset, sort of like a traditional-double-action shooter “riding the sear” or “riding the link” when the TDA is in single-action mode.
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