The H&K P7 is often said to be one of the best pistol designs, and was marketed as the "most expensive handgun in the world". It was used by the GSG9, and despite being phased out by the H&K SFP9, it still has it's loyalists within the Polizei ranks.
Welcome to 9 Hole Reviews. Today we look at one of the pistols that is widely considered as one of the best "obsolete pistol" designs and advertised at the time as "the most expensive handgun in the world"
The legendary Heckler & Koch P7… and later in this video we hear from USPSA grand master class shooter, Josh Mazzola, and his thoughts on handling the P7
The year was 1972 when a terror cell took members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage and the West German police learned that they were woefully unprepared for the worst.
Subsequently the West German police re-examined their equipment at that moment, most West German police units were using sidearms such as the Walther PP in .32 ACP commercial solicitations resulted in three winning bids the Walther P5 the Sig Sauer P225, designated as the P6, and the H&K P7.
Of the three pistols, the P7 was famously adopted by the Grenzschutzgruppe 9, or GSG-9; a tier 1 counter terror unit under the Bundespolizei.
The P7 is currently still in service with some units such as a Bavarian police. Our review subject for this video is an H&K P7 PSP model. This particular pistol still bears memories from the Cold War with its "Made in West Germany" stampings and it also has an "NDS" stamp designating it as a former "Polizei Niedersachson", or Lower Saxony police service pistol.
Pistols from the 70's had to either shoot anemic cartridges such as the 32 acp to be concealable, or it would have to be heavy and widely un-concealable to chamber at least a 9mm Luger considering that Glocks didn't even exist at the time of development the P7 truly was a firearms technological wonder, as an accurate, relatively small, compact, and safe police pistol to carry and shoot.
Hollywood seems to think that the P7 is a pistol of choice for upper-class German movie villains. The infamous Hans Gruber from the original Die Hard iconicized the P7 on the silver screen. The lesser-known Bond villain from "Die Another Day", Dr. Kaufman, and his ridiculous German accent.
So let's shoot it!
The pistol is incredibly accurate for a duty weapon. From 10 yards off-hand we shot a 2.2 inch "9 hole" group in the tactical bays, the 40-year old pistol was no slouch either. The small frame was easy to carry, holster, and then fire at multiple targets in short time frames.
The recoil controllable, and felt like a full-sized pistol. The 8-round pistol was clearly not a modern high-capacity pistol. Reloading the p7 PSP model took some practice As they used the European heel release, these are ideal for concealment as they do not snag on clothing; however for the North American shooter we have to re-wire our minds to shoot these proficiently the later P7M8 and P7M13 models were sold with paddle releases with the North American market in mind.
The p7 was reliable. It operates on a "gas delayed blowback system" which siphons gas pressure from the fired cartridge to force a slide in a locked position until the bullet leaves a barrel. This mechanism allows for the pistol to use a significantly smaller slide with a fixed barrel while achieving a good lock up during ignition for great accuracy and less felt recoil from a smaller mass traveling.
In fact, if you look back into the chamber of the P7, you will find flutes. The pistol is actually capable of ejecting spent casings without the extractor installed. The flutes float and shoot the casings out leaving a tell-tale soot print on the ejected casing.
We must note that the gas system gets the front of the slide extremely hot when shooting in great quantities.
The squeeze cocking safety is one of the most iconic features of the pistol. Once the lever is squeezed, it cocks a firing pin; meaning the trigger is a true single action trigger. This mechanism yields a very crisp 4-pound trigger pull. It takes 15 pounds to squeeze a pistol but less than 2 pounds to hold it. That way the squeeze doesn't affect the shooters grip. The squeeze cocker also doubles as a slide release, simplifying the operating mechanism and decreasing snag points on the pistol by eliminating a slide release.
From the law enforcement perspective the squeeze cocking design is ideal because the firing pin is entirely disengaged when not. In fact there are documented cases where criminals fail to discharge an officer's P7 after they'd taken it.
The pistols were also dropped from buildings to test for accidental discharges; there were none.
The 110 degree grip angle was also designed around human physiology as that is a natural angle of our palms when we point our fingers.
The magazines were designed to insert at a much straighter angle, making full use of the space in the grip, presenting the cartridges as far back as possible. This gives the small pistol a 4.1 inch barrel.
To put that into perspective the P7 has a longer barrel than a Glock 19, but a shorter overall length in the Glock 19 The P7 is closer to the size of a Walther PPK. but as a controllability of a full-sized pistol.
Furthermore, the magazine was also designed to where the cartridges are almost directly in line with a barrel. Cartridges barely touch a feed ramp, making feeding hollow points exceedingly reliable. The fixed barrel has true polygonal rifling.
Looking through it, you will see that it almost looks like a wavy smoothbore. This type of rifling is easier to clean, seals the bullet better, and lasts longer and is accurate.
The P7's are expensive... very expensive. They were expensive to produce in the 70s and expensive to acquire in the current collector's market. The price of the P7 did make it difficult for some agencies to purchase the P7 for the entire police force.
Now let's turn it over to Josh with his thoughts on the P7.
Following are from Josh’s interview:
My name is Josh Mazzola. I am a United States Practical Shooting Association PCC division Grand Master and a Master class handgun shooter ... if we take 650 shooters over the 31,000 we're talking about somewhere around 2% of shooters being grand master class shooters.
It's really interesting to be able to see all of these design innovations that were built into this particular firearm that didn't necessarily catch on in the mainstream market of where modern service pistols went, yet experienced that they actually work really well... and maybe they were a little bit too expensive, maybe they just didn't catch on at the time, but it's still a perfectly functional and viable option for in many cases even today in the modern service pistol market if we made some small revisions to the gun.
You can shoot it really fast because of the inherent design features that are built in, that allow you to control recoil a little bit better.
The grip is what you'd find in a full-size handgun but the slide is significantly shorter. Getting that full firing grip on the gun allows you to control recoil really well the recoil in the Walther, which again is at .380... is substantially more than what's going on in the P7.
It's very similar to the CZ, where it has an extremely low bore axis; it's allowing the gun to sit lower, or the slide rather to be closer to the "lever"... the "lever point" and so what that allows you to do is to basically get as high up onto the gun as possible, to be able to control the recoil you factor those two pieces together on the P7 and it really lent itself to be extremely controllable for a firearm that falls into probably what is the "compact" or maybe even this weird space between "compact" and "subcompact" handgun.
I'd also say that the trigger on this particular gun especially for something that's like we might just call "old school"… it's from the 70s or 80s but really dang good... it's a solid crisp pound trigger and it it allows you to press off shots that are very well placed, very accurate... I'm not trying to fight through a very difficult trigger pull in order to get the the weapon to discharge.
This gun feels like the trigger's been worked on by somebody, despite the fact that it's just a stock trigger.
Just being able to handle the technology from 30 to 40 years ago that, and it feels like it would be just as well placed in at home with any of the other modern guns that I've I've gotten, I own, and I shoot... and seeing that realistically it keeps up with all of them was a pretty amazing experience and there you have it.
Thanks for tuning in to another episode of 9 Hole Reviews we hope you enjoyed our take on the H&K p7 and until next time, we'll see you on the range!