I don’t own many firearms. The reason for this is that I view them as a tool, a means to an end, so I do not collect them for amusement. Please don’t misunderstand, it’s a great hobby and one that should be enjoyed, it’s just that it’s not my hobby. My primary interest in firearms is how they can help me keep myself, and the ones I love, safe and secure. In this regard, I look at each gun and ask myself, “Where will this fit into my individual plan?” Yes, price is a concern, but it is not the overriding concern if a particular model meets a particular need. When selecting a handgun, I look for reliability, basic features and individual fit. The gun must be reliable, have high visibility sights, a good trigger and it must fit my hand. If it doesn’t fit, can it be made to fit?

hk21.gifLaw enforcement agencies worldwide go through a similar process when they are selecting a gun for issue. Of course they want reliability, which is directly related to the quality of the firearm. Unfortunately, quality usually results in a higher price. Agencies are also interested in how well it will fit a wide range of hand sizes as well as how easy the gun is to repair.

When the Norwegian Police Services went looking for a new issue firearm to replace their Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolvers, these were the needs that they wanted to meet. After looking at a number of guns, they decided that the Heckler & Koch P30 was the right gun for them, but they wanted it with a longer barrel, better to meet the needs of the uniformed service that would not be concealing it. HK met this demand with their new model, the HK P30L (Long Slide).

The new P30L is one of the most modern police pistols to come along in quite a while. During its development, the designers felt the most important requirements were flexibility, functionality and as much safety as could be incorporated into a weapon. Ergonomics of the grip are probably the best on the market, as the backstrap inserts and lateral plates for the sides are all interchangeable. This means the entire 360-degree surface of the grip can be changed in combination with the ambidextrous slide and magazine release levers; the P30L can literally be built to fit the hand of most any shooter! Like their motto, no compromises have been made regarding safety features. The P30L has a self-decocking, double-action hammer with a firing pin block that eliminates the need for a manual exterior mounted safety lever. The advanced loaded chamber indicator, which is easily seen and felt, positively indicates that a round is in the chamber, though I prefer a “see it is to believe it” press check.

Another worthwhile feature is the open square notch, slant-back rear sight with Luminova dots (non-tritium) that allow fast and accurate target acquisition even under poor lighting conditions. These sights are drift adjustable and are quite robust. Some feel that Luminova is a “cheap” way of offering a night sight, but this is simply not true. In many places around the world, tritium is illegal even for government agencies, so Luminova is a most effective alternative.

As stated above, the P30L is a decocking double/single action pistol, which incorporates a long first pull with subsequent short strokes. Many agencies around the world view the first long pull as a safety against involuntary discharge due to inter-limb response. Basically, this is when one hand flexes due to the action of the other. An example would be a shot fired by the right hand due to sudden flexation of the left as it is used to struggle with an attacker. While this is certainly debatable, a longer trigger certainly would not hurt in an attempt to keep this from happening. It has been my experience that the DA pull on HK pistols is usually hard and I suspect it is due to the fact that HK pistols are used all around the world and the quality of ammo is suspect at best in many regions. The spring and hammer fall on an HK will likely dent and fire even the hardest of primers, so if you are using this gun somewhere in Africa you will probably like this feature. However, here in the United States where ammo quality is usually excellent, the long, hard DA trigger will have an effect on shooting. I have always handled this by changing the hammer spring and replacing it with one from Wolff Springs and if I were to carry the P30L, that would probably be the case once again. At the same time, HK pistols do “slick up” as you shoot them.

I like the location of the decocking lever, as it does not interfere with the placement of my shooting hand thumb. The decock lever of the USP, unlike the 1911, does not permit easy placement of the shooting hand thumb. While designs on later HK pistols are better, this removes it completely from contact. The small button is located on the rear of the slide on the left side, making it easy to manipulate with the support hand thumb. In the early days of semi-automatic transition among American law enforcement agencies, it was the practice to decock the pistol before any movement was undertaken. Obviously done in the interests of safety, many instructors now tell their students to merely point the gun in a safe direction, keep their finger off the trigger and go! If an additional shot is needed, the much more accurate single-action trigger will be in play. Of course, if you feel the need to drop the hammer, the button on the rear of the slide is easy to use.

The P30L is about as ambidextrous as any handgun can be. In addition to the modular grip, the magazine and slide lock levers are located on both sides of the pistol for easy access. The slide lock levers are a bit longer on the L model as compared to the original P30. I must admit that the one feature that I don’t like about HK handguns is the magazine release lever that requires a downward push to eject the magazine. Because I have small hands, it does not matter if I use my thumb or trigger finger, I cannot release the magazine without some shifting of the gun in my hand. Nevertheless, the new “L” shaped lever used on the P30L is easier to use, as a backward press will release the magazine.

Like all modern autopistols, the P30L has an integrated Mil-Std-1913 Picatinny rail molded into the polymer frame to mount white lights and laser sights. The slide is coated in a “Hostile Environment” blue finish while the slide is contoured and radiused with front cocking serrations, which I happen to like due to the aforementioned press check.

The big difference between the L version and the original P30 is the longer barrel length. Since the 9mm cartridge is more effective with greater velocity, this is not a small thing and I am sure that this was not lost on the Norwegian Police Service. Besides, a longer barrel will lead to a more accurate gun, which is always a good thing. The only way to know was to take the P30L to the range and see what it could do.

Range Time
For our test, I was able to cobble together 500 rounds of various hollow points from Winchester, CorBon, Federal, Black Hills, Remington, Hornady and even some old Triton “Quick Shock” ammo. In addition, I found some 9mm reloads that had been in my attic for more years than they should have. Some of the rounds were actually green, but I decided that I would see if the HK would feed and fire it. As I stated earlier, HK pistols turn up in parts of the world where firearm maintenance is non-existent, so ammo like this may very well be what some poor fellow must depend on for his life.

I tested the P30L’s accuracy from a Hornady Delta Rest placed 25 yards from several Birchwood Casey “Dirty Bird” targets, which are much like their popular Shoot-N-C targets, but have their own plastic backer and are not of a stick-on design. Velocity was tested by shooting five rounds of each load across the screens of a Shooting Chrony chronograph placed 15 feet from the muzzle.

I have done something in this review that I have never done before; I have reported two groups; one that is the tight four rounds and another with the fifth round flier that I could not seem to get away from no matter how hard I tried to concentrate on my trigger control. Obviously this has nothing to do with the accuracy of the gun and all to do with my shooting ability, so I report both groups in the interest of being fair.

My shooting partner, Jack “Happy Jack” Yahle, a moniker that I gave him after seeing how much happier he was after he retired from 25 years in law enforcement, stepped up to test his ability with the P30L. At 25 yards, one handed, slow fire, Jack put together a four-round group in which three of the four rounds touched at 20 yards. I think that this is a pretty good indicator of just how accurate the P30L actually is.

The remainder of the shooting session consisted of a number of combat drills including double and triple taps, holster skills, multiple targets, speed loads and other exercises. The P30L did not miss a beat throughout the range session including the discolored reloaded ammo that I discussed earlier. After 500 rounds, the trigger action became a bit smoother, but I still think that if I were going to carry the P30L I would want to experiment with a Wolff Spring to see if I could slick it up a bit without sacrificing reliability.

Since the history of gunfighting has revealed that the person who gets the first solid hit usually prevails, a smooth DA trigger would be worth pursuing, but only if the gun is totally reliable. Otherwise all one has is a paperweight with a really great trigger action.

Final Notes
The Heckler & Koch P30L and traditional compact P30 will make a very formidable team for any law enforcement agency, officer or legally armed citizen. I’m not concerned about the stopping power of the 9mm with the quality of today’s ammunition. In a world of compromise, some choose not to. What is considered a “compromise” is a personal decision, but choosing to carry a pistol from HK compromises nothing.

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