Heckler & Koch began developing a new self-loading compact pistol around 1971 before bringing out the PSP (Polizei Selbstlade-Pistole, or Police Selfloading Pistol) for the West German Police in 1976. Production of the PSP started in 1979.
Our test gun was a standard PSP, whose overall length was 6.5 inches with a 4.1-inch barrel and a sight radius of 5.9 inches. The gun measured 5.0 inches in overall height and weighed 30.4 ounces with an empty magazine, relatively heavy because of the low-profile steel slide and steel frame. Our test gun came in a black case with two magazines and bore brush.
As noted above, it carried 8+1 rounds in its single-stack orientation, which gave the gun a thin 1.4-inch maximum width and a grip circumference of 6.2 inches at the thickest part of the grip. The frontstrap, measured from the top of the squeeze-cock lever to the lip of the magazine, ran 2.6 inches in length. The backstrap was 4.0 inches long, measured from the bottom of the slide to the top of the magazine release button. The blued frame finish showed very minor wear marks near the muzzle and on the squeeze-cock lever. Cosmetically, the only jarring note on the gun was the slot-screw head on the left side. It had lost its black finish, and the white metal color popped out against the stippled black-polymer grip panel.
The most notable feature of the gun is the squeeze-cock lever, or in HK parlance the cocking lever. To load the pistol, the shooter locks the slide back and inserts a loaded magazine. When he squeezes the cocking lever, the slide will slam forward and the firing pin will extend out of the back of the slide. The pistol is now ready to fire. The cocking lever allows the P7 to be carried safely with a round in the chamber, yet it is ready to fire by the natural tightening of the fingers around the grip. Releasing the cocking lever decocks the P7 immediately and renders it safe.
This pistol worked well for left-handed shooters because the cocking lever is ambidextrous. One panelist complained that the squeeze-cocking lever makes a fairly loud sound when released. It can be distinctly heard through a closed bedroom door at the far end of a house 50 feet away, but it cocks quietly, and once you have shot it, the de-cocking sound would be inconsequential.
There are actually three ways to fire the pistol, but only one is recommended (squeezing the cocking lever first and then pulling the trigger). You can also fire the pistol by pulling the trigger first and then squeezing the cocking lever and by squeezing and pulling at the same time, but it is very difficult to accurately shoot the pistol with these methods, but we did try them and they do work.
Once the pistol is cocked, it takes about 1.5 pounds of pressure to keep it cocked. As long as you keep a good grip on the pistol, it is immediately ready to shoot after it cycles. The trigger pull stacks somewhat, but is smooth and most judged it to be the best in the test. The trigger pull weight registered action 4.0 pounds on our scale, and the single-action trigger span was 2.9 inches.
The PSP had a European-style magazine-release button located on the bottom of the frame, whereas the P7M8 and P7M13 have the magazine release located on both sides of the frame just to the rear of the trigger guard. Most of our panel said they would prefer to have the magazine release located on the side of the frame, but one of our shooters pointed out that it is much more likely for the magazine release button to be accidentally depressed when it is located on the side instead of the bottom of the pistol. The pistol can be fired with the magazine removed.
Our test panelists liked the three-dot sights and the grooved slide top on the PSP best. Both sights were dovetailed into the slide, so they could easily be changed out if the shooter chose to upgrade them.
HK describes the guns action as a recoil-operated retarded inertia bolt system. In the gas cylinder, the propellant gas acts upon the piston, which retards the rearward motion of the slide until the bullet has left the barrel. Once the bullet has left the barrel, the decrease in gas pressure on the piston allows the slide to move rearward, ejecting the empty cartridge case. The recoil spring then moves the slide forward, chambering the next round.
At the range, we found the HK fed and functioned flawlessly. The brass was thrown out of the pistol nearly twice as far as the other two pistols tested, between 7 and 8 feet. This pistol left unique marks on the brass because of its fluted chamber. The fluted chamber is designed to increase reliability. HK states that, “ the P7 pistol will extract and eject an empty shell even if the extractor is missing.” The extractor also acts as a loaded-chamber indicator. Recently, we had an extractor break on a Glock, and it was out of service until we replaced the extractor. The only possible drawback we can see with a fluted chamber is that it may prevent you from reloading the brass, but we think the increase in reliability is worth it.
The P7 with its fixed cold hammer forged polygonal barrel was the most accurate pistol in the test. It also had the least felt recoil. The weight of the pistol certainly helped dampen the recoil, but so did its gas system (which needs to be cleaned every 500 rounds or 12 months).