Gratuitous Gun Pic — HK P7 (9mm Para)

In my post about 9mm pistols last week, Readers chimed in about the Heckler & Koch P7 thus:

William O. B’Livion: “No love for the H&K P7?”

And Mike M: “I have a love/hate relationship with the P7. The squeeze-cock action is great in theory, but it aggravates carpal tunnel issues tremendously. No idea why. And it heats up FAST.”

Not everyone knows about the P7, of course, even among my self-identified gun nut Readers, so here it is:

As Reader Mike M. reveals, the P7 is cocked not just by working the slide (which you can do as well) or pulling back a hammer (no exposed hammer, duh), but by squeezing the grip.  In addition to his mention of carpal tunnel syndrome, let me say too that the squeezing action — which is severe, as it should be — had the effect of affecting my aiming of the gun;  so hard did I have to squeeze the wretched thing that after a while my hand got the shakes from muscle strain.  (Bear in mind that this happened after several dozen squeezes — I seldom shoot fewer than 50 rounds when testing a handgun.  YMMV.)

My biggest gripe was that the shorty barrel made accurate shooting impossible at any yardage greater than halitosis distance.  I know, I know… the P7 is purely a short-range self-defense pistol, not a long-distance target shooter;  but I found its strange action to be just that, or else the answer to a question never asked.

Anyway, I later had the opportunity to buy one at a very low price ($150 if I recall correctly), but passed.  There are far better guns for the job than this curiosity.


  1. Also known as the Pawnbrokers Gun. Pawnbrokers reasoned that dirtbags who gain control of the gun would not know how to operate it properly.

  2. The P-7 the choice for years by my son in law as his carry gun. Of course he is young, big and strong so he could work that squeeze thingy while it never worked for me.

  3. Ridiculous toy not to be taken seriously. I said previously that I like all guns but I should have added, “…that I am aware of.” But now that I re-think about it, I’d own a P7, just because, but the price would have to be very low, and I would never take it seriously. A novelty gun.

  4. IIRC when I was stationed in Kraut-land in the late 1980’s the P7 had replaced the P1 (F/K/A the Walther P38 from Germany’s, ahem, more “bellicose” years ) as the standard sidearm for the Polizei (although I think the Bundeswehr still used the P1.)

    I would think the Polizei would not have adopted the P7 if it wasn’t able to be fired accurately, so obviously somebody must have figured out how to shoot it.

    As far as the squeeze-cock action, it seems to be an answer to a question nobody asked, an ingenious and over complicated way of doing something that could be (and had been) done much easier by using a well established system (i.e. the double action of the P1/P38.)

    The fact that nobody before and nobody since (AFAIK) has adopted such an action would seem to support the conclusion that it’s not really a practical or efficient operating system.

    But I kind of think that’s a uniquely German peculiarity. 5 years ago I bought my first German motor vehicle, a BMW motorcycle. What I realized after owning the Beemer is that when it comes to technical or technological things, Germans do things “different”, not because they’re better, but just because they’re different (and often overly complex.) It just seems to be within the German character to try a different way to do something that already has a well established way.

    Sometimes that kind of innovation pays off, and when it does, they get called geniuses. But what we don’t hear about are the technological “dead ends” that pepper the technological landscape.

    1. Everybody figures that German engineering is automatically superior because – well its German! Ask the guys who had to work on Panther and Tiger tanks if you can find any who are still with us. The German Cats had decent enough guns, but try to change the road wheels on a late war German tank. Then look at the same job – which was a pretty common maintenance item – on a Sherman or T-34. I worked with and taught maintenance on a lot of German designed material handling equipment and they never used one part when three or four would do the same job.

      1. That’s a good point. The Panther road wheel was probably “better” in some objective sense (perhaps it was lighter, produced less friction, lasted longer or was easier to manufacture) but the point that the Germans missed is that particularly under rigorous wartime conditions, sometimes “good enough” is better than “best” and “easy to replace” is more important than “lasts longer.”

        See also the WWII German aircraft industry. Some brilliant minds at work what with all their jets, rockets and other experimental aircraft but in the end it was the stodgy old B-17/B-24 bomber, the better-than-nothing-but-not-much-better M4 Sherman Tank and the good old ain’t-broke-and-don’t-need-fixing 155mm towed Howitzer that did them in.

        1. The main thing about the overlapping road wheels on Panthers, Tigers, and some other vehicles like halftracks was that they spread out ground pressure more evenly than other suspension schemes. That provided better cross-country performance over snow or soft ground. Combined with torsion bar suspension, they provided an exceptionally smooth ride for tanks of the time (important for crew performance over a long day) and could even allow semi-accurate fire on the move at low speeds and good ground, an impossibility for many tanks of the era. But they never considered the poor slobs in the in the field that had to maintain them. So to replace an inner road wheel or broken torsion bar required an effort worthy of putting together Ikea furniture.

  5. BTW what are the German Polizei and armed forces using now? I’m sure that German pride would require them to use something made by H&K, yes? I know most other Euro countries have reluctantly adopted the Glock 17 as their standard police arm but it’s hard to imagine the Germans tacitly admitting that their half-siblings in Osterreich (Glock) or Schweiz (SIG) make a better pistol.

    1. At least some German police use the Walther PPQ, which is a fine polymer pistol. Unlike the Glock’s nasty trigger, the PPQs striker is fully cocked, making the trigger SAO. It doesn’t have the track record of the Glocks, but the ergonomics, standard sights, and the trigger beat Glocks all too hell.

  6. Ian McCollum over at Forgotten Weapons did a pretty good presentation on the P7 recently. He explained why the pistol got very hot after only a few rounds were fired and concluded that it was a pretty major design flaw.

    The P7 dates back to the days when designers and government procurement people were trying to figure out the whole “single action/double action/round in the chamber/manual safety/no safety” thing. Nobody seemed to be upset by the idea that police and military agencies had been carrying revolvers with a round in the chamber and no safety other than the good sense and training for years. Maybe people got stupider, the perception of firearm safety changed, or as I suspect the lawyers got their grubby paws into the mix. Anyway lots of ideas were tried to make pistols harder to shoot accidentally and on purpose. I carried an old first generation Smith Model 39 9mm for a short while. Single stack 8 round magazine with a decocker mounted on the slide to drop the hammer without firing a round. The mechanism always made me a little nervous and I was very conscious of where I pointed the muzzle when I dropped the hammer.

    The P7 squeeze action used a typically German solution to the problem. As has been noted here it was an engineering dead end. To the best of my knowledge nobody has copied the design so that tells us something. A couple of US law enforcement agencies did issue P7’s – the New Jersey State Police comes to mind as the best known. I recall that the agency was transitioning from revolvers and the gun was selected because of its perceived safety features. Given the choice between a P7 and an old Model 19 Smith I think that I’d go for the wheel gun any day.

    1. Tried out a P7 in the 80’s at the local range. Was unimpressed, particularly in comparison with my Hi-Power.

      ltdavel makes a good point; if you place the design of P7 in the context of the same thought processes that gave the NYPD their atrocious Glock triggers, it makes sense.

      Of course I’ve always felt that a DA Autoloader was a hardware solution to a training problem.

  7. Having daily carried a P7 for the last 30 years or so, here are a few observations-
    At the time of it’s introduction, it was the smallest, thinnest 9mm around.
    Today, that advantage is long gone. It still has a few, however. The gun is 100% lefty friendly. It is extremely reliable, an examination of the magazine angle in the grip will show why- the cartridges are presented to the chamber at close to a direct line. The workings stay very clean, ie, little lint build up. It is very resistant to ND-AD- takes a deliberate motion to cock it. They are set up to take a fair amount of force to cock it, but little to maintain- there is a detent.
    The weapon does heat up a lot over a few boxes of ammo, but it was never intended to be a competition gun-it is a personal defense tool.
    The barrel, in fact, is 4+ inches long, but the gun is muzzle light due to design- an inch more in barrel length would have helped balance.
    For me, the gun points perfectly.
    The article referred to above has some very good points, one of the comments mentioned the difficulty of switching between the P7 and other pistols- I would have to concur on this -shooting a 1911 and then a P7 can get a person all crossed up , as there is no similarity in the manual of arms.
    Today, a Glock or XD will have similar size, much more capacity, and similar weight loaded. It is a no brainer for most people. I won’t carry a Glock without a real holster. That adds bulk. I carry the P7 in a very thin leather holster.. It is the most concealable, comfortable gun I have ever carried. I can’t do that with a G19, the damned mag catch keeps getting depressed and the mag gets loose. Plus there is the trigger issue. “get a real holster”. Yeah, then it gets bulky and uncomfortable.
    The P7 has some good points, but is outdated in weight and capacity. I like it still. Old and familiar.

  8. There are two points that I would like to offer about the H&K P7:

    1) It has polygonal rifling. read about it here:
    2) On extended firing sessions it does get hot. Later models have a plastic addition to act as a heat protector to the hand. The reason it gets hot is the mechanism of its DELAYED BLOWBACK operation. The pistol has a cylinder and piston mechanism below the barrel. A port is drilled into the barrel that vents hot gas from the burning cartridge into the cylinder that holds the piston forward and retards the movement of the slide rearward until the bullet is out of the barrel. Once the bullet has launched the gas pressure drops and the recoil spring is compressed by the backward moving slide until the spring is compressed to the point where it then forces the slide back into battery, ejecting the cartridge and inserting a fresh cartridge, if present, into the barrel ready to be fired, and cocking the firing mechanism. The recoil spring is, because of the delayed blowback, of a much lower strength so racking the gun is much easier to do. The forces exerted upon the gun are also lower than usual so that wear and tear are less. The design helps the gun to have a long service life if used frequently compared to standard designs.

    Walther has two current pistols on the market that uses the same delayed blowback mechanism. The CCP (Concealed Carry Pistol) & the Walther CCP M2 (Concealed Carry Pistol Mark 2). The M2 has an easier (integral) take down design than the CCP which needs a tool (supplied) or jury rigged like a small screwdriver. Walther CCP:

    Walther CCP M2 (Concealed Carry Pistol Mark 2)

    The videos by Walther at the links are excellent.

    Dan Kurt

  9. Early on, one of those NJSP officers lost his gun in a scuffle with a BG. Said miscreant tried to shoot the officer, but didn’t know how to make it function. The officer took it back and demonstrated it was fully functional.

    The weird thing was it would fire by squeezing the trigger followed by the grip second, or the grip first, and then trigger.

  10. I like it, but I don’t see any advantage over the 2 or 3 Glock 19s you could probably get for the same price.

    Hermit – I knew a guy who carried a Colt SAA for the same reason. 😉

  11. $150? That’s a Must Buy price. Even if you only mean to use it for trade fodder.

    As I’ve said, I like the P7…but it heats up fast. Very fast. And aggravates some latent carpal tunnel issues.

  12. Similar from that era == H&K VP70Z

    In the early 1980s, I was enamored with the niftiness of Cherman engineering, so I carried a consecutive-number pair of VP70Z pistols. I hand-made my arm-pit holsters since nobody in the known universe ever considered such a thing.

    Double-action only at probably twelve-pounder trigger-pull, couldn’t hit the barn standing inside the barn.

    Redeeming feature:
    Complete field-strip in one second into three (four?) parts.

    During the trigger-pull to cock-fire, the sears rounded-off in a no-go paper-weight, resulting in smiles from all the old folks packing 1911s.

    A notoriously-slow learner, of the six I owned, they all spent a lot of my ownership time to-and-from the factory for warranty R&R.

    Their slogan:
    “Unswerving Commitment To Excellence”

  13. When the PSP or P7 first came out, it cost in the $1200-1400 range, what, 30 years ago? Very expensive. I always wanted one. Short fixed barrel in handling, although the barrel isn’t really all that short. Thin, easy to dry fire with the squeeze cocker. Finally found one surplused out for about $600 some 10 years on. I loved it. Found another, got it for my wife. My teenaged daughters and their cousins would line up to try several of our pistols, including Desert Eagle 44 (a teenage girl favorite) GM 45s and 38 supers with triggers by some really good smiths. Their favorite was the P7, much to my surprise, until I remembered the most expensive gun there was the P7. Females know! Very accurate, just remember when you touch the trigger it is going. I didn’t carry it on duty because I like the replaceability and larger capacity of the Glock, which is just a wonderful tool. Prior to the Glock, I carried revolvers (required at the time) and then later Government Models when semi-autos were allowed. I still like all of them, but I find the P7 to be a great pistol for concealed carry. As has been said, once it is squeezed it is just held as tight as any pistol. There is a slight sight shift when squeezed but it can be overcome. Everybody has their preferences and experiences, and it is always neat to see different peoples perspectives of the same firearm.

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