Heckler & Koch (HK) has provided well-made firearms systems for law enforcement, the military, and civilians for well over 50 years. HK is probably best known for its MP5 submachine gun, its tactical rifles, its Universal Self-Loading Pistol or USP, and the recent VP Series pistols. HK’s creativity has been shown in its use of reinforced polymers, polygonal rifling, hammer-fired systems, interchangeable backstraps and grip side panels, and recoil reduction systems.
The HK P30 is a well-respected and high-quality compact hammer-fired handgun that uses many of their time-proven designs and features and is available in 27 different user configurations in 11 different model versions. It is not a striker-fired gun. So what does “LEM” represent in the HK P30?
Some P30s are in Double/Single Action (DA/SA) with decockers, like the Version 0 with a two-part hammer and 11.5/4.5 trigger presses. The Version 3 in DA/SA has a single-part hammer with a 11.5/4.5 trigger press and a decocker. Others from Version 1 to 10 are in Double Action Only (DAO) without decockers and with and without Law Enforcement Modification (LEM) and their lighter triggers. Some in DAO do not have LEM triggers and have varying trigger press weights from 6.2, to 7.3, to 8.1 presses and different hammers.
I wanted to test and evaluate a P30 version that had a light trigger press and no decocker, like my 1911s. So, I chose a HK P30 light LEM Version 1 model, which the manufacturer rates at a 4.5 pound press. I wanted to see “how light light is” for the trigger press, among other factors. Was the press really like a Single Action Only (SAO) gun and was the press consistent from shot to shot like on my striker-fired guns? Were the accuracy, reliability, fit, finish, and function and features there? Below are my criteria, analysis, and opinions of the HK P30 LEM Version 1 with the light trigger in 9mm. Initially, I want to give you the P30’s Specifications and Features, then follow-up with my criteria, field test, analysis, opinions, and my final recommendation or not.
Below are my criteria that I considered when I examined, analyzed, shot, and reviewed the P30. I was considering it for concealed carry, so I wanted to closely evaluate its features, concealability, and accuracy for concealed carry.
Criteria and Considerations
Below are the physical gun attributes, features, and characteristics I personally want for my specific purpose for the gun. I will use my 10 criteria for evaluating the handgun for my primary concealed carry purpose. Of course, some criteria standards are defined differently and some not used for different uses of the handgun, e.g. carry versus competition. There are other less tangible, subjective features that may be appealing for some, like appearance, individual felt recoil, included extras like a third magazine, holster and mag pouch, ease of takedown, lockable case, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into the last Miscellaneous criterion. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria or desires and subtract any of mine.
Remember, there are a lot of characteristics, attributes, pros and cons, and criteria to include and consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, and defined needs and use.
Field Test of the HK P30
After shooting and handling the P30 in 9mm and carefully considering its specifications and features, below are what I learned and my point evaluations for each criterion. You should know that HK is not paying me to say these things, I am not on their payroll, they have not gave me a reduced purchase price for the gun, and I do not feel obligated to say the things that follow. Also, recognize that I am not a top expert shooter by any means and I only shot about 300 rounds through the P30, so it really is not fully broken in.
For my Field Test, I shot a variety of high-quality 9mm JHP, FMJ, and defensive-polymer ammo including:
- Sig Sauer Elite Performance 115 grain FMJ (1185 fps muzzle velocity-359 ft-lbs muzzle energy),
- Sig Sauer V-Crown 124 grain JHP (1165 fps muzzle velocity-374 ft-lbs muzzle energy),
- Sig Sauer V-Crown 115 grain JHP (1185 fps muzzle velocity-359 ft-lbs muzzle energy),
- Federal Premium 124 grain HST +P JHP (1200 fps muzzle velocity-396 ft-lbs muzzle energy)
- Federal Premium 124 grain Hydra Shok JHP (1120 fps muzzle velocity-345 ft-lbs muzzle energy
- Polycase RNP Polymer Projectile Inceptor 65 grain No-Lead (1525 fps muzzle velocity-336 ft-lbs muzzle energy)
- Polycase ARX Polymer Projectile Inceptor Defense 65 grain (1545 fps muzzle velocity- 345 ft-lbs muzzle energy)
This HK P30 LEM Version 1 DAO pistol felt great in my hand and the ergonomics were really nice. It did not have ANY malfunctions or stoppages and feed all the types of ammo without a problem. The crisp, smooth, and light trigger was excellent, but the press was very long, much longer than I am accustomed to, especially with my SAO guns. This gun was very well made and its slide-to-frame fit was very tight and solid. There were no failures to fire or failures to feed or eject; no failures to lockback; no misfires; no mechanical problems at all. The Sig Sauer, Federal Premium, and Polycase ammo all worked very well.
I shot the V-Crown 124 JHP, the Hydra Shok 124 JHP, and the Polycase ARX Defense the best, with tighter groups out to 15 yards. The felt recoil with this P30 was very manageable and the ammo helped also. Its reliability was there, but this hammer-fired compact was not as accurate for me as I had expected. I just didn’t shoot it as well as some of my recently reviewed striker-fired and 1911 Single Action guns.
One thing I discovered was that HK pistols use a “Dead-On” or “Cover-Up” sight picture hold. I prefer the center-mass hold or sight picture, so that was a contributing factor. But, with the HK’s Cover-Up Hold, I found that my point of impact was directly behind the top of my front sight when the sights are aligned. So, I was shooting low with my Center Mass Hold. I had to raise my sight picture to completely cover up the bullseye to raise my point of impact.
I definitely was not used to this, this hammer-fired gun, and did not enjoy my first minutes with it. So my accuracy suffered. For the rounds I shot with the P30, it did impress me as a high quality, well-made reliable gun, but without my desired accuracy. I may have contributed some to my inaccuracies, but the unfamiliar sight picture and my inexperience with it did have something to do with it. But it did feel very good in my hands, loved the ergonomics, and I liked the single-action type of trigger, even though it was a DAO hammer-fired gun. The nylon sleeve over the recoil spring did help dampen my felt recoil. The compact size, rounded corners, and 3.85″ barrel enhanced my carry of the gun.
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 8
The accuracy of the P30 was not acceptable for me at distances of 7, 10, and 15 yards. I was able to shoot somewhat decent groups with the help of the high-quality ammos, but was disappointed in the initial accuracy of the gun. Of course, I may have contributed some because of my lack of familiarity with this hammer-fired, long trigger press, cover-up sight picture design, and paddle-style mag release. I used my usual Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot various premium 115 grain, 124 grain, and 65 grain JHP, FMJ, and polymer rounds.
2. Trigger Press – Score: 9
The trigger press out of the box averaged about 4.9 pounds, with 10 readings with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This was just a little higher than the manufacturer’s LEM specs. Although it is a new pistol with little break-in period, it met my press criterion and expectations. I believe with more rounds down range and my improved handling, the press will get a little lighter. I really liked the consistent trigger press and it reminded me of a striker-fired gun’s consistent press.
3. Trigger – Score: 8
For me, the P30’s trigger had a short to intermediate travel distance with a crisp, identifiable reset point, but the reset was longer than I like and the trigger press was very long for the first stage. The reset was definite and identifiable, but long.The DAO but single-action type trigger was good, smooth, & consistent from shot to shot with the same press each time. I liked shooting it, but did not like the long press and reset point.
4. Barrel Length – Score: 9
The P30’s 3.85-inch cold hammer-forged barrel was just right for concealed carry and its length helped with a longer burning time for a complete burn which increased velocity, which in turn added to muzzle energy. I am impressed with the Recoil Reduction System, but I did not feel that much extra help with felt recoil from it, although some. But, my felt recoil was very manageable and comfortable. The 5.84″ sight radius contributed a little toward my accuracy.
5. Sights – Score: 9
The Photo Luminescent Super-Lumi Nova Afterglow Sights did hold their glow after just a brief light exposure and helped me to quickly get my sight alignment and sight picture. But, they are not tritium. While I prefer the fiber optic front sight and tritiums, these did help. The sights are steel and sturdy.
6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 10
The 22.8-ounce unloaded weight was nice and the gun with loaded mag was not too heavy and there was very little felt recoil, manageable for me. It was just right and I could handle it well for a compact gun for carry purposes.
7. Caliber – Score: 10
The 9mm caliber of this P30 is my preferred caliber and after getting accustomed to the sight picture, etc., it was enjoyable to shoot, and recoil was very manageable. The HK P30 LEM Version 1 9mm easily digested a wide variety of high quality and defensive 115, 124, and 65 grain 9mm ammo. I like its second strike capability. I must remember to thumb the hammer down of this Version 1 when reholstering, to help prevent negligent discharges.
8. Capacity – Score: 9
I like the 15-round capacity of the P30 9mm double stack mags and the round count gives me peace of mind. The mags are steel and very well made, but extra ones are costly at about $40 or more each. The P30 mags also fit the VP9 and the USP Compact (but extended.) I wish 3 mags were included, instead of just 2. The mags do have witness holes to help keep up with the number of rounds.
9. Ergonomics – Score: 10
The ergonomics of the HK P30 LEM Version 1 were excellent and probably the best single feature of the gun. It felt so very good in my hands. The only detractor for me was the paddle-style mag release at the bottom of the trigger guard. I am just not use to it, but I found that I could use my trigger finger to release the mags, rather than using either thumb. With practice this could work well for me, but I have the muscle memory established for my other guns and their traditional mag release lever. I could easily reach the slide lock lever without turning the gun or adjusting my grip. It was comfortable in my hands and its grip customization and texturing were very nice. It was very comfortable to carry for my few days I carried it.
10. Miscellaneous – Score: 8
As always with any new gun, I disassembled, cleaned, and re-assembled the HK P30 before I shot it. The takedown procedure was very simple and did not require any tools. The slide stop acts as a captive takedown pin so you do not have to remove the slide stop from the frame. It has a nylon recoil buffer sleeve that fits over the recoil spring to help with felt recoil. It did help some. I wish they had included 3 mags, but they did not. There were no holster and pouch included. This gun was a little large for concealed carry, but doable.
Total Points = 90 out of 100 Possible
Quite frankly, the HK P30 was on the borderline for my recommendation for carry purposes. I honestly believe there are other compact concealed carry guns in the market now that are priced lower than this gun with certain features that would be a better choice for concealed carry.
Every gun and every thing has pros and cons and so does this gun. Also, the shooter’s personal preferences and experiences with certain design features, actions, etc. come into consideration. The great overall ergonomics, grip customization, and light LEM trigger press are strong pros, in my opinion. Also, the Recoil Reduction System is another. The quality construction and tight fit of the P30 are excellent. The consistency of the light trigger press and its reliability are stellar.
But its accuracy is a concern for me personally because of its sight picture which I am not use to. This gun is a little large and wide for concealed carry for some. I want to shoot more rounds through it and try various hollow point ammo to see if my accuracy concern and evaluation remain. At this time, this gun would not be in my rotation for my top 5 concealed carry compact guns.
But again, personal preferences matter and you should decide for yourself. This is a quality-made gun and remember you are betting your life on your concealed carry gun. I want the best quality fairly-priced-for-what-you-get handgun that is accurate and reliable to defend my live and the lives of my loved ones, that is comfortable to carry. I have some slight reservations about this gun and want to explore it more. I have very high expectations for my concealed carry guns and expect my concealed carry guns to deliver consistent and excellent results.
I hope my review of the HK P30 LEM Version 1 compact in 9mm has given you some information you did not have and has encouraged you to explore it and decide for yourself. Consider that this is just my point of view with limited live-range fire and firing only 300 rounds of certain ammo. Again, I recommend that you shoot this gun and any handgun yourself before you make a decision and purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what’s important to you ahead of your range live fire. Then critically evaluate the gun yourself with your criteria, priorities, and purpose, using standard drills (several mentioned in my recent BOOK “Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials”), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds.
“Always Shoot Straight” and Be Safe!
Photos by Author and Heckler-Koch.
Columbus, GA 31907
Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown JHP-FMJ Ammo
Newington, NH 03801
Federal Premium Ammo
Anoka, MN 55303
Savannah, GA 31405
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].