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The Heckler & Koch P7 is a German 9x19mm semi-automatic pistol series that utilized a revolutionary "squeeze cocker" safety. The P7 designed by Helmut Weldle and produced by Heckler & Koch GmbH (H&K) of Oberndorf am Neckar. It was revealed to the public for the first time in 1976 as the (Polizei-Selbstlade-Pistole—“police self-loading pistol”).
The P7 was produced from 1979 until 2008 and is used by many countries to this day, including Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Germany, Greece, South Korea, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.
The P7 is a semi-automatic blowback-operated firearm. It features a unique gas-delayed blowback locking system modeled on the Swiss Pistole 47 W+F (Waffenfabrik Bern) prototype pistol (and ultimately on the Barnitzke system first used in theVolkssturmgewehr 1-5), which used gas pressures from the ignited cartridge and fed them through a small port in the barrel (in front of the chamber) to retard the rearward motion of the slide. This is accomplished by means of a piston contained inside of a cylinder located under the barrel that opposes the rearward motion of the slide until the gas pressure has declined—after the bullet has left the barrel—hence allowing the slide to end its rearward motion, opening the breech and ejecting the empty cartridge case.
The chamber has 18 flutes that aid in the extraction process by allowing combustion gases to flow between the fired case and the chamber walls, preventing the case from "sticking" to the chamber walls. The drawback of this system is that the breech "opens" slightly prematurely to allow the slide to initiate its rearward motion. The high temperature gases cycling through a tube located below the chamber area and above the trigger made the early versions of this pistol uncomfortable to shoot after the content of two magazines were fired due to heating. The advantages of this system are a simpler manufacturing process due to the absence of a locking system and a high mechanical accuracy due to the barrel being fixed in the frame; the barrel does not execute any sort of lateral or vertical movement during the operating cycle as with the prolific Browning cam-action systems used extensively in other locked breech pistols.
Based on the P7 several other variants were built: the PSP, P7M8, P7M13, P7K3, P7M10 and P7TP8, none of which remain in production.
The P7PT8 is a dedicated, straight blowback training pistol modified for use with the 9x19mm PT training cartridge (made by Geco) with a plastic bullet (weighing 0.42 g). A “floating chamber” adapter is used inside the barrel which enhances felt recoil for use with the special ammunition. The pistols were marked with blue dots on both sides of the slide to differentiate the P7PT8 from other P7 pistols that can chamber lethal ammunition. To date about 200 pistols of this type were produced that are used mainly for simulated firing in enclosed spaces.
The P7M13 is the P7’s counterpart with a double-column magazine and a 13-round capacity. This pistol was offered (unsuccessfully) to the US Army. A variant known as the was produced in limited numbers exclusively for German special forces, featuring a longer (compared to the P7M13) threaded barrel and a sound suppressor.
The P7K3 is a shortened version of the P7 (inspired by the HK4 pistol) that uses straight blowback for operation. This version has a removable barrel and uses a sealed hydraulic recoil buffer in place of a gas cylinder. After swapping out the barrel and magazine it can use .380 ACP (9x17mm Short) or.32 ACP (7.65x17mm Browning SR) pistol cartridges and after replacing the slide, magazine and barrel (with floating chamber insert)—it can also be used to fire .22 LR (5.6 mm Long Rifle) ammunition.
The P7M10 was introduced to the American market in 1991. It is chambered for the .40 S&W (10x22mm Smith & Wesson) round and has a double-stack 10-round magazine. With the American market in mind, a variant known as the P7M7 designed to use the .45 ACP (11.43x23mm Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge was also created. However, it remained only a prototype due to excessive costs and complexity of creating such a weapon.
To commemorate 25 years of P7 production, H&K offered a limited run of P7M8 "Jubilee" edition. Only 500 examples were ever made. Included in the package were a wooden lockable presentation case, P7 challenge coin, and special markings. The slide's top-left radiused edge has the designer's name (Helmut Weldle) and "1 von 500" (German, and including the double quotes; it translates to "1 of 500" in English) etched onto its surface. The wooden grips were made by Karl Nills and had the H&K logo.
A final production run of 500 P7M8 pistols were produced under the AH date code (year 2007). Each is marked on the right side of the slide with X of 500. Other than the slide marking no other features nor accessories were added to the usual kit.
The rarest variation of the P7 is the P7M7; it had a seven-round capacity and never advanced past the prototype stage. Only six were ever produced.
The P7's spring extractor is contained within the slide, while the fixed ejector is a surface on the slide catch.
The grip of this pistol features a built-in cocking lever activated by gripping the pistol handle. Before the pistol can be fired, this lever must be squeezed. Thus this lever acts as a safety. The pistol has an innovative trigger (with a squeeze cocking lever located at the front of the grip, beneath the trigger guard) and is striker fired. Squeezing the cocking lever with a force of 70 N (15.7 lbf) cocks the firing pin. Once fully depressed, only 2 pounds of force are required to keep the weapon cocked. The weapon is then fired by pressing the single stage trigger rated at approximately 20 N (4.5 lbf) As long as the lever is depressed, the weapon fires like any other semi-automatic pistol. If the lever is released, the weapon is immediately de-cocked and rendered safe. This method of operation dispensed the need for a manual safety selector while providing safety for the user carrying the pistol with a chambered round, and increased the speed with which the pistol could be deployed and fired. The trigger and firing mechanism's method of operation (and the unique slide catch) were protected by U.S. Patent 4,132,023, issued on January 2, 1979.
The P7 is fed from a single-stack box magazine with a capacity of 8 rounds, which is held inside the firearm's frame with a release located at the heel of the grip. After the last round has been fired, the slide will remain open thanks to a slide catch that can be released by pulling the slide further back or pressing the squeeze cocker.
The firearm uses a fixed, polygonal barrel (hexagonal with a 250 mm twist rate) and a fixed notched iron sight with contrast dots that enable shooting in low-level lighting conditions. The pistol is completely ambidextrous and two-handed use is enhanced through the use of a profiled and enlarged trigger guard.
Between 1982–1983 the P7 received several modifications, mainly to address American market demand and shooter preferences. These modifications resulted in the model. A new magazine release lever (available on both sides of the frame) was installed just beneath the trigger guard, which forced designers to modify both the pistol's frame and magazine. The trigger guard was equipped with a synthetic heat shield that protects the shooter from excessive heating and a lanyard attachment loop was added in place of the previous magazine heel release. The firing pin and its bushing were also changed.