Let’s talk about a 100-percent ambidextrous, semi-automatic, striker-fired pistol from the Cold War. Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s toss in the fact that it’s a 9mm blowback that uses a gas-delayed recoiling system.
The HK P7 PSP is a perfect blend of German ingenuity made to meet a moment in history. That moment was 1972 at the Olympic Games in Munich, where 7,134 athletes from around the world gathered to compete. Tragedy unfolded as the entire world watched terrorists from the now infamous Black September group kill two Israeli athletes and take nine others hostage. The remaining hostages were eventually killed as the German police attempted to seize control of the situation.
At the time, the West German civil police were outgunned, with many still fielding outdated .32 ACP pistols. The attack ended, and the games went on. But Germany was left searching for a better solution to their security issues. In an ironic twist of fate, the German military (well equipped with modern firearms) were barred by the German constitution from proactively engaging in civil security operations. Within a few weeks of the attack, the German government established a new police anti-terrorism unit, GSG 9. Still, they needed weapons to carry out their new mission.
Enter the HK P7 PSP (Polizei Selbstlade Pistole – Police Self-Loading Pistol). On paper, the P7 is a semi-automatic, blowback-operated firearm. But it’s in no way ordinary. It relies on a gas-delayed system to operate the pistol. A gas piston below the barrel holds the slide in place until the pressure behind the fired bullet is released. This design allows the gun to safely and reliably fire the higher-pressured 9mm chambering. It’s simple and clever, but it’s not the most striking feature on the gun.
The Cocking Lever
The gas piston is hidden inside of the slide, but the unique cocking lever is glaringly obvious. This cocking lever in the front of the grip functions as a safety, striker cocker, and can even fire the pistol if the trigger is depressed. The cocking lever also removes pressure from the trigger, relieving the stress that makes the trigger on most striker-fired pistols feel stiff.
This unique gas-delayed system does channel significant heat into the firearm, hence the polymer trigger in an otherwise all-steel gun. It’s hardly an issue, unless you’re bent on burning through multiple boxes of 9mm. Plus, the cocking lever provides you with a pleasant 4.6 pound trigger on this particular gun.
The serial number on this P7 places the manufacture date at 1980. That makes this an early P7, given they went into production in 1979. Even so, the gun has seen some additional modifications since then. The two-toned finish is unique on its own with the stainless slide and the matte-black lower (I find it particularly handsome).
Add on the Nill grips, put the extra eight-round mag in your pocket, and you have a solid concealed carry piece. P7s are a popular carry option for those lucky enough to own one. There’s no surprise there, with a length of 6.5 inches and a height of 5 inches. Thanks to the cocking lever, the gun measures in at just 0.97 inches wide and 29.6 ounces unloaded. Even with the nice wood Nill grips, the widest point is only 1.33 inches.
The cocking lever on the frame also creates an otherwise unheard-of feature. Technically, you can fire this gun by holding the trigger down and using the cocking lever as an alternative trigger. This does seem to be intentional given the testing and trials, although the use-case scenario is perplexing.
Between the gas-delayed system and the cocking lever, the P7 has a very low bore access that assists with recoil control. In general, the gun was very well received by German police officers and only surrendered with a healthy level of complaint when it was removed from service.
Back to History
Heckler & Kock filed for their P7 U.S. patent in 1977, and it was granted in 1979. Interestingly, that means the patent expired in the U.S. 20 years after the filing date. That might be a glimmer of hope for those praying for its return. Alas, it has not come to fruition. The P7 remains both rare and unproduced.
The patent expired in 1997. In an almost cruel farewell to the gun, it even made a marked appearance in the hands of the James Bond villain and “outstanding pistol marksman” Dr. Kaufman in “Tomorrow Never Dies” (released in 1997). Well, tomorrow sort of died for the P7. The gun actually stopped entering the U.S. Market in the 2000s, and it entered into an ever-growing scarcity faze.
Heckler & Koch unveiled their PSP design in 1976, but it did not go into trials and production in time to serve before GSG 9 conducted their successful and very high-profile hostage rescue of the passengers and crew of Lufthansa Flight 181 in 1977.
The P7 went through several variations, to include the development of a 13+1 variant that competed with the Beretta M9 in U.S. military trials. However, in the end, the design faded into history. That has not stopped modern pistol lovers from appreciating the gun. It remains one of the most-loved guns on the market thanks to its creative design and reliability.