Gun Review: Heckler and Koch P7M13

HK P7M13

H&K P7M13 with original box.

Throughout the sixty-seven years Heckler and Koch have been in business, there are a number of firearms produced by the company that one could consider perennial. Chief among such designs would be the MP5 and or the G3, both weapons which continue to see use even fifty years after their creation. While for many, rifles and sub-machine guns would be the first to come to mind, HK has a history of producing pistols which define the concept of utilitarian and are practically indestructible.

For many collectors the P7 is a sought after example of HK’s design prowess. At seven inches long, five inches tall, an inch and a quarter wide, and weighing almost two pounds, the P7M13 is a rare version of the P7 which some consider to be the penultimate of the series. Originally designed as a higher capacity P7, the M13 variant utilizes a double-stack magazine capable of holding thirteen rounds of 9mm ammunition. For those unfamiliar with the P7 design, the pistol is based on the Barnitzke system, a gas-retarded blowback system that utilizes bleed-off gases from each round fired to drive an operating rod which cycles the slide. In many ways this system is similar to modern piston driven rifles (AK and AR variants) but in other ways the system is unique all to itself.

Disassembled HK P7M13

Heckler and Koch’s P7M13 shown field stripped. The gas piston and fixed barrel are clearly visible in this photograph.

Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about the P7M13 is that it was at one time a contender to be the US Army’s standard-issued pistol. While it ultimately was not chosen in favor of the Beretta M9, the P7M13 has found use among some police agencies, even today. Introduced in 1982, the M13 was produced until around 2000, while the rest of the P7 line continued until production ended completely in 2008.

Being fortunate enough to acquire a new-in-box M13 (dated 1988), I set out to experience firsthand what I had already read regarding the potential accuracy of the low bore axis, as well as the unique squeeze-cocking mechanism the P7 series had made famous (at least among HK enthusiasts). My first impressions did nothing but validate what I had read. While I wouldn’t consider myself to be a professional shooter by any means, I am more than competent when it comes to putting rounds on paper. With that said, after about the first magazine’s worth of ammo, I found myself being able to consistently keep rounds in the 10-ring, with only one or two occasionally drifting to the edge, at distances between seven and fifteen yards. While I could accomplish this with most other pistols in good repair and condition, what stood out to me so clearly was how easy it was to create a repeatable point of impact. To say I was happy with my purchase would be an understatement.

HK P7M13 in shoulder holster

While not as common of a pistol, one can still find quality holsters made to fit the P7 series.

As an HK aficionado myself I’ve managed to collect examples of most of HK’s popular handguns (USP series, MK23, HK45) but the P7 was always a variant that had eluded me. Whether it was for some unfounded distrust of a striker-fired pistol, or an excuse that a P7 would be too expensive, I put off adding any variant to my collection. Needless to say I’m happy that I finally took the plunge and added this excellent example to my collection.



Colin

Colin is a Navigator in the U.S. Air Force. When he’s not busy projecting airpower, he enjoys spending time at the local firing range and dabbling in photography. His love of writing and firearms has culminated in penning articles for The Firearm Blog.


Advertisement

  • Micki

    Hmm, I don’t think that the gas system works as you described it, Colin. As I understand it, the weapon functions essentially as a straight blowback gun, but the gasses in the cylinder simply resist the rearward motion of the slide. In other words, it has no relation at all to AR or AK style gas systems.

    Other than that, thanks for the review! It’s a great looking handgun.

    • Indeed. P7s work like the Volkssturmgewehr rifle; gasses actually delay the action. The gasses do not “drive an operating rod which cycles the slide”. Quite the opposite: gasses delay the slide by working against said rod.

    • Thanks for the clarification. I guess my understanding of how the P7 works wasn’t quite as solid as I thought. I appreciate the input!

  • MrTorben

    oh my, what a beauty.

  • Steve

    The gas system does not have an operating rod. There is a precision machined piston (attached to slide) and cylinder (attached to frame). Forces from a round being fired move the slide rearward, but the gas is bled around the piston in a controlled manner (hence the precision required on the machine work) to delay this movement until chamber pressures are lower.

    It is not like a piston-driven AR or an AK. There is no locking bolt.

    • Yeah I wanted to chime in on this. As far as I know, the gas system in P7 acts as a delaying mechanism (akin to other high-power pistol designs that use mechanical means to do the same), not as an actuator for extraction or reloading.

  • Dracon1201

    Damn.

    That is all.

  • Noakes

    “Being fortunate enough to acquire a new-in-box M13 (dated 1988)”

    inb4 Alex jealousy

  • Thomas Gomez

    Gorgeous firearm.

  • Jim

    Penultimate means “second to last in a series”. I don’t that makes a lot of sense in this context.

    Nice looking gun.

    • mugwump

      Agreed, its not penultimate in my opinion. And the 13 round capacity makes this little gun too large for my liking, I prefer the regular ‘ole P7 much better for being less bulky.

  • jess

    I shooting my M8, gets rather hot after a couple of quick strings though.

    • Bill

      IIRC, this was a common complaint for the original P7/PSP, so the M8 was supposed to have a rubber heat shield under the trigger guard to keep pantywaists, I mean, New Jersey State Troopers, from getting too warm.

      I horribly regret trading off my PSP.

  • Have owned my NIB P7M13 since 1985. One of my all time favorite pistols. Have never seen one with the wood grips – beautiful gun.

    • mugwump

      Wood grips are from Karl Nill and can be ordered for many pistols including the P7.

  • HKGuns

    Nice Pistola, for an Air Force guy! 🙂

  • mechamaster

    A bit curiosity, did the squeeze-grip cocking lever can be re-cocked the striker manually every time ? I mean, to give second try to strike the bullet primer ( like manipulating the hammer manually in DA/SA ) just like ”squeeze-and-bang”.

    • Miles

      Yes, the cocking lever can be released and re-squeezed to give you a restrike.
      Although, like other modern instructors teach today, if the thing don’t go off, rack the slide to get rid of the offending round.

      • mechamaster

        nice information, thanks !

  • Alex

    FYI, in German, it’s pronounced “Heckler und Koch P7M13”. Also, it sounds better when you yell it.

    Try it: “HEK-LAIR UNT KAWch PAY ZEEBEN EMM DRY-TS’AYN”

    Then yell, “KOMMEN SIE BITTE MIT UNS!”

  • plumber576

    What’s up with the font change from Arial to Times New Roman in the second paragraph?

  • Jas

    Hmmm, what can I say about the P7M13? It made me Dutch National Champion IPSC shooting, so how bad can it be?
    One of the overlooked assets of the P7M13 is the magazine button. It can be actuated by the trigger finger so it is not necessary to change the grip when changing magazines (which most normally shaped persons will have to do when dropping a magazine from a gun with a thumbbutton). That combined with a VERY large magazine opening and a well tapered magazine made for extremely fast magazine changes.
    Drawbacks? Yes, indeed. The gas system takes quite a bit of energy so in order to make the F-factor a quite heavy load is required. And also that gastap in the forcing cone made the use of lead bullets a definitely bad idea so full jacket only.

    The P7M13 is a gun for a one-gun man. When you know how to handle it, it is an extremely effective weapon (also for competition) that can shoot groups of 15mm at 25m. However, the handling is so different that it becomes difficult not to make a mistake when shooting something else.

    However….. It is still definitely my favourite.

    • Burst

      Indeed. I’m no champion shooter myself, but once you figure out how this gun runs- every other pistol feels clunky and wrong.

      Decocking, slide and magazine release can all be done with virtually no hand adjustment from a firing position.

    • Steve_7

      Well back in the day when guns like this were competitive in standard division, I beat shooters using the P7M13, using my P228. I know what you mean about the mag release, there was a guy I used to shoot against regularly who could change mags very quickly using his trigger finger, but it depends on the length of your fingers! I could never do it quickly enough with mine, using a thumb down grip I can change mags faster with the P228. My main complaint about the P7M13 is the blocky grip, the P228 has a far better grip shape. It is SA for the first shot though, that’s the main advantage the P7 has IMO.

  • i1776

    My P7M8 is a favorite. Too bad they don’t make these fine handguns any longer.

  • Brian

    The author doesn’t say how much this acquisition set him back. I’ve got one I bought in 1993 that was a steal at $1100 when the MSRP was $1450. Most of them for sale on gun broker are going for $2900-$6500

    • I paid 459.00 for mine in 1985 from Vollmers.

    • petru sova

      I turned down a practically brand new one with 3 mags and a hard case back in the 1990’s for $700 bucks, but after testing it I gave it a big thumbs down and passed on the sale and I never looked back. I have no regrets on not buying this type of pistol. I also tested the gas operated Styer GB pistol which was another real turkey of a pistol as it had an ever worse reliability rate than the HK.

      What is amazing is that manufactures never learn as I have read recently they are getting read to bring out yet another gas operated pistol. Of course they are gambling that the average gun owner knows little of pistol development and that they will flock to get something just because it is new or unique or shall we say odd ball.

  • RealitiCzech

    Stop reminding me that I need to buy every gun that was featured in Die Hard, TFB. That’s just not cool.

  • No more P7’s.

    These pistols were not accurate, as the authors experience has shown. They were also not reliable, comfortable, or well finished. On top of all that there was a Romeo foxtrot regarding importation of at least a few. After this happened HK said “screw the end user, we are not supporting any warranty claims on these.”

    This experience and their attitude are what turned me off to anything with the hk name on it. Oh, and watch that magazine release. It will dump a fully loaded mag w/o you knowing it and leave you with an expensive single shot.

    The M8 and K3, both of which we owned as well, were much better options. The M8 was actually more accurate, slightly more reliable but still had the same awful finish that was less than a bluing. It would begin rusting when you got near it.

    It’s your money, though.

  • petru sova

    This gun was a real turd for a variety of reasons. They could and often did break firing pins. The Squeeze cocker was made very heavy because the original design was much lighter but when people pulled the gun out in a crisis situation they often ended up shooting themselves as when one tends to get a death grip on the gun when drawing it and naturally the finger goes for the trigger and you can then set it off. One wonders what will also happen with a Glock or copy cat Glock as it has no manual safety either and it too can go off when drawing it. I believe it was Guns Magazine or Gun World last month carried as story about a Cop who did just that and shot an innocent man sitting in a car in the head.

    The H&K also overheats with as little as one magazine fired off which can result in a cook offs especially in the Summer months.

    Trying to hold in the squeeze cocker is almost impossible except for only a short period of time before fatigue sets in and when you release it the gun gives off a load clickety clack giving away your position, just what you need in a crisis situation.

    The gun is very heavy for its size although it is made mostly from sheet metal stampings.

    The trigger is extremely soft and mushy and I personally had difficulty knowing just when the gun would go off when squeezing the trigger. I would rate this as one of the worst triggers I have ever used on a handgun. I would rather have even a hard, creepy trigger pull as long as I knew when it was going to trip off.

    This gun like most gas operated guns has its inherent problems. It most be kept clean to work and even when it does work it only works with certain types of ammo. Use ammo that has a faster powder burning rate than say Bullseye or Winchester 231 and the action will open prematurely resulting in horrendous recoil, jams and possible blow up.
    The gun can not and should not be used with economical lead bullets a piece of lead can clog up the gas hole turning the gun into a blow back and causing a jam or an explosion of the pistol.
    All and all a very accurate collectors item but just another odd ball auto pistol and one you would not want to use in a serious situation. I might ad that just about every gas-operated pistol I have ever tested had some of the problems associated with this turkey of a design.

    • billyoblivion

      Utter nonsense.

      > The H&K also overheats with as little as one magazine fired off

      > which can result in a cook offs especially in the Summer months.

      The action gets hit, this is true. This lead to H&K putting a heat shield on them, so folks wouldn’t get their widdle fingers burnt.

      I’ve run four and five mags through mine in relatively short periods of time–even in the summer in San Jose, and never had a cookoff.

      > Trying to hold in the squeeze cocker is almost impossible except for only
      > a short period of time before fatigue sets in and when you release it the
      > gun

      While it takes some effort (not a lot, any male who’s made it through puberty has enough hand strength) for the initial squeeze, to *keep* the handle back requires no more effort than to hold any other firearm.

      > gives off a load clickety clack giving away your position, just what you
      > need in a crisis situation.

      Yeah, because we’re all Ninja Assassins sneaking up on our targets.

      > It most be kept clean to work

      No gun I own for long has to be clean to work.

      > and even when it does work it only works with certain types of ammo.

      It has a polygonal barrel and gas ports, so it requires copper coated/jacketed bullets. Other than that mine’s eaten everything from cheap reloads to modern defensive hollowpoints.

      As to safeties, almost no revolvers have them. If you’re so stupid and/or poorly trained that your finger is going in the trigger, it’s going to go bang.

      • petru sova

        Quote:As to safeties, almost no revolvers have them. If you’re so stupid and/or poorly trained that your finger is going in the trigger, it’s going to go bang. Quote:
        This comment shows not only your arrogance but absolute stupidity in regards to the long stroke double action pull of a revolver in comparison to the short stroke single action pull of the HK or Glock type mechanism. You also live in a fantasy world by repeating the moronic babblings of

        • If you want to take issue with the information presented by all means feel free. There’s a difference between expressing an opinion and spending 500 words insulting the writer. You should know that won’t be tolerated.
          You want to disagree fine— do it in a civil manner.

      • petru sova

        Quote:The action gets hit, this is true. This lead to H&K putting a heat shield on them, so folks wouldn’t get their widdle fingers burnt. Quote:

        I find the overheating very uncomfortable and the overheating of the barrel shortens its useful life as well. A colleague of mine who shot his HK extensively asked me what that grey alligator scaling was at the front of his chamber well into the rifling. Any competitive shooter knows what causes this and that is overheating of the barrel which destroys the accuracy of the barrel and because of the HK gas system the barrel overheats very quickly.

        Quote:While it takes some effort (not a lot, any male who’s made it through puberty has enough hand strength) for the initial squeeze, to *keep* the handle back requires no more effort than to hold any other firearm.Quote:

        People with arthritis or women shooters may not have enough strength to hold the cocking lever in for even brief periods of time. I do not have this problem but I find that on the range holding the cocker in for more than a brief period of time disturbs my aim and makes accurate shooting much more difficult.

        quote: gives off a load clickety clack giving away your position, just what you
        > need in a crisis situation.

        Quote :Yeah, because we’re all Ninja Assassins sneaking up on our targets. Quote:

        The fact is that people may have to use this gun in a self defense situation which would give away your position and result in your quick demise.

        Quote: It has a polygonal barrel and gas ports, so it requires copper coated/jacketed bullets. Other than that mine’s eaten everything from cheap reloads to modern defensive hollowpoints. Quote:

        Again not correct. My own testing shows some factory ammo and especially reloads must have a power with a fast burning rate or this gun simply will fail to function. This was also found in various gun articles down through the years when the gun was tested by various gun writers as they too found this gun was ammo sensitive.

        Quote: As to safeties, almost no revolvers have them. If you’re so stupid and/or poorly trained that your finger is going in the trigger, it’s going to go bang. Quote:

        The pull on a double action revolver is long and hard as compared to the short stroke pull of an HK pistol as they are two completely different mechanisms. As far as keeping your finger off the trigger Police and Civilians have shot themselves when drawing auto loading pistols that have no manual safeties and with short stroke single action type of pulls during moments of extreme stress. I once observed two New York Policemen running to a call and both had their fingers on the triggers of their Glocks which is proof enough that even with proper training even Police can sometimes panic and make mistakes. I would have felt way more comfortable if they had been using long stroke double action only auto’s while making this same mistake of having their fingers on the triggers even though this would have also been unsafe.

        Quote:

        > It most be kept clean to work

        Quote: No gun I own for long has to be clean to work. Quote:

        The HK has a dual problem and not only will it jam if kept dirty like short recoil pistols also do but it will also jam if the gas system clogs up, something that the Colt/Browning system does not suffer from because it has no gas port. The gas system is just one more problem that may cause the HK pistol to malfunction at the wrong time.

    • Steve_7

      The gun didn’t overheat, it was more a case of becoming too hot to hold, which is why they put the plastic guard in. The trigger pull is mushy, but it is on all striker-fired guns imx.

  • Sulaco

    I was at one time working on a fellow officer that was thinking of selling me his Hi cap version of the P7 with five mags as well. We went back and forth for about a month before he finally decided not to sell it. I still am on the fence as to being sorry or glad…

  • petru sova

    I turned down a practically brand new one with 3 mags and a hard case back in the 1990’s but after testing it I gave it a big thumbs down and passed on the sale and I never looked back. I have no regrets on not buying this type of pistol. I also tested the Gas operated Styer GB pistol which was another real turkey of a pistol as it had an ever worse reliability rate than the HK.

    What is amazing is that manufactures never learn as I have read recently they are getting read to bring out yet another gas operated pistol. Of course they are gambling that the average gun owner knows little of pistol development and that they will flock to get something just because it is new or unique or shall we say odd ball.

  • firedigger

    I’ve owned a P7PSP since 1984 and have put thousands of rounds through it. Does it get hot? Yes it does, uncomfortably so. So when I’m at the range, I wear shooting gloves when it starts to heat up. When I carry it, I really don’t expect to be in a prolonged gunbattle and I can handle the heat that one magazine in the gun and two spares might produce. And having been a firefighter, I’m damn sure that little things like warm fingers fall way down on the priority list when the fan is spraying sewage. To put things in perspective, I’m not a Glock fan, but I’m not going to try to convince the world they shouldn’t buy one. To expand upon the mantra “if you don’t like guns, don’t buy one,” I say “if you don’t like H&K (or Springfield Armory or Ruger or S&W or Kahr or Beretta or or or ad infinitum), don’t buy one.

  • Jimbo

    I’ve never been too interested in pistols, but this gun peaked my interest. Beautiful workmanship.

  • The_Automator

    You do know that the word “penultimate” doesn’t mean “super ultimate” right?