1, 2, 3 dirty P9S pistols: An Armorer's Tale
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Thread: 1, 2, 3 dirty P9S pistols: An Armorer's Tale

  1. #1
    Teufelshund Tactical
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    Default 1, 2, 3 dirty P9S pistols: An Armorer's Tale

    One of my favorite things about this forum is the ability to offer advice, information and support to the other members. As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of the legacy HK pistols, specifically the P9 and P7 series pistols. Not only do I enjoy collecting and shooting them, but I also look forward to every opportunity to tear them down and build them back up. Sadly much of the institutional knowledge on these pistols has been lost over the years and even the printed information is scarce, especially relating to the P9S.

    The Armorer training I received and the manuals I have refer only to the late model 9mm P9S Combat model. I have several variants of the P9S in my collection, but they are all late model 9mm pistols. As I have worked on my own pistols and a couple for friends, I have noticed minor differences in the internal parts of these pistols. I was confident that there would be other differences in the earlier model pistols as well as in the .45 ACP variants, but had until recently, not had the opportunity to explore that.

    Enter Chuck (Chuckster62), who contacted me about taking a look at several of his P9S pistols. He had purchased them used and wanted to have them thoroughly gone over to check for worn or damaged parts and to give them a detailed cleaning and bring them back to like new condition. Of course I offered my assistance and was excited to see how these earlier pistols would be both similar and different from the ones I had previously worked on.

    Chuck sent me two 9mm P9S pistols from 1972, one Combat and one Target, and a .45 Combat from 1978. All three were clearly in excellent condition and at first glance looked to be also very clean. So this is where I will mention what I have said several times before on the forum. You will never know how dirty your guns are until you tear them all the way down. There are just some places that a Q-tip won't reach and compressed air can't blow out.

    The first order of business after removing the slide from the receiver was to completely disassemble the slide. That means pulling off the bolt, and also removing the bolt carrier, safety latch and firing pin and firing pin spring. As you can see from the first photo below, the underside of the slide and the top of the bolt and bolt carrier is an area that gets extremely filthy.

    Further disassembly of the bolt and bolt carrier is necessary to remove stubborn carbon build up. The locking latch and extractor are especially prone to this. The firing pin channel within the bolt can also become clogged. As you can see from the next photo, this specific bolt was so clogged that the rollers were stuck within the bolt.

    In this photo, you can see how much carbon was caked on the extractor. In fact, you can see the lip of the extractor is completely filled and the big, black clump to the right had just been scraped off the bottom.

    While I'm on the topic of the slide assemblies, I'll cover some of the differences. In the first photo, you will see the top view of the difference in the ejection port and sights between the early 9mm (top in photo) and .45 variants.

    In the next photo, you can see the difference in the same two slides from the bottom. Note the variation in the barrel extension. In the .45 (top in photo), the recoil spring slides freely off the barrel. On the 9mm variant, the recoil spring is held semi-captive within the barrel extension. You can also see the change in the bottom of the bolts, or specifically the feed paw. This was done to ensure more positive feeding from the magazine.

    In this photo you see the top view of the early 9mm bolt (left) and a late model 9mm bolt (right). Noticeable here is the change made to the extractor.

    There are also noticeable differences in the firing pins and firing pin springs between the earlier 9mm variants and the later 9mm and .45 variants. You can see in the first photo of this post, the side by side photos of the 9mm and .45 Combat slide disassembles, that the early firing pin is missing the extended contact piece at the end of the firing pin and that the spring itself is far less robust. This is because the early 9mm pistols lack the drop safety requirement that was developed later as part of the police and military trials. The increased resistance of the firing pin spring helped to prevent slam fire and the contact piece on the firing pin was locked in place with the safety to prevent it moving forward and striking the primer on a chambered round if the hammer were to strike the firing pin inadvertently. The safety and bolt carrier are also different on these early model pistols.

    With the slides cleaned, inspected, lubed and reassembled, it was on to the receivers, which are far more complex and challenging. Care must be taken when removing the multiple screws, all of which are extremely soft and easily "boogered up". There are numerous springs that must be removed carefully in order to prevent their damage as well. And one of the most worrisome parts is removing the trigger guard. It involves a combination of pulling and prying and each time I do it, I worry that I'll snap the rather fragile polymer in two.

    The majority of the carbon build up within the receiver occurs between the receiver itself and the working parts surrounding the hammer. Removing all those parts allows for the required access to properly clean the receiver out, but removing the parts is the easy step. Putting them all back in correctly is the challenge.

    During this process, the first thing I noticed is the difference in the trigger bar and pull bar. In the 9mm variant those are two separate parts. They are very thin and fit tightly between each other, right up against the right side of the receiver. In the photo below, you will notice that there is what looks like a small window in the pull bar. You will also notice a small detent on the side of the trigger bar. That detent is designed to fit inside that window of the pull bar, keeping the two properly aligned. In the later 9mm variants, both the window on the pull bar and the detent on the trigger bar were removed. When one of the trigger bars on a IE date code P9S I own broke and I had to replace it, the one that arrived from Numrich had the detent, but the pull bar I had in the pistol did not have the corresponding window, so I had to file off the detent in order to make them fit properly.

    When I broke down the .45 Combat, I immediately noticed that in that pistol, the trigger bar and pull bar are effectively one piece. The end of what would be a separate trigger bar is riveted onto the end of the pull bar. Recently, another member had contacted me with a photo of what he had ordered as a replacement trigger bar for his pistol and I told him I had no idea what it was. Well, now I know, he had received just the tip of this combined pull bar/trigger bar for the .45 variant. As much as I have searched for a parts or maintenance manual with references and photos of the different parts between the 9mm and .45 variants of the P9S, I have yet to locate them, but this project has helped me clear that issue up. As such, I now feel fully confident to be able to answer the question of "what parts are different between the 9mm and .45 P9S pistols"?

    Another main difference in the parts of the receiver between the 9mm and .45 is with the sear. In the 9mm, the sear is a captive piece consisting of the sear, sear spring and the pin that holds them together. Though not exactly easy to reinstall, it is much easier than the .45 sear, as I learned. First of all, the sear for the .45 is not captive. Instead, the sear, sear spring and a spring insert are loose and have to be aligned and positioned correctly within the receiver before the task is complete. This took some creativity to accomplish. Second, and a bit confusing for me at first, the mounting hole on the receiver of the .45, for where the long end of the sear spring protrudes, is on the opposite side of the receiver than it is on the 9mm variant. This had me a doing at least two double takes. Needless to say, I am now smarter for having to work through that task. The photo below shows the three piece sear for the .45 Target.

    Also noticeable in the photo above is the difference in the sear for the Target/Sport vs. the Combat sear. It differs in that it has an adjustable screw on the top. This is used so that you can adjust when the sear breaks. It is commonly misunderstood that the Target/Sport models have adjustable triggers. In reality, it is this sear that is adjustable. The early Target model that I worked on here did not have this sear. I'm not sure what year these were introduced, but they are on three of my late model 9mm P9S pistols.

    Another difference between the 9mm and .45 variants is the buffer housing. As you will see in the photo below (9mm on the right and .45 on the left), the surfaces the make contact with the front of the slide are significantly smaller on the .45 buffer housing. I'm not exactly why this was done, as you would expect that they would need to be larger than the 9mm version. As you might expect, this is a common failure point on the .45 variant, especially when owners are shooting +P ammo or using out of spec buffers or recoil springs. When failure occurs, the raised surfaces on the buffer housing sheer off. Without those surfaces in place, the slide makes no further contact with the buffer housing and instead impacts directly into the receiver. Over time, this will lead to receiver damage and eventually destruction through cracking. Again, more common of an issue with the .45 variants than the 9mm, but something to pay close attention to in inspection regardless.

    One of the last of the major differences between the 9mm and .45 variants is the ejector and disconnector. For both calibers, the ejectors are mounted on the left side of the receiver, but in the 9mm pistols it is welded to the receiver. In the .45s, it is spring loaded, moving slightly up and down. The disconnector is different in the .45 in that it has the addition of a small tab on the right side, which fits inside the opening on the .45 variant trigger bar.

    The rest of the project went very smoothly, with the last pistol (9mm Target) completed rather quickly. As you can see by the group shot taken upon completion, they look great. I thank Chuck for the opportunity to work on such beautiful pistols and am glad that I could help him out. Hopefully, this provided some useful information for those P9S fans out there. At the very least, it may have you going to your safe to have a look at how clean your P9S really is.

    Lastly, I would also be remiss if I did not throw in another plug for FIREClean. I used this product throughout this project and it works wonders at both breaking up years of stubborn and built up carbon, and also providing a lasting and attractive, protective coating.

    Last edited by Marine0303; 02-25-2015 at 02:27 PM. Reason: Additional information
    VP70Z, Lamont, chuckster62 and 1 others like this.


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    Awesome write-up and pictures! Thank you for taking the time to do that. That's just another reason why I love this forum.

    It's amazing there would be such differences in the different models. I don't suppose many manufacturers could get away with that these days where everything is so "cookie-cutter".

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    I can not thank James enough for taking on this project. I have P9S NIB safe Queens, but I have shooters and love to shoot them now and then. It is always fun to take them to the range and let someone that has never seen one before shoot it, they are amazed how tight their group is. Then I tell them the gun is 42 years old and they shoot it better than their own gun. There are not many armors out there that have the knowledge that James does. I thought 2 out of three of the guns were fairly clean but they all turned out to be dirty girls. I have another project for James in the coming months. I would have never attempted this on my own, even with my armors manual, which would not have helped on these early models. Thank you James for preserving my legacy guns so I may pass them down to my sons.

    Forever Grateful


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    Great guns, superb write up (again). Thanks for taking the time to do it. Really well done.

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    As I've stated before, I'm a HUGE fan of the P9s. They are my all-time favorite semi-auto handgun. Though I only own two, 1 combat and 1 target; both in .45ACP, I read everything that I can find on these magnificient pistols.

    I just wanted to give credit to Marine0303, for keeping the good information flowing. When form meets function, a little TLC goes a long way. (even Rembrandts need a touch-up now and again)

    As an aside: My #2 favorite? The P7 that I EDC. Go figure!

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    Default 1, 2, 3 dirty P9S pistols: An Armorer's Tale

    Look at those babies all clean and ready for more lovin! Thanks once again for taking the time to post, James. I truly enjoy reading your write-ups and learning a thing or two in the process.

    Chuck, some beautiful pieces you have there!
    - CPshooter

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    Nice write up! Im a huge fan of the P9S 45 Target. Looks like more parts than a Colt 1911!
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    wow thanksfor sharing

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    Great info Marine! Love seeing more of ur collection Chuckster!

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    As always James knocks it out of the park. I agree, every time I log on I learn something new. Few places you can do that.
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