I picked up a P9S 9mm pistol up this week--I've always liked them and when I saw this beauty at an irresistible price I couldn't say no! When I first started shooting in the 1980's these were still near the height of their popularity but I had never seen one "in person" until this little beast showed up in the mail. The pistol, although 35 years old, looks almost brand-new--I was really pleased with its condition. I knew they were a little different than the typical mid-late 20th century but it wasn't until I had this one in my hands that found out really how different they really are.--my first week with the pistol revealed some unexpected things. Many of you will be very familiar with the P9S, but for those that aren't, scroll down to see my thoughts after one week with the pistol.
Obligatory beauty pictures first!
My pistol has a 4" barrel which makes it a "Prohibited Firearm" in Canada, a category which includes handguns with barrels 4" or less, centerfire handguns less than .32 calibre and many military-style rifles. I believe there are non-prohib length barrels available, as well as the longer barreled "Sport/Target" (complete with adjustable sights and barrel weight) with model. Mine's a fixed-sighted "Combat" model, and there was another model with the Sport/Target model's sights and the shorter barrel mine has--it was known as the "Target" model. The pistol balances and points nicely, and has a nice low bore axis. The eight-round magazine is held in place with heel clip instead of the more common push-button release.
The side of the slide are semi-polished with a very attractive finish, while the top rounded portion of the slide has a duller finish.
The sights are large and easily visible, with the front having a white stripe and the rear having two red strips. I'll see how effective this unusual arrangement is at the range.
There is a small notch in the slide that the cocking indicator protrudes through when the pistol is cocked.
The slide itself is remarkably thin-walled compared to my other pistols--the roller-locking action means that the slide is not directly locking the pistol so it can be made thinner and lighter. I'm thinking that this might translate into lower felt recoil since there will be less reciprocating mass with a lighter slide.
The frame of the pistol is actually two pieces--there's a steel "skeleton" that contains the bits and pieces of the lockwork, but, unexpectedly, the entire front face--trigger guard, the finger-grooved area at the front of the grip--is a large chunk of plastic screwed to the grip frame. The takedown lever is located at the front of the trigger guard--just push it up and the barrel slides off.
Despite the pistol's appearance it's not striker-fired--there's a good old-fashioned hammer contained within the slide. I don't know for sure the design reason for this…I'm guessing it was to provide a snag-free exterior
The grips are hard plastic with a thumb-rest on the left side--these would be awkward grips for a left-handed shooter. The pistol's grip is unexpectedly deep front-to-back; the single-stack magazine contributes to the feel. It certainly doesn't have the "moulded to my hand" feel that my 35years newer H&K P30L does!
With the roller-locked action the barrel does not tilt during the firing cycle so the recoil spring actually surrounds the barrel. The barrel itself is fairly substantial. You can see the recesses near the chamber that the rollers lock into.
Here's the bolt head removed from the slide.
and how the bolt head and barrel fit together.
The left side of the pistol grip behind the trigger guard resembles the decocking lever on SIG pistols--it's that and more! It can be used as a slide stop--push the lever up when retracting the slide to lock it back, push it partway down and the slide will be released. Surprisingly, if you start with an uncocked pistol and the lever is pressed all the way down, the pistol will be cocked! I don't know if this was intended as a combat feature or to enable easier single action practice. Lastly, the lever can be used to decock the pistol--but it's not as simple as with a SIG. You have to depress the lever all the way down, pull the trigger (!), release the lever, then release the trigger.
Another thing that surprised me was the operation of the safety. It looks just like any another slide-mounted safety that you's see on a Beretta or older S&W semi-auto. Up for fire, down for safe. But--the big difference is that it is not a decocker, in fact it doesn't affect the trigger at all--with the pistol "on safe" you can pull the trigger in double or single action and the hammer will still fall. The safety is just a firing pin lock. I can see how under stress if you forgot the pistol was on safe you could pull the trigger and not know it until you heard "click" instead of "bang". On the plus side, the pistol can be carried "cocked and locked".
I was surprised how much the trigger action reminded me in many ways of my P30L, which has the V1 LEM trigger. The double-action pull on both is long (especially so on the P9S) and really stacks at the end. I know that on the P30L the DA pull is intended (I think) only to be used as a "second strike" option on a bad primer. I don't know what the design intent was for the P9S, but the DA pull is pretty stiff. On the other hand--the single action pull is quite nice. Like the P30L's LEM trigger, there's a long, light take up (like a two-stage trigger) before you feel the final resistance.
Here's where the SA pull starts:
Here's where the final resistance starts:
and here is just past sear release. (look how much overtravel these is, though!)
The final let off is wonderfully light and crisp, and the reset is super-short and positive. What I like about the P9S compared to the P30L is that once you feel the "click" of the reset you're right back at the point of final resistance, whereas with the P30L once you feel the reset click you have to pull the trigger rearwards a bit more before the final resistance. But--there's a downside. After the trigger releases there's a huge
amount of overtravel (look at the picture above!). The Target and Sport/Target models had a trigger stop to minimize this but not the Combat model--the trigger needs to travel further rearward in DA mode. I'm hoping that this will be manageable at the range.
I consider the P9S and P7 models the "classic" H&K pistols. Their newer models like the USP and P30, while excellent pistols, aren't as unique as the older models. With its curious features and requirement for complex manufacturing it was not destined to be a worldwide hit, but it's a great example of uniquely German handgun engineering. Next up--I'll see how it performs at the range and add an update.
Here are two pinnacles of H&K pistol design separated by 35 years.