The Heckler and Koch P30 is a polymer frame, semi automatic pistol that comes in three distinct models – the P30, P30sk, and P30l. Our HK P30 review will examine each of these handguns in turn, and also analyze the differences between them.
The P30 and P30l are available in either 9mm or .40 S&W, which means we’ll also be briefly weighing in on the pros and cons between the two calibers in the name of helping you make a more informed choice when buying an HK P30. With three different models, and two different calibers, there are five primary versions of the HP P30 to choose from along with many more subvarients, so which is best for you? Well, let’s take a look!
The HK P30 Review
To do a proper HK P30 review, it’s important to note that this is the base model from which all other P30 variants sprint. That isn’t to say it’s a plain, mediocre gun. Quite the opposite really, as many thousands of this gun are in use by law enforcement in Europe and the United States, but we’ll touch on that later.
Features that will be found across all models include three different interchangeable backstraps and six interchangeable grip frame panels, which give the user the opportunity to configure the gun to fit their hands while achieving optimal comfort and control.
All versions of the P30 also come with two different hammer configurations – the LEM version or Law Enforcement Modification, which has a bobbed hammer, and lighter trigger pull designed to mimic striker fired guns, or a more traditional double/single action mode with a slide mounted decocker, and optional ambidextrous controls. Some models also ship with night sights, along with the trigger mode of your choice.
Each model of the P30 also includes a standard Picatinny rail for mounting accessories like a light or laser.
The HK P30 base model is available in 9mm, with a factory 15 round magazine (10 where restricted by law) and a 3.85” barrel. The .40 version has the same barrel length and 13 or 10 round magazine choices.
Sights include standard adjustable iron sights, or option night sights on some models.
When you factor in two different trigger modes, two different calibers, and the various other options like ambidextrous controls and night sights, it becomes pretty apparent that if you need a full sized duty or security pistol, the HK P30 has a model for you. But what if you want a more compact P30?
HK P30sk Review
Looking for an HK P30sk review? Well, we took a closer look and found a few interesting things. It is the only P30 that isn’t available in .40 and is also the smallest version of the P30. Available in six different versions based on the trigger and control options we already discussed, the P30sk ships with a standard 10 round magazine, but you can get extended 13 and 15 round mags for it as well.
With a 3.17” barrel, and a roughly 6.5” length and just over 4.5” height, the P30sk works well as a standard concealed carry pistol. It is ideal for private citizens looking for something more discrete than a full sized P30, but who still want that superior design and function of the P30.
Because there are extended magazines available for it, the P30sk is ideal for off duty or plainclothes use, and is also a great glove box gun. Basically, anywhere you might want a smaller, more compact 9mm pistol, is where you want to have the HK P30sk.
Some folks might complain that no .40 option is available, but the fact is, you’d wind up with an even more reduced ammo capacity, and out of the 3.17” barrel, 9mm is going to be your better option. In other words, .40 would just be wasted on this gun, and it is a trade off between ammo capacity and function.
Still, no matter how you slice it, the P30sk is a pretty awesome little concealed carry gun. Although if you want something even bigger than the stock P30, there is also an option!
The HK P30L Review
We were excited to do a HK P30L review, because it is such a unique gun. Available in 12 different factory options, incorporating 9mm and .40 chamberings, plus various trigger and sight options discussed earlier, what makes the P30L so unique is the fact it is a long slide version of the P30!
Now there are a lot of reasons to make a long slide gun. Some are sold for competition and target shooting, where the longer barrel and sight radius improve accuracy. In other cases, shooters may simply prefer a slightly longer barrel configuration. In the case of the P30L, it also allows for a longer Picatinny rail, which increases the types of accessories you can mount to the gun.
Regardless of your reasons for wanting a long slide P30, the HK P30L has a lot going for it.
Along with all the usual features you’d expect from a P30, the P30L has a 4.45” barrel length in either 9mm or .40. Compare this to the stock 3.85” barrel. While that extra .60 inches might not seem like a lot, it does make a difference in accuracy and power through a slightly longer barrel, and the improved sight radius.
While it is true that for most shooters, there is no real appreciable difference between a regular P30 and the P30L, there is enough of a difference to matter if you can appreciate and make use of the slightly longer P30L.
What Makes the P30L So Great?
Amazingly, Heckler & Koch has managed to take three basic versions of the same gun, and make them suitable for almost any use you might have for a full size or mid sized handgun. With seemingly never ending combinations of features that allow you to choose just the right variation for you, and 27 different user configurable variations of the frame using interchangeable grip panels and backstraps, the P30 clearly shows the years of work that went into its design.
When you think of a polymer framed pistol, most folks assume a striker fired gun. HK is one of the few companies that offers a traditional exposed hammer pistol on a polymer frame. In a classic case of old meets new, HK pushed the envelope on handgun design, and brought the external hammer fired gun into the 21st century.
In fact, with the LEM trigger, Heckler & Koch managed to create an experience similar to the light, easy trigger found on many striker fired guns, making it easy for people to transition between guns, or who just want a nice trigger on their everyday carry pistol.
In addition, every P30 variant has a cold hammer forged polygonal rifled bore. The cold forging makes a much stronger bore than traditional forging or rifling methods, and the polygonal rifling provides superior accuracy and longer barrel life. Experts agree that a polygon bore is more accurate, easier to clean and longer lasting than most traditional forms of rifling, which is why HK chose to use it.
As we worked on our HK P30 review, we found a few other interesting things. Like the fact multiple law enforcement agencies in Europe purchased tens of thousands of P30 variants for their use, and it is also in common use in the United States.
While some might be critical of the stock 15 round (13 on the .40) magazine, and point out competing guns have slightly higher ammo capacity, on a practical level, there is little real difference, and the wide acceptance of the P30 guns is proof that it is a plenty capable handgun.
9mm vs .40 S&W
This of course is an argument that really can never be settled. However, no HK P30 review would be complete without at least considering the practical differences between these two popular calibers.
While the .40 has been waning in popularity in recent years, it still remains a common handgun caliber and a great many concealed carry and police handguns are chambered in this round. Developed in 1983 by handgun expert Jeff Cooper, the 10mm Auto was later adopted by the FBI for a period of time, when they determined there was a need for a more powerful duty pistol. However, the 10mm proved too difficult for most law enforcement officers, and instead, a shorter, less powerful version evolved – the .40 S&W.
One might consider the .40 a compromise between 9mm and the mighty 10mm auto. And it certainly is popular with people who prefer a larger, heavier bullet. Because it can be built on the same frames as a 9mm pistol, the .40 became popular with law enforcement looking for a step up from 9mm.
However, real world studies suggest that when using modern, high velocity hollowpoint ammo, there is little meaningful difference between the 9mm and .40. What this means is choosing either caliber in your HK P30 is mostly academic and rooted in personal preference or perhaps department logistics if you are a police or security officer.
Which HK P30 Is Right For You?
We aren’t going to get into the many different small variants within a model. You’ll know what trigger and hammer configurations suit you, along with what control setups you like, and the many small variants are just too much to get into.
If you are after a compact, mid sized pistol, there is only one choice for you and that’s the HK P30sk. Designed for concealed carry and backup gun use, it is also just as much at home in a nightstand drawer, or any place a discretely tucked away handgun might be of use.
For a full size duty pistol, you’ve got two choices – the standard Heckler & Koch P30 and the P30L. For most people, there is little practical difference. We kind of like the HK P30L, only because long slide semi autos are pretty cool looking, and some feel have a better balance. A longer barrel, longer sight radius, and longer Picatinny rail are all valid reasons to consider the P30L, but if those aren’t important, then the standard P30 makes for an excellent full sized semi auto.
Which version of your chosen P30 variant will also be up to you. Guns fitted with LEM triggers would be an excellent choice for concealed carry or duty use, while more traditional external hammers are also just fine, and also well suited for target practice and some forms of competition shooting.
The caliber choice is largely academic and based on personal choice, there will never be true consensus in the 9mm vs .40 debate, and for the most part it is largely a matter of choice, as both rounds manage to get the job done when using high quality ammo.
Left handed shooters will appreciate the chance to get ambidextrous controls, while all shooters should value the optional night sights that can be had. After all, it’s nice to be able to see your sights in a low light self defense situation.
As you can see, with just three basic models, and two calibers, HK has managed to put out a P30 that suits almost every need a person might have for this style of handgun!
The HK P30 series represents the pinnacle of modern handgun development. HK has created a duty style pistol that is suitable for use by private citizens for concealed carry and home protection, while also being an excellent law enforcement or security gun, and even a platform for target or competition shooting.
Because the shape of the frame and grip can be quickly rebuilt by the owner, the HK P30 series can be made to fit almost any hand, which is a degree of flexibility not found in the guns of other manufacturers.
When you also factor in the built in Picatinny rail, and cold forged polygon rifled barrel, the P30 should be on the top of any handgun buyer’s list. While there are cheaper or more popular options out there, they lack the quiet and subtle list of refinements that quickly add up to the more advanced HK P30.
If you want true perfection, pick up a P30 series gun. You’ll be glad you did.
Steve Coffman is a consulting historian presently researching the dark history of the Washington State Secret Service, and their concerted assault on civil rights in Washington State 1917-1919.