Preview – The P7 Revisited
Photography by Henry Z. De Kuyper
Taking Another Look at the Squeeze-Cocking Combat Staple Gun
In the mid-1970s, when 9mm handguns were busy growing fatter in both size and magazine capacity, Heckler & Koch’s engineers headed in the opposite direction. The German police’s search for a new standardized sidearm led to the development of the unique and innovative P7 PSP (Polizei-Selbstlade-Pistole, or Police Self-Loading Pistol). While the P7 enjoyed brief popularity in the United States, it is viewed as somewhat of a novelty these days with a devoted cult following. We decided to give the P7 another look and see if this retro-futuristic single-stack deserves a fresh start — and made a few modifications to improve performance along the way.
While the P7 was innovative in many ways, it’s best known for its squeeze-cocking grip mechanism that gives it the “combat staple gun” nickname. Well, that and being the weapon of choice for Alan Rickman’s character in Die Hard. Unlike, say, a Glock or 1911, racking the slide to chamber a round in the P7 does not cock the striker or hammer. Rather, the pistol is cocked when the articulating frontstrap is gripped with sufficient force (about 12 pounds) to compress the internal springs and retract the firing pin assembly. Practically speaking, this means that the firearm is never cocked until the shooter is in the sequence of actually firing a round. Though this safety feature never caught on in other models, it does offer some real advantages.
Anonymous anecdotes tell us of police officers who had their guns taken from them by bad guys who couldn’t figure out the mechanism, thus saving the officers’ lives. We’re not 100 percent sure this ever happened, but the concept is sound. The mechanism also provides an added margin of defense against potentially tragic accidental discharges by children, though we’re certainly not suggesting that the P7 is childproof.
Finally, the P7 is the only semiautomatic handgun that this author would consider carrying with a loaded chamber shoved inside the waistband without a holster. As for the encumbrance of operating the mechanism, once you’re familiar with the P7, the squeeze-cocking motion is as second nature as disengaging the manual safety on a 1911 — you don’t even think about it.
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