Wednesday, November 2, 2016

WMD NiBx Coated HK P7 PSP Preserving Perfection

WMD NiBx Coated HK P7 PSP Preserving Perfection

Everyone has that one gun which we lust after. For some that is a rare Italian sporting clay spaghetti shotgun, a prized WWII souvenir, or maybe even some extremely expensive class 3 machine gun. For me,, the gun which has called to me for decade is the H&K P7 PSP and I finally found one. It has its limitations, however I would otherwise tend to agree with many who note the P7 PSP is one of the most perfect concealed carry guns ever made.

H&K has always been at the bleeding edge of firearms engineering and has arguably introduced some of the most unique modern firearms in history. They were the first company to offer commercially available polymer/plastic receiver pistols, caseless ammo, the first to offer an extremely high capacity pistol, the first to offer a production gas piston recoil reduction system, grooved chamber to easy extraction, and the first to integrate a squeeze cocker in a striker fired firearm. The engineering of the HK guns just fascinated me and especially since the P7 PSP integrated several of the above noted features.




The H&K P7 PSP was first introduced in 1976 as a response to a German police and military request for a new compact 9mm handgun which was totally ambidextrous, accurate, had a service life exceeding 10,000 rounds, and was safe to carry with a loaded round in the chamber. H&K engineers did their magic and developed the HK P7 PSP.  Most people know the gun as “that squeeze cocker gun”... since it was basically the only commercial gun to have such a feature. The gun is far more than that one feature and to shoot a P7 will correct that one trick feature perception.

The P7 is just a tad longer than a Glock G43 single stack 9mm and just as slim. The P7 does have a longer Glock 19 sized grip which accommodates an 8-round magazine. The overall dimensions of the P7 PSP are extremely compact with a balance and pointability that is perfect.  

The squeeze cocker is the defining feature, but it makes the gun 100% safe with a loaded round in the chamber. The cocker is squeezed naturally during the draw stroke and held in place with only 2-lbs of force. In the process the gun is fully cocked and made ready to fire the lovely and light 4lb trigger. Upon reholstering and releasing the squeeze cocker, the gun fully decocks and is now in a safe state. No goofy gun safeties to deal with and the P7 is completely ambidextrous and the cocking process feels completely natural.

The P7 slide does have a last round hold-open and can be released via either pulling back on the slide or squeezing the cocker. This feature makes reloads extremely fast even with the bottom grip mag release. Of note the bottom grip mag release was developed to accommodate the need for ambidextrous controls and prevented accidental release of the magazine during carry. The bottom grip mag is faster than you think to use.

Even though the P7 PSP is a stout 27-ounces the gun, it is amazingly controllable thanks in part to the modified gas blow-back system and opposing gas piston. Generally most semi-auto pistols operate from the gas blow back recoil of the round going off in which some of each round’s energy is pushing back on the slide at the same moment that the bullet is attempting to get down the barrel. The recoil is typically mitigated by springs and slide. On the P7 a lighter recoil spring is used in conjunction with an opposing gas piston which delays the slide’s rearward travel until the round exits the barrel to increase the already excellent accuracy of the Polygonal rifling. 

This delayed recoil engineering delivers the feel of much softer and lighter recoil for the shooter. This Gas piston delayed blowback feature in conjunction with a fixed barrel, a very light trigger, and polygonal rifling allows this tiny pistol to have renowned accuracy. The P7 is picky with what ammo maximizes accuracy, however when you find that ammo, the tiny groups are almost unbelievable. I have shot some incredible 1-inch 25-yard groups with the right ammo, but I have also shot some 4-inch to 6-inch groups at the same distance with the wrong ammo.

DOWNSIDES OF THE DESIGN
The downside of the gas piston delay system is that the gun heats up fast with just two magazines. While practicing a 40-round police qualification test, I was only able to get about four magazines into the test before the hot frame was in the uncomfortable realm. The grip mag release is slower, however I was specifically interested in this original model and not the bastardized American version with a thumb magazine release.

H&K went on to release other variants with slightly larger sizes, thumb magazine releases, and even a polymer heat shield around the trigger guard for extended shooting.  All these things made me want to find, own and potentially restore an original H&K P7 PSP.

FINDING A GOOD HK P7 PSP
It should be first noted that any used H&K P7 will be insanely expensive with typical prices ranging from $1500-$4000 depending on condition and the mood of the owner. Over the years I have seen and passed on a number of insanely expensive P7. About ten or so years ago I held out some hope for a reasonably priced P7 when the floodgates of retired Euro police trade in models come into the US. At that time they were selling well below $800 with a dealer price starting around $350. They were of course gobbled up fasted and quickly repriced within a month to meet the demand of P7 collectors and I missed my chance. My search continued until I was discussing my two decade search with my local FFL dealer. In ten years the subject had never come up, but he had one and wanted $750 cash for it.

Upon recovering from nearly blacking out, I asked how bad of condition is it. He placed the gun before me complete with two magazines, a very good condition finish, and even the original box and manual. My response was, you know this is easily a $1500-$2000 gun? He did, and noted that he was making $350 on me and that was more than enough for a reputable dealer to make on a gun. He noted “...and you will do something cool with it, I know.” Twenty minutes later I had run home, retrieved the cash, and returned to finish the paperwork. Destiny.

RESTORING THE LEGEND
After spending a few months shooting the gun, making a carbon fiber kydex holster, ensuring functionality, carrying it, and driving my wife absolutely insane squeeze cocking and uncocking the P7, I was really feeling compelled to restore it. For a Euro police trade in, the finish was really quite good, but the grips and mag finishes were a little beat up. It was obvious the grip screws had been removed a few times and the white plastic sights were just not quite the level of modern night sights. It was indeed a very nice gun, but I began to feel it deserved better. The decision was made to completely restore this gun to a level that H&K would be envious of.

After checking into a number of finishes, I settled back to WMD’s NiBx finish which I had used previously on my very old Browning A5 12 Gauge. The finish is basically a tweaked version of Nickel Boron with other proprietary elements added to improve lubricity, so from a durability perspective it really does not get much better than that and I would never have to worry about rust or corrosion on the gun. The process requires you to completely strip the gun down to single parts. The P7 PSP is not freaking Glock simple and closer to an enigma puzzle - ahhh Germans. The tear-down of the P7 took and arduous two hours. Technically it probably could have taken less time, however the last thing you want to do is have to replace even one very expensive part on a gun like this, so slow and careful went the process.
I did sand down and resurface a few parts including the galled grip screws, magazines, and a few other minor areas on the frame and slide, packed all the parts up and sent it to WMD for coating. The major machining marks I left because I think they add character. The WMD coating process is not quick, especially considering they have been swamped over the last couple years. For a full coating of a gun like this plan on somewhere around $400. Three months later I had the parts back in and was ready to tackle the even harder reassembly process. Thankfully there are some rather good P7 fan club sites which have detailed instructions, however an afternoon was spent reassembling the gun. I can tell you that re-assembly is not for the newbie gunsmith and it is not something you ever want to have to repeat… ever.
Of note WMD’s process is amazing. I saw the transformation of an old Browning A5 with quite a bit of surface rust to someone stunning. In this case the finish is equally good. What I found interesting was that some of the roll marks I could barely read initially, however after the WMD coating, all were clearly visible. This P7 is now incredibly slick operating, super easy cleaning, and will never again face any challenge with rust or corrosion.

The factory original white dot sights can accept Trijicon night sight vials, however I decided to upgrade to the complete replacements. Every retailer I called who listed them as in-stock were all quick to point out that they were special order only items. I decided to go back to Optics Planet and place the order on plan on waiting. A couple months later Optics Planet notified me that they had received the special order Trijicon sights.

Final upgrades were buying three extra extremely expensive $65 new-old stock magazines and $50 new-old stock grips from HKParts. When the new old stock are gone, they are gone for good so the decision was made to bite the bullet now.  The Trijicon replacement sights drifted in and the new grips were bolted on. Though I have heard of people having problems with receiving a set of sights with a lamp significantly more dim than others, I had not experienced it first hand until I received these sights. Trijicon is known for quality, however this set made it out the door and will need to get a round trip back for repair. I did go ahead and sight press the sights in to finish up the article, but the rear sight will get fixed.
Here you see the result - a gun which I have already been offered over $4000 for. It is gorgeous. The work WMD does in their process delivered a stunning consistent finish which would make H&K execs drool now in a condition that looks better than it did when it left the factory. Though an armageddon gun it may not be, it is the prized possession of my entire collection and a joy to carry and shoot. Although this is a one-off custom H&K P7 PSP, I still carry this beautiful gun at least three times a week as my CCW firearm, after all it is my most accuracy concealed carry firearm…with the right ammo of course.

SOURCES

Optics Planet - Use code "MAJOR5" for 5% off your entire OpticsPlanet.com order
Trijicon Night Sights: http://bit.ly/2dbBtbB, Trijicon at OpticsPlanet: http://bit.ly/2d9Cyfl, Trijicon: http://bit.ly/2dhKJXr, OpticsPlanet: http://bit.ly/2bXQ8B2

A very special thanks to these folks for assembly instructions. http://webpages.charter.net/gemarsh/p7.html



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