Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK With “Light” LEM Trigger

Gun Review: HK Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

Tiny little single stacks are all the rage these days, but the original sub-compacts (or “SubKompacts” if you’re a P30SK) were basically just chopped grip versions of their duty-sized counterparts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! The width and weight often make them easier to shoot well, and given the option to have more ammo on board, ain’t nobody choosing otherwise.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

HK’s P30SK is a very comfortable pistol in the hand. Nice curves provide an ergonomic palm swell on the grip’s sides and backstrap. Highly adjustable, too, with separate Small, Medium, and Large side grip panels and backstraps to fit any hand and grip size and shape preference.

The curly Q grip texture is easy on the hands and love handles, but still provides decent purchase. I’d personally prefer slightly sharper edges on that texture as the bite isn’t quite there if hands are sweaty or otherwise slick. Of course, DIY stipplers should rejoice! Since the grip panels are easily swappable and can be purchased separately for between $3 and $15, home stippling experimentation is practically risk-free.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

Finger grooves are fairly pronounced, but for my hands they’re just the right size and in the right locations. Generally speaking, though, the market has moved away from finger grooves because, if they don’t work for your hand size, they can be quite annoying.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

Standard P30SK capacity is 10 rounds of 9mm in a flush-fitting magazine. A pinky extension baseplate, as pictured in this review, is typically installed on one of the included magazines. Should you buy a P30SK with standard sights you’ll receive two magazines, and with night sights you’ll receive three.

Extended magazines with a capacity of 13 or 15 rounds are available. P30SK magazines are compatible with HK VP9 and VP9SK mags.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

On the LEM model, which I’ll go ahead and call a two-stage, single action trigger with double action capability, the only external controls are an extended slide stop and a paddle-style magazine release.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

These controls are mirrored on both sides — fully ambidextrous. As much as I like the idea of rearwards-extended slide stops — great for those with smaller hands — I have a hard time not riding them on the left side of the gun. Whether it’s my strong hand thumb or the pad of my support hand, I tend to prevent the slide from locking back due to blocking the slide stop’s ability to move upwards.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

As for the paddle magazine release located on either side of the rear of the trigger guard, I don’t find it as quick or as intuitive as your good ol’ American thumb button, but it’s something I get used to and can operate more than easily enough after practicing for a while. I do appreciate that it’s out of the way and ambidextrous.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

Actually, some of the reason it isn’t as easy for me as a thumb button is, once again, due to my large-ish hands. I have to contort my trigger finger or, as is usually my preference, my middle finger back pretty hard to get it close enough to depress the mag release. It usually involves a slight shift in my grip, too. Unfortunately, it’s too far to reach with my thumb but too close to reach comfortably with those other fingers.

Another option is using one’s support hand to pull down on the magazine release levers, either by pinching them between thumb and forefinger or just with one’s thumb. Since the support hand is headed downward to grab a new magazine anyway, quite possibly with a stop to strip out the empty(ish) magazine on the way (though the P30SK’s pop clean out without assistance), adding a magazine release detour isn’t asking a whole lot.

Still, I usually end up going with the middle finger technique. YMMV.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

So the elephant in the room here is this P30SK’s LEM, or Law Enforcement Modification, trigger and its “light strike V1” setup. Heckler & Koch calls this a DAO (double action only) trigger, but it is not. Though it sure looks the part.

Which I think is the point. Law enforcement can carry a gun that doesn’t appear to be “cocked and locked” all aggressive-like. An at-rest hammer is so much calmer and more civilized looking.

But don’t let it fool you. The P30SK LEM is cocked. Oh yes. Though the hammer may be down, the hammer spring is almost completely cocked.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

Pulling the trigger rearwards offers almost no resistance. The hammer begins to “cock,” but the only spring you’re working against is the trigger return spring. The slide’s previous cycle took care of cocking the actual hammer spring.

At the point seen in the photo above, you’ve pulled through what feels precisely like a first stage in two-stage trigger and have stopped against the sear. Now, about 5 lbs of pressure is required to cock that hammer another millimeter or two and trip the sear. The feel is almost identical to that of the single action mode in the DA/SA variants of the P30SK (and other P30 models).

Should that hammer fall on a dud round or an empty chamber (or for whatever other reason the slide doesn’t cycle and cock the hammer spring), the P30SK LEM’s trigger still works in a standard, double action manner. While everything looks the same externally, as soon as you touch the trigger you know something’s different. Instead of moving rearwards with only the trigger return spring feebly fighting you, you’re also responsible for cocking the hammer spring. It’s a full-on, stiff double action trigger clocking in at close to 11 lbs.

Like I said earlier, the LEM trigger is truly a two-stage, single action trigger with backup double action capability.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

Although the HK P30SK LEM is always in a single action mode, the single action trigger leaves something to be desired. It’s a tad spongy with some creep and some grit, and the break point is a bit vague. Ultimately, it hurt my slow fire accuracy.

Interesting touch: even the bobbed P30 hammer used in the LEM here is a two-piece affair, with the rear half made of black rubber. I’m not entirely sure why, since there’s no manual manipulation of this hammer taking place, but okay. I like to touch it.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

Though I didn’t find the P30SK LEM to be an easy gun to shoot accurately — due both to that trigger, which I kept thinking was going to fire before it actually did, leaving me fighting a desire to flinch, and a fairly snappy recoil impulse — it fared pretty well anyway. Taking care and shooting offhand at seven yards, five-shot groups were plenty tight for government work.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

Field stripping and reassembly isn’t as straightforward as many modern pistols, but I had it figured out sans owner’s manual in short enough order to avoid frustration. A captured recoil spring — or dual recoil spring setup, as it were — is always handy.

As you’d expect from HK, everything is very well made. Fit is precise, machining is good, and finish is even and durable.

Gun Review: Heckler & Koch P30SK

Jeremy S. for TTAG

At 1.37 inches thick, the P30SK is a relatively chubby little beast. At least as far as concealed carry norms go. It feels great in the hand, though, and with the flush-fit magazine baseplates will hide quite nicely under most clothing.

The entire P30 line has earned a solid reputation for reliability and durability, so it will unquestionably serve well. My well-used loaner from The Range at Austin was no exception. It ran like a top for me across five different brands and types of ammunition, including two hollow point loads.

At the end of the day, though, I’m not entirely sure where the P30SK fits in the concealed carry spectrum. There are skinnier, smaller pistols with the same capacity that I shoot more accurately more easily. And, while the LEM trigger system is novel, I don’t see a purpose to it for non-LEO carry. I’d choose a standard DA/SA variant instead, whether I then used the rear decocker that’s on those models to carry hammer down, or chose the model that also has a manual safety and carried cocked and locked. The single action trigger wouldn’t have all of that pre-travel, and, frankly, I do not like the idea of anything that tempts you into staging the trigger on a self-defense firearm.

The HK P30SK LEM is a very well-made firearm, it just isn’t a fit in my stable.

Specifications: Heckler & Koch P30SK “light” LEM V1

Caliber: 9×19
Capacity: 10 rounds
Weight: 24 ounces
Barrel Length: 3.27 inches
Overall Length: 6.42 inches
Height: 4.57 inches
Width: 1.37 inches
Trigger: 5.4 pounds in standard firing mode, 11 lbs in backup double action mode
Sights: phosphorescent 3-dot sights and Tritium 3-dot night sights are available
Controls: fully ambidextrous magazine release and slide stop. No external safety, no decocker.
MSRP: $719 with standard sights (and two magazines), $819 with night sights (and three magazines)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability * * * * *
Zero issues across a handful of different ammo types and weights, as you’d expect.

Accuracy * * * 1/2
It’s definitely an accurate gun for a sub-compact, thanks in part to a generous sight radius. Considering the single action trigger, though, I found it harder to actually shoot accurately than it should have been.

Ergonomics * * * *
Grip ergos are a clear strong point of the P30 and VP9. Extremely comfortable and highly adjustable. For me, a star has to come off as I’d prefer shorter-in-length slide stop levers and a thumb button magazine release (or paddles that extended out farther towards the front of the trigger guard would make it easier for my hand size). Maybe a plastic surgeon can remove some length from the slide top levers and add it to the magazine release levers?

Customize This * * * *
The aftermarket isn’t huge for the P30SK, but it has enough built-in customization options to warrant an above-average rating here. Three different grip side panels and backstraps to choose from, three different magazine capacities (and lengths), finger extension or flush-fitting baseplates, a handful of sight options, and even threaded barrels. Plus three different trigger operation options (LEM, DA/SA decocker only, DA/SA decocker plus ambi thumb safety).

On The Range * * *
That grip feels very good in the hand, but if you get at all sweaty the pistol starts to move around on you. It’s a fairly snappy little thing — a relatively strong recoil impulse combined with plenty of mass in the slide — and the grip texture is decent, but not aggressive enough outside of ideal conditions. The trigger is . . . a bit weird. I expect some gentle filing or stoning would clean and crisp up the single action and I’d be a lot happier, but as-is there’s just too much sponginess, grittiness, and creep and the reset is longer than I’d like. The trigger is almost there, but needs some TLC. And if I’m going to have a single action pistol trigger, I’d just as soon have a cocked hammer and the trigger already staged rearwards.

Overall * * *
Hey, the P30SK LEM is a great gun — reliable and comfortable — but its age is showing. In the last days of 2018, there’s no shortage of skinnier pistols with better triggers and similar capacities. A standard-sized (or even the “L”) P30 LEM makes much more sense to me for a law enforcement duty pistol, as the SK is too small for that role and the LEM trigger doesn’t make sense to me outside of that role. Ultimately, the P30SK LEM and I just aren’t a match.

HK P30SK review

Jeremy S. for TTAG

comments

  1. avatar anonymoose says:

    Eh. No departments in the US even use LEM/DAK guns anymore, do they? SIG doesn’t even make the DAK anymore, but HK keeps making the LEM like it’s got some sort of cult following.

    1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

      Search reveals that the U.S. Border Patrol is currently issuing the H&K P-2000 with the LEM in .40 S&W. It appears that they are researching a new duty sidearm. The bid specs call for a 9 mm.

      Unfortunately, they do not release / sell their retired / replaced weapons to the public.

  2. avatar Pmac says:

    As much as I love most early HK firearms, this one, and most others, smack of of chrunchenticker.

    1. avatar Matt says:

      If you are going to let Cooper dictate the pistols that you like, you should know that all modern HKs except the VP9 are available in V1 configuration which gives you the option of carrying in condition 1.

      1. avatar Pmac says:

        Cooper, like my mother, doesn’t dictate anything. Influence? Sure. I read everything he wrote since the early ’70s. Carried a 1911 in condition one in the line of duty for nearly 25 years. Served me well. Avoided a poodle shooter for the same length of time. I agree with most of what Thomas Jefferson said also. He didn’t dictate a damned thing to me.

  3. avatar Yarbles says:

    No Thanks.

    My G43 and G32 pull and act like almost identical 2-stage Geissele SSA triggers with Overwatch Precision DAK triggers and different trigger connector bars and springs.

    At 10 yds I can hit head sized targets consistently with my G43 using Speer GD LEO +P+ 115gr JHP ammo at ~1200 FPS. Also use the Pearce +1 pinky mag bases and the best in the world TruGlo TFO sights.

    Glocks are severely underrated because of the bevvy of aftermarket parts available to correct factory faults and customize completely if desired.

    1. avatar Matt says:

      Lol, Glocks are underrated?

    2. avatar CAPTAIN ACCURACY!!! says:

      “At 10 yds I can hit head sized targets consistently with my G43 using Speer GD LEO +P+ 115gr JHP ammo at ~1200 FPS. Also use the Pearce +1 pinky mag bases and the best in the world TruGlo TFO sights.”

      Well, I should hope so. If you can’t hit a head sized target at 10 yards, you have no business carrying a handgun.

    3. avatar And on the Eight Day God Created Glock and Rested says:

      And at 10 yds I can hit all 13 rounds into an eye sized object with a P365.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        Yeah the P365 makes me look like a really good shot. Not sure what it is about that thing, but damn if I don’t shoot it really freaking accurately.

        1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

          Agreed! Many of the commenters on the Forum have never had the pleasure of knowing how easy and accurately it shoots. Mine is particular to the Federal HST 124’s.

          Happy 2019 to all!

  4. avatar Hannibal says:

    Eh. Taurus used the same manual of arms (single action w\double strike) and I really didn’t like it. I’ll stick to DA\SA or DAO.

  5. avatar Sheer Hawai'i says:

    HK doesn’t excite me the way they used to do, 10 – 25 years ago.

    Good thing I didn’t get the tattoo…

  6. avatar jwm says:

    For more than a hundred bucks less I just bought a glock brand glock 19. It’ll do, the soulless bastard.

    1. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

      Get it hydrodipped in $100 bills. It still won’t be nearly as cool as my hydrodipped hi-point c9, but at least you can grab your nuts and fire it sideways after.

      What is point of G-19 in commiefornia anyhow? Aren’t you limited to 10+1?

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Stepping into the modern age. My go to gun now is a S&W model 10. The glock 19 is just the modern era’s version of the m10. 10 round mags aren’t ideal. But reloading from a ready supply of 10 rounders works.

        1. avatar Pmac says:

          Not a damn thing wrong with a S&W Model 10. 158 grain semi-wadcutter hollowpoints +p? Carry it into trouble any day. In three inch round butt 65 configuration I have. Didn’t feel like I needed a crunchinticker.

    2. avatar Mark says:

      Glock 26 for all your subcompact needs. Glock 19 not a good comparison here.

  7. avatar possum the red nose paranoid says:

    Hey Jeremy, that guns got a secret micro chip in it that connects directly to your cell phone app, soe’s the Gubment knows how many bullets yah shot and where you shot them…. Whoopi, yup yup.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      I had to take the aluminum foil off the RFID chip for the photos, unfortunately.

  8. avatar Michael says:

    H&K, proof that good engineering can go hand and hand with mud fence ugly. Seriously, their last good looking pistol was the P7M8, which they quickly warped into the P7M13. Another solution galloping off in search of a non-existent problem. I was successfully wholesaling Glocks before they had “drop free” (ask a grown-up) magazines, and all anybody wanted was the Ruger P85, which was not commercially available to satisfy demand until the early ’90s. Now, the original Ruger “P” series is obsolete and Glocks are readily available, in more variations than any other semi-auto, anywhere firearms are sold. I’m glad that there are so many different firearms on the market. It keeps the gun press employed. I am not a “fanboy” or “keyboard kommando”. Firearms, in one way or the other, have kept, “a roof over and food on” for most of my life. I have seen the future, and the future is Glock. Let the hate roll on…-30-

    1. avatar Matt says:

      Is the P30 really uglier than the P7 series…or any glock? I like the P7 but I think people tend to romanticize them.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        Almost all guns are uglier than the P7 🙂

        1. avatar Matt says:

          As long as the cartridges are loaded backward, they all look good to me.

    2. avatar possum says:

      No way man, the future is 1911’s.😊

    3. avatar Pmac says:

      P7M8 is one of the best 9mm pistols ever offered. Along with the Hi-Power and the Glock 17. Maybe the Sig 210, but I don’t have any experience with those. If my Sig P-220 is any indication their early 9mms are probably really good 9mm pistols also. Like the new HKs though, I’ll reserve my recommendation. New ain’t necessarily better.

      1. avatar Pmac says:

        I would like to qualify the above opinion. I have owned three P7M8s, still own one. Owned four Hi-Powers. Still own a Novak built Hi-Power. I forget how many Glocks. Been through their armor’s school several times. The only thing with a Glock is that they don’t have any personality. They’re like the baloney sandwich of pistols. They do the job, but they have no taste.

        1. avatar PistoleroJesse says:

          Europeans say the same same things about American cooking as Americans say about European guns….

  9. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    chunky man, nice swells. grab that and go. sounds like the trigger would put me off. plastique forebber.

  10. avatar Anymouse says:

    The light LEM is an unauthorized modification that uses the LEM parts, except it keeps the lighter trigger return spring. I’ve also seen it called the competition combat trigger. Larry Vickers advocates it on the HK45 Compact. It feels like a Glock trigger with a long takeup, or a very light double action. The heavy second strike double action won’t really be used, and other remedy procedures still work. When in the pre-cocked mode, the hammer sticks out, so, it can be felt, or it can be held down while holstering.

  11. avatar Grumpster says:

    I own the P30SK LEM and really like it. First time at the range I put 9 out of 10 shots within the 2 inch circle of the target with the 10th about an inch outside of it. As always one should try out whatever they are considering first including HK LEM trigger system. I first tried it on a range rental P30L so I know what I was getting into. My P30L however is DA/SA and that is my preference but LEM made a lot of sense to me for CCW and I shoot it almost as well as my P30L.

    With the LEM trigger system the trade off is no initial heavy/long DA trigger pull for a long and light take up to the SA trigger pull wall yet still a hammer to put your thumb over while holstering which a striker fired pistol lacks. The trigger on my P30SK sounds a lot better than the one being reviewed and was that way out of the box – pretty decent. I also find my P30SK to be a pretty soft shooter and the word “snappy” never came to my mind and it never has given me a problem.

    I usually CCW my P30SK with the HK 13 round magazine which makes my P30SK same height as my Glock 19 and just as easy and comfortable to CCW IWB though with two rounds less capacity but with the hammer.

    There does not seem to be much middle ground with regards to the HK LEM trigger system as in most either like it or hate it.

    Todd Green was a big proponent of the HK LEM trigger and did some long term/high round count reviews of pistols with it including the HK45 and P30. The trigger characteristics of the LEM trigger system can be changed with spring changes which is nice if one wants a heavier pull than V1 LEM.

    Here is an article about LEM as a “street trigger” that explains why the author, Darryl Bolke, likes the LEM trigger for it’s intended purpose.

    https://pistol-training.com/archives/8549

  12. avatar Mark says:

    Buy a VP9SK. There I fixed the article. One of the top subcompacts you can buy (along with the Glock 26). DA/SA is obsolete.

  13. HK just does not make the same quality guns they used to make. The design was sleeker before.

    1. avatar mcracco says:

      Ok, I’ll say it. Quality is conformance to specifications and in that regard HK makes very high quality guns. HK also designs some very nice products. You happen to prefer a thinner profile gun which is fine.

  14. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Gimme a P7M8 any day over the new ones.

  15. avatar Joatmon says:

    Got into LEM a few years ago and had 3 HK’s with that system. One was the light LEM.
    I enjoyed them very much and had no issues at all. Took me a few magazines to get used to the trigger but once I did, I was fine.
    Happened to pick up a Sig at a gun show around that time. Used one with the DAK set up.
    Took it to the range and was impressed with the first few shots. No learning curve. Sold all the HK’s.
    Loved the DAK system but eventually wanted to go back to striker fired.
    Now it’s just a soulless Austrian pistol being carried. 😂

  16. avatar Jim Policke says:

    This pistol is obviously designed for concealed carry. Why does it need an accessory rail? Wouldn’t smooth rounded plastic in front of the trigger guard make it more comfortable and easier to draw? How many people attach tactical gear to an IWB holstered gun?

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Lights have become pretty darn popular for AIWB carry as well as OWB concealed carry with a pancake style rig. Regardless, all concealed carry would be made easier if the gun was at least a quarter inch thinner.

  17. avatar Rokurota says:

    This sounds a lot like the Daewoo/Lionheart “double action plus” mode, or whatever it’s called.

  18. avatar David says:

    More ammo and easier to shoot! You cannot go wrong here!

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