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The H&K P7K3: A Pocket Pistol Unicorn

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Even rarer than the standard versions, the HK P7K3 pocket pistol variant may be this gun’s best iteration.

HK P7K3 Dimensions:

Any variant of the H&K P7 commands a high price in the United States. In fact, it even commanded a high price in Germany when it was first released in the late 1970s. Its sparse importation into the U.S. combined with its original marketing slogan of “the most expensive handgun in the world” make the P7 more of a collectible for most people than a shooter. In practical terms, the P7 is inaccessible to most, but its unique and innovative design features have kept it in the public consciousness all these years later. The P7 has been lauded as a carry pistol by the few who are lucky enough to use one as such. But of all the variants which were imported, it seems that the exceedingly rare HK P7K3 may fill this role better than any other.

HK P7K3. Photo: Wikipedia

HK P7K3 Design Details

The smallest member of the P7 family, the HK P7K3 is quite a bit different than any of its bigger brothers. Because of the smaller calibers it's chambered for, the P7K3 does not need the gas-delaying mechanism found in the standard variants, instead of utilizing a direct blowback action with a hydraulic buffer. This difference in operation allows the P7K3 to use a non-fixed barrel as well, making changing calibers a possibility that didn’t exist with the other fixed-barrel models. The barrel, slide and magazines can be swapped out to shoot either .380 ACP, .32 ACP or .22LR. Because part of the reason the P7K3 was developed was for use as a training gun, the ability to use smaller and cheaper calibers is a logical addition. Regardless of caliber, every P7K3 magazine has an 8-round capacity.

The squeeze-cocker mechanism which lies at the heart of the P7 family is of course still present on the HK P7K3, and it may be even more at home in the smaller variant. Unlike on a traditional striker-fired gun which is primed by pulling the trigger, P7 strikers are primed by grabbing them by the squeeze-cocker. By removing the mechanical burden of priming the striker from the trigger, P7s are able to have very nice single-stage triggers with very little take-up.

HK P7K3 Squeeze-cocker as depicted in the gun's owner's manual.

The squeeze-cocker is also what enables the HK P7K3 to sit comfortably within the category of “pocket pistol” despite being larger than most others. This is because the nature of the squeeze-cocking mechanism requires it to be firmly grasped in a shooting position to render it usable. If the grip safety on something like a 1911 were to fail, the cocked hammer still stores enough potential energy to detonate the round if it were to fall. The striker on the P7 family is only cocked when the squeeze-cocker is depressed, meaning if it were to fail for some reason a chambered round would be unable to fire. It's this detail that makes the HK P7K3 ideal for pocket carry, as it is one of the few guns which can be confidently carried outside of a holster with a round in the chamber. Because of the amount of force needed to cock the P7’s striker, it would be virtually impossible for it to both be accidentally depressed within one’s pocket and for the trigger to be pulled. Intent is needed to make this gun fire, making it an extremely safe carry piece.

Smaller But Better

When the standard HK P7 was first launched in Germany some of the promotional material described it as “the best combat handgun in the world.” While certainly nice pistols, they have one glaring flaw that stops them from truly being a “combat handgun.” The squeeze cocker mechanism which gives the P7 its excellent trigger and superior safety is also what limits this gun’s utility in a prolonged firefight, as the gas-delayed blowback action will eventually make the grip too hot to handle. While it may seem counterintuitive, this is exactly what makes the HK P7K3 a potentially better combat pistol than any of its full-sized counterparts.

The smaller caliber of the HK P7K3 enables it to utilize its straight blowback action, resulting in less hot gas building up inside the gun than does within the gas-delayed blowbacks of other P7s. While I have not had the chance to directly test a P7K3 against a standard P7, it stands to reason that because of these different operating systems that the P7K3 would tolerate many more rounds downrange before it overheated.

Its increased resistance to overheating combined with its smaller size helps make the P7K3 the superior model both for carrying and for prolonged shooting.

HK P7K3 with caliber conversion parts. Photo: Wikipedia

The HK P7K3 may exist as a footnote in a family of already fairly obscure firearms, but for those in the market for a high-quality carry piece that can be safely shoved in a pocket, there might not be a better option available than this.

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