When it comes to intuitive action, the LEM system on HK’s P30 might be your best option.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY STEVEN PAUL BARLOW
This is one time you should be able to have your cake and eat it too. When you choose the concealed carry host that’s right for you, you shouldn’t have to decide between one with a good, consistent trigger and one that you feel safe and confident with when you tuck it inside your waistband.
The Heckler & Koch’s compact P30 and subcompact P30 SK give you the best of both worlds when you choose the variants with the innovative LEM trigger system. These LEM models feature a lighter, smoother trigger pull than you’ll find on any other double-action-only, hammer-fired pistol. They are excellent alternatives to today’s popular striker-fired pistols. No, the LEM trigger is not brand new. In fact, it is available in four different HK model families: P30, USP, HK45 and P2000. However, but it does deserve more attention. For the purposes of this article, I will use the P30 and P30 SK only.
Semi-auto’s are the overwhelming choice of military units, law enforcement agencies and citizens who conceal carry for defense. But the decision on the which type of trigger action to choose is not always easy and it can actually be confusing for new shooters.
Single-actions, such as the 1911, offer a very light trigger pull with just a short amount of trigger travel. But they require the utmost discipline under stress and the use of their accompanying manual safeties requires lots of training to become second nature.
Traditional double-actions have a long double-action trigger pull for the first shot and because the slide movement cocks the hammer, a light, single-action pull for subsequent shots. That transition from double-action to single-action can be a problem for some. And then, of course, you have to remember to decock for safe reholstering.
Double-action-only pistols require a long pull to cock the hammer for every shot. When law enforcement agencies made the transition to semi-autos, many thought this option was closest to the familiar double-action revolvers their officers used to carry. But many double-action-only pistols have very hard trigger pulls, making them more difficult to shoot well, causing more concern over where stray bullets might go.
Striker-fired pistols are all the rage today, but their chief advantage is that they are less expensive to manufacture. In order to lessen the often squishy trigger pull with these guns, some companies have lightened the triggers to the extent that they approach carrying a single-action pistol with the safety off. That can be more than a little disconcerting when you holster your handgun, especially if you opt for appendix carry that can expose your femoral artery and other personal parts to your muzzle if you’re not careful. And most striker-fired pistols don’t provide a second-strike capability should a round not fire.
HK’S LEM SOLUTION
Heckler & Koch has a long history of arming military and law enforcement units, so it wasn’t surprising that the company found a solution. And while their LEM trigger was conceived with law enforcement in mind, it’s an excellent option for the armed citizen too.
Here’s how it works. When you chamber a round, the movement of the slide compresses, or pre-cocks the hammer spring, although the hammer itself drops safely back down and only appears to be at rest. Upon firing, the slide movement again compresses pre-cocks the hammer spring. The result is that the trigger pull is long, but very light – about 5.4 pounds – and is consistent pull after pull.
Should a round not fire, you can simply pull the trigger a second time without performing a stoppage clearing procedure, although this trigger pull will be somewhat harder in this event (about 11 pounds) because there was no movement of the slide to compress the spring. It’s important to stress that under normal operation, you will never have to experience this heavier pull. As a side note, hammer-fired pistols tend to hit the primer harder, meaning you’re less likely to have a failure to fire in the first place, especially from a light firing pin strike.
The hammer is bobbed on the P30 models equipped with the LEM trigger so that it’s nearly flush with the back of the slide. That makes it less likely to snag on clothing or cause excessive wear to cover garments.
It also provides an extra measure of safety. When holstering a pistol, it’s a good idea to place the thumb of your shooting hand over the back of the slide to ensure that the slide doesn’t push back against a tight-fitting holster, taking the gun out of battery. The advantage when you place your thumb there with the P30 or P30 SK is that you’ll feel pressure from the hammer alerting you that clothing or perhaps your holster retention strap has become caught in the trigger guard and is contacting the trigger.
With all of this talk about the LEM trigger pull, let’s not overlook the other good features of the HK P30 pistols. The compact P30 is available in either 9mm Luger with two 15-round magazines or in .40 S&W with two 13-round mags. The subcompact P30 SK is available only in 9mm at this time and comes with two 10-round mags, one with an extended floor plate that allows for a full grip on the pistol.
These are polymer-frame pistols that come with interchangeable backstraps and side panels so that you can customize the fit to your hands. They come equipped with luminescent three-dot sights, with tritium night sights as an option.
They feature ambidextrous slide stop release levers as well as ambidextrous paddle-style magazine releases on the trigger guard. While we tend to be more familiar with the button-style mag releases here in the U.S., making the transition to the paddles is very easy. And, depending on your grip on the pistol, this setup lessens the chance of hitting the magazine release inadvertently and dropping the magazine during a critical time.
HOW IT SHOOTS
I received the HK P30 and subcompact HK P30 SK models for review. Each was set up with the LEM trigger. These pistols feel good in the hand. The trigger travel is indeed long, much like that of a double-action revolver, but it is much lighter and smoother than any revolver and certainly much nicer than any double-action semi-auto I’ve fired. Once I got into a rhythm, I found follow-up shots were fast. And because the trigger was consistent shot to shot, it was easy to get hits on the target. On reholstering, there was no need to remember to decock the hammer. The mantra was simply, “finger off the trigger, thumb on the hammer and reholster.”
As with any HK pistol I’ve fired, these P30 models were 100 percent reliable and more than accurate for defensive purposes. The high-visibility luminescent three-dot sights were a big help in getting on target quickly. Ergonomics were excellent; all controls are within easy reach to activate positively under stress.
There is little to fault with the P30 or P30 SK pistol with LEM trigger carried for defense. You get a well-made, reliable firearm in the effective, affordable and easy-to-acquire 9mm service cartridge. You get the reliability of a hammer-fired gun with a long, safe, but easy-to-pull trigger that’s consistent shot to shot with no need to worry about remembering to decock before holstering.
While the LEM trigger might have been developed initially for law enforcement, every shooter can benefit from a good trigger. In high-quality firearms such as these HK pistols, there might be no better trigger action for a defensive handgun. And in case you were wondering, the LEM trigger is available on other HK hammer guns as well.
Model: Heckler & Koch P30 SK
Type: Semi-automatic pistol with double-action-only LEM “light” trigger system
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel Length: 3.27 inches
Overall Length: 6.42 inches
Height: 4.57 inches
Width: 1.37 inches
Weight: 23.99 ounces
Finish: Blued barrel and cylinder with color case-hardened frame
Sights: Luminescent 3-dot sights
Grip: Textured polymer with interchangeable backstraps and side panels
Other: Ambidextrous paddle-style magazine releases, ambidextrous slide stop release levers
Heckler & Koch Firearms
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