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Thread: Comparison: M&P9 vs. H&K P30

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    Regular Member Eeyore's Avatar
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    Comparison: M&P9 vs. H&K P30

    My review/comparison of the Smith & Wesson and the Heckler & Koch P30. Just one man's opinion....

    Size & shape
    Both guns are modern semi-autos, and are very similar in size and weight. The M&P has a slightly longer barrel and slide, plus a beavertail. Although the P30’s slide is taller with a higher bore axis, it is trapezoidal in cross-section and looks less bulky than the M&P’s rectangular slide. Both feature a Picatinny rail to mount accessories. Both guns are also available in longer-barreled versions, but this comparison involves the “standard”-length barrels (4.25” on the M&P, 3.86” on the P30).

    A photo below shows a side-by-side comparison. Note the P30’s grip slims down more than the M&P’s at the top, to offset the longer trigger reach; the M&P’s grip has a more-constant depth from top to bottom. Note also the difference in slide lock levers and cocking serrations.

    This is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison. The M&P is a striker-fired gun, essentially single action. As with nearly all striker-fired guns, there’s no “second strike” capability. My P30 is a Variant 3—hammer-fired double/single action with decocker. A comparison with a Variant 1 (light LEM trigger) would have been a closer match, but I’ve never had a chance to shoot an LEM trigger.

    Neither gun has been to a gunsmith, but neither is exactly stock. Out of the box, the M&P’s trigger is OK. I modified my M&P with the Apex Tactical DCAEK kit (firing pin block & spring, sear, and trigger spring) to get a cleaner, crisper pull but keep the weight to about 6 pounds. The resulting pull is very short with almost no creep and a palpable reset. Definitely a worthwhile DIY upgrade for $85.

    H&K triggers are generally considered to be average at best. My P30 has been retrofitted with the lighter firing pin block spring to reduce the single-action pull by about 1 pound, so the DA pull should be about 12 lbs and the SA closer to 5 lbs. Some people complain about the “trench” cut into the base of the trigger guard, but I don’t notice it at all. The SA pull on the P30 exhibits some creep, and it has a relatively long reset which then requires some take-up. There are a number of gunsmiths who can modify H&K triggers to reduce creep, take-up, etc., but it’s sad that you can’t get an excellent factory trigger on a gun this expensive. The trigger reach of the P30 with the hammer cocked (SA) is about the same as the M&P, but the DA travel is longer by at least a quarter inch.

    My only other comment is a subjective impression. When dry-firing, the H&K hammer falls with a satisfying, solid-sounding “snap.” The M&P makes a cheap-sounding “ktwang.” Of course, this is a moot point when actually shooting. The P30’s decocker drops the hammer all the way down, fast, as if you’ve pulled the trigger. It can be a little unnerving, but I’ve never heard of it malfunctioning. Overall, advantage M&P.

    For me, this was no contest. On the M&P, the small backstrap felt good but shot worse (larger groups) and it irritated my thumb joint. The medium backstrap improved the accuracy but never felt better than “OK.” That said, the M&P’s backstrap is easy to swap out. It’s held in place by a tool (intended for disconnecting the sear lever). There are no finger grooves. Conversely, the P30’s “Batman” grip feels like it was molded for my hand. The key seems to be at which points the grip narrows and widens. The 3 backstraps and 3 different sizes of side panels allow ultimate fine-tuning. I settled on a small backstrap, small right-side panel, and medium left-side panel resulting in a slightly asymmetric grip. The finger grooves on the front strap are perfectly-proportioned—not distinct enough to be obnoxious but effective at enhancing your grip. The stippling on the P30’s grip is “sharper” (more like skateboard tape) and covers more area than the M&P. The P30’s backstrap is held in place with a roll pin. To change grip components, that roll pin must be removed and reinstalled using a punch.

    The M&P’s grip shape combines with its shorter (in height) slide to allow the shooter to hold the pistol about 0.25 inch higher. As a result, the bore axis is lower which should give the M&P less muzzle flip than the P30. Because the grip is so high, a beavertail protects your hand from “slide bite.” The P30 has no beavertail, but since the grip is lower I would expect only the largest, meatiest hands would be vulnerable to slide bite.

    The attached JPEG called "grips" shows the M&P on the left, P30 on the right.
    Note the P30 has a taller slide and thicker beavertail, resulting in a higher bore axis than the M&P. Comparing the backstraps, you can see
    the more-aggressive stippling on the P30. The P30’s grip swells lower than the M&P’s—this puts the widest part lower in the palm. It doesn’t look like it from this angle, but the P30’s grip is slightly narrower (side-to-side) for the thumb web than the M&P’s. Little differences like these can make a huge difference in feel. At the bottom, you can see how the backstraps are held in place: the roll pin on the P30 which doubles as a lanyard loop, and the handle of the “tool” protruding from the base of the M&P’s grip.

    Both guns have ambidextrous slide release levers. Smith & Wesson made theirs fairly small and recessed them to prevent snagging during draw and re-holstering. It’s quite difficult to release without a loaded magazine in the well; the magazine spring appears to take some pressure off the slide lock mechanism. The P30’s levers are noticeably larger and stick out further. This makes the P30’s easier to operate but increases the gun’s overall width, and some people with large hands might find their thumbs interfering with the slide lever. That won’t be a problem on the M&P. The P30 has straight-line cocking serrations front and rear. The M&P’s are very distinctive—deep, scalloped, and directional--but cover less area and are located at the rear only. Both work fine.

    I really like the European-style magazine release on the P30. Since it is ambidextrous, you can choose to actuate it with your thumb, trigger finger, or even middle finger—whichever works best for you. On the M&P, I can’t reach the release button with my thumb unless I shift my grip. The M&P’s loaded chamber indicator is simply a hole whereby you can see if there’s a cartridge (or at least a casing) in the chamber. It works very well as long as there’s ambient light, but it’s useless in the dark. The P30’s is the more-common little bit of red paint on the extractor. It barely sticks out, so it’s not much more useful in the dark than the M&P’s.

    Both the M&P and the P30 are available with optional thumb safeties, but neither of my examples have this feature.

    Disassembly & cleaning
    The M&P definitely wins here. Simply lock the slide back, rotate the sear disconnect lever (to avoid pulling the trigger later), rotate the takedown lever, unlock the slide and remove it. The nooks and crannies on the slide are not too deep, so it’s easy to clean. Reassembly is equally easy. If you forget to re-engage the sear disconnect lever, inserting a magazine will push it back into place—idiot-proof.

    On the other hand, removing the slide from the P30 is a somewhat awkward two-handed operation that can result in pinched fingers while lining up the notch to remove the slide-lock lever. Once disassembled, the P30’s taller slide has deep crevices that are difficult to get cleaning patches or a toothbrush into. Q-tips or special brushes might be the answer here. Reassembly is the reverse, with the added requirement of depressing the disconnector in order to get the slide all the way on.

    In my experience, oil on the M&P’s rails seemed to disappear very quickly, and the slide felt like it was dragging and screeched a little bit. I switched to grease with great results--the grease stayed in place and the slide moved smoothly and quietly. So far, the P30 hasn’t been at all picky about lubrication.

    Shooting Impressions
    The felt recoil was different, but I couldn’t honestly say one was “better” than the other. Despite the higher bore axis, the P30 didn’t seem to have significantly more muzzle flip than the M&P. Both were at least as accurate as I was. The excellent grip shape of the P30 seemed to offset the higher bore axis and more-difficult trigger, so even double-action shots stayed close to the bullseye.

    Reliability & Durability
    I’ve had the M&P for almost 5 years, and experienced 3 malfunctions during that time. (All were hard-to-categorize incomplete extraction/ejection incidents which jammed the slide up tight. They occurred in a short time period early on and haven’t been repeated since.) Around the same time, the rear sight loosened up and started to drift off the slide. I haven’t had the P30 long enough to really judge, but it’s been flawless so far, even during the break-in period (for 9 mm, they recommend shooting +P or 124-grain minimum ammo for at least 200 rounds to break in the recoil spring) and H&K has a reputation for reliability and near-indestructibility. Both companies offer lifetime warranties, though S&W has a better reputation for customer service than H&K.

    The M&P is constructed of a metal firing module with integral all-metal slide rails pinned into the polymer frame as a single unit. On the P30, the slide rails are metal tabs molded into the polymer; each is separate from the others and from the firing module. This would seem to be a much more difficult and expensive way to construct the firearm, but I know of no widespread problems with the P30.

    Here’s the biggest difference. The M&P can be had for under $500, whereas the P30 runs about $900. Both normally come with 2 magazines, case, and cable lock; although the H&K costs almost twice as much, the M&P’s plastic case is larger and more solid.

    So which is better? As usual, the answer is, “it depends.” The M&P is definitely a reliable, accurate weapon. For most people, especially entry-level shooters, the M&P’s solid performance at a much lower price will make it more attractive. It’s also more common, so holsters and other accessories are easy to find. The DCAEK mod takes it from “good” to “very good.”

    But for me, the grip was never quite right and accuracy suffered as a result. The P30’s ergonomics are so good, and the feel so solid, it’s worth the extra cost and complication. It’s a joy to hold and shoot, and (I think) beautiful to look at.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Eeyore; 01-23-2013 at 01:06 PM. Reason: fix typo
    Guns don't kill people. Drivers on cell phones do.

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