P7A13: H&K’s Entry into the US XM9 Pistol Trials

The US held three series of pistol trials beginning in the late 1970s to find a replacement for the venerable M1911 handgun. H&K was a participant in all three – in the first the entered a P9 and a VP-70, both of which were rejected. In the second series, they entered the P7A10 – a single-stack P7 pistol with an extended 10-round magazine to meet US Army minimum capacity requirements. This second trial also ended without a winner, and H&K further developed the P7 to enter into the third and final set of trials as the P7A13. This model introduced the first significant changes to the P7 design – a double-stack magazine holding 13 rounds of 9mm, a lever magazine release located behind the trigger, and a plastic heat shield to ameliorate the heating of the gun’s gas piston.

Ultimately, some 30 examples of this design were made but they failed to win the trials. Regardless of the gun’s merits, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the P7 would not be chosen, as the gun cost substantially more than many other competitors, including the Beretta M92 that was selected as the new M9 pistol. Instead, H&K used the A13 developments in a new series of commercial and police pistols, the P7M8 and P7M13.



  1. If I were a HK Staff, I would add a cocking lever lock button near the trigger guard… Lock the front strap in squezzed form at risky envoirement and go the safe mode whenever you want.

  2. VP70 didn’t just fail the early trials on accuracy. It proved awful in the reliability trial, with MRBF of 5.

    Interestingly, they were almost all failures to fire (weak striker spring? hard primers?).

    If you removed the failures to fire from the question, the VP70 moved to top of the table, having fewer non-FTF malfunctions than any contender.

    • In 1981 tests 68% of P7’s failures were failure to feed, indicative of a magazine problem.

      In 1984 the number of failures in this category was reduced to about 25%. However this improvement was offset by the appearance of a new malfunction. About 68% of its failures were failure of the slide to remain open when the last round was fired.
      However, even not counting this minor problem at all, the P7 would have been the second worst of the entries anyway.

      In 1984 tests each malfunction was categorized by a “class” indicating the degree of seriousness. Class I malfunctions, the least serious, were clearable by the operator in less than 10 seconds. Class II were also clearable by the operator but took 10
      seconds or more to resolve. Class III, the most serious, were not operator clearable but required sending the pistol to mamtenance for repair.
      The P7 had 208 class I malfunctions, 0 class II and 14 class III.
      Even eliminating 151 class I malfunctions of the slide to remain open, the 57 remaining ones would have put it only ahead of the 60 of the S&W entry (Beretta and SIG had 10 and 11 respectively) and the 14 class III were, again only better than the 16 of the S&W (Beretta and SIG had 9 and 1 respectively).

      Then the P7 fared really bad in the salt water corrosion test. 97% of successful firings after 3 days after the immersion and 82% after 5 days, the worst of any entry, even of the refurbished Colt 1911 control weapon (Beretta and Sig had 100% successful firings after 3 and 5 days).

      • “Then the P7 fared really bad in the salt water corrosion test. 97% of successful firings after 3 days after the immersion and 82% after 5 days, the worst of any entry, even of the refurbished Colt 1911 control weapon (Beretta and Sig had 100% successful firings after 3 and 5 days).”

        This is very interesting. Is there any explanation on why? The poor performance in the salt corrosion test can be ascribed to any specific issue related to metallurgy? Conversely, what did H&K do to warran such a bad outcome?

        • Unfortunately the report (NSIAD-86-122) doesn’t specify what the specific problem was, only the result of the firings.
          In the test, two weapons and a number of magazines were immersed in a saltwater solution of a specified salinity. Between test firings, the weapons were placed in a hunudity-controlled chamber.
          Since the weapon didn’t fail to fire every time, it’s possible to speculate that the problem was, again in the magazines, but it’s possible that the corrosion reduced the strenght of the striker impulse too.

  3. It’s pretty clear that you like the design 😉 but it’s not fair to skip the fact that, actually, the price point didn’t matter at all in the P7 not having been selected in the XM9 program. The P7A13 didn’t even reach the cost comparison phase of the trial (only the 92F and the P226 reached that one). It was eliminated because it fared ATROCIOUSLY in the reliability and in the salt water corrosion tests (the worst of all the entrants in both, included the old, refurbished, Colt 1911 used for comparison).
    Part of the reason the pistol was so expensive on the market was due to the fact that it was made in Germany in a period where the German Mark almost doubled its value in respect to the US Dollar, the other was simply H&K price policy to the public. None of them would have counted in a government contract (the competition required the winning handgun to be manufactured in the US, and any manufacturer estabilishes different prices for large government contracts).

      • Would you like me to state the price of a P226 in Swiss Francs? Or, quoting earlier posts, “asking the clerk for the price of any high end gun indicates you are too poor to buy it.”

        • Well, in fact SIG lose that competition, but anyway they got profit from whole situation, though not in coins:
          1) Their design was examined by independent tester, who was credible in popular opinion and eager to find if automatic pistol would work in most adverse conditions.
          2) Thus they get feedback what could be improved
          3) Thus they could advertise that as proven design, a worthy opponent to final winner

  4. Well, I’ve always liked H&K’s squeeze cocker, but I was in the Army during the transition from the .45 to the Beretta 92, and I always preferred the .45. I didn’t like the 92’s “open to the world” top, and I found it to bulky for my hands, let alone the hands of some of the smaller troops (not to be sexist, but especially the female troops).

  5. I have shot the 1911 and the 92 (civilian versions) back in the day. I have large strong hands (work and hobby related, at least then) and found them much the same. At the time I had more experience with revolvers fwiw. Never gave a thought to small hands but it certainly seems reasonable.
    There are a lot of items “one size fits all” bother me. Slightly preferred 92.

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