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The Heckler & Koch P7M8 and The NJ State Police

I'll tell parts of this story as best I know them, but I could be wrong.

The NJSP all carried P7M8's (and some P7M13) since 1983, till the point where the guns were simply wearing out.  Rather then buy more P7M8's they (their bosses and political types) decided they should buy all new S&W Model 99 autoloaders for all of them.  So we P7 lovers got ready for a new wave of used P7's to be available.

Then this happened:

AP National  3/15/2000
N.J. State Police Recall New Guns
Originally found at 
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- The State Police have recalled hundreds of 9 mm guns recently issued to troopers after several of the weapons jammed or otherwise malfunctioned during training. 
''There were enough malfunctions during the transition that it raised serious concerns among the union members,'' Chris Burgos, a leader of the troopers union. 
The Smith & Wesson guns had been issued to about 500 officers, who will go back to using a different brand of 9 mm until the problem is solved. 
The problems came up during training in early February. 
Smith & Wesson experts were unable to determine immediately whether the weapons were defective or had been used improperly by troopers. 
The state has a $2.1 million contract with Smith & Wesson for 2,600 guns. 
So the officers didn't like the new guns to start with, but when they jammed and didn't feed, there was a revolt through their union.

S&W tried to blame everything on the cops -- same cops who had been qualifying at the same range for years with their P7's with Zero malfunctions -- now they weren't using them right.  Like they weren't holding them absolutely rigid, "limp-wristing."  This is likely total crap -- or maybe they got used to the P7 which cannot be "limp-wristed" by design.

Here is the offical statement from the NJSP:

         FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:March 14, 2001

         John R. Hagerty, NJSP Public Information Office  (609) 882-2000 x6515 


                  W. Trenton - With the support of Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco, Colonel Carson J. Dunbar,
         Jr., Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, today announced that in an abundance of caution and for
         the safety of State Police personnel, he has placed a hold on all training exercises and the issuance of the new
         handgun recently purchased by the State Police to replace the current sidearm.

                  "The safety of our troopers is my top priority," said the Acting Governor. "Until and unless these
         firearms can be proven to operate in a consistent, reliable and safe manor, we will not issue them. I will not
         allow our troopers to stand on the front lines without the protection they so vitally need and deserve."

                  Col. Dunbar noted that he was taking the action in light of reports from State Police firearms instructors
         and troopers training with the new Smith & Wesson Model 99 9mm semi-automatic handgun that they were
         experiencing instances of the weapon jamming during training exercises. Specifically, State Police firearms
         instructors have reported instances of spent shell casings jamming in the weapon's ejection port (not expelling
         the spent shell casing) and loaded rounds not being properly fed into the weapon from the magazine. At this
         time, State Police and Smith & Wesson firearms experts have not determined, in whole or in part, whether
         the issues of concern are related to the firearm itself or the way the weapon has been fired.

                  Dunbar said that State Police firearms experts have contacted the manufacturer and that Smith &
         Wesson has begun to examine the Model 99 in an effort to determine the exact cause of the concerns.
         Additionally, Smith & Wesson experts have met with the State Police armorer and are together working to
         evaluate the issues of concern.

                  Col. Dunbar noted that pursuant to the terms of the contract with Smith & Wesson, a report has been
         filed with the Division of Purchase and Property regarding the weapons. Additionally, Dunbar said that he has
         met with representatives from the State Police associations and has provided the union leadership with a
         detailed briefing regarding the concerns involving the weapon.

                  The State Police contracted with Smith & Wesson last year to purchase 3,200 new handguns at a cost
         of $1.3 million. The S&W Model 99 9mm sidearm was purchased to replace the current State Police-issued
         H&K (Heckler & Koch) P7M8 9mm handgun first placed in service with the State Police in 1983. To date,
         431 Model 99 handguns have been issued to State Police personnel. All personnel currently issued the Smith
         & Wesson handgun will turn-in the weapon for replacement with the H&K sidearm.

Here is what GunWeek had to report:

S&W Extractor Change To Solve NJ Pistol Problem

by Dave Workman, Senior Editor

Smith & Wesson will modify the ejectors on 3,300 semi-automatic pistols to solve a highly-publicized jamming problem experienced by the New Jersey State Police.

One possible contributing factor Gun Week pursued was a reported variation in the ammunition New Jersey issues to its troopers, but that apparently was without merit

Initially, Gun Week was told that duty ammo, supplied by CCI Gold Dot, used in the agency's Heckler & Koch P7M8 pistols was loaded with a different propellant to solve a fouling and cycling problem in that pistol, which has a gas-retarded action. However, that does not now appear to be accurate. True, there was a powder change in the 9mm Gold Dot, but not directly to address a problem with the pistol. Nobody has suggested that ammunition might be a part of the S&W malfunction puzzle, and a source at S&W noted, "We never had that (ejection) problem with off-the-shelf Gold Dot ammo." Gold Dot ammunition, developed several years ago by the CCI division of Blount Inc. in Lewiston, ID, has an excellent track record. When Gun Week checked with CCI-Speer's tech specialist, Allan Jones, he confirmed there had been a change in the propellant used in the Gold Dot ammo, but it was to a slightly faster and cleaner-burning powder, designed
to make it function better in the H&K MP5 submachinegun. Coincidentally, this cleaner-burning powder apparently worked better in the P7 pistol by reducing powder residue that fouled the pistol's gas port. Jones also said the change was made, "across the board," and that New Jersey was not using some specially-loaded, exclusive ammunition

When Garden State troopers began seriously shopping for new duty weapons, they tested pistols from Beretta, the Glock 17 and 19, Heckler & Koch's USP, and the SIG P226, P228, and P229 among others. When the gunsmoke cleared, the testing committee picked the Smith & Wesson Model 99 semi-auto pistol as their new service sidearm

Then the whole program of re-arming troopers went south. Or, more accurately, the problem went northeast, right back to S&W's Massachusetts headquarters, where the beleaguered handgun manufacturer thought it had experienced all the bad publicity it could stand with gunowner outrage over the "deal" former CEO Ed Schultz cut with the Clinton White House. A captain involved in the testing and selection process for new state police pistols considered the highly-publicized jamming problems as nothing more than a "bump" in the road, "not a spike." State Police Capt. Carl Leisinger told Gun Week that, "The things I'm hearing on the news have really spun out of control. I'm not saying everything (in the reports) is wrong, but some of it got a little exaggerated." Leisinger, who is based in West
Trenton, acknowledged that, "The number of malfunctions is more than we want (but) it is not tremendous." That's not what published reports by the Associated Press, newspapers and television stations in the state suggested, though. During the initial testing, when 60 troopers fired a reported 3,000 rounds through each of their individual test guns, there was only one malfunctioning pistol reported. That changed abruptly when the guns were issued to over 431 troopers, who reported over 130 malfunctions, along with over 200 failures reported by state police recruits.

Ejector Modification
S&W specialists went to work on the problem, noted company spokesman Ken Jorgensen, and came up with the ejector modification. He also confirmed that, in some cases, shooters themselves may have also been an element in the malfunctions by "weak-wristing" during shooting exercises. (Editor's Note -- Bullshit!)  Semi-auto pistols of just about every make will experience cycling malfunctions when shooters do not maintain a properly rigid wrist, and allow the pistol to wobble in their hand.

Jones agreed that the "human factor" may have a great deal to do with the malfunctions. A veteran shooter, Jones has experience with the P7, noting that when he has fired that model, he held the gun in such a way that, if he had used the same grip pressure on another type of semi-auto pistol, he likely would have "limp wrested" the gun. Jones also noted that shooting with a limp wrist "will produce a straight-line stoppage" because the spent cartridge case does not properly eject. Asked if it is possible a variation in ammunition, however slight, could have contributed to some of the malfunctions in some way, he said, "It's possible, but that would be a stretch." His analysis was that some New Jersey troopers may have experienced transition problems, learning to grip the new pistol differently than the H&K model they had grown used to.

New Jersey's cycling problem became immediate fodder for the Internet, and that quickly deteriorated to conjecture that did not even have the total number of pistols involved in the contract correct. New Jersey is purchasing, according to Leisinger, 3,300 of the new S&W pistols. The guns were purchased through Ray's Sport Shop in Plainfield. A spokeswoman for the gun shop declined comment, noting only that, "We don't comment on anything." She said past experience with the press had resulted in that policy.

Ammunition Disparity?
New Jersey issues the standard load 124-grain Gold Dot from CCI. It replaced a Remington cartridge with the same bullet weight about four years ago, Leisinger said.  Leisinger recalled, "One time we had a slight problem with powder speeds. The H&K is very sensitive with that gas port. They (CCI ammo technicians) came down and worked with us and changed the powder combination (in the cartridge). They worked with us 100%. I thought their cooperation was unbelievable."

But Jones said switching to a cleaner burning powder would not have a significant effect on the function of one handgun over another, though it did appear to solve the P7's fouling problem. The failure of S&W pistols to eject spent cartridges became the focus of media attention, though Leisinger would not characterize these as "stove pipe" jams. John Hagerty, director of communications for the New Jersey State Police, described the ejection failures: "In a nutshell what we have determined are instances of spent casings jamming in the ejection port." Neither elaborated as to whether this means the spent casings do not fully clear the ejection port, and thus nose into the top of the breech when the slide moves forward into battery.

Hagerty said 431 troopers had received the pistols and have subsequently turned them back in, for the older H&Ks, until the S&W pistols can be fitted with the new ejectors. Those H&K pistols will remain with the agency, he added.

According to Hagerty, troopers qualify four times annually, firing 42 rounds in each course. Leisinger said they qualify twice annually, shooting twice during their qualifications, once in the daylight, once at night. All duty side arms are equipped with tritium night sights. Hagerty maintained the "jamming and reliability rate was well within the standards."
New Jersey troopers are reportedly not so sure of that, and newspaper reports have quoted Col. Carson Dunbar Jr., superintendent of the State Police, as being "personally uncomfortable" with the performance of the guns as delivered.

During the course of selecting the S&W Model 99, a design that is actually the product of a joint effort between S&W and Walther, there were some modifications initially made to the gun at the request of the state police agency. Leisinger confirmed that the decocker was first deleted, then put back, when concerns arose about accidental discharges. 

Decocker Decision 
"They submitted the gun without the decocker," he recalled. "Then that became single-action-only. And then when we discovered with the decocker you can take the gun down without pulling the trigger, we wanted the decocker put (back) on. Down the road, somebody was possibly going to shoot somebody." He portrayed the initial concern as trying to eliminate levers that might project from the pistol and interfere with its operation. Decocker levers do project varying distances from other gun models, though Gun Week has not found any indication that these have ever posed serious problems. What makes the Model 99 S&W different is that the decocker is not a traditional "lever," but designed more like a "plunger/button" on the top left of the slide. It profiles quite well with the slide surface. Gun Week visited a gun shop and, with the help of a shop employee, tested various ways to make the pistol accidentally lock open during cycling (arguably possible by pressing up on the slide stop with the left-hand thumb during right-hand firing), but could not find a way to accidentally engage the decocker. Magazine capacity was changed from the original 16 rounds on the test guns to 15 rounds on the duty weapons. Leisinger said some of the duty guns were experiencing failures to feed, with the round nosing down and jamming against the feed ramp.

Push to Re-Arm
The push to re-arm Garden State troopers began with the October 1997 death of Trooper Scott Gonzales. His pistol jammed during a gunfight with a mental patient, and while he was attempting to clear the pistol, he was killed. Both male and female troopers were involved in the gun tests, and among the winning attributes of the Model 99 is the synthetic grip's backstrap, which can be changed to fit different sized hands. While switching to a new gun seemed to be a priority, changing calibers did not. According to Leisinger, State Police top brass decided to keep the 9mm as the agency's caliber of choice. With the Gold Dot projectile, he noted, there have been no jacket separations even with a muzzle velocity of 1,150 fps, and bullets have expanded as advertised in a variety of media. Law enforcement
agencies across the country use Gold Dot ammo, which has a solid performance record. Gun Week has used it in various gun tests, and in assorted calibers, over the years without problem.

They eventually decided just to buy P7M8's to replace the guns that were too worn out.  And we P7 lover's went from the anticipated flood of used guns to all the new production bought up for two years.  Then this happened:

This April 23, 2000, Newsday article reports, "The New Jersey State Police could get its first shipment of new
 handguns in the next several months, despite a canceled contract with the former gun manufacturer and
 problems with several replacement weapons. Officials from the Attorney General's Office and the State Police
 said bids are expected next month to replace the weapons used by all 2,700 troopers since 1982. The officials
 maintain they expect no further delay in replacing the current guns, now the subject of a complaint by the
 trooper's union, which alleges the pistols are worn and unsafe. The state canceled its contract with German
 gunmaker Heckler and Koch after the company said it could not produce enough weapons at once to cover
 the state contract, said State Police spokesman John Hagerty. State Police administrators looked to simply
 extend the contract and buy replacement guns, rather than an entirely new type of weapon, Hagerty said. But
 Heckler and Koch told the state it needed to retool its factory since it no longer produces the weapon used by
 New Jersey troopers, Hagerty said. (Editor's note -- bullshit!) The company could not supply all of the weapons 
 at once, as required by  the state, he said. Officers also found ''slight problems'' with ''quality control issues'' in a number 
 of the 450  replacement weapons recently shipped by the manufacturer, Hagerty said. Testing officers found the gun
 sights to be ''slightly off,'' Hagerty said. That prompted Col. Carson Dunbar, the State Police superintendent,
 to cancel the order, Hagerty said."
Sig won the new contract:
SIGARMS recently won the contract to arm the 3200 New Jersey State Police Officers with the P228 in 9mm. 
Then this happened to all the used P7M8's that we had hoped for:
April 20, 2003

Cops attack gun availability, yet recycle own weapons
Several traded-in N.J. police guns have been connected to crimes

 By MICHAEL DIAMOND, Special Reports Unit, (609) 272-7227, E-Mail
 and JOHN FROONJIAN, Special Reports Unit, (609) 272-7273, E-Mail

....... blah, blah, blah, stupidity, stupidity

Uneasy over crimes committed with former police guns, some departments have financially bit the bullet and have foregone the discounts that come with trades. 

Eighteen months ago, when the N.J. State Police purchased new guns, former Attorney General John Farmer decided not to let the old guns back onto the market.

More than 3,000 former State Police guns are being warehoused in a state-owned building somewhere in New Jersey until they are melted down.

Anyway, all the nonsense is over.  The $2,000,000 worth of used P7M8's are gone, and new P7M8's are in stock again.

Update 12/2003:  Chris writes me:

Dear Chris,

Just a few words on the NJ State Police P7M8s.  The M8 was developed for the NJSP because HK needed a large enough contract to justify the expense of changing the magazine release.  The first prototype was a handmade “one off.”  HK then made 10 preproduction prototypes for NJSP testing.  These guns are numbered 10000 through 10010.  While most parts look the same, many are not interchangeable.  For instance, magazines won’t interchange.

And a word on 9mm ammo in a P7.  The US Park Police complained that their P7s were jamming so HK bought 10,000 rounds of the ammo the Park Police was using, standard 115 gr., Remington 9mm ball, took a new P7 and proceeded to shoot the daylights out of it.  It get very boring shooting 10,000 rounds all at once.

Things that were found out:

1)       Remington ammo is VERY dirty and filled the sides of the gas cylinder with carbon deposits
2)       The gun get VERY hot after 4 or 5 mags
3)       It takes a straight, 7mm spiral reamer to get the carbon out
4)       There were NO other problems

 I hope this info helps.

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