H&K VP40 Review– Great Pistol with More Punch

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Buy an H&K VP40 on GunsAmerica: /vp40

Check out the details at H&K: http://hk-usa.com/hk-models/vp40/

Not a beauty queen, but not ugly either. The ergonomics and aggressive control surfaces come first.

Not a beauty queen, but not ugly either. The ergonomics and aggressive control surfaces come first.

I have an early-adopter personality by nature. I’m the guy that has the latest and greatest electronic gadget, or is beta testing software. And it is certainly no different, perhaps even worse when it comes to guns. I love being among the first to shoot and/or own the newest models. But for some reason, it took me nearly a full year to hop onto the HK VP9 bandwagon. Not because I didn’t think it was a great pistol, I knew it was. I was just tied up (as was my money) with other projects and never got around to it. When I finally did, I immediately had the same impressions that most everyone else did – that it is a fantastic handgun. So when HK released the VP40, I camped out like it was a new iPhone.

Pairing stable mates in 9mm and .40 S&W is almost a certainty for most handguns, so it should come as no surprise that H&K have offered us the instantly famous VP series pistol in that caliber. But where many other manufacturers simply change the barrel and maybe the recoil spring – the engineers at Heckler & Koch seem to have designed the VP40 as a truly separate gun.

At first glance, everything about the VP40 appears identical to its sibling except for the caliber markings. But take a longer look and you’ll see some differences. Try to slip the VP40 into your Kydex VP9 holster, and you’ll soon realize there are more differences than simply the bore size.

A rear angle view also helps us understand the different geometry of the VP40 slide.

A rear angle view also helps us understand the different geometry of the VP40 slide.

One good look at the slides of the VP9 (left) and the VP40 (right) and one can understand why the 40 won't fit in the 9’s holster.

One good look at the slides of the VP9 (left) and the VP40 (right) and one can understand why the 40 won’t fit in the 9’s holster.

So let’s talk about that first, because if you want your VP40 to fit in your custom formed Kydex holster for your VP9 – it won’t. Yes, I know that sucks – no sweeter way to say it. But it is what it is, and I’m sure the holster makers will catch up. One already has – and I was advanced two different holster models from Multi Holsters made specifically for the VP40. The good news is that these also fit the VP9!

While we’re on the subject, check out our review of the VP9. And don’t hesitate to revisit our first impressions of the VP40.

Multi Holsters has the VP40 covered with a full line of holsters, including this 2-in-1 in carbon fiber.

Multi Holsters has the VP40 covered with a full line of holsters, including this 2-in-1 in carbon fiber.

Specs

Heckler & Koch say that the VP40 weighs 2.37 ounces more than the VP9 (they also list it as only 1 oz. heavier, which is wrong). I can tell you where all of that extra weight is – in the slide. More specifically, it’s in the thickness of the steel. This was undoubtedly done because someone in Germany with a slide rule in his shirt pocket said to do it – and I never challenge a German engineer with a slide rule.

The .40 S&W cartridge releases considerably more pressure and energy than the 9mm cartridge does. There are a few ways that gun makers can address this difference: 1) Design the slide for the pressures of the hottest caliber intended and then compensate for lighter loads with springs and lightening cuts; 2) Design a “should do the trick” gun and chamber it for multiple calibers; or 3) Make one size for 9mm and one size for .40 S&W. H&K obviously chose door number three, but whether it was an afterthought, or there is more to come, we don’t yet know. I seriously doubt that the HK VP40 will suffer from any of the structural fatigue and accelerated wear that is common to most 9mm-designed pistols that get chambered in .40 S&W (one of the main reasons the FBI is moving away from .40 and back to 9mm). Speculations and wishes for the VP45 and even the VP10 (mm, that is) are already in the Internet discussion zones. The problem there, as I envision it, is that either of those would mean a significantly longer cartridge, and would require a larger magazine and likely a larger magazine well to accommodate it. That means a bigger grip and a whole new frame with a different feel. That said; the line for either or both of those forms behind me.

VP40 specs 2
VP40 specs 1

Let me back up a little and give you the basic specs on the HK VP40. This is a polymer framed, striker fired handgun – from a company that is not (or wasn’t until recently) the first name you think of in striker fired handguns. Even though H&K pioneered the striker technology decades ago, they are still best known for their hammer fired models. The barrel is hammer forged polygonal rifling, another long-time H&K tradition. What that means is this: imagine yourself very, very tiny and standing inside the barrel of a gun. Traditional rifling made of lands and grooves would look like sharply cut cliffs and square ravines. Polygonal rifling would appear more like the gentle rolling hills of an English countryside. The idea is that there is less friction (meaning more velocity) and less galling (meaning less fouling and better accuracy). The trigger is double-action-only type and pulls at between 5.5 and 7.5 lbs.

The ergonomics make this design easy to control.

The ergonomics make this design easy to control.

Controls are fully ambidextrous out of the box. The magazine release is the European style paddles located at the lower rear of the trigger guard, like a pair of tusks. Slide stop/lock levers are on both sides of the pistol. There is no external safety catch. If you’re new to H&K pistols, they may seem odd to you compared to most others, but believe me they have rabidly loyal customers. Last year, the VP9 put HK handguns in front of a lot of newcomers to the brand. The VP40 is a logical progression.

Ambidextrous paddle controls for magazine release are a common trait of H&K handguns.

Ambidextrous paddle controls for magazine release are a common trait of H&K handguns.

VP40 as tested included the base model 3-dot sights without Tritium. The 'cocked striker indicator' is a highly visible red dot. Also on the VP40 are the cocking assist 'ears' or tabs on the rear of the slide. The author actually finds these quite useful.

VP40 as tested included the base model 3-dot sights without Tritium. The ‘cocked striker indicator’ is a highly visible red dot. Also on the VP40 are the cocking assist ‘ears’ or tabs on the rear of the slide. The author actually finds these quite useful.

The trigger on the VP40 is not the best in the business, but it is far from the worst. It has a fairly long take up and then a very crisp break. The reset is fairly short with good tactile feedback, which helps you achieve those double and triple-taps without slapping at the trigger. H&K incorporates a trigger safety of common design – a lever inserted into the center of the trigger that must be depressed to defeat the interference of a stop that prevents trigger travel. I find the HK trigger to be ergonomic and comfortable and the safety to be unnoticeable – save for a tiny polymer burr at the end of the safety lever that seems present on all copies of the VP. Some fine sand paper ought to do the trick, but it’d be nice if it came without that.

Polymer trigger incorporates a dongle-style safety lever. Note the tiny (but quite irritating) burr at the toe.

Polymer trigger incorporates a dongle-style safety lever. Note the tiny (but quite irritating) burr at the toe.

Another argument against .40 S&W in addition to its punishment on guns is its punishment on the shooter. A lot of folks feel that the .40 is just too “snappy” a round for habitual use, or for personal defense carry. That’s a valid consideration of course, but if that is your only complaint then I recommend you try the VP40. I think this is probably the flattest shooting .40 caliber pistol I’ve shot -at least without a ported barrel. Felt recoil is pretty soft, owing mainly to the heavy slide and sturdy recoil spring. But there is another element to the HK VP pistols that aids in felt recoil reduction, and that is the modular grip design. The VP’s come with three sets of polymer grip backstraps and side panels in small, medium, and large. This allows you to interchange them to create the grip that best fits your hand – but it also creates built-in “crumple zones” of a sort. If you pick up a VP handgun and squeeze the grip, you’ll feel it give – actually compress. That’s because there has to be some tolerance built into the seams and edges where the removable panels fit. This also acts as a sort of micro shock absorber system during live fire.

Standard VP40 comes with two 13-round magazines. Excellent quality with nice rubber baseplates.

Standard VP40 comes with two 13-round magazines. Excellent quality with nice rubber baseplates.

The VP40 is available in two configurations from Heckler & Koch. The most common is the basic package with phosphorescent 3-dot sights and two steel 13-round magazines. For about $100 more, you can get a third magazine and tritium night sights. That’s a lot cheaper than it would be to upgrade, so it’s worth considering. The VP40 will accept P30 magazines, as they are identical. This is also great news, because HK mags are among the most expensive to buy. I always expect mine to arrive on a red velvet pillow, considering the price. The .40 S&W magazines are also easier to find in stock than their 9mm counterparts – another bonus.

The ergonomics of the VP pistols is the best I’ve experienced in handguns. There are some close challengers out there, like M&P and Walther PPQ, but the VP edges them out. This is of course; a wholly subjective topic and your mileage may vary. The grip surface is good but not great. The texture is composed of small semi-circles and raised dots that do a good job of providing grip, but they are overall still to smooth. On a hot July day with sweaty hands, I like a little more friction. Talon Gun Grips are my favorite aftermarket solution for that. The controls are well designed and all within easy reach. The slide stop/release operates smoothly for righties or lefties, although the left-hand lever looks a bit frail by comparison. The mag-release paddles are superb and operate flawlessly. The magazines eject cleanly with a positive kick-out. I tend to use my index (trigger) finger to operate the control, as it requires no shift to my grip on the gun.

The ergonomics of the HK VP pistol is already the stuff of legend. Customizable grip panels help tailor the gun to the shooter. The author also likes the rubberized Talon grip for better friction.

The ergonomics of the HK VP pistol is already the stuff of legend. Customizable grip panels help tailor the gun to the shooter. The author also likes the rubberized Talon grip for better friction.

Accuracy

This gun is a tack driver. Yes, I know that is an over-used phrase, but in the hands of a better shooter than me it would be capable of some fantastic results. Even in my hands it performs impressively. 25 yard rested shooting with a variety of ammunition provided consistent good results. Every gun has favorite ammo, and for the VP40 it was Federal Premium HST – expensive taste, but amazing accuracy. The accompanying video shows the entire 25 yard test and results. The VP40 likes a center hold. With a good sight picture, it’s going to print right where that front sight dot is.

Results of 25 yard tests, hand held rested on a bag.

Results of 25 yard tests, hand held rested on a bag.

The best group (of many) was produced by Federal Premium HST. Seems the VP40 likes defense loads.

The best group (of many) was produced by Federal Premium HST. Seems the VP40 likes defense loads.

Should you run out today and buy a VP40? That depends on a few things. If you don’t like .40 S&W for reasons other than recoil then probably not. If recoil is the only thing that keeps you in the 9mm section of the store, then you owe it to yourself to feel just how this gun compares. If you’re worried, especially now that the feds are moving away from .40, that it’s too rough on the hardware – I think H&K has that handled with the ultra-thick slide. But if you are a fan of the .40 S&W cartridge and don’t already own the VP9 – this could be the gun for you. It would be a mistake not to put this gun on your shopping list.

One of the advantages of the thicker slide on the VP40 is deeper cut serrations for a better grip.

One of the advantages of the thicker slide on the VP40 is deeper cut serrations for a better grip.

 

Buy an H&K VP40 on GunsAmerica: /vp40

Buy an H&K VP9 on GunsAmerica: /vp40

Check out the details at H&K: http://hk-usa.com/hk-models/vp40/


{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Tom Kirkpatrick May 3, 2017, 10:22 pm

    Only one complaint on your report. The statement that : “The .40 S&W cartridge releases considerably more pressure and energy than the 9mm cartridge does”, is not correct. While it produces more energy, it doesn’t generate more pressure and the same loading levels. In fact, most .40 defensive (HP) loads develop less pressure than +P loads. This can be confirmed at virtually any website that publishes powder volume/pressure loads.
    Tom

  • gunslinger February 17, 2017, 1:00 am

    I’m sorry but the 9mm bullet is useless .I can introduce you to 4 people who have been shot 5,7,8 and 9 times with them. One is even working construction.

  • John January 11, 2017, 1:12 am

    First off, to “Justinopinioin” -I really enjoy your reviews. They are candid, dry, and to the point. Now, as an owner of the HKVP40 and many 9mm, 40sw & 45acp handguns. I can say that the VP40 is so well designed ergonomically that it shoots like a 9mm. In fact, my HK VP40 shoots better (for me) than my SIG SAUER P229 Elite 9mm. I just get better groups consistently. I find the HK VP40 is a very easy and manageable pistol to shoot for experienced shooters who want some extra power. I also like that it has a fully supported chamber, and I have yet to find its limits when handloading. Currently, I feed my HK VP40 Hornady XTP 180 HP charged with 6.2gr Power Pistol for approx 1000 ftps. And I know I can push it further. HK VP40 is a fantastic easy to shoot, reliable, well made handgun that you can bet your life on. I swear by mine.

  • Phillip Martin April 17, 2016, 10:21 am

    I am not an anti-9mm. I believe most law enforcement agencies will be going back/toward the 9mm not because it is cheaper to train and use (what government agency really is concerned with cost) or more accurate. What the 9mm offers that the other appropriate calibers don’t is it is easier for officers to reach acceptable accuracy. Not every officer willingly will put in the time and training to master a .40 or .45 pistol. At the risk being called a sexist, with many departments hiring many more females, training officers are finding difficulty in reaching acceptable accuracy with the larger caliber guns.

  • petru sova August 11, 2015, 9:35 pm

    One technical point most people are not aware of is that the new gun is at full cock internally not at partial cock like the Glock. This means it should have a way more forceful ignition system as compared to the very weak ignition system of the Glock. What I don’t like about this pistol is the lack of a manual safety. I will stick with my HKP30 that does have a manual safety as it is light years more safe to handle and carry than this new safety-less pistol. I have witnessed and also read about so many accidental discharges with safety-less striker fired pistols I could fill a dictionary with them. Proof enough for me.

  • Randy Allen August 11, 2015, 12:08 am

    Nice review, Justin. I have been trying not to buy any more guns, as I already have several Sigs and a couple of Glocks, and some other assorted pistols and revolvers, but you are really making my finger itch. I might have to take a look at this one, unless they release a .45. I currently don’t have one.

  • Bob Johnston August 10, 2015, 7:46 pm

    Another Glock clone. The only safety is the finger. Sticks, brush or the edge of a holster and you get a hole in your femoral artery. That single safety isn’t. Only a matter of time before some smart lawyer proves it and Glock is out of business along with all the cloners.

    • petru sova August 11, 2015, 9:41 pm

      Wow I found a gun owner with actual mechanical aptitude who understands how dangerous Striker fired pistols actually are. You are truly a rare bird, you are intelligent. Unfortunately for the Proletariat this is all way over their heads, until they find out the hard way.

    • Mark February 15, 2016, 10:56 am

      Ahem, Glock’s have three safeties

    • jim April 28, 2016, 2:13 pm

      wow all you exo
      perts saying striker fire guns are un safe sounds

      like you shouldnt carry a gun ,try pepper spray.

  • L Cavendish August 10, 2015, 10:10 am

    FBI is going back to 9mm…after EXTENSIVE research…that should tell people something.
    9 is easier to shoot..easier to get back on target…holds more rounds…is JUST as effective as 40 or 45 (per FBI and ER stats) with proper ammo.
    And…cheaper ammo… .
    Not sure where the downside is. Unless you are shooting ball ammo only…where a bigger hole is ONLY possible with bigger ammo.
    But…nice to see the glowing reviews of the VP9’s bigger brother.

    • Mark Tercsak August 10, 2015, 11:53 am

      I have known a few F.B.I. Agents, through dad all are Great Guys, Most F.B.I. Agents are investigators, and quite frankly do not need big guns, most f these guys are not gun guys thus they do what they do to qualify, like most police officers, just to give an example my uncle was a Detective and worked Robbery Squad in our city, he told me a case the other day, these two or three guys were going around robbing a couple of banks in one day on our north side, a description of the car was put over the air a squad car calls in and reports the suspect car appears to be a couple of cars up from them, the pursue the car and a chase goes on and they are forcing this car in a Box, one of the suspects bails out and runs at the Police Firing his weapons at them while he is running, they are returning fire at the suspect who falls over Dead, Well not one single bullet from the police hit the suspect the closest was a few feet away and that was with 38 specials and maybe a 357 magnum or two, turns out the suspect had a faulty pistol and did not always go bang when you pulled the trigger, sometimes there was a slight delay as he was running his arms where pumping he squeezed the trigger the piece did not go off until the muzzle was near his head and was at a slight angle , he had shot him-self by accident and blew a good portion of his face off in the process. Not all F.B.I. personnel I believe will be going to the 9mm, I believe people should use what they can handle, having said that I like the 9mm cartridge, it is very accurate and is a joy to shoot, I also enjoy the 45 and the 44 magnum and the 357 and the 480 Ruger.

    • Mark February 15, 2016, 10:59 am

      And because 9mm recoil is easier for female agents to handle.

    • John October 7, 2016, 3:47 pm

      The FBI and many police departments are going back to the 9mm for one reason and one reason only – it’s easier to qualify with a 9mm. Departments around the country, in their never ending effort to do more with less, don’t allow for practice hardly at all anymore. Thus, you have a yearly day qual and a yearly night/low light qual and that’s it. They want a 210 or better the 1st time through and then you get back to work. It’s truly sad that worthless police management who sit on their asses all day behind their desk in their A/C can implement near-sighted ideas like this, but it is what it is. I shoot 240 consistently with my 40 and would never carry a 9 unless I had to. It’s simple physics – what’s going to cause more damage…a Federal HST 147gr 9mm going 1000 fps or a Federal HST 180gr 40 going 1010 fps? These are the ammo that most departments use. Getting back to the point – the 9mm gives less recoil and many cops nowadays can’t shoot for shit – 15 years ago, a 210 or 215 was something to be embarrassed about. Now – I see these new cops high fiving each other for passing. I think rather than going to the 9mm to mask the underlying problem, they should put $$$ into teaching cops how to shoot.

  • ET2041 August 10, 2015, 9:54 am

    Nice review guys. My agency just approved the VP9 for duty carry and after the Glock Debacle, we are also looking at the VP40. One thing that needs correction is that there is no LEM version of the VP9. The Law Enforcement Modification is the DAO version of previous HK designs. The model number for the VP series with Meprolight Tritium sights is the “LE”. It also comes with 3 magazines instead of 2.

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