The day that Heckler & Koch released the VP9, handgun enthusiasts nearly lost their minds with joy. The very next day, even while basking in that euphoria, everyone asked “but when is the sub-compact version going to come out?” While some people can and do carry the VP9 as a concealed weapon, most of us smaller-sized people with smaller clothing just can’t. About a year after the VP9 entered the market, HK released the P30SK and I wondered whether that might shelve any plans for an SK version of the VP9. After all, it met all the criteria – except that the P30 line is hammer fired and the VPs are striker fired. There are folks out there that just don’t cross that line, one way or the other. So, while I absolutely love the P30SK (see review), I know many who have been holding out for the VP9SK. Was it worth the wait?
The VP9 is not really all that large a pistol, but it is a full duty-sized gun. And while some folks can and do carry it concealed, I prefer something much smaller for everyday carry. I don’t want my life or my wardrobe to revolve around my carry gun. So, for those of us who are average height and build, and wear normal clothing, a smaller version is much appreciated! How much smaller? Well, really not dramatically smaller, except in a couple of key dimensions: height and length. The latter of those is less important, unless you carry appendix-style, which I don’t. The single most important dimension of a handgun for concealed carry is the height from the bottom of the magazine baseplate to the top of the rear sights. Why? Because this is what will cause printing and self-consciousness if it protrudes too far. Good holsters help, and some forward cant helps, but what helps most is a short butt on the gun!HK shortened the height of the VP9SK by a full inch compared to the full-sized VP9 (4 ½” vs. 5 ½”) – a significant difference. The overall length has also been rolled back from 7-3/8” (VP9) to 6-5/8” (VP9SK). The thickness of the gun remains the same. Also remaining are a number of features that helped make the Hk VP9 a runaway best seller: ambidextrous controls make the pistol universally ergonomic and intuitive. The paddle style magazine release remains, located at each side of the lower trigger guard. The slide stop/release is easily reached and operated by the thumb of either hand.
HK shortened the height of the VP9SK by a full inch compared to the full-sized VP9 (4 ½” vs. 5 ½”) – a significant difference. The overall length has also been rolled back from 7-3/8” (VP9) to 6-5/8” (VP9SK). The thickness of the gun remains the same. Also remaining are a number of features that helped make the Hk VP9 a runaway best seller: ambidextrous controls make the pistol universally ergonomic and intuitive. The paddle style magazine release remains, located at each side of the lower trigger guard. The slide stop/release is easily reached and operated by the thumb of either hand.
As usual, where the biggest sacrifice occurs when cutting size and weight for a sub-compact pistol is ammunition capacity. The VP9SK holds 10+1, rather than the 15+1 of the full-sized gun. Depending upon which version of the pistol you buy, it comes with either two or three 10-round magazines. My copy was delivered with two – one flush baseplate and one with the “pinky rest” extension. I’ve really become a fan of the pinky rest, when designed well, because it gives you the feel and strength of a full grip but the angle also helps reduce visible height and potential printing. For a backup magazine, or for range days, the full sized 15-round magazines from the VP9 or the P30 fit and function perfectly in the SK. There are also aftermarket sleeves available to fill in the space created by the additional length, making it truly feel like a full-sized duty gun.
SHOOTING THE VP9SK
If you’ve ever shot the HK VP9, then you have essentially shot the SK version. Where you’ll notice the difference is the shorter 4½” grip (with the flush magazine) of the SK. For just about everyone this will present the “what do I do with my pinkie?” feel. I usually just curl mine under the butt of the gun, but not everyone is satisfied with that feel. I have friends that won’t shoot a gun unless all five fingers have a home. Okay, I exaggerated a bit – I don’t really have friends… but I know other people that shoot. Take heart – unlike my HK P30SK that came with three magazines, all with a flat baseplate – the VP9SK comes with two magazines (as tested), one of which has the angled ‘pinkie extension.’ The extension does not change capacity, nor does it significantly alter the “printing height” of the pistol when holstered. But it provides a firm and comfortable place for that small fifth finger, and feels like a full sized duty pistol. It is also important to note that the magazines for the VP9SK are shared with the P30SK, and the full sized mags from the P30 and VP9 make perfect extended capacity magazines for the VP9SK. This makes for useful backup magazines for carry and excellent mags for range days.
Shooting the snubby version of the VP9 is virtually identical to shooting its big sister, with the aforementioned caveat about grip length. There is an obviously shorter sight radius, but this is not terribly perceptible. Recoil impulse is slightly snappier, as we would expect, but by very little. The standard sights are identical, and the trigger feels the same. All-in-all, there is virtually no difference shooting the sub compact versus the full size. The ergonomics of the pistol is also identical to the larger version, with much consideration given to those whose dexterity is ambiguous. And to further clarify what the most often misused word in firearms really means – “ambidextrous” means that a control can be equally operated by either hand at any time, without modification. HK pretty much wrote the book on that subject, with every control being provided equally left and right. The “ears” at the rear of the slide – those polymer handles that help draw the slide rearward, are still present on the SK.
I tested the accuracy of the VP9SK from a rested position 15 yards from my target, using what has become my go-to ammo, SIG Sauer’s Elite Performance. I shot both the full metal jacket and jacketed hollow point (called V-Crown), both with 124 grain bullets. The V-Crown performed best, as it generally does for me. But even my off-hand shooting at half that distance yielded very nice groups without much effort. The natural point and shoot feel of the VP9 has not been lost by reducing its size.
JUST MY OPINION
Any popular duty-sized gun will eventually spin off a sub-compact version of itself, either as part of a planned product line, or in response to market demand. Very few firearms manufacturers say ‘no’ to a crowd of shooters waving fists full of money at them (I say ‘few’, because amazingly some seem to). Along the way, some make the mistake of modifying the design too much to make it fit the smaller footprint, and very subtle changes can affect the way the pistol feels or the way a control is operated. There are some pistols that I love in full size, but don’t like much in sub-compact for just this reason. The VP9SK is not at risk of being on that list. Heckler and Koch nipped and tucked in just the right places to make a smaller, more concealable VP9 that feels and functions exactly the same as the duty sized gun. For me, double-stack subs are still a bit on the thick side for carry in the summer, but when the bulkier fall fashions are all the rage, I have enjoyed carrying the HK P30SK a lot. This pistol is the nearly identical striker fired version. One word of warning though, followed by one of celebration – the VP9SK will not fit into any custom holster made for the P30SK (trigger guard is the main reason); but it slips perfectly into all my Kydex VP 9 holsters, and just leaves some “room to grow” at the bottom end, like a nice pair of hand-me-down shoes.
The VP9SK is priced at the upper end of the market, but this should surprise no one. HK quality has always come at a slight industry premium. The LE version of the gun that offers an additional magazine and a very good set of night sights will run about $100 more than the one tested here. If you like night sights and have ever checked the prices of HK magazines, you’ll recognize that as a good deal. I think HK delivered exactly what people wanted with the VP9SK. Short of it being a single-stack that somehow magically holds 10 rounds, I don’t know how it could be improved. Shooting this gun extensively, I had zero failures and zero jams. What I had lots of was fun.
For more information, visit http://hk-usa.com/hk-models/vp9-sk/.
To purchase a VP9 series pistol on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?Keyword=VP9.