Heckler & Koch is about to begin shipping the VP9, its latest 9mm striker fired pistol, and the reports coming in could not be any more positive. From the adjustable grip panels to the trigger, the VP9 is taking a familiar platform and making some serious improvements, and doing it at a competitive price.
I’m an H&K fan. I’ve carried their full sized pistols for years. When the news leaked that they had a new striker fired pistol, I had high hopes. The early hype on the VP9 was that this pistol was going to be the most perfect incarnation of the striker fired design currently available. These are bold words. I’ve reviewed and carried all of the major striker fired guns. I’m a modifier. I buy guns that come close to doing what I want and then get out the Dremels and soldering irons and files. Yet the VP9 has a lot of the practical upgrades I’d expect from the custom shop at a price that looks more like a standard model. Could the hype be true?
Let’s get back to H&K. This isn’t a brand we typically associate with modern striker fired guns, but the company started the striker fired trend 35 years ago when it created the P7 series. Why has H&K waited so long to get back into the game? The answer isn’t completely clear, but we’re glad it did. A gun like this, one that genuinely changes the market, will obviously appeal to the fans of H&K. It will also appeal to those who haven’t already established tenacious brand loyalties. And for the rest, the VP9 will force innovation.
What makes this gun so great?
Here’s a list to hold you over until you get some trigger time. The VP9 has both forward and rear cocking serrations that allow for numerous ways to manipulate the slide. The heavy-duty extractor doubles as a loaded chamber indicator, giving a good visual indicator that isn’t likely to break off or get in the way. There’s also a cocked firing pin indicator. There are ambidextrous slide releases and an ambidextrous H&K-style magazine release. For those who want accessories, the VP9 has a full-length 1913 rail.
One of the interesting features of the frame is its replaceable side panels and back straps. The front of the grip has molded finger grooves that are designed to increase the grip and to make point shooting more intuitive. The trigger guard is slightly enlarged, too, to round out the package.
The cold hammer forged barrel is typical for the H&K guns. These are solid barrels that should never give you any trouble. H&K tested barrels for its 9mm P30 out to 90,000 rounds. Like some of the others in this field, the barrels use polygonal rifling. The captive flat recoil spring is easy to get to, thanks to the VP9’s easy take down design. The sights have been streamlined to keep them snag free. They glow, but aren’t radioactive. My only criticism of the sights is the pyramid shape of the rear sight, which makes the VP9 more difficult to cock one-handed.
H&K is also paving new roads with its “patented charging supports.” These are like speed-bumps at the rear of the slide. Instead of being cut into the slide, these stick out, just enough to allow you to maximize the energy you put into charging the pistol. They’re supposed to make it easier for shooters with reduced hand strength to operate the slide, too.
It ships with one 15 round magazine. That seems to be typical for guns this size. Still, it can be a hassle. New guns, especially, are sometimes hard to find magazines for. And no one in their right mind would own a pistol with only one magazine.
Maybe the single best feature of the VP9 is the trigger. The trigger breaks clean, with very little take-up. H&K describes it as a “single action type” break. And the reset is short. H&K is bragging about this feature, and for good reason. The trigger is predictable and incredibly efficient. The one on this VP9 breaks at 5.5 pounds.
Shooting the VP9
Shooting the VP9 is more of a pleasure than a task. With a superb trigger pull, clear sights and a grip pieced together just for me, I found myself only putting the gun down to let it cool. My groups were tighter than they are with most guns like this, and my split times felt non-existent. This gun was built to run, and run fast! Speed is one attribute that needs to be highlighted. With H&K’s new recoil spring, light weight and highly textured frame, the VP9 can be ripped out of the holster and emptied fast. After the first few magazines, I was drawing from the holster and connecting with the red plate in the middle of the torso target with very little reliance on the sights.
Loading the pistol has also been simplified thanks to a beveled magazine well, forward and rear cocking serrations, and the ambidextrous magazine and slide releases. It doesn’t matter if you’re a left-handed operator or a right, though ejection still kicks out on the right side. I tested the gun southpaw for 100 rounds and had no issues loading it or manipulating any of the controls. The gun simply works at all angles and in any situation.
Clearing malfunctions on this gun would be a breeze. The only time I got to experience this is when I purposely created them. With highly textured surfaces at every end of the gun, you can grab any portion and have a purchase that is superior to 99% of out-of-the-box guns. Another feature the VP9 offers in this department is recessed areas around the magazine well that allow you to strip a magazine in the unimaginable scenario that the gun has a double feed.
Cleaning the gun is a breeze, and a safe one at that. No need to pull the trigger to disassemble the gun. The safety police can rest easy. You cannot disassemble the gun with a magazine in the weapon, again making it nearly impossible to have accidental discharges. But it will fire with a round in the chamber, so pay attention to the basic rules of safety and keep your finger off the trigger unless you intend to shoot something.
This is just the beginning for H&K
H&K changed things with its first striker fired guns. Now the company is doing it again. The VP9’s standard features and out-of-box trigger puts it on the same tier as semi-custom to high-end custom offerings. H&K hit this one out of the park; I’m rarely this impressed with any gun. After running 600 rounds at the range, I was hooked. This is by far the greatest handgun for the money and very well could become the greatest striker fired option, period.
The VP9 has a limited lifetime warranty and is being imported from Germany. The suggested retail price of the VP9 is $719, which means it will compete well. And with performance like this, I would highly recommend that you check it out before you make your next acquisition.