H&K VP9B – From Oberndorf with love?

Holster courtesy of Red Balloon Industries

Recently I got the chance to lay hands on the newest iteration of the venerable Heckler & Koch VP9. The long-awaited optics-ready variant of the VP9B, H&K’s chosen champion in the highly competitive striker-fired arena. Everything the American market demands, with the legendary reliability of H&K? Yes please, I’ll take it for a spin.

German Engineering at its finest

The VP9 family actually extends back to 2014. Among the last of the major players to enter the striker-fired market, it feels in some ways like H&K has been playing catch up ever since. Due to a heavily saturated market, it was easy to miss the release. I had a few friends over the years that adopted the original VP9, but not a lot. I shot less than probably 100 rounds from the platform until my test item arrived. I’m very glad it did. As they say, he who laughs last laughs the longest. And with this newest VP9B, Heckler & Koch should be laughing all the way to the bank.

Updated models are 17 rounds flush fit

Having very little exposure to the previous models allowed me to look at the newest VP9B like a completely new gun. And in relatively short order, I can tell you this. It is the first gun in quite some time that has me seriously contemplating a full-time shift from my usual plastic fantastic. For an MSRP of $899, and a street price closer to $750, you get a LOT of gun.

And factory 20 rounders are now available

The most dynamic difference between a VP9 and any other polymer is obvious when you pick it up. Or look at the grip where you would pick it up for that matter. It is quite obvious that H&K consulted an actual human in grip design, which it would seem is a far bridge these days. The grip of the gun is actually contoured, with swells to match your hands. Out of the box, it already feels different.

But it doesn’t stop there. Most competitive polymers today have interchangeable back straps to match differing hand sizes. H&K has that, and then some. They also had removable side panels, which increase the diameter and contours. Out of the box, you can create 27 unique grip shapes to suit your hand.

Very nice night sights, out of the box

I have heard H&K fanboys swoon over the VP9’s trigger, which I will confess I wrote off as nonsense. Having now had mine around for months, my opinion has changed. Out of the box, yes, it is already among the best. For, you know, a striker gun. By that I mean it was crisp, did not have a huge amount of pre-travel, and had a definitive break point. A well-designed trigger “wall”, aka the point where the trigger travels no further without releasing the striker, is worth its weight in gold. Five-pound lawyer standard or not, the VP9’s was quite good.

Robust screws on optics cut cover

But over the course of a few hundred rounds, some magic happens. As break-in takes place, the trigger gets even smoother. By four hundred, it was really as good as the fanboys say. Of all the duty pistols I own with factory internals, this is in fact the best of the lot. It’s arguably as good as the best Glock race trigger I’ve ever felt and with absolutely nothing done to it except shooting. I would wager that a Bruce Gray special would put it past anything else on the market.

Very well-blended controls

The B, which makes our VP9 specifically a B model, means button. In this context, that means H&K built a specific model for us Yankees that prefer a magazine release BUTTON to a European-style paddle. I’m actually a fan of the paddle, but it is a deal breaker for many. Either way, it works and is reversible for those of an incorrect-handed nature. The slide release is also ambi, though done in a distinct H&K style. This makes it unobtrusive for us correct-handed folks, so much so that you don’t even notice it is there. But it is very functional if you switch hands.

Overall I would have to call the controls on the VP9 blended. That is an odd word, but it’s the best description I can think of. In an age of extended and oversized controls, that is what we expect to see. The VP9’s controls mesh with the overall design so well as to look, well, invisible. Yet I never missed them in use. It is borderline magic, and a hat tip to the ergonomic design team. Well done.

Front serrations, and a picatinny rail

Up top, we have what I consider out-of-the-box perfection. H&K uses a dovetailed front and rear sight, which in my experience is the most sturdy option. The XS tritium sights are fantastic night or day, with the bright neon green ring around the front vial. The rear is cut with a reverse slope, ensuring one-handed racking off the sight will be reliable.

Rear cocking supports
cocking supports, from the rear

The optics cut, while a long time coming, is exactly what we wanted to see. It is deep, and most importantly robust. H&K uses screws here with some girth, which in my experience means they don’t sheer off. Looking at you, polymer “industry leader by volume”. The gun comes with no mounting plates, but they are readily available from H&K for your optic of choice. Not enclosing every plate cuts down on consumer costs, and $39.95 isn’t a terrible add-on price.

Polygonal rifling

One of the odder selling points of the VP9 is the cocking supports in the rear. It features front and rear cocking serrations, which by now we expect. The cocking supports are different. They look like small wings protruding on the sides of the slide, just below the rear sight. This sounded like a gimmick, but I find myself now a fan. Not only are they not obtrusive, but they do make racking the slide easier, especially if you are a thumb and forefinger guy. They are removable if you wish, but trust me. Try the VP9 with them for a day, and you will be sold.

well placed slide release

Overall, the VP9 is an absolute joy to shoot. Its superior ergonomics do translate directly to the range, as I noticed my first day blasting with it. The trigger is not only fantastic, but it really helps exploit the famous H&K accuracy. I’m not a huge fan of accuracy testing in pistols, but you can tell right away this one is special. If you have been thinking about upgrading your combat Tupperware, now is the time. For my money, the VP9 is like nothing else.

ambi slide release
winning the author over, 20 rounds at a time

Solid ejection
Reloads where fast and easy

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

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  • Sweet Polygonal Purebread March 22, 2023, 7:48 pm

    Look closer. I don’t know what passes for polygonal these days, but lands and grooves are definitely absent.

  • William Davis March 20, 2023, 11:39 pm

    Clay– Get to writing some more books. Thanks for the gun reviews too.

  • John March 20, 2023, 5:19 pm

    Looks like lands and grooves rifling to me. Not polygonal.

  • BCS March 20, 2023, 12:33 pm

    I have the full size as well as the SK, been shooting them for years and both are outstanding. However, the paddle mag release, which is ambidextrous, is FAR superior to the button. If more people got to use the paddle, they would agree that more guns would and should have them.
    Good review, thanks Clay.

  • Mike March 20, 2023, 12:24 pm

    I own a VP9SK and it’s the most accurate pistol I own. I’m not surprised you love this gun.

  • Big Al 45 March 20, 2023, 10:03 am

    I prefer my VP 40 to my other ‘plastic’ guns.
    But then, I also prefer my HK 93 to my AR, so………..

    • Meeester March 20, 2023, 12:33 pm

      VP40 downloaded to 140 power factor* shoots decidedly softer than same gun in 9 running 132PF factory anmo; 115gr@1150fps.
      Not even close.

      *(40 powder coated 175gr@800)
      Same thing with P30L in 9 vs 40

  • Zac March 20, 2023, 9:23 am

    Thanks for confirming the bias of a long-time HK fanboy, and telling me and others like me what we’ve known for nearly a decade. Glad to have you on the wagon!

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