Heckler & Koch VP9 Review

VP9 deco 2

The rumors started about the same time the HK P30 came out: “Is Heckler & Koch going to make a striker fired gun?” They continued until reaching a crescendo at SHOT Show 2014, where everyone assumed that HK would announce the new striker fired pistol. But then it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen at NRA Annual Meetings in 2014 either, and many people were left scratching their heads. But HK did have a striker fired pistol in the works, but they weren’t going to release until they were good and ready. Now it’s here, and the question is can it live up to the hype?

HK VP9 deep blue

The short answer would appear to be a simple “yes.” A more complicated answer of course is why you’re reading this, so let’s get into the review of the HK VP9 striker fired pistol. First up, the hard numbers.

  • Caliber: 9mx19, aka 9mm Parabellum/Luger/NATO
  • Browning recoil operated
  • Striker fired
  • 15+1 capacity where legal, 10 round magazines available
  • Barrel Length: 4.09 inches
  • Sight radius: 6.38 inches
  • Weight w/empty mag: 26.56 oz
  • Weight, loaded: 32 oz
  • Trigger pull: Factory stated 5.4 pounds, measured at 4.25 pounds
  • Interchangeable grip panels: out the yinyang

HK VP9 profile

Now let’s get to the good stuff, the shooting. Here’s the evaluation that the HK VP9 went through at the range yesterday: 25 yard groups with various ammo types, standard drills (Dot Torture twice, the 99 drill once) and general action/defensive shooting training. Draws, reloads, transitions. The VP9 ate 375 rounds of various types of ammo without a single bobble or hiccup. It even fed steel cased Tula 9mm ammo without issue. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 50 rounds Hornady Critical Defense 115 grain FTX
  • 25 rounds Freedom Munitions 115 grain XTP
  • 50 rounds 124 grain American Eagle FMJ
  • 100 rounds 115 grain TulAmmo steel cased
  • 50 rounds Winchester 124 gr NATO FMJ
  • 50 rounds CCI Blazer 115 gr aluminum cased FMJ
  • 50 rounds Freedom Munitions 147 gr FMJ

HK VP9 1.7 inch group

We use Dot Torture as a test of a pistol’s shootability; the first run through at 5 yards was a fairly disappointing 46/50, which was caused by jumping the trigger on two of the strings of fire. After taking a break from accuracy drills, Dot Torture was attempted again, this time getting a clean score of 50/50. On the 99 Drill, I shot a 92/99, which is a PR on that drill for me. The VP9 turned in excellent groups with all types of ammo used. The Hornady Critical Defense FTX continued to blow me away with its accuracy, turning in a 1.7 inch group standing freestyle at 25 yards. All of the groups were shot standing, with a two hand grip. No rests or supports were used. With the Freedom Munitions XTP, the result was a 1.8 inch group, CCI Blazer turned in a 2 inch group, and the worst group of the day was a 2.3 inch group from the steel cased Tula.

HK VP9

Objectively, we can establish that the VP is accurate and reliable, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise. It is, after all, an HK. The P30 from which this is derived has a legendary reputation for reliability, with an individual sample going over 90,000 rounds. But what about subjective characteristics like recoil? Prior to running this gun, most of my personal trigger time had been with a Beretta Px4 Storm, which is one of the softest recoiling polymer pistols on the market. Compared to the Storm, the recoil impulse of the VP9 is a bit snappier, and imparts a little bit more torque to the strong hand wrist. But it’s still a 9mm, so recoil is really not that big a deal. In fact, I was able to change the felt recoil impulse by playing around with the backstraps and grip inserts until I found the combo that made the gun fit my hand the way I liked it. My combo is small backstrap, medium right side panel, large left side panel. This gives me a bit of a “bump” at the bottom of the grip to fill the palm of my strong hand, doesn’t force me to adopt an unpleasant grip angle, and gives me lots of gun to hold on to.

VP9 deco 2

The trigger has been the part that we’ve received the most questions about since posting yesterday that the test sample had arrived. Out of the box, it is top 3 striker fired triggers, going head to head against the Sig P320 and Walther PPQ. If you forced me to pick which one I like better, I’d probably say the VP9, but honestly between the three you’re splitting hairs anyway. It is light years better than a factory Glock, M&P, or XD trigger. The takeup is short, the break is positive without being crunchy, and the reset is instant. As a result, it’s really easy to shoot this gun quite fast. With the incredibly pleasant to shoot American Eagle 124 grain FMJ, I was pull on-target .19 splits to an 8 inch circle.

HK VP9

The paddle magazine release is a feature that hasn’t really caught on in the USA outside of a limited enthusiast circle. Walther dropped it from their PPQ, however HK has persisted in using it, and it is present on the VP9. Here’s a little secret: it’s faster than a button. It really is. The one thing is that it takes some getting used to, especially if like me you’ve been punching a button with your thumb for a decade or more. But with a bit of practice, once you get used to it, flipping your index finger down to hit the release really is a lot quicker. The other controls on the gun are thoughtfully laid out as well; the slide release is fully ambidextrous, and it’s placed in such a way that it’s easy to hit with the strong hand thumb on slide-lock reloads, but at the same time won’t get a case of premature slidelockulation from your support hand. Probably the weirdest feature of the gun are the gripping supports on the back, which HK refers to as charging supports. The charging supports allow for a positive grip on the slide during manipulations, they’re unobtrusive for carry, and honestly they just kind of work. I never consciously decided to use them, I just was, because they’re right there and it just makes sense.

HK VP9 with Hornady Critical Defense

So, the gun is great. It’s accurate, reliable, easy to shoot well, it has thoughtful features and impressive design. Is there anything wrong with it? Well, as usual with factory guns, the sights suck. They’re too big and blocky, and while that’s fine for precision target work, I found myself driving the front sight too far into the notch, or dipping the front sight when trying to line everything up. The dots are all the same size and same color, so at speed you have to take an extra moment and make sure the right dot is where you want it. Needless to say, the sights are coming off the pistol post-haste, to be replaced with 10-8 Performance sights.

VP9 slide detail

On the topic of accessories, I have several P30/L holsters on their way to me for test fitting. However, in testing around the office, I’ve found the following holsters work very well for the VP9, some without modification and some with minor tweaks:

  • Ready Tactical Glock 21SF holster (no mods)
  • Blade-Tech Nano IWB holster for a Sig P229 (some mods needed)
  • Blade-Tech Revolution OWB holster for a Sig P226R (no mods)
  • Comp-Tac OWB paddle for a Beretta Px4 Storm (some mods)
  • Blade-Tech Eclipse OWB for a M&P compact (some mods)

I’m currently carrying the VP9 in the Eclipse holster as I write this, and I did most of the range work yesterday from the Glock 21 holster. Holsters on order are an ALS from Safariland, a speed holster from Blade-Tech, several models from Galco.

Ultimately, this is a really great gun. What really brings it home, despite the features, the accuracy, the reliability, all of that; the real cherry on this Teutonic Sundae of Awesomeness? The price point. The MSRP on the VP9 is a paltry $719, which means the street price will probably come out to high $600s, probably $650-$699 in shops. Is it more than a Glock 17? Yes. But it’s not more than a Glock 17 once you change the sights on the Glock, fix the trigger, and stipple the grip.

It’s not often that a striker fired polymer 9mm really impresses me. But HK has put together a gun that really does. The quality you’re getting at the price point they’re asking is basically unheard of. This gun could serve as the gateway drug for a new generation of HK fanboys, they’ll start here, and then before you know it, they’re crawling gunbroker looking for P7s and USP Experts.

My plans for the VP9 are pretty straightforward: I’m going to shoot it in every single match, sport, and class I can. HKs have been tortured tested a lot before, and now it’s my turn to take one as far as I can go.

31 thoughts on “Heckler & Koch VP9 Review”

  1. How are you planning on carrying this? I know you are an occasional aiwb user, but with a striker gun many are uncomfortable using aiwb. Is the trigger short/light enough to sway you away from carrying in that fashion?

    1. Right now I’m carrying it in a strong side OWB holster. I will probably carry it IWB once I finish my OC series.

  2. Thanks for the good review, particularly the mix-and-match grip advice.

    As a point of philosophical pedantry, not a criticism, maybe describe capacity simply as “15+1”, as it is factory standard, and then note 10 round magazines are available for states with magazine restrictions. Philosophically, using “Where legal” implies standard cap. is a privilege and mag restrictions are an acceptable practice or standard.

    Given that idiotic mag restrictions are limited to a few backward states, always making it clear in thought and speech they are a temporarily tolerated exception to decent practice, de-normalizing them, is worth the time and bit of editing effort.

  3. Nice write-up Caleb. I will be putting the very first rounds through mine after the buzzer at a local steel match tomorrow. Afterward I’ll play around with the grip adjustments and also see if I can produce groups in line with yours.

      1. Boy howdy! And offhand to boot! Pretty damn sporty. I guess that Bianchi stuff is paying dividends. Do you have corrected vision?

        I too feel the trigger is sweet (dry fire) and the best note I can offer on Ergos is Mrs. Kelley liked the grip immediately.

        I am bothered that you may have predicted the rush to the HK brand as I am not usually predictable. Tomorrow’s range time will tell.

        1. My dominant eye has 20/10 vision. Regarding the group thing, I shoot 25 yard groups a lot for articles and for fun. I just practice them a lot, and over time I realized it was something I was okay at.

          I actually wish I was as good at USPSA as I am at slowfire accuracy. Because that would be more useful!

  4. Have you has an opportunity to shoot the FNS-9L? Since you are comparing stock, striker fire triggers, you might want to consider that one as well. Many people who shoot the FNS end up liking it more than the XDM and the Glock.

    1. I have, and I actually really like it. I just always forget about it, because they don’t really market that hard. It’s easy when I’m surrounded by Walther, Sig, Glock, and S&W ads all the time to not remember the company that doesn’t advertise.

  5. When you have a free moment, please shoot it with an attached flashlight let us know how it handles and whether or not it continues to function. See you at the Pro-Am.

    1. My t&e VP9 is running well (no malfunctions) with a Streamlight TLR-4 G attached to it. So far I’ve run 11 different loads through it (10 different from what Caleb listed) and I have to agree with Caleb’s assessment of the pistol. Mine has been reliable, easy recoiling and extremely accurate. Being able to swap side panels in addition to the backstrap is a really nice way to mate the gun to the hand.

      I think the one thing that I found different than Caleb is the trigger pull on my sample measured 5.5 pounds (using a Lyman electronic gauge).

      Nice review Caleb.

  6. Glad to hear that it’s a great pistol. If you get the chance, how about running some classifiers with it versus other similar (and even dissimilar) pistols. Maybe run El Prez with a handful that have been laying around the office.
    That 4.25 pound trigger was unexpected, and welcome.

  7. With a 4″ barrel and 15+1 capacity, it should be directly comparable to a Glock 19 instead of a 17. In comparison the HK is bigger and heavier. That said, you’ll need to replace the sights on both, and arguably work on the trigger on the 19 (though I’m happy with mine, I don’t compete with it.) It certainly seems to be in the ballpark though, and looks awful good. Again on the value standpoint: does it come with extra magazines? If not, does HK charge the usual exorbitant $60 or so for extras?

    I’ve tried the paddle mag-release on a Walther and I have to say, it intrigues me. I can see how it may well be a superior mechanism.

  8. For those of us with short fingers and who carry on the hip, would you mind measuring the trigger reach and the height to the top of the slide, please?

  9. Would a Pro-Series Speed Rig – H&K P30L fit?
    Also what type of Fiber Optic site would you recommend. I did not see one on 10-8’s site for HK.

    thanks!

          1. That is incredibly helpful. Thank for your the reply and the great reviews. I’m a Steyr L9-A1 fan, which this reminds me of, but I will be adding it as soon as I can find one.

            Next, hoping the start producing them in coyote and desert tan.

  10. Last time I read a review on an HK with paddle mag release it was written by Massad Ayoob. On that model [a few years ago] he said that [shooting right handed] the left paddle chewed the heck out of his trigger finger. I’d had my heart set on that gun until I saw it at a gun show and dry fired it. It was obvious that the same thing would happen to my trigger finger. Do you, Caleb, or anyone reading here have any remarks about that on this gun? If the paddles were somewhat abbreviated laterally, that might solve the problem. Any thoughts on this subject?

      1. Thanks for the replies. I’m not looking for an evaluation of Mas. I’m only interested in whether the mag release paddles have caused any trigger finger discomfort and if there’s any modification which can prevent that

        1. Mas is awesome. Highly respect him. His MAG40 and MAG80 courses are excellent.

      1. Thanks, what about the magazine holders? How would you compare the recoil of the vp9 to a glock 19?

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