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Preview – Heckler & Koch VP9 Striker-Fired 9mm Pistol

HK Takes Aim at the Civilian Market

There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to HK. Detractors feel Heckler & Koch (pronounced hek-lur and coke) firearms are unnecessarily complicated, over-engineered, and overpriced. The HK aficionados (this author included) believe HKs are German works of art with the utmost quality and engineering brought together to create their vision of perfection. After all, HK’s tagline is “In a world of compromise, some don’t.” HK’s methodology behind their firearms design is somewhat complicated and requires further explanation. Until recently, HK’s primary drive was to design and manufacture cutting-edge firearms for its military and law enforcement customers, often releasing products to the civilian market only as an afterthought. Since its inception in 1949, HK has worked closely with German police (Bundespolizei) and military (Bundeswehr) to design, develop, and test new firearms platforms.

All fanboyism aside, you don’t need to be an HK aficionado to recognize the instrumental role they have played in producing some of the world’s most iconic and reliable firearms. The list is long, but some notable favorites include the MP5 submachine gun, HK416 carbine, P7 squeeze cocker, G3 rifle, and US SOCOM Mark 23. These are just a few of the many innovative firearms created by HK and used worldwide by law enforcement agencies and military units, including the United States.


In June of this year, HK announced the VP9, a polymer framed striker-fired pistol designed and marketed towards the civilian market — a monumental step for the German manufacturer. VP stands for “Volkspistole,” which translates to “people’s pistol.” It’s about time that the company stepped out of its usual military and police box and offered a pistol designed with civilian consumers in mind.

Many will also say that it’s about time HK released a striker-fired pistol. But in fact HK has a long history of firsts. They are actually the first firearms manufacturer to produce a polymer-framed striker-fired pistol (the VP70), which predated the Glock 17 by nearly 12 years. That being said, Glock was the first to successfully introduce a polymer striker-fired pistol into the U.S. market and has been the de facto standard for almost three decades.

Development History
The VP9 actually began life as the P40, an attempt by HK Germany to design a new pistol for the German police. The P40 project began four years ago and was derailed nearly two years into development when HK decided to pull the plug. It was then that HK management made the decision to collaborate with HK USA to turn the P40 into a pistol for the people.

HKVP 9 - P30 - VP70

“We began to make a push towards being less of a military firearms manufacturer and more geared towards the civilian market,” said Jason Koon, HK-USA’s Shooting Team Captain.

What started out as another project for its military customers morphed into what you see here today, the VP9. The culmination of input from German police and HK-USA’s shooting team gave HK what it needed to finish development of HK’s first polymer, striker-fired offering in nearly 45 years. “We worked hard to develop a striker pistol that offered an exceptional trigger out of the box, and I think we achieved that,” said Koon.

Out With the Old
HK took design cues from their popular P30, which has enjoyed success in the United States since 2006. Although the VP9 resembles the P30 in many ways, the internals and ergonomics are a vast departure from the P30. “Take the gun apart and it is nothing like anything we have ever done before,” said Koon. Despite this, the VP9 is backward compatible with many parts from the P30. “The sights, magazines, and even the side grip panels from the P30 are compatible on the VP9,” said Koon.

HK listened to feedback from its customers and made significant external improvements over the P30 as well. Most notable is the higher grip angle and lower bore axis, giving the shooter less felt recoil while maintaining the P30’s sight picture. Ergonomics have also been refined with a larger trigger guard, while the European-style magazine release paddle has been raised and tucked further back into the shooters grip, coming closer to mimicking a frame-mounted magazine release.


The VP9 ships with three (small, medium, and large) interchangeable backstraps and three pairs of grip inserts. This allows users to customize the grip with 27 different combinations, building the pistol into one that best fits their hand. Other frame enhancements include a full-length 1913 picatinny rail, slimmed down ambidextrous controls, an enlarged magwell, and improved contouring for concealed carry.

New to an HK is the use of a takedown lever, an improvement when it comes to user safety. The lever cannot be rotated while a magazine is inserted, so in order to disassemble the gun, you have to remove the mag. Then, the takedown lever is rotated and the slide slides forward off the frame — unlike many other striker-fired pistols, there’s no need to pull the trigger. If the slide binds, simply apply a little pressure downward on the rear of the slide while pushing it off. Reverse this procedure to reassemble the pistol.


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