Heckler & Koch VP9 Striker-Fired Semi-Automatic 9x19mm Pistol

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

June 27th, 2014


Click pictures for a larger version.





Charging supports.









Sixteen-shot group, fired standing offhand at fifteen yards.



Ambidextrous slide lock levers.



Cocking indicator.





Disassembly lever.



Ambidextrous magazine release.



Extractor serves as a visual and tactile loaded-chamber indicator.





Heckler & Koch has introduced their first striker-fired pistol design in over thirty years. HK pioneered striker-fired pistols with the introduction of the VP70 and VP70z. These were also the first polymer-framed pistols, preceding the Glock by a decade. The latest striker-fired pistol from HK is the VP9, which is the subject of this review.

At first glance, the VP9 looks like just another polymer-framed double-stack 9x19mm pistol. That it is, but the details in the execution of the design puts the HK VP9 a cut above many of the similar pistols on the market. The workmanship and finish of the VP9 are first rate. There are no visible tool marks, inside nor out.

One notable feature of the VP9 is the excellent trigger pull, for a pistol of this type. The trigger on the test pistol released crisply with four and one-quarter pounds of resistance, after a short, smooth take-up. Like most pistols of this type, the VP9 also has the thin blade "safety" inset into the trigger blade. The trigger must be preset by cycling the slide, either manually for the first shot, or by the firing cycle of subsequent shots, until the slide locks back on an empty magazine. The steel magazine holds fifteen cartridges, for a ready-to-go capacity of sixteen. Ten-round magazines are available, for those who live where the populace keeps electing idiots for legislators.

The grip of the VP9 can be conformed to fit almost any hand, by switching the backstraps and side panels. The pistol ships with three backstraps of various sizes, and three pairs of side panels, to allow for a custom fit to the shooter's hand.

The VP9 sits relatively low in the shooter's hand, for a straight-back recoil impulse, allowing for faster follow-up shots. The front of the trigger guard is grooved and slightly concave, for shooters who like to place the trigger finger of the support hand in that position, as I do. Don't judge me. I was taught that way. Every time I shoot at Gunsite, the instructors threaten to remove my finger, permanently. The trigger guard is also large enough to accommodate a gloved finger.

Another feature that I really like on the VP9 is a very simple one, but highly useful for those who have limited hand strength: the protruding ears at the rear of the slide to help the operator to manipulate the slide rearward to chamber a cartridge. HK calls them "charging supports". They protrude about one-tenth of an inch outward from the sides of the slide. Whether you grasp the slide with thumb and forefinger, or push the slide rearward with the hand atop the slide, the supports make the operation easier, and will make the difference between not being able to operate the weapon and doing so successfully, for those with limited hand strength. Great idea. Also, if not desired for some reason, the charging supports are easily removed.

The slide to barrel and slide to frame fit of this weapon are very tight; not overly so, but enough to eliminate play between the upper and lower halves of this pistol, aiding overall quality and accuracy. The sights are the familiar three-white-dot pattern, and both front and rear sights are adjustable by drifting in the slide dovetails. The sights are also, thankfully, made of steel. Tritium night sights are an option, if desired.

The large extractor also serves as a visual and tactile loaded-chamber indicator, and the rear of the firing pin (striker) is painted red, to serve as a visual cocking indicator. The controls on the VP9 are ambidextrous. On the right side of the pistol is a slide lock release lever to accommodate left-handed shooters. The magazine release is also ambidextrous, and is located at the rear of the trigger guard. The levers push downward to release the magazine, and are easily reached with the trigger finger or the thumb of the shooting hand.

The carbon steel slide is coated with a corrosion-resistant carbon-nitride finish. The black hammer-forged barrel has polygonal rifling, which should reduce fouling buildup and make cleaning easier. The front of the frame wears a section of 1913 Picatinny spec rail for the installation of a laser or white light.

Critical specifications for the HK VP9 are listed in the chart below. Weights are listed in ounces. Linear dimensions are listed in inches. Trigger pull is listed in pounds of resistance, as measured with my Lyman digital trigger pull scale. Height includes sights and magazine base with the magazine in place. Maximum width is measured across the grip portion of the frame, with the medium-sized grip panels installed.

Chambering 9x19mm
Weight with Empty Magazine 26.4 ounces
Trigger Pull 4.25 pounds
Barrel Length 4.1 inches
Barrel Diameter 0.546 inch
Overall Height 5.47 inches
Overall Length 7.25 inches
Grip Thickness 1.33 inches
Frame Width 1.08 inches
Slide Width 1.14 inches
Maximum Width 1.33 inches
Trigger Reach 2.78 inches
Magazine Capacity 15
Magazines Supplied 2
Accessory Rail Yes, Picatinny Spec
MSRP, as of June 27, 2014 $719.00 US

I fired a variety of ammunition through the VP9 over the chronograph to check velocities, with the results listed in the chart below. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second. Bullet weights are listed in grains. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet. DPX, Buffalo Bore Lead Free, and Double Tap Tac-XP  are hollow-nose homogenous copper bullets that are made by Barnes Bullets. Guard Dog is a FMJ with a soft plastic core to promote rapid expansion. FP is a frangible, pre-fragmented flatnose bullet. FMJ is a full metal jacket roundnose bullet. PB is Pow’RBall, a specialty bullet from Cor-Bon. Glaser is a pre-fragmented bullet. Velocities were taken at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of eighty-eight degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of forty-six percent. Velocities were recorded at ten feet from the muzzle.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Buffalo Bore Lead Free +P HP 95 1370
Buffalo Bore Lead Free +P HP 115 1166
Federal Guard Dog 105 1056
Double Tap +P Tac-HP 115 1010
Double Tap +P FMJ 147 1007
Atomic +P HP 124 1100
WCC NATO FMJ 124 996
Fiocchi FMJ 115 1038
Buffalo Bore +P JHP 124 1222
Buffalo Bore +P JHP 115 1273
Buffalo Bore +P+ JHP 115 1401
Buffalo Bore +P JHP 147 1060
Cor-Bon Glaser 80 1516
Cor-Bon +P JHP 115 1301
Cor-Bon Pow'RBall 100 1262
Cor-Bon +P DPX 115 1146
Cor-Bon +P JHP 125 1241
Stryker FMJ 115 888

Shooting the VP9 yielded no surprises. As expected, the HK pistol fed, fired, and ejected every cartridge that I loaded into it. In other words, it ran like an HK. The trigger action is butter-smooth, which contributed greatly to the practical accuracy of the pistol. The slide never failed to lock open on an empty magazine, and the mags fed flawlessly. The pistol points very well in my hand, and handles the recoil beautifully. There is no pain to the hand when shooting this VP9, even with +P+ ammunition.  

Another notable feature of the VP9 is its price. The VP9 is made in Germany, and that usually means it will be relatively expensive, compared with other pistols of its type, but the VP9 is priced well below the cost of other HK semi-automatic pistols. As of the date of this review, the suggested retail price is $719 US, and that price includes a hard case, instructions, HK decal, two magazines, and the extra grip and backstrap inserts. 

Check out the VP9 and other HK firearms online at www.hk-usa.com or www.heckler-koch.com.

For the location of an HK dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.

To order the VP9 online, click on the GUN GENIE at www.galleryofguns.com.

To order quality 9x19mm ammunition, go to www.buffalobore.com, www.midsouthshooterssupply.com, www.luckygunner.com, and www.doubletapammo.com.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.



VP9 comes with hard case, two magazines, instructions, decal, backstraps, and grip sideplates.



Textured grip provides a secure hold without being abrasive.



Changing the configuration of the grip is quick and easy.