6 Years In - The Heckler & Koch VP9 9mm Pistol

A Heckler & Koch VP9 - 2014 edition - with spare magazines and a Bravo Concealment Magazine Pouch + Holster.

Guns are generally durable items. A well-made and maintained 9mm pistol or AR-15 will last decades or more, probably outlasting the lifetime of it’s original owner, even with regular use. Introduced in mid-2014, the Heckler & Koch VP9 9mm pistol is well on track to be one of those long-lasting firearms…

I’m speaking from personal experience and fairly heavy use of course. I acquired my VP9 in 2014, shortly after they hit the shelves of gun shops around the nation. Partly to satisfy my desire to own an H&K (yes, I’m aware the VP9 may be H&K throwing a bone to us poors), partly to move away from a pistol with a manual safety (the still-cool Beretta Px4 Storm), and partly because I wanted a full-size “duty” pistol for carry - I sought out the VP9, acquiring one rather fast at my local Shoot Straight franchise. Needless to say it was Liebe auf den ersten Blick - love at first sight. Before we dive into the utility and success of H&K’s re-entry into the striker-fired pistol market, let’s see where it came from.

What Led Up To The Heckler & Koch VP9

Announced in 2014, a lot of people initially thought that the VP9 was H&K’s first polymer striker-fired pistol, but in fact it wasn’t. H&K first ventured into the polymer striker-fired pistol market in 1970, with the introduction of the VP70. Most people think GLOCK pioneered the striker-fired polymer pistol - whereas it was actually one of the first, beating Gaston’s wonder by a decade. The VP70 was initially designed as a machine pistol, with a sizzling fire rate of 2200 RPM. Of course, this model was only legally available to government users, and saw limited adoption in Germany and with some tin-pot Third World despot nations. The semi-auto variant, the VP70Z, made it over to the US, but saw limited sales, and H&K quietly pulled it from the market in the 80s after Gaston Glock routed his Teutonic cousins to the north by conquering the US law enforcement and commercial markets.

H&K then stayed away from the striker-fired gun market for the next 40 years, sticking to tried-and-true hammer-fired pistols both of steel and polymer design, which many enjoyed great success in military and law enforcement circles, as well as US citizens with the cash and credit limits to play the H&K game.

In 2014, that all changed, of course…

Primary Arms

The VP9 - H&K Finally Goes For The Masses

New gun announcements are usually variations on a theme. Gun company announces some iterative upgrade of an existing product, claims it’s the “next big thing”, bloggers piss and moan about it but review it anyways, people buy it, rinse and repeat. H&K announcing a polymer striker-fired pistol at a sub-$700 street price definitely upended things that year. As noted, H&K hadn’t dabbled in that market segment in decades, and had never had a gun at that price point. H&K was squarely in the “BMW“ segment - you paid a premium for the name and the quality. And there they went with something that was clearly more Volkswagen than Beemer. Heck, even the name shouted mass-market - “Volkspistole” is German for People’s Pistol. Clearly, H&K wanted a bigger piece of the US citizen market. Furthermore, the debut market was the US citizen sector and not Germany or a military force.

Sidebar: Oddly enough, in Germany itself, the VP9 is known as the SFP9. My theory is that since Germany is strict about it’s subjects possessing weapons, calling something a “Volkspistole” might be a little weird, so they went with SFP, which stands for Striker-Fired Pistol. I’m probably wrong though.

The reaction would have been typical if any other gun company had dropped a new polymer striker-fired 9mm pistol. But since it was H&K, and at that price point, the gun press went a little wild. This was pre-Regular Guy Guns, so all I did was read, and want. The price point alone had me jumping.

Specifications of the 2014 H&K VP9

Out of the box, the H&K VP9 is a full-sized “duty” pistol as it were.

  • Height: 5.41″
  • Length: 7.34″
  • Width: 1.32″
  • Barrel: 4.09” 1/9.8 inch twist, 6 groove rifling, right hand twist
  • Weight: 25.56 ounces with empty magazine inserted
  • Sight radius (distance between both sights): 6.38”
  • Trigger pull weight: 5.25 lbs
  • Magazine capacity: 10 (slave states) 15 (2014 model) 17 (2020 model) 20 round factory mags are a thing, too.
  • Caliber: 9x19mm Luger/NATO

For comparison, it’s around the same size as a GLOCK 17, which is on the hip of many a US police officer, although the VP9 is a little shorter lengthwise. Again, this is a full-size 9mm pistol.

Six Years Of The Heckler and Koch VP9 9mm Pistol

Eager to get an H&K, I couldn’t wait for this pistol to drop and hit the real and virtual shelves. However, I’m not such a crazed fanboy (of any product), that I get them on day one. With iPhones I was content to let the loons line up and get the first batch. With the VP9, a tool that I wanted to trust to defend my life and the lives of those I cared about, I was going to take the same precautions. Typically the first batch of any product is usually where the most glaring defects show up, and successive batches are adjusted accordingly when possible. I couldn’t contain myself though, and maybe it was the fact that Oktoberfest had kicked in over in Germany, so in late September of that year, I ran out to the local Shoot Straight affiliate (since the VP9 was in stock there) and picked one up.

Out of the stylish H&K-logo’d carrying case, it was great. Dark grey and utilitarian, it shipped with an extra 15-round magazine, different sized backstraps and grip panels (which proved handy - I went a size down for comfort), the “birth brass” or whatever you call it - the casing from the first cartridge shot through the gun, and of course a manual with the usual handling procedures and details. The aggressive serrations and the trademark “ears” on the rear of the slide make racking and manipulating the gun quite easy, even for someone new to the game.

Visual cues such as a loaded chamber indicator (by the chamber) and a cocking indicator (the red “dot” on the rear of the slide) provide extra assurance to some as to the state of the firearm. Of course, safe gun handling should still be exercised.

The 2014 edition of the gun shipped with night sights, though they are of the type that require light to “charge” much like glow-in-the-dark paint. The 2020 edition does ship with a tritum night-sight setup, though. That being said, the sights on the 2014 are easily upgradable. At the time, it wasn’t a make-or-break proposition for me. The features rocked in my book, but of course, the true test - how does it carry and how does it run?

The VP9 In Real Life

I’ve had the VP9 at my side for six years now. I’ve done my daily life with it, and traveled throughout multiple states with it. Going from a compact Beretta Px4 Storm to a full-sized pistol took some adjusting in terms of carry methods, clothing, and practices, but I rapidly became comfortable with the gun as my everyday carry piece. Yes, you can carry a full-sized duty pistol, concealed, with the right holster and clothing combination. And a sturdy belt, of course. They say a gun at your side should be comforting, but isn’t required to be comfortable. One can achieve comfort, even with a gun the size of the VP9. On the carry tip - it’s excellent. You know it’s there, but it’s not obtrusive. Rock a proper holster, like the ones from Bravo Concealment, and you’ll be surprised.

In terms of shooting performance, out of the box - the gun works, and keeps working. Since my purchase, I’ve run around 6000 rounds through the gun, with no major malfunctions at all, utiizing both the factory barrel and later, a Silencerco VP9 threaded barrel. By my estimates I ran 4000 down the factory barrel, and 2000 down the Silencerco barrel. I haven’t replaced a component otherwise, though I do have a spare recoil spring and guide rod assembly just in case, since that’s a known wear component common to all pistols.

The trigger is great for a factory trigger - and if you’re at the point where it’s not enough for your accuracy game, it’s easily replaced.

The only issues I ran into I can clearly attribute to user error (i.e. my thumb going a little too high on the grip and messing with the slide release lever, causing a failure to lock back) or bad ammo - during an intense training session there was a failure to fire, I worked through it and kept going. The instructor picked up the dud round after and attributed it to a defective primer.

But at no point over those 6000 rounds has the gun itself posed a problem. It’s solid. Whether I’ve run it or not, I give it some TLC every few weeks, and it just keeps going.

The H&K VP9 runs well with a suppressor. I’ve run with a Silencerco Octane 45, an AAC can of which I forget the specific model, and a Gemtech Lunar 9. The VP9 didn’t miss a beat.

Some gripe about the ambidextrous paddle-style magazine release, and how you have to potentially change your grip to manipulate it. I’ve found with practice, you can maintain a positive grip on the gun, and work the release. It’s grown on me. There’s newer variants, denoted with a “B” in the name, that have a traditional button for magazine release, but I’m comfy with the paddles.

And yes, those “ears” on the slide are great.

Brownells

Downsides

Like any product engineered by mere mortals, the VP9 does have a few downsides, but they aren’t anything that could be a dealbreaker. Some may find fault with the paddle-style magazine releases, but now the VP9 has a “B” variant with a button release. Problem solved, if it’s a problem at all. Also, since compared to a GLOCK, the VP9 isn’t as common, accessories are comparatively limited, though this is just in comparison - common accessories for the VP9 such as lights, lasers, spare magazines, tritium sights, and so on are easy to find.

Conclusions

The Heckler and Koch VP9 has stood the test of time for me. While six years of service may not be a lot, it’s still something respectable in terms of reliability. The gun is accurate out of the box (probably more accurate than you or me), reliable, and a great value for the money, especially for a Heckler & Koch firearm. Whether it’s the 2014 version, or the 2020 variant - get it.

I also think the VP9 as a whole is evolving into a “platform” rather than a mere pistol. With several variants now on the market, including the subcompact VP9SK, and the .40 S&W variant VP40, there is a course of evolution.

I can’t wait…

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