Range Report: HK VP9 9mm

HK VP9 pistol left side black

Heckler and Koch’s list of innovations is a long one. The first polymer-framed handguns is most certainly at the from of the list.

HK’s VP9 handgun has been in the field long enough to prove that it is a reliable, accurate, and durable handgun. The VP9 combines a polymer frame with striker-fired technology. The VP9 is a result of market pressure for a more affordable HK as well as a polymer-frame, striker-fired handgun versus the hammer fired HK USP.

HK VP9 pistol left side black
The VP9 is a modern handgun with good features.

I have long been a fan of the HK P30. The HK P30 is accurate, reliable, and a favorite HK. The double-action first-shot HK P30 was a logical starting point of the VP9 project. The frame is practically identical to the HK P30, and the pistols share the same magazine. The side panels, not just the grip straps, are removable and changeable. This means that everyone will be able to get a good handfit. The geometry and texture of the frame make for excellent ergonomics.

No handgun offers a better design for combat use. While the VP9 is similar to the P30, the double-action first-shot P30 demands that the trigger finger come from above the trigger and to the rear. With the VP9, the press is straight to the rear. With the striker-fired VP9 trigger, the grip is subtly changed, resulting in a lower bore axis. It is noticeable to a trained shooter.

The VP9’s magazine release is the typical HK paddle release. Hit the magazine release and the magazine drops free. It works well. The slide lock is ambidextrous and very fast to manipulate. Another feature that makes handling easier is the generous cocking serrations. There are also two protrusions on the end of the slide that allow easily racking the slide on a belt or holster mouth if need be.

HK VP9 and expanded view of handgrip options
The author is unaware of another handgun offering the range of handfit offered by the VP9.

The VP9 differs from the P30 in that the VP9 is a striker-fired pistol. There is a safety lever in the trigger—in Glock fashion—but otherwise the VP9 is the familiar draw-and-shoot type of pistol. The trigger feels more like a single action than a double action. The trigger breaks at 6.0 pounds—ideal for most of us. Reset is rapid. During dry fire, the trigger reset was audible as I racked the slide.

I have been at this a long time, but the trigger took acclimation. The beginning saw average results. In the end, after concentration on the trigger and plenty of dry fire, I have a pistol that I am able to fire and hit better with than any other striker-fired handgun. The combination of the grip, trigger action, and good combat sights gave excellent results. For those willing to practice, the VP9 responds well. The fast reset allowed fast, and accurate, double taps and hammers.

Firing Test

The VP9 is among the most comfortable 9mm handguns to fire. The low bore axis resulted in less muzzle flip and recoil was straight back. Recoil was greater than a steel frame CZ 75 or Browning Hi Power simply because of the VP9’s lighter weight. As an example, when firing the Hornady 124-grain XTP, the difference in recoil in the new American Gunner 124-grain XTP +P was noticeable. I prefer the +P load for carry use and will practice to master it, but recoil is a factor, albeit a smaller factor for practiced shooters.

Galco Stow-N-G0 holster

The Galco Stow-N-G0 inside the waistband holster is ideal for concealed carry.

The majority of the cartridges fired were a handload that I have had good results with. A combination of the Hornady 124-grain FMJ bullet and enough WW231 powder for 1090 fps functions in every carbine and pistol I have tested it in. I fired a solid 400 cartridges in evaluating the VP9 for this report. (This was also important practice with a personal carry gun.) Results were excellent.

The VP9 is designed to be fast on target, to give good combat accuracy and fast follow up shots. It delivered. I fired a good quantity of the SIG Sauer 115-grain FMJ and a single magazine of the V Crown JHP load with good results. I also fired a quantity of the Hornady 124-grain XTP and the new 124-grain XTP +P load with excellent accuracy.

25 yards is a long reach for a handgun, but firing for accuracy from a solid benchrest gives some indication of the pistols quality and inherent accuracy potential. I fired a singular 2.5-inch group with most a little larger. With quality ammunition, the VP9 offers excellent accuracy. Overall, the VP9 is a handgun well worth its price. Performance is outstanding and pride of ownership is a plus. While there are less expensive handguns that offer good reliability, the HK is worth its price.

25-yard Tests, Five-shot Group, Average of Two Groups

Load Group Size
Hornady 124-grain XTP 2.5 in.
Hornady 124-grain XTP +P 2.6 in.
SIG Sauer 115-grain FMJ 3.0 in.

Handloads-Titegroup Powder

Load Speed Group Size
Hornady 124-grain FMJ 1090 fps 2.9 in.
Hornady 90-grain XTP 1388 fps 2.6 in.

Have you shot the VP9 or would you like to? Share your experiences in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. My fiance picked the HK VP9 over a Glock as her 1st ever pistol. She said it just felt right in her hand. She absolutely loves it and has become pretty good with it. Today we went to the local indoor range and she did very well at 25 yards hitting the metal plate. I like it way better than my M&P .40 and it’s alot more accurate than the 40. I had all kinds of problems hitting the plate with the .40 but no problems with the VP9. My next gun is going to be a .45. I’ve already owned a Glock model, but I’m gonna test out the HK variant before making a decision.

    We love the VP9.

    1. I have owned several Glocks, and I have always ended up selling or trading them. They are good, reliable pieces, but no Glock has ever felt good in my hand.. The VP9 I purchased immediately felt good in the hand, and it has a pretty good trigger. ‘Fact is, it felt so good, I picked up an HK P30 at the following gun show., which had the same good feeling in the hand as the VP9 plus it had some additional features that I like. This has also led me to the purchase of an HK USP Compact in .357SIG, which is one of my EDC pieces. While I own and carry several SIG Sauer pistols, the HK pistols are as good, if not better.

  2. I own both the Walther PPQ .45 and the H&K 9mm VP-9. I prefer the VP9 because of the better trigger (IMHO) and ergonomics and very low muzzle rise with standard ammo. The PPQ is lightweight, and thus has a pronounced muzzle rise and requires more time to get back on target. I think if the PPQ had a rail-mounted light, it would add enough heft in the right place to counter the muzzle rise.

  3. I guess my biggest complaint is buyers bias. I bought a USP 45 a long while back, after hearing and seeing its potential as the go to combat handgun.

    After about 500 rounds, I noticed that when I switched from it to a single action/striker gun, I was double tapping targets unwillingly, on the range with the USP. It was all due to over engineering. The gun was sound, the trigger was not. Way too heavy DA, way too light SA. It was meant to be carried cocked and locked (V1.)

    I loved that gun. But it was all wrong. It cost 850 bucks at the time, and a glock was 500.

    That was the change. HK has always been behind on these things. It’s unfortunate, because HK can build a handgun that will beat everything….until you drop it in water (Look it up, MAC did a test.)

    1. There’s a guy in Washington state that did a water test (on YouTube) after MAC did their test, and the VP9 didn’t miss a beat and had 0 failures. The Washington guy even fired the VP9 while completely submerged in water and it fired and locked the slide back on an open magazine.

  4. I have, and shoot the VP9, PPQ, P99(C) and P7M8. No CCP.
    Having tested the plastic guns side by side, it is a toss up. The PPQ and P99 win by price. I like the P7, P30SK and the P99C – AS for daily carry. I found the PPQ trigger a bit light, especially in .45. But, both the Walthers and VP9 have fantastic triggers!
    Any of these are really great guns.

  5. I purchased a VP9 about a year ago at one of our local gun shows. The feature that most impressed me about this piece is that it is the most comfortable pistol to hold in my hand, that I have ever held in my hand. Using the selection of three backstraps, three right side plates, and three left side plates, I’d venture to say that there is no hand that cannot be accommodated by this pistol. ‘Fact is, I liked it so much that I purchased an HK P30 at the next gun show, since the P30 has the same ergonomic inserts one can use to adapt the grip to one’s hand.

  6. The Walther PPQ is a nearly identical pistol in ergonomics but superior in trigger pull, and significantly less expensive, as are the magazines. I almost bought a VP9 having been a long-time H&K fan, but the PPQ is simply a better handgun and the majority of unbiased reviews bear this out.

    IMHO, H&K peaked with the P7 series of pistols. Those had by far lower bore axis than any of the USP pistols and its descendants (P2000, P30, VP9) and the trigger is on another level altogether. Too bad that series got discontinued and even worse I sold my P7M8 because I didn’t know how to clean it properly and thought it was faulty.

    1. I agree with your comments, JeffD. I also own a PPQ and find it a very acceptable piece for daily carry. ‘Fact is, my impression of the PPQ drove me to purchase a CCP which feels essentially like a reduced size PPQ. As for the HK P7 series, I have owned a P7M8 for several years, and I will never, ever give it up…..unless I could trade it for a P7M13.

    2. The CCP had me very interested when it was announced, precisely because of its similarities to the P7 with the fixed barrel and gas-delayed blowback operation. Unfortunately, the execution was nothing like the P7 as evidenced by the comparatively poor trigger and lack of build quality due to the low price point. I don’t find it to be in the same league as the PPQ. Maybe they’ll take that engineering and go up-market with another model.

      Ah, the P7M13, the Unicorn that got away. At current prices, it will likely stay that way for me. Enjoy the P7M8, biggest regret I’ve ever had in selling any gun!

    3. While the P7 trigger is great compared to its contemporaries, many modern striker-fired pistols have less travel and a better reset. Specifically, the Walther PPQ and Sig P320 both have better triggers than the P7.

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