Pat Cascio’s Product Review: H&K VP9

I’ve always been a big fan of H&K (Heckler & Koch) firearms, at least most of them. They’ve had a few that weren’t to my liking. One thing that most folks will agree on is that the price point on many H&K Products is very high, VERY high, and that scares away a lot of gun buyers– guys like me who are the average guy! I have to spend my hard-earned money very carefully. The H&K firearms I’ve owned in the past were all used ones. I couldn’t afford new guns from them.

Well, that is changing. H&K is listening to the gun consumer and have come out with some more reasonably priced handguns, without cutting corners. Enter the H&K VP9 – 9mm pistol. This is a striker-fired handgun, the first to come along from H&K in a very long time.

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When I spied the H&K VP9 at my local gun shop, I had to take a double take on the price of $629.00. WOW! I thought for sure it was a used gun, but it wasn’t. It was brand-new in the box. As already mentioned, the VP9 is a 9mm handgun, and they also have one in .40S&W, if that is more to your liking. The VP9 is 7.34 inches in length, 5.41 inches in height, 1.32 inchs wide, and the barrel is 4.09 inches long. The gun weighs 26.4 oz empty with a polymer frame, and it is striker-fired.

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In looking over the gun, I couldn’t help but notice that all the controls are ambidextrous. There’s no changing anything from one side to the other; it’s full-time ambidestrous. The frame has Picatinny rails for mounting lights or lasers, and the barrel is cold hammer forged. The rear of the slide has slight protrusions, or “wings” if you will, for aiding in chambering a round. Your hand won’t slip off the slide. The trigger, oh boy, what a trigger pull the VP9 has. My trigger pull broke at a tad over 4 lbs, and it is a consistent trigger pull. There is no pre-travel, where the trigger pull starts to get heavier. Nope, it is consistent and may just be one of the best trigger pulls on any polymer framed, striker-fired handgun. It is “that” good! The 9mm version comes with two magazines, and they hold 15 rounds each.

Now, as to H&K magazines, they have always been a pain to track down. Even H&K didn’t have any spares; I checked. I finally tracked some down, but they were $44 each. OUCH! However, that’s a given with H&K mags. It’s one of the draw backs; they charge a LOT for their mags.

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Now, one of the best features about the VP9 is the modularity of the gun. It comes with a total of three different sizes of back straps, which are easy to change out. Plus, there are three different sizes of grip panels– three for each side of the grip frame. If there is a more modular handgun on the market, I don’t know where it can be found. With the combination of the different sized back straps and the side panels, you can make the VP9 fit any sized hand, and I played around with this aspect of the gun a lot. I never thought about putting different sized grip panels on it at first. However, during my playtime, I discovered that I could really make the gun fit my hand perfectly by putting one sized grip panel on one side of the gun and a totally different sized grip panel on the opposite side. I was blown away!

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I found that a slightly larger grip panel on the right side of the gun really made it fill my hand, while keeping a slightly thinner grip panel on the left side of the gun. For the back strap, I used the smallest one. It worked perfectly for me, just perfectly! The trigger reach wasn’t a problem at all, and the full-time ambi mag release that you have to press down instead of into the side of the frame worked well by using the trigger finger, instead of the finger on the opposite hand. It takes a little practice to get used to this magazine release set-up, but it is very fast.

You can also see and feel when the striker is cocked; it has a red tip, and it will stick out of the rear of the slide when it is cocked. The extractor is worth mentioning, too. It is massive, just MASSIVE. I don’t see any rounds sticking in the chamber when this hummer takes a bite on it.

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H&K, during their testing, ran more than 90,000 rounds through the octagonal barrel, with no wear to speak of. What’s not to like about this? You aren’t going to wear the barrel out in a lifetime of shooting, if you’re an average shooter. H&K says that they used the same steel in the VP9 barrel as they use on cannons!

Regarding the sights, you can get night sights for a bit more money. The gun retails for $719.99 with the glow in the dark sights that you have to charge with a bright light. However, in my testing, I found that I only needed to charge these sights every couple three or four hours. They really stood out when fully charged, too. If you’re a police officer or in the military, it’s not a big deal to take the gun out of your holster once or twice during a shift to recharge the sights. If you find it a problem, then go with the night sights for a bit more money– about a hundred bucks more.

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The VP9 was very accurate. No groups were larger than three inches, and most groups were down there at about two inches. That is better than match-grade accuracy. I would have been very disappointed with H&K if this gun didn’t really show me some serious accuracy potential.

I fired more than 500 rds through the VP9 with zero malfunctions. I would have been surprised if the gun gave me any problems, because H&K firearms are know for their great reliability. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had their 147-gr JHP Subsonic load, 147-gr Hard Cast FN +P Outdoorsmans load, 115-gr Barnes TAC-XP, all-copper hollow point +P+ fodder, and their 124-gr FMJ FN “Penetrator” +P+ load. From Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 115-gr FMJ load, 115-gr JHP +P, 124-gr JHP +P, and their 115-gr Barnes TAC XP all-copper hollow point +P loading. So, I had a great selection of ammo to run through the VP9. During my testing, I did mix different brands and bullet types in the magazines, which is always a great test as to how reliable a gun will feed. I had no problems at all.

All my firing for accuracy was done, as per my usual testing method, over a rolled-up sleeping bag, over the hood of my pickup truck. I don’t use anything like a Ranson Rest for my accuracy testing. You aren’t likely to have it with you during a gun fight, but you could possibly have a jacket with you that you could use as a rest, once you find some cover to get behind. The Black Hills 124-gr JHP +P load gave me the best groups, which were slightly over two inches at 25 yards, so long as I did my part. I did all my shooting during one day. Towards the end of the day, I was fatigued and getting groups in the 6-7 inch range; it was not the gun and not the ammo. It was me getting tired and careless after long strings of shooting. The Buffalo Bore 147-gr JHP Subsonic load came in a close second to the Black Hills load. I’ve found that many of the 147-gr Subsonic loads are capable of outstanding accuracy. Many police departments are going to JHP Subsonic 9mm loads these days for greater penetration, and the bullets still mushroom at the lower velocities, too. I’m still out on this one. I prefer 115-124 gr 9mm loads for self-defense. It’s just my personal opinion on this.

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I carried the VP9 in a ballistic nylon, 3-slot pancake holster from Blackhawk products for the better part of three weeks. I normally carry a test handgun for at least two weeks, but I loved the way the VP9 rode nice and high and snug against my body. I don’t especially like ballistic nylon holsters for everyday carry for one reason– after you draw your handgun, it is very difficult to reholster it one-handed, and you don’t want to take your eyes off of a potential threat to see if you are getting the gun back into the opening of the holster. I prefer leather or Kydex holster for this reason. Still, the VP9 rode nicely on my right hip.

I did like the “wings” on the rear of the slide. My hand just went to the rear of the slide and stopped when it hit the wings. This may not sound important to many people, but in my handgun classes, which I rarely give any longer, I’ve seen a number of people, when attempting to chamber a round, have their hand slip off the slide. There are also serrations on the sides of the slide for added gripping surface.

As you’ll notice in the pics of the night sights, they are slightly blurred. It is extremely difficult to get pics in low light with glowing sights; however, you can see how brightly they were shinning. They’re very easy to pick up on in low or no light conditions.

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The only “negative” about the VP9 I can mention is the cost of additional spare mags. At least the gun came with two magazines. If you live in one of “those” states, which only allow 10 rounds, you can get your VP9 setup that way. If you live in a state that only allows seven rounds, you are out of luck. There is no VP9 for you.

I was very impressed with the performance of the VP9. It never missed a beat during my testing, and I sure can’t complain about the accuracy. It was there, when I was on my game. The gun feels great in the hand, and if you can’t customize it to fit your hands, no other gun will fit either. Check one out at your local gun shop. I think you’ll be impressed with the fit, finish, and feel of the gun.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio

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