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HK VP9 Review

HK's take on the modern wonder 9. Polymer framed, double stack, striker fired 9mm with a trigger safety.


There is a lot of positive hype surrounding this gun and it has only been on the market for a few weeks. As part of my recent quest for optimal shooting I've been performing brutal tests between my handguns to determine which one fits me the best. For a long time this gun has been a Glock 19. As a long time fan of HK designs I knew I had to give this one a shot after reading about it, so a week later I picked one up for $620 at a local gun show. Street prices are a bit high at the moment given the gun's recent debut, ranging from $600 to $700 at different vendors with the majority falling upwards of $650.

Initial Observations

Upon opening the case and handling the gun for the first time you notice a few things. The first, for me, was balance. The VP9 is well balanced for a polymer framed gun. It is common for polymer guns to feel top heavy and oblong due to the weight difference between the slide and frame. This is a non-issue with the VP9 due to HK's hard earned expertise as pioneers of the polymer firearm. The grip contours to the hand naturally with a molded texture creating a very positive grip -- enough grip that I experienced a bit of soreness in the joints of my middle and ring finger after a 4 hour range session.

The gun features 'ears' on the rear of the slide to provide an extra grip surface during operation. I didn't expect to find this feature as useful as it turned out to be. Combined with a mild recoil spring this makes slide manipulation downright pleasant. My petite wife has a hard time operating slides on tighter guns but enjoys the VP9 due to her ability to operate it without difficulty. While there are those who would condemn this feature, alternatives do exist. HK provides a drop-in flush fitting replacement for the ears leaving only slide serrations for grip.

The controls are completely ambidextrous with the magazine release and slide lock available on both sides of the gun. Magazines, both loaded and empty, drop completely free of the gun when ejected. The slide lock has a low profile to help prevent a high, thumbs-forward grip from riding it and holding it down. The grip features replaceable side-panels and back straps with small, medium and large sizes of each offering a unique fit to the operators hand. There is also a lanyard loop at the base of the grip, as with most HK handguns.

As far as triggers go the VP9 is good, but could be better. I was less impressed than expected. After dry firing the gun more than a hundred times I accepted the grittiness of the uptake. There seems to be a light 'hump' in the uptake of the trigger noticeable especially during a slow and deliberate trigger squeeze. Hopefully this smoothes out after some serious range time. Aside from this issue the trigger is excellent for a striker gun -- light and crisp with a clean break and moderate reset. Trigger weight measured consistently at 5.1 pounds.

The gun comes stock with night sights. Marketed by HK as "non-radioactive luminous sights" as they don't use the radioactive element Tritium to make the sights glow. HK uses a phosphorescent material or paint on the familiar white 3-dot pattern sights, making them glow faintly in the dark after exposure to light. The sights, made of steel, are drift adjustable in dovetail cutouts.

The (overbuilt) extractor doubles as a loaded chamber indicator, exhibiting a small dash of red paint when the chamber is loaded. The striker doubles as a 'cocked' indicator, displaying a red dot when the striker is in the firing position.

Sight picture and a view of the 'cocked striker indicator.'

The frame has a full length Picatinny rail with several slots allowing whatever attachment you desire. I fitted both a Streamlight TLR-1 and a Viridian CTL weapon light to the gun, each working as expected.

This gun has a feature list large enough to rival most high end cars. I think you get the idea.

Tech talk

The VP9 incorporates a modified take on the Browning link-less short recoil action. The barrel is cold hammer forged from canon grade steel and includes polygonal rifling, plus a polished feed ramp from the factory. Similar barrels on HK P30 handguns have endured more than 90,000 rounds of service life.

Safety devices include a unique side-mounted drop safety for the firing pin and a Glock-like trigger mounted safety to prevent accidental trigger depression. A disconnector also ensures that the gun cannot fire out of battery.

The gun cannot be field stripped with a magazine inserted as the magazine follower asserts pressure preventing the takedown lever from being rotated. Rotating the takedown lever also decocks the firing pin, meaning this isn't one of those guns that requires pulling the trigger to field strip it.

  • Length: 7.34 inches
  • Width: 1.32 inches
  • Height: 5.41 inches
  • Barrel len: 4.09 inches
  • Sight rad: 6.38 inches
  • Weight empty: 25.5 ounces

HK puts a lot of engineering into their guns ...
... and a lot of grease.

On the Range

I spent a few hours putting close to 250 rounds through the VP9 on a sunny Sunday at distances ranging from 5 to 50 yards. Accuracy was superb and I say that without exaggeration. At ten yards I was producing a single ragged hole, and I'm not normally a good enough shooter to do that. At 45 yards I couldn't miss a 24" square steel plate.

The gun ate a varied diet of factory ammo. 115gr FMJ from Federal, 115gr FMJ from Aguila, 115gr FMJ from Winchester and 124gr GDHP from Speer. In 250 rounds the gun saw zero malfunctions. The VP9 marched on despite some intentional limp-wristing trying to produce a failure. The ejection pattern formed a neat pile of brass a few feet from the shooter.

Muzzle flip is minimal with a proper grip. Accurate double taps and even triple taps were not difficult. The undercut frame allows a high seated grip making the already tame 9mm recoil simple to manage.

The VP9 is nothing short of pleasurable on range day and my range time seemed to pass all too quickly. I find this to be an important consideration oft overlooked. The more you enjoy shooting a particular gun the more inclined you will be to practice with it.

In Closing

HK has spent the last 4 years perfecting the design of the VP9 and it shows. The VP9 is an outstanding weapon worthy of any cause. It may very well become my top choice for OWB carry after it has been proven supremely reliable. A task I'm sure it will accomplish with ease.

Rating: 9/10

I have to dock a point for the gritty uptake in the trigger. When compared to the level of polish applied to the rest of the gun this leaves me feeling unimpressed. If this smoothes out with some more firing I'll restore half a point.

Written By: Ryan Brotherton
An avid shooter and gear head, USPSA member, certified NRA handgun instructor and amateur gunsmith. He created to support the second amendment and establish a modern environment for firearms reviews and news.
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