Last week, I hit the range in a black mood. And I hit it not with one of my usual Glocks, but with a range rental. See, I was thinking of you, dear reader, and I picked something I thought I was sure to hate: the HK VP9.
HK tends to be like Apple, they’ve got a bunch of obnoxious fanboys that everyone else wants to beat with a tire iron. And their USPs have all the ergonomics of a 2×4, and their double action triggers suck ass. Oh, and between American import laws, German export laws, and management that historically hasn’t given two shits about the civilian market, you can’t get a lot of the cool toys that you see on the cover of a Clancy novel. Ugh.
On the other hand, Jack Bauer carried a USP Compact for most of 24, and he’s pretty badass. On a more serious level, a bunch of my internet friends have spoken very highly of the VP9, and they as a group have a lot more trigger time than me. But maybe they’re fanboys. Maybe it’s a bunch of blather about “Teutonic Precision” or somesuch. No problem. I’d drop a Jackson on a rental, and then I’d get to tell them off and get an awesome hate-fueled tirade for you lot out of it.
Things didn’t work out that way.
First thing I noticed with the VP9 was the grip. This was not a USP grip. This was not a Glock grip. No, it wasn’t even an M&P grip. It was better than all of the above. It’s really, really comfortable. Like that wonderfully contoured PPQ grip. But where the PPQ has the interchangeable backstraps, like the Glock and the M&P, the VP9 also has interchangeable side panels, so you can control thickness independently of length. For my first outing, I left everything at medium, which seemed to fit my hand ok. I’d have to spend some time with a target to see which is best. Also, the texture is nicely grippy, which I like. But it’s not super grippy, so you might also like it if you’re not a fan of 20 LPI checkering, say. Even without messing with the panels, it fit my hand well and allowed a nice, high grip.
Sizewize, the VP9 is a bit bigger than a Glock 19, but not by much. Slide is roughly the same size, but the frame is taller. It’s like someone put a Glock 19 slide on a Glock 17 frame. I know no one who has done this, but there you have it. If you’re looking to conceal the VP9, you should be aware of this. My EDC is a Glock 17 with RMR though, so I think it’s fine. The magazines only hold 15 rounds of 9mm though, which is odd. Looking at the size, I think they should be able to get more in there, but I’m no engineer. Maybe there’s a reliability question I don’t know about coming into play here. Some guys with a lot of hours on Glocks suggest downloading those magazines by a round or two in crappy environments, so maybe that’s it. Then again, some other guys with a lot of hours on Glocks have no such complaints. Such are the hazards of appeals to authority. I don’t have gajillions of rounds through Glocks, and I’ve never had any problems. Take that as you will.
Moving on, we come to the trigger. And unlike seemingly every other HK pistol on the planet, it seems like they had shooters in mind when they designed this one, because it’s great. Light, crisp, super consistent, and with a great reset. Let’s make some comparisons.
Is it better than an M&P trigger? Don’t make me laugh. The M&P trigger is made of mashed potatoes and grit. It’s godawful. Next.
Is it better than a Glock trigger? Yes. At least, the stock trigger. The stock Glock trigger is heavier and rougher than that of the VP9. Both will smooth out with age. You can make the Glock trigger into almost anything you want with aftermarket parts. The VP9 reset is every bit as solid as that of the Glock, which is high praise. Riding the reset on a striker-fired automatic is a great way to get shorter split times.
Is it better than a PPQ trigger? No. Well, not for shooting. The VP9 trigger is heavier, and has a perceptible “wall” before the break. The PPQ is basically a light rolling break all the way through. The PPQ is easier to shoot better, but I’d probably feel more comfortable with a VP9 for carry, or certainly for duty use. The VP9 also seems to have less travel overall, and I might actually like that part better, even with a little more weight.
How does the VP9 shoot? Great. So very great. Consistent trigger, a grip that works with you, and generally mild recoil characteristics make this pistol very accurate. Maybe this was that Teutonic Build Quality everyone’s always on about. I pushed the target back, and back, and back from my initial start at the usual seven yards and had a really great night, even with the target way out at the stops at 50 feet. This gun is really easy to shoot well and really easy to like. I’ll be damned if it wasn’t growing on me.
Okay, so what about the mag changes? If you don’t know, since the USP series, HK has been using little paddles on either side of the back of the trigger guard to drop the mag, rather than the usual John Moses Browning endorsed button on the side of the grip. On the one hand, it’s fighting years of muscle memory. On the other, it’s totally ambidextrous, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t faster. I also like that the VP9 really ejects magazines with authority, unlike my Glocks.
Let’s talk some of the other design features of the VP9. It has forward cocking serrations, which let you do press checks like a cool guy. It has a loaded chamber indicator, which is an extra function of the extractor, just in case you’re too much of a pussy to do press checks. There’s a bit at the back to tell you whether or not the striker is cocked. I’m not sure of the utility of this, but it’s nice in dry fire.
There are also the little “wings” on the side of the slide to assist in cocking. I kinda like those for reasons that I’m not really clear on. They do make it easier to get a good grip on the slide and rack it. Probably very helpful if you are smaller in size. Or if you had some kind of weird malfunction. I didn’t experience any, but if I had one, I’ll take any bit of extra mechanical advantage I can get on a jammed up gun.
Now, the sights. Due to some German export nonsense, the VP9 ships with sights that have that day-glo shit on them. They’ll glow in the dark, if they were charged up beforehand. Which is pretty useless if you were gonna carry it concealed and then need it at night. On the other hand, they’re infinitely better than the stock Glock vestigial sight-like-objects, and better still than the traditional white three dot sights that come stock on other things, since the HK ones might glow in the dark maybe sometimes. They were perfectly serviceable on the rental at the range, but really should be swapped out for something more to your liking. If you’re not sure what to get, there’s a VP9 LE model, which gets proper tritium night sights put on by HK USA in Georgia and also comes with an extra mag. The markup on the LE version is reasonable for what you get, if you like those sights.
So where do we stand? The VP9 is probably the most complete polymer framed handgun out of the box, which I think is exactly the goal HK was going for. All it needs are sights. Even though it’s more expensive than the competition, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s an easy gun to like. If you like striker fired pistols, this is probably best of breed out of the box. Just be aware that you don’t quite have the accessories of something like Glock or M&P. On the other hand HK will at least take care of you; they have a history of making guns for some really small markets.
A VP9 LE even followed me home.