You’ve been waiting for it, and here it is. Parvusimperator’s take on the new crop of striker fired handguns. Well, newish. I’ve waited to see if any bugs fell out (they haven’t). I would get Fishbreath’s opinion too, but he doesn’t have a range with a good rental selection near him. Also, he’s quite fond of hammer fired weapons, because he’s old school like that.
So, let’s get down to it. We’ll look at each pistol, and then do some comparisons.
Pros: The best factory trigger on a striker fired pistol. The best. Marginally smaller than the VP9, quite a bit smaller than the P320 full size (this was what I had to rent). Very good ergonomics allowing a nice, high grip. Navy option available, with a cool factory threaded barrel and some extra bits to let you shoot it underwater (not that you care). Ambidextrous slide release.
Cons: Walther has atrocious market penetration. Frankly they have given exactly zero fucks about the American market, so Walther vendors are few and far between. This means that spare parts, accessories, and magazines are the hardest to come by of the three. One upside here is that you won’t get associated with obnoxious Walther fanbois, because there aren’t any fanboys at all, obnoxious or otherwise. Also counting against the PPQ is that it seemed to be somewhat flippy. This is admittedly subjective, but it seemed like it took longer for it to come out of recoil, negating some of the awesomeness of that trigger. More like shooting a .40 S&W, even though this was a 9mm.
Pros: Amazing ergonomics. HK’s grip is one of the best anywhere, with interchangeable side panels and backstraps. Will fit your hand really well; let’s you have a nice high grip. I could gush for hours about the grip. The trigger was very good. I actually prefered it to that of the PPQ and that of the P320 as far as Things I Would Carry. It’s got some take up and a noticeable break, and didn’t feel overly light or heavy. Very smooth. I felt like it had enough take up to feel comfortable carrying and light enough weight (and crisp enough reset) to shoot fast in competition. Again, ambi slide catches. Also, I liked the paddle magazine release, personally. Your mileage may vary.
Cons: The price. HK is the most expensive of the three. Also, you’ll be called an HK fanboy, so be prepared. You suck, and they hate you or something. HK has been really good to LE and Military contractholders. Civilian market, not so much. Their service has gotten way better than it was in the 90s though. You may hate the paddle releases. Accessory availability is meh, spare parts and magazines are available but expensive.
Pros: You may really like the modularity. The trigger lacks that safety blade thing, which is nice. It’s also really short, with very little take up and a very short reset. So it’s really easy to shoot fast, but felt a bit like having a P226 that I hadn’t decocked–I’m not sure if I’d want to carry it like that. Weird. It also feels heavier than the other two. But it’s probably a sweet gamer trigger. SiG has the least shitty aftermarket presence by far of the three, which is big points here. The sights are standard across all their P-series pistols, so those are available now for you. Again, slide release is ambidextrous. And, the P320 gets 17 in the mag, not 15. You might think this is cheating in the comparison, but the mag for the P320 is about the same size as that of the VP9 or the PPQ. And two more bullets is always nice.
Cons: I do not like the modularity. For one thing, every other gun comes with all the stuff you need to monkey around with the grip and figure out which is best for you out of the box. Even HK. With the SiG, you get the medium grip frame, and you have to go buy the others. Good luck finding ones to try in a gun shop before you buy. That’s just cheap and dumb. Further, I have some concerns about the durability of the wee inner module (the actual ‘firearm’, legally speaking). I don’t know how well it will hold up, especially if you’re doing lots of swapping. I probably don’t have anything to worry about here, but there it is. The controls are in their usual SiG place, and seem large. The slide release is super far back, even though there’s no decocker. They really should include the low-profile one so your thumb isn’t hitting it all the time. Once again, some gubbins to buy. Oh, and you’ll be called a SiG fanboy. They’re like HK fanboys, but rarer, because nobody cool uses SiGs anymore. Be sure to get the capitalization right like I’m doing, or expect a flogging.
Finally, I really, really don’t like the modularity. Yes, I’m going to dwell on it because people won’t shut up about it. Look, I don’t live in some communist hell-hole where the number of guns I can own is limited. I live in America. I like guns. I want to buy more guns. That guy behind the counter at my gun store? He wants to sell me more guns. Get with the program, SiG. I’ve never wanted to caliber-convert a 9mm to a .40 or vice versa. 9mm is cheap. .40 is slightly less so, but if I was a .40 guy, I’d want to get used to managing the recoil of the .40, and I’d want my sights to work with the ballistics of .40. Maybe a .22 conversion kit is worth it, if you want a cheap trainer with negligible recoil. But hey, when you’ve bought the new frame, new slide, and new barrel to turn your P320 full size into a compact or your 9mm into a .40, you’ve basically bought a new gun in terms of money spent. So…just buy a new gun, and have more guns. More is better. Duh. If you bought a new gun, you’d have more mags too. Or mags in the new caliber.
Okay, all that out of the way, it’s comparison time!
How do they shoot: Trigger?
PPQ is the best here. That trigger was like nothing at all. Might be almost too light, if we’re talking carry or duty use. Maybe. Hard for me to make that judgement. But it’s great for shooting. It’s like a double action pull with next to no weight. Personally, I rank the VP9 as second since it felt lighter than the P320, and I’ve grown to like some takeup. The P320 pull is heavy and short, which seems an odd combination. I’d like more takeup.
How do they shoot: Accuracy?
VP9 takes top honors here. Maybe this is that HK build quality I keep hearing about. Maybe it’s fitted tighter or there are some match parts or something. P320 comes in second, with a longer sight radius and heavier slide, edging out the PPQ with its great trigger.
How do they shoot: Recoil?
Subjectively, I thought the VP9 was the nicest shooting of the three. It was softer recoiling than the P320, and significantly less flippy than the PPQ. The P320 seems quite heavy for a plastic gun, but the grip is the usual SiG-low. It seemed jumpy, but wasn’t flippy. For purely subjective definitions of ‘jumpy’ and ‘flippy’ of course, since I don’t have a great way to measure recoil. Again, your shooting preferences will dictate your choice. Personally, I like the higher grip of the VP9. You might like the traditional SiG-style grip on the P320, which is a little lower. The PPQ was noticeably harsher and flipper. Not bad, but they’ve managed to make a 9mm feel .40-like in a handgun that isn’t a mousegun. Quite a trick.
How do the Ergonomics Compare?
The VP9 has the best ergos by far with all the side panels. It lets you get the right fit for your hand, even if you shoot better with something asymmetric. The little “cocking tabs” are nice for those with less grip strength. Or just to make you work less at it. The PPQ has a similar sort of shape as the VP9, but has only adjustable backstraps, like most pistols. Still, it fills the hand well and gives you a high grip naturally. The SiG will not let you get as high on it. It fitted my hand reasonably well, but I might have liked to play with the different frame sizes. I prefer a higher grip, or else it would have scored better here. Note also that the SiG only comes with the standard grip-frame module. If you want another size, you’ve gotta go buy it.
Were the guns grippy enough?
No. Nothing was grippy enough. That said, I like guns with barbed grips, or barring that, 20 lpi checkering. Maybe I should have these stippled.
Also, note that all three of these guns only come with two magazines, which is the bare acceptable minimum these days. I would have been much happier if they came with three magazines in the box. Not a dealbreaker, but you should be aware. All of them have crappy magazine prices. No wonderfully cheap Glock or M&P mags here.
Alright, now we come to the main event. Which should you buy? Well, being as this is America, you should buy all three. But that’s not a very helpful answer. Neither is ‘They’re all quite good, you can’t go wrong with any of them.’
Realistically, you should rent all three, and go home with whichever one you shoot best, preferably with some timed/scored drills. This may or may not be possible for you, based on what the ranges near you have available for rent, and how they’re configured.
You should also probably wait a little while and see what my friends Mr. Foxtrot, Mr. Bravo, and Mr. India come up with when they go to choose, since that design will get a big leg up in the aftermarket presence. But that means waiting. Again, rent them and draw your own conclusions.
Of course after all that, you’re still not satisfied. You want to know two things: Which one is best, and is it better than a Glock?
Of the three, I’d take the VP9. I shot it best, I like it’s trigger for anything I might choose to do with it (including carry and competition), the ergonomics are great, and it shoots well. Plus, there’s plenty of cachet from being an HK owner. I’m a cool, badass CTU agent. Or…maybe I suck? I don’t know, I lost track of my metaphors in the aura of Teutonic greatness. But, shut up this pistol is great. You wouldn’t understand, you non-HK-owning peon. Go sit with the filth and buy your scum class tickets.
So is it better than my Glock 17? That depends. In terms of what you get out of the box, no contest. HK wins all the way. Better trigger, better ergonomics, better sights. Glock has an extra magazine, but that doesn’t quite make up the difference. The VP9 is the better pistol.
However, who the hell leaves a Glock stock? There’s a ton of aftermarket support for Glocks. Any sights you could possibly imagine, you can get. You can get bigger or smaller controls for the mag release and the slide release to fit your preference. You can get aftermarket triggers and fire control parts to make the trigger into anything you like, from a heavier duty trigger to a tuned competition trigger. You get a lot more sight options from experimenters and small outfits with Glock. Hell, you can build a Glock entirely from parts that aren’t made by Glock. So it’s simply a question of how much you like to tinker. If you want to tinker, get the Glock. It will reward experimentation. If you want to buy a pistol, add the sights of your choice, and be done, get the HK.
But really, this is America. The correct answer is to buy the Glock and the HK.