Review: Heckler & Koch VP9 — Leading the Pack

Ask any shooting professional in disciplines such as military, police, mercenary, security, or competition to name their top five choices of handguns. I’m willing to bet you’ll find the H&K VP on practically every list. It’s certainly one of my favorites.

The VP9 was released in 2014, after more than four years of development. It was initially designed for the Bavarian State Police as a replacement for its HK P7s. Since H&K had a long history with striker-fired pistols, it decided to update its lineup with a newly-designed striker system with a single stage-like trigger feel that had a clean break.

Heckler & Koch VP9 9mm semi-auto pistol. left profile
Front and rear slide serrations, along with the charge supports as H&K calls the small “wings” at the rear of the slide, make racking the slide easy for persons with hand strength issues.

VP9 Development

Originally, HK called the new pistol the P30X because it was essentially a striker-fired derivative of its popular P30 pistol. When considering the U.S. market, the name was changed to VP9. The VP stands for Volkspistole, which translates to “people’s pistol” and of course the 9 is for 9mm. There is a VP40 version chambered in .40 S&W as well. The VP9 and VP40 pistols are made in Germany at Heckler & Koch’s Oberndorf factory.

The VP9 features a Picatinny rail, ambidextrous controls, hammer-forged polygonal barrel, and changeable back and side straps to make the pistol grip customizable for any shooter’s hand. I did the math while looking at the three changeable backstraps and six side panels that allow the pistol’s grip to fit all hand sizes. I calculated that there were 27 different grip configurations available. Thankfully, I didn’t have to spend an afternoon trying to determine which configuration best fit my hand. I’d be hard-pressed to find a configuration that fit me better than the one on the gun when it was shipped.

Molded finger grooves in the front of the pistol’s grip instinctively position the shooter’s hand for optimal shooting. Standard dimensions for the VP9 are 7.34 inches in length, 5.41 inches in height, 1.32 inches in width, a barrel length of 4.09 inches and the VP9 weighs in at 25.56 ounces with an empty magazine.

One of the things that endeared the VP9 to me was its trigger. The VP9 trigger has a short, light take-up with a solid, single-action-type break followed by a short positive reset. The trigger pull on my gun averages just slightly over 5 pounds. Pre-travel is approximately 3/8 inch, followed by a clean break. On a side note, disassembly does not require squeezing the trigger.

Another feature I really like is what H&K calls its charging supports. They are simple wing-like components that are on each side of the rear of the slide to provide better gripping leverage for racking the slide rearward. The charging supports speed reloading and make operating the VP9 easier for shooters with reduced hand strength.

red gun cocked indicator on the Heckler & Koch VP9 9mm semi-auto gun
A red button at the end of the slide serves as an indicator the gun is cocked.

The slide also has cocking serrations front and rear. A round window at the back of the slide displays red when the gun is cocked. The front part of the ejector serves as both a visual and tactile loaded chamber indicator. The edges and front of the slide are rounded to make holstering easier.

The VP9 has an extended full-size Picatinny MIL-STD-1913 rail molded into its polymer frame for mounting lights and accessories. The rail was tested and certified to handle the heavier mounted accessories. Due to the rail’s length, it adds rigidity. This rigidity gives the VP9 superior capabilities compared to some of its polymer competitors whose frames flex under use and cannot handle the weight of some of the medium-to-larger mounted lights.

Alternate Versions

The VP9 is available in several packages. Mine is the basic package with standard sights that consist of a large green dot sight in front and a black sight in back. It comes with two 17-round magazines. The color is gray. I obviously picked it because of its price. For me, just getting a VP9 is a dream come true.

Heckler & Koch VP9 9mm semi-auto pistol with optional grips, spare magazine, loading tool, optional grip panels
H&K’s VP9 ships with three back strap options, three sets of side panels, a spare magazine, magazine loader, and a tool and buttons with which to set up a right-side magazine release.

The VP9 aims well, shoots good, and meets my needs. However, if you want more, there are choices. The VP9 Match pistol has a 5.5-inch barrel which results in a 7.68-inch sight radius. That one has a 20-round magazine and a slide that is cut for optics. There’s a VP9 OR (optics ready) and VP9 LOR (long slide, optics-ready). There is a VP9 SK which is the subcompact version with a 3.39-inch barrel. That one also has an optics-ready version. Multiple color schemes are available as well as several sight options.

HKs in Europe have the paddle mag release which is built into the bottom of the trigger guard near the back. In the U.S., the “B” models were added that have a mag release button that we American shooters are used to. Most of the configurations of the VP9 come as regular or B models, but the B is only being used as part of the model number on some of them. For example, mine is a B model, but there is no “B” as part of the model number on it anywhere. The mag release on B models can be turned around to work from the right side of the gun.

Accuracy and Handling

I have put several hundred rounds through my VP9 and enjoyed every shot. I can easily rack the slide on this gun. The big dot front sight works perfectly with my aging eyes. My shooting adventures with the VP9 have consisted of drills, straight target shooting, and shoot-offs to compare it with other guns in the same class such as the FN 509, SIG P229, Glock 19, and Beretta M9.

trigger elease cam on the slide of the Heckler & Koch VP9 9mm semi-auto gun
This cam-like arrangement for releasing the striker is one reason the trigger pull is so smooth and light on a VP9.

Although I like each of these firearms, if I had to choose one from the bunch, the VP9 would be the obvious choice. Every range trip has been a delight. The trigger is among the best I’ve experienced, and the gun shoots where it’s pointed. Range or hollow point ammo weighing 124 or 147 grains typically shoots into one ragged hole at 5, 7, and even 19 yards. For some reason the 115-grain rounds spread out a bit but still shoot into 4 inches at 10 yards. The VP9 has operated flawlessly and accurately with a wide variety of ammo.

After several hundred rounds, I decided it was time to clean the gun. Takedown was straightforward and easy. Lock the slide open, remove the magazine, and rotate a small lever on the left side of the gun 90 degrees. The slide then comes straight off the front. Compress the recoil spring, which is captive, remove it along with the rod, then remove the barrel.


While cleaning the gun, I studied its inner workings and noticed some differences from other striker-fired guns. There is what appears to be some type of gearing system between the trigger and the striker that I’ve not seen on any other striker-fired handguns. This setup, or engineering, must be what makes the trigger so smooth.

I’ve been putting off cleaning guns for a while, waiting on one of my grandsons to come help me. Fortunately, I really wanted to get into the inner workings of the VP9, so I went to my workbench to clean it. My usual chemicals were in a cabinet right in front of me, but I was going to have to dig around for the brushes and cleaning rods I would need for the job.

Quickly, my eyes fell upon a Guardian Plus kit I had been sent for evaluation. Everything I needed to clean the VP9, or any other gun, was right there in that plastic case. Everything had a place, sort of locked in. After using it, you can put it back and it will be there for the next time. If you don’t have something that keeps your cleaning supplies organized like that, I highly recommend you look for the Guardian Plus product or another cleaning kit that is very well organized and has every brush, jag, rod, etc., you need in a well-organized kit.

HK VP9 9mm semi-auto pistol on a paper target shot for accuracy
This is just one of many similar 10-yard targets that the author was able to shoot freehand with his VP9. The four shots that didn’t go into the one ragged hole were shot with 115-grain hollow points. The tight ones were a combination of 124-grain and 147-grain hollow points.

Because of the thickness of the gun and the large, squared off trigger guard, I had to find a new holster to carry the VP9. I opted for a Crossbreed SuperTuck, which is one of my all-time favorite holsters. Having a VP9 in your holster is a real confidence builder. It is slightly larger and heavier than my typical carry guns, which for the past year or so have primarily been either the Springfield Hellcat or the SIG P365.

However, the Crossbreed holster supports the gun so well that I don’t really notice the difference. I’d love to hear from other VP9 users or from folks who, like me, have wanted one and maybe this is the time to make the jump.

Are you a VP9 fan? Would it make your top 5 list or wish list? Share your answers in the Comment section.

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