My first trip to the range with the VP9, I loaded up a magazine with 15 rounds of Federal HST, grabbed a few boxes of Atlanta Arms 147 grain ammo, and hit the range. I then proceeded to pewpew through the magazine of HST as quickly as I could to see how the VP would run wide-cavity JHP rounds out of the box. As I would have expected from H&K, the gun performed flawlessly. Although the bore axis is higher than something like the Glock 17, the VP9 handled very well and the additional muzzle flip wasn’t very noticeable. The ergonomics do a good job of keeping the gun on target even though it is slightly snappier than something with a lower bore axis. This should be true for just about anyone because of the options HK gives you with the back and side grip inserts. The trigger was just as good during live fire as it was performing dry fire drills, and the reset was positive (although the take up does leave a little something to be desired). The MIL-1913 spec rail should work well with just about any rail-mountable light or laser you want to use, and keeps the VP9 in contention for people who need/want that feature on their duty or nightstand gun.
The nod definitely goes to the VP9 trigger over stock Glock or M&P trigger pulls, although the latter two have an astounding amount of aftermarket options to bring them up to par (and then some). Although it breaks around 6 pounds, which is more in line for service use than competition, the pull is both consistent and clean-breaking. I used a Lyman digital trigger gauge, and although that has some of its own disclaimers, it’s pretty tough to screw up for a baseline reading. I have heard people with smaller hands might have trouble with the trough in the trigger guard area, but it didn’t bother me at all during any of the longer range sessions, so if you have bigger hands, you’re probably good to go here. If you have smaller hands and can comment one way or the other on that feature, please feel free to post your experience in the comment section.
Although an HK mag release takes a little while to get used to, the VP9 LAUNCHES empty mags out on reloads. Also worth noting is that for people with big hands, you’ll probably be able to hit it with your strong side thumb just as easily as a button (I don’t shift my grip to hit the mag release lever with my thumb). The VP9’s magazine release levers also seem to be a little wider than some other H&K pistols, so if you’ve had trouble in the past hitting the release on other H&K’s, it still may be worth a try. The problem will be for people with smaller hands or shorter thumbs, who will likely be forced to use their strong side index fingers. So to be clear: if you have smaller hands, using this in USPSA Production matches or IDPA Stock Service Pistol will put you at a disadvantage compared to the traditional magazine release button offered on most other pistols today.
Reliability-wise ejection is consistent, extractor geometry seems to be on point, and I haven’t been pinged in the head with a single piece of hot brass in more than 500 rounds so far. Barrel-to-slide fit is good, the feed ramp is polished up, and rounds feed smoothly regardless of profile or weight. The gun has not had a single failure to feed, failure to eject, or any other type of malfunction, whether attributable to the gun itself or any other culpable external (ammo, mags, whatever) factor. Ammo fired has been a combination of weights, both factory and remanufactured.
Control-wise, the two biggest negatives for people who are going after speed is the lack of texturing at the top of the frame area and the width of the slide release, which is geared towards strong-hand thumb manipulation. Flip side (literally): I am a big fan of the ambi slide-release on this gun: it works well and hasn’t loosened away from the frame at all. Take-down is more akin to a Sig P-Series gun than a normal HK, and it doesn’t require a trigger pull to remove the slide from the frame like a Glock. And to re-iterate, although I first thought that the charging supports at the rear of the slide were unnecessary, they do their job well and make it easier for people without a lot of hand strength (or arthritis/small hands/etc.) to rack the slide under almost any conditions. After watching my 90-pound wife rack the slide without any difficulty at all, I became a fan of them. Kudos to H&K for thinking that one through.
Another nice feature of the VP9 is the striker indicator at the rear of the slide, which shows red when the weapon is cocked and ready to go. Although it isn’t also a tactile indicator like Springfield Armory’s XD series, which makes it less useful in dark environments, that really doesn’t bother me for a couple of reasons: first, because every gun should be treated as if it’s loaded and cocked at all times anyway. Second, because if you have a gun in a dark room with you, you should have made sure it was cocked way before you found yourself in that position.
Pointability is the most impressive feature of the VP9 in my opinion. But pointability and ergonomics are only worth something when you’re able to hit where the gun is pointing quickly and lots of times in a row. That’s where a good set of sights come in. Although this VP9 was the LE package with factory 3-dot night sights rather than the H&K fluorescent 3-dot ones (both are much better than factory Glock sights), I was excited to try out the new Heinie EZ-Fit Straight Eight sights for the VP9, which offer a FANTASTIC sight picture. The wide .156″ rear notch is nice for quick target acquisition and transitions, and the serrations cut out any glare I might have had otherwise. The only negative (which is also a positive for a good number of people) is the fit of the sights in the dovetail. By their very nature, they’re undersized to allow anyone to install them without filing anything. The counterpoint to that (because there’s no such thing as a free lunch) is that loctiting and really tightening the screws down is CRUCIAL or you’ll lose your zero (and maybe the sight too). Although it’s easy enough for anyone to install the sights, the one piece of the puzzle that cancels that out to a mild extent is that the front screws are too long and will stick out above the sight by about 1/16″ (at left) unless you shorten them. The VP9 is not a custom 1911 or something expensive that would make aesthetics matter all that much, so I still haven’t gotten around to shortening the screws, and they don’t affect the ability to holster/unholster at all, but it’s something to keep in mind. If people don’t have the tools or know-how to fit a sight to a dovetail, shortening a TINY screw without losing it or damaging the threads might be quite a task. That said, I used blue loctite on the threads of the front and rear set screws, and none of them have loosened at all in the 500 rounds since being installed. In my opinion, the excellent sight picture and better profile of the Heinie sights make them a worthwhile addition. For that reason, they’ll be staying on my VP9 for the foreseeable future. I wasn’t sure how I would like the two-dot configuration at first, but they have proven to do their job well. Trijicon HD night sights also seem to be a popular alternative for people who prefer a three-dot configuration, but the stock ones that came on the LE-package VP9 aren’t bad either if you really want a conventional three-dot setup, and they won’t cost you anything extra. (*Note: as of 10/14/2014, Heinie is including shorter screws with the front sights, and an allen tool to tighten them down. See comment at bottom.*)
I didn’t want to base my review purely on stationary range time, so I started looking for a holster to use for more dynamic shooting practice as soon as I got the gun. The rig I ended up with for the VP9 is made by Blade-Tech, and as always, the fit is absolutely perfect and the overall quality of Blade-Tech’s Classic OWB series holsters and mag pouches continues to be some of the best you’ll find on any kydex product being marketed today. So for those of you who have recently obtained a VP9 and are still looking for holster options, Blade-Tech should be on your short list. I ran the VP9 in a USPSA Production match, and the holster and magazine pouch setup performed flawlessly. (For more on this rig, check out our previous review of the Classic Series here.) Blade-Tech is also offering their Eclipse-series holsters for the VP9, so the Classic OWB is by no means your only option.
Accuracy-wise, the VP9 has been pretty standard for an H&K. After the sight swap, I noticed I was getting better hits (presumably because the huge dots on the factory sights kind of messed with me), but that’s a result of my eyes and not anything to be held against the gun. It’ll blow the 10-ring out all day at self-defense distances, and we managed to shoot some sub-3″ groups at 25 yards, which means the gun’s mechanical accuracy is likely even better. For a service-type pistol like the VP9, that kind of accuracy puts it towards the top of its class. It probably isn’t going to shoot 1″ at 25 yards like a custom 1911, but I can’t shoot 1″ at 25 yards anyway. Additionally, this gun wasn’t designed to be that kind of weapon; it was designed to be an inherently-reliable service pistol, not a bullseye gun. To that end, H&K was successful; the VP9 ate up any weight or profile of bullet I fed it and asked for more. And for the amount of features, the price makes the VP9 quite a value. Magazines are kind of pricey at around $45-50 apiece, but they are readily available since the VP9 uses the same magazines as the P30. I certainly can’t tell you at the end of this review to go sell your Glocks and get a VP9. I actually think Glocks are a better option for competition because of the amount of aftermarket support and drop-in action enhancements. That said, I think for classes or nightstand duty, the VP9 offers some things that make it a real contender (those charging supports for small-framed shooters under duress, for one thing). As a result, I think H&K has a real winner on its hands with this one, and I’m glad to see them break into a price point that will make them relevant to more shooters. HP
-Colt Driver; Heckler and Koch VP9, MSRP $719 (street price ~$619), www.hk-usa.com
Heinie Specialty Products EZ-Lock Straight Eight Night Sights for P30 & VP9, Part #3950L, MSRP $146.93, www.heinie.com
Blade-Tech Classic OWB Series for VP9; Holster MSRP $64.99, Double Mag Pouch MSRP $54.99, www.blade-tech.com
Photos by author and kChanko.
*Handgun Planet would like to thank some companies that were instrumental to this review. First off, to Perry’s Gun Shop for helping us find a VP9 right out of the gate so we could get some ammo through it and start on this review. Also, thank you to Heinie Specialty for sending us a set of their sights to test before we even knew they had been released, and, of course, to our friends at Blade-Tech for getting us a holster to try shortly after completing their new VP9 lineup. Reviews of new firearms always pose challenges with regard to holsters and aftermarket accessories, so a huge thank you to all three of them for really helping us out!