[Review] HK VP9: Better Than Glock?

Five years ago when Heckler and Koch launched the VP9 it was met with not a little excitement.

HK V9 and ammo
HK VP9

At the time poly 9mms were becoming The New Hotness 2.0 and the VP9 was one of a few major manufacturer models being introduced.

If you’re wondering what the VP9 has to offer, whether it’s maintained its usefulness with the passage of time, and how effective it is on smaller predators, you’ve come to the right place!

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Way Back When

Quick flashback to the gun’s early days. The HK VP9 was officially launched at SHOT Show 2015.

The “VP” in its name stands for “Volkspistole” a German word that translates to “people’s pistol.” A lot of people thought it was HK’s very first striker-fired polymer pistol, but it wasn’t.

That honor goes to the HK VP70, a semi-automatic, striker-fired poly pistol made back in 1970 (of course). The VP70 was a double-action-only pistol chambered in 9mm with an 18-round capacity.

HK VP70
The OG HK VP70

So while the VP9 wasn’t the company’s first of that general design it was still technically the first of its kind thanks to a variety of modern features like the striker-fired trigger that improved upon the heavy DAO on the VP70. 

What the VP9 did was usher in a new era of HK lovers, something that seems to have stuck over the years.

The VP9 remains the pistol I get asked about most frequently by readers and friends alike and is also the pistol four of my friends have added to their collections in the last year.

HK V9 side
HK VP9 side

Other than the VP9 the guns people in my gun circle are buying vary rather wildly. There’s apparently something about that VP9, though.

Specs

Yes, we have to talk numbers. The HK VP9 is a full-sized pistol and it may not be as small as you’re thinking.

The VP9 is:

  • Height: 5.41″
  • Length: 7.34″
  • Width: 1.32″

If you’re trying to picture that in your head just compare it to the Glock 17:

  • Height: 5.47″
  • Length: 8.03″
  • Width: 1.26″
The Glock 17 is the original double-stack 9mm from the Austrian manufacturer.
The Glock 17 Gen 5

The VP9 has a 15-round capacity and the Glock 17 has a 17-round capacity.

Other features. The barrel on HK’s striker-fired sweetheart is 4.09-inches long, polygonal, has 6 grooves, and a right-hand twist.

Sight radius is 6.38-inches, empty weight is 25.56 ounces, and as mentioned before it’s chambered in 9x19mm.

The trigger is what you’d expect for a striker-fired pistol and while some would argue it “has the feel” of a single-action it still isn’t actually a single-action. It’s striker-fired.

Trigger pull weight is listed by the manufacturer as 5 pounds, 4 ounces; when I checked out mine it measured 5 pounds, 1 ounce.

VP9 Function and Manipulation

In reality, I’ve run quite a few of these guns since the model was first released. The first VP9 I shot was at SHOT Show 2015 Industry Day at the Range.

For me, it wasn’t loved at the first shot, more like “huh, okay” and move on. It took some time and use before the VP9 grew on me.

step brother meh indifference
MFW I hear about the “new” striker fired gun this year

The trigger on the gun isn’t quite as spectacular as the company’s marketing might lead you to believe, but then what striker-fired trigger really is that amazing?

This one has a curved trigger with a safety lever at its center. Ridges on the trigger face are meant to give you some traction with your trigger finger but that’s going to be a matter of opinion.

For me, it’s a rather average trigger. If you want a cleaner break go find an aftermarket trigger; if you’re happy mastering a factory trigger as you’d find on a Glock, you’ll be fine with this one, too.

HK V9 grip
HK VP9 grip

Serrations at the front and rear of the slide are deep and aggressive so you’re not going to slip working the slide.

While we’re on the topic of serrations and racking slides it’s a good time to mention those little polymer ears on either side of the rear of the slide.

HK put tiny rectangular protrusions in place to make it easier to manipulate the slide when it’s harder to get a grip for a multitude of reasons.

HK V9 (2)
HK has a pair of polymer ears at the rear of the VP9’s slide to assist in racking the slide while wearing guns or if your hands are slippery.

Wearing gloves? You can still hang onto the rear of the slide. Hands slippery? You’re good. Weaker grip? It helps that too. Really it’s a great idea and gives the gun bonus points in my book.

Range Time

Over the years I’ve fed half a dozen VP9s everything from Remington UMC 9mm 115 grain to Federal 9mm 115 grain JHP to Hornady 9mm 147 grain XTP.

55
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Oh, and Sinterfire 9mm 100 grain HP Frangibles and Inceptor 9mm 65 grain ARX frangibles.

Frangibles from Sinterfire and Inceptor, left to right 9mm, .45 ACP, 10mm, and .50 Beowulf. Inceptor is easy to distinguish from others due to its dark brown color & fluted bullet
Frangibles from Sinterfire and Inceptor, left to right 9mm, .45 ACP, 10mm, and .50 Beowulf. Inceptor is easy to distinguish from others due to its dark brown color & fluted bullet

Whatever I feed it the VP9 eats. It seems to be true for my friends who have the gun as well. Sure, it prefers some ammo to others when it comes to accuracy but that’s standard for any gun.

The gun fits my hands well out of the box but if it didn’t, there are options. Not only the backstrap but the grip panels can be removed and replaced to customize its fit to your hand size.

HK V9 (5)
Adjustable grip panels!

It also means you can alter the width or thickness of one part of the grip but not the other depending on what you need. It’s a nicely customizable feature and one that makes it more useful for use by multiple shooters, too.

It’s an accurate gun especially for its 4.09-inch barrel length. Shooting from a rest at a distance of 25 yards the average five-shot group was between 2.5-inches and 3.0-inches.

Best five-shot group was from Browning BPT 9mm 147 grain FMJ which produced a nice little 1.90-inch cluster. Running the gun offhand you still get tight groups it’s just all about practice. The more time you log running your gun the better your shooting gets.

HK V9 side

Just the way it works. Good news is the VP9 is one of those pistols that does give you an edge for accuracy.

One frustration for me with this gun is the magazine release which is a paddle-style rather than push-button and located high alongside the slide. It’s all but impossible to manipulate the mag release without adjusting your grip and turning the gun.

HK V9 (3)
Ugh… this mag release…

You can experiment using other fingers to flip the paddle release but no matter what it’s going to slow you down a bit. On the plus side the mag release and slide release are ambidextrous.

Coyote Hunting

Sometimes the question comes up regarding whether you can use your carry gun for defense against wild animals.

You certainly can – just ask Phil Shoemaker about the grizzly he took down with a 9mm – but do remember size matters. If you aren’t Phil who has both a huge streak of luck on his side and decades of experience in bear country I wouldn’t be trusting a 9mm against a grizzly.

This was an awesome shot on this coyote and a great hunting memory

But in your urban areas, you’re more likely to come across something like a coyote. And the VP9 rocks on coyotes.

One night here in Texas I took the VP9 out in case a coyote showed up. In this case the gun had a SilencerCo Octane 9 suppressor, because why not? It didn’t take long for a long coyote to appear.

She appeared out of the dark, running, and was suddenly there.

She broke what I saw as the invisible 50-yard barrier and continued moving. In fact, she was in a flat-out run. The angle was poor so although I took aim I waited to pull the trigger. Only a matter of seconds passed – which felt like a lifetime – before she quartered slightly to my left.

The HK VP9 and SilencerCo Octane 9: coyote-killing win.
The HK VP9 and SilencerCo Octane 9: coyote-killing win.

I squeezed the trigger and the HK VP9 and Federal Personal Defense Hydra-Shok 124 grain HP bullet did the rest. The bullet entered her upper left side and angled neatly downward into her heart. As she crumpled and rolled, I was all smiles.

Despite the inky black of a moonless night and having only standard three-dot sights, we had a dog down. Any day with a coyote down is a good day.

19
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The shot had been precise and nicely quieted by the SilencerCo suppressor. Can an HK VP9 drop a mid-size female coyote with a surprisingly beautiful late-spring coat? Yes, yes it can.

By the Numbers

Reliability: 5/5

Every VP9 I’ve used or that friends have has been unerringly reliable. Not saying failures never happen just that they’re rare and these guns seem to eat everything. If a gun isn’t stupid reliable you shouldn’t even consider using it to defend your life. This one’s solid.

Ergonomics: 4/5

In general this is an ergonomically sound gun. Some shooters might complain because although HK made it lower bore than others it isn’t as low as a Glock, but honestly it’s just fine as is.

HK V9 and ammo

The fact it comes with three sizes of backstraps and grip inserts is nice for getting a more customized fit. I’ve never been thrilled with the way it feels in my hands but that’s more a personal issue. A ton of serious shooters love their VP9s. 

Accuracy: 4/5

It’s an accurate gun. You bring your skills, the gun brings its quality and good design, and the results speak for themselves.  

Customization: 3/5

Like most poly pistols the most you’re going to customize are the sights and the aforementioned grip inserts. Yes, you could go get it Cerakoted. Yes, you could paint a racing strip down the slide. Whatever frosts your cookies. It isn’t highly customizable but then, does it matter? It’s a great gun out of the box.

Value: 5/5

This gun is a good investment. Enough said.

Overall: 4/5

Conclusion

The HK VP9 is a nice pistol well-made pistol capable of above-average accuracy that will fit a wide range of shooters and can be used at the range or for self-defense. It’s durable, customizable, and reliable. For some people it’s going to be too big to use for concealed carry but if I can do it, you can do it, guys.

I even have a friend who conceals his with extended base plates on his magazines and a flared mag well to speed up mag changes. Odds are you can conceal bigger guns than you realize. 

HK V9 mag release
HK VP9 flared mag well

Everyone should own at least one HK. Just make sure you load your mags with the rounds facing in the correct direction.

If you doubt me just ask John Correia of Active Self Protection who has put an ungodly number of rounds through his during more class hours than most shooters would even dream of completing.

HK really does design and manufacture stellar guns and the VP9 remains an excellent choice.

What striker fired gun is your favorite? Do you prefer your HK to be hammer or striker fired? Let us know in comments! If you need something a bit more CCW minded, take a look at the Best Compact 9mm Handguns!

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