[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

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!

Table of Contents


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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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


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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33 Leave a Reply

  • UpOnOne1000

    I have owned my VP9 for five years now and have countless thousands of rounds through it. It's accuracy and performance have gotten me over the hump more than once in an instructor class or two. As an armored car industry firearms instructor with a company who issues the FN509, the VP9 simply does shoot better for me. Nothing against the FN 509 or any Glock, they are both solid reliable pistols, but I prefer the VP9 enough to have just purchased a VP9L OR to begin running in heavier volume pistol classes and keeping my current one for CC.

    2 weeks ago
  • Hammer

    It's really not even a question. The HK is superior to the Glock, period. The only other polymer strikers I'd compare it to are the CZ P-10 (HK is slightly better, imo) and from what I've heard, the Walther PPQ, which I haven't shot yet. But the VP40 is even sweeter - I don't know what kind of Kraut space magic they sprinkle on it, but none of the typical criticisms of shooting .40 S&W - that it "has harsh" recoil," that it is "harder to control," etc. apply when shooting the VP40 in my experience.

    2 months ago
  • Paul F

    Just want to point out the trigger on my VP9 got better over time, also this article was written in June 2020, as March 2020 these no longer ship with 15 round magazines they are now standard 17rd capacity, unless you live in a restricted state then they're still 10rd.

    2 months ago
  • Patrick J Wood

    Great review and article. I'm far from a beginner, but it makes one think about future happenings, especially with the potential violence as we get closer to the Presidential election.

    2 months ago
  • Troy

    I agree completely, People act as if Coyotes are simply a nuisance that need to be exterminated... Maybe you should not be encroaching on their land leaving them little options and easy pickings... They are Dogs "Man's Best Friend" I don't see how anyone can feel good about killing these beautiful animals. In her words " 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. Wow her words ay it all!

    4 months ago
    • GluteusMaximus

      The corona virus is just one of nature’s beautiful creations. Exterminating it would be an affront to Gia.

      2 weeks ago
    • Bob

      you dont get out much do you???? try leaving the computer time to time. the fact you wrote that means you never seen them up close or know what they can do.....

      2 months ago
  • Daniel

    It appears to be a good gun but if you are LE and looking at it from a budget prospective, don't be fooled by their $150 "gift certificate " it's really only good for useless swag. I can legally buy and own "high capacity " magazines but they refused to ship them. Buy Walther, far better LE backing.

    4 months ago
  • jihel

    Sorry to spoil the show but feeling happy for having killed an innocent animal who wasn't threatening anyone deserves little respect.

    5 months ago
    • Steve Gibbs

      People in my area have lost pets, both dogs and cats to these predators. we keep ours indoors since they came home needing stitches. MY wife cares for a feral cat colony from which some of her favorites have disappeared I hate coyotes. They are hardly innocent.

      5 months ago
      • John Marren

        Innocent? How can a coyote be guilty of following it's natural instinctive behaviour....sort of like the Natural Law for us humans. Hate coyotes? Hardly innocent? If I were you I'd recalibrate my thinking...the coyotes are doing what is natural to their instinctive mechanism. Just keep your cats, as I do mine, indoors and then you won't have to deal with the "natural order of things" like coyotes killing your cats as a natural, innocent, instinctive behaviour. Get a grip.

        5 months ago
        • Scotty

          As M. Herrington said, God gave us dominion over the animals. And since we have eliminated most of the predators that preyed on coyotes we have an obligation to now maintain their population. If they are coming into our yards to prey on our dogs and cats, then they seem to have over hunted their normal hunting areas. Which is a sign of overpopulation. Therefore, it is our duty to reduce their numbers. It is, if you think it all the way through, the most humane option. Yes, we are reducing the size of their habitat. Yet another reason to reduce their numbers to keep the coyote population from starving.

          2 months ago
        • M. Herrington

          God gave us dominion over the animals. Unless it's a protected species (which would give them special protection under the law), killing them humanely (quickly) is not wrong. You are the one who needs to "recalibrate" their thinking. Why should our domesticated pets be kept hostage indoors just because predators want to attack them? No, we will protect our pets, our property, or whatever else is threatened. And you need to get a grip; no one's questioning the motives of these predators. It's the consequences of their actions that we care about, not why they did it. Unlike you, we don't let the tail wag the dog.

          3 months ago
        • John Biely

          I agree. The coyote doesn't shop at petsmart. and they can't shoot back. They shop instinctively and when humans encroach, they naturally broaden the coyotes menu.

          4 months ago
        • John Q Citizen

          right on.

          4 months ago
  • J Dingler

    I too own this firearm and it is my duty weapon that replaced my HK USP-T 40. I see this article is dated 6/11/2020, but the new mods to this pistol came out early this year and some last year late. Some subtle changes are 17 rnd mags, top cutout and plates for different RMR, and the push button mag release. (Since I have been shooting HKs for 20 years now, the ambi paddles are faster and easier than the push button...for me, it is an edge I get when shooting against people on the range doing drills.) The nice thing about the trigger is consistency. My wife has a sig 320 and it has the best trigger on a striker and it does make me jealous, however, that is a one in five chance. I say that because I have picked up 10 of those models and only two have had that crisp sweet trigger. Glock is consistent as well but they are consistently terrible. I have picked up 50 or more HK VPs in 40 and 9 and each trigger is nice and they are same on all the pistols. If mine came with an small adjustable rear sight, then it would be perfect. There are many reasons I love my HK USP, but the adjustable rear sight aides to it's greatness. Just my few cents on the matter. Back to the range, life is good.

    5 months ago
  • Archer

    I’ve been running the Optic Ready variant with an RMR for a few weeks now, and this is the first (second, technically, after my P7’s) striker gun I’ve been able to run as fast and accurate as any SAO gun with a tuned trigger. It’s heavier and has more travel than nearly any of the SAO pistols I’ve been using for decades, yet it’s faster and more accurate for me than many of my other pistols. The paddle release is actually faster for me (on a timer) than a button, the middle finger on the drive hand actuates the paddle with no change in grip. The pistol is noticeably lighter than the P226/229 SAO’s I normally carry and even easier to carry. The grip is a revelation. Out of the box it fits my xxl mitts like it was made for them. 1.5” groups with HST 147 off the bench and 3” groups off hand at 25 yards prove this pistol is more accurate than I am. I’m looking forward to aftermarket support for proper suppressor-height sights, as the Optic Ready has a unique rear dovetail cut.

    6 months ago
    • Matt

      This is very good input. Thanks.

      3 months ago
  • Joe

    I have the VP-9 LE, it's awesome! I like my G-17 Gen 4, but I shoot the HK tighter. Love the grip, paddle mag release took a little getting used to, once I realized there was a release on both sides of the trigger, it got real easy. Next buy for me, HK VP-9 Tactical!

    6 months ago
  • Scott

    I've always thought VP9 looked like a good alternative to the glocken, but my HK is a P7.

    6 months ago
  • Steve

    I have both the VP9 and the HK45, and both fit well in my hand. But between the two I tend to bring the 45 to the range most often as it's really fun to shoot - especially with its single-action trigger pull.

    6 months ago
  • Gene

    Not only was the VP70 H&K's first polymer framed striker fired pistol, it was the WORLD's first. It pre-dates the Glock by 12 years.

    6 months ago
  • Michael

    Just purchased the VP9 OR, only waiting for it to get here at this point. However, I'm curious what level of customization you were looking for. I was on hkparts site and they seem to have a moderate amount of customizable parts that would allow you to make the gun your own without ever having to send it out. It seems to be more than what is available for Sig, maybe not as much as Glock though. Just curious.

    6 months ago
  • Christian

    Finally showing some love for the VP9!

    6 months ago
  • Joe

    HK fanboy here. Just not a fan of the grip texture and the finger grooves on any of there modern pistols. I like, even love them otherwise. I think the LEM trigger for their hammer guns is a real game changer. But for the money, I think that Glock is better than the VP9 with the new Gen 5 improvements. Especially the MOS options. Because of the grip I favor the P2000 honestly over the VP9. Great article, thanks for the contribution.

    6 months ago
  • David Boerboom

    That was pretty good girlie. I enjoyed it. Youve always seemed to have good taste, and your articles tend to flow better than others. Thank you for taking the time.

    6 months ago
  • Captain Insano

    This is the first review I've seen that says the VP9 has a "rather average trigger." Every other review I've ever seen said the trigger is excellent for a striker-fired pistol, second only to the PPQ's. I had both but got rid of the PPQ because I shoot the VP9 better. The VP9 mag release is considerably wider than the one on the Gen 1 PPQ. It is incredibly easy to release the mag with the middle finger on the strong hand without altering your grip. If you're having to turn the gun sideways to release the mag you're doing something wrong or at least unnecessary.

    6 months ago
  • John

    I have two H&K VP9 sk handguns and love them. It is easier for me to shoot accurately with the sk than the regular VP9. However, I have acquired bone cancer and am having a more difficult time racking the slide. (the sk has a pretty heavy spring). Unlike many shooters, i love the paddle mag releases much better than the button release. So, I purchased a Walther PPQ 9mm with paddle mag releases. The trigger is great on the sk and the PPQ trigger is a little better than that. The ergonomics on the sk are slightly better for my hands but the PPQ ergonomics are excellent. Dawson Precision sights improved both handguns. As an instructor, I recommend finding a handgun that works for you i.e. proper fit, feels right, you shoot it well, you can rack the slide easily, you can manage the recoil, and you can conceal it.

    6 months ago
  • KrysL

    I love my VP9!! My next purchase will be the VP9SK :) For mag changes, I put my index finger high on the slide and use my middle finger to press the paddle. I've practiced it over and over so I can do it quickly while moving .. usually under a second. This is the only pistol I own, so over the last couple of years, I've changed and improved my grip. The downside is that I can no longer shoot pistols with the button for a mag release ... I shoot left-handed, and my support hand middle finger is positioned right where that button is on other pistols. As far as the Walther goes, it's very similar, but the Walther has no ears ... which makes a HUGE difference.

    6 months ago
  • Mark

    The mags work for both the VP9 and VP9-B as well as the p30. The 17 round mags from the new optics ready also work. If you’re buying new ones, make sure they are the 17 rounder. I have the long slide for mine. Love that gun.

    6 months ago
  • Scott Chapin

    My VP9 OR came with 17 round mags. I think that’s standard now.

    6 months ago
  • Eustace W. Plimsoll

    Really like the VP9. It is on the list of guns I want to buy someday. I want the VP9-B model with the standard mag release button. I don't care for the paddle-style mag releases. I understand HK has introduced a new VP9 series that is optics-ready. MSRP on the optics-ready pistols is ~US$200 over the standard models. Personally, I'm not interested in optics-ready but some may dig that capability. Mags are not cheap at ~US$40 each. Having lived through the Clinton years, I buy a minimum of seven hi-cap mags for each new pistol, so an extra five mags will add ~US$200 to the purchase price. I do not know whether the VP9 and VP9-B mags are interchangeable. I'm indifferent to the ears on the rear of the slide. I don't really care so long as they don't get in the way of standard manipulation. The only reason I think I might prefer the VP9 over the Walther PPQ M2 is the ability to change the side grip panels. You can only change the backstrap on the PPQ. I have extremely small hands (any rumors you may have heard about men with small hands are NOT true) and even with the smallest backstrap, the PPQ is just a little larger than I would like. Maybe the VP9 would fit me better. Both the VP9 and PPQ appear to be outstanding pistols with ergonomics Glock can only dream about. Although Glock rules aftermarket accessories, I don't think either the VP9 or the PPQ needs any aftermarket accessories.

    6 months ago
  • Andrew F

    I’m under the impression that this and the Walther PPQ are nearly the same gun, but the PPQ now offers a traditional American button style magazine release. And the PPQ usually costs less. That was my latest pistol purchase, and I don’t regret it. It’s reliable and, to me, offers much better ergonomics than a Glock.

    6 months ago
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