Heckler and Koch release the VP9 pistol

The VP9 is a smooth transition from previous HK models

The plebeian of striker-fired service pistols reminds me of thirty years ago when the US Army decided to adopt a 9mm pistol to replace the tired old 1911 45ACP. Almost overnight, handgun manufacturers were stepping over themselves to produce what Col. Jeff Cooper disparaged as the “Wondernine.” This term described a 9mm handgun operated via a double action/single action trigger mechanism with a magazine capacity of fifteen rounds. 

Fast forward twenty years and the Wondernine business has moved from hammer-fired pistols made of aluminum and steel to striker-fired pistols with polymer frames. Strikers offer two distinct advantages over their hammered cousins.  One is simplicity of mechanical operation. The striker is located inside the slide and is pulled back by a wedge inside the frame that is attached to the trigger. As the trigger moves backward, the wedge in the frame catches the striker and pulls it back under spring tension. At a certain distance, the wedge drops away, allowing the striker to fly forward and strike the primer. Not only does the striker do away with parts like the hammer, hammer strut and mainspring but, without these parts, the grip circumference is reduced. 

The second advantage to the striker is a more sealed unit. Since the striker and related components are housed entirely within the pistol, there’s no slot or raceway for an exposed hammer. A sealed action means a pistol is more resistant to dirt, mud, lint or any foreign material that may impede reliability. Currently, we have models from FN, Smith and Wesson, Glock and Ruger. The one highly-anticipated maker absent from the list was Heckler and Koch.

Six Key Points
HK has been shipping their latest pistol, the VP9, for a few months now and I was fortunate enough to obtain one for testing. I recently used it in a Haley Strategic Disruptive Environments carbine course and would like to share my thoughts and observations on the new pistol’s key points.

1. This pistol, as the name implies, is chambered in the omnipresent 9mm Luger cartridge. As of this writing, the pistol is only available in this one caliber and is not available in anything other than a full-sized model. I have no doubts that the pistol will be sold in other chamberings such as the 40S&W (VP40, I assume) and be available in a compact format. 

2. The VP9 is not merely a redesigned, striker-fired variant of the P2000 and/or P30. While the pistol outwardly appears very similar to the P30, no parts other than sights and magazines can be interchanged between the two models. Some holsters for the P30 may work, depending on maker/style.

3. As with all HK firearms, whether they’re rifle or pistol, the VP9 is built to a very high standard. Quality is evident throughout and I see no evidence of tool chattering or other machine marks in the pistol’s steel surfaces.

4. Unlike some other polymer-framed pistols that only use an interchangeable back strap, the VP9 will accept a combination of back panels and side panels, making for a very customizable grip.

5. One note of interest is how hot the pistol’s slide can become during extended firing strings. The slide is machined tightly around the barrel. This means there is more heat transfer into the slide than one might find with some competing designs.  It probably won’t be an issue for the majority of users but it might be a little alarming if you’re not expecting it.

6. Even though my experiences with the VP9 have been limited, I have found the pistol to be easy to operate. The trigger, unlike most other striker-fired pistols, is crisp and clean with a positive and predictable reset.

Anyone familiar with the Heckler and Koch pistols will have no problems switching over to the VP9 and I predict great things for HK’s latest model.

Now I eagerly await the VP40!

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