Firearms Handguns Reviews

First Impressions: Heckler & Koch VP9

While it's a bit on the expensive size for duty-sized polymer-framed striker-fired pistol, the HK VP9 is a great option for home defense or everyday carry.

This past September I was in the waiting room of a local car wash waiting for my truck when I ran into a random police officer who was selling raffle tickets for an annual Amigos En Azul fundraiser. Speaking with the office about the fundraiser, I learned about the organization which is made up of police officers dedicated to developing trust and respect between the police and the Hispanic community. To this they run a scholarship program, an annual golf tournament, and a shop with a cop program. This annual fundraiser was for the scholarships and the raffle prizes were firearm. I bought a ticket to support the cause and thought nothing of it.

Why am I sharing all of this? Well that’s because a few weeks later I received a call informing me I was the lucky winner of an HK VP9 from the raffle drawing. The very same VP9 that I used for this review.

I was impressed with the contents of out of the box, which included:

  • the striker fired pistol,
  • three (3) fifteen (15) round magazines,
  • a magazine loader,
  • large and small grip panels and back straps to compliment the medium panels and back strap already on the gun,
  • a user manual,
  • and the box itself.

Not bad. That’s pretty much everything one needs with the exception of a holster to start using this gun as defensive carry tool or to participate in a local pistol match.

To be honest, I’ve heard several people praise the HK VP9 as an excellent pistol and some complain about it being on the more expensive side for pistols in this class. The class being a double-stacked polymer-framed duty pistol with a four (4) inch barrel. Looking around the internet, I found this pistol retailing just north of $800 and extra magazines retailing around $50. Those priced do put this pistol on the higher end of the spectrum for it’s class.

The gun itself has some nice features which I liked, including tritium night sights, ambidextrous slide catch and release levers, and ambidextrous magazine release “paddles”. The gun’s grip fit very comfortably in my hand, but I wasn’t too keen on the magazine release being a paddle instead of a button that I’m used to operating with my thumb. Attempting to work it with my thumb was horrible as I had to rotate my grip significantly to reach it. I contemplated selling the gun because of magazine levers as I figured I wouldn’t like running the gun, but instead I let it sit in the safe for a few months.

That changed the other night when I was contemplating whether or not I should try a different gun as my everyday carry defensive sidearm after learning that it wasn’t a good fit for my hand size and shape during the most recent training course I attended. During that contemplation, I remembered this gun was in my safe and could be configured with a smaller grip. So I decided to install the small grip panels and back strap on the VP9 and run about a hundred rounds through it at the range.

The shots from the first magazine felt a little weird to me. I attribute this to a few things. Given I’ve pretty much shot 9mm from the P229 almost exclusively this year, the first thing I noticed was there was more noticeable recoil compared to the P229 which is due to the weight differences between the guns. The VP9 weighs in at 25.56 ounces which is significantly lighter than the 34.4 ounces of the P229. Next thing I noticed was the trigger felt sloppy compared to the fancy Greyguns enhanced short-reset trigger on the P229. None of these things were the guns fault nor where they bad, it was just me adjusting to the lighter striker-fired platform.

After the first magazine and a few minor grip adjustments, the weirdness faded and the gun started feeling good. I mean real good. Like it was telling me it wanted to be run faster and harder. So that’s exactly what I did. I ran a few Mozambique style drills to run while adjusting my shooting cadence. I also ran a few recoil management drills. The gun ran like a champ. Shots were accurate. Groups were tight. The grip texture was great. Not too aggressive that it goes unnoticed, but aggressive enough that it didn’t require grip readjustments during strings of fire.

I proceeded to take some slower precision shots at about 15 yards. No problem. It was easy enough to do and I the gun made it pretty easy to let me concentrate and do my job. It’s as if it got out of the way.

Next up, reload drills. I was really worried about these given my opinion about the magazine release paddles. What I found was that releasing the spent magazine could be achieved quickly and efficiently without adjusting my grip by using my trigger finger instead of my thumb. I’m still not sold on the paddles, but at least I know I can work with them.

I finished up at the range with a few one handed shots with both my strong hand and with my support hand. I found the gun was easy to grip securely and confidently with one hand. I think this was due to the small grip panels and back strap.

Overall, I’m pretty impressed by the gun. It felt good to shoot and I was able to shoot it well. One other thing that I really liked were the vertically stacked round count indicators on the magazines. I found them to be very easy to read to get an accurate round count in the magazine.

At the end of the day, I’m wondering if the grips are a bit too narrow and small. I’lll probably reinstall the medium panels and back strap at some point and give the gun another go just to see which size grip works better for me. The only other thing that I would change would be the sights. They are the typical three dot sights with tritium inserts. I’ve become accustomed to high visibility sights (either fiber optic or large bright front sight dot with tritium inserts). The sights aren’t bad and they work just fine, however, I am likely to change them out or install a red dot if I decide to get serious about using this gun in anything other than a recreational capacity.

I’m inclined to say that I would recommend this gun to anyone looking for a duty-sized defensive pistol. It’s a really good option for home defense, open carry, and concealed carry. However, some folks may have to work a little bit to find a good concealed carry position and holster for this size gun depending on the individual body size and shape. Frankly, I may end up using this gun as my everyday carry pistol in the near future.


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