Literally named Volkspistole or “people’s pistol”, the HK VP9 is a well designed semi auto 9mm striker fired, poly framed pistol from Heckler and Koch. Built for the concealed carry market, it is truly an everyman’s handgun suitable for most any task you might have for it. Any HK VP9 review will naturally have to cover all four versions available, which is exactly what we plan to do!
HK VP9 Models
The HK VP9
In it’s standard configuration the HK VP9 is a rather advanced handgun. Designed to be a military grade service style pistol, but suitable for private citizens, the VP9 has a number of unique features like a paddle magazine release, cold hammer forged barrel, polygon rifling, short takeup trigger, and a patented charging support on the slide to make loading the gun easier.
In addition, the VP9 has three interchangeable backstraps and six different side plates to allow you to customize the fit of the gun to your unique needs. (We’ll talk more about those later). No HK VP9 review would be complete without also mentioning the standard Picatinny rail molded into the frame, ambidextrous controls, and a unique captive flat recoil spring that soaks up felt recoil.
All in all, the VP9 is a very well thought out design that incorporates unique features not commonly found in other striker fired guns, and serves as an ideal platform for the other three VP9 models. There are a lot of other neat features on the VP9, but we’ll look at them in a bit, as they are in common with all models.
The HK VP9sk
Handguns should never be a one size fits all proposition. While HK already addresses that by making the VP9 grip adjustable to fit the user’s hand, sometimes you just flat out need a smaller pistol.
The VP9sk is HK’s answer to a growing demand for a compact pistol suitable for concealed carry that still is full of modern features. Literally just a scaled down VP9, the VP9sk can use a 10, 13 or standard 15 round magazine, although the 10 rounder will be best suited for the most discrete concealed carry.
With a length of just over 6.5 inches, and a height just over 4.5 inches, the VP9sk isn’t a little subcompact, but it neatly hides under a suit coat, jacket, or slips well into a glove compartment. In other words, this is the gun you choose when you can’t carry a full sized 9mm, but want something close in size and ammo capacity.
Our review of the VP9sk wouldn’t be complete without looking at the main thing other than size that is different about this gun. While it can accept standard VP9 magazines, they are longer than the grip and will stick out past it. Instead, HK ships a pair of 10 round mags with it (also making it suitable for states with magazine capacity limits).
One of these mags has a flat baseplate, while the other has an aggressive fingergroove extension that neatly works with the fingergrooves molded into the grip of the gun. Either magazine choice is suitable for concealed carry, and some shooters really enjoy having that fingergroove extension on the bottom of their magazine.
You’ll find the VP9sk is quite the advanced compact 9mm, and perfect for most concealed carry tasks, or just as a general purpose all around gun.
The HK VP9 Tactical
These days it seems the term “tactical” gets thrown around for just about everything. Heck, there is even tactical bacon! So when we sat down to do the VP9 Tactical review, we were honestly expecting a gun with a few pointless fripperies and a fancy named designed to make a few bucks off people who think “tactical” means it will make them a badass shooter.
Well, it turns out the VP9 Tactical actually is a high quality, advanced gun for people who need something a bit more than a stock pistol. Let’s take a look.
Just like the VP9sk, the VP9 Tactical is at its heart, a standard VP9 with a few seemingly minor tweaks that turn out to make a huge difference.
In fact, there are only two things different between the VP9 and the VP9 Tactical – the threaded barrel, and taller, adjustable Truglo night sights.
You see, what makes this gun “tactical” is the threaded suppressor ready barrel, and the accompanying adjustable night sights. Suppressed handguns have become popular in recent years because they help protect hearing in a self defense situation. They also have a lot of use with law enforcement when the reduced noise of a suppressed gun is of practical or tactical value.
Night sights are practically self explanatory. It’s nice to be able to see your handgun sights in the night – because a self defense situation never waits for ideal lighting conditions. Adjustable sights let you dial in your sights for the load you like using, and in the case of the VP9 Tactical, also see over the suppressor, and adjust for how it changes the aiming of the gun.
If you want to run a suppressed VP9, HK already has a model just for you!
The HK VP9 LE
Once again, we come back to the same idea – the HK VP9 LE is just a regular VP9 with some tweaks. LE of course stands for Law Enforcement, and while our HP VP9 LE review suggests it is well suited for police use, we also think it’s something of a marketing gimmick.
You see, the only real difference between the VP9 and the VP9 LE are the tritium night sights. Tritium night sights use a mildly radioactive gas to give you an “always on” night sight that require no batteries and won’t fade in the dark. On the other hand, they will fade over time, as the tritium decays, which means you get about seven years of use out of a set of tritium sights before needing to replace them.
As for the LE moniker, it’s true police certainly benefit from night sights, because again, a defensive shooting never schedules itself for sunny days, but pretty much any gun owner can also benefit from a night sight equipped gun.
Basically if you want to spend the few extra bucks (and you should), get the VP9 LE, and enjoy the benefits of night sights.
Which HK VP9 Is Right For You?
Well, as you can see from our HK VP9 reviews, there are barely any differences between all four models of the VP9. So does it really matter which one you get?
It certainly does, because while the differences may seem slight, they are also crucially important and can even change how you use the gun.
Let’s start with the base model VP9. Assuming you want a full sized handgun, and are not after extras, it will do the job quite nicely. In fact, for most people it is just fine. While it lacks night sights, many people put a weapons light on their gun, so the onboard accessory rail ensures you’ll have the ability to mount that light when you need it.
It’s also going to be cheaper than the VP9 LE or VP9 Tactical. It uses the same stock 15 round mags as the other two full sized versions, and is otherwise identical to them, barring model unique sights or barrel. So if you just need a stock full size pistol, this is the one.
On the other hand, if you can live with a ten round mag, and need or want something a bit smaller, the VP9sk is without a doubt the gun for you. A bit shorter, and a bit smaller than a stock VP9, it still has the same customizable side and back panels to give you that perfect fit, along with the same ergonomics. Because there is no other compact SP9 available, this is your one and only choice for a smaller SP9 style gun.
For those who want to run a suppressor, you could get an expensive aftermarket barrel, or you could just buy an HK factory gun that is suppressor ready. The VP9 Tactical is your best choice if you want to run a suppressor (or compensator) on your pistol. And because it’s also fitted with taller suppressor sights, this is literally an out of the box, turn key solution to having a suppressed VP9.
If you want night sights on your VP9, you could always add them, or get the VP9 Tactical, but then you also have the threaded barrel you might not want. Or, you could just get the VP9 LE, which ships with factory night sights. An otherwise unchanged VP9, the VP9 LE gives you the possibly life saving addition of night sights, which allows you greater security and safety at night if you are forced to use your handgun.
As you can see, with four simple variations on the them, HK has managed to cover almost every legitimate end use for the VP9 that is out there, and it is crazy easy to choose the right one for your needs!
Why Choose the HK VP9?
We think there are two main reasons to choose the VP9, and several lesser reasons. The first is that it has an outstanding trigger. One of the main shortcomings with any striker fired pistol is that the trigger is always going to be various flavors of mediocre without extensive work.
HK ships a factory trigger that is both short and light, while other competing guns have a longer, stiffer trigger pull. A shorter, lighter pull increases accuracy and allows for faster followup shots when needed, both things important in a concealed carry or duty pistol.
However, the other great thing about the VP9 is how you can literally rebuild it to fit your hands. While some guns are shipping with interchangeable backstraps that change the profile of the back of the frame, HK also ships a set of sideplates that allow you to configure the sides of the frame to fit your hand. Gone are the days of one size fits some people handgun frames, the VP9 lets you build it exactly how you want it, instead of how the factory thinks you might want it.
Along with the superior trigger, and customizable frame, the VP9, has a unique cocking assist system that makes it easier to cycle the slide. Because some people may have physical difficulty working a traditional slide, or in some cases gloves make it harder, HK has engineered a removable side extension for the rear of the slide that makes gripping and pulling it back even easier. If you choose not to use this system, it can be removed.
We also like the polygon rifling of the VP9. This is a proven form of rifling that offers superior accuracy, and reduced barrel wear and fouling. In fact, the cold forged steel barrels from HK have been tested to 90,000 rounds!
While not as flashy as some of the competition, nor as hip and cool, the VP9 is a rock solid, polymer frame striker fired pistol that is more perfect than some competing guns claiming to have “perfection” of their own.
HK VP9 Review: Final Thoughts
The HK VP9 is a superior polymer frame, striker fired pistol that incorporates many unique and advanced design features. Most notably it can be extensively reconfigured to fit the user, and comes with three specialized models for concealed carry, law enforcement and tactical use.
With just four models, HK has developed a handgun that manages to appeal to almost the entire spectrum of 9mm pistol owners. This means that it is very easy to find an HP9 that suits you.
While some are critical of the 15 round factory mags, competing guns only ship with slightly larger mags, and you can get larger ones, so we feel this is a real non issue. We believe the VP9 is ideal for anybody looking for a full size or compact 9mm polymer frame striker fired gun, and that it offers unique advantages over competing models.
Check them out, we’re sure you’ll love the HK VP9 as much as we did!
Steve Coffman is a consulting historian presently researching the dark history of the Washington State Secret Service, and their concerted assault on civil rights in Washington State 1917-1919.