Over the last few years I have slowly been replacing all of my .40 caliber handguns. I have been sitting on my last .40 cal Glock 22 for a while because it was sentimental to me. It never really gets used, (don’t think I have fired it in 5 years). The Glock 22 is one of my staged home defense firearms sitting in a quick access safe. I have been searching for the right firearm to replace it. I have been looking hard at Heckler & Koch’s and Sig Sauer’s lately, as I am familiar with them. I have a lot of Glock’s and because of their low price; I can pick one up any time. I did not want to replace this particular firearm with another Glock. I wanted something different, that was well made, reliable, mid to full sized, and could be carried anytime or used in a defensive pistol class. I did not want something I was going to forget about and never use. I narrowed my choices down to three H&K models: (1) USP Compact 9, (2) P30 and (3) the VP9 LE. Now, the HK magazine release has never been an issue with me. There are several ways to manipulate the firearm to hit the magazine release and you need to become very familiar with how to do this.
I am very familiar with the USP models and the USP Compact 9 is a nice small package. I knew that I would end up going with a light LEM trigger in the USP and the P30. The light LEM, if you know how to use it, is a very good trigger system. Then there was the VP9, basically an HK version of a Glock or M&P striker fired firearm, and my #3 choice out of the bunch. I was lucky to walk into a store that had all three of these firearms on hand. I spent my time holding, manipulating, dry firing and scrutinizing all three of these choices. I loved the P30 grip, it is one of the most comfortable handgun grips I have every felt, but the rear decocker next to the hammer was very unusual and awkward. The USP is what it is, reliable, ok grip, low 13 round magazine capacity, frame compact but somehow the slide is still bulky and too fat. I was fast becoming very disappointed in my choices and starting to think about a totally different platform. Also, at the end of the day I could not justify a polymer framed handgun at 1k prices.
Initial VP9 Thoughts:
I picked up the VP9LE basically conceding defeat on my HK choices and suddenly things started falling into place. I had really never considered the VP9 as a choice. It is relatively new to the market, it’s another striker fired handgun and had some weird features on it I was not sure about. Once it was in my hands things started quickly going my way.
The grip on the VP9 was very close to the P30. I knew it had additional side panels and back straps, for additional grip adjustment. When I first took a firm grip of the VP9, I immediately thought, this is one of the best contoured and stippled grips I have felt on a striker fired handgun. There was a distinct hump in the back strap of grip that was more pronounced than on the P30, but I knew there was a smaller back strap without this hump. I was confident this would make it very close to the P30 grip.
The VP9 has very natural point-ability and balance to it. As I was manipulating the VP9LE, it seemed the sights were very quick to acquire. The sights are nothing special, just basic Tru Dot night sights. One thing that was distracting to me initially, were the patented charging support wings behind the rear slide serrations. They seemed unnecessary and initially kind-of distracted my sight picture, but I also knew these could be removed.
I ended up buying the VP9LE after some intense negotiations with the manager of the store, (I never pay retail). In-fact, I came out so good on the deal, there was no way I could have said no. Plus, the longer I was messing with the VP9, it started looking even more nice and it is badass looking. My co-worker was so surprised at the deal I managed to negotiate, that he bought one for the same deal. I bought the VP9LE several months ago and have been using it frequently since the purchase. Before we get too in-depth on review, I want to mention there will be no token, (backward bullet pictures in this review), with the magazines.
The price on the VP9LE is all over the place. Look for a deal on one, if you are in the market. My purpose in purchasing the VP9 was to replace an aging firearm, in a caliber I no longer use. After selling my Glock 22, I purchased the VP9LE for 648.00 dollars out the door. After all was said and done, the VP9LE replaced a 16 year old duty weapon for approximately 173.00 dollars. I don’t know about you, but I will take a new firearm, to replace an old one, with three (3) magazines and night sights for 173.00 all day long. That being said, 650.00 for the VP9LE is a pretty decent deal as well. Retail on a Gen4 Glock without night sights is 599.00. If you minus the extra magazine at 45.00 dollars and the night sights at 99.00 dollars, the stock VP9 would have cost me just over 500.00 dollars. That’s pretty damn good in my opinion.
The VP9 has a 1913 Picatinny rail, enlarged heavy-duty external extractor/ loaded chamber indicator, front slide serrations and rear charging support wings. The VP9 is also fully ambidextrous.
Slide & Frame
The VP9 slide is machine cut/milled from a solid block of high carbon steel. The slide has a smooth even black H&K Hostile Environment® finish. The slide is rounded and beveled on the edges, across the top, front and back. The front and rear slide serrations are generous and allow you to get a very positive grip on the slide when racking or manipulating the slide of the firearm. As I stated earlier, I initially thought the charging support wings obstructed my view. After shooting a lot of rounds though the VP9LE, I found they did not bother me at all and I forgot all about them. I don’t think they make a real difference in manipulating the slide. The Slide serrations are deep and do the job well enough. HK does sell some flush charging supports. You have to remove the rear sight to remove the charging supports and then add the flush supports. I will probably do this when I decided to get new sights.
The Frame and frame rails are very robust. HK has built a thick and ridged design with the VP9. I assume this is because HK knew they would come out with the .40 caliber VP40 later. HK’s have always been built well and you are getting a quality firearm when you buy one. The VP9 is no different. The Picatinny rail is a little longer on the VP9 and it can accommodate any aftermarket weapon light or laser up to 5.6 ounces. The polymer of the frame is very thick. It does not bend or flex like other polymer framed firearms. The frame rails are very robust as well. The lock up of the frame and slide has a very slight wobble from side to side, but you have to physically move the slide side to side with your hand.
Barrel & Guide Rod
The Barrel on the VP9 has a very nice finish on it. After over 1300 rounds it is starting to get the slight hint of classic barrel chatter marks. After cleaning and wiping it down, both sides of the chamber also had just a slight sign of wear.
The barrel is made of canon grade steel. The barrel is cold hammer forged and has a six (6) grove Polygonal right-hand twist, similar to Glock, not traditional lands and grooves. Another interesting aspect of the barrel is an ever so slight raised tip of the end of the barrel. You can see the line in the end of the barrel and you can slightly feel the raised edge with your finger. I really cannot find any information on/or about this barrel feature on the VP9. H&K is usually tight lipped about many proprietary features on their firearms. I can only assume this feature would provide a tighter lock up, when making contact with the top of the slide, to enhance accuracy.
The VP9 has a patented captive flat recoil spring. The recoil spring assembly is a three (3) piece design consisting of the recoil spring, guide rod that is forked at the end, and a washer to capture the spring. I made the mistake of dropping the recoil assembly on a hard floor. The washer on the end came off and it took quite a bit of effort to get it back on, after I located the spring.
Grip Panels / Ergonomics
The stippling on the VP9 is very close to the P30. The P30 is one of the nicest feeling firearms in the hand, I have ever felt. The VP9 stippling is aggressive enough to notice but does not beat up your hand during extensive and long strings of fire. The three (3) changeable backs straps give you the option to fit the grip size to your hand and adjust your length of pull for the firearm.
The VP9 comes with three (3) different sized back straps, (3) right side panels and (3) left side panels. This gives you twenty seven (27) grip combinations on the VP9. I found the perfect combination for my hand is; the small back strap, with the medium left and right side panels.
When making a decision to purchase a HK firearm, for the purpose of it being a defensive firearm, you need to make sure the HK magazine release system is for you. If it is, you will be getting the typical reliable, quality magazines from HK. The VP9 magazines are the same magazines used by the HK P30. They function perfectly, dropping free, inserting the magazine and feeding the ammunition. Remember, if you are buying the LE model, you will get three (3) magazines with the package.
H&K’s have always come with steel sights and the VP9LE comes with Tru Dot night sights. This is a great feature and value in the VP9LE. While the Tru Dot night sights are just basic three dot night sights, getting the VP9LE with the sights will save you money and a lot of headache, with putting on sights after you get the handgun. The Tru Dot’s will serve you well and I probably will not replace them until they get dim.
Loaded Chamber Indicator
The external extractor on the VP9 also doubles as the loaded chamber indicator. It has a bright red paint applied to the top of the extractor so you can visually see that there is a live round in the firearm.
Firing Pin/striker Indicator
The VP9 also has a cocked striker indicator on the back of the slide. This visual indication shows that the firing pin/striker is in the cocked position, ready to fire, by a red indicator painted on the back of the slide.
So far I have put over 1300 documented rounds of mix ammunition, ( Federal 115grn FMJ, Winchester 115 grn steal case FMJ, Fiocchi 115grn FMJ, Speer 147grn TMJ, Federal 147grn HST & Speer 147grn Gold Dot), through the VP9. It has well over the 1300 round count; I just stopped counting after the 1300 round mark. I am confident it is well over 2000 rounds now. I have found the VP9 to be extremely reliable, just as my other personal defense firearms.
Note: Just to be fair I wanted to add this information. Several months ago I was testing some new ammunition. I used several different firearms to test the ammunition, all of which had 100% reliability so far, two (2) Glock’s, a Sig Sauer and the VP9. All experience failures to extract with the ammunition. It was pretty obvious this was poorly manufactured ammunition, (QC). After switching back to several other quality ammunition offering, all firearms including the VP9 ran 100%.
With previous experience shooting H&K’s I have found them to be very accurate firearms. As long as I was doing my part, I found the VP9LE was very accurate and could do everything I needed it to do. The sight radius on the VP9LE is full sized, approximately 6.38 inches, but I do not care for the True Dot night sights that come with the VP9LE model. I felt the sight picture was not that good and the angle of the rear sight had a lot of glare coming off it, in certain lighting conditions. The front sight had some glare from time to time as well. Even though the sights were not ideal for me, the VP9LE had great accuracy. With some aftermarket sights of my choosing, I feel it will perform even better, if that’s possible. The 147grn Speer Gold Dot had several very impressive groups and it is one of my two defensive loads of choice. All shooting of the VP9LE was done off hand or from the holster. I was initially shooting the VP9LE slightly left as you will see. I did notice the front sight was not perfectly centered and I did tap it over a little to center it up after the first few strings of fire.
All of the controls on the VP9 feel like they are in right place for my hands. All of the ambidextrous controls are easy to manipulate and reach, on each side of the VP9.
Slide Catch/Release (Ambidextrous)
The Slide Catch/Release Lever, or whatever you want to call it, is ambidextrous and extremely easy to use from both sides. On the VP9, I found I did not have to adjust my grip to avoid riding the top of the lever with my strong hand thumb. I usually find myself contacting the slide stop/release with other firearms, making the slide not lock open on the last round in the magazine. This is something I do on several firearms and I know I have to adjust my grip slightly. The VP9 is one of the only handguns I have not had this issue. The slide catch/release seems to be in the perfect position for me. I prefer to use the (over the top / sling shot method) when doing a reload for consistency across multiple platforms, so the slide catch lever does not get used that much for me on reloads.
Takedown Lever/Field Stripping
One great feature of the VP9 is the take down lever. It operates like a Sig Sauer Classic takedown lever. This is a very nice feature because there is no need to pull the trigger like a (Glock), or manipulate some little tiny internal bar like on a (Smith & Wesson M&P), to remove the slide from the frame. Simply rack the slide and lock it back to make sure it is unloaded, rotate the takedown lever down, release the slide and pull it off. This design in a striker fired firearm reinforces the (Never Put Your Finger on the Trigger until Ready to Fire), while also making it simple and very easy to field strip.
Magazine Release (Ambidextrous)
As I stated earlier, HK’s have a magazine release you must be familiar with and comfortable using. It is ambidextrous but it is not a traditional thumb button release design. You must push down on the magazine release paddle from either side.
For me, I can actually use the magazine release pretty fast from either side of the VP9. I find no difference in speed and ease of uses from either side vs. a standard thumb magazine release. I find I actually prefer to use the middle finger of my primary hand, on the right side magazine release of the VP9.
The trigger on the VP9 is very nice. The trigger looks and operates like a Glock and other similar striker fired handguns. It has a very smooth and short take-up before you hit the take-up wall, then it has a very small amount of creep before it breaks very cleanly. The trigger reset is a little lack luster for me. The reset is audible but seems a little weak. I would like it to have stronger, more positive reset feeling. The smooth and then crisp break on the trigger definitely helps with the accuracy of the VP9 when shooting it. I feel, overall, the VP9 trigger is nicer than a stock Glock or M&P trigger. The Glock has a better reset in my opinion.
The VP9 is a flat shooter and the recoil is light. Fast accurate follow up shots are very easy to make and the sights come back on to target very quickly. The VP9 boar axis is a little higher than on a Glock but this did not seem to make any difference in the recoil. After a few rounds, I found the recoil to be a non-existent factor. I simply continued firing, not giving the recoil another thought.
I really like the H&K VP9LE. It has preformed and handled well above my expectations. If there is anything to complain about, it would only be the 15 round magazine capacity and a weak/soft reset on the trigger. I think it would be easy for HK to make the magazine hold 17 rounds and tweak the trigger reset a little. The size of the VP9 is very close to a Glock 17/22. I was hoping it would hold a few more rounds but it did replace a 15 round magazine firearm, so I really lost nothing on round count. Once again, this is a lot of nitpicking on my part.
The VP9LE was one of the best purchases I have made. It replaces a great firearm and one of my personal favorites, I had used for years. I feel I made the right choice and the VP9LE has done nothing but validate that choice.