Recently I got the chance to lay hands on the newest iteration of the venerable Heckler & Koch VP9. The long-awaited optics-ready variant of the VP9B, H&K’s chosen champion in the highly competitive striker-fired arena. Everything the American market demands, with the legendary reliability of H&K? Yes please, I’ll take it for a spin.
The VP9 family actually extends back to 2014. Among the last of the major players to enter the striker-fired market, it feels in some ways like H&K has been playing catch up ever since. Due to a heavily saturated market, it was easy to miss the release. I had a few friends over the years that adopted the original VP9, but not a lot. I shot less than probably 100 rounds from the platform until my test item arrived. I’m very glad it did. As they say, he who laughs last laughs the longest. And with this newest VP9B, Heckler & Koch should be laughing all the way to the bank.
Having very little exposure to the previous models allowed me to look at the newest VP9B like a completely new gun. And in relatively short order, I can tell you this. It is the first gun in quite some time that has me seriously contemplating a full-time shift from my usual plastic fantastic. For an MSRP of $899, and a street price closer to $750, you get a LOT of gun.
The most dynamic difference between a VP9 and any other polymer is obvious when you pick it up. Or look at the grip where you would pick it up for that matter. It is quite obvious that H&K consulted an actual human in grip design, which it would seem is a far bridge these days. The grip of the gun is actually contoured, with swells to match your hands. Out of the box, it already feels different.
But it doesn’t stop there. Most competitive polymers today have interchangeable back straps to match differing hand sizes. H&K has that, and then some. They also had removable side panels, which increase the diameter and contours. Out of the box, you can create 27 unique grip shapes to suit your hand.
I have heard H&K fanboys swoon over the VP9’s trigger, which I will confess I wrote off as nonsense. Having now had mine around for months, my opinion has changed. Out of the box, yes, it is already among the best. For, you know, a striker gun. By that I mean it was crisp, did not have a huge amount of pre-travel, and had a definitive break point. A well-designed trigger “wall”, aka the point where the trigger travels no further without releasing the striker, is worth its weight in gold. Five-pound lawyer standard or not, the VP9’s was quite good.
But over the course of a few hundred rounds, some magic happens. As break-in takes place, the trigger gets even smoother. By four hundred, it was really as good as the fanboys say. Of all the duty pistols I own with factory internals, this is in fact the best of the lot. It’s arguably as good as the best Glock race trigger I’ve ever felt and with absolutely nothing done to it except shooting. I would wager that a Bruce Gray special would put it past anything else on the market.
The B, which makes our VP9 specifically a B model, means button. In this context, that means H&K built a specific model for us Yankees that prefer a magazine release BUTTON to a European-style paddle. I’m actually a fan of the paddle, but it is a deal breaker for many. Either way, it works and is reversible for those of an incorrect-handed nature. The slide release is also ambi, though done in a distinct H&K style. This makes it unobtrusive for us correct-handed folks, so much so that you don’t even notice it is there. But it is very functional if you switch hands.
Overall I would have to call the controls on the VP9 blended. That is an odd word, but it’s the best description I can think of. In an age of extended and oversized controls, that is what we expect to see. The VP9’s controls mesh with the overall design so well as to look, well, invisible. Yet I never missed them in use. It is borderline magic, and a hat tip to the ergonomic design team. Well done.
Up top, we have what I consider out-of-the-box perfection. H&K uses a dovetailed front and rear sight, which in my experience is the most sturdy option. The XS tritium sights are fantastic night or day, with the bright neon green ring around the front vial. The rear is cut with a reverse slope, ensuring one-handed racking off the sight will be reliable.
The optics cut, while a long time coming, is exactly what we wanted to see. It is deep, and most importantly robust. H&K uses screws here with some girth, which in my experience means they don’t sheer off. Looking at you, polymer “industry leader by volume”. The gun comes with no mounting plates, but they are readily available from H&K for your optic of choice. Not enclosing every plate cuts down on consumer costs, and $39.95 isn’t a terrible add-on price.
One of the odder selling points of the VP9 is the cocking supports in the rear. It features front and rear cocking serrations, which by now we expect. The cocking supports are different. They look like small wings protruding on the sides of the slide, just below the rear sight. This sounded like a gimmick, but I find myself now a fan.
Not only are they not obtrusive, but they do make racking the slide easier, especially if you are a thumb and forefinger guy. They are removable if you wish, but trust me. Try the VP9 with them for a day, and you will be sold.
Overall, the VP9 is an absolute joy to shoot. Its superior ergonomics do translate directly to the range, as I noticed my first day blasting with it. The trigger is not only fantastic, but it really helps exploit the famous H&K accuracy. I’m not a huge fan of accuracy testing in pistols, but you can tell right away this one is special. If you have been thinking about upgrading your combat Tupperware, now is the time. For my money, the VP9 is like nothing else.