HK’s VP9 burst onto the scene as a potential Glock challenger – a gun somewhere in between the G19 and G17 in size, with a polymer frame and a striker assembly in place of HK’s beloved hammer. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that HK was the first company to combine these things with the VP70, after which they promptly forgot this recipe and wrote a cookbook called How to SEAL the Deal with a Really Big Handgun.
It was a long time before HK realized how popular striker guns were becoming, or if they did realize this, it took them a long time to react. But react they did with the VP9, something that offers significantly more hand-fitting customization than any Glock introduced before – or since, for that matter. With backstraps and side panels which can be swapped out for larger or smaller versions, you’re not likely to have hands that won’t fit pretty well around the VP9 in some configuration.
In my case, the VP9 LE felt great out of the box and pointed exactly where my mind imagined it to be pointing. This translated to exceptional shootability and a pistol that just did what I willed it to do without fighting me every step of the way. One possible exception to this is the long slide release lever, which I often rode inadvertently while shooting. Other than this “issue,” which is more a matter of getting used to the gun than anything else, I found nothing to complain about in normal shooting.
The mechanical accuracy of the full size VP9 I reviewed was not up to the same high bar set by the VP9SK. It was slightly odd to me that the longer barrel printed 4″ 10 shot groups at 25 yards while the subcompact version shot groups of a little over 3″. Even 4″ groups are nothing to sneeze at and far smaller than most pistol shooters could manage offhand with any match handgun, so please don’t take this as too much of a slight against the wunderwaffen. It’s certainly accurate enough for any task in which it is likely to be engaged.
Where the VP9 started to have objectively problematic issues was the abuse testing. The word of the day was “hydrophobic,” something normally associated with water-resistant smartphone coatings but in the case of the VP9 it was more accurate if taken literally. The pistol just wouldn’t work when subjected to water or mud. This was highly disappointing when compared to the results of other handguns in the same price range and especially when one considers the esteem in which HK handguns are held. Some of this is a little inflated, but in the case of the USP, for example, the praise is deserved as it relates to reliability in harsh conditions.
So the VP9 is a bit of a quandary. It’s a very useful handgun for many things, but at this price it competes with handguns that do all of those same things, and many of the competitors do some other things better. Few of them play the ergonomics game at the level of the VP9, though. Thus I carried the VP9 on multiple occasions with full faith in its ability to perform if called upon and would not hesitate to do so again.
It’s not a do-all pistol and it’s not for enthusiastic outdoorsmen, but for those seeking an ergonomic and reliable under normal conditions home defense or carry gun, the VP9 at its affordable and competitive price is a strong choice. This goes doubly so for the VP9 LE I reviewed, which came with three dot night sights and a third magazine. Were I to pick one up for concealed carry or home defense, I would modify nothing.