In our HK VP9 Review and we’ll start with its history. HK is a famous firearms manufacturer that is probably most commonly known for its MP5 series of firearms. They are known for their military and police use throughout the world and building bombproof, reliable firearms. Their handguns are no exception. HK was the first firearms manufacturer to come out with a polymer, striker-fired handgun.
Although it wasn’t as commercially successful as the Glock 17, the HK VP70 does hold the title of the first semi-commercially successful striker-fired, polymer-framed handgun. After discontinuing the HK VP70, HK worked mostly on the polymer, hammer-fired handguns, such as the HK USP series, the HK Mark 23, and then the HK P2000, HK P30, and HK-45 series.
All of these guns were known for being durable and insanely reliable, and they had service lives that far exceeded most of the competition. Reliability and durability don’t come at a cheap price, at least when HK is building the firearms. All those polymer-framed hammer-fired firearms at the time came in at a price point of around $1,000, which was roughly double what competing Glock’s, Springfield Armory, and Smith & Wesson offerings cost.
The US market was dominated by pistols hanging around the $500 to $700 price point and HK wanted in on the action. But given the materials and the technology and money they had invested, it was hard to do that with any of their hammer-fired offerings and striker-fired was the most popular trigger system at that time and it still remains so today.
The HK P30 series was the most recent introduction of HKs on the US market and it had mild success. The HK P30 was a very ergonomic firearm. Boasting a fantastic grip that allowed you to replace the grip panels on the side, as well as the backstrap of the firearm. So there was lots of customization that previously pistols in the US market or anywhere had not seen in a polymer frame format.
Table of contents
- US Market
- HK VP9 Role
- HK VP9 Review Overall Ergonomics
- HK VP9 Review Maintenance
- HK VP9 Review Shooting
HK VP9 Role
The HK VP9 is not a small gun. It’s similar in size to the Glock 17, and when it was originally introduced, it came with a 15 round magazine. Since then, 17 round flush-fit magazines have been introduced so you can get more capacity in the firearm making it more similar to its competition.
Considering it’s a larger firearm, the HK VP9 does make a great option for general range use, duty, or even competition. HK does have a five inch competition model that they are marketing to competitors.
HK VP9 Concealed Carry
I’ll start off by saying the HK VP9 is probably a larger gun than most people will consider in concealed carry. Especially with guns on the market like the Glock 43, Sig P365, and Springfield Armory Hellcat, which have decent size capacities while remaining in a very compact or micro form factor. Despite these other offerings, the HK is still a viable concealed carry option, but the person choosing to carry the firearm has to understand that it is a larger firearm and they might have to make some sacrifices when carrying it.
When we’re talking about IWB carry, we’re talking about carrying the firearm at roughly the three to five o’clock position for right-handed shooters. The HK VP9 works fairly well for this position and due to the contour on its grip, the grip may still slightly print, but won’t be as noticeable as a blockier design, like a Glock handgun. So if you are going to carry a large handgun like the HK VP9, or the Glock 17, you’ll see that the HK VP9 has a couple advantages from a concealment standpoint, even though it’s still a very large firearm.
Most semi automatic pistols have that blocky grip and the HK VP9 does not. So if your firearm does print on the grip itself, you’re more likely to be able to get away with it with an HK VP9. The grip is large, but if you have a significant amount of cant in your holster, you won’t have trouble concealing the HK VP9, assuming you wear appropriately sized shirts and your frame is large enough to conceal carry the gun. If you’re five foot four, you’re probably going to have more issues concealing this firearm than if you’re six foot two.
HK VP9 Appendix Carry
The grip on the HK VP9, again being long, is a bit of a downside, but the gun can still be very concealable at the appendix position, as long as your body type is suited for the firearm. As long as you make sure that your body is large enough, and you’re using a proper holster with a claw and a wedge, you shouldn’t have any issue concealing the VP9 under an appropriately sized shirt.
With a good holster, if you’re a six foot tall male, you probably won’t have to change your style of dress. But if you wear form-fitting t-shirts constantly… And when I say form-fitting, I mean the type where you can see your abs sticking through, then obviously the HK VP9 is probably going to a little too large or print drastically.
Now, when we speak about OWB carry, we’re speaking about OWB concealed carry. This is going to be slightly less concealable than IWB carry. The most important dimensions here are normally the width of the gun. The HK isn’t a narrow gun, but at the same time, the way it’s shaped and contoured, it seems thinner than a gun like a Glock 17, despite not actually being any thinner.
So the HK VP9 will conceal as well as it can for a gun of its size when carrying it OWB on the hip. You’ll want to make sure that you’re wearing an appropriately sized shirt, preferably something like a button down with a pattern on it, such as plaid or flannel that’ll break up the outline of the gun. Also, having a lot of cant adjusted into the holster itself is a major advantage when it comes to concealing a gun of this size.
As we said earlier in our HK VP9 Review, the HK VP9 comes in both a 15 and 17 round flush-fit magazine. Now, most guns these days are shipping with the 17 round variant, but a lot of guns are still out there with the 15 round magazines, and it’s easier to find the 15 round magazines. That said there are still a lot of good options for the HK VP9 magazines.
You can get magazine extensions from Taylor Freelance, or factory extensions, or a company called XTech makes 20 round extended magazines. There are no shortage of offerings, and there are lots of other smaller companies that make extended HK VP9 magazines, but most of these options top out in the low 20 rounds. 21 rounds is the largest magazine capacity that I have seen for the HK VP9 series.
The magwell on the HK VP9 isn’t anything to brag about. The grip itself is relatively thin in all dimensions. So there is no real bevel in the bottom of the firearm and one feature that is somewhat nice to have is on the sides of the grip itself, you have two indentations, so you can easily strip a magazine out of the firearm if you have a malfunction.
When the HK VP9 was released, this was considered a very huge and innovative feature. There weren’t many guns on the market with anything like that.
The HK VP9 is unique in that it not only has adjustable back straps, but it also has adjustable side straps as well. So you can switch out a variety of back strap inside strap options. So you can have a small side strap insert on the left side, but a large one on the right side to fill more of your palm.
All of these options ship with the HK pistol, so you’re not going to have any trouble tailoring the grip to your hand. One complaint I will have about the system is the back straps themselves do not change the length of pull for the trigger. This is a major disadvantage over some other firearms, such as the Glock 19 MOS gen five, as changing the length of trigger pull can be beneficial for shooters with larger hands. The feel of the grip itself is absolutely phenomenal, and I don’t think you’ll find many people that dislike it.
One thing the HK VP9 series does really right, is it has a very nice rounded tang in the grip. There is a downside to this tang though. If you draw the gun using the rear sight as an index point, when drawing from your holster, the web of your hand is going to have to slip a decent distance to get into that tang since the tang is so deep.
That can cause your index on the firearm to change slightly with each draw. It’s not that bad of an issue, but it’s something you should be aware of. If you get a full firing grip on the firearm before you draw your pistol, you will not see any issue with that at all. HK did do a really good job designing the tang though, and it’ll work with people that have small hands all the way up to extra large size hands.
The HK VP9 has texturing on the bottom portion of the grip in a 360 degree manner. There are finger grooves on the front of the firearm that fit me well, but I could honestly do without them and rather see a flat surface. But the texturing is in there between all the finger grooves and on all the panels on the other three sides of the grip.
It looks like bananas are placed all over the firearm. Ironically provides a decent texture, but at the same time, if your hands are sweating really bad, it’s going to get a little bit slick. The HK VP9 just doesn’t feel as aggressive as I would like from a texture standpoint. That said the texture is sufficient. It’s on the lower end of sufficient, but it’s still sufficient.
It would be nice to see HK offer grip inserts that had a more aggressive texture on them so you could change that aspect on the front strap and the backstrap of the gun. I’d really like to have that on the back strap of the gun. The texture on the side panels will not cause any chafing or abrasion for most people when carrying the firearm concealed up against the body.
The HK VP9 overall feels excellent in the hand, and it feels a cut above most other polymer, striker fired handguns. That said, if you’ve handled the HK P30, this gun seems like it’s a cheaper variant of that firearm.The polymer on the HK VP9 seems more in line with what you would expect from a Glock than an HK handgun. The HK P30 just feels a lot better in the hand, despite the HK P30, supposedly having identical ergonomics to the HK VP9 series.
This is not an HK VP9 versus P30 review, but if you’re a big fan of HK and you have experience with their polymer frame, hammer fired handguns, then you should be aware that this gun will feel slightly cheaper than those offerings. To be fair, it still feels higher quality than most of the polymers striker fired handguns on the market.
The HK VP9 comes with a variety of sight options or three, I should say. If you get the HK VP9 2020 edition, like what I have, it has a white dot luminescent front sight that has a very large dot and a fairly wide blade with a blacked out rear. The 2020 is their optics compatible version, which we’ll go over here a little bit later.
Overall I really like the sights on this version although I would probably switch out the front sight with something with a narrower blade and potentially a fiber optic or even a tritium vial. The rear sight is fine though. I really like the square notch. It has serrations on the back and it offers a clean sight picture. I’d just like to see a little different of a front sight.
Other HK VP9 variants include the standard three dot sights, which are nothing special. They have luminescent paint on them and they’ll shine after they’ve been exposed to light. That’s kind of a hokey feature that has no real world application, but the sights aren’t horrible, they’re steel and they’re durable.
Real World Use
So if you don’t plan to carry the gun or use it for self-defense, you’ll probably find the sights more than serviceable. Personally, if I’m going to carry one of these guns for self-defense or serious use, I’m going to switch out the standard factory sight options for something a little better. Another option they have is three dot factory night sights.
Again, these are set up much like the three dot luminescence sights, and they’re not that great. They work, but they’re a little bit outdated when we see other options on the market that other handguns like Glock and Sig have.
Unfortunately there aren’t a ton of aftermarket sight options for the HK VP9.There are more sight options for the HK VP9 than other HK handguns, but you’re going to be stuck to a couple of tritium options, such as Trijicon, Heinie and XS sights.
There are also options from 10-8. The HK is one of those guns that has sufficient sight options, but not a great variety of them. You’ll likely be able to find something you’ll be happy with, but you may not be able to find your favorite set of sights for this firearm.
HK VP9 Review Optics Mounting
Mounting an optic to the HK VP9 is fairly expensive if you’re having a slide milled, but HK has come up with the HK VP9 2020 series that come set up to add a red dot sight. The unfortunate part of this is it does not come with any optics mounting plates. So in theory, this makes the cost of the gun cheaper, but the reality is if you want to add an optic, you’ll have to order a plate from HK or from an aftermarket supplier.
These plates aren’t that expensive. And it’s nice not to have a bunch of parts rolling around in your gun parts box. It’s nice to see them have a factory option as previous to this most custom installs of red dots were very expensive as you had to build up an adapter plate that would fit on the firearm, since the slide is much narrower at the top than other options, such as the Glock or the Smith and Wesson M&P.
There are no external safeties on the HK VP9 and currently none are offered. It does have an external trigger safety, but I don’t count that as an external safety. Now let’s go into the mag release.
HK VP9 Review Magazine Release
The HK VP9 standard comes with a paddle-style magazine release that HK is famous for. They also have the HK VP9 B series, which is a more traditional American style magazine release that is a button right behind the trigger guard. Personally, I’m a fan of HK’s paddle-style releases.
If you’re a left-handed shooter, they are absolutely incredible, as opposed to most right-handed options. The paddle style magazine release is perfectly ambidextrous, and it is easy to access using either your trigger finger, your middle finger, or the thumb, all of your shooting hand. And a lot of people will complain that this is slightly slower than the button style release, but I haven’t found it to be any slower.
It might be a little bit slower on the drop, but it doesn’t slow down your total reload time. As the longest part of reloading a firearm is going to be grabbing the new magazine and then inserting it into the firearm, not getting the old magazine out of the firearm, the mags on the HK VP9 drop free easily.
So it’s just an awesome design. This is one of those features that people either love or hate me personally, I love it. And I wouldn’t mind seeing other guns and I don’t find a problem transitioning from the traditional button style release on my concealed carry Glock 19 to this paddle release on the HK VP nine.
It’s kind of like driving two different cars. If you drive them both regularly or even periodically, it’s easy to go from the different controls in one to the controls in another.
The slide stop on the HK VP9 is very minimal. In fact, it might be too minimal. HK did a great job designing this… In my opinion, it might be a little bit too minimal since it’s sunk into the frame on the left-hand side of the gun, where a right-handed shooter would access it with their thumb. It’s positioned well and easy to reach with your thumb.
And even if you have really small hands, you’ll still be able to easily reach the controls. I actually find the slide lock mounted on the right-hand side of the gun set up for left-hand shooters, easier to reach than the one on the left-hand side set up for right-handed shooters. This is one area I would deduct points for the HK VP9. And I would like to see them make the slide stop stick out a little bit further, just so it’s easier for most shooters to use.
HK VP9 Review Overall Ergonomics
Overall, the ergonomics of the HK VP9 are absolutely fantastic. It allows you to get good leveraging control over the firearm under recoil and the texturing on it isn’t half bad. I would like to see the texturing more aggressive. It’s easy to reach the controls and there’s nothing on this firearm that would be uncomfortable for most shooters.
The slide ergonomics are much better than most would expect. At the time this gun was introduced, this slide was way ahead of its time. The serrations themselves aren’t that aggressive, and that is another legitimate gripe I have on this firearm. But the slide finish itself is not slick like a lot of other firearms, so you don’t need as aggressive texturing, as you might on say gun like a Glock that has a very slick finish.
There are also the little Palmer wings that mount under the rear sight that allow you to get a better grip on the slide if you have weaker hands. Personally, I do find they make racking the slide a little bit easier, although I don’t use them much myself. I might actually replace them if I ever decided to take this rear sight off.
HK VP9 Review Trigger
The trigger on the HK VP9 is something that I’m not completely in love with. When this firearm first came out, people were bragging about how fantastic the trigger on these guns are. At that time, Glock, Springfield Armory XDs and Smith and Wesson M&PS were really the only common striker fire polymer framed handguns on the market.
None of them had fantastic triggers. It was considered standard to replace the trigger on a Smith and Wesson M&P with an Apex aftermarket trigger kit out of the box. And as we all know, Glock has a large variety of aftermarket parks that were very popular at that time and remain so to this day.
So when you take the trigger pull of the HK VP9, you’re going to feel some slack in the trigger as you take out the take-up and that hits a wall fairly far forward in the trigger pull. And from there, you’re going to feel pressure build up before the trigger breaks.
This trigger definitely has a wall and it feels a little bit plasticky. The trigger also breaks very far forward of most other polymer striker-fired handguns on the market.
From The Reset
When you reset the trigger, it’s fairly light and it resets slightly in front of that wall, so you feel just a little bit taken up before you come back. Then again, the trigger breaks at the wall. Overall, I would not say this trigger’s great. And I would not say it’s good. It’s just perfectly acceptable.
There is nothing to brag about with the HK VP9 trigger, but there’s nothing to really complain about either. It sits perfectly in the middle of polymers, striker fired triggers, just like every other guy on the market. The Glock gen five triggers are pretty good. The HK VP9 trigger is pretty good. And the Sig P320 trigger is pretty good as well as the Smith and Wesson M&P series.
All these triggers fit within the same range and any preference for one over the other is going to be just that. I personally have my preferences in how a self-defense hand gun trigger should feel, but you all do as well. And what those preferences are, is really going to help you determine whether or not you like the HK VP9 trigger. Again, there’s nothing great about it, and there’s nothing horrible either.
The aftermarket for the HK VP9 isn’t bad, but it’s not nearly as good as guns like the Sig P320 and the Glock 19. You’re going to see enough aftermarket options to keep you happy, but you’re not going to see enough to do anything you want to do to the gun. So just keep that in mind, if you want, like to heavily modify your firearms with aftermarket parts.
HK VP9 Review Maintenance
It’s easy to take apart the HK VP9, because all you have to do is lock the slide back to the rear, take out the magazine, ensure the gun’s unloaded, and then rotate the take-down lever down 90 degrees, and then pull the slide off the firearm. At the time this gun was introduced, that was a somewhat revolutionary feature.
As with Glocks, you had to pull the trigger to disassemble the firearm. And with Smith and Wesson M&Ps, you had to disengage a yellow spring inside the firearm to drop your striker. So this gun can be disassembled without dropping the striker, which is a very nice feature from a safety factor. The HK VP9 disassembles just like any other handgun. You take out the recoil spring assembly, and then the barrel where you can then clean it and then easily reassemble the firearm once it’s cleaned and lubricated.
One nice feature I will say is the take-down lever is much easier to operate on the HK VP9 than other guns like the Sig P320. I just really liked that because I always find it hard or difficult to manipulate the take-down lever on most other firearms.
Aesthetics are always a personal choice and this gun is going to have the aesthetics vary greatly, depending on what grip options you choose for it. If you add the extra large side straps and back strap, it’s going to change the look of the gun and make it look very rear heavy. The way it comes out of the box though, it looks absolutely fantastic.
The forward slide serrations add a nice touch. And the texturing on the grip itself is actually quite attractive, even though I said earlier, it looks like mini bananas. And it does look like bananas, but when you put a bunch of them together, for some reason, they don’t look like bananas and they have a very attractive textured look.
HK VP9 Review Shooting
The HK ergonomics are absolutely excellent, and that really comes out when shooting the firearm. It’s just like shooting a CZ 75, but in polymer. The recoil impulse isn’t what I would call soft, but it is predictable. You’ll see the sights on your HK VP9 track incredibly well, and you’ll be able to get a consistent sight picture on the target as you’re firing.
It’s not massively oversprung like most 9mm polymer handguns. It’s a great firearm for newer shooters that have slightly small hands, but still want to shoot a 9mm handgun. And it also works great for experienced large-handed shooters alike.
Is this the end all, be all handgun? Well for myself, no. And probably for many others as well. It won’t be the ultimate answer. That said it’s an absolutely excellent handgun with a lot of features that many shooters will be able to take advantage of. It’s all about the minute features on determining whether or not it will make it the ultimate handgun for you.
If you don’t like the magazine release or lack of aftermarket options, then this probably isn’t the gun for you. But if you want a great out of the box gun, that really could only benefit from changing the sights, then this is a great handgun that I think you’ll really like. Please leave us a comment on how we can improve our HK VP9 Review.
This is an opinion piece, but I always aim to eliminate bias. Look, we’ve all read them before. Gun reviews that claim to be helpful, but they’re really thinly veiled hit pieces trying to get you to buy something before you’ve even started your research. Or, even worse, a review put together by a content writer who has never even held a gun.
I’ve trained with some of the best in the business to learn various shooting styles and ideologies to better serve our customers. I’ve purchased guns of all price points, calibers, and action types to build the best products for the market. I want you to walk away knowing you have the information you need to make a sound purchasing decision.