I handled my first Heckler & Koch (hk-usa.com) firearms when I was stationed in West Germany (that was before reunification in 1990). We were on the range with units of the Bundeswehr and they were armed with G3s. There was just something about the feel of this rifle. It weighed about the same as our M16s, but it fired a 7.62X51 NATO. What made the G3 a pleasure to shoot is the roller block system. Extraction and feeding was fast and smooth.
We also had a chance to shoot the P7M8 that, while not issue, was in this unit’s armory. With its squeeze cocking and low bore access the P7 put our issue 1911’s to shame. For those of us who were gun guys, this became the pistol of legend and lore. We lowly enlisted folk could only dream of owning one. Even with a four to one Mark rate, it was pricey; well over $600.00 in West Germany. Yes, we could legally purchase firearms as long as we had the proper paperwork. Back in the states used P7s commanded over a $1000.00. For poor GIs and most civilians it was the Unobtainium of handguns.
Over the years I shot several H&Ks and in 1993 they finally offered a pistol that was reasonable, the USP. This polymer framed pistol was wicked accurate, but it was chunky and it was not a P7. One of my shooting buds just had to have one and he plunked down several crisp Ben Franklins and it was his after I did the FFL transfer.
Finally in 2006, H&K introduced the P30. This was almost as cool as the P7. It was offered with different fire control options. The LEM and V3 were the most imported models. The LEM (Law Enforcement Modification) which is basically a precocked double action with a light initial trigger pull (2lbs or less). The V3 was a traditional double/single action with a decocking button on the rear of the slide.
One feature that is often overlooked that made the pistol popular was its size; OAL is 7.12”, height 5.43”, barrel length 3.85” with a sight radius of 5.84”. This is very close to the competition’s model 19 which is considered by many an ideal size pistol. Sales of the P30 were good because they were priced to compete with other European polymer pistols. I was one of those who snatched up this new pistol. I have shot the daylights out of my P30V3 and still do to this day. H&K also introduced the P30L with a 5” barrel and traditional DA/SA (there is a safety and rear mounted decocking lever)that action shooters wanted.
In 2014, H&K introduced a striker fired pistol, the VP9. While it has the lines of the P30 it is slightly larger: OAL is 7.34”, height 5.41”, barrel length 4.09” and sight radius of 6.38”. When it hit the market, the striker fired trigger was and still is the best factory trigger available on a duty pistol. Mine has been a consistent 4 ½ pounds since the day I took it out of the box. With interchangeable grip panels like the P30, the VP9 will fit most people’s hands. The 6.38 sight radius works for duty, CCW and competition. Accuracy of a factory VP9 rivals many custom 1911s and custom Austrian manufactured pistols.
While popular the VP9 has not been able to rival the Austrian born pistol, sales are brisk. I would venture one of the reasons for this is there is not a catalog full of aftermarket parts for it. Then again, if you have a nearly perfect pistol what do you need other than readily available fiber optic or tritium sights?
H&K did overcome one of the complaints action shooters had about the VP9, the barrel length. They offered a separate long slide/barrel assembly for it. This assembly came with an adjustable rear sight and fiber optic front sight. The 8.125” slide has 4 cuts to reduce slide weight, which in turn reduces muzzle rise for quicker shot to shot recovery. I found the 4.875” barrel increased velocity by 10fps to 15fps depending on the load.
During my testing of the long slide assembly, the biggest advantage I found was the longer sight radius made longer tight shots easier. The pistol also seemed to track quicker from target to target and shot to shot recovery was quicker. Overall I think the long slide assembly for the VP9 takes it to a new level for action shooting.
I fired the P30 and both “versions” of the VP9 to compare performance. Ammunition from Black Hills Ammunition included the 100 grain Honey Badger, 115 grain TAC EXP, 124 grain JHP +P; Hornady’s American Gunner loads 115 grain XTP, 124 grain XTP +P, 147 grain XTP ; Sig Sauer’s 124 grain JHP, 147 grain JHP as well as their new 147 grain FMJ Match and finally Super Vel’s 115 grain FMJ and 158 grain FMJ. Yes you read that right a 158 grain load that is popular with PCC shooters, feels like a 22 magnum for recoil. In typical H&K fashion there were no reliability issues, even with the Honey Badger and 158 grain FMJ. As I had expected in head to head accuracy comparisons, there was no winner. From a rest at 25 yards, 5 shot groups from all three barrels averaged 2 3/4″. When fired on multiple targets, the VP9L gave slightly quicker splits.
If you are looking for a practically perfect pistol, with their highly configurable grips; H&K’s P30 or VP9 should be on your short list. Once you have you new H&K you will make No Compromise when you head to the range to shoot accurately, safely and you will have fun.