Monday, September 1, 2014

GNB: H&K VP9 review



This is not the first time H&K made a striker-fired pistol(last being P7) made of polymer(last being VP-70). However since the USP line became the main model for H&K pistols, the rule seemed to be a polymer frame with hammer. Subsequent designs(P2000, HK45, and P30) all followed such rule.

Fast foward about 25 years or so, the market warmed up to striker-fired pistols and is now the norm thanks to proliferation of Glocks and others. With the change in market, H&K had to adapt, and this is their offering.

When you first open the case, it comes with 2 sets of side panels, 2 sets of backstrap, an extra magazine(LE version comes with 2 extra magazines), gun, and other goodies it comes with. The gun itself looks like a cousin of P30, or as one my friend so eloquently stated, "bastard of a one-night stand between a P30 and Walther PPQ."

The basic version comes with glow-in dark sights that light up as bright green glow when you apply some lights. Personal experience says that a 5 second application of a 50 lumen light is good enough to keep the glow on for about a few minutes. LE version comes with tritium sights made by Meprolights(Truglo)

There is nothing much to say about the cosmetics, and the real fun begins when you actually shoot.





Trigger

H&K finally got their act together and came up with a trigger that is not heavy on the first pull or has a long travel. The advertisement H&K sent out in June mentions that trigger pull is 5.5 lbs and it seems to be just the case. Slack seems to be about 3/8 inches, while the actual pull is about 1/4 inches, and reset about 1/8 inches. This is pretty much what the brochure mentioned.

Glock shooters would scoff at the long reset, but when on the range, the difference didn't seem to effect overall operation. Some users reported false resets, but once the gun has a few rounds through, it seems to be a non-issue. There were no false reset experienced during my shooting.

Magazine catch

Magazine catch uses the same one from HK45 and P30 series and is very easy to use. There were no problems releasing the magazine when user had to and even my thick fingers didn't impede its operation.

Slide release


H&K calls it slide release and it works as advertised. Up until P30, slide release and take down pin were same, but with VP9 they are separated. It is long enough to be used by thumb of your shooting hand or support hand thumb, but personal experience showed better results with shooting hand thumb.

As long time support hand thumb user, I had slight difficulty in pushing the slide release during reload. It could be that I was spoiled after years of using Vickers Slide Release on my Glocks, but with a little attention using shooting hand thumb works just fine.

Some users had to place their right thumb slightly away from slide release with P30 and HK45 as it tends to push down on the slide release, but VP9 doesn't seem to suffer same problem.

Right hand side slide release is a lot simpler. It still moves a bit when you push with your fingers, but not as bad as P30 version.

Charging support

This piece of plastic on both sides of slide near the rear works as intended and doesn't interfere with operation of slide or the gun. H&K does have filler piece users can replace with, but there seems to be not enough reason to go with one or the another.

Shooting


Here's the first 10 rounds out of the case using Ruag 124gr. About 2 1/4 inch group from 10 yards. (Witout one flyer, it's about 1 1/2 inches)


However, when I do my part, the group shrank about to about 2 1/16 inches, 1 1/2 without one flyer. The gun is certainly more capable of better groups and this accuracy out of box is one of the best in polymer pistols for mass consumption. It will not replace my custom 1911s but VP9s were not designed for such things to begin with.


Inside look


Field stripping for cleaning is easy with SIG-esque take down lever. You don't need to pul trigger for disassembly like Glock, but you might have to push down on the slide a little when you take the slide out.

The recoil spring is just like other guns and is captured. When you look at the internals of slide it is a little different from what we are used to. Firing pin block moves front horizontally unlike most semi-autos (which moves vertically).

Trigger bar actuates sear and trigger. This is a single action unlike Glock which is hald cocked so is a bit of hybrid between DA and SA.


On frame, the front rail is part of the metal insert that can be aken out after you take roll pins out.

The total number of internal parts, excluding magazine and related components, is about 58 parts, significantly more than a Glock. The rule of thumb is that more parts mean more chances of malfunction or breakage. However, if the manufacturer did his job, number of parts doesn't necessarily mean reliability is affected greatly by it. H&K has reputation for being a good engineering firm(it had its moments before) and brochure boasts 10,000 rounds without problem. (Similar pistol- P30 - shot 90,000 rounds)

Ecology

One thing that maybe seen as a shortcoming is lack of options for holsters and other gears. Unlike Glock there is very little aftermarket parts available.

Finding holsters could be a problem since only a limited number of makers are currently working on the holster. Currently following makers indicate they make one

Raven Concealment(currently in custom option): http://raven-concealment-systems.mybigcommerce.com/hk-custom-phantom-modular-holster/
JM Custom Kydex: http://www.jmcustomkydex.com/
Spetz Gear: http://www.spetzgear.com/
Off the Grid Concepts: https://otghex.com/


If you don't have patients, then some reports indicate that P30L version of Raven Concealment works, and Blade-Tech Glock 21 holster works as well too. (bottom of trigger guard will stick out with Blade-Tec)

One thing a few gun makers are getting in to is the idea of ecology where auxiliary items such as holsters and magazine pouches are released as soon as guns are available. Springfield Armory includes holsters for its XD line, S&W did a good job with M&P Shield.

However, with H&K they are still a bit behind in this area.


A note about Surefire weapon lights

A few people seem to have problem using Universal mount on Surefire X300 Ultra models. The light will fit, but the lever-latch will not lock in. If this is the case, you'd have to swap out lever-latch with Picatinny rail version. It has letter 'P' on it.


Other lights (Streamlight, Inforce) doesn't seem to have this problem.

Overall

Any buyer who wants a nice gun they can keep for a long time should give a seriou look at this pistol. It has most of the features a lot of people look for, and H&K's reliability has been well known for years.

One thing that might discourage people from choosing VP9 over Glock 17 would be the price. Retail price is roughly $100 over Glock 17 and for some people better trigger and other 'minute' detail might not be worth extra cost. On the other hand for $100 over buyer doesn't have to work on putting in new parts or try to improve.

To buyers interested in shooting handguns this might be the pistol that has almost everything they wanted for a decent price. With extra $100, here is a gun that can be used right out the box.

Personally I look forward to using this pistol for some time and decide whether I use this or continue to use Glock 17.

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