This review of the Heckler & Koch VP9SK appeared originally as a Gun Locker review in the August 2017 issue of Shooting Illustrated. To subscribe to the magazine, visit the NRA membership page here and select Shooting Illustrated as your member magazine.
We mortals have always had an odd relationship with Heckler & Koch. The German manufacturer’s guns are pretty much all at the top of everyone’s wish list, but for the most part are either unobtainable for regulatory reasons or priced too high for the average Joe. Add H&K’s historic indifference to the consumer market, and one understands the oft-used internet meme “Heckler & Koch: Because you suck and we hate you.” Over the last few years, however, much has changed, particularly regarding H&K’s attitude toward the American consumer.
In 2014, H&K introduced the VP9, a striker-fired, polymer-frame semi-automatic pistol chambered in 9 mm and sporting an MSRP of $719. While that price was about $100 more than competitors’ models, it was also significantly less expensive than any other pistol H&K offered. Beyond its relative affordability, the VP9 functioned superbly.
Around the same time, H&K’s outreach evolved, too. The company’s U.S. branch took to social media both to promote its products directly to consumers and to change its image. Its Twitter account took to self-deprecating humor, including tongue-in-cheek references to the whole “because you suck and we hate you” attitude that the company worked to purge. Everything I’ve seen and heard indicates the company has moved and continues to push in the right direction, slowly changing its image from one of disdain for plebes to embracing the firearm-owning community.
One thing was missing, however—a striker-fired pistol sized for deeper concealment than the duty-size VP9. Enter the Heckler & Koch VP9SK, introduced at the 2017 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits. The new subcompact is basically a downsized version of the VP9. The barrel has been reduced by .7 inch, overall length trimmed by .73 inch, height lowered by .84 inch and weight lightened by about 2.5 ounces. Of course, there are trade-offs, as magazine capacity drops from 15 to 10 rounds. That said, H&K says it will offer extended 13- and 15-round magazines for the VP9SK in the near future. I imagine these will impede the concealabilty of the subcompact, defeating its raison d’être, but to each his own.
Other than the size difference, the Heckler & Koch VP9SK is pretty much identical to the original VP9. It sports the “charging supports” at the rear of the slide, which are small wings that (barely) protrude from the slide, yet provide a gripping platform for those who may have difficulty manually chambering a round. It also boasts the interchangeable backstraps and grip panels (modified to fit the smaller grip) that made the VP9 so easy to fit almost any shooter’s hands.
The Heckler & Koch VP9SK inherited the trigger-guard-mounted, ambidextrous magazine-release levers from its big brother. For American shooters, this system can appear problematic, and perhaps an example of us sucking and H&K hating us. We tend to gravitate toward frame-mounted mag-release buttons on our pistols, and it took me some time to get used to the VP9SK’s mag-release levers. Ultimately, this is a training concern and not a flaw. In my testing, I never encountered any problems with the mag release and was able to execute reloads without much difficulty after a few practice runs. Still, I’d like to see the next iteration of the VP family switch to the frame-mounted-button, since all of my other semi-auto handguns use it and I don’t want to think about the manual of arms whilst carrying a pistol.
I tested a Heckler & Koch VP9SK with three yellow-dot sights that were not night sights. The system was no different from the more-common white dots seen on other handguns. A version with night sights is also available for $100 more than the basic-sight pistol.
Also like the VP9, the VP9SK performed flawlessly in testing. It digested a wide variety of bullet weights and styles and proved quite accurate at 15 yards. It seemed to prefer the ultra-lightweight PolyCase load, or at least I did, since the smaller pistol does accentuate felt recoil. Shooting the VP9SK with the finger-extension magazine was significantly more comfortable than with the flush-fit version, where my pinky did not have room to fully engage the grip.
If you’ve been waiting for a striker-fired H&K pistol that is concealable, reliable and accurate, the Heckler & Koch VP9SK will not disappoint. And you can rest assured that your demands are being heard by the company, which has finally realized that you don’t suck, and they don’t hate you.