Review: Heckler & Koch VP9-OR Pistol

A dependable classic gets some modern features.

by
posted on February 7, 2024
Hk Vp9or Cover

First introduced in 2014, the Heckler & Koch VP9-OR resembles its older sibling, the hammer-fired HK P30, especially in terms of its polymer-frame, barrel, slide and magazine commonality. The “VP” in its name stands for Volkspistole, or “people’s pistol” as HK’s aim in developing this gun was to create a multi-purpose, striker-fired 9mm pistol suitable for training, sport, self defense and duty use. As a striker-fired pistol with a polymer frame, HK VP9-OR can indirectly be traced to the HK VP70, the first commercially viable gun of its kind (predating the Glock P80). More directly, the VP9 is part of the same lineage as other polymer-frame HK pistols using a tilting Browning delayed-blowback mechanism like the USP, P2000 and P30 pistols. 

HK VP9-OR Overview

The Heckler and Koch VP9-OR (optics-ready) is a duty sized, polymer frame striker-fired 9mm pistol with a 4-inch barrel and ambidextrous controls. The VP9-OR has a remarkably nice trigger out of the box, and for a full-size double-stack 9mm, the HK VP9-OR is fairly condensed and actually sits smaller in the hand compared to the way it looks. Having been for sale for over a decade, these guns can count on a variety of holster and accessory options. 

Grip And Frame

Test ammoWhereas most contemporary polymer-framed pistols include backstrap inserts of differing sizes, the HK VP9 (and its sibling, the P30) have a different pistol grip arrangement where the end user can mix and match with different sized left-and-right-sided grip panels and backstraps. In all, a shooter can combine up to 27 different permutations with the VP9’s grip to best fit their specific two-handed firing grip. Regardless of size, the HK VP9-OR’s grip profile is convex with a high backstrap point that nestles into the middle of the shooting hand’s palm. The top of the backstrap is deeply radiused into the frame while the upper and lower extremities of the oval taper inwards. The opening around the magazine well has a subtle flare and the left and right bottom edges are recessed in order for the magazine’s basepad to sit flush. The HK VP9-OR’s frontstap has some very gentle finger grooves that are more like undulations rather than grooves. My average-size hands had no issues with the bottom of the trigger guard rubbing up against the second joint of my middle finger. Being left-handed, the VP9-OR’s ambidextrous slide-stop array is one of the first things I noticed. The main slide stop lever is short and has a protective shelf that’s built into the frame, but the right-side lever just floats over the right side of the frame. From a reliability standpoint, this does not appear to be an issue. All VP9s include HK’s signature ambidextrous paddle magazine release that nests into the trigger guard. Like nearly every modern pistol of the same category, VP9s also count on a Picatinny railed dustcover to mount a light, laser or other accessory. 

Slide And Barrel

The VP9-OR’s high carbon-steel slide has aggressive front and rear serrations while also sporting a pair of distinctive protruding polymer ears at the rear. These ears facilitate racking the slide by pinching them with the thumb and index finger of the support hand and pulling back. Other than the factory milled optics-cut on the slide of the HK VP9-OR, the slide is identical to the standard VP9 model. Mounting a reflex sight on the slide requires footprint-specific plates, sold separately. The VP9’s over-engineered four-inch barrel is cold hammer forged from ordnance grade steel, another signature HK touch. They have polygonal rifling and stepped chambers. This chamber design places a constriction near the throat to aid with accuracy and create a tighter seal between the chamber and the tapered 9mm case.

The Trigger

The HK VP9-OR’s stock trigger is probably the standout feature of this pistol. I think HK understood that they could implement the best features from their other handguns in the VP9 series, but in order to stand out in the hyper-competitive striker-gun market, having an above average stock trigger was necessary. Like most other striker-guns today, the HK VP9-OR trigger has a bladed safety and is gently curved. Though the default trigger-pull weight is specified at 5 pounds, because it’s fully tensioned, it does not feel like the typical 5-pound trigger pull when it breaks. The pre-travel distance prior to the break is a little less than a ¼-inch and it resets after ⅛-inch of return. This results in a trigger that’s extremely easy to manage for anyone regardless of skill level.    

Shooting The HK VP9-OR

Testing the VP-9

The specific HK VP9-OR 9mm pistol I sourced for this review is unique in that it had a round count of approximately 12,000 rounds at the time I shot it for review. The particular HK VP9 I shot in this review belongs to my friend Alonso, and it's his training gun that has seen many a class from the likes of Tom Givens, Gabe White, Tim Reedy, KR Training, et al, not to mention plenty of his own reps and draws from dedicated practice. This gun wears a Trijicon RMR Type 2 6.5 MOA red dot along with a pair of XS Sights Minimalist suppressor-height sights. 

I fired 170 rounds of 9mm including 115-grain Blazer Brass, 115-, 124- and 147-grain Federal Syntech, 147-grain Speer Gold-Dot G2 and Hornady Critical Defense (115-grain) at a local indoor range. Even with the limitations of a public indoor range, I managed to get a great impression from the VP9-OR, and despite its high round count, Alonso’s HK VP9-OR didn’t skip a beat.

At first, the recoil impulse felt a little jumpy, but that’s a non-issue with proper technique. It didn’t take long to disregard the impulse because this gun felt like it returned to zero all on its own. VP9s have a nice trigger, there’s no disputing that, but I was more impressed by its controllability and how the slide tracks. Using a timer at a public indoor range is pointless, but I’m estimating that my splits for controlled pairs were around .25 seconds. The 15 “pairs” I shot all landed in the A-zone, with the exception of two close misses in the C-zone. With its reliability and performance potential, I can see why anyone would commit to the HK VP9 family and shoot thousands of rounds through it.  

The Takeaway

Over-engineered seems to be the trend with every German-produced pistol I’ve fired. Because it's chambered in 9mm, the HK VP9-OR also reminded me of the Walther PDP family; both have a common Teutonic heritage, polygonal-rifled barrels with stepped chambers, decent ergonomics and extremely agreeable triggers. My only real “complaint” is that the right-side slide-stop lever could be a little shorter, as my left thumb depresses it constantly and the slide never locks back after the last round, but this issue pertains to my hand size and might not happen with you. Retail prices for VP9-OR models skew slightly more expensive than average at $799, but it’s evident that HK doesn’t skimp on durability or quality. Even after 12,000 rounds, the VP9-OR I fired shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. 

HK VP9-OR Specifications:

  • Make: Heckler & Koch
  • Model: VP9-OR
  • Country of Origin: Germany
  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Action: Striker-fired, semi-automatic
  • Overall Length: 7.34 inches
  • Height: 5.41 inches
  • Width: 1.32 inches
  • Weight: 26.7 ounces
  • Barrel Length: 4.09 inches
  • Frame Material: Polymer
  • Slide Material: High carbon steel
  • Slide Finish: Ferritic nitrocarburized black
  • Optics-Ready: Yes
  • Magazine Capacity: 17 rounds

25-yard Accuracy Report:

Ammo: 9mm

Smallest Group
(inches)

Average Group
(inches)

Largest Group
(inches)

Hornady Critical Defense 115-grain JHP

2.00

2.62

3.5

Federal Syntech 124-grain TSJ

2.75

2.81

3.5

Speer Gold Dot G2 147-grain JHP 

2.00

2.66

3.5

Author’s Note: These accuracy reports only measure extreme spread, the distance between two the two furthest shots. It is my strong opinion that the numbers reported above don’t actually do the HK VP9 OR any justice. 

 

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