Photos by Jessie Indracusin
In the spring of 2014, Heckler & Koch surprised the firearms world with the introduction of their striker-fired HK VP9. The gun was comfortable to shoot, accurate, customizable to users’ hands, reliable, and affordable. I am not sure that even HK was expecting the gun to be as big of a hit as it was.The VP9 is a service-sized gun, and its success immediately generated demand for a more compact version. But HK stuck with their reputation for biding their time with R&D and testing, to ensure they don’t release a gun prematurely. Thus, it wasn’t until the spring of 2017 that HK released a subcompact version of the gun in 9mm, the VP9SK.
Like the VP9 and many other modern Heckler & Koch pistols, the VP9SK features a polymer frame with a high-strength steel slide treated with their “Hostile Environment” corrosion-resistant finish.
The slide also incorporates the full-size VP9’s rear cocking charging supports, on both sides near the rear sight. These can be a boon to someone who has trouble pulling back the slide. Flat panels to replace these charging supports are available from HK.
The polygonal bored barrel is hammer forged for greater strength, accuracy, and wear resistance. All controls are fully ambidextrous.The VP9SK’s overall length is 6.61 inches, compared to 7.34 inches for the full-size version. The VP9SK sports a 3.39-inch barrel compared to the 4.09-inch barrel of the full size. Both guns are 1.32 inches wide. The SK has a height of 5.41 inches and a sight radius of 5.73 inches.
Like the full-size VP9 and the P30 series, the VP9SK incorporates three different-size backstraps and an equal number of side panels for both the left and right sides of the grip. These nine modular fittings can be used in any combination to let the user configure the gun to best fit his hand and shooting style.
I learned through experience that the backstraps and grips that feel the best in your hand may not be the ones that suit you the best for shooting. A bit of experimentation may be necessary to find the optimal grip for you.
The VP9SK’s grip incorporates two wide finger groves, enhancing the shooter’s ability to grip the gun firmly, while making it more ergonomic and very comfortable to hold.
The pistol has an extended Picatinny rail rated to handle lights, lasers, aimers, and other accessory loads up to 5.6 ounces with no impact on performance.
TRIGGER AND MAGAZINES
One item I am pleased to report did not carry over from the VP9 is a groove on the inside bottom of the trigger guard that the tip of the trigger travels in. The groove exists to provide a place for the tip of the trigger to travel while raising the bottom of the trigger guard up, as well as to prevent gloves from getting caught under the trigger.
In some HK handguns, this groove had a propensity to whack the shooter’s trigger finger during recoil. While I never encountered this issue with the full-size VP9, I did notice it with the P30 and HK45.
The full-size VP9 has a 15-round magazine capacity, while the subcompact holds ten. It uses the same magazines as the P30SK—the subcompact version of the P30. The VP9SK can use magazines from the full-size gun, but if you seat them too hard, you risk bending the VP9SK’s ejector and creating a condition that will cause malfunctions.HK plans to introduce higher capacity magazines for the VP9SK that will come with an external sleeve to prevent over-insertion by fitting snug with the bottom of the pistol’s grip. The VP9SK comes with two ten-round magazines—one with a flat base, the other with a finger extension. I was comfortable firing the gun with either magazine.
The VP9 comes equipped with three-dot luminescent sights. For an extra $100, the gun is available with Meprolight three-dot tritium night sights with a white outline around the dot.
My test gun came with the Meprolight night sights. I am a big fan of HK sight geometry, and they are one of the factors that make the guns shoot so well for me.
The VP9SK shot flat, with the sights quickly returning to target. It seemed every bit as accurate as the full-size version. It has the same excellent trigger as the full-size, with light take-up and a crisp break of five pounds.
After receiving the VP9SK, I cleaned and lubricated it, but performed no further maintenance or lubrication for the next 1,400 rounds, until it was time to clean it up for photos. I only encountered two malfunctions—both within the first 100 rounds. In the first situation, the slide did not close all the way after inserting a full magazine and hitting the slide release. The slide was about an eighth of an inch from fully closing.
The second issue was a strange failure to feed in the midst of a string of fire, where the VP9SK went click instead of bang. When I checked the gun, I discovered it had ejected the fired case without feeding a new round. This means the slide did not travel far enough back to pick up a new round from the magazine.
These two malfunctions suggest opposite issues: The first suggests a recoil spring that is too weak. The second suggests one that is too strong. I tried to recreate these issues firing over 100 rounds of the same ammo using just one hand with a loose grip, but the gun functioned flawlessly.I did not field strip the VP9SK or add any more lubrication after these issues. I just kept shooting the gun and encountered no other problems in over 1,300 additional rounds fired. These rounds consisted of some normal-pressure loads, some +P loads, and some bulk ammo.
Though most modern-design guns do not require a break-in period, some individual guns prove to be the exception. That is the only explanation I can think of in this case. Since the VP9SK proved 100% reliable afterward, I have no compunctions about carrying it as a defensive firearm.
VP9SK IN HARDWIRED TACTICAL SHOOTING CLASS
Some of the rounds were fired in a Hardwired Tactical Shooting First Responder Class that I took for the third time.How many times have you heard someone in a class say, “But my gun’s never done that before.” Classes provide an excellent opportunity to fully evaluate a previously reliable firearm. It also gave me the chance to evaluate the VP9SK when someone else was dictating manipulation drills and courses of fire.
Since I was running the gun with ten-round magazines, I ordered two extra mags for this class. With four mags and Black Hills 115-grain FMJ ammo, I had no issues and felt very comfortable with the VP9SK.
BENCH-REST ACCURACY TESTING
When it came time to test the gun for accuracy, I found that I could put an entire mag in the head of a silhouette at 25 yards when using quality ammo. But to get the best accuracy, comparable to other handguns tested, I needed to shoot the gun from a bench rest.
Since this isn’t my strong suit, I once again called on Wayne Dobbs, one of the two principals of Hardwired Tactical Shooting. Wayne is one of the finest shots I personally know. With him shooting from a bench rest at 25 yards, we found that the subcompact version of the VP9 shoots just as accurately as its full-sized big brother.The ammo that shot most accurately in the gun was Black Hills 124-grain +P JHP. Wayne managed a 1.5-inch five-shot group from the bench and another that went into 1.75 inches. Even shooting offhand, he put five rounds into 2.5 inches. Black Hills Tac XP 115-grain +P Bronze hollow point also grouped well, putting five rounds into 1.75 inches from the bench. We fired a variety of quality defensive ammo, most of which grouped between two and three inches.
Heckler & Koch has succeeded in producing a smaller version of the most popular handgun in their lineup—the VP9. Downsized and optimized for concealed carry, their VP9SK is comfortable to shoot and accurate.
Suggested retail price is $719, but street prices typically undercut this by $100 or more.
HECKLER & KOCH
BLACK HILLS AMMUNITION
HARDWIRED TACTICAL SHOOTING