I recently posted a video showing a torture test of a H&K VP9 pistol. Given the results of the test, the video sparked quite a bit of discussion around the internet. Some comments were rational and, of course, some not so much. H&K is one of those brands that has a hard earned reputation for uncompromising reliability, as a matter of fact they even used “NO COMPROMISE” as a marketing slogan for years. I, like many, came to believe H&K’s high prices reflected considerable R&D time, top tier engineering and copious amounts of rigorous testing before their products ever saw the light of day.
When the VP9 came to market it seemed as though the clouds parted and the gun gods stepped forth with a gift to us mere mortals — a H&K pistol with a street price of $600 or even less. It seemed impossible. The P30, from which the VP9 borrowed heavily in design queues, cost about $200 more. I wasn’t sure how this was possible, but why look a gift horse in the mouth? I couldn’t get my wallet out fast enough to buy my first VP9.
I walked from the cash register to the indoor firing range moments after the purchase and was further dumbfounded by what I witnessed. The VP9 was a gun made for my Yeti hands. The first 5 round group I fired on July 3rd, 2014 started a love affair that lasted until the video above was filmed. Here’s a picture of the very first group fired with the VP9 that fateful day:
After firing a lot of ball ammo and 50 rounds of my then favorite carry ammo, 147gr Gold Dots, I suddenly announced to my viewers the VP9 was my new daily carry and was undergoing continued testing as the official replacement for my Glock 19.
I carried and shot the VP9 extensively over the course of a year while my viewers continuously asked me for a full review video. I waited until I had finished my assessment of the gun before I publicly decreed the VP9 as my pick for defensive carry forever going forward. It took me so long because I wanted to be damn sure it was better than the Glock 19 it replaced. I had well over a decade of time spent with the G19 and I didn’t want to rush to any conclusions. The torture video was to be the last evaluation of the VP9 before that declaration was made.
Keep in mind I had invested heavily into the VP9 including two HTC rigs for the gun ($500 a pop) and several other holsters for both inside the waistband and outside the waistband carry. I snagged up a couple hundred dollars in extra magazines and invested $1500 or more in ammo testing it. When I say I was heavily invested in the VP9, I’m not kidding. It was no small thing for me to ditch it.
So, why did I dump the VP9? What specifically was it that I couldn’t forgive about its performance? The comments I read on my torture test video were interesting to say the least. I saw people making excuses for it not being able to withstand a simple submersion in creek water to claiming I had purposely rigged the test so the gun would fail.
Here’s what happened. I dunked the pistol in water for the very first test that afternoon. There was very little mud in the water, only a fine silt was present. Upon dunking it, my first attempt at firing the gun failed to ignite the chambered round. I was flabbergasted. Before filming the next scene we took the pistol back to the Jeep and broke it down to see what happened. Was it a fluke? Did that one magical speck of grit find its way into that most improbable place which caused the gun to fail to fire? I wanted to know.
So I broke the gun down and inspected it very closely. I wiped away the water and found almost nothing inside the gun except carbon and water. Any grit I found, which was almost non-existent, was so fine I couldn’t feel it on my finger tips. I could not, for the life of me, find what caused the gun to seize up like that. So, I dried it off with a rag, applied a bit of Breakfree CLP and proceeded to repeat the test. This time I didn’t step on the gun, I simply submerged it, shook it off quickly and attempted to fire. Once again the gun failed to fire. This time was different though, now the trigger wasn’t working properly. I pulled the trigger and nothing happened — no click and certainly no bang. Now I was really puzzled. Once again I broke the gun down and inspected it. I sloshed it around in water and tried to return it to working service. It never made it back to 100% service, the gun had multiple failures no matter what we did for the rest of the afternoon.
Next came the mud test, which at this point I knew would cause it to fail miserably — and it did. At this point the gun became utterly unreliable and nothing I could do in the field would return it to 100% service. Once grit/mud made it inside the gun, it was done. Most every other gun I’ve tested over the years could be returned to service with a quick dunking in creek or river water as I demonstrated with my Century Arms TP9 video.
At this point I knew the VP9 was not for me. I was done with the gun that afternoon and nothing would ever rebuild my faith in it. I came to the conclusion the gun was a fine range gun but not well suited for the task of defending one’s life. Others may disagree, and many certainly do, however I place a fairly high standard on the tools I consider for self defense. I don’t accept failure in my carry gun when other pistols are more reliable. Unlike far too many gun owners, I do not emotionally invest in tools. If a tool fails me or my trust is shaken, I find another tool as there are plenty to choose from.
Here are the primary issues I discovered about the VP9 that, if remedied, might render it a self defense worthy fighting pistol in my view.
- The gun’s recoil spring is horribly under sprung. The tiniest amount of fouling will cause the gun to not fully go into battery when running the slide, or if you push the nose of the slide rearward. This is why the gun does not work well with suppressors. The recoil spring runs out of energy at the end of its travel and can’t close the slide on a fresh round with a suppressor attached where other pistols like the Glock, M&P, XD, 1911, etc. can do so quite easily.
- The trigger bar that runs along the inside of the magazine well is poorly designed. The tiniest particulate matter that finds its way in there, be it silt from water or perhaps even pocket lint, can cause the trigger not to engage the sear and the gun not to fire (you can see this happening in my VP9 test video where multiple pulls of the trigger don’t fire the weapon).
- The magazine release leaver is weak and poorly placed. I can easily snap them off with thumb pressure.
- The gun could benefit from having striker cups similar to those offered for the Glock which allow water to rapidly escape the striker channel should the gun be submerged.
I have come to believe the VP9’s low price is the result of cost savings realized through reduced R&D time, testing time and quality assurance. Let’s face it, there’s no free lunch when it comes to manufacturing. If the VP9 is $200 less than the P30 there’s a reason and that reason is likely cost savings somewhere in the design and manufacturing of the gun. The target audience was the consumer that makes their primary purchasing decision on price. The VP9 hit that market square on the nose at the expense of alienating the military/LEO/self defense market that have come to expect more from HK products.