There are many very good compact and subcompact pistols for concealed carry on the market now. I prefer the 9mm and there are many to choose from. This review is for the new-for-late-2017 Heckler & Koch VP9 SK subcompact striker-fired 9mm pistol. So, why choose this H&K VP9 SK subcompact for carry? There’s already the fine H&K P30 SK hammer-fired subcompact. Aren’t the H&K pistols a little high priced? Is the VP9 SK really worth it? What makes it stand out from the crowd? There are already several excellent 9mm carry guns. I compare, rank, and recommend my Top 21 concealed carry guns (compact and subcompact) in Chapter 29 of my recent book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.” Will this VP9 SK make it in my top 5 subcompact 9mm pistols for carry? Why or Why Not?
H&K guns are recognized worldwide for their German precision, sound quality build, and use by special operations forces. Some are concerned by their somewhat higher retail prices, but recognize their quality craftsmanship and mostly sturdy steel materials. I sincerely can feel the quality in my hands and see the fine performance when I use my H&K pistols. The VP9 SK subcompact is directly derived from the successful and widely-accepted, striker-fired full-size H&K VP9, which was under development for more than four years. So this updated and refined VP9 SK is a small striker-fired gun with a single stage-like short, light take-up and soft trigger, with no overtravel, a crisp press, and short reset. It is a single action only pistol, with the benefits of a striker-fired gun. It does have slide releases on both sides of the the frame, with the paddle-style magazine release, and is ambidextrous. The “VP” designation truly represents Volkspistole, which translates to “people’s pistol,” and the full-size VP9 won the Golden Bullseye in 2015 as Handgun of the Year. Now this recently introduced VP9 SK has the same characteristics. Is it award worthy? I’ll give you my analysis and opinions here. H&K was nice enough to send me their new VP9 SK 9mm pistol for this review.
I want to begin by giving you the VP9 SK’s Specifications and some key Features. Next, I want to give you my 10 criteria that I use to evaluate all guns. Then I want to present my analysis and my individual evaluations for each of my 10 criteria, with my supporting opinions. As always, set your own criteria, do your own research and check my data, information, etc. with your goals, preferences, and priorities.
Yes, there are holsters and accessories available for the new VP9 SK. I like individual leather and kydex holsters, as well as hybrid ones, for In-the-Waistband (IWB) and Outside-the-Waistband (OWB) carry. Some quality ones are shown below. Kramer Handgun Leather makes quality leather holsters and I found there OWB leather Belt Scabbard holster that custom fits the VP9 SK. It is high-riding and comfortable, with the butt of the gun tucked closely into the body for concealment. Also, I found this well-made OWB kydex holster called “The Avenger” manufactured by Alabama Holster that fits it very well. They use thick kydex which makes it very strong and with very good retention, while allowing it to ride high and close to the body. Blackpoint Tactical also has a quality and comfortable “Mini Wing” kydex and leather hybrid IWB holster with a sweat guard and several cant options in several colors. It has a very small profile and it contours to the body for a comfortable, flexible, and secure fit. Clinger Holsters also has a small footprint clip-on IWB “Stinger” holster with a full-coverage sweat shield which is very easy on and off. Nice for a quick trip to the convenience store. It has a wide, thick lip on the clip which helps with stability, sturdiness, and quick attachment. Clinger offers a free repair or replace Lifetime Warranty. Note that Urban Carry Holsters is introducing a new holster design system for this gun the end of September and they invited me to Orlando then for a pre-public release introduction and hands-on range time with their new holster and the VP9 SK. Stay tuned.
Criteria and Considerations
Here are just 10 of my criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the VP9. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.
Recognize that there are several features, characteristics, pros and cons, and personal criteria to include and consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, defined needs, and use.
H&K VP9 SK 9mm Range Test
I do my T&E range tests for all my guns using some of my concealed carry drills in Chapter 5 and Chapter 7 of my book. These various carry drills are slow and rapid fired from 3, 5, 7, 10, and 15 yards, with both hands, strong-hand only, weak-hand only, while stationary and while moving, using tactical reloading, drawing and from low-ready, and mostly untimed but a few timed.
I used Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown JHP ammo in 115 grain weight (MV=1185 fps; ME=359 ft lbs) and Elite Performance 115 grain (MV=1185 fps; ME=359 fy lbs.) I wanted to see how it handled with both hollow points and full metal jacket ammo. While I only fired about 200 rounds for this field test (usually I shoot 500 rounds in my test gun over a couple of days) to decide if I want to carry the gun or not, I had the information I needed. Below are my evaluations for each of my 10 criteria for my concealed carry purpose. While this Mr. Magoo with impaired vision is not a top shooter by any means, I wanted to run the gun and check it thoroughly for malfunctions and performance with quality JHP and FMJ ammo. Thanks to Sig Sauer for providing a few rounds to test and evaluate the VP9 SK subcompact 9mm.
This long-awaited VP9 SK subcompact 9mm has excellent Ergonomics. It felt very comfortable in my hands and fit just right. The 3 different size side panels and the 3 interchangeable backstraps allow you to individualize and custom the gun to your hands. I am Mr. Medium and everything medium fit my hands great. The grip texture was just right for me and placed on the lower portion of the grip. The stippling was not too aggressive at all and the finger grooves were very muted and nice for my medium-size hand. The grip angle is not too steep nor too shallow, but just right for me to naturally grip the SK. At first, I was not certain if I would like the paddle-style mag release with this subcompact, but it worked for me. I was use to them from my P30 and could easily reach all the controls. You know I really like the paddle mag release now. This gun accommodates ambidextrous shooters with its ambi slide release and the paddle release. The VP9 SK has wings. Yes, at the rear of the slide there are removable “charging supports” or what I call wings. They stick out and are easy to grasp and, for me, really helped when racking the slide. Those with a weak grip or medical limitations will find them helpful. If you don’t like them, they are easily removed. The dual captive flat recoil spring seemed to help my felt recoil and it was mild for me. Although I prefer the fiber optic and tritium sights, the VP9 SK has luminescent sights and with minimal light exposure, they are very bright in the daytime and in my closet test at night. Then there is the trigger. What a trigger! It has a short, soft and light press, about 5 pounds, though some readings were less near 4.75 lbs. It has a very nice short and light takeup with a single action break. There is no creep with a consistent trigger press. There is trigger travel of about .24 inch and return travel of about .12 inches. This has the consistency in trigger press like striker-fired guns, but with a short and light single action break similar to a 1911. Yes, a single action striker-fired gun, not a double action striker-fired one; not a hammer-fired (like my H&K P30 LEM Version 1 hammer-fired DAO.) I love the VP9 SK.
The striker-fired H&K VP9 SK is different than the hammer-fired H&K P30 SK (see images below.) Shoot them yourself to believe it. The VP9 SK is not as wide (1.31″ vs. P30 SK 1.37″,) which helps concealability. Also, the P30 is heavier than the VP9 SK (23.99 vs. VP9 SK 23.07 ounces) unloaded. Well, below I will present my ideas for each of my criteria after my range testing.
Overall after my range live fire, the VP9 SK single action striker gun impressed me as an accurate and reliable (with limited rounds fired by me) carry gun, with a very nice comfortable grip and extra features. I had no malfunctions or stoppages at all and the gun was very reliable for me. This gun will break into my TOP 5 striker-fired subcompact 9mm carry guns.
Firing rapid fire, two-handed with flash sight picture 10 rounds each at 3, 5, 7, 10, and 15 yards, all my hits were in the black. See below. Certainly acceptable for this old guy with vision concerns for close-up personal protection. My subsequent slow-fire shots were all in the black also and slightly better. I’ll take these results and this gun. But, shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions, based on your abilities, need, and proficiency. Below are my rapid-fire hits on one target at 7 yards with the VP9 SK.
Range Test Results for each of my 10 Criteria:
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10
The accuracy of the VP9 SK was very acceptable for me at distances of 3, 5, 7, 10, and 15 yards, given my aging eyesight. My groups at each of the 3, 5, and 7 yard distances were about 2.5 inches and about 3 inches or more at 10 and 15 yards. I need practice. The 5# striker single-action trigger press, the excellent grip, the rounded edges, the flat dual recoil spring (felt recoil help), and its steel barrel, slide, and parts helped with accuracy. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot Sig Sauer V-Crown 115 grain JHP and Elite 115 grain FMJ rounds.
2. Trigger Press – Score: 10
The trigger press averaged slightly less than 5.0 pounds with 8 readings from my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This was excellent and well within my acceptable press range for my carry guns. It will get even better after break-in and shooting it more. I prefer that my carry guns have a max. of 6.5 pounds press or less, so this press definitely beat my max. This striker-fired single action trigger press is excellent; a consistent, nice soft and short press. The press was also crisp with no creep. Very nice.
3. Trigger – Score: 9
The trigger had a tactile and very identifiable click and consistent reset. I liked the short and positive reset and very crisp trigger. My shots were consistent each time (striker-fired) and I could easily recognize the reset point. I enjoyed shooting this excellent striker-fired single action trigger.
4. Barrel Length – Score: 10
The 3.39-inch hammer-forged steel Barrel with its dual recoil spring helped control muzzle flip and felt recoil. This is a high-quality barrel and gun which is very concealable.
5. Sights – Score: 9
The luminescent three-dot Sights were bright and I liked shooting them. The rear sight is ramped. With my color blind eyes, I prefer a bright front sight for a better and quicker lock on target. I do prefer night sights and they are optional.
6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9
The overall 23.07 ounce unloaded weight was acceptable within my range, but some of my carry guns have less weight. Just slightly heavier than I prefer, but certainly OK for carry.
7. Caliber – Score: 10
My preference for carry is the 9mm caliber. I find I can control movement and accuracy better, with less felt recoil, more accurate hits, quicker follow-up shots, and at less cost. This means I can practice more with 9mm than my .45 ACP, due to a lower cost. The VP9 SK digested the various weights of 9mm ammo easily without a single malfunction or stoppage.
8. Capacity – Score: 9
There were only 2 magazines included with my standard commercial test gun. Wish it was the LE version with the third mag and tritium night sights, but this costs extra. I really expect standard gun packages to include the third mag which is absolutely essential. Included was a 10-round capacity and another 10-round capacity mag with extended base. The mags did have witness holes. Later this year 13 and 15 round mags will be available. Also, the full-size VP9 mags and the P30 mags fit the VP9 SK.
9. Ergonomics – Score: 10
The ergonomics of the VP9 SK subcompact were excellent. The grip was outstanding, comfortable, and naturally fit my hands, with its just-right texturing on the lower two-thirds of the grip. The grip’s body was ample to allow me to acquire a firm and comfortable grip. Its contours and the muted finger grooves fit my medium-sized hands great because of the customizable backstraps and side panels. I liked the rear slide with its “charging supports; what I call wings. I could quickly and easily grap and rack the slide with their help. Another instructor was not certain about them, but they are removable. The grip angle was not too steep nor too shallow for me; just right. The mags dropped free and had a nice finish. The VP9 SK uses mags from the full-size VP9 and from the P30. The location and size of the mag release button was just right for me, not too big and not too small. I did not have to rotate my shooting hand and grip each time to change mags.
10. Miscellaneous – Score: 9
As always before shooting any new gun, I disassembled, lubed and cleaned, and re-assembled the VP9 SK before I shot it. I did not have to press the trigger to disassemble it and it was easy and quick to do. I always just push down slightly on the rear of the slide to relieve tension on the disconnector, for smooth disassembly. The bright luminescent sights impressed me, as did the mild felt recoil. I did have to get use to the paddle style mag release, but after shooting it for awhile, I do like it. The price of the gun was just a little higher than most, but there is definitely quality with this gun and you can shop for a reasonable price. The hard case is very nice and high quality. In the case are included accessories like a loader, 2 extra backstraps, 2 extra side panels, lock with keys, a second mag, and owner’s manual. There is a lifetime limited warranty for defects in material and workmanship.
Total Points = 95 out of 100 Possible.
I certainly RECOMMEND this handgun for consideration as one of your concealed carry guns, especially because of its accuracy, outstanding customizable grip, smooth slide movement, dual recoil springs to help ease felt recoil, smooth and rounded lines for easy concealment, rounds capacity, ambidextrous controls, bright luminescent sights, and its reliability. I was very impressed with its accuracy out of the box, great single action trigger, excellent mildly-aggressive grip texturing and feel, reduced muzzle flip, and that it had no malfunctions or stoppages whatsoever. These are just my opinions and ideas, so handle and shoot it for yourself. I hope this review of the VP9 SK single action striker-fired subcompact 9mm has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Consider that these are just my opinions with limited live-range fire and shooting myself only about 200 rounds of ammo. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what features are important to you and you are willing to pay for ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds. Remember, Safety First Always.
Columbus, GA 31907
Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown 9mm JHP-FMJ ammo
Newington, NH 03801
Kramer Handgun Leather
Tacoma, WA 98411.
Daphne, AL 36526
BlackPoint Tactical Holsters
Alpharetta, GA 30004
Clinger Holsters at American Concealment Solutions
Van Buren, AR 72956
Photos by Author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].