The German firm of Heckler & Koch has a well-earned reputation for producing some of the finest tactical firearms in the world. Its MP5 was the top submachine gun of the ’80s and ’90s, and the HK416 is arguably the finest semi-auto rifle on the planet today. While HK pistols have in the past been either difficult to obtain or ludicrously expensive, today’s offerings are becoming more and more common in American gun shops.

New, higher-end HK pistols can still be expensive, but cheaper used versions are available. My personal HK USP in .45 ACP was a cop-surplus steal at a local gun emporium. Additionally, the company’s new Volkspistole, or VP, series guns are intentionally priced to attract American shooters. Here is a look at some of HK’s best pistols.

Universal Self-Loading Pistol

heckler & koch USP
The oldest of the pistols included here, HK’s service-sized USP is designed to fit a wide variety of shooters with either a DA/SA or DAO trigger system and a Picatinny accessory rail.

The HK USP was HK’s answer to the modern combat handgun. Originally designed for the American law enforcement market some years ago, the USP has subsequently found widespread acceptance around the world. HK engineers intentionally crafted the USP to seem familiar to corn-fed Americans who cut their teeth on guns like John Moses Browning’s esteemed 1911.

The corrosion-proof, fiber-reinforced polymer frame features an oversized triggerguard and stainless steel inserts at common wear points. The one-piece slide is cut from nitrocarburized steel. The magazine release is a pivoting lever, and the slide release is extended for easy manipulations.

The pistol can be configured to use one of 10 different firing systems, and the polygonal-rifled barrel is designed to last longer than traditional barrels. My favorite setup is the double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger with a manual external safety/decocker. This option offers all that is good and wholesome about most modern combat handguns along with an extra bit of versatility.

Thusly configured, the pistol has a long DA trigger pull on the first round for safety. Subsequent rounds have a lighter, more comfortable SA pull. The safety may be applied with the hammer cocked for “Condition One” carry in a proper holster, with the hammer back, the safety on and a round in the chamber. Depressing the safety lever all the way down safely lowers the hammer on a loaded chamber.

The USP is a bulky service-sized handgun, but I have carried mine comfortably concealed in a proper holster. The USP also employs a patented recoil-reduction device that is indeed effective in action. In .45 ACP, the USP shoots like most other .40 S&W guns, while the .40-caliber version runs like a 9mm. The blocky slide incorporates aggressive gripping grooves, and the dust cover includes a proprietary rail for mounting lights and lasers, though Picatinny adaptors are available.

P30 Series

heckler & koch P30
The P30 is extremely ergonomic thanks to its grip design. Shooters can replace the backstrap and side panels to find the best fit for their hands.

The P30 is HK’s next- generation law enforcement and civilian pistol. Available in 9mm and .40 S&W chamberings, the P30 is designed to be supremely reliable, customizable and effective. The P30 is technically produced with seven different trigger systems, but there are really only three that are commonly encountered on this side of the pond.

The standard DA/SA trigger is fairly conventional and resembles those found on most classic DA/SA military handguns. This system, called the V3, can include a bilateral thumb safety if desired that allows safe Condition One carry with the hammer back and the safety on. This variant also includes a discreet thumb-activated button on the back end of the slide that safely lowers the hammer on a loaded chamber. The SA trigger travel is about a quarter-inch while the DA pull spans 0.55 inches.

The double-action-only (DAO) Law Enforcement Modification (LEM) triggers are truly innovative. These systems incorporate bobbed, spurless hammers. This system, called the V2, offers a consistent long, fairly heavy DA trigger pull that breaks at approximately 7.3 pounds.

The light LEM or V1 trigger is a different beast entirely. This unique trigger system incorporates an all-but-weightless long takeup followed by a nice crisp, 4.5-pound break. This means the firing sequence must be a bit more intentional than might otherwise be the case with a more conventional striker-fired system. The resulting pistol shoots comfortably and well while minimizing the risk of an accidental discharge. Unlike more common striker-fired triggers, the V1 and V2 triggers also give you second-strike capabilities in the event of a faulty primer. I’ve fired about a zillion rounds through a P30 in this configuration, and I cannot recall experiencing a single sluggish primer on factory ammunition. However, the capability is there should you need it. An HK pistol equipped with a V1 trigger makes for a superb concealed-carry gun.

The dust cover includes a standard picatinny rail, and the frame and slide materials are essentially indestructible. The extended slide release is perfectly replicated on both sides of the gun, and the now-familiar magazine release lever readily drops spent magazines for a fresh reload. The 9mm magazines hold 15 rounds while the .40 S&W versions pack 13.

The P30 is available in standard, long-slide and SK (SubKompact) variants. The standard P30 sports a 3.85-inch barrel and a full-sized grip. The P30L uses the same grip assembly, but the barrel and slide are 0.6 inches longer. The P30SK has a barrel that is only 3.27 inches long and a stubby grip containing an abbreviated 10-round magazine. Standard P30 magazines will run fine in the P30SK, but P30SK magazines will not lock into full-sized P30 variants.

The P30L’s longer barrel and extended sight radius help enhance its accuracy and minimize muzzle flip. The P30SK feels a bit like a thick, stubby ball in the hand. The tidy pistol seems portly at 1.37 inches wide. However, it packs nicely and shoots well. The fifth finger of the firing hand wraps around underneath the magazine basepad. Regardless of their size, all P30s come with three interchangeable backstraps as well as six different side grip panels. By mixing and matching, the shooter can adjust the grip to fit his or her individual anatomy perfectly. Swapping out grip panels requires nothing more than a small punch.

The People’s Pistols

heckler & koch VP9 pistol
Heckler & Koch positioned the VP9 to take a bite out of the law enforcement market with its durable construction, reliable striker-fired trigger and customizable polymer frame.

HK recently returned to the striker-fired market with its Volkspistole (“people’s gun”) series. The VP9 and VP40, chambered in 9mm and .40 S&W respectively, are priced in line with other high-end striker-fired handguns.

And the VP pistols have the fastest striker-fired trigger in the world. With a total trigger travel of 0.24 inches and a mere 0.12-inch reset, the 5.4-pound trigger on each VP gun raises the bar for striker-fired handguns. The slide is heavily grooved and includes the niftiest little polymer ears at the back to assist in racking when rushed or sweaty. HK calls these patented appendages “charging supports,” and they do not interfere with holstering. They are also removable if desired.

In development for a full four years, VP pistols feature dust-cover Picatinny rails and cold-hammer-forged, polygonal-rifled barrels. Their controls are identically replicated on both sides, and their beefy extractors double as a loaded-chamber indicators. In addition to several internal safety devices, the VP pistols include an external safety in the form of an exposed blade located in the center of the trigger that activates automatically when the trigger is fully pressed.

HK offers its VP guns with matte black or Flat Dark Earth frames, and they come with three backstraps and six different side grip panels. These panels are not interchangeable between the P30 and VP guns, however. Also, the grip-to-frame angle on VP pistols approximates that of the revered 1911 rather than the more rakish geometry of the Glock.

Quality Engineering

heckler & koch P30SK
Always a pioneer, Heckler & Koch created the first striker-fired pistol way back in 1970, and now the company has returned to those roots with its next-gen VP series.

Lots of folks make handguns these days. Options range from tiny pocket guns that are easy to carry but hard to shoot all the way up to guns that are impossible to conceal but pure fun on the range. HK’s lineup of tactical pistols follows a unique path.

The P30SK is short but fat and was designed for concealed carry. The gun is easy to tote and runs markedly better than all those skinny pocket guns that everybody else makes. HK weapons are optimized for performance downrange, and the P30SK embodies this ethos. The variety of grip options and trigger configurations lets you set your gun up exactly as you might like it.

None of the full-sized HK pistols is unduly heavy, and these days I typically carry a VP40 concealed at work. I have also carried my P30L quite comfortably underneath my surgical scrubs. Meticulously engineered, beautifully finished and built for combat, Heckler & Koch handguns are the defensive pistols for those who appreciate the finer things.

For more information about Heckler & Koch, visit or call 706-568-1906.

This article was originally published in ‘Concealed Carry Handguns’ 2017. To subscribe, visit

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