In 1970, the first striker-fired pistol, the Heckler & Koch VP70, entered the marketplace. Though it was an innovative design, it was met with a lukewarm reception and wasn’t on the market for very long. Since that initial offering, several other manufacturers have introduced their own polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols, with at least one boldly claiming to have perfected the design. It wasn’t until 44 years later that HK stormed the market again with its new VP9, which offered several features that made it stand out from the rest of the offerings from other companies. It had an excellent, crisp trigger, a relatively short reset, and the ergonomics were fantastic by any measure. A duty-sized weapon, the VP9 held 15+1 rounds despite its larger frame, and it didn’t take long for people who really liked the design of the VP9 to wonder when HK would come out with a compact or subcompact model for concealed carry. In 2017, HK answered that question with the new VP9SK.

Meet The VP9SK

Out of the box, the first thing you’ll notice about the VP9SK is how small it is compared to the standard VP9. HK meant business when it decided to bring this new model to the masses. Despite its smaller size, however, the VP9SK still incorporates most of the features of the VP9, including the excellent ergonomics of the sculpted grip. It is one of the top pistols I have tried with regard to how well my hands fit this grip design.

The grip is extremely comfortable in large part due to the interchangeable backstraps and side panels. This is not a common feature for subcompact pistols on the market. The VP9SK comes with three sets of side panels and three backstraps, allowing shooters to mix and match the parts to create a pistol that perfectly fits their hands.

The VP9SK also comes with both front and rear slide serrations for press checks, and it features charging supports (ears) at the rear of the slide to allow for a better purchase to cycle the first round. Despite my initial reservations about these supports, I have found them to be extremely helpful, and they should be a boon for those with weaker hands.

Like its Heckler & Koch siblings, the VP9SK incorporates ambidextrous controls, including the slide stop/release as well as the paddle-type magazine release that resides at the rear of the triggerguard. I don’t particularly like initiating the release with my forefinger but have found that I can activate the release with my thumb as well, so all is good in that regard.

Perhaps the pièce de résistance for the VP9SK is the excellent trigger that is retained from the larger VP9. Breaking at 5.16 pounds on average, the crisp trigger pull of the VP9SK is the perfect balance for defensive work and does not offer the overly spongy resistance you will typically find with many striker-fired pistols on the market.

How It Stacks Up

Since most people are familiar with the Glock 19 and Glock 26, I’ll use those for comparison purposes, since the VP9SK falls right in between those with regard to size. Weighing in at 23.07 ounces unloaded, the VP9SK has an overall length of 6.61 inches with its 3.39-inch barrel. The pistol is also 4.57 inches tall and 1.31 inches wide, meaning it’s a bit on the thick side, especially for IWB carry. However, with the right belt and holster, the additional hundredths of an inch won’t make that big of a difference.

One thing I did find a bit disconcerting was the limited magazine capacity. The pistol comes with two magazines: one with a finger extension that makes the pistol much more comfortable to grip and a flush-flitting magazine that requires the user’s pinky to curl beneath it. Both magazines hold 10 rounds. Considering its size and width is larger than the Glock 26, which holds 10 rounds, I was a little disappointed in the 10-round capacity of the VP9SK, especially since the magazine seems to have enough room to hold a couple more rounds without issue.

However, in November of this year, HK will offer 13- and 15-round magazines with grip sleeves to work with the VP9SK. The 13-round magazine appears to protrude no further than the 10-rounder with the finger extension. So this is great news. However, HK magazines are not noted for their cheap prices, and in order to get the extra capacity, you’ll have to spend $40 to $45 for each new magazine.

It seems to me that at least the 13-rounders should have been included from the start to stave off the requirement for additional magazine purchases. Nonetheless, the higher-capacity magazines will be available for those who aren’t satisfied with 10 rounds in their VP9SK pistol.

There is also an LE version of the VP9SK that comes with three magazines and true night sights, but on the standard version, two magazines are included along with phosphorescent three-dot sights. These sights are easy to pick up in the daytime, but visibility diminishes relatively quickly in low-light conditions. So, it’s up to the individual as to what works best for them. The LE version of the VP9SK runs about $100 more than the standard version.

Drills & Thrills

There is an expression about how some things are greater than the sum of their parts. In many ways, that seemed to be the case with the Heckler & Koch VP9SK. It doesn’t have the lightest trigger I’ve tried, nor is it the thinnest subcompact pistol available for concealed carry. But the fusion of all of its attributes made for one of the best shooting experiences I’ve had in a long time.

I used three loads to gauge the VP9SK’s accuracy and shootability: Sig Sauer’s 147-grain Elite Performance V-Crown JHPs, DoubleTap’s 124-grain +P JHPs and 124-grain Colt Defense JHPs. Though the normal protocol for a subcompact pistol is testing at 7 yards, because of the VP9SK’s slightly larger size, I went ahead and tested it for accuracy from a standing rest at 15 yards. I wasn’t surprised by the results, either, and in typical HK fashion, accuracy was one of the shining stars in the VP9SK’s feature list.

Both the Colt and Sig Sauer JHP loads were neck in neck for the results, but the former squeezed in with a best group of 1.44 inches. It also took the crown for the best average five-shot group size at just 1.56 inches. This isn’t bad at all for self-defense work!

For running drills to checking the pistol’s carry comfort and grip purchase, I used a Crossfire EDC rig that is built to carry multiple firearms. Rather than work with a frame size or barrel length, the rig focuses on securing the triggerguard of the weapon more than anything else, thus providing a versatile holster that can work with many different firearms. For the trials, I carried it in an appendix IWB fashion using the clip to run over the outside of the belt.

I’m rapidly becoming a fan of appendix carry, and the EDC holster from Crossfire provided a comfortable platform from which to draw the VP9SK. The back of the holster has a generous relief cut to provide a quick and sure purchase on the grip of the little pistol. With the highly visible sights, it was a simple affair to draw and run the Mozambique drill. The sights allowed for fast and accurate shots, giving the VP9SK duty-sized performance in a subcompact package.

Plinking ammo included Sig’s 124-grain FMJs and Federal’s 115-grain Syntec rounds. Despite all of the different ammunition tested, not one failure of any kind was encountered during the range sessions. Even some truncated ball ammo fed without any problems, and that ammunition has caused issues with other pistols in the past. The VP9SK is just that reliable, and that’s what you want on your side if you’re in a defensive encounter.

Range Takeaways

It seems that every new pistol I come across, particularly the newer striker-fired pistols, there seems to be just one thing that keeps it from perfection. Either the grip texturing is too aggressive or the slide release is hard to manipulate, or it’s something else. In the case of the VP9SK, the one downside straight out of the box is the 10-round magazines. Even though it’s called a subcompact, there’s plenty of room in the magazine for a couple more rounds.

Thankfully, that will be an easy enough fix, though a pricey one, once HK starts shipping the 13- and 15-round magazines. Other than that, the VP9SK is a fantastic weapon that’s just perfect for concealed carry. It’s accurate, reliable and ergonomic, making it a dream to shoot. It’s hard to ask more from a pistol of this type.

With an MSRP of $719, some might find it a bit pricey compared to similar pistols, but HK pulled out all the stops to issue a follow-up to its popular, full-sized HK VP9. With the VP9SK, you get all of the VP9 goodness, just in a smaller package. For those who already have a VP9, the VP9SK is a no-brainer since it has the same manual of arms and accepts the mags from its older sibling.

For those who don’t have the HK VP9 or the VP9SK for that matter, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s big medicine in a small package, and it should be at the top of the list for anyone who needs the very best when it comes to a concealed carry pistol.

Caliber: 9mm

Barrel: 3.39 inches

OA Length: 6.61 inches

Weight: 23.07 ounces (empty)

Grip: Polymer

Sights: Three-dot

Action: Striker-fired

Finish: Matte black

Capacity: 10+1

MSRP: $719

For more information, visit

This article was originally published in “Concealed Carry Handguns” 2018. To order a copy, visit

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