In this country, more and more states are getting in line with concealed carry permits and constitutional carry. This opens the door for citizens to look at handguns optimized for concealed carry, not just for use at home. Even so, many folks are not able or are unwilling to deal with the disadvantages of trying to carry full-sized and even many compact pistols in a concealed manner. Instead, a sizable percentage are opting for subcompact pistols as their primary carry weapon, but as we’ll see, not all “subcompacts” are created equal.
For the purposes of this edition of “Tales of the Tape,” we’re going to look at two not-so-subcompact subcompact pistols. They are the Heckler & Koch VP9SK and the Sig Sauer P320 subcompact. They were chosen to go up against each other due to their size and “subcompact” designation. While one might quibble with this designation for the two pistols, that wavering distinction does nothing to take away from each of their performances.
Sizing Up The VP9SK
Not exactly a bantamweight fighter, the VP9SK has roots going back to the beginning of the polymer pistol era. By introducing the VP70, HK became the first manufacturer to introduce a polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol to the market. While it didn’t exactly check all the boxes at the time, HK has come full circle with other polymer models such as the VP9SK to try to perfect the modern striker-fired pistol.
With the “subcompact” designation, at least in my mind, there are certain expectations. The main expectation is diminutive size—something that can easily be squirreled away in a pocket holster or discreetly tucked away in an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. A subcompact pistol’s magazine is also usually, but not always, a single-stack affair.
With the VP9SK, the subcompact concept does not jump out at you, other than perhaps the magazine capacity of only 10 rounds. This model is based on the venerable VP9 but is slightly scaled down for easier carry. The VP9SK weighs 23.07 ounces unloaded, and it’s 6.61 inches long, with 3.39 inches of that belonging to the barrel length alone. The pistol is also 4.57 inches tall and 1.31 inches wide. These are hardly the specs of your typical subcompact pistol, especially where width is concerned. If you consider that the width of the full-sized VP9 is 1.32 inches and the height is 5.41 inches, there’s not been a significant reduction to the VP9SK’s overall size in comparison to the full-sized model. Even the barrel length has only been reduced by 0.7 inches.
Luminescent sights adorn the smaller VP9, and the superb ergonomics are in the same class as the original. Like the original VP9, the VP9SK has the charging supports at the rear of the slide, and it incorporates both front and rear cocking serrations. To round out the package, the pistol also has a Picatinny rail for the attachment of accessories.
Of course, you shouldn’t mistake observations about its size as criticisms. Because it is one step down from the VP9 in size, it is more of a compact model than what would normally be considered. But more on that later.
In many ways, the Sig P320 Subcompact has the same issues as the VP9SK. It’s a pistol with a double-column magazine that holds 12 rounds of 9mm ammunition. It also sports larger dimensions than a typical subcompact pistol. For instance, it is 1.3 inches wide and 4.7 inches tall. These and other dimensions like the barrel length of 3.6 inches and the overall length of 6.7 inches place the P320 Subcompact in the same size realm as the HK VP9SK.
SIGLITE night sights come installed on the P320 Subcompact, and both the barrel and slide have Sig Sauer’s Nitron finish. As far as a rail option goes, it is up to the user. You can select a polymer grip module with or without a Picatinny rail. For this type of setup, I’d rather go without a rail, as it just adds more bulk to what’s supposed to be a subcompact package.
One distinction in Sig Sauer’s favor is the P320’s modular chassis system. The steel chassis is the serialized component considered to be the firearm. Therefore, the chassis can be swapped from one grip frame module to another, offering a selection of assorted sizes. And given the cost of different barrels, slides and grip modules, it only saves a little money to build another weapon off the same chassis. For those jurisdictions with a limit on firearms that can be owned, or where it is hard to get one registered, the modular system is a godsend because it allows multiple sizes to be set up on the same firearm. That’s true innovation in helping to solve problems for today’s gun owners.
Entering The Ring
While both pistols are built to nearly the same specs, each one has its own strengths. Some of the distinctions are subtle but present. For instance, the ergonomics of the VP9SK are just fantastic. Even though it’s a bit bigger than a normal subcompact, it is one of the most comfortable pistols that I’ve shot.
Speaking of shooting, both pistols had crisp triggers pulls with little to no take-up. As far as the trigger breaks are concerned, the VP9SK had the lighter pull at just 4.99 pounds in comparison to the 6.63-pound break of the P320 Subcompact. That said, some might want a heavier trigger pull as an additional layer of safety for carry.
The P320 isn’t a slouch in this category, as it’s extremely controllable and easy to hang onto, but its strength in this area probably lies in its capacity. At nearly the identical height of the VP9SK, the P320 Subcompact’s magazine holds 12 rounds rather than the VP9SK’s 10 rounds.
Now, the VP9SK will be getting 13-round magazines soon, but it will require a baseplate extension. This will make it harder to conceal, though certainly not impossible. But it will get the height of the pistol in the range of compact pistols on the market, many of which hold 15 rounds.
Using some 115-grain Fiocchi FMJ ammunition along with Sig Sauer’s 147-grain V-Crown JHPs, I was able to get some excellent accuracy from both pistols. The average group for the P320 Subcompact (with the Sig ammo) was 1.35 inches at 7 yards using a benchrest. The HK VP9SK beat that average with a spread of just 0.83 inches, and the single best group came in at 0.75 inches. Both pistols will do what you need them to do, but the HK had the upper hand when it came to this round.
Both pistols had sights that were fairly easy to pick up in daylight, though the P320 Subcompact had actual night sights rather than luminescent sights like the VP9SK. This is especially significant when you consider that the P320 Subcompact is still less expensive at $679 versus $719 for the VP9SK. HK does offer true night sights as well, but that option will cost around $80 extra.
Both pistols were reliable, with no malfunctions of any kind. So, as mentioned, the differences between the two really come down to priorities for the owner. Some advantages for the VP9SK include excellent ergonomics for a better grip, a lighter trigger pull and slightly better accuracy. Meanwhile, the Sig P320 Subcompact shares the same reliability and is more accurate than the shooter, but it has the advantage when it comes to price, magazine capacity and modularity.
And there it is. There’s no clear winner in this contest. Both go toe to toe in dimensions, and each has their own key advantages. You’ll have to sort out the defining points, such as capacity, price, options (like night sights), modularity and accuracy. But either way, we’re in a true golden age of firearms when competition is this stiff. Absolutely built to task, both pistols will do the job well and get you home safe and sound.
Sig P320 Subcompact Specs
|Barrel: 3.6 inches|
|OA Length: 6.7 inches|
|Weight: 24.9 ounces (empty)|
|Sights: SIGLITE night|
|Finish: Matte black|
Heckler & Koch VP9SK
|Barrel: 3.39 inches|
|OA Length: 6.61 inches|
|Weight: 23.07 ounces (empty)|
|Sights: Three-dot luminescent|
|Finish: Matte black|
For More Information
Heckler & Koch
This article is from the January/February 2018 issue of “Combat Handguns” magazine. To order a copy and subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.