Review of the hk vp9sk le
Many of you know that from time to time I stray from long range rifle shooting to go back to some pistol shooting. I started shooting pistols about 1971. My first was a Smith & Wesson K22 Masterpiece. It was a 6” 22LR revolver with a target hammer and trigger. I remember it was only $119. Those were the days or were they? I gained an interest in 2700 bullseye matches and began shooting with the Delaware State Pistol Team. I quickly learned that a semi-automatic pistol was necessary. I got a High Standard but soon traded it for a Smith & Wesson model 41. I continued shooting bullseye until the late 70’s. In 1984 I started my law enforcement career in Florida. I started shooting IPSC at that time. I carried a Colt 1911 on duty and off. That pistol platform was my competition choice also. My wife loved that I shot IPSC because she believed it would benefit me at work. During all that time I worked with a team that taught firearms instruction at the Police Academy. The lead instructor was Andy Seminick. Andy had gone to every class that Jeff Cooper and Ray Chapman had taught. Andy learned from the best and put together a curriculum that we believed would teach recruits not only how to shoot but also how to save their lives. While teaching hundreds and hundreds of recruits, we quickly learned that a pistol with a consistent trigger pull was the easiest platform to master. Thus the 1911, the HK P7, and the plastic fantastic new kid on the block, the Glock, were the first for us to recommend. Well history shows that most of Law Enforcement agreed, as the Glock became the overwhelming pistol of choice by most agencies.
Turn the clock forward a couple of decades and one will find every pistol manufacturer scrambling to bring a striker fired polymer framed pistol to the market. Well I recently had the opportunity to wring out an HK VP9SK. The version I tried was the LE. The difference between the standard SK and the SK LE is night sights and a third magazine. Honestly, why would you buy one without night sights and a third magazine? Like the full size VP9, the SK LE comes with three different thickness grip panels and three different back straps. This is an attempt to make one platform fit many different sized hands. My hands are fairly large but I found the SK LE to be very comfortable to hold. The VP9SK LE came with one magazine with a flat floor plate and two with finger extensions. The magazine bodies are steel. Both types of floor plates were rubber or some soft synthetic. What a great idea as this will protect them when they are ejected from the pistol. Both types hold 10 rounds each. The finger extension provides a positive gripping surface for your little finger. This allows a very firm controlled grip on the pistol.
An examination of the exterior finds some unique features. First is the ambidextrous paddle magazine release. There is a paddle on each side of the grip behind the trigger guard. This release is not something that has to be pulled out and flipped to the other side to be ambidextrous. This mag release is active on both sides of the pistol at all times. The paddle was easy to operate with either the thumb or trigger finger or both.
The next unique feature is an ambidextrous slide release. I don’t think I have ever seen this on a pistol before. My manual of arms that I teach doesn’t include dropping the slide by pressing down the slide lock. Rather, one should grasp the rear of the slide, pull it to the rear, and let it go. However locking the slide to the rear can be rather cumbersome to those that are left handed. My son is an exceptional shooter. He is left handed and had to learn how to shoot most firearms that were designed for right handed shooters. He found both of these features great but more about this later.
The slide is machined from a solid block of high-carbon steel. This slide is no stamped and folded piece of metal. HK says it is coated with a nitro-carburized finish to resist corrosion. The slide has cocking serrations on the front and rear. There are many shooters who do not like this but I love front serrations. They allow one to pull the slide back slightly to check the chamber or assist in clearing the pistol. Speaking of pulling the slide back, this HK is the first pistol I have seen with extensions on either side of the rear of the slide. These “ears” allow a really good purchase on the rear of the slide to assist in pulling the slide to the rear.
The extractor doubles as a loaded chamber indicator. When there is a round in the chamber, the extractor stands out slightly from the slide and exposes a red surface.
Another interesting feature is the cocked striker pin indicator. This indicator is visible through a port in the rear of the receiver.
HK continues their innovation with a feature that I don’t recall seeing on other striker fired pistols. The take down lever will not turn down if there is a magazine in the pistol. Also turning the take down lever to the down position, de-cocks the striker. Now one of the cardinal rules of firearm safety is to always check to make sure there is no round in the chamber before handling or disassembling the pistol. Well we all know that when Dr. Murphy takes over the worst will happen. Yes, I happen to know Murphy is a doctor. HK is going to save someone from that unintentional discharge by disconnecting the striker when the slide is removed.
Once disassembled, the VP9SK looks like most other striker fired pistols. It utilizes the Browning link-less short recoil system. HK says the barrel is made from cannon grade steel. It has a polygonal bore and a high polished ramp. The P30K has a similar barrel. That P30 barrel has been tested to 90,000 rounds without failure. You read that correctly, 90,000. The polygonal bore also alleges increased velocity.
Okay, enough of the description, how does the thing shoot? My son and I took this unique pistol down to the Port Malabar Rifle & Pistol Club. The only range available to us that day was a 15 yard practice pistol range. We started with some 115 grain FMJ Federal American Eagle.
Before I go any further let me state that this has to be one of the most accurate out of the box pistols I have ever seen. As a law enforcement firearms instructor, part time armorer, and enthusiast, I have had the opportunity to test, shoot, and own dozens of different pistols during my career. The VP9SK LE is radically accurate. It is a combination of a superior barrel and the excellent trigger. My biggest gripe with striker fired pistols of today is the mushy trigger pull and incredibly long trigger reset. Trigger reset is holding the trigger to the rear while the slide cycles. After the slide has cycled, slowly release the trigger until you feel the trigger reset. The secret is to not take your finger all the way off the trigger. Just let it out until you feel the reset and no more. This technique will greatly increase your accuracy. The 1911 and the HK P7 didn’t have a problem with reset. Today’s polymer striker pistols do but not the HK VP9SK. This is the best striker fired trigger I have felt. I would rate it even better than the new M320!
It is a good thing this pistol had so much going for it because in the beginning this particular pistol malfunctioned at least once with every magazine. The main malfunctions were a failure to feed into the chamber or failure to eject. These were indications the slide was not cycling fully for some reason. The malfunctions occurred with all three magazines. The possible issues for this were failure to maintain a locked wrist during the cycle, weak ammo, the 115 grain bullets, or some unknown mechanical malady. I did notice my son, who is left handed, tended to have his thumbs near the right side slide lock. This was never an issue before as he has never shot a pistol with an ambidextrous slide lock. He corrected this but was still having problems.
Next we tried some 9mm hand loads that I had made some time ago. This ammo was also 115 FMJ loaded over Accurate Arms #5. We oiled up the pistol and tried again. There were fewer malfunctions but they were still annoyingly frequent. My son noticed the date on the hand loads and complained that the ammo was older than he was. One of the caveats he has been taught is “Never shoot ammo older than you are!” Well the ammo was not older than me so I fired it. I was getting the same failure to chamber. This put us at about 250 rounds through the pistol.
Onward and upward, we moved on to some lead round nose 124 grain ammo I had loaded. These were also over a dose of AA#5. Well I don’t know what switch we threw but there were no more malfunctions. Were these loads hotter? Did the VP9SK like heavy bullets better? Did pistol finally break in?
The last ammo we tried that day were CCI Gold Dot 124 grain +P. There were no malfunctions with the +P Gold Dot either. We shot a total of 470 rounds through the VP9SK. Here are a couple photos of the targets we shot at 15 yards.
We took the VP9SK LE home and field stripped it to clean. I decided we would put it in my L&R Ultrasonic cleaner. It ran for an hour in the heated cleaning solution. I put it into the L&R lubricant and ran it for 15 minutes. My son cleaned the barrel with Bore Tech cleaner. All the parts were dried. The contact points were lubed with Slip 2000 oil and the VP9SK was reassembled.
My son used the VP9SK in a pistol match a few days later. He used a new box of Winchester NATO 124 grain FMJ. He had no malfunctions, none, zip, zero. Oh, and he tied for first in the match.
The verdict? The HK VP9SK LE is a superior pistol. I don’t hesitate to recommend it. Just be prepared to shoot +P or 124 grain bullets to break it in. It may be hard to locate one for a while. Spare magazines are even rarer. HK promises to have the P30/VP9 magazines in 13 and 15 round with grip extensions for the VP9SK in the fall of 2017. This will make the already serviceable pistol even better.
VP9SK LE Dimensions:
Length 6.61 inches
Width 1.32 inches
Height 4.57 inches
Barrel length 3.39 inches
Sight radius 5.73 inches
Weight w/o mag 23 ounces
10 round mag 2.65 ounces empty
Trigger pull 4.5~5.5 pounds
Trigger travel .24 inches
Reset travel .12 inches
Barrel Polygonal 1 in 9.8 twist
Copyright Harbour Arms 2017
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