We expect it seems natural that we spend a lot of time with smallish firearms. They are simply more conducive to discreet or fully concealed carry, and the connection to the Carry Life is thereby obvious. But we find ourselves hauled back from small/”hide-able” land at the bidding, so to speak, of the Heckler & Koch VP9.
We’ve always admired the quality of H&K products: It’s hard not to. Globe-spanning military (especially SOF) and law enforcement adoption has a lot to do with this. H&K’s pistols run well in our hands, although this admiration was always tempered by our dislike for single/double action trigger systems. True mastery of a single trigger press is difficult enough. But in terms of accuracy, reliability and durability—job very well done.
The VP9 is a new chapter in the H&K story. A steel-above-and-polymer-below, striker-ignition design, it also boasts a seriously versatile set of grip panels and backstraps (27 variations, including extremely innovative asymmetric combos). It may also have the most complete set of ambi controls around, with magazine (paddle-style at the base/rear of the trigger guard) and slide releases available on either side of the pistol, with either hand, at all times.
The trigger was a pleasant surprise (and H&K departure) even if longish-feeling on the first press. If you “chase” the reset as you should, you get back to a medium-short second (and subsequent) press of 5 pounds.
The standard sights are a really phosphorescent three-dot configuration—they store and re-emit light (not create their own as with tritium)—which is a nice temporization. If you’re still slingshotting your slide with thumb and forefinger to cycle the action (baaaad Carry Life reader), you’ll like the little polymer “wings” at the extreme rear of the slide. They provide disproportionate gobs of grip power/surface, and make the slide extremely easy to cycle. They still help if you’re cycling the slide with the correct “overhand” method (gooooood Carry Life reader).So don’t necessarily scorn that full-sized pistol for carry—if it’s what you shoot most, it’s probably what you shoot best too.
In our range work, the VP9 ran very well (zero malfunctions) and shot accurately with everything from snappy 115s to both ends of the spectrum (95-grain JHP to 158 RN). Short version: We liked it—quite a lot in fact.
But to our opening point, the VP9 got us thinking about the “small gun” thing and the Carry Life. No question, pistols like the Glock 43 (here and here) are lighter and smaller/thinner, and consequently easier to carry.
They also embody compromises, some of which can be serious.Distilled, the most important fractions are: Short sight radii make them harder to aim with precision; light weights make them “bucky” in recoil; and small dimensions hamper secure grip while complicating precise trigger actuation. These factors tend to make us practice with them less than we should.
Which is where we circle back to the VP9. This thing is a gas to shoot right out of the box. If your pistolcraft is decent, you could march right out to an IDPA match and expect to be competitive. So why is it that most folks—including us—think of few (if any) pistols in this class as carry pistols? With correct training, they have none of the small firearm compromises that make it so much more difficult to become a thoroughly sound pistol shooter, and practice is just plain (more) fun.
Three factors get in the way. One is legislative: If you live in a state where open carry is barred, full-sized pistols create a problem. Even slight exposure of your gun represents legal jeopardy, and this edges the premium back toward smallness in a carry arm.
Second are mass and scale. Since IWB carry is mostly out for men on pistols in this class, belt and holster considerations change, though mostly for the better. You gain some mass, but won’t need to replace most of your trousers, though a cover garment remains a “must.” For women who purse-carry, the size issue is less important than the weight. Most full-size pistols will add between 25 and 40 ounces—a bit of a lug!
Most important—and most peculiar—may be simple aesthetics. If you scrub it down, you’ll find a lot of the objections to public carry are immaturity and laziness. Folks who will not see that personal responsibility for self-defense is a necessity—to say nothing of a civic duty—simply don’t want to be reminded by seeing your gun that they are shirking for themselves and, worse, for their families.
A side note here: This is one more reason to push for open carry if your state lacks it, but also to be exceptionally discreet and polite where it is legal. Take the high road: Just because a slung AR or AK is legal doesn’t make it a good idea. Reasoned responses to openly carried firearms like you see in Switzerland or Israel take time and maturity to develop in a society.
So don’t necessarily scorn that full-sized pistol for carry—if it’s what you shoot most, it’s probably what you shoot best too. And if all you own are smallish carry guns, the Heckler & Koch VP9 certainly deserves a considered look.
Now Carry on.