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By Breanne R.

In 2014, Guns & Ammo named the H&K VP9 number one with a bullet, their Handgun of the Year. And for good reason. The German manufacturer’s first striker-fired handgun (since the P7 pistols of the 1980’s) is rugged, reliable, accurate, ergonomic and as sexy as a thin shirt on a cold day. The VP9 remains my go-to handgun. When I heard H&K was introducing a .40 caliber variant, I was open to suggestion. Who doesn’t want a bit more bad-assery in their self-defense gun? I secured a VP40 for my first test for TTAG and it was on . . .

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The VP40 and the VP9 share identical ergonomics and controls. Like its smaller sib, the VP40 comes complete with three interchangeable backstraps and six side-panels. Configuring on the ideal combination of backstrap and side-panels for your hand size and shape takes time, but the result adds to the gun’s shooting comfort and ballistic accuracy. For a small-handed shooter like this reviewer, it’s the difference between chaos and control.

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The VP9 and VP40 also share similar dimensions. Similar but not identical; the VP40 is a millimeter taller than the 9mm gun. Unfortunately, most of the current VP9 holsters are unable to accommodate the slightly larger VP40. [ED: CompTac has just released holsters for the firearm.] Fortunately, the VP series pistols use HK P30 magazines in their respective calibers; the VP40 fits either 13- or 10-round P30 mags. Unfortunately, H&K mag prices have increased since the VP9 hit the market. And the mags are hard to find. With the new gun’s introduction, that’s going to get worse before it gets better.

The VP40 is an ambidextrous pistol. The slide stop located on the shooter’s left is shorter, but both are easily accessible. The magazine release takes the form of a set of paddles located on the rear of the trigger guard. Both VP series pistols have charging supports on the rear of the slide. I found these quite useful; I prefer the pinch method of using the thumb and forefinger to charge the slide to the rear. Shooters who prefer to “combat rack” can remove the charging supports with a few simple steps.

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Our test VP40’s was fitted with Tritium TRU DOT night sights, included in the $100 law enforcement upgrade package. The sights are brighter than a Jeopardy champion on Red Bull. Equally welcome: the rear sight’s larger leading edge enables proper one-handed slide racking. The VP40 boasts a Picatinny MIL-STD-1913 rail molded into the frame for lights and accessories, weight-limited to 5.6 ounces. I tested a four-ounce SureFire weapon light without issues.

The VP40 weighs-in at 28.93 ounces, overstepping the VP9 by 2.37 ounces. The weight difference is noticeable from the moment you pick up the VP40. Does the extra weight and excellent ergos cure the .40 S&W round’s notorious “snappiness”? Good question. The VP40’s aimed squarely at the law enforcement market, where .40 S&W still holds sway. We want our law enforcement officers – which include more and more women – to have as much accuracy as possible. I headed to the range and loaded-up the VP40 with Federal’s American Eagle Pistol .40 S&W 180 Grain FMJFP pills to check it out.

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But not before confirming reports that H&K mags’ sharp feed lips are tough on a girl’s (or guy’s ) fingers. The supplied HK speed loader was more difficult to use than my aftermarket speed loader, but a blessing nonetheless. Firing the gun, the VP40’s trigger’s got a seriously short take-up and a 5.4 lbs. trigger pull. The action is smooth and consistent throughout the motion. The trigger breaks crisply, followed by a short, almost instant reset. 

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H&K claims the VP40’s proprietary captive flat recoil spring reduces recoil. Compared to other .40’s that I’ve sampled, I can’t tell the difference. It’s still a snappy round. Firing and getting back on target was hard work, rather than the naturally flowing rhythm enabled by the VP9. I shot 1.5”-2”-sized groups with the VP40 at 15 yards, slow fire, with five round volleys. Letting loose, my groups expanded to 3”-4”. As compared to shooting 1″ repid-fire groups with my VP9 at 15 yards.

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Clearly, I shoot my VP9 better than the VP40. That said, like any .40-caliber handgun, the VP40 requires an extra measure of attention to grip, stance, breathing and trigger press – and lots of practice – to achieve confidence-inspiring accuracy. Attention that should be created and ingrained during training, but usually isn’t. There’s a reason police departments are switching to 9mm. Sometimes it’s due to cost considerations – .40 S&W remains a relatively pricey round – and sometimes it’s down to the fact that .40 isn’t an easy round to master. 

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With the U.S. military adopting hollow-point 9mm cartridges for its handguns, .40 S&W may be losing what’s left of its macho appeal. As good a gun as it is, I doubt the VP40 will be flying off the shelves like the VP9 did in 2014. That said, if you’re looking to buy a .40-caliber self-defense gun, the VP40’s torture-tested quality and “hostile environment” finish assure you of a gun that will hold up to the round’s – and your own – abuse. Personally, I sticking with the VP9 – at least until H&K releases a VP45.

Specifications:

  • Caliber – .40 S&W
  • Capacity – 13 rounds (optional 10 round magazines)
  • Overall Length – 7.34″
  • Barrel Length – 4.09″
  • Width – 1.32″
  • Height – 5.45″
  • Weight – 26.56 oz. (with empty magazine); 3.28 oz. (empty magazine)
  • Sight Radius – 6.38″
  • Warranty – HK Limited Lifetime
  • MSRP – $719.00
  • LE Model MSRP – $819.00 (with tritium night sights and 3 magazines)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style * * * * *
The VP40 has a strong solid look about it, like an MMA fighter in a business suit.
Accuracy * * * *
The VP40 is a highly accurate firearm whose snappy caliber requires skill to master.
Ergonomics * * * * *
More comfortable than an old leather jacket – once you sort out the backstop and side-panels. The trigger is clean and crisp, a joy to pull.
Reliability * * * * *
HK has subjected the VP40 to torture tests unlike anything (hopefully) the pistol would endure in a functional environment. The VP40 draws from tried and true platforms that should be reliable for years to come, and is covered by Heckler & Koch’s limited lifetime warranty.
Customization * * * *
The shooter can adjust the grip to change it to any configuration, and the picatinny rail allows for all sorts of attachments. Although the VP40 is the new kid on the block, many of the upgrades for the VP9 platform are interchangeable with the VP40. Star withheld for current lack of holster options.
Overall * * * * 
A high quality, ergonomic firearm at a reasonable sales price. Almost eliminates the .40-caliber snappy issue, but not quite. Could any handgun?
Heckler & Koch VP40 provided by Only The Best Firearms

68 Responses to Gun Review: H&K VP40

  1. uh, no pictures of the sights? what gives? no pictures of anything other than the gun and the top of the inside of frame. where are the pics of a field strip? where are the pics of these sharp feed ramps, where are the pics of the captured spring you talk about?

  2. Did they to the standard H&K torture test of one million rounds submerged in a river of lava on the moon?

    I still don’t get why European makers have not embraced the push button magazine release. I mean seriously, who has hands designed to hit that little paddle? Maybe my lack of Teutonic operational prowess is showing.

        • I don’t like breaking my grip or having two fingers inside the trigger guard.

          The way I see it, if God wanted for pistols to have paddle releases, he would have told John Moses Browning to put it on the 1911.

    • I liked the paddle release until I did some high-speed video of mag change drills – the paddle really works great when you use your trigger finger to drop the mag. I noticed however, when doing reloads with a closed slide (and live chamber) my finger would drag against the single action trigger of the HK45 currently pointed skyward… Sold all three of my HKs and haven’t second guessed the decision.

      Nothing wrong with the design, but I’ll stick to my Glocks and 1911s.

    • I actually wish more American manufacturers would switch to the paddle mag release. I’ve come to like it a lot.

    • I had an incident where my concealed carry pistol popped it’s magazine due to how I sat down in a chair. A paddle release would not do that. This pistol has a magazine disconnect that I am considering removing. It just gets into the legal debate of modifying carry handguns.

    • My first experience with the paddle release (USP 45) converted me. I wish all handguns used it. I can operate it with the middle finger and not break my grip, take sights off the target.

    • I’ve got monster hands and sometimes have issues with inadvertent mag drops, too much hand/finger, not enough real estate. The paddle mag release is a great option for me, personally. Though I could understand why others might have a different experience. No, its not as fast for a lot of users, but how fast is scrambling for a fresh mag in the middle of a bad situation? Just my experience/opinion, ymmv.

    • Paddle release is superior, push-button proponents just haven’t tried them or are too stubborn to admit it. Maybe this can be the next “caliber war”?

      (I say this as a .45acp fan)

    • My wife loves the paddle release. She has arthritis in her hands. The paddles make it very easy to release the mag. She had a hard time with the push button on the Glock she tried.

    • This is my first paddle release, and I like it. Why? Cuz I’m a lefty, and I love hk keeping us in mind. Bought this weapon at a gun show, and I noticed that most of the pistols I held had the release on the left side of grip. Great place for a righty, but hold those weapons in the left hand and now your base of trigger finger is resting on that release button. Not smooth at all.

  3. But not before confirming reports that H&K mags’ sharp feed lips are tough on a girl’s (or guy’s ) fingers.

    Now we know why HK loads their magazines backwards.

  4. The VP40 appears to use the same frame as the VP9. Even the extractors appear to be the same. Ergonomics should be the same as the VP9. Only the slide, barrel and recoil spring appear to be changed.

    I am heavily impressed with the HK VP series of firearms and have switched over to it almost completely. I just wish they would come out with 45 ACP versions and a 9mm subcompact.

    • I’m highly surprised there isn’t a subcompact 9mm version out yet, isn’t that THE market segment to be in nowadays?

      • im surprised H & K hasnt come out with one the size of a rural mailbox !,, ever deal with them on the phone ,, they may as well of said ,”hey youre not contract sales FU ” . it would have been more to the point .

    • Your point that the frame is the same in 9mm & .40 is very important here. Molds cost a freaking fortune to make. Chambering the same frame for 9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W and some less popular but similarly-sized rounds is very easy and inexpensive compared to making a new frame. Which is making a new gun. Going to .45, 10mm (I’d buy a VP10, for the record), and some others would necessitate a completely new frame (+ most of the internals), new magazines, etc, as the cartridge length is too long to fit in a 9mm/.40 frame.

    • Preferably with threaded barrel and a slide pre-milled for a red dot!

      Why aren’t more companies doing optics-and-suppressor-ready pistols? FN seems like the only one out there right now.

    • Everyone compares the recoil of the 9mm to the 40. But I bet that doesn’t come up in a 9mm vs a 45 discussion….

      • 45 vs 40 recoil is very different. I’ve seen relatively inexperienced shooters print decent groups with a 45, but throw all over the place with a 40. The gentler push of a 45 vs snappiness of the 40 does make a difference.

        Often, when I shoot, I first put a mag or two through my Glock 22 to reinforce muscle memory before moving on to 9 or 45. The 40 is a caliber that you need to man (or woman) handle. It will show the lack of fundamentals in a shooter quickly. You can’t just get by the way you do with a 9 if you have poor technique.

        • Now, I am tiny as well. As you read. But I also prefer strong weapons. Like the new Petra 300 wind mag from falkor defense. But when it comes to pistols, I’m a little more picky.

      • I know a 5′ 130 lb lady who shoots a full size all metal .40. She even prefers the “snappier” 165 gr loads. Go figure. In her words “9 mm is too whimpy”.

        • I shoot a lot of 40. I prefer the 165s to the 180s as well. Neither are snappy for me in my compact. Out of my Kahr CM40 they feel like my 357 magnum revolver.

          My 135 grain reloads are “snappy”. They have very little recoil, but are loud, and scary. They are a bit jarring at first.

      • The impulse distribution on the .45 is more mild than on the .40. What most people refer to as “snappiness”.

  5. What’s with the snappy comment?-Work out a tiny bit…that thing looks HUGE in her hands too. Her I get not being able to handle “snappy”. Good review but this is another brand I rarely see in the wild. As in never…

  6. I am holding out to see if they introduce a .45 ACP version. I have the Walther PPQ and it is very very similar to the VP9 but the biggest problem with the Walther is that there aren’t enough accessories for it…. I’m still tempted though to pick up a PPQ in .45.

  7. I like the Paddle release, so much so i flipped the mag release on all my guns to follow a similar pattern and use my middle finger of my trigger hand to drop the mag while keeping the barrel on target and trigger finger at the ready. since my arms dont change length the reload is easy.

    • Keep voting for Dems and you’re gun totin’ might be just as “easy” as in New York, CA, Massachusetts or Obama’s mind.

  8. I like the 9. Cheaper to practice with. I like the .45. The acp and the colt. Getting pricier to practice with.

    I just can’t seem to like the .40.

  9. 100 pd chicks are averse to 40SW recoil. OK. Get it. That doesnt translate to all the other highfalutin unsubstantiated claims about 40SW going the way of the dinosaur. Cop shops which are choosing to go to 9MM are doing it to placate female recruits more than any other reason. And the same depts will switch back to 45 when the Sheriff gets a box load of forfeiture money and feels like getting new guns in a couple years. As far as price, 40SW is a few bucks more per box than 9MM with much better ballistics, and it was one of the few calibers available during the Great Ammo Shortage of 2013.

    Stay calm and stick with your 9MMs ladies. But some of us guys like a little more oomph so quit trying to tell us to scale back. Thats why some folks drive a H2 and some drive a Corolla.

    • I’m pretty sure she didn’t tell you to stop shooting your 40… Just that she prefers the VP9 recoil, which to me, a fairly free thinking individual, is a subjective review of a pistol which provides food for thought, not attack.

    • By all means sir. Shoot the hell out of your 40. I was just stating my personal preference. And don’t get me wrong, I prefer “tougher” weapons. I just am picky with my pistols.

    • I used to be a huge .40 fan. I’m not recoil averse, and enjoy shooting a .460, .45-70 +P, 12 gauge mag loads, and .300 a Win Mag from time to time (I’ve got a 110 BA in .338 Lapua, but it’s actually a pretty soft shooter). This year might be short range whitetail hunting with a .300 Win Mag just because I like the Winchester Model 70 so much.

      While I don’t hate .40, I do get tired of it after 150 rounds or so. Whereas I can blow through 300 rounds or so of 9mm in a single session and start wondering where the hell all my ammo went. Of course it’s a lot easier to find HST in .40 than in. 9mm +P these days. And most of my carry is with a Glock 27.

      You know what, I’m not sure I really have a point of any sort. Actually, I do: shoot what you like and can shoot well.

      If I had to take another handgun class of 250-300 rounds in a couple hours or 1000 rounds in a couple days I’d definitely be bringing one (or several) of my 9mms.

      • +1 on life lessons.

        The first pistol I owned (dad bought it…) was an XD-40, cause the XD-45 wasn’t out yet. Oh how I wish I had waited a couple years…

        I shot the crap out of that XD. I was young, dumb, and full of…stamina. I used it in a military shooting club, since we only had the blessing of using the on base range for practice but no funding for ammo or equipment. That XD taught me the ways of IPSC, IDPA, and the very early stages of concealed carry.

        I got a good job, could afford a few niceties, and went .45 with a CDP. I’ve never looked back. Much softer recoil impulse, glass trigger, I was spoiled.

        I’ve hemmed and hawed over the ideal mix of bullet performance, concealability, sight picture, you name it. These days I leave the house with a single stack 9mm and an NAA .22mag, or an LCP, depending on the dress code. STB410 is my prophet, shot placement my creed, and carry-ability my go/no-go for make/model selection.

        I was once a proud proponent of the 40. I sold 4-5 friends on their first handgun purchases, G23, Sig, XD, USP, all in 40. It was the ideal compromise! Then I learned so much more about making that bullet hit where it counts and I begrudgingly admitted the 40 has no place in my safe. I’ve sold them all, kept a box or 2 of ammo in case a buddy wants to shoot, and moved on to better things.

        It was a great idea, in the early 90’s. These days we have HSTs and Defends (f not p, you OFWGs), and life is better for it. 9mm is cheaper and ballistically/human factors-wise superior; 45 is more pleasant, even to the wife; and I never regret selling off my 40’s.

        VP45 in PPQ-45 fashion and I’ll bite.

  10. My wife bought the VP40 last month for herself and we both love shooting it. The trigger is almost as good as our PPQ and it has run flawlessly through about 300 rounds so far.

  11. Thank God HK discovered “ergonomics”, a term introduced to us by Apple’s Macintosh. The P7M13 I bought in the 80’s was like holding a brick. With sharp edges. And too big for my tiny rat claws. Terrific gun other than that, I may give the VP9 a try.

    • Hate to rain on your Apple fanboy parade Rick but Apple didn’t introduce the term per the below quote from wikipedia. Furthermore, Apple didn’t even invent the concept of using a GUI based interface with a mouse – Xerox did. As someone who has worked with computers since the very dawn of the PC era, my informed opinion is that Apple has cornered the market on overpriced and over hyped systems that inherently limit what their customers are able to do. There may have been a time when Macs were the best option for graphic design and photo work, but that was the 90s. These days anyone who buys them just wants on the bandwagon.

      Same is true for the iPhone. Some models are north of $700 – FOR A PHONE! And for that I still can’t easily download an MP3 and copy it to the phone without iTunes getting involved. Unless that $700 phone is going to give me happy endings, I’ll stick with the much more capable and open Android platform.

      “The term ergonomics (from the Greek ἔργον, meaning “work”, and νόμος, meaning “natural law”) first entered the modern lexicon when Polish scientist Wojciech Jastrzębowski used the word in his 1857 article Rys ergonomji czyli nauki o pracy, opartej na prawdach poczerpniętych z Nauki Przyrody (The Outline of Ergonomics; i.e. Science of Work, Based on the Truths Taken from the Natural Science).[6] The introduction of the term to the English lexicon is widely attributed to British psychologist Hywel Murrell, at the 1949 meeting at the UK’s Admiralty, which led to the foundation of The Ergonomics Society. He used it to encompass the studies in which he had been engaged during and after World War II.[7]”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_factors_and_ergonomics

      • I understand your point, but, too literal, bro! Your answer doesn’t tell me when the term entered the popular lexicon (about the time of the Mac, I’ll bet). It’s also good to know that if you don’t want to buy a Mac or an iPhone you have a choice. I was unaware of this. (Too literal, AGAIN! It’s a JOKE! We’re not enemies here! Well, unless you want me to use Windows 8. Or Linux. ;))

      • Actually, Xerox didn’t invent it either. It was invented by a man named Doug Englebart, while he was at SRI. SRI licensed the mouse to Apple in the 80’s.

        Xerox can claim to have invented or furthered dozens of aspects of modern computing, but they had their heads so far up their butts, they couldn’t see what they had. When we met, my wife worked at XSoft, the division of Xerox that was supposed to commercialize the inventions of PARC. That didn’t work out so well, mostly because Xerox management, well, had their heads wedged firmly betwixt their buttocks. The point-n-click GUI, the D-machines, Ethernet, laser printers, LANs, file servers, RPC protocols, SmallTalk and rapid development OOP, modular programming languages with hard interfaces (Mesa, which is loudly echoed by Modula-2 from Wirth), the whole enchilada – they blew it all. When I’d visit my wife at XSoft, listening to their management was like an out-of-body experience. I worked very hard on my poker face…

      • Holy shit guy. You gotta tone it down a bit. You know nobody likes the smartest guy in the room and won’t listen to him out of spite. You just blew my face off with whatever that was. JS

  12. …as sexy as a thin shirt on a cold day.

    Um, not to be pedantic here, but there’s nothing particular sexy about a shirt, thin or otherwise. It’s the girl in the shirt who is sexy, and she could be just as sexy, if not more sexy, on a cold day in an angora sweater.

    But I digress.

    H&K claims the VP40’s proprietary captive flat recoil spring reduces recoil.

    This is marketing twaddle. There’s nothing that a spring can do to reduce recoil. The only thing a spring in a gun can do to recoil is change the shape, and possibly the duration, of the recoil impulse. Conservation of momentum says that there’s no way you’re going to reduce the total momentum to the rear – it has to equal the momentum of the pill going downrange. All a spring can do is spread the recoil impulse out over time.

    As for mastering a .40 S&W over a 9mm or .45 ACP: The .40 S&W is a rather high-pressure handgun round, which means that the pill will accelerate faster, which means that the recoil is, as Breanne says, “snappy.” I’ve never liked the .40 due to the increased muzzle report out of .40’s. Like Accurt81, I’m not recoil adverse. I am, however, noise adverse (thanks to my tinnitus). The .40 is louder to me than either a 9×19 or .45 ACP. Higher pressures mean louder muzzle blasts.

    • Well obviously when they say “reduces recoil” what they mean is “reduces felt recoil.” Changing the curve and duration of the recoil impulse can do that…

  13. Sig sauer p22x all have push button mag release… I figured at least in person on here would be a wig person and chime in. I guess none of them care to even read about an HK. As a sig guy myself I have never really cared for the long trigger pulls on most of the DA/SA HK’s I’ve shot. And I’m not just being biased. I really like the consistent Glock trigger. But what better than a custom 1911?
    Nothing

  14. Hi all. Like the review, but read it after I had already purchased both the VP9 and VP40. The avg. rating in this review matches my experience with the VP40.

    This just in: I just purchased a conversion barrel for the VP40, a .40 to .357sig conversion; barrel only, no need for new spring etc. So, having said that, I guess we can call it a VP357(sig) now can’t we? I am not an advertising for the place where I purchased the barrel, but will tell you they have 3 barrel conversion types on the HKParts website

    I have not tried the new barrel, but will in a day or two.

    Now I have the equivalent weps. VP 9/40/357

    I cannot wait for the VP10 🙂

  15. I own both the VP9 and VP40 and actually shoot better with the 40. I traded a HK USP 40 for the VP and find the trigger pull much superior. Both the VP9 and 40 are excellent firearms and I wouldn’t choose one over the other because of caliber concerns.

  16. I as well have the VP9 and VP40. I shoot them both just as well. My wife loves shooting the VP9 at the range so much I bought the VP40 for myself to shoot. I added Trijicon HD night sights to both as well. I also have the HK P30 in 40 cal, P2000 in 9mm, USP 40 full size and compact and USP 45 compact. I love the quality of HKs and if you have a chance to own one or more it’s worth the dough. I do also have several Glocks, Sigs, S&W M&Ps, and FNHs. I still love my HKs the best though.

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