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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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)