HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
Original HK print ad for the VP70Z.

The Heckler & Koch GmbH Volkspistole Modell 1970 Zivil, otherwise known as the VP70Z was the firearms industry’s first commercially mass produced polymer framed striker fired pistol. It beat GLOCK by twelve years and actually had a higher capacity, too. Volkspistole by the way literally translates to “people’s pistol.”

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
VP70M with shoulder stock

The VP70Z was designed in the 1960s to be an affordable personal defense weapon for West German partisans. The idea was to arm West Germans for when the Soviets eventually crossed the Fulda Gap in their race to the Rhine when those ninety-nine red balloons were released.

The Bundeswehr would be handing out massive amounts of arms to clandestine stay-behind units organized by America’s CIA and West Germany’s BND intelligence organizations. These were part of what would eventually be labeled as Operation Gladio, a network of western European NATO-allied covert resistance units that would organize and terrorize Soviet forces.

East Germany Russian USSR invasion of West Germany
Fulda Gap (Dual Freq, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The original model was the VP70M, M standing for Militär (military) and Z stands for Zivil (civilian). The VP70M came from the factory with a detachable shoulder stock that gave the gun a three-round burst capability.

The VP70M was intended to be a compact, deadly tool for these partisans to use to kill Soviet soldiers and steal their weapons or assassinate high-ranking Soviet officers and officials in occupied territories.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol

The HK VP70M was West Germany’s attempt at a Liberator pistol and the shoulder holster even worked as a duty holster.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
1970s period HK photo showing the shoulder stock/holster.

Seeing that they had a heck of a product on their hands in 1970, HK designed a semi-automatic civilian legal model called the VP70Z. The ability to take the shoulder stock was removed and a cross bolt safety was added to block the trigger from moving rearward when engaged.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
1980s HK sales ad.

Marketed to various law enforcement agencies and the civilian market, the VP70Z was advertised as having a “revolver trigger.” It was a traditional double-action-only design and it wasn’t semi- or pre-cocked like the GLOCK. That means the VP70Z had a LOOOOOOOONG trigger pull. Additionally, the pull was heavy, about fifteen pounds.

Why such a heavy trigger pull you ask? Well, the Teutonic space magicians in Oberndorf am Neckar designed this to eat the 9mm SMG ammo with hard primers. They wanted this pistol to function with any ammunition and since it was originally designed to be a three-round burst capable PDW, a heavy trigger pull wasn’t viewed as a negative.

Also, the military model didn’t come with a cross bolt safety so the heavy trigger pull was viewed as the gun’s safety.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
MY VP70Z made in 1984. Note the cross bolt safety behind the trigger.

The VP70Z has only four major moving parts and field stripping it is extremely easy. For a general field cleaning, you simply pull down the takedown lever in front of the trigger, pull the slide all the way back, lift the rear of the slide in an upward direction and let it slide off the fixed barrel.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
That’s right, the VP07Z held 18 rounds of ammunition.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol

It is straight blowback design with a fixed barrel. Most of the pistol’s weight is in the slide.

If you want to go further, the magazine floorplate actually is a takedown tool. The striker assembly has a notch machined in it. All you need to do is turn it ninety degrees left or right and you can take the striker assembly and firing pin right out.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol

The magazine itself is a double stack, double feed magazine. It’s a work of art and honestly rivals the magazine you’d find on the MP5. Seriously, look at these feed lips.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol

The trigger, however, isn’t much of a work of art. In fact it’s horribly and horrifically atrocious. It’s the stuff of nightmares. I’m not kidding…you know those bad dreams where you’re in a gun fight and you pull the trigger and it weighs a million pounds and the gun never fires? That’s the VP70Z trigger.

Luckily, you can reduce the trigger pull weight by changing out the striker assembly spring with an aftermarket spring from Wolff Gunsprings. That makes the trigger much lighter since the DOA trigger pulls the striker all the way back.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol

It made a world of difference. The DOA trigger pull is still long, but the gun is far more enjoyable at the range.

The front sight design is also interesting. It uses a polished ramp with a machined central notch in the middle to provide the illusion of a dark front post.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol

You’ll notice too, on the right side by the ejection port is a massive external extractor claw.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol

All in all, for a late 1960s design, the gun is awfully futuristic looking. While better striker fired guns came onto the scene from makerslike GLOCK, HK kept the gun in production from 1970 until 1989.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
1980s era HK ad.

All in all, this isn’t HK’s most inspired design. VP70Z and its machine pistol brother didn’t sell all that well. Military and police forces across the globe purchased the MP5K instead.

It’s been reported that Portugal issued the VP70M to some certain units within their military and that the Policía Nacional del Paraguay used the VP70Z as a duty gun. Other than that, it was mostly a commercial flop. But it sold on the civilian market and cemented its place in pop culture history with one famous film and a video game.

In 1986, Twentieth Century Fox made a sequel to their hit sci-fi horror film, Aliens. In the sci-fi classic directed by James Cameron, the VP70Z was the standard issue sidearm of the Colonial Marines Corps.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox
HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox
HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
Gorman always was an asshole. (Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

The VP70Z got some good screen time in the films and was even promoted in related merchandise.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
Courtesy The Upper Deck Company, LLC

The gun also made an appearance in Capcom’s cult classic survival horror game, Resident Evil 2.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
Courtesy Capcom
HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
Courtesy Capcom

The pistol got more screen time in Resident Evil 2 for the Nintendo Gamecube.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
Courtesy Capcom

The VP70Z even made a few appearances in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Television
HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Television

The VP70Z isn’t a gun I’d recommend for everyone. Prior to the great panic of 2020-2021, you could easily find them for about $400. But they are a gun for someone who wants to own an interesting piece of gun history. I’m not sure what they’re going for now, but I sure didn’t need to go over four Benjamins when I got mine.

So if you want one and see it at a good price, snatch it up. Be aware that, in typical HK fashion, the magazines aren’t cheap. I have a total of four for mine and even have an old El Paso Saddlery holster for it. It’s a bit bulky to carry, but it isn’t heavy.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol

Oh…how does the pistol shoot? It is phenomenally accurate due to the fixed barrel. You can easily put rounds where you want them at 20 yards without a problem, especially with that Wolff spring upgrade.

HK VP70Z 9mm pistol
20 yards at Talon Range in Midway, FL.

37 COMMENTS

  1. What’s with the need for SMG ammo to have ‘hard primers’? Is it for the higher chamber pressures of the ammo? (+P++)?

  2. I’m glad the article mentioned the trigger. And how much it sucks. While this gun may be an object of desire for collectors, I can assure you it’s no object of desire for shooters. Did I mention how bad the trigger sucks?

  3. Cool idea ….. but it was crap.

    I figured the one I shot had about a 20 pound trigger. Made my Walther PPK seem light and smooth.

    I remember seeing the last of them being sold in a Gunlist or Shotgun News ad for around $280 bucks.

    As I had shot one, I passed. Wasn’t thinking forward to what odd, POS guns will be worth in the future.

    They did make some cool stuff in the 70s and 80s. This wasn’t really one of them.

    • If I only had a DeLorean. I could go back and buy all the guns I used to sniff my nose at in the old Shotgun News and other pubs…..big sigh..

      • Indeed.
        But in fairness, I was of limited means and I would probably always buy something thati thought was useful and fun…..as opposed to collectible.

  4. I guess I should have bought one, looked to Buck Roger’s to me at the time. Well now we know where the HiPoint came from, maybe I should buy a HiPoint. ?
    Oddly the last time I visited the gunm shop they had no HiPoints.

  5. “Precision is something the Germans are famous for . . .” but Heckler and Koch is going to challenge stereotypes by creating a proto-Hi Point (but with a worse trigger)! We’re also going to charge you more for it in 1980 than Hi-Point charges in 2021!

  6. The 2nd Resident Evil picture is from the RE2 remake of 2019. It was not in Resident Evil 4. Leon had a pair of them in Resident Evil 6.

  7. Got one. I’m sorely tempted to buy the Wolff springs, but I use mine along with the Strikeman setup to practice trigger pull. I figure if you can shoot well with this thing, you can shoot well with any other bloody trigger in existence.

  8. I first learned about them as a kid playing the C64 version of Wasteland in the late 1980s. It, along with the 1911, was one of the starting weapons. You quickly learned that, as in real life, pistols are poor offensive weapons. In about 10 minutes of real time, if you knew where to go, you could steal some much more capable weaponry.

  9. If remembered correctly, this gun was made for a north African government… It is the most complicated and costy pure blowback pistol ever made. The slide mass is not bigger than a standart service pistol and the force of the recoil spring either… But its shooting comfort is same level with a locked breech sample… Most people seeks the cause through deeper rifling as releasing more gas pressure to the front, but it is not…It was made to use SMG rounds with same shooting comfort with standart ammo. This gun’s secret lies below the fixed barrel chamber formed as a unique impact absorber ever made… It absorbs the violent slide impacts through springs and spacers so shaped and located that absorbing the rearward impacts without reflecting it to the fore side, therefore causing no wear and tear at both frame and slide contacts. This absorber remains behind the take down bolt when the gun disassambled and nobody ever notices there were a functional bumper at there.

  10. Excellent review. Thank you for the tip about Wolff springs; I didn’t know that was a thing. I’ll give it a try; this would really be a nice gun for the range, if I could stand to shoot it.

  11. I read somewhere that the barrel grooves were cut extra deep to reduce the gas pressure when firing hot NATO sub-gun ammo, and as a result muzzle velocity with normal pressure civilian rounds was lower than normal. Personally, I don’t know.

  12. Bought one of these about 40 years ago. Thought it was unique in design and it was my first large capacity handgun. Didn’t keep it long – the trigger was absolutely dreadful. Still kind of cool and futuristic looking, however.

  13. There is a world of difference in loving to have it in the collection and loving to shoot it. I really love owning it but mine just sits in a safe. Last time it was shot, stage gun in a local Aliens themed 3gun match, introducing that trigger pull to 20ish shooters didn’t make me any friends that day.

  14. Here b/c this was listed as the official sidearm of MI-6 agents in the James Bond 007 Role Playing Game from the 1980s. This is the only reason this plastic fantastic from the 1970s is on my radar at all.

    And it is no better than I had any reason to expect it to be.

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