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Customizing a HK VP9 Pistol for Faster and Quieter Shooting

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I’m blessed with the ability to choose from several different handguns these days, and my decision is usually based on my environment. I normally carry a customized Colt Delta Elite that holds nine 10mm rounds in a Milt Sparks Nexus inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. When I need a bit more ammo on tap, I have a few polymer-framed 9mm pistols for concealed carry. But I needed a dedicated pistol for training courses—whether I’m teaching a course at Gunsite Academy or attending one. A lot of students carry high-capacity, polymer-framed pistols these days, so it only makes sense to demonstrate with one. But my hands typically don’t fit many of these kinds of guns well without some sort of grip modification.

Then a friend of mine suggested I try the Heckler & Koch VP9, indicating it was the most comfortable polymer-framed pistol he had used. After a quick trip to a local store to handle one, I had to agree with him. The 9mm VP9 fit my hand better than any in its class to date, so I ordered one and immediately put it into service.

Right out of the box, the VP9 was impressive. It was comfortable, reliable, soft shooting and accurate. Striker-fired pistols aren’t typically known for having quality triggers, but the VP9’s is easily one of the best I’ve ever tested. The photoluminescent three-dot sights work fine, but I upgraded to a set of Trijicon HD sights. I also ordered two more magazines, and the pistol ran flawlessly at my next police department training.

I carried this VP9 exclusively for months and used it for a couple pistol training courses. It worked well, but it just wasn’t quite there yet. The idea was to turn this into a do-it-all pistol that fit my needs for teaching and attending training courses. It’d also serve as a test platform for sound suppressors, and I wanted to add a Trijicon RMR reflex sight to the slide.

I use a number of different sound suppressors that use U.S./English or metric thread patterns, so I ordered drop-in barrels for each, allowing me to interchange barrels and suppressors as needed. I also wanted more ammo on tap for competitions and tactical training, so I ordered two of XTech Tactical’s five-round MTX magazine extensions, which brought each magazine up to 20 rounds. These modified magazines never caused a problem during any of the testing, and the large baseplates provided for fast reloads.

Next, I ordered two Kydex holsters from NSR Tactical—one to accommodate the VP9 alone and another for the pistol with a SureFire X300 Ultra flashlight equipped—as well as a double magazine carrier and a flashlight pouch. All of this I mounted on my ZeroBravo Kilo Assaulter belt, providing an excellent training rig. Everything carried comfortably and was solid as a rock. The final order of business was adding the Trijicon RMR to VP9’s slide.

Ashbury Precision Ordnance (APO) builds some fantastic precision rifles and chassis systems to support them. I’ve tested several of its weapon systems, and the company’s attention to detail is superb. Well, it turns out that APO also has a custom shop with extensive experience working on Heckler & Koch pistols. So, I sent the VP9 in for some customization work. The APO gunsmiths relieved the slide to accept the RMR and included a flush-fitting cover plate to install on the slide when not using the reflex sight. They also added Heinie SlantPro Straight Eight Suppressor sights with tritium inserts in the slide’s factory dovetails for fast targeting in any lighting condition. These sights perfectly co-witness with the RMR, and everything fit well.

You can send your pistol in for a similar conversion for $325, plus another $113 if you want a cover plate. APO will blue the slide where any machining is done, but Cerakote is another option for $90.

Gunsite Teaching

I received the tricked-out VP9 a couple of weeks prior to teaching a 250 Pistol class at Gunsite, my first time as a full-fledged instructor. Of course, I zeroed and tested the VP9 for accuracy and reliability beforehand. Gunsite’s 250 Pistol course was originally designed by Col. Jeff Cooper, and over the years it’s been altered to account for advancements in training and equipment. Many of this course’s students are handling a pistol for this first time, so it’s important to balance all instruction with plenty of demonstrations.

The first day of the course, I kept the VP9 in my NSR holster without the reflex sight or flashlight attached. The cover plate matched so perfectly that no one knew the pistol could mount a reflex sight. The second day, I added the RMR along with a threaded barrel, which took me all of five minutes. Prior to the class, I checked the RMR’s zero and it hadn’t changed—it was dead on at 35 yards. It worked perfectly, and most of the students thought it was a different pistol entirely. I later added the SureFire X300 Ultra for our night shoot.

Over the course of the week, this setup allowed me to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of every addition or accessory, and the pistol ran flawlessly throughout the class.

Range Testing

I spent time on the range to get acquainted to the RMR. In my experience, reflex sights are fast on target up close and offer precision for distant shots. I zeroed the VP9 at 35 yards using the factory barrel. My truck’s hood and a bag served as a rest.

Nosler’s 124-grain Match ammo provided the best five-shot group at just over an inch, and Remington’s 115-grain JHPs clustered into a group measuring 1.3 inches. Turning to a 6-inch steel target at 25 yards, I managed to get 15 hits out of 15 off-hand. Moving back to the truck hood, I tagged an 8-inch steel target 12 out of 15 times at 76 yards using the Remington ammo. Most pistols are capable of this, but not the shooter—and the Trijicon RMR made this kind of accuracy almost too easy. Just hold the red dot on the target and press the trigger.

The VP9 is no less accurate at practical ranges. From off-hand at 7 yards, DoubleTap’s 115-grain TAC-XP ammo cut one ragged hole. Remington’s 115-grain JHPs did almost the same thing at 15 yards using the RMR. In short, I’m not sure it gets much better with defensive pistols. Admittedly, it takes some practice, but consider me a reflex-sight convert. I still practice regularly with my iron-sighted pistols, but this RMR-equipped VP9 has become my go-to option. Over the past few months, I’ve run this pistol very hard use in numerous conditions using all kinds of ammunition, and I still haven’t experienced a single malfunction.

Parting Shots

I tested both of the threaded barrels using three different suppressors, and they all functioned well. Each barrel was as accurate as the factory barrel and fit without issue. I used the 1/2×28-tpi-threaded barrel for much of the high-round-count training and a department training course, and it was flawless.

I also altered one of my appendix IWB holsters to fit the RMR-equipped VP9 and used it extensively. This isn’t my preferred method of concealed carry, but it has its uses. It’s very convenient when standing, walking or even hiking without gear. It’s hard to beat if you have to take the gun off and put it back on repeatedly.

Ashbury Precision Ordnance did a fantastic job on this conversion. The RMR has never come loose or lost its zero. The gun looks great, is easy to fit in holsters and, with the addition of the co-witnessed Heinie sights, facilitates suppressor use at the same time. The fit and finish were excellent. If you have an HK pistol and need to add a reflex sight, APO is a great place to go.

The HK VP9 has been out there a while, and it’s earned a stellar reputation as time has gone on. Adding of all these accessories has turned mine into a workhorse that can handle anything you might need a pistol for. As I’ve said, it’s accurate, reliable, soft shooting and, thanks to a few upgrades, perfect for training. Adding the RMR only made it better for me. While the VP9 may not always be on my hip, it is seldom outside of my reach, and that probably won’t change for a long time.

HK VP9 Specs

Caliber: 9mm
Barrel: 4.09 inches
OA Length: 7.34 inches
Weight: 25.56 ounces (empty)
Grip: Polymer
Sights: Three-dot
Action: Striker-fired
Finish: Matte black
Capacity: 15+1
MSRP: $719

HK VP9 Performance

Load Velocity Accuracy
Black Hills 115 TAC-XP +P 1,339 1.55
DoubleTap 115 TAC-XP 1,242 1.36
Nosler 124 Match JHP 1,150 1.20
Remington 115 HTP JHP 1,225 1.30

*Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 25 yards.

For More Information

Ashbury Precision Ordnance
ashburyprecisionordnance.com

Heckler & Koch
hk-usa.com

NSR Tactical
nsrtactical.com

XTech Tactical
xtechtactical.com

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