2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 9
Potential not realized – Umarex HK VP9
By Dennis Adler
I think the title says it all, this is the gun that, had it been built a little differently, was already frontloaded with potential, but once again marketing and price point took the lead and a gun of great potential became a very good blowback action CO2 pistol that could have been one of the very best of 2019. Why, because the 9mm HK model was immediately catapulted to iconic status by being the latest pistol to fall into the hands of Bond, James Bond.
A Bonded Gun
While Heckler & Koch rifles have had a recurring role for decades in Bond films, in Spectre, there was a clear combination of two handguns being used by in 007 throughout the film, his Walther PPK and the new HK VP9 that Bond “acquires” from a Spectre operative during a spectacular shootout at the Hofner Clinic in the Austrian Alps. From that point on, 007 has both the PPK and VP9 right up to the film’s climatic ending. It was a stunning debut for the new H&K pistol, introduced in mid 2014, so it was a new gun when Spectre came out in 2015. The Heckler & Koch has held on to its Bond mystique ever since.
As a new CO2 model it came on the heels of the superb Umarex H&K USP, which is one of the best blowback action air pistols ever. The promise that the VP9 would follow the same nearly flawless USP design was fleeting after the VP9’s debut. It was not planned to be competitive with the USP.
As things sometimes happen, the VP9 CO2 model was easier to manufacture using a similar firing system to the Third Gen Glock 17 and G19X CO2 pistols which use a short, short blowback action and fixed barrel. It was also to be sold at a lower price than the USP. The Glock only had one flaw, it could not be field stripped. Aside from that, it was a powerhouse of performance and as authentic to the centerfire gun as possible. The same could not be said for the features of the HK VP9.
The 9mm VP9 vs. the CO2 model
One of the unique characteristics of the 9mm VP9, at least for H&K, is that it is a striker-fired pistol, the first one from Heckler & Koch in a decade. Since Umarex and H&K had already produced a near 1:1 blowback action model with the hammer-fired USP, the VP9 had to either be the same level of design quality, or a more entry-level based design, and Umarex and Heckler & Koch chose the latter. Given the 9mm model’s exposure in the Bond film it would almost sell itself. But to hit the lower price point with a blowback action CO2 model, the number of working features on the centerfire gun had to be minimized and some parts molded into the air pistol that looked like their centerfire counterparts, but would not function. Oddly, the worst of this occurs on the right side of the gun.
From the left side, this CO2 model is visually striking, with the same details and factory markings as the centerfire pistol. At a glance, one would be hard pressed to tell it apart until you start looking at fine details in the frame. If Bond still has the VP9 in No Time to Die, coming out in April 2020, one must wonder if the CO2 model might have been a perfect stand in, rather than the rubber molded prop gun used in Spectre for action scenes. The left side of this CO2 model deserves all the accolades it can get.
The second excellent feature is the ambidextrous magazine release design which, like the USP is a paddle release that spans the width of the back of the triggerguard. This is the original VP9 configuration seen in Spectre. Another at a glance feature is the trigger, which appears to have the same articulated blade safety as the centerfire models, a Glock-based design used by just about everyone today. The metal slide has the same contours, front and rear serrations and the VP9’s unique patented charging supports (extensions) mounted on each side of the rear of the slide to provide better gripping leverage for racking the slide. The grip shape and texturing is also true to the centerfire model, so this air pistol looks like a VP9 until you start looking closer.
The best comparison is the Third Gen Umarex Glock 17. While the centerfire models these two are based upon are striker-fired guns, the CO2 pistols use a small internal hammer to duplicate the striker-fired operation. Both have closed systems and neither gun can be field stripped. The manufacturing costs for the VP9’s more complex design led to a molded-in disassembly lever on the VP9, nicely done like the non-functioning take down releases on the Third Gen Glock 17 CO2 model, but the Glock kept its lines and features as close to the centerfire model as possible on both sides. That’s one of its strengths, whereas the VP9 brings some additional non-functional baggage with its molded-in right side extended slide release, the most disappointing feature on the gun. That, and Umarex and H&K took the low road for the mandatory manual safety by placing it on the right side of the frame, rather than pursuing a hidden design like the Glock. It should have been done. The right side manual safety on the frame screams air pistol. In fact, the safety is the one feature that detracts from the gun’s authenticity of design.
What Umarex did copy from the Third Gen Glock 17 was hiding all the distracting white letter verbiage under the triggerguard to give the VP9 a clean appearance on both sides. And the VP9 has all the correct factory markings from the centerfire model. It even bears HK 9mm x 19 on the right of the barrel lug exposed in the ejection port, and 9mm x 19 on the left side of the slide. That just about offsets the molded-in parts. The VP9 gets another plus for keeping the early-style ambidextrous magazine release, which, if you are comfortable with paddle-style releases, is an advantage for quickly dropping an empty magazine whether you are right or left-handed. Honestly, the VP9 has all the working features one can expect from a blowback action air pistol selling for under $80.
The centerfire VP9 has an overall length of 7.34 inches, a sight radius of 6.38 inches, height of 5.41 inches, width of 1.32 inches, barrel length of 4.09 inches and a weight of 25.56 ounces (empty). Whether or not one would consider the VP9 CO2 model a training gun, (and lesser guns have filled that role for years), it should come as close as possible to duplicating the cartridge-firing model. The air pistol has an overall length of 7.25 inches, sight radius of 6.38 inches, height of 5.43 inches, width of 1.25 inches, internal smoothbore barrel length of 4.13 inches, and weighs 22.7 ounces (empty). Not a perfect match but close enough that the gun will handle like the centerfire model, fit the same holsters, and the dustcover rail will accept the same light and light/laser accessories.
The trigger on the 9mm VP9 has a light, consistent take up with an average resistance of 5.4 pounds to a crisp break with all the effort going into the last 0.24 inches of travel. The CO2 model has an equally effortless take up (just under an inch) with an average trigger press of 5.8 pounds and all the effort going into the last 0.25 inches of travel to a very firm but crisp break. That’s pretty close to the centerfire model.
Speed and accuracy
Initial velocity tests were shot with Umarex Precision steel BBs which clocked an average of 352 fps with a high of 360 fps and a low of 345 fps on a fresh CO2 for 10 consecutive shots. The gun is factory rated at 350 fps, so the VP9 is running to spec but not delivering any extra velocity like the Third Gen Glock 17 and G19X CO2 models, even with the same basic internal firing systems and magazine types. The VP9 has fairly robust recoil and a medium-loud report, so you get tactile and audible feedback that some blowback action air pistols lack. Overall, it’s a toss up of good vs. bad with the VP9; how appropriate for a Bond gun!
From 21 feet my best 10-shot group with Umarex steel BBs measured 1.56 inches, with a best five rounds at 0.625 inches, which is certainly in the ballpark with most of its competition.
Model: Umarex HK VP9
Authenticity 1 to 10: 9 (loses a point for molded-in parts)
Ingenuity of the design 1 to 10: 9 (loses a point for exposed manual safety)
Ease of use 1 to 10: 10 (Easy to load CO2, BBs load easily)
Performance 1 to 10: 10 (Average velocity 350 plus fps)
Accuracy 1 to 10: 10 (Shoots tight groups, best five shots at 0.625 inches)
Bonus points: 0
Total Points: 48
How to win 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year
Read the articles on each of the nine pistols being considered and answer the question or questions for each of the guns, then make your pick for Replica Air Pistol of the Year. You can cut and paste the questions and your answers into your comments for this article. You must post your answer by Midnight December 23rd.
And here is something to take into consideration; regardless of the total points accumulated thus far I still have a 5-point bonus for Design Innovation to award to one of the top ranking guns. Only the Sig Sauer P365 has been given the 5-point bonus thus far. One of the remaining eight will get an extra 5 points and that will decide this year’s winner.
Here are your nine questions to answer:
- Crosman Full Auto P1: What was the high velocity with Crosman steel BBs?
- Sig Sauer P365: What is the total capacity of the 9mm P365 and the CO2 version?
- Umarex Glock G19X: How are the G19X sights different from previous Glock centerfire and CO2 models?
- Umarex Beretta M9A3: What is the boldest change between the 92A1 and M9A3 CO2 models?
- Springfield Armory 1911 MIL-SPEC: What external feature does the new Springfield Armory 1911 MIL-SPEC have in common with the first blowback action 1911 model built by Umarex in 2014?
- Umarex Glock 17 Gen4: What two unique features does the gun share with the 9mm model?
- XDM 4.5: How many safeties are there on the XDM CO2 model?
- XDM 3.8: What special feature of the 3.8 is also used on the centerfire model?
- Umarex HK VP9: What two operating controls on the VP9 CO2 model are non-functional molded-in pieces?
My pick for 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year is:__________________
POST YOUR ANSWERS IN THIS ARTICLE’S COMMENTS SECTION BY MIDNIGHT DECEMBER 23RD.