Heckler & Koch pistols Part 1 Part 2
Revisiting two often overlooked CO2 pistols
By Dennis Adler
There are many long established armsmakers that have licensed their name to manufacturers of CO2 pistols, and nearly all of the famous German brands have signed on with Umarex. Makes sense, Umarex is a German manufacturer and they own the greatest name in German firearms, Walther. But I would wager that Heckler & Koch, established in 1949, has become almost as famous the world over in just 69 years (Walther built its first handguns more than a century ago and thus has quite a head start on Heckler & Koch).
H&K published a book on its history in 1999 which notes that the company did not begin manufacturing firearms until the early 1950s when it received a government contract to design a standard weapon for the post WWII Federal German Army. The HK G3 selective-fire rifle was adopted by the German military in 1959. Heckler & Koch, however, did not build its first semiautomatic pistol, the HK4, until 1964. Since then, Heckler & Koch has continued to develop new rifles and pistols at an impressive pace, many of which, like the HK MP5, have become global benchmarks for military and law enforcement. In the early 1980s when the U.S. military began looking for a replacement for the Colt Model 1911, among the European manufacturers submitting guns for trial was Heckler & Koch with the VP70 and P9 S. Of course, Beretta eventually got the contract in 1985 with the 92F, but Heckler & Koch had firmly established a foothold in the U.S.
On a global level, H&K had a strong market with the military and law enforcement, as well as the civilian market in the United States with models like the P7. It was the USP 9, introduced in 1993, however, that really broke ground for H&K in the U.S. market with models is three calibers, 9x19mm (9mm) .40 S&W and .45 ACP. The USP is one of two H&K pistol designs licensed to Umarex as CO2 models.
The USP on CO2
Umarex offers air pistols in multiple price ranges from as low as under $50 to over $300, the Heckler & Koch licensed Umarex HK USP falls into the low end of the scale (with an MSRP of $60) while still retaining key features valuable for learning the USP’s handling and basic operation.
While the centerfire, polymer-framed USP models have ambidextrous slide releases and thumb safeties, making the guns fully ambidextrous, the air pistol sacrifices blowback action to keep the price down. As such, it does not need functioning slide releases and there is only one on this pistol molded into the left side of the frame. It looks like it works, but it doesn’t. What does work is the wide ambidextrous magazine release at the back of the HK’s oversized triggerguard (good news for left-handed shooters). Another surprise is that the expected stick magazine you find with lower-priced models isn’t there.
The USP has a self-contained, drop-free CO2 BB magazine. The ambidextrous magazine release easily drops the 22 round capacity mag and this makes it a very practical training gun because it is loaded exactly like the actual centerfire models (except for having to drop the slide). Another plus, the USP also comes with its own speed loading device which makes this one of the fastest magazines to load.
Centerfire HK USP models have magazine capacities of 15, 13 and 12 rounds respectively in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, and can be equipped with a double action, single action trigger system or DAO. The USP model is also a traditional hammer-fired design, as is the CO2 version, which perfectly duplicates the 9mm trigger and hammer configuration. The Umarex employs the DAO-type trigger, which delivers a long, heavy pull. The 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP models weigh an average of 28 ounces (without magazine), and have an overall length of 7.68 inches, width of 1.26 inches and barrel length of 4.25 inches. The CO2 model’s overall length is 7.5 inches, carry weight 28.8 ounces (with magazine), and it has a slightly longer (smoothbore) barrel measuring 4.7 inches. The air pistol scales up 0.18 inches shorter and 0.8 ounces heavier, well within the ballpark for fundamental training and handling instruction.
The CO2 BB magazine is lighter than most because it is plastic instead of metal and it loads differently, and that is its best feature. One of the issues with most CO2 BB magazines is difficulty loading BBs through the small port that is cut into the channel just above where the follower locks down (if the follower locks down). The USP loads through the firing port, and that’s where the included speed loader comes in. It automatically holds the follower down and allows BBs to be easily poured into the channel. Once filled, the loader is removed and the follower is released. (If it stays locked down, there is a release spring on the bottom of the magazine that needs to be pushed to the left).
Since it is a non-blowback action design you have nothing to do but release the correctly designed safety, aim down the white dot sights (another plus for its low price point), and pull the trigger. As a DAO design the trigger pull has to cycle the hammer with each pull, like a double action revolver, so the trigger pull is heavy, and breaks the shot at just a little over 12.5 pounds. I know that sounds heavy, but if you have shot double action revolvers, it’s about average. Travel is a solid 0.875 inches with continual stacking as the trigger pull cocks and releases the hammer, and it takes a full release to reset. If you want to learn trigger control with a DAO, the USP is a good teacher.
Shooting steel downrange
Loaded with Umarex .177 caliber steel BBs, the average velocity from the HK USP was 372 fps (and a high of 390 fps), which is just shy of the factory estimated 400 fps.
With a Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C target set up at 21 feet, the Umarex sent three 5-shot groups downrange with an average spread of 0.75 inches in the 10 and X rings for two groups and 1.5 inches for a third group shot to the right in the 8 and 9 rings at 2 o’clock.
For less than $50 the Umarex HK USP has just enough features and accuracy to qualify as an entry level training gun. But if you want more, Umarex and HK have more, the pellet-firing HK P30, which we will examine in Part 2.