Umarex H&K USP Part 1

Umarex H&K USP Part 1

The long awaited HK .177 caliber blowback action model

By Dennis Adler

Umarex and Heckler & Koch went all the way to make certain the new blowback action USP would be fully functioning and accurate match for the centerfire model. One minor alteration is the slight difference in the base of the magazine and the use of USP, and not HK USP, on the grip. Of course, white lettering is also a hint, but that isn’t always the case. There have been numerous centerfire pistols with white lettering on their slides. Also take note of the angle to the top of the barrel lug and its ft to the slide. There will be more about this later in the article.

Heckler & Koch has always catered to a variety of end users from civilians to military and law enforcement by tailoring its models in multiple variants, like the USP, which is offered in different calibers; 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, and trigger/operating configurations. The standard USP or V1 is a DA/SA pistol, while the V7 version, for example, is a law enforcement (LEM or Law Enforcement Modification) version with a DAO trigger. The USP is also offered in left and right hand versions for the safety/decocking lever. There are also special variants V3 DA/SA without a SAFE position, just a decocking lever, the V4 which is a left-handed version of the V3, the V5 DAO without the decocking lever, V6 DAO with safety for left-handed operators, V7 and V8 both DA without safety or decoking lever, and two special variants for Government Agencies, V9 in DA/SA right-handed, and V10 for left-handed users. The new Umarex CO2 model is the standard V1 configuration, DA/SA with safety/decocking lever on the left side.

Doppelganger is a German word for a ghostly double or counterpart. Looking at the centerfire HK USP, the CO2 model certainly fits the definition. It is almost ironic that the cartridge model safety/decoking lever is marked with a white S and a red F, and the air pistol’s letters are not colored to match. It’s usually the other way around.

The USP has one ambidextrous control shared among all models, a dual magazine release lever integrated into the bottom of the triggerguard. The airgun also duplicates the USP triggerguard design which has a raised forward rest for the trigger finger. This was first seen on the Walther P99 (and the CO2 powered CP99 versions) and came to be known as the ski jump. This feature was eliminated on later versions of the P99 but not the HK. Same for the ambidextrous magazine release at the rear of the triggerguard, another Walther P99 trait H&K still seems to find quite suitable for the USP design.

Another loss of color is the white reference mark on the right side of the frame where the post from the safety/decoking lever protrudes. The semi-circular post moves to correspond with the setting, level with the safety on and at an angle with the safety off. The white is there because left-handed versions are made using the same frame.
The warning and manufacturer’s information on the right side of the frame more than make up for any loss of white. The HK logo and proof mark, though white, correspond to those on the centerfire pistol. This is also a good view to see the bobbed hammer at rest and the “apparently” dovetailed in rear fixed white dot sight. (We’ll find out).

Build a Custom Airgun

Over the decades since WWII, Heckler & Koch has not introduced as many pistols as some of their competitors, but when they do, the design and design variants generally stay around for a long time. HK moves at its own pace, seldom influenced by trends, but has also been one of the most innovative armsmakers in the world. Heckler & Koch developed the very first polymer-framed handgun in 1970, the VP70. This was also the first semi-auto that could be converted to burst-fire by attaching a special holster shoulder stock that locked internally to change the VP70’s firing mode. The shoulder stock was deemed necessary for maintaining accuracy and housing the added components for the select fire mechanism. The enduring feature, however, was the concept of using plastics for the frame and grip, and more than decade before Glock.

Whether you are right or left-handed, the ambidextrous magazine release paddle works. Not two separate levers like the Walther design, the HK is a single piece that bridges the back of the triggerguard. The design is also more comfortable than the Walther and it is actually easier to drop the magazine with the trigger finger than the thumb.

As I mentioned, H&K is not known for making a lot of new models, but rather variations within a model line, and since 1949 there have only been around 10 base models, the P7, P8, and P9 series, the HK series, P30 and P2000 series, SP series, USP series, and VP series. The original VP model was continued until 1984 and the VP designation resurrected in mid-2014 for the new VP9 and VP series.

The USP is considered one of Heckler & Koch’s most significant models. It was developed by a new design team established in 1989 in order to create a pistol for consideration by the U.S. Army under the SOCOM project (United States Special Operation Command). To rationalize developmental costs the new semi-auto had to be suitable to both military, law enforcement and civilian markets, and thus the USP “Universal Self-Loading Pistol” was introduced to the civilian market in 1993, and has been in continual production for a quarter of a century. It may be new as a blowback action CO2 model, but the USP is by no means a “new” gun.

One of the fine details of a quality CO2 Doppelganger is being able to take it apart the same way as the centerfire pistol. The HK design is one of the easiest. With the magazine removed and the gun cleared, pressing the slide back to align the disassembly notch with the top of the slide release/disassembly lever is all you do. Then press the button on the opposite side of the frame (which is the tip of the slide release post, set into a circular recess), push the slide release away from the frame and withdraw it. The slide pulls off the frame. Note the dual recoil spring on the guide rod. The CO2 model looks very real, even on the inside.

Using advanced plastics technology the USP used (uses) a polymer frame (injection-molded polyamide) that met military requirements for resistance to chemicals, wear, high and low temperatures extremes and even radiation. The USP frame design, durability, and operating features fulfilled all the military’s criteria.

The centerfire USP models combine a variety of technologies, some of which have been duplicated in the blowback action CO2 model, including the Browning-based short-recoil, locked breech design, (the centerfire guns also use an HK developed roller-locked bolt system and gas-retarded slide, along with a guide rod, dual recoil spring design that has come to be known as “the buffered Browning locking mechanism.” This helps mitigate recoil in calibers up to .45 ACP).  The airgun uses a less complex mechanism but still incorporates a dual wound recoil spring, guide rod combination.

The gun fieldstrips all the way down by removing the recoil spring, guide rod and barrel from the slide. The dual recoil spring is easier to see here and also the hinged locking pin into which the back of the guide rod fits when the gun is reassembled. This part is different from the centerfire models but is an interesting design for the HK airgun. When reassembled the lever is flush with the barrel lug and the slide release post passes through the cutout in the bottom locking the barrel and guide rod together.

Like the manufacturing arrangement Umarex has with Smith & Wesson for the M&P40, and with Beretta for the 92A1, the Heckler & Koch branded USP blowback action model is as close to the centerfire pistol as possible for a CO2 powered BB gun. This makes it a suitable training substitute, as well as a sturdy, hand-filling blowback action air pistol.

This is the end result of the Umarex HK design, when the slide is back (or when the gun is fired and the slide is driven back with a portion of the CO2), the barrel lug disengages from the slide and drops down like an actual short-recoil, locked breech design, and the barrel tips up (as shown). This is as close to actual centerfire operation as a CO2 pistol gets. It is not unique to the HK but not seen on that many blowback action air pistols. This is what you want in a training gun, absolute realism short of heavier recoil and the sound of a cartridge being fired.

In Part 2 we will explore fit and finish, handling, and compliance for accessories.  

8 thoughts on “Umarex H&K USP Part 1”

  1. Dennis,

    Pardon my ignorance of H&K pistols, but does the USP have a slide that moves inside the frame, a la CZ? That is how this replica looks to my eyes.

    Also, on the CO2 model (and the firearm as well) the surfaces on the grip sides and those fore and aft look aggressively “grippy.” Is that just the lighting on the photographs, or are the textures as serious as they look? (If so, this would be one pistol that would not require skateboard tape.)


    • Michael:

      No, the HK is like most semi-autos, the slide goes over the frame not inside like a CZ. It is a fairly narrow contour though. The stippling on the grip panels is pretty aggressive compared to other guns (a lot like the Glock but even heavier texture). No skateboard tape required.

  2. I was looking at Pyramyd Air to see what else was new, and I found a replica of the HK VP9 as a 0.177 caliber BB pistol, non-blowback. I wasn’t paying attention to the HK replicas until recently so I’m not sure if this VP9 replica is indeed new from Umarex or something old that I’m only now seeing.

    • There is a new blowback action model. I’ll be reviewing it next month. It is a lower price point than the USP and not a full function model. It is a nice one though, and a fine companion to the USP. The VP9’s claim to fame is being one of the 007’s guns in the last James Bond film.

    • Dennis,

      HK calls it a Universal Accessories Rail. I interpret that to mean Weaver/Picatinny, 11mm and 9mm dovetails all may be attached. If the accessory is tightly against the trigger guard, I suppose that would work.


      • Those Universal Mounting Grooves are not Weaver / Picatinny. I have the HK USP and a laser with Weaver / Picatinny mount will not mount directly on the HK USP without an adapter.

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