Umarex H&K USP Part 1
The long awaited HK .177 caliber blowback action model
By Dennis Adler
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Part 2 we will explore fit and finish, handling, and compliance for accessories.