Image from Soldier Systems
Alright everyone! Something happened back in December 2019 that flew under everyone’s radar; probably because it happened outside of the United States. Heckler & Koch’s VP9 (or SFP9 as it’s known everywhere else in the world) got it’s very first military contract. You already know who acquired it, but before we get to that let’s talk about the VP9’s current contract history. Leading up to this new one, the VP9 has only been adopted by a limited number of law enforcement agencies (and you guessed, most of them were in Germany). In all of the other competitions the VP9 has consistently lost to Glock or Smith & Wesson.
Come December 2019 it came out that the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) had decided to pick-up a maritime variant of the Heckler & Koch VP9 as their new service weapon called the SFP9-M. The SFP9-M will be replacing the JSDF’s old service weapon, the Minebea P9 (no, not the Minebea PM-9) which is a licensed copy of the Sig Sauer P220.
The primary competition it had came from the venerable Glock G17 and Beretta’s abomination called the APX (sorry, everyone. Not a fan of the APX at all) which came was shown in Japan’s Ministry of Defense’s 2018 budget. Why the SFP9 beat the competition isn’t a gigantic mystery when you look at their small arms training (according to Charlie Gao at National Interest), but it does leave some room for criticisms.
- A more customizable grip
Yes, the VP9 has those fancy side panels that you can change out… the APX is, well, modular in a few ways including frame size; I would argue the APX beats the VP9 here.
Anecdotally the VP9 is easier to shoot due to the better trigger found on it compared to it’s competition. While the trigger is better, I would contest that the trigger’s are similar enough that it shouldn’t really matter.
- Safety/Risk Management
The VP9 doesn’t require the trigger to be pulled which makes it objectively safer than the competition. That said, you could increase education to create familiarity.
- Prior Relationships
Heckler & Koch and the JSDF have had previous relations since their “Special Purpose” units tend to use the HK USP.
The interesting thing about this adoption is, it wasn’t adopted for it’s overall durability (soldier’s break things, often) or it’s longevity (product costs money). It was purchased, presumably, because it was simply more accurate in the hands of people who don’t shoot their sidearms that often. Many HK fans may be hopeful in this leading to more contracts for the pistol that took the U.S. by storm, but without durability testing being a determining factor (from what we know) I think the chances are slim.