Heckler & Koch HK USP Compact Review

Heckler & Koch USP Compact 9mm

The Ultimate Beginner’s Pistol

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The Heckler & Koch USP line of pistols is potentially the most recognized pistol on the market due to how often they show up in video games and movies. H&K really didn’t spare any expense promoting the pistol and to this day it can be found in tons of movies and video games (picture from Resident Evil: Extinction). Heckler & Koch revolutionized the polymer pistol world with the USP series and it is arguably the most disaster-proofed handgun on the market to date. I have always been a fan of how the USP series has looked. The trigger system has also been a point of interest to me for quite some time.

Now, I need to put a caveat on the title of this review. The USP is the best beginner’s pistol for those trying to get into firearms; not for a one time buyer.


Pistol Overview

Image Provided By: TacCat

First we will be going over what you get in the box, then what I got in the box with the first USP9c I had in for review, and finally the general specs. I will also be covering the differences I have spotted between the older model (2005 manufacturing date) and the new one I got in to update the review (2016 manufacturing date).
In the box with the Heckler & Koch USP9c, you will receive 2-13 round magazines, the manual, your customary gun lock, a hammer lock, and of course the pistol. My first USP9c I had in for review came with three of the trigger variants (V1, V3, and LEM) and a TLR-3 with the USP rail adapter because I got it used on a trade.

Now let’s go over the general specs on the pistol. The USP9c comes with what Heckler & Koch calls their “Hostile Environment” finish which I believe covers a lot of the internals as well. Both of the models I received came with metal MeproLight TruDot night sights, which is something that comes stock on LE models. Standard capacity is 13 rounds, but it can take the full size 15 round USP magazines. The frame is fiberglass reinforced polymer. Unlike a majority of pistols on the market, the magazine release is a paddle release which is something I love. The USP9c has a captured recoil spring that rides on a metal guide rod, but there’s something that separates it from nearly every other pistol on the market. It comes from the factory with a buffer that rides on the spring which decreases the effects of the recoil on the pistol’s internals. The buffer is also intended to decrease the felt recoil in the shooter’s hand.

Measurements time! The barrel length on the USP9c is 3.58 inches and the rest of the measurements are as follows; Overall Length: 6.81 inches
Width: 1.38 inches
Overall height: 5 inches
According to HK’s website, the HK USP9c weighs 25.6oz with an unloaded magazine…but 27.2oz…without a magazine (This is undoubtedly some of that German space magic).


Now for the differences between the two, since I don’t have both I apologize for not having any side-by-side photos. First off, the stock safety/decocker lever is slimmer now than on the older model which is a nice change. I appreciate this change as I prefer carrying it with the V3 trigger if LEM isn’t an option. The texturing on the sides of the grip does seems to be a little more aggressive in feeling. Both sides are now stamped “USP” versus one saying “Pat. Pend.” and the other saying “HK USP”. Unfortunately they didn’t convert over to the extended paddle release, but that was wishful thinking on my part. The final change that I’m aware of is that the hammers from pre-2005 and post 2005 models are slightly different.


The Review

The first Heckler & Koch USP 9 Compact that I had in for review had the LEM trigger installed, which is something people don’t really know a lot about. The LEM trigger gives you double action take-up (no real weight is felt while taking up the slack) and single action weight. One of the huge benefits to the LEM system is the extremely short (~1mm) reset that you get.

This system is something that should appeal to striker fired fans that are trying to convert to hammer fired guns. Now…there is a downside to the LEM trigger. It does give you double strike capabilities like a traditional DA/SA pistol, however, the trigger pull on it is insanely heavy. I would say the trigger weight is in excess of 16 pounds and it feels like you’re breaking the internals when you pull through.
(You will only encounter this trigger pull if you try to utilize the double strike capability on the range versus tap-n-rack)

Image Provided By: TacCat

After about 100 rounds with the LEM trigger I decided that it was time to try out the different variants. When I went to change it out I was dreading doing the work, as I had never done a detail strip on a pistol before. Naturally I hit up Facebook and found someone that was kind enough to guide me while I watched a YouTube video. Overall, I preferred the V3/V4 variant and the LEM trigger variant since I do believe safeties are a thing of the past.
V1/V2: Safety/Decocker, V2 is for lefties
V3/V4: Decocker only, V4 is for lefties
V7: LEM variant
There are other trigger variants, but you will have to hit-up Heckler & Koch’s website to learn about them.

This is the perfect time to bring up why I think the Heckler & Koch USP Compact (well, the USP in general) is the best beginners pistol for those looking to get into firearms. First things first, if you’re wanting to learn how to work on your firearms the USP is an excellent starting piece. It isn’t as simple as a Glock that requires next to no tools to take apart, however, this pistol is the perfect “happy medium”. It requires some tools to completely take apart, but it isn’t hard. As I mentioned previously, I had never done anything past a field strip prior to changing out the trigger variant in this pistol, and I had a relatively easy time.

With the USP you also have the ability to try out virtually every trigger system on the market. With the LEM trigger you can “try” out what striker triggers are like, you have the option to try out DAO, as trying out “cocked-n-locked”. It is also an excellent pistol to learn or teach the fundamentals with. With the V1/V2 trigger you can engage the safety when clearing the gun and you can even engage the safety after you’ve decocked it. I really cannot tell you how many videos of beginners or beginners I have watched that want to squeeze the trigger when clearing a gun. In these instances having them engage the safety when clearing the gun will be a handy tool.


The Heckler & Koch USP 9 Compact is a fairly soft shooter when taking into account its size and frame material but I’m unsure if the buffer makes a real difference. Follow-up shots are quick to get off and even those with smaller hands don’t have much difficulty getting to the trigger when in double action. I have noticed though that both of the models I had did like to shoot a little low for some reason. Both models I have had were completely reliable with a mixture of brass, steel, and aluminum cased ammunition as well as hollowpoints and FMJs.

Image Provided By: TacCat

When it comes to the ergonomics of the Heckler & Koch USP Compact, I will say that it’s big. The slide is larger than a lot of it’s competition and the beaver tail is slightly chunk; but not uncomfortable. The paddle release is something that might take some getting used to and in my opinion the extended mag release is necessary. The pistol is almost entirely designed for right-handed shooters aside from the ambidextrous mag release. You can get variants with safety/decockers for left-handed shooters, but the slide release is only for righties.


The USP Compact is an interesting pistol to carry. Yes, it is larger than a lot of it’s competition, but it doesn’t feel that way. Paired with a good belt and holster the pistol does disappear, but it’s still easy to get in your hand. I haven’t had a lot of time with carrying it AIWB but I didn’t find it to be uncomfortable. With the LEM trigger equipped this pistol should appeal to those who want to carry AIWB, but don’t want to do so with a striker fired pistol.


The Heckler & Koch USP Compact in 9mm is an all around awesome gun. It’s a good piece for the new collector, an awesome piece for the new enthusiast, and a solid carry gun. The only major downside I can see is the price… new the Compact 9mm USPs are going for around $900, which is high; especially when taking into account the price of the P30 and P2000. Price aside, you wouldn’t do wrong picking up a USP Compact if it suits your fancy.

*This review is the direct opinion of TacCat and not that of the team members of the Liberty First Foundation*

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