Heckler & Koch USP Compact 9mm: Jack Bauer’s Gun Of Choice

Since the USP Compact was launched in 1996, shooters from all walks of life have coveted it. In this episode of TFB TV, Patrick takes his old concealed carry companion out to the range and spends some time getting reacquainted with the chunky pistol. The USP Compact has deep roots in the USSOCOM Mark 23 Offensive Handgun and shares not only elements of its appearance with the much larger handgun but also much of the technology gained by the Mark 23’s development.

The robust design is not the only thing that we got from the USP series, it was also the first handgun commercially available with an accessory rail on the frame. In addition to all that tech packed into its compact polymer frame, HK made it infinitely customizable with near a dozen variants ranging from right-handed V1 models like this one, all the way to DAO and left-handed variants.

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Transcript ….

[coming soon]


  • Seth Hill

    I have never shot one, but I am wondering how easy it would to decock the gun under stress when you meant to just take it off safe while carrying cocked and locked? I’d think that pushing up to decock it would be better.

    • Patrick R. – Senior Writer

      Wouldn’t really matter. The lever springs back to the fire position, just shoot the first round in DA.

      • NPB

        My first centerfire handgun was the full size USP in 9mm, so the review was fun and made me happy to see. Thanks!!

        While I am certain that there have been people who have unintentionally decocked a USP, I think that’s more rumor spreading and speculation than hands-on experience.

        I’ve recently stepped back into the polymer high-cap 9mm world, and it took discipline to not choose a UPSc and go Glock.

        Patrick, as a person with USP knowledge and experience, what do you think of the LEM, and the Light Match variant?

        • Patrick R. – Senior Writer

          For whatever reason I don’t like the LEM on the USP series but like it quite a lot on the P2000.

        • Sean

          You can’t take a 1911 and work it the same way you work a USP. The control lever was there to allow safety and decocking features, but some people incorrectly rode the lever (along with the stupid thumbs forward grip) thus decocking the gun. Instead of learning a different grip method, many wrote the USP off as “unsafe” and “a gun that could get you killed”

    • Mike

      Real problem Seth, I had one as a duty pistol after being a dedicated 1911 person. Going off safe I would push it into “decock” resulting in no shot. Eventually I had the “variant” parts installed to eliminate decock.

      • ePoch 270

        I’ve owned 3 HK Pistols (2 USP, 1 HK45 all same safety selector), all for duty carry, and put 15k+ rounds thru and never once had this issue. The selector extends out enough to catch the thumb but never stayed engaged to the point it took it out of battery.

        I did however change the detent plate on my HK45 and made it a Var9 (single action, 1911 style, bypassed the decock feature) Awesome gun.

    • valorius

      They have parts kits you can install to remove the decock feature.

    • FarmerB

      I never found that an issue. The decock action is against a spring pressure and not a “click to a new position”. You really need to want to decock it to push that lever down. And even if you do go through with it, then it’s double action – as Patrick says.

  • USMC03Vet

    Dated pop culture reference, still not as old as this pistol’s design.

  • MrBrassporkchop

    I got a full sized one in 45. Sweet gun. It is pretty chunky though. Overhear people now and again saying they want one to conceal without ever holding one. Kinda funny.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    If ever there is a gun that should come with quotes It’s the USP “compact”.

    • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

      That or the Beretta 92 “Compact”

  • Mrninjatoes

    So funny. When I got into shooting, I avoided Glocks like the STD’s. Now that is all I shoot, and that is all I will ever shoot.

    • Bison “FANatic”

      Thank you for bettering humanity with that assertation. I use to not date super models. Now they are all I will date. Glock is no super model though.

  • Zapp Brannigan

    I would consider buying a HK pistol if they’d fix the god-awful magazine catch. I am sure someone could come up with a worse way to drop a magazine than the lever on HK pistols, but they’d really have to work at it. It’s just such a glaring flaw in an otherwise good design, a flaw that could be fixed so easily.

    • Richard

      You’re supposed to hit the mag catch with either the trigger finger or the middle finger when it comes to paddle style release.

    • Joshua

      I like it a lot better than the Browning button, I don’t know how many mags I’ve lost because of the damn button

    • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

      I made a similar comment in the Russia’s New Pistol article today. Immediately when I saw this article my pride dictated that I must come here and make a similar one to ruffle even more feathers so here goes:

      The USP would be an excellent pistol were in not for that time that the engineer sneezed while designing the mag release and it somehow ended up making it all the way to production before anyone noticed that it made no sense at all.

      • Joshua

        that’s funny ‘cuz it seems to work really well for a *sneeze*

    • iksnilol


      GIT, NOW!

    • FarmerB

      The paddle mag release works well. The only problem is that the USP version of it is a bit too small. That’s why many people fit the HK45C Extended Mag Release to the USP.

  • valorius

    I love HK handguns, but the fanboi tax on ’em is quite steep.

  • Nice video, I’ve never handled one of these, so it was educational for me. How does the grip size/thickness compare with a Glock 19 Gen 4?

  • Bison “FANatic”

    And one of the few firearms designed around the 40. Firearms made around it shoot it really really well.

  • FOC Ewe

    SOCOM to HK:

    “Build us a smaller brick.”

  • John

    “It’s not recommended, it’s not always reliable, but it does kinda work”…..

    …..I stopped watching after that…..

    • Lonesome Whistle

      Even worse is that every post-9/11 story that Keifer Sutherland does includes the obligatory slap at “islamophobes”.

      He’s actually becoming more obnoxious than his Cadillac Commie father.

    • Patrick R. – Senior Writer


    • Dan

      You mean there’s something wrong with using a magazine for a different caliber that may not quite work in a gun you carry to possibly defend your life all for 2 extra rounds? I don’t see the problem. Oh wait a Patrick R post, yep there’s the problem.

  • A.WChuck

    Such a long list of negatives and yet the gun is still “awesome”, all due to the two Teutonic runes carved in the side by Woden himself.

  • Josh Creel

    I’m pleased that I’m not the only person that had launched the plate off a Mk II light.

  • Mmmtacos

    Another gun I wish they had just reworked instead of moving on entirely. I’ve owned the full size 45, maybe I’ll get a 9 one day, something about the way the slide racks is just so nice.

    As for the slide lock I never got it on the 45. One gun I encounter it on consistently however is my 92FS where my right thumb rides the slide lock/release. When shooting that I tend to wrap my right thumb around my left to avoid it.

  • Nicks87

    DA/SA is so 90s.

  • mmyers08

    I consistently read reports from shooters that they inadvertently depress the slide release and blame the gun. It’s not the gun.

    It’s their grip. The grip which has come in to fashion as of late is the high thumbs/thumbs up grip. I don’t understand why anyone thinks this is a good idea. Massad Ayoob has advocated a crush grip, where the strong side and weak side thumbs are bent and pointed down. The thumbs forward grip has come from competition shooters, primarily the 1911 crowd, but it’s OK on a 1911 because the shooter is resting his right thumb on the safety, which is usually an extended one. On a HK or a Glock you’re running the risk of resting on the slide stop.

    I grip like Ayoob with my right hand and extend my weak hand thumb forward but at a lower position, usually right along the side of the trigger guard. I have a strong grip and my right thumb is close to the mag release button, making for ease of reloads.

    The trendiness and “tacticool” rampant in the gun community are always a source of amusement. Why anyone thinks this thumbs forward grip gives them a solid purchase on their handgun is beyond me.

    • Joshua

      well, you still encounter people who advocate the index finger aligned with the barrel, FU finger on the trigger method so…YMMV?

    • Sean

      I could not agree with you more and the stupid thumbs forward grip. I see many instructors teach this grip to the point where their non-dominant hand thumb is 1 inch away from the muzzle, the slide stop is being used for leverage, and most of the time you are making some sort of contact with the slide. When people use this grip, they wonder why their gun does not lock back on empty or why it locks back when there are still rounds left, only to say what a POS their gun is on 9 different forums.

      People make the same argument for low/high bore axis as if it was the defining factor in gun purchases.

      Another abomination is how people like to blend defense shooting with competition shooting and install a 2 pound featherweight trigger in their Glock while using appendix carry.

      BTW, the thumbs forward grip originated in IPSC where you used the 1911’s safety as leverage and the slide stop as a support for the dominant hand’s thumb since their slide never locks back because they never reload on empty, why this is shows in today’s tactical/defense courses I don’t know

  • A Fascist Corgi

    Probably the most aesthetically pleasing handgun since the Luger.