Gun Review: Heckler Koch USP Compact 9mm

    I think it is a safe assumption that most shooters and video game enthusiasts will recognize the shape of the iconic USP series of pistols at a glance. Since their introduction to the market in 1993, they have made their way into movies, TV shows, and video games. The Compact, in particular, became the firearm choice of the TV bad-ass Jack Bauer from 24, and it was also the firearm that Danny Archer carried in Blood Diamond.

    Just after I got married, I was able to save enough to buy myself a USP Compact 9mm V1 of my very own. It was one of the most worn examples that I have ever seen, but that is what $400 will buy you in HK back then. I carried it every day after getting my license to carry, and it remained one of my only guns for several years going just about everywhere with me. Once my wife and I became, more established, guns came and went as I tried to find something I liked better than the old USP Compact, but nothing seemed to stack up. Sadly the old worn USP had been traded off years ago, but about two years ago I came across one of the very early imports of the USP Compact, a KG (96) marked example in great condition priced very affordably at $500. The catch? It’s a V2 left-handed model, something that has to be fixed.

    The USP was originally designed around the new .40 Smith and Wesson cartridge, as a result of this the 9mm variant is very overbuilt and soaks up recoil. The chunky slide and thick walled barrel lend itself to a very long life when properly maintained, and the modular design allows you to set the same gun up in 10 different ways, both right and left handed. A pretty nice feature since I bought a USP that was left handed since the trigger and safety can be configured for both right and left-handed shooters all I needed to do was swap the safety for a V1 (right handed) part, and you then have a right handed pistol.


    A point of contention with some shooters is the paddle style magazine release. Personally, I don’t find the transition too difficult, but my view may be skewed after shooting the USP for as long as I have. IMG_1233

    The V1 configuration allowed for a “cocked and locked” style of carry, safety off with the pistol in double action as well as retaining a decocking feature by sweeping the safety past the fire position. IMG_1235

    The large slide stop makes getting the gun ready to fire after a magazine change a breeze. Like the popular 1911, it also keeps the slide captive. Takedown for cleaning requires pulling the slide back a touch to line the rectangle cutout with the slide stop, then pushing the stop out towards the left side of the pistol.  IMG_1237

    The three dot sights that come standard are not luminescent; they are quite easy to pick up and acquire a good sight picture.  IMG_1240

    Just like putting on an old pair of slippers the USP Compact felt just as good when I took it to the range. Since this wasn’t a planned review and there is plenty of information regarding how accurate the USP Compact is I decided to have fun reacquainting myself with the old companion by shooting my steel targets. Paper can sit this one out.

    I was surprised at how chunky the slide looks when holding the pistol in my hand. It still felt really good to shoot and despite the high bore axis and chunky slide, the 9mm’s recoil was very manageable. My only complaint is the heavy double action trigger. Single action was pleasant but not exactly what I would call a good trigger. IMG_1528

    You can see the brass leaving the ejection port quite quickly here, but the pistol remains flat. IMG_1551

    Reloading the pistol was just as easy as I recall it. The paddle magazine release feels a bit faster than the traditional American button; my trigger finger falls right on the button requiring no rotation of the pistol in my grip. IMG_1608

    I handed the pistol off to my friend Scott who had never fired a USP somehow. Being a diehard Glock guy he didn’t much care for the heavy double action but seemed to shoot we in spite of it. I don’t think he will be giving up his Glocks, but he did admit that the USP Compact was still very relevant even though it is relatively outdated.  IMG_1873

    After shooting the pistol, I found that the USP Compact was really missed in my life. Now more than ever I wish that I had not sold that old, worn out example that I bought for $400 almost a decade ago. It isn’t going to replace my Glock carry guns anytime soon, but I could see it doing so in the future perhaps. The slightly small magazine capacity of 13 rounds, heavy trigger pull, and the manual safety are all factors that put me off of the idea of carrying it now.

    If you want to get your hands on a USP Compact for yourself, they seem to hover around the $500-$600 range on popular auction sites. They seem to command a much higher price on local for sale boards, averaging about $750.

    I highly recommend that if you have a chance to shoot one, do so. There is something about the gun that I can’t quite put my finger on, but it makes the experiance quite special.