Because Anything Worth Doing
Is Worth Doing Excessively

Nicely accessorized, the HK VP9L OR looks like something you’d find on
an orbital battle station. Like most everything HK makes, the gun runs as well as it looks.

The new HK VP9L OR is the latest iteration of HK’s extraordinary VP9 striker-fired polymer-framed combat handgun. Designed to dominate combat pistol matches, the VP9L OR applies the expected HK over-the-top attention to detail to the optimized competition pistol. After a lifetime of squeezing triggers for fun and money, this is quite possibly the nicest 9mm pistol I have ever fired.

They naturally started with the superlative VP9. HK was fashionably late to the striker-fired, polymer-framed pistol party. However, when they arrived, they were rocking an Armani suit, a $500 haircut and matching smoking-hot supermodels on each elbow. A VP9 sits on my bedside table for those times the dog won’t shut up at 2 a.m. I have no higher accolade.

If I really took my time, I could keep my rounds in a single hole at 15 meters.
This is one exceptionally sweet-shooting handgun.

Cool Things

The stock VP9 is chock full of cool little things. The grip is the most customizable in the industry. With three different backstraps and six interchangeable side plates, the company claims 27 different combinations.

I personally think there are more than that. However, like most folks, higher math was the first thing to go when I gravitated into a job that no longer required it. Sadly, though I seem no longer to be able to calculate mathematical permutations, I will likely be quoting the lyrics to the Gilligan’s Island theme song on my deathbed.

There are the niftiest little removable ears on the back of the slide that help with racking chores. HK calls them Charging Supports, and they are the most inspired mechanical accessories since windshield wipers. The slide stop and magazine release are both bilateral and perfect.

The particulars are incomparable, and the smooth striker-fired trigger is to die for. A captive flat recoil spring and polygonally rifled barrel come standard. What really blew me away, however, were the O-rings.

The Humble O-Ring

Most normal people don’t think much about O-rings. It was an O-ring failure in the right solid rocket booster of the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, that allowed a high-pressure jet of plasma to burn through the external fuel tank and destroy the spacecraft. Seven great Americans died in that conflagration.

For the technological luddite, the humble O-ring is an elastomeric torus usually used to form a gas or liquid seal. Typical terrestrial applications for O-rings include scuba tanks, underwater cameras, refrigeration systems and paintball guns. As with most such mundane objects, we seldom think much about O-rings. However, our lives would indeed be way suckier without them.

Why all this talk of O-rings in a gun article? Because HK engineers were not satisfied to design a slide/barrel interface that rode on simple polished steel like everybody else on the planet. Their accurized competition pistol sports an O-ring seal between these two critical components. The end result, when coupled with comparably compulsive attention to detail everyplace else in the gun, means equipment shortcomings will no longer be viewed as a viable excuse for poor performance.

This may seem a small thing, but it is not. I have built a modest career out of falsely depicting myself as a steely eyed killer with gun-handling skills capable of putting John Wick to shame. Reality is I’m just a 54-year-old guy with a word processor and diagnosable maturity issues. Take away the equipment failure pretext and abject public humiliation will assuredly follow. Thanks to HK, I suppose now I’m doomed.

Not satisfied to rely on polished steel like everybody else, the HK guys designed
an O-ring interface between the barrel and slide on the VP9L OR pistol.


The HK VP9L OR differs from the more pedestrian version in lots of ways other than O-rings. The standard superlative frame assembly remains unchanged. However, the cold hammer forged barrel is extended by an inch, as is the slide to accommodate. Lightening cuts in the slide minimize both weight and lock time.

Elevated non-nuclear luminous sights co-witness nicely with a red dot, and the rear slide deck is cut to accommodate. All the steel bits are finished in a high-tech nitro-carburized finish. Naturally, the dust cover includes a Picatinny accessory rail.

The barrels are cut from cannon-grade steel and are legendary. Polygonal rifling offers slightly higher muzzle velocities and longer life when compared to cheaper, more conventional barrels. Similar barrels on HK P30 pistols survived a 90,000-round torture test back in 2010. The feed ramp arrives beautifully polished from the factory.

The standard VP9L OR includes a brace of extended 20-round magazines. I built mine with a drop-in kit so I’m still rocking my flush 15-round mags. Current standard VP9 handguns include 17-round magazines. I have no idea how they crammed 17 rounds into the same space my mags used for 15. Magic, I guess.

Not unsurprisingly, my VP9 is a bit weird. I have a pal with an FDE gun. I gave him my grip panels, and he gave me his. While some might feel the resulting bi-chromatic dichotomy looks leprous, I think it is the cat’s pajamas.

The VP9L OR conversion kit is not a firearm, so it ships through the mail without troubling your FFL. With this conversion I can drop the longslide gear in place for competition and target shooting but still use my suppressed upper for home defense. In case you’re wondering, the kit comes with plenty of spare O-rings.

Note the suppressor-height sights, also set up to co-witness through an optical sight.

The Trijicon RMR red dot sight sits atop combat handguns issued to members
of the U.S. Special Operations Command. This thing is built like a tank.


The glass is a Trijicon RMR sight. RMR stands for Ruggedized Miniature Reflex. This indestructible compact red dot is waterproof to 20 meters and features a patented sight housing that diverts stresses away from the lens in the event of impact.

The sight is powered by a standard CR2032 button cell battery. It also features a built-in light sensor that adjusts the intensity of the dot for ambient conditions. That’s one less thing to fret about when you might be interacting socially with people trying to kill you.

The Trijicon RMR is hardly the cheapest micro red dot on the market. However, it is sufficiently awesome that the U.S. Special Operations Command selected it to sit atop their tactical handguns. That seems like pretty high praise to me.

The SureFire X400 Ultra is the Terminator of tactical illuminators. The X400 puts out 1,000 lumens of blinding white light along with a 5-mW green laser powered by a pair of CR123 batteries. The whole rig is built like a main battle tank yet weighs a paltry 5 oz.

The HK VP9L OR is the race gun variant of their superlative VP9 polymer-framed,
striker-fired combat pistol. While it is purpose-designed for handgun competition,
the gun makes fora superb defensive tool as well.

Trigger Time

Zeroing the RMR and X400 literally couldn’t be easier. The RMR uses a cartridge rim. The X400 laser requires a small Allen wrench included with the illuminator. Just pick a typical engagement range, adjust the dots to match the iron sights on your pistol and call it a day. The RMR sight uses so little power you just leave it running all the time and change the batteries every other birthday or so.

Dropping a red dot sight on top of your favorite competition or defensive pistol doesn’t automatically make you a better shooter. You have to practice a bit to teach yourself how to bring the dot up into your field of view during the draw. Once you do that, however, the world is your oyster.

With both eyes open, the dot hovers out over your target no matter the orientation of the sight. The extra weight and length on the VP9L OR upper thoroughly tame perceived recoil. That makes follow up shots smooth, fast and painless.

The synergistic combination of the heavenly trigger, ample barrel length, that curious O-ring interface, and optimized everything meant single ragged holes at 15 meters off of a simple rest. I’ve honestly never shot anything quite like it. This thing runs like a monkey after Milk Duds.

If you’re the kind of guy who can’t really be satisfied with anything less than
perfection, the HK VP9L OR is your heater.


You certainly don’t have to run a competition pistol that uses O-rings to create the perfect barrel-to-slide lockup. Lots of lesser guns shoot almost as well. However, if you’re the kind of shooter for whom “almost” is the sort of profanity you wouldn’t utter in church or in the presence of your Momma, then the HK VP9L OR is the gun for you.

Whether on the range, in your glove box, or tucked inside your nightstand, the HK VP9L OR is quite literally as good as it gets. Somebody may indeed someday improve upon this gun, but not anytime soon. The VP9L OR is my new home defense piece.

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