One thing I can say right up front about the HK USP is that it feels like a big gun. However, when I compare it to something like a Glock 19, the grip and trigger reach are about the same. The longer barrel on the USP makes it seem much bigger, I guess. HK’s promo information about the USP says it’s the first HK pistol designed specifically for the demanding needs of the American shooter with features favored by the U.S. civilian, law enforcement, and military users.
The design of the USP is said to have been influenced by the 1911, including the ability to be carried cocked and locked. This is facilitated by what HK calls the “control lever,” which is a frame-mounted, combination safety and decocking lever. The control lever has a positive stop and returns to the fire position after decocking. It can also be switched from the left side to the right to accommodate left-handed users.
The USP uses a modified Browning-type action with a recoil reduction system designed and patented by HK. It is built to take the punishment of +P loads. The size of the gun helps the shooter handle those loads, as well.
The recoil reduction system is incorporated into the recoil/buffer spring assembly located below the barrel. It’s basically a wider, rounded notch where the barrel interlocks with the frame. This recoil reduction system buffers the impact of the slide on the frame, as the barrel unlocks and the slide travels rearward. The system works regardless of the ammo type and does not require any adjustments by the user.
The USP has a cold hammer forged barrel that has HK’s unique polygonal bore profile. Polygonal bores increase muzzle velocity and reduce barrel wear. The polymer frame of the USP uses the same high-strength and corrosion-free material as used in firearms designed for military use. Metal components used in the USP are also corrosion resistant. The external metal components are protected by an extremely hard nitro-gel carburized black oxide finish.
The design characteristics of the HK USP provide a lot of flexibility in how the gun is set up for the user. For example, my gun has a DA/SA trigger with everything set up for a right-hand shooter. A knowledgeable gunsmith or HK armorer can convert it to a DA-only trigger, and the control lever can be moved to the right side of the frame.
The magazine release lever is ambidextrous and is fit within the trigger guard so that it is impossible to inadvertently depress the magazine release. The magazine release can be activated by the thumb or index finger of the firing hand without adjusting the firing grip. The extended slide release allows for easy actuation without adjusting the grip of the shooting hand.
I mentioned the size of the gun. My .40 S&W weighs 29.83 ounces, is 7.64 inches long, 5.35 inches in height, and 1.26 inches wide with a trigger reach of 2.74 inches single-action and 2.95 inches double-action. That’s one reason I like the idea of carrying it cocked and locked. I found an IWB holster from N8 Tactical that fits the USP well and has a high enough back to keep the rough texture of the USP’s grip from rubbing against my skin. That rough texture on the USP grip, along with the stippled front stop and back stop, provide an extremely secure hand purchase when shooting the gun.
I’ve steered away from shooting .40s lately, due to the arthritis and bursitis pain in my arms and shoulders. I wanted to shoot the USP enough to get a true picture of its reliability as well as accuracy, so I took a couple of extra shooters along for the fun. We packed an assortment of reloads, JHP, and other types of tactical ammunition, plus several brands of ball ammo. I was the first to shoot the gun, standing 10 yards back from the targets we set up.
The gun came to me with five magazines. Three of them are 10 rounders. The other two hold 13 rounds and are stamped “Restricted Law Enforcement / Government Use Only 10 – 94.” Hmmm… This gun must have first been sold in California.
I live in Texas and ain’t nobody going to tell me I can’t load and shoot a 13-round magazine in my gun. But 10 rounds was all I felt like, so I loaded it and started firing. An incredible thing happened. My 10 rounds pretty much clobbered the center of the target.
Each of my buddies had the same result. Not only is the USP amazingly accurate, but it is also built in such a way that shooters can easily make the best of what it has to offer. What do I mean by that? I mean shooters who don’t always shoot outstanding targets seem to do much better with the USP than with other guns. Wonder why? I’d say it’s a combination of great sights, an easy and consistent trigger pull, a hand grip that’s made to assist the shooter, and the recoil reduction system helping them get on and stay on target.
I enjoyed watching the other shooters almost as much as I enjoyed shooting the USP. There was an appreciation spreading among us I didn’t expect to see. We fired something like 300 rounds between us, and there was not one failure of any kind.
After all, the gun has been around for a while. However, this one was residing in the safe of one of my friends. I remember when he got the gun, but I’d forgotten about it. When he told me he needed to reduce his inventory, I offered to take this gun and a couple of others off his hands. I really didn’t do it because I wanted the gun. It was more like I bought it because he offered it to me at a price that I knew to be a bargain.
The USP has been in HK’s catalog for a number of years. My gun was manufactured in 2004. The USP is available in three models: Standard, Compact, and Tactical — chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. If I were buying one now, I’d buy the 9mm Compact. With that gun, I’d have a heck of an EDC gun. As it stands, I doubt I’ll carry this gun, but I know it will hold its own as a household defensive gun or a truck gun. I’m watching some of my grandsons grow into much bigger lads than their dads or me, so who knows, one of them might find this .40 USP just the right size.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find some of our readers have an HK USP. I would love to hear from you how the HK USP fits your needs. Share your review in the comment section.