H&K VP-70M: Polymer Framed Cutting Edge Machine Pistol from 1973

The VP-70 was designed by Heckler & Koch cofounder Alex Seidel, and introduced in 1973. It was made with the idea of being a gun easily mass produced for arming a civilian resistance in case of Russian invasion of East Germany, but the West German government opted not to adopt it. In the original military form, the gun is semiautomatic as a pistol, with the option to use a 3-round burst firing mode when the shoulder stock is attached. The stock also doubles as a holster.

Mechanically, the VP-70 is simple blowback, and has several features which were quite cutting edge at the time. It is the first production service pistol to use a polymer frame, and it came with double-stack, double-feed 18-round magazines; the highest standard capacity of the day. It is striker fired, and the striker is at rest completely forward, unlike modern striker-fired pistol which use the cycling of the slide to partially cock the striker. This means that the VP70 is ac very safe action, but has a trigger pull best compared to a staple gun.

After the military rejection of the VP-70M, a civilian model was made, designated the VP-70Z. This model did not have any of the burst fire components, not the fittings to attach the buttstock. About 23,000 were made, including about 400 in 9x21mm for the Italian commercial market. This is far more than the approximately 3,500 VP-70M pistols made.

Thanks to H&K for providing access to bring you this VP-70M!

45 Comments

  1. If HK or somebody were to work over that hand-exerciser trigger pull, and reintroduce the VP70Z today, it would be a serious competitor for Glock. Not least because being a straight blowback, it could probably be manufactured and sold cheaper than a Glock without compromising quality.

    They wouldn’t even need to make it in “modern” calibers, as ones like .40 S&W and etc. are being superseded by the 9 x 19mm, never mind that it’s older than the .45 ACP.

    The VP70 just had the bad luck to be twenty to forty years ahead of its time.

    cheers

    eon

  2. I actually got to hold and manipulate one. It was like a staple gun. It reminded me of one of the 1970s Zebra toy gun that shot Zebra disks. As a matter of fact the trigger seemed amazingly similar.

    • Yeah, I handled one of these at an auction, and it has the worst trigger pull I’ve ever experienced, hands down. Maybe useable with a stock, but as a pistol, I wouldn’t want to try to hit anything beyond a few inches away :).

      • I tried to pull the trigger with the safety engaged. Realized my mistake and took the safety off, but it still felt about the same. Yeah, it’s that bad.

  3. Still looked futuristic enough in the mid 80’s that it was used as the sidearm for the Colonial Marines in Aliens.It does remind me of those disc firing guns tim.

  4. VP70, should be considered as the best possible approach in Blowback pistols. Its secret lies just below the barrel chamber as a “One Way Shock Absorber” that means, the impact of recoiling slide is absorbed therein without giving a same level response as protecting both gun and user both bolt recoiling and returning sequences. The return spring it uses is not strong. But this secrecy hides itself behing the dismount latch as giving no clue how the pistol stands against that violent recoiling punch. But as all other HK Pistols, it contains an unpractical point as having a nearly unusable DA trigger.

    The plastic frame might be considered as a cost saver at the age when this pistol manufactured, but its construction was not cheap and can not be matched with Glock’s level at all. IMHO.

    • More important is the deep rifling “gas-blow by” which lowered the round velocity, and that is the main “secret” of being blowback.

      Vp70 Drinking game: every time someone mentiones Aliens, you drink a shot of vodka.

      Drinking game #2, (slightly rare): every time someone mentiones Resident Evil 2, you need to chug a whole bottle of vodka

    • But I do agree that this spring absorber helps the overall construction a great deal; would like to hear test firing results of when its removed.

      • Main purpose of deep rifling should be making the pistol as compatible with much powered 9mm submachine or machine pistol rounds. Unfortunately it causes some little velocity loss when using standart cartridges.

  5. I don’t want to stray into “politics” but the conception and implementation of so-called “stay behind” or guerrillero/partisan forces in the Cold War context raises all kinds of “Gladio” Operation issues. If the guns aren’t for the army or police, but they are not just for anyone, the vetting of who precisely gets one of these weaponized staple guns is murky to say the least…

    This was a brilliant, well explicated video! I learned more from it than any possible readings on the thing. I’ll look forward to the range time, since the only previous user I’d read was T. J. Mullin’s evaluation. He really understood a particular tactical niche for such a weapon.

    Personally, I’d have greatly preferred to see Hochler und Keck resurrect the Volks Rewolwer 9mm project. This would have been a sheet metal, stamped revolver frame with a swing-out cylinder possessing a plate that would drag out the empty rimless cases, perhaps a bit like a Galand revolver or something similar. Think of it as a permanently attached “moon clip” of sorts.

    Given the ongoing debates about the role, or lack thereof, for service pistols, and preoccupations with PDWs, there may be a resurrection of such weapons like the VP70M and even the British prototype Podsędkowski-designed MCEM-2 9mm machine pistol that while arguable proved an inferior SMG to the BSA and Sterling, may have been a better pistol than, say, the FN35?

    Where I see real potential for such weapons is with police agencies in the age of mass-casualty, indiscriminate terrorism. The Swiss firm B.u.T in Thun, or whatever they are named now has proposed a large service-type handgun with a folding stock and modern holosight. The idea is that the “first responder” to a bunch of Kalashnikov armed madmen bent on martyrdom, or careening toward populated plazas in a massive truck, is going to have a simple handgun of some sort, and really will be outgunned. While the specialist SWAT police ERT are heading to the scene with all sorts of rifles and machine guns and specialized tactical equipment, what is the flatfoot to do? In the U.S., the shotgun has largely been supplemented or replaced by a rifle, but in Europe, at least those with armed police, there may be a need for such a weapon.

    Recall that at the dawn of left-wing terrorism most European police carried 7.65mm pistols. By the 70s, the French had .357 Magnums, Germans and others 9mm pistols and so on. It would seem that with nationalist and Islamist terror, we may well see the 9mm get supplemented by something else… And here the VP70 focused on the prospect of (post-nuclear?) Soviet occupation may actually serve a practical purpose?

  6. A friend had one of the VP-70Z handguns and I got to fire it. The trigger pull was, indeed, horrendous. As others have mentioned, it reminded of a plastic disc shooting toy I had as a kid.

  7. I own a VP70Z, and shoot it occasionally. The trigger is as advertised, but you can get used to it with 18 rounds on tap. The reflective front sights were also interesting, in that you focused on the dark bit between the mirrored ramps. Worked fine for me. I even shot part of a local steel match with it once. Didn’t have to reload very often.

  8. From the C-96 to the Stechkin, the ‘optional-stock’ idea has been shackled to the less appealing ‘huge-rigid-obstructive-holster’ concept. H&K seems to have made the least worst version. But why not make a wire stock? Even if it’s built into a leather holster it wouldn’t be quite the burden that those big planks were.

    • The French designed some kind of crazy PDW called the GIAT Arme de Défense Raprochée tested in a raft of various 5.56 to 6mm cartridges with 20 round magazines. As I recall, nothing about it was particularly remarkable, but the holster system designed for it was rather slick if I am not mistaken. Sort of a thigh or chest mounted first generation Glock tupperware container that held the firearm. I think it had two triggers, which initially was like Italiam SMGs, i.e. one for self-loading fire and the other for bursts, but later became a) both triggers must be depressed so that it will fire, ie. b) one trigger is a safety. I don’t read or speak French much, so I’m not too familiar about it, except that it went the way of the PAPOP grenade gun…

    • I have yet to see a wire stock that isn’t criticized as flimsy, uncomfortable to deploy and use with any gun that’s NOT a rim-fire target pistol, and easy to destroy with a shovel. I hope Denny can shed some light on this.

  9. How funny! Arming civilian resistance! Definitely a government not afraid of it’s people [sarcasm], only wanting to arm them if the government is in jeoprody. I didn’t know “why” it was designed before but Gun Jesus always gives us the word!

    • If that move (WP invasion to BRD) took place, there would be no one left to pull trigger on this atrocious pistol. I was on the other side and remember the sentient. Totally preposterous idea.

          • “cold war shyster.”
            Of course, the whole point of Doomsday Machine is lost, if you keep it a secret! (Dr. Strangelove)
            Anyway, it looks that it is time to appreciate abilities of First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikita_Khrushchev
            though maybe lacking appearance of intelligent man and being often remembered for untypical usage of one shoe /which might or might not actually happend/ he managed to convert Soviet Union to… hmm… less paranoid state (than it was during Stalin era), avoid starting Yet Another World War, But Now With Nuclear Weapons, assume power in spite of many Stalin’s cultist, announce that Stalin was bad (for more data see 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) and finally manage to end being boss of Soviet Union WITHOUT becoming dead in the process.

        • Speaking of Davy Crockett, Lee Child’s “Night School” has Jack Reacher running around Germany searching for a case of 10 Davy Crocketts that were stuck in the back of a bunker and forgotten until a US serviceman finds them and offers to sell them to the jihad.Like all of Child’s stuff, a fun and violent read and another example of why casting Tom Cruise as a 6′ 5″ 250 lb. slab of beef with fists like canned hams was a really dumb idea, even for Hollywood.

  10. 1. On the MCEM vs PM63 conversation: conceptually, they are very very similar. See: PDW. Not an infantry SMG, but a better option than a pistol for tankers, etc.

    2. On the VP70, it still staggers me that HK entered it in the XM9 trials, given that the requirement was for DA/SA pistol with a 1911-style mag release (from the 13 mandatory requirements, setting aside the 73 or so extra desirable features). They also entered the P9S, which still failed to meet the basics on mag capacity and release type.

    3. In the XM9 trials, the VP bombed. From memory, it malfunctioned about every five rounds. What is interesting is that almost all the malfunctions were failures to fire. I haven’t looked at the results for twenty years, but my recollection is that the VP gave fewer failures of any other type than any other weapon tested, and that if it had not had hundreds of FTFs, it would have beaten the competition. Suggesting that either the test ammo had very hard primers, or that a minor tweak to the striker system (perhaps raising the trigger weight from terrible to really terrible?) would have ended up with it winning the reliability trials.

    4. While we are on the XM9 trials, the Star 28 also did appallingly, but my recollection is that those were malfunctions likely down to the US military choosing a light load 9mm (domestic US, loaded light to avoid disaster if fired in a Glisenti/Brixia or loose-chambered .380”?) rather than Swedish, British (2Z) or similar European ammo loaded very hot for SMGs, for which it had been designed.

    5. The irony is that when the XM9 trials started in 1979, HK’s two entries both failed to meet the basic requirement. Whereas a VP70 frame and mag with a P9S slide and fire group, and a button mag release would have. And that many years later HK made the USP, which was exactly what the XM9 trials had asked for – just a decade after Beretta had got the M9 contract.

    6. Finally, on a tangent on the XM9 trials, I have a hunch that they were designed to permit adoption of a variant of the S&W 569. But the S&W just wasn’t good enough. Only the S&W – and possibly the Star, but I’m not sure of its timelines- met the basic requirement out of the box. Everything else had to be specially made, or, in the case of HK, submitted in a non-compliant form.

  11. What I find so interesting about this design is the inherent simplicity, on so many levels. You see this thinking on some of the more salient features of the RAK (the cocking spoon), the AUG (the quick change barrel), the Steyr ACR bullpup (the straight feed mechanism), and the Inkunzi PAW (the travel safe stowage and inertia mechanism). None of these weapons have much in common, per se, except some extraordinarily simple and elegant solutions to design problems.

    Had this gun been accepted, it seems likely that its major flaws, if that’s even the right way to state it, could have and would have been refined enough to become non issues. Remember that pioneers do not have established precedents when heading off into the unknown manufacturing wilderness. Nobody, not evem JMB, gets it perfect right out of the gate. That’s precisely what Gen5 Glocks illustrate. They, and everyone else who has the commercial/military success to do so, continually refines their product, keeping what works, improving where possible. What iteration of the venerable AK are we on nowadays?

    Point is, HK might have found a workaround for smoothing out/altering the trigger and making the stock less cumbersome. Steyr could have found a workaround for feed reliability issues on the ACR. It seems as much a matter of widespread acceptance as to whether or not a design gets to benefit from massive real world use, feedback, and manufacturing changes in response. All of that takes time and resources to achieve.

    But what about the really unique aspects? Why don’t all rifles have AUG quick change barrels by now? One could say it’s not necessary, but is it really such an impediment to have the benefit of that feature? Why aren’t there more rifles with P90 style in line magazines instead of vertical weighted protruding encumbrances that do not serve to aid the balance of the weapon? Why aren’t charging handles all so easily actuated as on the RAK, which also served additional purposes? Why is having only four moving parts of the VP70 a detriment?

    No, in fact simplicity, innovation, and creatively thinking and producing something outside the box is a sorely needed facet of manufacture. Especially gun manufacture.

    Admittedly some ideas are just terrible, ill concieved, and short sighted. That’s half the fun of this channel. However, other ideas are flat out genius, like the PAW, but fail to initially gain enough traction to be taken to the next level. Instead of focusing on a weapons three flaws, see and celebrate the elegance, genius, and creativity in a new design, (much like you would meeting a stranger for the first time, you don’t zone in on the negative aspects of their humanity, you put emphasis on what possible benefit they bring to the table).

    That front sight is robust and interesting. The method of striker engagement on burst is an elegant solution to a complex problem many have failed to make work well. The rate of fire so fast as to create one recoil impulse instead of three is pretty good reasoning. There are simply things to glean from this design that modern mfg could benefit from.

    It is really dificult to change ingrained cultural mindsets. But keep in mind what we all know today as conventional wisdom is the product of a paradigm shift from yesterday’s failures to grasp the realities of combat, etc. Remember 1200yd graduated sights and volley fire at high angles? We learn slowly… slowly. So it is therefore incumbent upon us, especially here in this forum full of some very bright lights, to grasp, and to highlight what WORKs in a design, and not just gloss over what does not. After all, the world is watching, and someone out there may be smart enough to combine the very best of these raw design ingredients to create the next AK, 1911, or Mauser.

    • “Why aren’t there more rifles with P90 style in line magazines instead of vertical weighted protruding encumbrances that do not serve to aid the balance of the weapon?”
      Such design of magazines makes its more expensive to produce and possibly more prone to malfunction. Also what would you do if at some point you would need bigger magazine? In normal case you would use longer or different magazine – for example mating AKM with RPK drum magazine – and in P90 case…?

      • Lets not overlook the bold prototypes of Václav Holek!
        Loading a 9x19mm cartridge magazine from underneath such that the reciprocating bolt turned a rotating feed lever that stripped the cartridge upwards into a feed ramp into the chamber…

        http://www.vhu.cz/samopal-zb-47/

        Or this kindred prototype the samopal H/47/ CZ246 where the magazine goes in the top of the fixed butt-stock and the bolt appears to operate along 1/4 diameter, or 90 degrees to strip cartridges upward onto a feed ramp to the chamber… Not quite the Geh Elf/ Gelf/ G11 from Hochler und Keck, but still, pretty interesting, no?

        http://www.vhu.cz/exhibit/samopal-h47-cz-246/

        http://www.vhu.cz/samopal-h47-cz-246/

        • “Loading a 9x19mm cartridge magazine from underneath such that the reciprocating bolt turned a rotating feed lever that stripped the cartridge upwards into a feed ramp into the chamber…”
          Notice that there tumbler or whatever this element proper name is, is part of weapon itself rather than magazine (like in P90). Thus ZB47 magazines are just simple box magazines.
          Anyway here you have full ZB 47 manual: http://sa58kinggun.jansladky.cz/Podklady/Holek1.pdf
          Even if you do not know Czech (Slovak? I do not know in which language this manual actually is) I recommend opening this pdf and looking on drawings.
          Some are pretty just self-explanatory, like that on page 2 (LOOK: ZB 47 MAGAZINE IS NOT STICKING!)

  12. This has been really interesting. In an Ian Hogg firearms book from the 1980’s “Combat Firearms” I read about the VP-70M and though it was very super cool. I’m sad that it’s just not very good in reality. The firing test was painful to watch.

  13. I only handled (i never fired) the Z(imbabwe) version (ok, I’m learning to embrace the autoincorrect)

    And then only after persuading Roger Hale,the then airstrip one agent for H&K, to let me anywhere near it.

    No one has yet mentioned size (yes, size is important, anyone who told you otherwise was telling you a self serving lie).

    In one of the extremely few areas of life where small is actually beautiful, the VP70 is feckin fugly humongous.

    It is truly a DUFF amongst pistols (DUFF = Designated (f)Ugly Fat Friend)

    For a 9x19P pistol, it’s even worse than a huge Lahti (and Lahti still managed to make a good looking pistol, even if he did put all of the weight in exactly the wrong places).

    I’m going to be more forgiving of a staple gun trigger pull. I think that the ongoing meme of trigger pulls dates back to the marketing battle between high quality Winchester and the vastly lower quality Remington rim fire target rifles in the interval between the acts of WW1…

    For the meme to still be running unchallenged almost a century later, speaks volumes of the bankruptcy of gunwriters and the critical thinking skills of their hard of thinking readership (Ian McCollum, Elmer Keith and Ross Seyfreid are rare exceptions to that generalisation).

    With practice, you can learn to use a safely heavy trigger pull. Buying ability is not a substitute for developing ability (that’s a sort of paraphrase of Ross Seyfreid, from his competition days, when he drew comfort from seeing that his fellow competitors were trying to compensate for their lack of ability/ practice, by buying fancy gizmos).
    ___________

    On the political side
    I guess that the management of H&K in the 1970s were as ill informed as the rest of us were about where the terrorism in western Europe was coming from.

    Andreotti ended those misconceptions in around 1989, when he addressed the Italian parliament and revealed that the parallel structures of “stay behinds” (Gladio, which he had been personally involved in) had been engaged in creating a strategy of tension, by facilitating and staging acts of terror, potentially including the Milan and Bologna railway station bombings and the Brabant supermarket mass murders.

    That was a strange time, between the end of the cold war, and the beginning of the war of terror. The BBC even broadcast a 3 part (about 120 minutes) time watch documentary about gladio in mid 1992.

    That information has all but disappeared down the orwellian memory hole now, and any who mention it are dismissed as conspiracy theorists.

    Outside of Switzerland (and potentially Ghana under Rawlins), no centalised state was going to countenance arming of the plebs.

    Sure, they’d countenance the remote possibiluty of mutually assured nuclear anhilation, but not the certainty of being put against the wall, if the plebs ever got wise to the rulers’ malfeasance, and had the arms to act on their disillusionment.

    H&K merely had a commercial flop with truly horrible volks’ pistole

    Philip Luty, was harassed for the rest of his life for his efforts in the same volks weapon direction.

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