I recently had the chance to hit the range with a VP-70Z, the semiauto civilian version of H&K’s 1970 machine pistol. It is notable both for being one of the few production machine pistols around (and it would only fire automatically when its optional buttstock was attached), but also for being the world’s first production polymer-framed handgun. On a less positive note, it’s next-most-known feature is it’s trigger pull, which is very reminiscent of a staple gun.

The VP-70 was a very simple design, using a plain straight blowback action and an 18-round double-feed magazine. One of its other notable features is very deep rifle, which I had read was intended to reduce pressure by allowing gas to blow past the bullet. That sounded like a pretty goofy idea, but lo and behold, it’s true. I was able to examine a couple recovered bullets, and the all show that the rifling groove area makes no contact with the bullet, and blackened scorch marks are present as well, a bit like cartridge cases from fluted chambers. In addition, a friend I spoke to has done some chronograph testing with a VP-70, and found that it produces significantly lower velocity with a given cartridge than other pistols with the same barrel length. Here are some 10-shot average muzzle velocities, compared to manufacturer spec:


VP-70Z (4.6″ barrel) Standard test barrel (4″)
Winchester 124 grain FMJ NATO (+P) 1098fps 1200fps
CCI 115 grain TMJ “LAWMAN” 1100fps 1200fps
Federal 124 grain TMJ “Toxic-Metal Free Primer” 887fps 1120fps


As for the trigger, it’s long and heavy (kinda like everything else HK was making at the time…), but not necessarily as terrible as some folks would suggest. You have to approach it like a DA revolver, and get used to staging the trigger most of the way back and then pulling the final short distance when you have a proper sight picture. I found it interesting that Tim Mullin (with several thousand rounds’ experience on the VP-70) commented in his book on SMGs and machine pistols that he would choose the VP-70 over an MP5PDW.


  1. Thank you for that very good review.I purchased a VP-70Z in 1974 as it was very high tech.Mine has hundreds of rounds thru it and still looks brand new because I treat it well.I bought five magazines with the gun back then and prefer 124 ball ammo because of the reduced velocity factor.For several years it was my only semi auto pistol.I have read that the VP-70 machine pistol was produced up to about ten thousand guns and it would be nice to know where in the world they went to.

    Shawn Hauser

  2. This is actually on my bucket list–my late grandfather, for reasons unknown, gave me three new magazines in the original paper for this. (He didn’t own the pistol, either)

    • Would you be interested in selling one or more of the magazines? I have one of these old pistols. Thanks.

      Brooks Nolen

      • To be honest, the last time I attempted to sell them, each buyer was looking for a steal rather than a deal. For the time being, I’ll keep them, and save up for the pistol itself, which is likely the more worthwhile action on my part.

        (by the way, gunbroker, show vendors, and the like are asking $80+ for the same magazines in the same condition. I was asking $50/magazine at the time, and was offered $40 for all three…firm)

  3. I owned one of These Circa 1986 as a LEO at that time we carried wheel guns, how antique. I acquired the VP 70 for off duty use the ability to start out with 18+1 was a plus off duty. Im sorry I fired this weapon, or maybe I just had big fingers by the time I finished on the Range my finger had Dimples from the Horseshoe shaped trigger. I Loved the sights, was a little unsure about the ramped front sight. But the appearance of dark non-reflective front post was treat. Made target acquisition simple, groups were excellent. To bad I acquire the stock. It would have been the trunk of my unit. At that Department if we qualified with it you could have it in your Trunk. Several of us had M-1’s or M1a’s. The area was rather Rural. If someone engaged you from their house it would have been tricky with a Sidearm/Shotgun and with only 4 units in the County help might be a long time away.

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