Croatian engineer Marko Vukovic first developed his P38-based pistol in the late 1980s for the Yugoslav Peoples’ Army. It was left unadopted at that time, but when Croatia declared independence in 1991 the gun found a new life. The newly formed Croatian armed forces needed quite a lot of small arms. Vukovic brought his pistol design back off the shelf and presented it to the Croatian authorities. They were enthusiastic, and it was adopted as the PHP (“Prvi Hrvatski Pistolj” – First Croatian Pistol) MV-9 and put into production in 1992. This was both a practical win – a reasonably good handgun for the Army, produced domestically, and also a moral victory in showing logistical independence from the old Yugoslavia.
The design was improved in 1994 with a shorter (4 inch / 100mm) barrel and simplified disassembly. A total of approximately 5,000 early pattern and 11,000 late pattern PHP pistols were made, with production ending in 1995. For Vukovic’s company IM Metal, the PHP was a valuable introduction into firearms mass production. They would take the lessons learned here and use them to develop the HS-95 pistol, as well as the VHS series of rifles.
Many thanks to HS Produkt for giving me the opportunity to visit and film some of their early prototypes! Not all companies are willing to share their less-successful early designs, but developing good guns can only happen by trying and often failing at first.