H&K VP9 Pistol Magazine-Release “Lever”, My Warning

By John Farnam

H&K VP9 Pistol Ambidextrous Magazine-Release Lever
H&K VP9 Pistol Ambidextrous Magazine-Release Lever
Defense Training International, Inc
Defense Training International, Inc

Ft Collins, CO –-(Ammoland.com)- “Flake” Magazine-Release Lever:

We’ve see a number of H&K’s Glock-like VP9 Pistols in Defensive Pistol Classes recently. All have run well, and the pistol’s ergonomics are pleasing. It represents a very acceptable carry-gun.

However, one “feature” of the VP9 can be an issue, and that it the pistol’ s ambidextrous magazine-release “lever.”

Most modern defensive pistols have a magazine-release “button” on the left side of the frame, just to the rear of the trigger-guard. This represents the “Western” style, and it has been adopted by Glock, SIG, FN, Walther, Kahr, Ruger, et al.

H&K’s VP9 pistol is the exception.

The VP9 retains the “European” style of magazine release, which is a “flake,” or lever incorporated into the rear of the trigger guard, on both sides (ambidextrous).

For one, I prefer the button over the lever, but mostly because that is what I am accustomed to. The learning-curve in getting used to the lever-release is surely well within the intellect of all of us.

But, there is a technique for using the lever that I consider overly dangerous, and thus not recommended.

Many right-handers equipped with this pistol, release the magazine with their right index-finger (trigger-finger). This puts the trigger-finger too close to the trigger, and it is thus too easy to inadvertently press the trigger with sufficient pressure to discharge the gun, while you’re trying to release the magazine!

In fact, this incorrect procedure is so dangerous, I, for one, don’t permit it on my range.

The magazine needs to be released using the right thumb, not the right index-finger, much as is the case with a Western-style button-release.

Of course, not everyone agrees!

But, in my opinion, we have enough UDs (unintentional discharges) with pistols as it is, without fairly inviting one!

“Being right half the time beats being half-right all the time.” ~ Malcolm Forbes


About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance, if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit: www.defense-training.com

  • 16 thoughts on “H&K VP9 Pistol Magazine-Release “Lever”, My Warning

    1. Navy seals, swcc and eod all use HKs. In an environment where you can be kicked out of the program for an UD, I’m surprised they use such a terrible gun conto lever. I have personally witnessed the firing of close to million rounds with guns with this lever, and it has never happened. Under stressful conditions to boot. The article makes it worse because it’s an opinion piece. I read it because I thought it happened. The lever action is superior to button and that’s probably why the some of worlds best combatants like it. I could easily make a claim that the button is actually more unsafe than the lever.

      1. A bit of an overstatement that they all use HK.
        But sounds really impressive, even though it’s not true.
        Are you on the HK payroll?
        They say if you say somehong enough times, someone will eventually believe that.

        1. They all use the HK45C’s. Before that, the Mk 23. Feel free to do your own research so you don’t look like an idiot.

    2. I read your article last night, and then proceeded to clear my first generation P99 with short paddles similar to the VP9 discussed. I worked through the using the motions to use a shooters thumb over trigger finger and found that I need to loosen my grip and shift the firearm in my hand to reach the paddle with my dominant hand thumb as you suggested. I feel this is less safe than using the index finger to release the magazine as constantly shifting the firearm in the hand can lead to dropped firearms. If I can suggest an alternative for your classes, I would suggest asking your shooters to use their strong side middle finger to release the magazine. The motion leaves the middle finger well behind the trigger and the trigger finger safely on the frame.

      1. When I use a VP9 at the range I use my middle finger & keep my trigger finger forward of the trigger. It’s so much easier than the shifting I have to do with a button release. I totally agree with you Patrick.

    3. Have thought about this article and realized the Author drafted it so he could get his name published.
      No doubt to appear more as an authority on the subject of defensive pistol training.

      Training provides muscle memory.

      NavyCuda is right however.
      HeathBarkely…you need to go back to the valley and find brother Nick.

    4. Author can decide for himself what correct procedure for dropping mags on VP9 floats his boat or how it’ll be done on “his” range. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Absolutely nothing wrong with the technique he objects too in my view. However, I’ll keep his views in mind when considering tactics, firearm instructor & class in the future.

    5. I recently evaluated this firearm on the range and a Walther, both with similar magazine release controls – I would not recommend this control type for magazine release. Here’s why: The trigger is also a flake control. Having two flake controls in such close proximity promotes tactile control confusion. This is when our fingers sense similar geometries and our brain could mis-interpret which control actuates a system on the gun. So regardless of their position relative to one another, it’s the proximity that’s undesirable and in the case of firearms, dangerous. Even if this control were only on the shooter’s left side, the motion required to actuate it is an unnatural side sweeping motion for the thumb – this too is undesirable (the thumb has strong muscles for opposition/gripping… not for side to side sweeping). We want controls that are mapped to natural movements and in locations easily accessible without requiring a visual inspection prior to actuation – that is – in self defense situations you should be scanning for threats, not looking down at your gun to make sure you’ve got your digits on the correct control.

      1. Oh…you were actually serious…for a minute there I thought it was all hyperbole…well, in that case…you have no idea what you are talking about.

      2. Actually, fine motor control is exactly what our fingers do well. If what you said was true then we would be unable to accurately and consistently play the piano, use video game controllers, perform delicate surgery, and many other actions that require us to press the correct button, lever, or other control without error. Your argument is actually constantly disproven in real life.

        1. Well said. To be honest with you all, most here just want something to disagree with as a vehicle to display your vast knowledge,which, let’s be honest is REALLY just puffed up opinion and nothing more. Example, it was stated earlier that the VP9 uses “European style” mag release. This is not so. European style mag release was a button through the butt of the pistol. The paddle style in question was merely HK’s attempt at innovation. To have a TRULY ambi mag release without trying to engineer a cold-fusion reactor in the process. When they introduced it back with the USP it was received with mixed results but it gained enough popularity to have HKs issued to several military and LE agencies. To include the USN SeALs. There is NO safety issue involved with this type of mag release but rather a difference of preferences. And the ranger officer who commented on not allowing that…just another example of an individual who knows too little, has an inflated ego, and s sprinkle of “power” at his disposal. I bet these same people don’t have a problem with SERPA holsters either. – rant concluded.

    6. In the course of studying humans we tend to fear or not allow what we don’t know. Let’s look at the UD as you call it. I am curious what you see as bad habits or lack of not following proper weapon safety as the driving issue? As my time on earth has probably not been as long as yours, I can only state for a fact is that I have only seen 2 firearms UD without being caused from bad habits or just plain stupidity! Yes stupidity is knowing better but not caring enough to do it correctly. I have been blessed to not have to shoot anyone yet for stupidity, but many close calls always makes me ask the person involved why they did it. Answer always is, I was in a hurry or I didn’t think it mattered.

      Proper procedure cannot be fixed by changing equipment. Then there are just a very few who should never ever hold, touch or posses a firearms! Oh, yes the 2 UDs mentioned above. Testing by the military for dropped weapons and any associated discharges. Both times it was found that there were manufacturing defects that allowed the firearms to UD.

      So, because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s bad. You are allowed to limit whatever you’d like on your range. Please be careful to tell or force people to think your way due to your prejudices. Take into account the thousands of firearms that posses those qualities you hate and ask why they are still made and sold if they are so unsafe.

      Back to basics of teaching people what is correct and what isn’t. My grandfather used to say, it is a poor carpenter that blames his tools.

    7. John ,
      The lever is behind the trigger.
      If someone uses their trigger finger to engage the lever, how are they pulling the trigger.
      Is it a case where they are not pulling their finger out of the trigger guard or after they release the magazine, their finger is returning and accidentally pulling?

    8. Agreed.
      I own a VP9, and I love it for shooting. I DON’T love it for ejecting the magazine. I’m a big guy, and I have big hands, but I don’t like the action needed to get my thumb on the paddle. I’m left-handed, so I like the ambidexterity of it, but this paddle is an awkward hit for my thumb – even worse than the funky one that was on my USP-40. My EDC is a Walther PPS 40 – but the “Mod 1” type, which has a paddle even worse than the VP9, because it makes up 2/3 of the underside of the trigger guard. You almost have to use your finger tip at the forward end of the paddle to get the right leverage on it. I don’t understand the thought process behind the “European release” designs. I wish I still had my H&K P7, that had the mag release on the bottom of the grip. It was definitely not one hand operation friendly, but I knew I wasn’t going to have a UD with it.

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