The H&K VP70z: Initial thoughts and observations

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Mar 14, 2011
Nova Scotia, Canada
I first started handgun shooting in the early 1980s, and back then there was a wonderfully varied selection of semi-auto pistol designs. I could only afford a CZ75 at the time but I’ve recently been able to acquire some of the models that I could only read about back then. The classic Heckler & Koch line always appealed to me, and I’ve been able to pick up a P7 and P9S. The missing one from the classic 1970s trio was the VP70z. They are not common around here, and what I read online about the heavy trigger pull dissuaded me from picking one up. However, one popped up for sale online recently and I thought it was time to complete the set.


The VP70z, from what I’ve read online, was designed to be used by relatively untrained German citizens in the event of a Cold War invasion (the “VP” stands for “Volkspistole”, or “People’s Pistol”). It’s a striker-fired blowback pistol with a double-action only trigger, no slide stop, and minimal external controls so for sure it would be easy to get someone unfamiliar with the pistol up and shooting quickly. It’s got a polymer frame—and, upon its launch in 1970, the first pistol ever to have one, and an unusually large for its time capacity of 18 rounds (well, pre-mag laws here).

It is quite a large pistol, even though it only has a 4.6” barrel. Here is it compared with a Glock 22:

I can see a bit of a family resemblance with the H&K P9S, which dates from the same era. Other than the superficial similarity in looks, though, they are very different pistols.

The polymer grip has a light pebbly texture and is comfortably-sized for its original capacity. The texture looks similar to that on the Gen 1 Glock 17, although I’ve never seen one of those).

The trigger pulls straight back with no pivoting at all. Mine has an after-market Wolff trigger spring that reduces the very stiff factory trigger pull. There is a defined stop right before the break, so its fairly easy to “stage” the trigger pull. You can see the disassembly lever above the trigger.
It’s quite reminiscent of the trigger on my FN FS2000. The button behind the trigger is actually a cross-bolt safety, not a magazine release.

The magazine release is a heel-clip type:

While the magazine is quite an interesting design—its width tapers at two different points:

and it’s dual-feed, too, like the Steyr GB:

The pistol disassembles like most other blowback pistols I’ve owned—pull down the disassembly lever, retract the slide and lift up at the rear of the slide’s travel. You can see the fixed barrel here.

Here’s the sear area—it’s a much simpler design than the P7 or P9S.

There is a generous feed ramp and the chamber’s edges are chamfered.

The slide rails are only on the rear portion of the slide:

The slide walls are quite thin, especially for a blowback pistol—only about 2.5mm. This reduces the recoil effect of the reciprocating mass as well as the overall weight of the pistol.


You can see the striker in the picture above. It’s easily removed from the slide by rotating the slide end cap 90° and removing it. Here is the striker and firing pin spring removed from the pistol:

and they just pull apart. The part on the right is the firing pin spring (that’s the Wolff spring) and the striker/firing pin is on the left. The spring on that assembly is to prevent accidental discharges if the pistol is dropped.

As I mentioned above, the slide is not as heavy as you’d expect for a blowback pistol, nor is the recoil spring as stout. There’s an unexpected reason for that. The rifling is very deep—so deep that propellant gasses actually blow past the bullet on its way out the barrel to keep chamber pressures low. This supposedly lowers muzzle velocity, though.


The rear sight is a straightforward fixed blade.

But the front sight is quite unique. It’s ramped, but the middle portion machined out and the top polished.

What that does is give an illusion of a blade front sight while having a sturdy snag-free sight. Here’s the sight picture:

So that’s it for the overview. The trigger pull is not as bad as I expected (likely due to the Wolff spring) and its comfortable in the hand. The odd sighting arrangement looks to work pretty well, too. I’ll add more once I’ve had it out to the range.


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Nice review! I've had one for a few years and find it to be highly underrated. Once you learn the trigger pull it's quite accurate and the sight system works better in varied light conditions than you would expect. I had a friend who carried one on duty as a plain clothes investigator in the 70's and he really caught a lot of flack for it from revolver and 1911 armed officers.
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I should have bought one when I could have. (Passed on one at $400 ish) The magazines are amazingly well made. Huge for a 9mm, neat bit of history. Fixed barrel, 4 moving parts what's not to love?
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Those are some excellent pictures.

That front sight is quite novel. I haven't seen anything like that before.

First rate overview of a rarely seen H&K pistol. Excellent photos as well.

I understand that there was a selective fire version with a plastic shoulder stock that attached at two points at the rear of the grip frame. I believe it also contained a fire control lever that allowed for single shots or a three round burst. Would love to have seen one of those in action!

First rate overview of a rarely seen H&K pistol. Excellent photos as well.

I understand that there was a selective fire version with a plastic shoulder stock that attached at two points at the rear of the grip frame. I believe it also contained a fire control lever that allowed for single shots or a three round burst. Would love to have seen one of those in action!
You are correct. That is/was the HK VP70 (no "z"). The select lever is ON the stock. I never got to fire it, but I did get to see and handle one . HK USA has a room with one of every product they have ever made in it. Its called "the gray room". Guests and students attending training there ar given a tour, and are even allowed to touch the stuff!
I actually saw one of these pistols for sale yesterday at the gun show in Pensacola. Haven't seen one for a while.
Great review. Nice to know that Wolfe made a sprig set that improved things. Thanks for sharing al lthis nd doing the work to do so.

Yes the selector was on the stock of the "military and police " models. IIRC it was marked "1" and "3" to allow single shots or three shot bursts at a very high rate of fire.

Darn, now I need to look it up and have plenty to do today.


The "gray room" sounds like it would be a very cool place to be invited into!
Thanks for the kind comments, guys. I actually saw a semi-auto shoulder-stocked VP70 for sale in Canada a year or so ago. If my memory serves correctly it was one of 54 made—and had a price that reflected it too!
OK Ezell listed the cyclic rate on the Machine pistol version as 2200 rpm! That means a three shot burst is gone in well under a tenth of a second and that the magazine holds but six bursts. The stock Did allow semi auto or 3 shot burst only.....had it offered full auto the mag would have been empty in under one half a second.

He also listed the muzzle velocity as the same as the P9's polygonal rifled barrel.

Loaded weight with stock fixed and a loaded magazine was 3.5 pounds.

The only person I met that claimed to have shot the Machine Pistol with stock claimed the burst was over so fast that one could keep all 3 shots on a kneeling man target or "Tombstone" at 25 meters. No idea if he was making it up or had actually shot one.

Now you have to wonder, what with the Volk's Pistol name, if there are a few 100,000 of these things with the stocks in warehouses somewhere in Germany to this very day.

Speaking of Volk's Pistols......a German buddy had a lower (frame) with fixed barrel that he used as a toy pistol in the early 1960's. They found it in the mud next to the Danube in Ulm. It appeared to be from the Gustav gas delayed blow back Volk's Pistol design.

Nice write up.

I picked one up about 1990. It is a very interesting pistol. Thanks for not getting hung up on the detachable stock. I found the info about the deep rifling insightful. I've had bullets keyhole with enough regularity it doesn't surprise me anymore. Could there be a relationship? I liked the way you compared it to more recent HKs. I've seen that happen at the range when I'm shooting it and another HK owner asks me about it.

Wow! First word that comes to mind is "Awesome"!!! There are "gun rooms" and then there is this.

Thanks for the look!
Fellow USAF NCO had one of these 38 years ago. Super pistol I think - except for the staple gun trigger. I would like to try one out with the Wolff spring replacement.
Thanks for the nudge Dragonfly. I took my pistol out to the range after work today.


Here's 36 rounds at 10 yards. Not quite as fast as I could pull the trigger but almost. As I haven't shot this pistol in at least a year so I'll take it. I need to shoot it more often. It's a fun pistol.
Had a chance to take it to the range today—it was a little breezy but not a bad day overall compared with most of this Spring. I hadn’t shot a handgun since last Fall so I was a little rusty for sure.

The pistol worked great with no issues in the 50 rounds of 124 gr. RUAG ammunition—it was my first time trying it. Recoil was a bit snappy but not unpleasant. After trying ten rounds to get a feel for the pistol I tried deliberately “staging” the trigger pull for better accuracy. It worked quite well, although there were a couple of times that I missed the stage and pulled straight through—they’re the ones at the 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock spots on the target at the 1:10 minute mark of the video below.

After that I tried some faster shooting—the long trigger pull makes it a challenge—and finished with some one-handed shooting. That was a wake-up call!

The pistol felt better shooting at the range than dry-firing at home, and the unusual front sight worked pretty well. It was a fun time!

Here’s a demo of the trigger pull.

Nice job with the videos and in demonstrating the trigger pull of the VP70Z.
Nice post! Interesting to learn about the new springs. I had one back in the early '90s. Worked perfectly with anything that I put through it, but the deeply concave shape of the trigger made it tiring for my fat finger to shoot much back the. I sold it off to a local Deputy who had Magnolia sports make him a custom nylon duty holster for it. One of my top ten guns that I regret selling...
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