Gun of the month: HK USP .45

I’ve always been a big fan of HK since my first exposure to the HK SOCOM .45 in the SEAL Teams.  It was a big gun but ultra reliable and very accurate.  I used this extensively as my secondary, and favored the .45 to the 9mm round for stopping power.

The main reason I initially went to an HK over the SIG 226 (also a great weapon), was that we had a string of bad magazines from the Team.  The springs were bad internally and I had multiple magazine failures (e.g. the bullets were tumbling internally in the magazine) and was uncomfortable using them. When you’re climbing a caving ladder at night to board a hostile ship this is the last thing you want to think about, believe me. 

VBSS Training


I took my new USP .45 to the range with Thomas (like a brother to me) for a few hours of range ops.  The first video is of some magazine change work and the second video shows how to break down the USP and assemble it again.  Enjoy the videos.

Out here-Brandon

From the HK Website-Originally designed for the American market, the USP (Universal Self-loading Pistol) has found international acceptance as an accurate and ultra-reliable handgun. Features favored by U.S. law enforcement and military users provided much of the design criteria for the USP. The controls are uniquely American, influenced by such famous designs as the Government Model 1911 pistol.


  • Corrosion proof fiber-reinforced polymer frame
  • Polygonal bore profile for increased velocity, easier cleaning, and longer barrel life
  • Can be converted to any of nine trigger firing modes
  • Corrosion resistant “Hostile Environment” blued finish
  • Oversized trigger guard for use with gloves
  • One piece machined slide made from nitro-carburized steel
  • Universal mounting grooves for installing accessories
  • Ambidextrous magazine release lever
  • Extended slide release
  • Patented Lock-Out Safety device

5-15 yards head & chest shot groups with the HK USP 45

66 Comments on "Gun of the month: HK USP .45"

  1. Brandon –

    While the HK is a fine sidearm, it is difficult to justify the cost of the darn things when equally as good or better(often depending on personal preferences) opitions are available at around 1/2 to 2/3 the cost.

  2. Any views on the Vicker designed HK45?

  3. I've owned a USP40 for the last 10 years, and never so much as a hiccup from it. As far as the price, I paid less for mine than I would've for a Beretta M92 or a Colt M1911. And .40S&W is a very effective round as I've discovered. I'm happy with mine…

  4. Question, what exactly is meant by Universal Self Loading? What's universal about the pistol what does self loading mean, is that just a fancy way of saying semi-automatic or are they trying to imply that the thing can actually load magazines on its own whether magically loading an empty magazine with or replacing an empty magazine in the pistol with a fresh one?

  5. I've been shooting the USP .45 for 16 years now and it is a part of my body. It's bomb-proof, accurate and the controls are amazingly ergonomic for me, gloves, wet, muddy, whatever. I am an HK fan boy now because of 16 years of reliability with that sidearm.

  6. The main reason the USP flopped in most Law Enforcement sales is that its too expensive a Beretta M9 or a Glock would be half the price of one USP. Bulky size is why SOCOM never used them very much a Glock 21 or a M-1911 is alot smaller in size.

    Nut its still a decent handgun. just need money and allot of it to have one.

  7. Haven't yet had a chance to get my hands on one, however I agree on the .45's superior stopping power over the 9mm being a major advantage. I've owned a CZ 75 SP-01 9mm for a bit of time now and love it, however my next purchase will be at least a .40 if not a .45 for the simple reason of the stopping power.

  8. Battalion Commander | November 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Reply

    To me its about the correct caliber, how it feels in my hands, and how reliable it is; manufacturerer doesn't matter.

  9. The HK brand of firearms are excellent. I haven't had any issues MP5s, USP series pistols or G36 rifle. For my personal finances, HK is pretty much out of my price range. I would go with Springfield XD series or the FN FNX series (I wanted something different). Both have over 1,000 rounds and no issues at all.

  10. "Stopping power" is a myth, just as .45 having more of it.

  11. No such thing as "stopping power".

  12. Anyone who doesn't think there's a difference in stopping power: When given a choice between getting shot in the chest with a 9mm or .45 which would you pick? That should end the debate. -Brandon

  13. Brandon, you've really taken over here. Of the 31 posts, 6 are yours. Never seen a host so involved.

  14. Tom-
    Just like to stay engaged when I can! -Brandon

  15. I like it please stay at it you bring more to the table. not saying the others don't do good, but i like the things you bring up that most don't even think about. Maybe it is just me and my back ground but please keep going.

  16. I have the USP .45 Tactical version. Most accurate pistol I've ever shot (and I have owned many). I can put every round on a quarter at 25 yards with it. It has thousands of rounds through it and has been dead on reliable from the beginning. It is the one I reach for the most when it matters. People like to scoff at price, but I think it makes more sense to scoff at people cheaping out on the tools that may potentially keep them alive.

  17. .45 ACP round is king in close quarter never leave home without it!!!!.

  18. Marty in Canada | November 8, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Reply

    Love my USP .45 Compact tactical. Fits soooo well in my hand and has the ergonomics and reliability I desire PLUS, its so damn accurate. I'll never get rid of this gun although others may come and go, the USP stays for life. HK Fanboy? Yup! PS Brandon, I love this site!

  19. Brandon!

    More articles like this please! How about your take on various weapons moving forward? =)

    HK416, ACR, etc. =)

  20. Can you really blame the M9 problems on the much publicized problems with the Checkmate mags? Afterall, Beretta factory mags have always been preferred to the Checkmates which were fulfilled under a different contract. It's a bit like blaming M4 problems on a bad mag fulfilled by another contractor. And in Checkmate's defense, the mag's were built to military spec's which is why they were so problematic in sandy climates. But again — these were built to the military spec's. The new "sand resistant" mags by Airtronic (they got the contract after Checkmate got blamed for following military specs, don't seem to have the problem.

    The cracking slides were indeeed due to tellurium in the slides making them more brittle. These slides were also made for an order for France which were redirected to fill the M9 order.

    The locking block problem is also a bit difficult to understand. Many M9/92FS have put far tens of thousands of rounds with no issue. Beretta has since redesigned the locking block.

    A real issue is the trigger return spring which sucks.

    I really think the issue is how many pistols get deployed in the hundreds of K and beat on for 30 years and all firing very hot 124 grain NATO rounds?

  21. Are you comparing 9mm ball to 45 ball?

    Seems like they're both equally poor "man stoppers."

    JHP vs JHP, there's a discussion.

  22. It doesn't. Not all and doesn't add anything to the debate.

    If someone put a 9mm ball right through your heart, would it matter?

  23. Thanks for the kind words!

  24. I wish my glock 21 felt like an USP instead it's like holding a 2×4.

  25. Agreed with Brandon on the HK. Anyone gunslinger who carries for a living wants a gun that goes bang when you pull the trigger. Honestly, cost is the last thing on your mind. I know recreational shooters like to complain about how much crap cost, but guess what when your pack'n daily it really doesn't matter. Mil or LEO(which I am) want to have odds in their favor. Saving a couple hundred bucks doesn't mean crap if your dead!

  26. FormerSFMedic: The S&W M&P series is excellent. I had a little doubt when S&W launch it back in 2006. My dad carries the M&P .40C as LEO and he loves it. My M&P AR is great. No issues either. I would love to see M&P and HK go head to head! As for the civilian market, HK would have more Civilians using their product if they promote more or lower the costs more. But they figure they don't have to because of their "brand".

  27. SDOG: FN makes a good pistol. I have about 500 rds throught the FNX for now (.40 cal is expensive) and not a single issue. Ergonormics are great and it's truly ambi controls (no swapping needed). FNP 45 is cool. Do you have optic sight on it?

  28. absolutely right, and who could disagree with you?

  29. I have carried a HK USP 40 v1 for over 15 years it was the older verion that came with a rifled barrel instead of polygonal barrel. I changed to a ambidextrous safety and placed XS big dot sites on it and I placed a surefire light on it in 1997 and I have never had a issue with it. The problem with the HK was the weapon came out just as the hi cap mag band came into effect so there where limited hi cap mags which made the price of the mags go thru the roof and the light rail was a HK design and no one else used it. HK at the time was not very friendly to the civilain market so alot of people where turned off to the gun because of the price of the mags and limetd after market accessory and HK customer service. Just my 2 cents.

  30. Not Brandon, but it's a decent enough pistol. Not worth the cost of the gun when I can get a regular USP for half the cost if I look around a bit.

    It IS accurate and fairly ergonomic, though.

  31. P226 always have problems with magazines, I know UK forces have been having problems with them.

  32. I carried the USP .45 and the Glock 17 for years. When it finally came down to picking one I went with the Glock for two simple reasons. WEIGHT and SIZE. The USP is built for concealment, particularly on a small framed person. Both were great guns and honestly the only think I miss about the USP was the oversized trigger guard the let me shoot it with winter gloves on. Oh, and the HP scope-mount/compensator was a lot of fun too.

  33. Anything made by HK is the best $600 gun you will pay $800 for.

    I think the same can be said for SiG (my preferance). Given the comparitive difference between other similar guns (that aren't 1911s), you're paying a $200 premium for the name brand.

  34. Nice. Kinda like the MK23 I got to shoot out in Niland CA back in my active days

  35. I wanna look into getting a FN FiveSeven 17 cal.

  36. HK fanboydom is a disorder nearly as bad as liberalism. :)

  37. Be careful prediction on military usage and contacts will cause major debate and arguments on here. Just talk about the gun its 100% OK. I hope you talk about M-4 and AR upgrades soon.

  38. The correct answer is you couldn't tell the difference so the choice is moot.

  39. I carry the HK USP 40 everyday for the last 13 years. I never had one problem. Yes the prices can get up there but like the old saying you get what you pay for. If you buy cheap you get unreliable garbage that will not be able to use. As for the weight hell ammo does not last for ever you can use it as a club and when you get more ammo it will still fire. To all of the HK doubters you can't beat quality and HK is quality.

  40. Brandon, I think thats one of the things that makes Kit Up!, is that you guys are engaged with the site. Keep it up!

  41. H&K 45c Beats anything i have ever had. I have had a GOLD cup, and a custom build race gun, all in 45 ACP. NOTHING BEATS A H&K PERIOD. Next is a SIG 228, or 232 . H&K 93's and 91's also

  42. My H&K USP40 was a bargain "at the right place at the right time"…I came out $500 poorer, and one fine pistol became mine. Several thousand rounds later, it's still flawless. I'd do it again in a minute.

  43. After shooting H-K products for 30 some years, all I can say is I've never had a problem with any products. Reliable-accurate-dependable-period.

  44. Review the Robinson XCR too. A newer one with the 2-stage trigger. I want to know!

  45. Yep. H&K is the way to go. They are a little spendy but worth every penny. BTW, I know the military doesn't have much experience with the .40 S&W round. That's too bad because it really is the "go to" round for -let's call it overall effectiveness. I own one 1911a1, a S&W 9mm, a .357 Mag S&W, a couple of .38's, a Springfield XD.40, a Ruger SR40, and my H&K USP .40. Of all of my pistols, the H&K is my favorite. (My wife likes it so much she stole it from me, though, so I only get to shoot it when she says I can ;-). The advantage of the .40 S&W is that it is very close to the 9mm is velocity and very close to the .45 in bullet size, so it take the best of both. It really is the best overall round out there. I sent my Beretta model 96 to the sand box with my son and unfortunately never got it back. So, in sum, having had almost every modern pistol caliber out there, the .40 S&W H&K gets my vote.

  46. No, and it is unnecessary. The DI works just fine.

  47. People with more experience in that field than you supposedly have deny this. Read Dr. Vincent DiMaio's "Gunshot Wounds". I'll give him more credit than any comment on a gun blog.

  48. It's a bigger bullet; it should put a bigger hole in the target; both with work, it's just a matter of preference. It's the same as the .38 vs .357 Mag and 5.56 mm. vs 7.62 mm. debates…..

  49. I wonder if all the hate on Beretta isn't just because it deposed the legendary 1911. I suspect the 226 would be having the same complaints now, and well, Sig's clearly aren't what they used to be.

  50. Stopping power may be a misnomer, but to take a target out of the fight means to render the target unconscious or otherwise incapable of any action. Head shots from a variety of calibers of a variety of loads may achieve very similar results and there is little denying that shot placement is important.

    One way to render a target unconscious quickly and to otherwise remove the target from the fight requires a blow to the central nervous system (CNS). As mentioned a head shot can achieve this, but so can inducing a quick and massive blood loss or damaging the airways among other ways. It probably is not as quick as a head shot however.

    A bigger bullet may cause more tissue damage and increase blood loss as there is more of it moving around to possibly strike a major vessel or fragment bone compared to a smaller bullet. Major deformation or fragmentation of the projectile is also important as well, to increase the "volume" of damage dealt to a target and to increase chances of increased bleeding and hitting something important such as but not limited to lungs, airway, major blood vessels (aorta, femoral, radial, carotid, celiac, etc), bones.

  51. Marc, first of all, I could take the "gunraggery" comment as some kind of insult. But I won't. I assume its more of an attempt to say that the PHD's opinions weigh more than mine. I assure you, they do not. A PHD only gets you so far on this subject. Iam more than qualified to make comments on terminal ballistics. I probably have more experience in the field than most of those PHD's, not to mention, most of the top ballistics experts today have no such title. Don't let the title fool you, most of those PHD's were earned learning about things that have nothing to do with terminal ballistic effectiveness.

    I was right and wrong about Dr. DiMaio. He is a modern combined ballistic method proponent, however he sides more with the Fackler doctrine. So, in a way, Dr. DiMaio does agree with my views to a certain point.

    As far as the debate we have here. Dr. Fackler's findings and RII method have been proven wrong more times than not. The modern method of identifying terminal effectiveness is considered to be the "combined method". Almost every police department in the country has gone to this method for choosing duty ammo. Dr. Fackler and his "lab methods" are completely inconsistent with real world results, which is why LEO's have moved away from this kind of narrow minded thought process. The fact is, the street and battlefield have shown .45ACP to be more effective than 9mm. I have witnessed these real world findings myself.

    Understand, that when dealing with FMJ, the performance of a projectile is going to be based primarily on caliber and penetration depth. However, there is no gaurentee that any FMJ will be effective unless placed in the vital zones of the body. Shot placement is key with FMJ. With HP ammo you have a completely different performance curve. But, in a military setting, .45 will trump 9mm. If you have any questions about my experiences or methods, or want to hear more, please let me know.

  52. And I'm sure that all the extra grains are insignificant since the bullet is only a wee bit bigger; when I say "bigger", I am referring to the round as a whole. Yes, the bullet is only a bit bigger, but the amount of powder in the cartridge is increased, creating a projectile traveling at a higher speed…..

  53. I own a MK23 and adore it like my own child. It's completely ridiculous as a carry weapon, but as a pure object of desire, it has no equal (for me). The USP is only marginally less lovely. I have a wonderful video on my phone of my eleven year old son rapid firing seven rounds into the black at ten yards, with the MK23. It is my end of the world gun. Spare everything purchased with the gun; 5000+ rounds later and I haven't touched/broken anything. Yes, I paid nearly $2K for it, but I'd buy it again in a heartbeat.

  54. I owned a HK .40 USP Expert. It was a great gun: accurate, reliable, easy to control, etc. The main reason I got rid of it is a lack of aftermarket accessories that are available for my current carry gun – Glock 17.
    It was hard to find a holster that didnt cost over $100 for the HK because it had the extended height sights to accomodate a suppressor. Mags were hard to find and expensive…etc. It became a safe queen.
    There is no comparison between HK and Glock. But it's kind of like buying a Porsche vs. a Chevy. One you drive on the weekends, the other you do your work in…

    I am interested in HK 45C, I think that one will be perfect.

  55. I have to say i respect all the opinions out there on caliber,whats best and what not. I am not a policeman, i have been shooting since i was 5. I have owned everything from 22 cal handguns to 44mags. I was a US Marine where i got to shoot alot of stuff. I think the bottomline is shoot what u want and are proficient with!!!Honestly, if the "shtf" at home, im not reaching for any of my handguns!!! my trusty winchester 1300 slug gun loaded with 00 buck shot is what im reaching for hoping that as soon as the bad guy hears me pump that gun, he is gonna crap himself and choose to leave!!!

  56. Once many semi-auto. hand guns were tested (buried in mud, frozen, submerged in
    salt water, etc, etc,) only HK and Glock didn't fail.
    No wonder SEALs use them.

  57. Good stuff. I like the .45 ACP because you can suppress it without using special ammo. Going with 9mm it's sometimes hard to find the 147+ grain stuff. It's a little more expensive to and by that time I might as well be shooting .45 anyways.

  58. Almost got rid of my USP 45. What have been a big mistake. Great forum here. Fantastic reading.

  59. FYI the first polymer framed pistol was designed by H&K (H&K VP70), not Glock.

  60. I am a proud owner of the USP 45 and gave it my own little torture test along with a Glock 1st gen and Navy Sig 226's issued from our armory. The Sig is a fine weapon however, the magazines are substandard in operational environments/Team use. The Glock had adjustable sights. One very cold day in Kodiak while out on an op I went to brush the frozen salt water off, the screw portion of the sight broke and on the deck out the scuppers it went. Countless rounds, Maritime environments and the H&K still going strong. Have it on my hip as I write this. On time, On target never quit!!

  61. Jon Bladefoot | July 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Reply

    Ive owned my USP .45 since 2000,My glock is a fine gun but the years and rounds have shown a clear winner.To such a degree that my best friend bought one-one with more way more use(mine 4000+)his and this is a guess (10,000)his ejection port is completely silver,no paint.Yet side by side(Laura Croft style)dumping 10 from each,I was totally dumbfounded as to which was which-identical!!!!
    I find that my groupings are tighter and the confidence I feel when using it is from knowing it will do what I ask of it everytime.Yes it's expensive and accessories are like buying after market for a Ferrari-just open your wallet.But!!!If your going to go 220 mph.I rather do it in a Ferrari than a Fiat.
    Yet its just my thoughts.It dosent mean im right.

  62. I am an ER surgeon. 9mm bullets tend to zip through soft tissue and exit , thus much of the energy the bullet was carrying is lost. I have only seen a few .45 wounds and all were essentially deceased by the time we got them. I believe the sectional density of the bullet when you compare frontal area of the bullet obviously gives the larger bullet the advantage. If hollowpoints are considered it comes back to the same thing, was all of the energy transfered to the target ? Or was some lost because of excessive velocity and over penetration. This may seem odd but .22 LR is one of the most deadly, you can get hit in the arm and the bullet is so easily deflected, it can end up in your brain.

    The guy in here that uses the shotgun wins, 12 , 30 caliber bullets fired at the same time at about 1200 fps almost garantees the bad guy won't see morning.

    BTW, I carry a Glock 26, damn good gun, but I like my HK USP 45, the fact that it has a single action mode is what beats the Glock 21.

    Remember , your handgun should only be used to fight your way back to your rifle.

  63. I love the USP! You can never go wrong with the .45 ACP. It's America's Hero.

  64. Isn't this simple physics M = mass x velocity. It's momentum that delivers the energy.

  65. Hi Brandon,

    What do you think about compact vs standard full size? This will be the first gun I’ve ever owned. I’m going to buy the Smith and Wesson M&p .40. Is there really any concealment advantage and is there a trade off?

  66. I am a relatively new shooter, meaning I now have my own guns. My son had a USP .45 that I tried & fell in love with. I have long fingers & the grip fit me perfectly. This past Christmas my husband bought me that gun & I've been going to the range twice a week to shoot. I LOVE THIS GUN! I was concerned that I would have trouble taking it apart, cleaning it & putting it back together, but it's been very easy to do. It is too big a gun for me to conceal/carry. Even the compact version is too big for me to carry so I ended up buying a Kimber Ultra Carry with laser grips. I would have purchased another H&K in a heartbeat if there was one available in a .45 that was the same size as the Kimber.

    Is there a conversion kit for the .45 USP to make it into a .22LR? The .22 ammo is more affordable for target shooting & as quickly as it can be changed out, I could still practice with both caliburs.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.