Heckler & Koch USP: A pistol with probably the best ergonomics of its time

HK USP Compact Tactical .45 ACP
HK USP Compact Tactical .45 ACP (Photo: XY)

Heckler & Koch USP is an accurate, well-made, rugged, reliable, functional pistol often used as a service sidearm. It’s an impressive pistol known to absorb the recoil of .45 ACP well through the weight, mass, design, and wider grip to accommodate a 12-round magazine.


The USP stands for Universal Slebstlade Pistole (universal self-loading pistol). It was designed and developed by German Heckler & Koch.


The Heckler & Koch designers started working on USP in 1989. The base of the future USP was a Heckler & Koch Mk 23 pistol. It was intended for wide use, including civilians and military and law enforcement markets. In 1993, Heckler & Koch started serial production of USP. In the first batch, Heckler & Koch developed various variants.

HK USP 45 with SureFire light attachment
HK USP 45 with SureFire light attachment (Photo: XY)

In 1995, the Bundeswehr adopted USP as the primary sidearm designated as P8. Today, the HK USP is used in more than 20 countries. The first version of the USP has been chambered in .40 S&W caliber. At the time, it was a relatively new caliber. However, other versions of the USP appeared shortly, chambered in 9×19 mm Parabellum, .45 ACP, and .375 SIG ammunition (USP Compact).

The Heckler & Koch USP has a metal reinforced polymer frame and one-piece milled steel slide. All metal parts have an exceptional finish that protects against corrosion and wear. Users can even keep the pistol for prolonged periods in saltwater. It is a short-recoil-operated weapon with a unique patented recoil reduction system.

The USP has a double-action trigger. It can also be in a single-action firing sequence. Also, there are versions with a double-action-only trigger. There are nine basic variations of the trigger and safety arrangements. Some of them have a safety lever on the right side. Others are without a manual safety or with a decock-only lever. This pistol also has an automatic firing pin safety.

HK USP9SD (tactical) of the Pasukan Gerakan Khas, fitted with Brügger & Thomet sound suppressor, Picatinny pistol rail and Aimpoint Micro T-1
HK USP9SD (tactical) of the Pasukan Gerakan Khas, fitted with Brügger & Thomet sound suppressor, Picatinny pistol rail, and Aimpoint Micro T-1 (Photo: XY)

The Heckler & Koch company was so confident with the USP that they gave it a lifetime warranty. The service life of this pistol is around 20 000 shots. The USP is fed from a double-stack magazine that holds 15 rounds. The magazine release button is ambidextrous.

This pistol has simple sights that are dovetailed to the slide. The USP is accurate at ranges of up to 50 meters. The maximum range of fire is about 60 meters. There are universal mounting groves under the barrel for various accessories, such as a tactical flashlight or laser pointer.


  • USP Standart, a baseline version.
  • USP Compact, a compact version. It was revealed in 1994. Production of this pistol began in 1996. The USP Compact is the only version of the USP, chambered in .375 SIG ammunition. Its magazine holds 8 to 13 rounds, depending on the caliber. In 1997 a version of the USP Compact chambered in 9×19 mm was adopted by German police as the P10.
  • USP Compact Tactical, a compact version of the USP with a threaded barrel. It can be fitted with a sound suppressor.
  • USP Tactical is a version developed for special military and law enforcement forces. It has an extended threaded barrel. It can be fitted with a sound suppressor. Also, it has adjustable rear sight.
  • USP Elite, a version intended for the civilian market. It has adjustable front and rear sights. It is mainly designed as a target pistol.
  • USP Expert, a version intended for the civilian market. It has adjustable rear sight.
HK USP Elite and Expert 9 mm pistols
HK USP Elite and Expert 9 mm with Merkle Tuning weights (Photo: XY)
  • USP Match is a target version intended for the civilian market.
  • HK45 is a version chambered in .45 ACP. It was designed to meet the requirements of the US armed forces to replace the M9 pistol. However, this US program was suspended in 2006. Despite that, in 2008, the HK45 pistol was adopted by special units of Western Australian Police. In 2010 its compact version, the HK45C, was adopted by US Navy Special Warfare Command.

Technical specifications

Country of origin:Germany
Action:Short recoil, DA/SA, DA/DAO
Caliber:9×19 mm Parabellum
Weight (empty):720 g
Weight (loaded):805 g
Length:194 mm
Barrel length:108 mm
Muzzle velocity:350 m/s
Magazine capacity:15 rounds
Sighting range:50 m
Range of effective fire:50 m
Feed system:15 round detachable box magazine


  1. I had a UPS .45 but there was quite a bit of factory ammo that wouldn’t feed or stove pipe. I took it to two different gunsmith and they couldn’t find anything wrong. I ended up selling it.


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