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Old 01-23-2011, 02:05 PM
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Default The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots!

The Glock fanciers among us (I guess there are some) might believe that the polymer frame was first introduced for pistols with the 9mm Glock 17.

It was not.

A bit of history. In the late 1950s, Remington introduced the Nylon 66 .22 semiautomatic rifle. This was the first firearm produced with a polymer frame.

In 1968, Heckler & Koch, in Germany, created a 9mm pistol that was ahead of its time and set a trend that continues to this day. Invented by Helmut Weldle and Alex Seidel, a co-founder of the company, it was subsequently known as the VP70. The "VP" stood for Volkspistole (People's pistol) and the 70 represented the year of first manufacture. This was the first polymer-frame pistol.

There were two models. The first was the VP70M, the military version. The "M" stood for Militar, or "Military" in German. It came with a detachable holster/buttstock. When attached, it converted the pistol into a selective fire machine pistol. A switch on the stock allowed for both semiautomatic and 3-shot bursts.

The second was the VP70Z. The "Z" stood for Zivilversion, or civilian version. This one was semiautomatic only. One of these is illustrated below.

The VP70 series pioneered some concepts. These were striker fired, but when at rest and at the ready, no springs were partially compressed, unlike the later Glocks. The pistol was double action only. A pull on the stiff 18-pound-pull trigger both fully cocked and released the striker. Repeat strikes on the primer are possible with this system, unlike that used on the Glock.

The frame was polymer, with internal steel components. The slide and barrel were of course, steel. The barrel was fixed to the frame, much like the Walther PP pistol. Takedown was also similar to the PP. A latch located above the trigger was lowered, the slide pulled fully to the rear, and then lifted up at the rear. The slide could then be slid off to the front. A recoil spring surrounded the barrel, again like the PP.

Amazingly, the pistol was a blowback design, with no locking mechanism. The weight savings in the frame made up for the rather heavy slide. The double stack, slant-feed magazines held 18 rounds, making it a 19-shot pistol with one in the chamber.

The front sight was a wide polished ramp, with a darkened groove in its center. To my knowledge, this was unique. The safety was a push-button behind the trigger which locked the trigger. The mag release was at the heel, European-style.

The VP70s were totally reliable and built like tanks. One has been reported as firing over half a million rounds over the years, with no malfunctions attributable to the pistol.

Its bulk and that long, heavy double-action pull probably doomed the pistol. The only nations that adopted it were Morocco, Paraguay, and Portugal. It was discontinued by H&K in 1989.

Today, it's still a very serviceable, formidable and reliable self-defense pistol, but it's becoming more of a collector's item now. I thought you'd like to see one!

John

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Old 01-23-2011, 02:21 PM
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Thanks for the info and pic. Very interesting.
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Old 01-23-2011, 02:39 PM
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I'f I'm not mistaken, the James Bond character carried one of these in the John Gardner novel "License Renewed" as his personal sidearm. I've seen them in the past, but they are far from common. Nice pistol.
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Old 01-23-2011, 03:34 PM
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Informative post, thanks for sharing.
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Old 01-23-2011, 03:49 PM
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I had a VP70Z for about one month in the early '90s. The trigger pull was undoubtedly the worst I have ever experienced on any pistol before or since. I sold it to an HK collector.

Paladin, didn't the magazines hold 19 rounds?


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Old 01-23-2011, 04:20 PM
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I maintain a database of VP-70Z serial numbers. It's large enough that I am fairly certain that about 20,000 VP-70Z's were built for the civilian market, mostly in 9x19. There were about 400 pistols built near the end of production in 9x21 for sale mostly in Italy.

The earliest serial number I have seen was 732xx, made in 1980. The latest known for the US was 919xx, made in 1984. The 9x21 pistols are in the range 93000 to 93400. I have seen one later 9x19 with serial number 935xx that was located in Austria.

Keep in mind that these weapons were originally intended as machine pistols (VP-70M) that would be issued to civilians if the Communist hordes poured over the border. A perfect trigger was not that important for that use. The three shot burst capability was built into the shoulder stock that came with the "M" models. The numbering system would suggest that about 75000 of the "M" models were built, but that is just an educated guess on my part. The simplicity and ruggedness , not to mention capacity, of the design were superb for the time.

The trigger can be significantly improved. Wolff sells a reduced weight striker spring that will get the pull down to 12-13 pounds, and I have gotten to 9 pounds by clipping off two spring coils, without affecting ignition in the least. Reliability of the pistol is legendary. I've heard it said that if you could get a brick into the magazine, the pistol would feed it.

The only real PITA is that there were no aftermarket mags built for the pistols. Originals will set you back $50-$100, depending on your luck in finding them.

John, thanks for starting this thread.

Buck

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Old 01-23-2011, 04:57 PM
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Ah, the infamous H&K Boat Anchor...
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Old 01-23-2011, 08:39 PM
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The VP70 was used in the movie "Aliens" as the standard side arm of the galactic marines. It was used because it was obscure and had a futuristic look.
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Old 01-23-2011, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Bullseye 2620 View Post
Paladin, didn't the magazines hold 19 rounds?
Bullseye
Nope. Factory literature says 18 rounds, and that's all I can cram into mine.

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Old 01-23-2011, 08:45 PM
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The only real PITA is that there were no aftermarket mags built for the pistols. Originals will set you back $50-$100, depending on your luck in finding them.
Buck
Buck,

First, thanks for the additional information. Very interesting!

As to the magazines - I have seen them most recently advertised for $79.00 each. I was lucky with this pistol. When I acquired it, it came with five spare mags!

John
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Old 01-31-2011, 06:02 PM
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Default AND it shoots!

Well, in spite of the horror stories about how an 18-pound gritty double action pull would probably spoil the accuracy of an otherwise exceptional pistol, it's evident to me that the H&K designers did a pretty good job.

I took my H&K VP 70 Z to the range today and wrung it out. Here are my first 18 shots on a silhouette target at 7 yards. It was fired at about a "timed fire" cadence as fast as the target could be re-acquired and the trigger pulled. Those shots kept going into a group that can be covered with one hand. The factory fixed sights required no adjustment whatsoever.

The only problem I had was that in near darkness, the unusual front sight is difficult to distinguish. The front sight consists of a wide polished ramp, in the center of which is a straight darkened groove. In good light, this appears as a dark, thin front sight, and prevents the usual bluing wear that can develop on a conventional front sight. However, in darkness, that front sight becomes a blob that you cannot center in the rear sight.

All in all, I was pleased with the way this 31-year old innovative pistol performed. Recoil was mild in spite of it being a blow-back action. Once you get used to the trigger, it pulls through with the letoff being a bit of a surprise, which works to advantage. I wouldn't hesitate to use it as a robust self-defense pistol.

John

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Old 01-31-2011, 07:52 PM
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Back in the mid-eighties I had a chance to buy one of these at a very reasonable price. Since then I've often regretted passing on it. They are fine pistols, unappreciated at the time.
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Old 01-31-2011, 08:24 PM
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John,

The "IB" code on the barrel dates your gun to 1981, probably late-1981. H-K date codes were:

Letter #
A 0
B 1
C 2
D 3
E 4
F 5
G 6
H 7
I 8
K 9

I think its late-1981 because I have 843xx in my database that has a 1982 "IC" code.

One other small piece of trivia... slide removal on this model is the same as the WWII Sauer 38H.

Buck
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Old 02-01-2011, 12:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haggis View Post
John,

The "IB" code on the barrel dates your gun to 1981, probably late-1981. H-K date codes were:

Letter #
A 0
B 1
C 2
D 3
E 4
F 5
G 6
H 7
I 8
K 9

I think its late-1981 because I have 843xx in my database that has a 1982 "IC" code.

One other small piece of trivia... slide removal on this model is the same as the WWII Sauer 38H.

Buck
Buck,

I already knew the HK date codes, so I had 1981 already figured out. The serial on this one is higher than the one in your database which is coded 1982, so I guess they did not ship them in any particular serial order. Interesting. I was not aware of the Sauer 38H takedown method. I saw this as just a variation of the method used on the PP, where pulling down the trigger guard has pretty much the same effect of allowing the slide to come back farther for lifting and removal. Thanks for the info.

John
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Old 12-09-2012, 02:31 PM
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Default VP70Z Serial numbers

Buck

I have a couple of VP70Z's.One has a 739xx serial # with "HK" date code imported by SACO. The other is serial #927xx with ''IG'' date code.Would you happen to know what year H&K started sending them to the USA? I've only heard that it was late 70's.Thanks

John
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Old 12-09-2012, 04:12 PM
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Had one - you'd be shocked at how much velocity you don't get out of these big, clunky things. Blowback is really not the way to go with a 9x19, unless you absolutely must.

Here's something you might not know - like at least one other HK design (compare the HK4 and the Mauser HSc), the Volkspistole was pretty much directly lifted from a WWII Mauser design.
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Old 12-09-2012, 04:32 PM
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I would like to shoot the machine pistol version of this gun.
Otherwise, not so much interest.

It has always looked to me like the VP70 fell out of the ugly tree and hit
every branch on the way down. Give me a BHP or a Colt Commander
9mm instead, please.
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Old 12-09-2012, 04:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bullseye 2620 View Post
I had a VP70Z for about one month in the early '90s. The trigger pull was undoubtedly the worst I have ever experienced on any pistol before or since.
I guess you've never shot a Colt All American 2000...
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:50 PM
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"I'f I'm not mistaken, the James Bond character carried one of these in the John Gardner novel "License Renewed" as his personal sidearm. I've seen them in the past, but they are far from common. Nice pistol."

It was certainly one of Gardner's better choices, in my mind. Although giving Bond an FN Mle. 1903 was a good choice and frankly in-character for him, it apparently got negative backlash from fans. So he used VP70Z, an H&K P7, and finally a Smith & Wesson ASP. That's replaced by a Browning BDA (perhaps coincidentally, Alec Trevelyan uses this gun in the film GoldenEye, though only in the opening sequence...once he comes back as a bad guy, he's shown to have upgraded to a Browning BDM), then we get the rather bizarre choice of a Walther P38K, and then revert back to the ASP. Raymond Benson has gone back to the PPK, although he supplements it with a Walther P99 in 9mm.

Then again, some of Gardner's choices in guns were equally questionable to Fleming's. For example, a Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44 Mag bugged me. ANY reader of the Fleming novels knows that Bond has an odd obsession with small-caliber guns (think .25 ACP to .32 ACP), to the point where he's criticized for it. In the film version of Dr. No, M says "that damned Beretta" (a Beretta 418 in the novels) keeps jamming. In the novels, he was also increasingly worried about its stopping power, which was probably Geoffrey Boothroyd's influence on Ian Fleming showing. The PPK in .32 ACP given to Bond in the novels is viewed by him as being too much gun (!!!) at first, although he quickly adapts to it. With that said, Fleming's Bond was also fond of (and not afraid of using) collector's items. IIRC, Felix Leiter (again, probably Boothroyd's influence) was basically shocked when he found out Bond was actually sticking a Colt Model 1873 SAA under his Bentley's front seat. Apparently, the .45 LC was as far as Bond was willing to take it. He had an odd distaste for the Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket Automatic (remember the line in Thunderball, the film, where he tells Largo regarding his shotgun "that gun looks more fit for a woman"? It's a callback to the novel, where he's of the opinion that the Colt 1908's small size makes it more fit for a woman.), but aside from that, it was small caliber all the way.

Also, we can criticize Fleming's Bond's Bentleys and Aston Martin DB Mark III (incorrectly called a "DB III" by Fleming...different car...) all we want...but a certain gadget-laden Saab 900 Turbo comes to mind as being near self-parodic...
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Old 12-09-2012, 06:04 PM
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Why is it always 'polymer' and not what it really is , plastic?

Why is it always "lightweight alloy" and not aluminum?
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Old 12-09-2012, 06:47 PM
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While we're at it, don't forget "Coltalloy" for the early Colt Commanders (aluminum) and "Coltwood" for most of the grips (plastic).

With that said, if you marketed a gun as "plastic-framed", I doubt you'd have as many customers. On the other hand, I honestly don't think calling a gun "aluminum-framed" would be a negative. With that said, when the Colt Commander was introduced, people were used to aluminum bending. Even though the Army never accepted the Commander, they did at least acknowledge its structural integrity, and my guess is that's why you saw Colt marketing its guns as "Coltalloy" and then just plain "alloy". But aluminum has aged well enough that you can call gun "aluminum-framed" without dissing it (especially since the actual metallurgy got better).

"Plastic" doesn't have particularly high connotations, though. "Plastic gun" and "plastic frame" have evolved into derisions and unlike "aluminum frame", I don't think that will change any time soon. Still, I do see another case for specifying the kind of plastic. Thermoset, Polymer, ABS, and even Bakelite are or were all used in the gun industry and all are pretty different from each other. If you're going to call a plastic gun a "plastic gun", you might as well also call any gun made of metal a "metal gun".
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Old 12-09-2012, 08:26 PM
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I had an HK P9S for a while. It was built in 1976. I think they were made until about 1986. I ought have kept it. Was a handy single stack 9 mm. I had 9 mags for it.
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Old 12-09-2012, 08:32 PM
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I had the chance to shoot one a few years ago. It by far had the worst trigger I've ever seen. It must have a 20lb break...

Last edited by J. W.; 12-09-2012 at 08:51 PM.
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Old 12-09-2012, 10:04 PM
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Paladin, you forgot one!



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Old 12-09-2012, 10:39 PM
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I purchased one when they first came out. I was impressed by the fusion of caliber, plastic and capacity. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with the trigger or the SIZE of the pistol. Way too big. Definitely a game changer in small arms design: most high capacity polymer guns made today owe a hat tip to the VP 70 vision of what handguns could be.

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Old 12-09-2012, 10:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjr View Post
Back in the mid-eighties I had a chance to buy one of these at a very reasonable price. Since then I've often regretted passing on it. They are fine pistols, unappreciated at the time.
Yeah, I remember reading about the VP70Z when they first came out and I knew that they predated the Glock as a polymer frame pistol. Although how many people know that the system of pre-cocking the mainspring halfway precedes the Glock 17 by about 70 years, in the Steyr 1908? (I call it 1-1/2 action - halfway between single action and double action.)

Wasn't that long ago (maybe 5 years) that I was still seeing the VP70Z for $300-350. I think the last few I've seen have been around the $500 range. Kept thinking about getting one for the novelty value but never did. $500 isn't out of my range for sheer novelty (depending on what it is) but after passing them over for so long when they were $300, I can't bring myself to pay $500 now.
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Old 12-10-2012, 12:43 AM
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"Why is it always 'polymer' and not what it really is , plastic?
Why is it always "lightweight alloy" and not aluminum?"


Plastic and polymer are not actually synonymous. In fact the term "Polymer" is a little more precise than plastic, which simply means "moldable." But even at that, there are hundreds of different chemically-diffferent polymers (nylon, teflon, polyethylene, styrene, polycarbonate, and on and on). Lightweight alloy could encompass numerous metal alloys based on aluminum or magnesium. A better generic descriptive term would be aluminum alloy (or possibly magnesium alloy), but then there are a great many different aluminum alloys just as there are a great many polymers.
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Old 12-10-2012, 06:26 AM
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The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots!  
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This one of the guns I regret trading back in the day. The trigger was not the best but it was not the worst by any means.

I traded it to a THP trooper for a 645 so I did OK but still wish I had it back even though I am not a big fan of 9mm.
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Old 12-10-2012, 12:03 PM
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The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots!  
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I got one of these when they first came out. (I can probably dig up the SN.) The trigger pull was atrocious. It is one of the few guns that I've traded that I don't regret!
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Old 12-10-2012, 05:59 PM
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The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots! The very first polymer-frame pistol! AND it shoots!  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kanewpadle View Post
Paladin, you forgot one!



Remington Xp 100 1963-1998
I must be getting forgetful in my old age. In fairness, the XP-100 was more of a rifle than a pistol. However! You showed me yours; I'll show you mine!

John

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bullseye, glock, military, polymer, primer, remington, sauer, silhouette, takedown, walther, wwii

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