Pistol Heckler & Koch USP

Pistol Heckler & Koch USP

The USP (Universelle Selbstladepistole or “universal self-loading pistol”) is a semi-automatic pistol developed in Germany by Heckler & Koch GmbH (H&K) of Oberndorf am Neckar as a replacement for the P7 series of handguns.

Design details

The USP is a semi-automatic pistol with a mechanically locked breech using the short recoil method of operation. This rather conventional lock-up system has a large rectangular lug over the barrel’s chamber that rides into and engages the ejection port cut-out in the slide. When a cartridge is fired, pressures generated by the ignited powder drive the cartridge casing back against the breech face on the slide, driving back both the barrel and slide as they remain locked together in the manner described above. After 3 mm (0.12 in) of unrestricted rearward travel, the projectile has left the barrel and gas pressures have dropped to a safe level. A shaped lug on the underside of the barrel chamber comes into contact with a hooked locking block at the end of the steel recoil spring guide rod, lowering the rear end of the barrel and stopping the barrel’s rearward movement. The recoil spring assembly is held in place by the slide stop lever’s axis pin and a round cut-out at the front of the slide. For enhanced reliability in high-dust environments, the locking surface on the front top of the barrel’s locking lug is tapered with a forward slope. This tapered surface produces a camming action which assists in positive lock-up in the presence of heavy fouling and debris.

One of the most significant features of the USP is the mechanical recoil reduction system. This system is incorporated into the recoil spring assembly, located below the barrel and consists of a heavy, captive coil spring around the guide rod. Designed primarily to buffer the slide and barrel and reduce recoil effects on the pistol components, the system also lowers the recoil forces felt by the shooter up to 30%. The USP recoil reduction system is insensitive to ammunition types and does not require adjustment or maintenance. It functions effectively in all USP models. Using this same recoil reduction system, one of the related H&K Mk 23 .45 ACP pistols fired more than 30,000 high pressure +P cartridges and 6,000 proof loads without damage or excessive wear to any major components. Abuse and function-testing of USPs have seen more than 20,000 rounds of .40 S&W fired without a component failure. Milspec environmental tests were conducted in high and low temperatures, in mud, immersed in water and in salt spray. In one particular test, a bullet was deliberately lodged in the barrel and another bullet was fired to clear the obstruction. The barrel was successfully cleared with only minor structural deformation and continued to produce consistent groups when test fired for accuracy.


The USP was originally built around the .40 S&W cartridge, but a 9×19mm Parabellum was introduced at the same time. In May 1995, Heckler & Koch introduced a .45 ACP variant. The USP Compact series was introduced in 1996 and is available in 9 mm Parabellum, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and, exclusively to the Compact model, .357 SIG. Other variants of the standard USP include the USP Tactical, USP Expert, USP Match, USP Elite and the standard sidearm of the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr)—the P8. The USP Tactical .45 ACP variant is also in limited use by the Bundeswehr, designated as the P12.

One of the unique features of the USP is the wide variety of the trigger styles available, which may be quickly swapped. There are nine commercially available modifications (called “variants” by HK).

By using a modular approach to the internal components, the control functions of the USP can be switched from the left to the right side of the pistol for left-handed shooters. The USP can also be converted from one type of trigger/firing mode to another. This includes combination of double-action and single-action (DA/SA) and double-action only (DAO) modes.


The USP has an accessory rail at the front of the frame for attachments of aftermarket equipment such as laser sights and weapon lights. The rail is of proprietary design (versus the common picatinny rail), so equipment options are limited compared to other tactical pistols. For instance, one of the few weapon lights compatible with the USP is the UTL (Universal Tactical Light) made by Insight Technology, and is only available through H&K dealers. As a workaround, some companies offer adapters to convert the USP’s rail for use with attachment to mount to picatinny rails. SureFire adapters for both the USP and USP Compact are compatible with their accessories, and GG&G makes the two similar adapters for compatibility with Streamlight’s TLR range of weapon lights and lasers. In theory, since both companies’ adapters use the semi-standard picatinny design, the adapters should accept any standard pistol mounted weapon light, but because the USP has such a large trigger guard and since there is no strict standard for rail placement, some lights may not be within finger reach of the operator.


Mass Without magazine:

  • 748 g (1.65 lb) (USP 9 mm/.40)
  • 789 g (1.74 lb) (USP .45)
  • 667 g (1.47 lb) (Compact 9 mm)
  • 694 g (1.53 lb) (Compact .40)
  • 726 g (1.60 lb) (Compact .45)
  • 771 g (1.70 lb) (Tactical 9 mm)
  • 861 g (1.90 lb) (Tactical .40/.45)
  • 875 g (1.93 lb) (Expert .40)
  • 848 g (1.87 lb) (Expert .45)
  • 1180 g (2.6 lb) (Match 9mm/.40/.45)
  • 194 mm (7.64 in) (USP 9 mm/.40)
  • 201 mm (7.87 in) (USP .45)
  • 173 mm (6.81 in) (Compact 9 mm/.40)
  • 219 mm (8.64 in) (Tactical .40/.45)
  • 224 mm (8.81 in) (Expert .40)
  • 240 mm (9.45 in) (Match)
Barrel length
  • 108 mm (4.25 in) (USP 9 mm/.40)
  • 112 mm (4.41 in) (USP .45)
  • 91 mm (3.58 in) (Compact 9 mm/.40)
  • 97 mm (3.80 in) (Compact .45)
  • 121 mm (4.78 in) (Tactical 9 mm/.40)
  • 132 mm (5.19 in) (Expert .40/.45)
  • 153 mm (6.02 in) (Elite)[2]
  • 153 mm (6.02 in) (Match)

  • 9×19mm Parabellum
  • .357 SIG (Compact only)
  • .40 S&W
  • .45 ACP
Action Short recoil, DA/SA, [[Trigger (firearms)|DA/DAO]]
Rate of fire Semi-automatic
Effective firing range 50 m (9×19mm Parabellum), 30 m (.45 ACP)
Maximum firing range 100 m
Feed system Detachable box magazine; capacities:

  • 15 rounds (9×19mm)
  • 13 rounds (.40 S&W)
  • 12 rounds (.45 ACP)

Match, Expert

  • 18 rounds (9×19mm)
  • 16 rounds (.40 S&W)
  • 12 rounds (.45 ACP)


  • 13 rounds (9×19mm)
  • 12 rounds (.357, .40 S&W)
  • 8 or 10 rounds (.45 ACP)
  • Patridge, “3-dot” type; adjustable rear on TacticalMatch and Expert
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