Review: HK USP Compact 9mm Pistol

A while ago I wrote on the HK USP45 and its impressive history in both institutional use and among civilian shooters. Based on the MK23 Offensive Handgun Weapon System designed for U.S. SOCOM, the design is durable and well-tested. The Universal Service Pistol (USP) is built to last and feels like a tank. I enjoyed the pistol so much, I wanted to give its little brother a shot. 

The USP Compact is available in 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. However, the .45 is slightly larger to accommodate the bigger cartridge. Models chambered in .357 SIG were once offered, but they are only available on the secondary market now. As the name suggests, the USP-C features reduced dimensions to aid in comfort and concealability during everyday carry. The pistol is slightly smaller than a Glock 19 or SIG P229. 

Full size and compact USP pistols
The USP Compact carries over many of the features that made the full-size pistol a success.

HK USP-C Features

The USP Compact carries over many of the features that made the full-size pistol a success. The hammer-fired pistol is available in a double-action/single-action V1 variant, as well as a double-action-only V7 “LEM” variant. Both are accurate, reliable, and durable. I picked up the standard DA/SA model chambered in 9mm, as it is the most similar to other pistol actions I use. 

The pistol ships with dovetailed steel three-dot sights but is available with a night sight option. If you go with the standard model, it comes with two 13-round magazines; the night sight model comes with three. 

The magazines feature an extended baseplate to catch your pinky. They are the same magazines that come with the HK P2000. These are nice. However, for better concealment, I recommend you pick up a few flat replacement plates. These are OEM and just as reliable. 

The USP Compact also accepts 15-, 17-, and 20-round HK P30/VP9 magazines. However, these magazines extend past the grip. If you’re planning to use these, I’d pair them with an adapter from X-Grip to prevent any issues with overinsertion or wobble. 

The grip features a pebble-like texturing on the side panels, as well as a checkered frontstrap and backstrap. The texturing provides good traction when squeezed in a firm grip, but is not too rough against the skin while carrying. The pistol incorporates an extended slide release and ambidextrous, paddle-style magazine release. Both are easy to reach and activate with a firing grip. The rear slide serrations aren’t deep, but they’re wide and provide a good purchase when racking the slide. 

HK USP Compact backstrap
The grip features nice texturing.

HK knows how to make a firearm that can take hard use and look good while doing it. The USP Compact features a thick 3.58-inch barrel and chamber capable of withstanding heavy fire. The recoil spring is a captive, flat design with a polymer buffer to help cushion the action. At around a 5-pound single-action pull, and an 11.5-pound double-action pull, this is no match trigger. However, it works perfectly for self-defense. 

Unfortunately, the proprietary rail is a drawback, but there are Picatinny rail adapters and direct-mount light/laser options that bridge the issue. Further, the pistol and magazines are completely manufactured in Germany, meaning they’re high-quality but a little pricey. 


  • Overall length: 6.81 inches 
  • Overall height: 5 inches
  • Overall width: 1.38 inches
  • Sight radius: 5.31 inches
  • Overall weight: 27.20 ounces (without magazine)
  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Barrel: 3.58-inch, polygonal rifling
  • Magazine: 13-round
  • Sights: Three-dot

Additional Features

  • Semi-automatic pistol
  • V1 double-action/single-action
  • Safety/decocking lever (on left)
  • One-piece machined, Nitro-Carburized steel slide
  • Specially designed captive recoil spring assembly with polymer absorber bushing
  • Corrosion-resistant “Hostile Environment” blued finish
  • Corrosion-proof, fiber-reinforced polymer frame
  • Flared, curved trigger guard
  • Universal Mounting Grooves for installing accessories
  • Ambidextrous magazine release, paddle-style
  • Extended slide release
Disassembled USP Compact
The pistol easily fieldstrips for cleaning and maintenance.

Concealed Carry

It’s no surprise that the compact design of the USP-C excels at concealed carry. The main alteration is the grip. Not only is it shorter than the full-size model, it’s also thinner. This slimmed-down grip prints less and fits more hand sizes. The slide has also been shortened for better concealment and the hammer has been bobbed to prevent uncomfortable poking and digging. 

The V1 double-action/single-action model offers a couple of different carry methods to choose from. You can carry the pistol hammer-down, with or without the safety, as well as hammer-back with the safety on, or “cocked and locked.” Further, when carried decocked, the long double-action pull is an added safety measure for concealed carry. 

The squared trigger guard can be gripped or braced against barriers for added stability. The fiber-reinforced polymer frame is lightweight, yet durable. So far, HK’s Hostile Environment finish has held up well to sweat and getting knocked around. The real test will be to see how it fares against a Texas summer. 

I’ve been carrying the USP Compact in a minimalist holster from Gunner’s Custom Holsters. This is a model I’ve used across several pistols because of its slim footprint. I’ve also carried the pistol in a Galco suede holster with good success. 

HK USP and USP Compact grip lengths and widths
Here you can see the thicker grip of the .45 ACP USP.

Range Testing

Like the full-size .45, the USP Compact 9mm is a joy to shoot at the range. The double-action pull is long and heavy, but predictable. It is more noticeable in dry fire than at the range. With consistent training, you will begin to get a feel for it. The single-action pull is crisp and makes for good combat accuracy. 

Training with two different trigger pulls can be more difficult than a striker-fired action, but it has the benefit of double-strike capability. When you have a light strike or a dud round, this provides you with another chance to pull the trigger to get the gun to fire. If it fails again, standard malfunction clearance begins. 

During testing, I experienced no failures to feed, fire, or eject. In fact, there were no malfunctions at all. The pistol ran 100%. Felt recoil was comparable to my full-size pistol — slight. I think the decrease in size and weight was counteracted by the smaller caliber. The grip angle and dimensions fit well with my slightly larger-than-average hand. With a firm grip, the pistol really locks in. Even when sweaty, the texturing provides excellent traction. 

Accuracy was standard for a handgun this size. Standing at 12 yards, I was able to get groups around 2–2.5 inches firing in single-action. This is well within my realm of acceptable for a compact defensive pistol. Additionally, I believe this will tighten up a bit as I run the pistol more. 

Full size and compact USP pistols
The USP Compact carries over many of the features that made the full-size pistol a success.

Final Thoughts

I said before that I believe the full-size .45 ACP to be the best variant of the USP. I will now need to add the caveat, “Unless you’re looking for a concealed carry pistol. In that case, the USP Compact takes the cake.” It provides the same benefits and build quality of the full-size pistol, in a lighter weight and more concealable package for carry. I’ve been carrying the USP Compact for several months now, and I don’t see anything coming to take its place on my hip. 

What are your thoughts on HK’s USP line? Which is your favorite model? How does the Compact fare for concealed carry? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comment section. 

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