Designed as a forward-looking firearm, Heckler & Koch’s circa 1970 entry into the polymer handgun market had a lot going on.
The VP70 was the German company’s polymer-framed, striker-fired 9mm handgun of the Disco era. An 18-shot select-fire gun, it had a theoretical rate of fire of a very spicy 2,200 rounds per minute and the ability to use a detachable stock that, like the old C96 Mauser, doubled as a bulky holster.
One of the lead firearms engineers behind the VP70 was Alex Seidel, who before WWII worked for Mauser and helped create the HSc pistol. The VP70, which had only four moving operating parts, was billed as reliable and simple with the select-fire sear itself contained in the buttstock. The main body was a synthetic resin material, a concept pretty forward-looking for 1968 when it was on the drawing board outside of the Remington Nylon 66.
First marketed in 1970, the VP70 beat Gaston Glock’s G17 to the “plastic pistol” market by a generation. However, it never really caught on and was something of, well, a duck in a market full of eagles. It plodded along until it was quietly discontinued in 1989, only garnering a few sales to third world military forces and limited export to the U.S. as the semi-auto and stockless VP70Z.
Speaking of which…
While the military model of the VP70 sported an “M” suffix, the neutered model intended for the consumer or civil market swapped that out for a “Z” suffix.
A single-action-only 19-shot 9mm pistol with a polymer frame, downright odd ergonomics, and a creepy boomerang-shaped trigger, the VP70Z was not popular in the era of Smith & Wesson “Wondernines” and once the Glock came on the scene, the writing was on the wall for continued commercial sales.
By 1984, it was over for VP70Z imports.
Nonetheless, its futuristic styling made it a hit in Hollywood and the VP70 was seen in the Resident Evil video game series, was the preferred sidearm of Colonial Marines in Aliens, and even guest-starred in episodes of MacGyver and The A-Team.
HK went back to the drawing board and came up with the USP and P2000 in the early 2000s which were much more popular. Then came the VP9 and VP40. That later polymer-framed volkspistole line was introduced in 2014– 44 years after the VP70’s debut– and has been a lot better received.