These are two great handguns manufactured by the premier company Heckler & Koch. As you may know, HK was a German company started in 1948. In 2002, after much success, HK was purchased by a group of private investors. In 2003, it was restructured as Heckler & Koch Jagg und Sportwaffen GmbH (HKJS). At this point, the company was divided into two specific operating groups: one manufacturing firearms for defense and law enforcement and the other producing sporting firearms.
The company has an amazing history of manufacturing iconic firearms, such as the MP5 to name just one. In 1995, they developed the HK USP Compact – “Universale Selbstlade Pistole,” or “Universal Self-Loading Pistol.” It was a great polymer pistol, especially chambered in my favorite caliber, .45 ACP. This was the predecessor to the HK 45C, also chambered in .45 ACP. The 45C came to market in 2007.
I cannot praise this pistol enough. It’s similar in relative weight with empty magazines, at 1.76 pounds for the USP Compact and 1.98 pounds for the 45C. I’ve listed some additional specs below:
There are alternative trigger systems and control-lever variants that can be purchased that change the DA/SA variant to a DA-only pistol for those who prefer a consistent trigger pull. As you can see, the USP Compact may have a slight advantage for concealment.
Both have white three-dot sights, but the 45C has low-profile, fixed tactical photoluminescent sights. This material is very bright once charged. The USP Compact also has fixed sights, but the rear sight has a shoulder that could be used for one-handed slide manipulation, which may not be intentional. These are not night sights. Both also have a grooved, recurved trigger for positive trigger manipulation.
The magazines hold eight .45 ACP rounds. With an extended mag, you can top off at 10+1. The magazines for the 45C and USP Compact are interchangeable. HK took the modular approach to the controls of the 45C and USP Compact, particularly with respect to the safety/decocking lever. It can be transferred to the right side, or you can add an ambidextrous control lever.
45C vs. USP Compact
Both pistols have an ambidextrous mag release lever located on the trigger guard. After some practice, the actuation is very natural and can be accomplished without grip adjustment. The magazine drops crisply and cleanly on both to ensure quick mag changes. The mag release on the 45C has been enlarged slightly from the USP Compact.
The 45C has an ambidextrous slide release, while the USP Compact has the typical slide release on the left side only. Both pistols are manufactured to handle the more powerful load of +P ammunition, and both boast a barrel life of 20,000+ rounds. This is partially because of the polygonal rifling that extends barrel life and increases velocity.
Both pistols have recoil reduction systems. The 45C system is specified as the “modified Browning linkless recoil operating system” to help mitigate recoil. The USP Compact uses a “specially designed captive recoil spring assembly with polymer absorber bushing” to help mitigate recoil. Both pistols have steel guide rods. The 45C also boasts a rubber O-ring at the muzzle to aid in locking the muzzle to the slide for increased accuracy.
The 45C comes with an additional back strap for grip customization. There is stippling on the foregrip and the rear, but the grip treatment on the sides was not as satisfactory as the treatment on the USP Compact. The USP Compact side stippling helped more with grip lock than the 45C.
The slide of the USP Compact is more of a square slide, while the 45C is more streamlined. This does take off some weight but not to a meaningful degree. The slide of the USP Compact has deep serrations at the rear, making slide manipulation easy.
In comparison, the slide of the 45C has deep serrations at the rear and front of the slide. This makes slide manipulation easy and also lends itself to performing slide checks. The USP Compact has standard mounting grooves on the bottom of the frame, which allow you to mount lights and lasers. In comparison, the 45C has a 1913 Picatinny rail section in the same location on its frame.
The USP Compact has a bobbed hammer to prevent snagging, and the 45C has a grooved full-size hammer. The trigger guard of the USP Compact is recurved, while the guard of the 45C is angled straight. Both have ample room for gloved hands.
These pistols have external extractors that can be used to indicate a chambered round. The 45C takes it one step further and has a red indicator on the top of the extractor. One positive aspect of these two pistols is their ease of takedown. It reminds me of the Browning Hi-Power. Simply remove the slide release and you’re set.
What Impressed Me
What impressed me most was the feel of both pistols in my hand. I have an average hand size, and both were very comfortable. I easily accessed the control lever and slide release. The mag release was slightly more challenging but not difficult after some practice. The mag release of the 45C is slightly larger and helps with manipulation.
Also, the stippling of the USP Compact grip is more aggressive, resulting in a more secure grip lock. I found the grip angle of the HK pistols to be desirable at about 18 degrees. Since I am used to the grip angle of a 1911, this makes acquisition of the sights and target very quick and easy.
On the range, I favored the USP Compact trigger guard over the 45C. I like getting my support hand as high as I can to put my left index finger on the trigger guard. I very much like the grooved trigger with the exaggerated curve, especially with the long double-action pull at .47 inches.
On the Range
I found that both pistols were similar on the range. Accuracy was excellent for combat shooting. Recoil was easily mitigated and did not pose a problem with quick follow-up shots. Drawing from a holster was very intuitive even with the added challenge of a level 2 retention holster. I found both pistols were easy to obtain a positive grip prior to presentation.
With both pistols having been around for some time, there are many carry options available. If you want leather or Kydex, there are numerous manufacturers providing holsters for these pistols. I have a Blackhawk Serpa level 2 retention holster for my 45C and a Raven concealment holster. If you prefer, you should be able to find carry options such as drop-leg rigs or holsters for carrying on your body armor.
HK is a premiere company, and you would expect both pistols to be very well made. They are, and both feel great in the hand. I like the weight of both pistols. Even though I may not like them for concealed carry, they are easily concealed. I prefer using my 45C as a secondary weapon for tactical carry. I give both pistols high marks as a practical choice for concealed or open carry.