HK USP 45 Review: A New Look at an Old Favorite

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Heckler & Koch USP

The HK USP 45 is not a new model being on the market since 1995. However, it is still a pistol that is definitely worth looking at. In this article, I will take a complete look at this platform, including test firing, cleaning, and all aspects of the pistol.

HK USP 45 history and development

The USP, (Universal Semi-automatic Pistol), began its development in 1989 by Heckler & Koch. HK built the USP pistol primarily to compete for the US military and Law enforcement markets. Specifically, the USSOCOM market. The first prototype pistols were submitted to the US military for the Offensive Handgun Weapon System, (OHWS), program in 1990. The pistol design was refined in 1992 and was accepted by the US Military as the Mk23 Mod 0

Mark 23 Mod 0 HK pistol
The Original USP MK23 MOD0 fitted with laser and suppressor

After its adoption by the US military HK formally introduced the USP pistol to the public in January of 1993. The first released model was the USP 40 chambered in the .40 S&W cartridge. Followed shortly after by the USP 9 and finally the USP 45 in May of 1995.

Look and Feel of the HK USP 45

Because of its original design purpose, the pistol is big and bulky. For a composite pistol having a polymer frame and metal slide, the pistol is still quite heavy. A fully loaded HK USP 45 pistol weighs in at 2lbs 9 ounces when loaded with 13 230 grain 45 ACP rounds.

Version 1 USP 45 pistol
HK USP 45 pistol designed for the civilian and law enforcement comunity

Using double stack magazines makes for a large grip and is not for a small-handed individual. It completely fills my hands, although not to the point that it is uncomfortable. The grip has a fairly heavily textured pattern so that you can get a good hold on it when wet. One thing I miss is finger grooves, just a personal thing though.

Protective finishes

The USP pistol is designed to be used in extreme conditions. This includes being submerged underwater water, exposed to rain, snow, mud, and other natural elements. The metal components are finished using Heckler & Kochs proprietary “Hostile Environment treatment”, which is a type of black nitride finish. The other metal components used inside the pistol like springs and pivots are protected by a special Dow Corning coating. The coating helps prevent rust while also improving the friction qualities of the parts.

HK  USP 45 Slide
HK use’s ther own “Harsh Enviroment” treatment to seal the pistols metal parts

Controls and features

The HK USP 45 controls are very easy to access and use.

Magazine release

It has an ambidextrous magazine release located just below the trigger guard. To release the magazine push the lever downwards from either side of the lever.

USP magazine release
The magazine release goes all the way accross the under side of the trigger guard and can be operated from the left or right side

Safety system

The HK USP 45 employs a conventional safety lever that can be applied before the pistol is loaded. Moving the safety lever upwards blocks the trigger operation. This still allows the slide to be operated and the hammer will remain in the cocked position. The safety lever is also a de-cocking lever. Instead of pushing the safety up, the lever is pushed down past the fire position. This will safely drop the hammer. Making the first shot a double-action trigger pull.

USP safety lever
The HK USP 45 safety lever acts as a single action safety, hammer back and a decocking lever for hammer down carry.

There is also another internal safety inside the USP 45 slide. It uses a small lever to lift up on a pin that if not moved prevents the firing pin from moving forward. This Internal safety measure is connected to the trigger by a small transfer lever. When the trigger moves the transfer lever automatically disengages the locking pin. And allows the firing pin to strike the primer. What it does protect from is if the pistol is dropped on its end and something comes into contact with the firing pin. The safety block will prevent the firing pin from hitting the primer.

HK USP 45 internal safety system to prevent accidental discharges
The pin shown in the picture will prevent an accidental discharge if the firing pin is hit without pulling the trigger

USP Sighting system

The model I have tested here has the three-dot system installed. This consists of a fixed front and rear sight system. HK has several sight systems available. These can vary from adjustable systems to night sights. The way the sights are installed into the slide makes it very simple to change them. The front and rear sights are attached to the slide by using a dove-tailed groove machined into the slide. To install a different set of sights simply push out the old sight and install the new one.

Prices correct at the time of publishing

For me, I had no problems using the factory-installed fixed sights. At 21 feet the pistol was easily able to provide a 1.5″ group.

USP 45 Trigger System

The HK USP 45 has two trigger modes, single action, and double action. The single-action trigger pull consistently measured 4 lbs 6 ounces. This is fairly light for a duty style pistol. Even my Colt Defender single-action trigger measures a heavier pull weight at 4 pounds 11 ounces. There is however quite a lot of travel. I found that the first 60% of the trigger pull was taking up the slack. The trigger did break nicely, but the reset point also required a lot of trigger movement.

Single action trigger pull weight 4lbs 6OZ
Trigger pull weight indicated on the lyman trigger scale for single action, 4 pounds 6 ounces

The double-action trigger is a 9 pound 11-ounce pull and was very consistent. However, it’s a heavy pull. My first round accuracy suffered when trying to use the pistol in a safety off, hammer down out of the holster condition.

Double action trigger pull weight
Double action trigger pull weight 9 pounds 11 ounces

Slide release/takedown lever

Like a lot of features on the HK USP 45, the slide release/take-down lever is big. Although it is not so big that it got in my way while operating the pistol. The lever is located far enough forward that my strong side hand does not touch it during firing. The large, serrated lever made it easy to operate downwards using my support hand thumb during a magazine change. Yes, even though I should not do that😊

Slide Operation and cocking

As I have said throughout this article the pistol is big. But I feel that this size really makes a difference in the slide area. Because the slide is big and heavy the recoil springs do not need to be as strong as many of my other automatic pistols. This is because of the large mass of the slide. With the slide’s big size, it also made it very easy for me to grasp and pull back.

Target Set up at the range
Getting Ready to shoot the HK USP 45

The slide’s large mass also makes it easier to shoot. Because everything is big and heavy it just soaks up the recoil making it very easy to come back on target.

Shooting the HK USP 45

The pistol points well and the sights easily come up and into alignment. The trigger pull took a little bit of getting used to for me. I am more used to the single-action pull on the 1911 Colt that I carry.

Test firing the USP pistol
Shooting the USP 45 pistol

As far as operating the pistol worked without any issues. I experienced no stoppages and or issues. The recoil is very manageable, I would even rate it quite light compared to other .45 caliber pistols.

Target at 21 feet
Target at 21 feet using 230 grain ball ammunition

Take Down and cleaning of the HK USP 45

Preforming a field strip on the HK USP 45 is very simple and requires no tools for disassembly. Simply pull the slide back about ¾ of an inch and push out the slide lock lever. The slide will then pull off the front of the frame. To remove the recoil spring simply lift it straight up and move back slightly. The double spring and guide rod are all self-contained and will not come apart. To remove the barrel let it slide slightly forward and then lift out.

Removing the take down lever from the USP pistol
Removing the take down lever to field strip the USP 45

The frame will retain the trigger mechanism and hammer. The components can easily be cleaned and lubed in place without further disassembly. The slide is also easy to clean without further disassembly. If for some reason the firing pin or extractor needs to be removed. They are retained using two small roll pins.

Barrel Design and Cleaning

The HK USP 45 use a barrel that has polygonal rifling. This type of rifling is not as aggressive as traditional square cut rifling. This type of barrel will stay cleaner for longer. Due to less copper fouling in the barrel. It also makes it easier to clean the barrel.

HK USP 45 Barrel rifling
A good view of the barrels polgonal rifling

Accessories for the HK USP 45

As I stated earlier there are several different sights available for the HK USP 45 pistols. The pistol does also come with a front accessory rail. However, the accessory rail is designed for Heckler & Koch accessories only. This means that lights and lasers designed to use with a Picatinny style rail will not directly fit or work.

Flashlights or lasers

Streamlight makes two different lights that will fit the HK USP pistols, the TLR-3, and the TLR-4 models. You will also have to use a rail stop retainer when using either of these lights and it will sometimes need to be purchased separately. If the rail stop is not used the light can still be attached to the rail but it will move as the pistol is fired.

Our pick for use with the USP
Prices correct at the time of publishing
10/03/2022 09:46 am GMT

Several companies do make an HK USP rail to a Picatinny rail conversion piece. There can be a drawback to using these adaptors. The extra size of the adaptor will move the light/laser further away from the barrel. Using this adaptor can make it so the pistol will not fit into most of the common holsters. It will also add more weight to the front of the barrel.

Suppressors

HK does offer a threaded barrel option for the USP 45 pistols. There are some drawbacks to this barrel, however. The first one being it is expensive costing anywhere between $285 to $325 for just the barrel. The next issue is that HK uses an M16 x 1 Left-handed thread. This can make it difficult to match up to common suppressor as adaptors may not always be available.

As a side note on the MK 23 M0 pistol supplied to the US military, the military chose not to use the original suppressor supplied by Heckler and Koch. They instead used a suppressor supplied by Knights Armory and specified the barrel threads on the barrel to be an M16 x 1 in a right-hand thread configuration.

The final opinion of the HK USP 45 Pistol

This is a great pistol for duty carry if you are in law enforcement, military, or security services. It would also be a great pistol to carry while hunting due to its resistance to the elements. The HK USP 45 pistol is more suited to carry in a conventional outside the belt holster.

Prices correct at the time of publishing

Due to its size and weight, it does not lend itself to be a good concealed carry pistol. Though not impossible to do so it is a just little too big. The HK USP 45 is a reliable and accurate pistol that I would have no issues carrying it daily.

Drawbacks

The only real drawback of this pistol is its cost. The HK USP 45 sells new for around $899 and goes up from there. Replacement magazines are also not cheap starting around $45.00 a piece. The good thing is that they do hold their value. Used HK USP 45 pistols selling on gunbroker.com seems to sell for very close to their original new cost.

Other USP Options

The USP range of pistols has been with us now for about 25 years and does not show any signs of stopping any time soon. Heckler & Koch now offer 4 USP models to the public. The Mark 23, USP, USP Compact, And the USP Tactical. The USP range of pistols is still available in either 9mm. 40 S&W, or 45 ACP. If you like the HK USP range but are looking for something a little different in size, odds are that one of their other models will work for you.

Stay Safe and Shoot Often

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