The Heckler & Koch USP Compact .45

By Michael Savage*

Let me get a few of my prejudices out the way right up front, so you know where I'm coming from. Heckler and Koch runs its corporation like you would expect from a bunch of uptight, regimented Deutschlanders. As a small FFL dealer, it really ticks me off that I can't order direct from HK without placing a $50K initial order. It also irks me that the HK staffers won't talk to me or other non-factory authorized dealers about the technical merits of their products, but instead refer us to an "authorized HK dealer in your area," often someone who doesn't know beans about the product. And finally, though I don't have the direct personal experience, I have also heard that HK service is severely lacking in promptness (how distinctly un-German).

With all that said, I confess to being a great fan of their weapons, particularly the USP semi-automatic pistols. I personally own a 4 digit serial numbered USP 40 Variant 1 full size, and a USP Compact, also in .40 S&W. So, I was surprised to see (via the Unofficial HK Home Page) that HK was offering the USP Compact in .45ACP. My friends have grown tired of my singing the praises of the .40 S&W as a defensive and fun round, and have criticized me as damn near un-American for not owning a .45. So when I saw the news, I got excited. It was, after all, a .45 in the USP platform, supposedly only 3 % larger than my beloved Compact 40.

The next morning I called the only primary distributor of HKs available to normal FFL dealers (Accusport out of Ohio), and asked my salesman about the new gun. When he told me the first guns had arrived the day before, I started drooling like Homer Simpson watching a Duff beer commercial, then realized that all these babies would go to the really big customers (called "allocated" if you're in the business). Not so, he told me (a definite indication of the state of the wholesale business). I could have one. Well, I mused to myself, why not push the inside of the envelope. Boldly I asked for another one, knowing that one of my three close shooting buddies would give the substantial asking price to be (next to) the first one on the block to have the new German beauty. Well, as they say, even a blind pig finds a truffle now and then, and I ended up with two.

Now for the good stuff, with another preface. I'm not one of those guys who takes a new gun to the range and meticulously chronographs each round of factory selected ammo, or measures each five shot group to thousandths of an inch. Generally speaking, nearly every gun I own is capable of shooting better than I can. I acknowledge my biological shortcomings, and have fun while wringing out the weapon. So it was with the new HK. Luckily, I had my buddy who acquired the other HK from the shipment to verify my findings. On matters of the .45ACP, I deferred to his expertise and judgement, as he is a long-time .45ACP shooter.

Ergonomically, the HK USP Compact 45 is very similar to both the USP full size (in 9mm or .40 S&W) and the USP Compact. It is about .25 inches longer in slide length, and a bit wider in the grip frame. Other dimensions appeared the same. Mechanical function of the Compact 45 is the same as the USP full size and other Compacts. Because I have not owned or shot the USP .45 (full size) or the SOCOM pistol, I won't make direct size or function comparisons, except to say that both of those pistols are significantly larger than the Compact 45. One mechanical feature that I liked, as did my shooting buddy, was that the pistol can be reloaded, the slide release activated, and the weapon brought into ready with the safety on, leaving you in a "cocked and locked" configuration.

Magazine capacity is 8, and the magazines loaded easily with both the ball and semi-wadcutter ammo we tested. An HKS 452 speedloader was a handy tool in accomplishing the reloading. The weapon comes with two magazines, one a standard configuration, and one with a finger grip extension (ala the Walther PPK). My personal preference is the finger grip extension magazines, though I have wide hands and short fingers which favor the extra security afforded by the extension.

So how did Compact .45s shoot? Great, as expected. Out of the box, we were both getting rapid-fire groups in the three to four inch range at ten yards. Within each group, at least two rounds were touching or through the same hole. Settling down to carefully placed fire, we could reduce group size about forty percent. I laid on the ground at ten yards and by resting my forearms, placed the first round into the "x" on a B-27 body target. We ran about 200 rounds through each gun with consistent results as reported above. Results did not vary significantly between ball ammo and semi-wadcutter loads known to perform well in other .45's.

There were no mechanical malfunctions or jams of any sort. After our shooting session, the guns did not reveal significant fouling or lead build-up (which my USP Compact 40 exhibits if I shoot any number of lead bullets through it). In the words of my buddy, "This is definitely one of my favorite .45s." And though I'm only a novice at this .45 game, I found this weapon fun, accurate, and pleasurable to shoot. If you are a HK fan, a .45 fan, or like the idea of a compact, reliable auto with some punch, you just might want to check out one of these fine pistols.

Now, I'm going to give you guys the inside scoop. Wholesale to us non-HK authorized dealers is right at $600 (as of early 1998). This means you should be able to pick one up for anywhere from $650 to $700. The high end will probably be the norm as long as they are a new item. Prices will settle somewhat in a few months.

*Mr. Savage is a federally licensed firearms dealer and is located in Louisville, Colorado. Not just a fan of HK firearms, Mr. Savage is also a long-time NRA member, hunter, and a fan of long range precision rifles.

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