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Umarex H&K USP

The original pistol and history

The USP or “universal self-loading pistol” is a semi-automatic pistol developed in Germany by Heckler & Koch GmbH (H&K) of Oberndorf am Neckar as a replacement for their P7 series of handguns.

The USP is a semi-automatic pistol with a mechanically locked breech using the short recoil method of operation. This rather conventional lock-up system has a large rectangular lug over the barrel’s chamber that rides into and engages the ejection port cut-out in the slide. When a cartridge is fired, pressures generated by the ignited powder drive the cartridge casing back against the breech face on the slide, driving back both the barrel and slide as they remain locked together in the manner described above. After short amount of unrestricted rearward travel, the projectile leaves the barrel and the gas pressures drop to a safe level. A shaped lug on the underside of the barrel chamber comes into contact with a hooked locking block at the end of the steel recoil spring guide rod, lowering the rear end of the barrel and stopping the barrel’s rearward movement. The recoil spring assembly is held in place by the slide stop lever’s axis pin and a round cut-out at the front of the slide.

The H&K USP pistol

One of the distinguishing features of the USP is the mechanical recoil reduction system. It consists of a short additional spring located within the main recoil spring on the breech end of the recoil spring assembly. Designed primarily to reduce wear on the pistol’s components, the system also lowers the peak recoil forces felt by the shooter. The design with two springs allows the system to work with different kinds of ammunition without requiring any adjustments. Unlike similar systems employed in other guns, the USP design does not incorporate a hydraulic damper and requires no maintenance.

The USP was adopted in Germany by the Bundeswehr (German armed forces) as the P8 in 1994 with some slight modifications in the magazine and safety lever.

TV and film

Another star of film and tv, the USP is heavily featured, some of my favourites being Chain Reaction, Exit Wounds, Mission: Impossible 2, Scary Movie and Numb3rs.


  • Calibre: 9x19mm Parabellum, .40 S&W, .45 ACP
  • Capacity: 12 to 15 rounds depending on calibre
  • Weight: 980g
  • Length: 195mm

The CO2 replica

Umarex have done it again with another almost perfect replica of the real firearm, the variant modelled seems to be the USP 9. It is a double/single action full blowback action, the trigger is light and responsive in single action and as expected, fairly heavy in double action.

Very few discrepancies in appearance, the most notable is the white lettering again, the original logo and calibre was cast or stamped into the slide not printed on. The ambidextrous magazine release is a paddle style and not the more common button. The safety is very positive and easy to flip on or off with the thumb, it is only on the left side though. The large slide release is fully functional and is also used to field-strip the action which is very easy to do.

As with the original, the body is polymer and the slide is metal.

The Umarex USP left side
The Umarex USP right side

Having a heavy slide, the blowback action gives a very good feel of recoil in the hand, the sights are also very clear and positive, the rear one can be replaced but is not adjustable as such.

The 12g CO2 slots into the full drop-out magazine in a common way, secured with a large cap and key. BB Loading however is a fiddly nail-splitter again with a tiny loading plunger and no speed-load hole – something I think Umarex really should be improving on.

The drop-out magazine holds the CO2 and BB’s

The slide will lock back when the magazine is empty – a vital part of the realism for the USP.

Slide locks back when empty

Another seriously weak point is in the magazine again: at the top of the magazine, just below the loading fingers is a small web of metal. This thin web takes a real beating when the BB plunger is ‘pinged’ back unrestricted, as you can see from my one pictured below, it will only be a matter of time before that web breaks and the top part flies off – the magazine is then pretty much scrap.

With a little redesign in the plunger, that web could be much thicker, this is certainly not the only pistol that suffers from this although it is one of the worst I have seen so far.

A weak-spot in the magazine to look out for

Even with the few weaknesses, the USP is still a fantastic pistol to have in a collection, it feels good and balances well, its very close to the original and also accurate against an army of invading tin cans!


  • Calibre: 4.5mm BB
  • Capacity: 22 rounds
  • Weight: 1000g
  • Length: 194mm
  • CO2 usage: 40 to 50 with usable power