The Heckler & Koch GmbH Volkspistole Modell 1970 Zivil, otherwise known as the VP70Z was the firearms industry’s first commercially mass produced polymer framed striker fired pistol. It beat GLOCK by twelve years and actually had a higher capacity, too. Volkspistole by the way literally translates to “people’s pistol.”
The VP70Z was designed in the 1960s to be an affordable personal defense weapon for West German partisans. The idea was to arm West Germans for when the Soviets eventually crossed the Fulda Gap in their race to the Rhine when those ninety-nine red balloons were released.
The Bundeswehr would be handing out massive amounts of arms to clandestine stay-behind units organized by America’s CIA and West Germany’s BND intelligence organizations. These were part of what would eventually be labeled as Operation Gladio, a network of western European NATO-allied covert resistance units that would organize and terrorize Soviet forces.
The original model was the VP70M, M standing for Militär (military) and Z stands for Zivil (civilian). The VP70M came from the factory with a detachable shoulder stock that gave the gun a three-round burst capability.
The VP70M was intended to be a compact, deadly tool for these partisans to use to kill Soviet soldiers and steal their weapons or assassinate high-ranking Soviet officers and officials in occupied territories.
The HK VP70M was West Germany’s attempt at a Liberator pistol and the shoulder holster even worked as a duty holster.
Seeing that they had a heck of a product on their hands in 1970, HK designed a semi-automatic civilian legal model called the VP70Z. The ability to take the shoulder stock was removed and a cross bolt safety was added to block the trigger from moving rearward when engaged.
Marketed to various law enforcement agencies and the civilian market, the VP70Z was advertised as having a “revolver trigger.” It was a traditional double-action-only design and it wasn’t semi- or pre-cocked like the GLOCK. That means the VP70Z had a LOOOOOOOONG trigger pull. Additionally, the pull was heavy, about fifteen pounds.
Why such a heavy trigger pull you ask? Well, the Teutonic space magicians in Oberndorf am Neckar designed this to eat the 9mm SMG ammo with hard primers. They wanted this pistol to function with any ammunition and since it was originally designed to be a three-round burst capable PDW, a heavy trigger pull wasn’t viewed as a negative.
Also, the military model didn’t come with a cross bolt safety so the heavy trigger pull was viewed as the gun’s safety.
The VP70Z has only four major moving parts and field stripping it is extremely easy. For a general field cleaning, you simply pull down the takedown lever in front of the trigger, pull the slide all the way back, lift the rear of the slide in an upward direction and let it slide off the fixed barrel.
It is straight blowback design with a fixed barrel. Most of the pistol’s weight is in the slide.
If you want to go further, the magazine floorplate actually is a takedown tool. The striker assembly has a notch machined in it. All you need to do is turn it ninety degrees left or right and you can take the striker assembly and firing pin right out.
The magazine itself is a double stack, double feed magazine. It’s a work of art and honestly rivals the magazine you’d find on the MP5. Seriously, look at these feed lips.
The trigger, however, isn’t much of a work of art. In fact it’s horribly and horrifically atrocious. It’s the stuff of nightmares. I’m not kidding…you know those bad dreams where you’re in a gun fight and you pull the trigger and it weighs a million pounds and the gun never fires? That’s the VP70Z trigger.
Luckily, you can reduce the trigger pull weight by changing out the striker assembly spring with an aftermarket spring from Wolff Gunsprings. That makes the trigger much lighter since the DOA trigger pulls the striker all the way back.
It made a world of difference. The DOA trigger pull is still long, but the gun is far more enjoyable at the range.
The front sight design is also interesting. It uses a polished ramp with a machined central notch in the middle to provide the illusion of a dark front post.
You’ll notice too, on the right side by the ejection port is a massive external extractor claw.
All in all, for a late 1960s design, the gun is awfully futuristic looking. While better striker fired guns came onto the scene from makerslike GLOCK, HK kept the gun in production from 1970 until 1989.
All in all, this isn’t HK’s most inspired design. VP70Z and its machine pistol brother didn’t sell all that well. Military and police forces across the globe purchased the MP5K instead.
It’s been reported that Portugal issued the VP70M to some certain units within their military and that the Policía Nacional del Paraguay used the VP70Z as a duty gun. Other than that, it was mostly a commercial flop. But it sold on the civilian market and cemented its place in pop culture history with one famous film and a video game.
In 1986, Twentieth Century Fox made a sequel to their hit sci-fi horror film, Aliens. In the sci-fi classic directed by James Cameron, the VP70Z was the standard issue sidearm of the Colonial Marines Corps.
The VP70Z got some good screen time in the films and was even promoted in related merchandise.
The gun also made an appearance in Capcom’s cult classic survival horror game, Resident Evil 2.
The pistol got more screen time in Resident Evil 4 for the Nintendo Gamecube.
The VP70Z even made a few appearances in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
The VP70Z isn’t a gun I’d recommend for everyone. Prior to the great panic of 2020-2021, you could easily find them for about $400. But they are a gun for someone who wants to own an interesting piece of gun history. I’m not sure what they’re going for now, but I sure didn’t need to go over four Benjamins when I got mine.
So if you want one and see it at a good price, snatch it up. Be aware that, in typical HK fashion, the magazines aren’t cheap. I have a total of four for mine and even have an old El Paso Saddlery holster for it. It’s a bit bulky to carry, but it isn’t heavy.
Oh…how does the pistol shoot? It is phenomenally accurate due to the fixed barrel. You can easily put rounds where you want them at 20 yards without a problem, especially with that Wolff spring upgrade.