Original 1970s HK sales ad.
The Heckler & Koch GmbH Volkspistole Modell 1970 Zivil, otherwise known as the VP70Z was the firearms industry's first commercially massed 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".
VP70M with Shoulder Stock.
Designed in the 1960s to be an affordable personal defense weapon for West German Partisans. The idea was that when the Soviets crossed the Fulda Gap in their race to the Rhine river 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 be labeled as NATO's Operation Gladio; a network of Western European NATO allied partisan units that would organize and terrorize Soviet forces.
First session of NATO - Courtesy NATO photos.
The original model was the VP70M; M stands 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. The VP70M was to be a compact and 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.
It was West Germany's attempt at a Liberator Pistol and the shoulder holster even worked as a duty holster.
1970s period HK photo showing the shoulder stock/holster.
HK, seeing that they had a heck of a product in 1970, also 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.
1980s HK sales ad.
Marketed to various law enforcement agencies and civilian sectors. The VP70Z was advertised as having a "revolver trigger". It was a traditional double action only design and it wasn't semi pre-cocked like the GLOCK was. You have a LOOOOOOOONG trigger pull. Additionally, the trigger pull was heavy, about fifteen pounds. Why such a heavy trigger pull you ask?
Well, the Teutonic Space Magicians over in Oberndorf am Neckar designed this to eat the 9mm SMG ammo with hard primers. They wanted this gun 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 was viewed as the safety.
My VP70Z made in 1984. Note the cross bolt safety behind the trigger.
The VP70Z only has 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 a upward direction, and let it slide off the fixed barrel.
Yup, it is straight blowback and has a fixed barrel. Most of the weight is in the slide.
If you want to go further, the magazine floorplate actually is a takedown tool. The striker assembly as 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 is a work of art and honestly rivals the magazine you'd find on the MP5. Seriously, look at these feed lips.
As mentioned, the trigger, is not so much of a work of art. It is horribly and horrifically atrocious. It is the stuff of nightmares. I'm not kidding; you know those bad dreams where you are in a gun fight and you pull the trigger and it weighs a million pounds and the gun never goes off? That's the VP70Z trigger. Luckily, you can put a reduced the trigger pull by changing out the striker assembly spring with a aftermarket spring from Wolff Gunsprings. That makes the trigger a lighter since the DOA trigger pulls the striker all the way back.
That's what I did with mine. It made a world of difference. The trigger is still long since it is a DOA gun. But the gun is far more enjoyable at the range. The front sight 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; a massive external extractor claw.
All in all, for a late 1960s design, the gun is very futuristic in its looks and even design. While better striker fired guns came onto the scene like GLOCK. HK kept the gun in production from 1970 until 1989.