Throughout its 50 year existence, Heckler & Koch has led the industry in one way or another. First in many things, first with polymer frame pistols, first with caseless ammunition rifles, first with the most advanced weapons design over a broad spectrum. In the early 1990s, HK was tasked with designing a new handgun that would be built around the .40 Smith & Wesson caliber that was fast emerging as the de rigeur caliber for American law enforcement.
The USP is that pistol, originally designed for .40 S&W and not scaled up from existing 9mm designs. USP stands for Universale Selbstlade Pistole, or Universal Self-loading pistol in English. (OoneeverSalleh Zelbstlardeh Pistoleh.) It has been incorrectly labeled in major American gun magazines as the Universal Service Pistol.
Using a modified Browning action with a special recoil reduction system, the USP covers new ground with the number of action variants that are changeable with only minor parts replacement. Introduced to the American shooting public in 1993 at the SHOT Show, the USP debuted in .40 and 9mm. As another HK first, integral frame rails for the mounting of on-gun lights and lasers was made standard, which most major manufacturers are now emulating.
The USP was designed by the great Helmut Weldle, longtime HK engineer and the brains behind many of HK's great firearms.