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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Short story: H&K VP9 LE model in FDE. Purchased the end of May, less than 6 months old, less than 150 rounds through it. Inspected, lubed according to the manual and function checked the same morning as its second range trip. Shooting at a county range, range officer also inspects the weapon and checks barrel for obstructions. 1st mag of the day no problems, on the 2nd or 3rd round of the second mag, the firearm catastrophically fails...kaboom, frame cracks in several places, extractor blown completely off, slide locked in place and frozen about an 1/8" back with case stuck in chamber, partially mangled. Thankfully no major injuries, just minor laceration on bridge of nose from flying shrapnel/plastic.

Teaser pic:



Better pics to follow below.

Long story and background (sorry for the length, wanted to be as thorough as I could in my description of the events):

As I said, I bought the firearm new at the end of May. Was really excited to finally have the budget to pick up a H&K, have been longing for one forever, and I bought this to be the jewel of my polymer frame pistol collection. I have 6 other polymer framed handguns but none that are even close to H&K reputation and quality. This was supposed to be my go to 9mm to last a lifetime, have zero worries about reliability or function, and stand alone as top dog among my rather budget collection to date.

I am meticulous with my firearms and with safety, a trait that my dad instilled in me from a very young age. I read the manuals cover to cover before ever firing a shot, I clean and re-lube within a day of firing and before I leave for the next range trip, I inspect, re-lube and function check the weapon before I put it in the bag to leave the house. I am a college graduate with a bachelor's degree in Engineering and a minor in math, I keep my equipment clean and in as good operating condition as I can.

This particular VP9 is the FDE LE version with factory night sights and third mag + all the other standard factory items, case, backstraps, sidestraps, mag loader, etc... I had originally ordered the black LE version, but the vendor mis-calculated their inventory and over sold the black, so they offered me the FDE at the same price rather than make me wait til they received more of the black in stock. Upon receiving it, I read the manual cover to cover, did a quick clean to remove packaging oil/grease and applied new lube as per the manual instructions. 1st range trip I fired 5-6 mags of 115 gr and 124 gr new, factory 9mm brass cased ammo (can't recall the exact brands shot on that day but it was definitely a combination of two of these: Blazer 115 gr, perfecta 115 gr and S&B 124 gr. Firearm performed flawlessly. That night, following the manual instructions, I changed the backstrap and sidestraps to ones that fit my hand a little better. Cleaned it, applied new lube, and put it in my safe. After that range trip in June or July, I haven't shot my handguns much, and didn't shoot the VP9 again until last week when the failure occured. I've had AR fever real bad since purchasing this VP9...especially with the looming possibility of Hillary running this country, and I have been completely preoccupied with 3 AR builds that I wanted to complete before the election.

My co-worker and his girlfriend recently completed their concealed carry course and have been talking with me about what handguns to consider purchasing. I decide to invite them to the range to test out my 9's and feel the differences in overall quality and triggers between budget guns and top of the line. I bring my SCCY so they can feel a long, heavy DA only pull, I bring the Canik TP9SA and the H&K VP9 so they can see the differences between a $300 gun and a $600 gun. He is familiar with firearms and owns a S&W SD9 VE, a M&P Sport II, and a Mossberg 12 Ga. He also brings his AR and I bring 2 of mine.

I purposefully bring only 9's so there is no possible confusion of calibers going on. Range officer checks the weapons in, and I go through my safety briefing with them, as I do with anybody who I let shoot my weapons. Walk them through the operation and features of each gun, show them how to identify the correct mags for the correct handgun and I say go to town, ask if you're not sure of something, l'll be shooting my AR's in the adjacent booth. She shoots a mag through each gun, comments that she hates the SCCY, likes the Canik, and really loves the VP9, as expected. I pay less attention to what's going on in their booth as I start to zone in on my own shooting. A few minutes later my friend comes up behind me and says "Uhh, your gun blew up..." and I turn around to see him standing there in shock with blood running down his nose... I make my AR safe as fast as I can and jump up to make sure he is not injured. While I look him over, the closest range officer removes the mag and makes the VP9 safe, then they take him into their Medical room for a closer look and an incident report.

This is my first experience with such a dramatic failure, and needless to say I was pretty shaken up and in a state of shock as well. Of course my first reaction was purely about my friends safety and well-being above anything else. It was scary as hell when I first turned around and saw him bleeding from the face and clearly in shock. Thanks be to all deities that he still had all his fingers and escaped with just a scratch on the nose, I don't think I have ever felt so relieved in my entire life. All I kept thinking is that it should have been me, and I would have preferred that it would have been me over him...but at the same time, thank G-d that it was him and not his girlfriend (that sounds bad but its the honest truth).

With him being deemed ok, the range officers and I turn our attention to the VP9 and inspect the damage and discuss theories/rule out possibilities. I frequent this range once or twice a month and most of the officers know me as a regular and that I practice safe handling and know my way around guns. I certainly am not, nor do I claim to be any kind of expert in munitions or firearms. As I said earlier, this is my first experience with a failure on this sort of scale with either a firearm or ammunition. I would really appreciate any thoughts, theories, insight that the more experienced members here can provide. These two pics were taken right after the incident:





More pics once back home:









I guess the main question going forward that matters for me now that I am left with a totaled gun, is whether the failure was due to a defect of the ammunition or if it was due to a defect within the firearm, as that should determine which manufacturer should be responsible for replacing the firearm. The ammunition used at the time of failure was factory new, 124 gr. 9mm luger, brass case rated at 1100 fps, case marked AP 14 9mm Luger. It was manufactured by American Quality Ammunition and purchased online from cheaper than dirt...I know, I know, but I had a gift card I had to use. It was described as factory new, US manufactured, new reloadable brass case, non-reman, non-reload. I fired 200 rounds of it through my Taurus 24/7 G2C and my TP9SA without issue before this incident in the VP9. Pics of ammo and an empty case from the same session as the failure occurred.







The range officers helped me gather all the brass from that session and whatever blown off pieces of the gun we could find. Pic of sheared extractor:



In total I had 5 different range officers inspect the damage and the remaining ammunition. None of them noticed anything obvious that could have caused the failure. They didn't think it was a squib the round before as the barrel was clear with no visible damage. They didn't think it fired out of battery somehow. They didn't think it was an overcharged or too hot of a round. They didn't really offer up much for speculation, we just kept ruling things out until all we were left with was just contact H&K and send it back to them to figure out. I don't know enough to tell from the damage what happened. I am being as open minded as I can, not jumping to conclusions or blaming one manufacturer vs the other, just trying to stay objective and get down to the facts of why and how this failure occurred.

My friend and I have discussed and replayed the events several times since this happened in an attempt to narrow out possibilities. He says the previous round went off as normal and he saw paper fly off of the target. It didn't sound any different than any other round and he is adamant that he absolutely saw a hit on the target. He says the slide closed up on the next round as normal, it didn't hang up in any way. He was firing a shot, lowering to a waist high ready stance, pausing, then raising back up into firing position and squeezing the trigger and repeating. All of a sudden, kaboom.

I have contacted H&K and received a return authorization number, but I have not sent the gun back just yet, I wanted to ask for any recommendations or advice first. I could not find much information on the ammunition manufacturer, but I was able to get a contact number for somebody affiliated with the company from cheaper than dirt. Should I contact them right away as well, or should I wait until H&K has done their investigation of the firearm and decides to warranty it themselves or deny it? Any information or advice would be greatly appreciated. The only information I do not have, that I probably should have kept, is the specific lot number of the ammunition, I threw out the original packaging after the first 200 rounds fired without incident. Let me know if there is any other information that I might have left out that might provide useful, or if pictures from different angles than what I have shown might help at all. Thanks in advance for reading, sorry it got so long...


EDIT:
Update #1=Page 7, Post #62
Update #2=Page 8, Post #79
**Update #3=Page 10, Post #95** Disassembled photos
 

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Follow advice above, also Save the box of unfired ammo that you were shooting. If not a material failure then next 2 likely culprits would be a squib round that powder did not properly ignite pushing the round just far enough into the barrel to load and fire another behind it. Possibly A bad load from the factory that exceeded safety, or possibly an out of battery as round was chambering but not fully chambered. Have you identified the brass case of the round that the pistol came apart on?

HK Customer service will need to look it over and decide what needs to happen but save all ammunition evidence in case it is an ammunition caused failure.
 

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I've seen a few videos on youtube where the projectile gets stuck in the barrel or for whatever the ammo is faulty keeping the projectile in the barrel. Firing the next round causes a catastrophic failure/damage similar to yours where the next round fires and hits the stuck projectile and the frame fails.

Looking up what it is called now.
 

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I am impressed at the lack of injury Hk is a good design. A previous failure was posted I cant remember the details but similar failure without injury. I wonder if HK designs for such things (safety during ammo failures)? Sure does seem like it.
 

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There are differences of opinion as to whether bullet setback can be a problem or not. I would wager a guess and say it was most likely the ammo. Firearms generally don't just blow up. Bullet setback, a double charge, etc. can all ruin your day. I am going out on a limb and will say that each, HK, and the ammo manufacturer will blame the other in this case, as usual in most cases. It sucks for the owner, because he will get no satisfactory conclusion from either source. I tend to stick with the well known factory ammo. It's no guarantee, but I believe it increases your odds of never having a problem.
 

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Wow. Glad no one was hurt badly and it looks like the VP9 contained the kaboom very well. I agree with those that are saying an ammo problem.
 

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I can say this most assuredly that this was an ammunition failure, an overcharged round. As has been posted previously, pistols don't just explode.
In the future, I would only shoot ammo from large reputable sources such as Winchester, Federal/Speer/CCI, and Remington.
I've never heard of the manufacturer of the ammo you used. Hopefully you can track them down.

I would contact the ammo manufacturer first. If they are smart, they should send you money for a new pistol quickly.
Did you get pictures of your friend's injuries? Did he go to the ER? I am no lawyer, but if I were the ammo manufacturer, I would give you whatever you wanted to avoid a lawsuit.
I would also log a complaint with Cheaper Than Dirt for selling that junk in the first place.
 

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This looks like a good time to advocate wearing gloves and eye protection while shooting. When I was younger I hated stuff on my face and would not wear eye protection if I didn't have to. I was lucky that nothing bad ever happened. Gloves are important too. They can make loading mags and other fine motor skills seem clumsy, but it's better than permanent damage from shrapnel. Glad your friend escaped with just a little blood loss.
 

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I'm glad your friend is ok. As mentioned above by several members, this is most likely an ammo issue, likely a double charge, or maybe a case failure of some type. Did the KB force the magazine out of the mag well? that is one of the things that generally happens when a handgun KB's. The gun is designed to divert as much of the explosion down and away from the shooter's face/head, the explosion will follow the path of least resistance and funnel down through the vacant mag well after the mag is forced out.

Save a box of the ammo, and you've already collected some of the casings that were shot. Hopefully the box will have a lot number on it, so the manufacture can back track their manufacturing process. I'd have HKCS look the gun over and give an opinion, then I'd contact the ammo manufacturer as mentioned above.
 

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This is why I buy premium ammo.

Sent from my Nexus 5X
 

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Send your gun back to HK and also contact the ammo manufacturer. It won't be the first time either manufacturer sees something like this. Anything can happen in the process of loading hundreds of thousands of rounds. The ammo manuf. will want to know the lot # and date if on the box. HK will probably make the situation right by replacing your gun. In the end I'm glad no one was injured.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Have you identified the brass case of the round that the pistol came apart on?

HK Customer service will need to look it over and decide what needs to happen but save all ammunition evidence in case it is an ammunition caused failure.
The case of that round is still locked up in the action. Range officers tried to pry the slide back with screwdriver/leatherman, but I didn't want to go crazy beating on it and cause more damage that might mask the initial failure damage.

I saved the remaining live ammunition as well as all the empty casings from the day of the failure. Unfortunately I no longer have the original packaging from the ammo, it came loose packed in a cardboard box, and I got rid of it when I got down to 50 rounds left.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
There are differences of opinion as to whether bullet setback can be a problem or not. I would wager a guess and say it was most likely the ammo. Firearms generally don't just blow up. Bullet setback, a double charge, etc. can all ruin your day. I am going out on a limb and will say that each, HK, and the ammo manufacturer will blame the other in this case, as usual in most cases. It sucks for the owner, because he will get no satisfactory conclusion from either source. I tend to stick with the well known factory ammo. It's no guarantee, but I believe it increases your odds of never having a problem.
This is my main concern at this point, but I guess I will have to see how the situation unfolds...
 

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Glad no one seriously injured, BUT, shopping by price tag and not the merchandise (who ever heard of that ammo until now?) just isn't a good idea. I went to CTD website, that ammo isn't even that cheap price wise, in fact it's obviously one high margin product, and apparently (99.9% certain ammo issue) of lower quality than other brand names with better reputations (CCI/Speer, Federal, S&B, Fiocchi, Winchester, the list goes on) that can be found for same or less price than what you were using. Once you get sorted out stick with known quality ammo and you should be fine.

Ammoseek.com is your friend
 

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I'm glad your friend is ok. It can be scary having this happen.

I had a round explode in my USP9F years ago. I am not sure if the post still exists. It was definitely the ammo. I shot Winchester White bulk box through EVERYTHING. I saved the ammo, but it was one bad round in thousands. My USP frame fracked in the same place and my ejector bent. HK gave me an RMA, because it was the ammunitions fault, they charged me $100 for a new frame. They replaced the extractor for free. That firearm is still in use today and it has been reliable and as accurate as I can make it based on my skill level.

JPG
 
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