The VP86, under the designation M86, is one of two standard-issue sidearms used by the US military. A derivative of the VP70, the M86 was designed by Heckler and Koch and serves alongside the smaller M4 9mm pistol.
|Weapon Designation:||Pistol, 9mm, Semiautomatic, M86|
|Place of Origin:||Germany|
|Manufacturer:||Heckler & Koch GmbH|
|Weight:||1.75 lb (0.794 kg)|
|Length:||8 in (204 mm)|
|Barrel Length:||4.6 in (116 mm)|
|Rate of Fire:||Semiautomatic|
|Muzzle Velocity:||1,550 ft/s (472 m/s) with M990 explosive round|
|Muzzle Energy:||480 ft/lbs (651 Joules) with M990 explosive round|
|Effective Range:||50 m (55 yd)|
|Feed System:||18-round detachable box magazine|
|Sights:||Iron sights, integral laser sight|
In 2085, the US military announced a competition for a new handgun to replace its M58 service pistol. While most companies like Sig Sauer and FN Herstal rushed to design new handguns, Heckler and Koch made the highly unconventional decision to look back to a very old design, the Volkspistole 70, or VP70. Although the VP70 had a number of known problems, it was also extremely reliable and simple, using relatively few moving parts and being easy to field strip. Designers at H&K updated the gun and entered it into the competition. After two rounds of tests in early 2086, only the H&K and the FN Herstal designs remained. A further set of tests led to the H&K design narrowly winning, and it was accepted by the military as the M86. Although nominally the US military’s standard-issue handgun, it is in fact outnumbered by the lighter, more compact M4 pistol in conventional infantry use.
There are only a few differences between the VP70 and the M86. The primary difference is in the striker assembly. While the VP70 uses a double-action-only striker, the M86 uses a “half-set” striker which is held halfway cocked after chambering a round and after each shot. This is mechanically similar to the “pre-set” striker used by Glock designs, but is functionally more like the half-cock notch found on many hammer-fired pistols, as the striker does not have enough energy to ignite the primer of a cartridge in the event a mechanical failure should cause it to move forward; this feature makes it safer than the Glock design while still allowing for a drastic decrease in the length and weight of the trigger pull, which were two of the largest problems with the VP70. While the VP70 has a trigger pull length of approximately 10mm and a weight of around 18 pounds, the M86’s trigger pull length is only 5mm and the pull weight measures at approximately 7 pounds.
The M86 also features a push-button safety like the civilian VP70Z, but on the M86 the safety can be reversed for left-handed users. The unconventional sight system of the VP70, which replaced a traditional front blade sight with a polished ramp with a notch in the center to create the illusion of a dark center post, has been retained but is augmented by a three-dot set-up, with two luminescent dots painted on the rear sight and one in the notch of the front sight ramp. A small laser sight has been added inside the front of the trigger guard, which is already large enough for the sight to fit inside with only a minimal increase in width, although the sight does stick out the front very slightly. While the original VP70 had a deeply rifled barrel to vent gas and lower the pressure of the 9mm cartridge to compensate for the weaker straight blowback system, the M86 features a slightly heavier recoil spring and the use of the latest polymers and metal alloys increases the strength of the frame and slide to the point where not only is the deeper rifling unnecessary, but the M86 can be used with even more powerful variants of the 9mm cartridge than those around at the time of the VP70’s development.
The ease of field stripping the gun is another major point in its favor; like the VP70, disassembly of the M86 is accomplished by pulling down the lock switch above the trigger and pulling the slide back and up and then sliding it forward off the gun. If the striker assembly must be removed, the plug can be unlocked from the slide by using the curved front of one of the pistol’s magazines. Although the heel-mounted magazine release is unconventional for US operators, it was retained due to there being no better alternative position available as well as the fact that it is ambidextrous by nature. While the M86 is like the VP70 in that it has no conventional slide lock, the magazine follower is designed to make the slide of the pistol lock back when the magazine is empty, alerting the user to change the magazine. However, because the slide is blocked by the follower itself, this means that once the magazine is removed, the slide will close again and must be fully pulled rearward and released to chamber a new round. While this makes reloads slightly more inconvenient, it offers additional simplicity to the weapon’s design.