Heckler & Koch USP .45 Compact LEM

- HK USP Compact .45 ACP handgun

-2 eight-round magazines (same as HK45 Compact magazines)

-- with both finger-rest and flat floorplates for each magazine (4 floorplates total)

-- I ordered the flat floorplates after-the-fact from , because the finger-rest floorplates don't really work for me

- 1 ten-round magazine (same as full-size HK45 magazine, but different floor plate)

-- with grip extender floor plate

- factory grey molded plastic case

-- H&K changed to a padded case c. 2008. These original cases are selling for $30 - $50 by themselves

KH date code -- this gun was manufactured in 1997. I bought it from a private party in 2013. I never got around to shooting it until this year, and am selling it because (1) I am getting rid of my .45s to par down the number of calibers I need to keep and (2) I have more guns than I have time to shoot them.

scroll down for more photos below

I had the gun re-finished by Rocky Mountain Arms in Longmont, Colorado, with their "Bearcoat" finish in 2014. The frame was done in "urban grey", and the slide was done in "titanium". I had this done because it looked like the previous owner had made an amateurish attempt to re-finish the gun by himself, and it looked like crap. A year later (2015), I had them re-finish the magazines to match ; although the grey on the mag floorplates doesn't exactly match the grey of the gun frame -- I should have had them done at the same time, but I didn't think about that back then.

Gray Guns in Spray, Oregon, converted the V1 DA/SA action to H&K's LEM ("Law Enforcement Modification") trigger in 2014. Gray Guns also performed an armorer's inspection. The LEM can be described as the first shot being a long and light double-action pull, with every shot afterwards being single action, with the hammer automatically de-cocking when the trigger is released. This results a pistol that has the advantage of a Glock-style striker-fired action -- no safety or other controls to manipulate in order to fire -- with a safe-er trigger. Darryl "nyeti" Bolke has written an excellent article on "The LEM As A Street Trigger".

I have been making the case for the last couple of years that I think the HK LEM (particularly the LEM variant popularized by firearms trainer Todd Louis Green that is essentially a Light LEM set up with a heavy trigger return spring for more positive reset of the trigger) trigger set up is the best “street trigger”. So, why the LEM over other systems?

Many years ago I came to the conclusion that the Colt 1911 was the finest close quarters gun-fighting pistol ever made, and if I had to take a pistol to a gunfight, the Colt 1911 would be my choice, and a lot of that is due to the trigger. Of course the issue was that my job involved taking a lot of people prisoner and capturing and detaining people at the end of a gun while working around a bunch of people who didn’t need to be shot. So being in the prisoner taking business and not the gun fighting business, I did well carrying a DA/SA pistol.

. . .

An additional positive is that shooters can pin the hammer with a thumb while holstering to ensure that there is no chance for a discharge due to an object getting into the trigger guard. The hammer also provides a visual reference to the condition of the firearm.

. . .

I like the L.E.M. Here is why. It is a consistent trigger. It has all of the take up of the DA, without the weight and effort. The trigger goes back to the same long take up location when the finger comes off the trigger. Essentially, it is like de-cocking without having to use a de-cocker, just a simple removal of the finger from the trigger to its register location. Lots of take up and both tactile feel that the trigger finger is on the trigger, and a visual input from the hammer. That same visual and tactile input is also there during the reset and every other movement of the trigger-you can always see the hammer moving with the trigger.

The negative, is there is a lot of trigger movement going on. This is an issue when pure speed is the goal. It is not an issue when you have to think and justify every single movement of the trigger when employing the gun against people. All that tactile and visual trigger input is a good thing for most people, and gives them a chance to “stop” when something is going on that should not be. I think the best example of what I like about the L.E.M can be summed up with a L.E.M shooting that involved one of my guys.

. . .

The LEM allows that officer to simply exercise the most basic of putting his finger on the trigger and off the trigger with no other action necessary, and there is some significant leeway built into that trigger for small errors due to distraction or other actions. If we look at the “shooting” part of the above problem, it was fairly simple and a very small portion of the equation, where the mindset and manipulations issues were huge.

Read the whole thing.

Of course, since this is a USP -- Universelle Selbstladepistole or "universal self-loading pistol" -- the action can be changed to any configuration at the armorer level, or even by the end user. This modularity was the whole idea behind the "U" in USP. The only other modification(s) I would make are (1) change the sights, and (2) maybe change the magazine release to H&K's extended magazine release ($20 from

The H&K USP was also the first handgun with an integral rail, when it was released in 1993. During the rest of the 1990s, several firearms manufacturers produced handguns with proprietary rails. While H&K's "P" series pistols -- P2000, P30, VP9, and HK45 -- use what is now the "standard rail", the USP still uses the original proprietary rail. H&K's UTL ("universal tactical light") and the Insight M2 for the USP are getting hard to find, but Streamlight does make a version of their TLR-3 with USP clamps, which are available at for around $100 (Amazon Standard Identification Number B0039D0KRS). Make sure to get the one with USP Compact clamps, and not USP full size clamps -- the HK UTL Mk. II and the Insight M2 light fit both guns, the Streamlights do not.

You young kids today have it easy. Back in my day, we didn't have those fancy rails to mount our lights to our gun. We had to hold our gun in one hand and our flashlight in the other hand. And we didn't even have flashlights. We had lanterns that were fueled with whale oil -- a natural, organic, and renewable resource, but kind of hard to find here in the Rocky Mountains region ... which we called the Rocky Hills back then, because they weren't yet mountains. And we had to walk up them, both ways, in the snow, to get to school. Now get off of my lawn.

above: factory grey molded plastic case

H&K stopped using these c. 2008. The cases alone are selling for $30 - $50.

above: The two 8-round magazines have two floorplates each: finger-rest and flat, which are easily changed.

The 10-round magazine with grip extender is on the right

"Yo homey. Is that my briefcase?"

In the movie Collateral (2004), Vincent (Tom Cruise) uses a Heckler & Kock USP .45 (full size, not the compact) throughout the film. Larry A. Vickers (U.S. Army, Special Forces, Delta Force) described the movie's "briefcase scene" as "in my opinion, probably the single best handgun gun play in movie history". In the video below, Mr. Vickers dissects the alleyway gunfight:

"Of particular note for this film is that Cruise, as Vincent, fires the first five rounds of his 'briefcase' scene attack with deliberate aim against two targets in less than one and a half seconds. This results in obvious physical, but also dramatic and cinematic impact as it demonstrates that Vincent's degree of skill and focus is clearly on a different level than that of the armed street thugs he encounters."

"Prior to Collateral, Tom Cruise did not have live ammunition experience with a pistol and thus underwent extensive firearms training former SAS (British Special Air Service) operator Mick Gould and former LAPD SWAT Chic Daniel in order to reflect the Special Forces training that his character would have. Cruise trained in several combat scenarios using live ammunition on the LA Sheriff's Department shooting range."

In compliance with NIJ Standard — 0112.00, currently there are no known ammunition types that meet the general guidelines set forth in this section that are not compatible with the USP Compact pistols. All USP  pistols are approved for use with +P and +P+ ammunition.  The use of +P  and +P+ ammunition accelerates wear and reduces the service life on the component parts of any pistol, including the HK USP Compact.
- "HK USP Compact Pistol Operators Manual" (PDF)
Using a modified Browning-type action, both full-size and compact models of the USP use  patented recoil reduction systems, enabling all USP series pistols to take the punishment  of powerful +P and +P+ loads. The USP and USP Compact recoil reduction systems  lessen recoil effects on pistol components and also lower the recoil forces felt by the  shooter. These recoil reduction systems are insensitive to ammunition types and require  no special adjustment or maintenance. It functions effectively in all USP models.
- "USP Series Operator's Manual"  (PDF)