Want a Great Gun at an Even Better Price? Check Out an HK USP LEO Trade-In


German guns like the HK USP have a reputation for being some of the most accurate, well-designed and reliable weapons on the planet – but they’re also among the most expensive.

The obvious choice is to buy a used gun, but that presents a whole slew of possible issues.

For example, it’s difficult for the average shooter to know how many rounds were fired through a particular gun, and whether or not it was properly taken care of and maintenanced at regular intervals. And while most gun shop salesman are good folk, they may not be familiar with your particular gun, or simply have no idea of a round count.

Personally, this issue is a moot one. As someone who grew up in a state with horrible gun laws that banned specific guns by name, I grew very accustomed to purchasing grandfathered guns. Still, for the uninitiated, or simply those without much experience doing so, the thought of buying a gun with unknown issues can be daunting.

Thankfully, there is a tertiary choice that combines the best of the both worlds.

LEO Trade-Ins

LEO, or Law Enforcement Officer Trade-in guns are those that have seen duty use by police officers. Often times, whole departments decide to change over to a different handgun, and part of the process is selling the old stock to help pay for the new guns.

Why this might just seem like another name for used guns, LEO trade-ins offer incredible value to shooters. For starters, most police officers don’t have time, and aren’t funded by their departments to practice often. This means that while these guns tends to have greater cosmetic wear from being carried all day, mechanically, they are normally near perfect.

But doesn’t this apply to every former LEO gun?

Yes and no.

It does in so much that most of these guns have seen very little use, but were carried often. But at the same time, the USP is unique in that it was designed from inception to take a ton of use and abuse, and keep on ticking.

This means that shooters are effectively getting a new gun for the cost of a used one – but not just. Because the HK USP is so damn-near indestructible, even if the officer who carried your gun previously was equal parts private Pyle and Barney Fife, the gun won’t be any worse for wear.

The Magic of the HK USP

But why would a shooter pick the HK USP in the first place, and what makes it so appealing?

The HK USP was originally designed to capture the United States’ police and military markets, but found itself being tailored to meet SOCOM’s requirements for the OHWS program.The Offensive Handgun Weapon System was a program consisting of a series of trials designed to produce a new handgun for US special forces. This handgun would be capable of serving not simply as last ditch defensive tool, but also as an offensive weapon.

USP Paddle Release

One of the only downside of the USP is the paddle release.

What does this mean for civilian shooters who likely won’t be charging terrorist strongholds with their trusty HK USP?

It means the gun has been thoroughly vetted as 100% reliable, and capable of surviving abhorrent conditions. There was even a barrel obstruction test from H&K where they intentionally fired a squib load, then cleared that bullet from the barrel with a regular round. The gun not only continued to function, but also maintained combat accuracy.

That doesn’t mean shooters should clear a squib in their pistol with another round, that’s just stupid. But, it means that even if you accidentally do this, your gun isn’t going to catastrophically fail. This by extension means that a shooter with a gun in this condition that would otherwise be left with an expensive brick, still has a function firearm.

Furthermore, shooters can assume that no matter how negligent the previous owner was, the gun will still function like the day it rolled off the assembly line.


The HK USP is a solid, handsome handgun. Even with a little wear and tear from riding in an officer’s holster.

Brass Tacks

But what about the gun I actually purchased?

Well, I didn’t actually buy this gun, my best friend returning from Afghanistan did. He ordered it while deployed, and upon arriving home recently, had a chance to pick it up from our FFL. Regardless, we’ve been testing it together and seeing how the pre-owned pistol performs.

In testing, the used USP 9 encountered no malfunctions whatsoever. This was after firing roughly 400 rounds of various grains of 9mm ammunition from a handful of manufacturers. This included Hornady 147gr TAP ammo, Federal 115gr American Eagle FMJ, and 124gr Winchester flat nose rounds.

Accuracy was also very impressive.

While the HK USP showed a distinct preference for the heavier ammunition, all brands produced groups under four inches at 50 yards – well beyond the intended range of most handguns.

At more pragmatic ranges, the USP produced ragged holes in standard NRA targets, and made short work of six-inch steel plates. In fact clearing the speed rack of six targets is not only effortless, but also exceptionally enjoyable.

Yay or Nay?

So is the HK USP 9 a worthy buy? Whether you’re talking about a factory new, used or LEO trade-in, the answer is a resounding, “yes!”

Between its excellent accuracy, relentless reliability and military heritage, it’s a solid gun through and through. In fact, the only thing about the gun that I’m not enthralled with is the magazine release. The ambi paddle release isn’t bad per sae, but it’s tremendously unfamiliar, and thus awkward for shooters like myself with thousands of reloads on a traditional push-button release.

HK USP Magazine

While somewhat limited in capacity, the HK USP magazines are incredibly reliable and durable.

The only other shortcoming (if you could call it that) is that the gun only features 15-round magazines. While the gun in question included three, which is great, I would prefer more capacious magazines on a 9mm, full-sized handgun. And there are other options, like this 31 round mag, but not as many options as there are for other makes.

Other than that, the gun has very few drawbacks. Most are selling for under $600, and many are under $500.

So if you can get around the magazine release, shooters will have access to a fantastic weapon with a proven track record of reliability and precision. Plus, who doesn’t want a gun used by Navy SEALs?

Jim is a freelance writer for dozens of firearm publications, the host of the YouTube channel Burst Review and the youngest author to write a cover story for Shotgun News in its 86-years of operation. Jim loves anything that goes, ‘boom’ but particularly enjoys military firearms from the Cold War and WW2. When he’s not slinging lead downrange he can be round hiking in the mountains with his wife Kim and their vicious attack dog, Peanut.

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  • George MacEwan

    I got my first HK USP 40 way back in 1993 when this gun first hit the market. It has ALWAYS run like a champ and has always eaten any and all brands of .40 S&W ammo I have charged it with. Both foreign and domestic. Still even looks great. Now on the matter of this being a “SEAL GUN”…the MARK 23 was issued mostly to the Special Boat teams then the SEALS. Once you throw on a suppressor, it is as big as and weights almost as much as an MP5. Any USPs that were used by “the teams” were open purchased. By I very much agree, these are a very sweet deal. I’m ordering a LEO HK P2000 trade in from an agency in German at much less then half the cost of a new one. What more can any growing boy want!?

    Keep up the great work. Thanks.

    • jdub

      George, I’m too far behind you. I bought my USP40 in 94 or 95. It remains one of my favorite pistols – very accurate and dependable. I recently upgraded it with a HK match trigger and the 4.9″ o-ringed barrel.

  • Reazione Catena

    I have a HK USP .45 I bought from a major online retailer for 459.99; When I received it it had a couple issues, the hammer would not consistently remain in the SA notch and the gun when fired the hammer would drop to the DA mode…sent an email to HK, immediately answered. They gave me an RA# and I paid shipping to HK in Georgia..a few days later I receive an email that I have a FedEx package coming from Georgia…Got the pistol back they replaced the sear and spring and the recoil spring assembly as well..they sent it back on their dime! I also called the retailer and spoke with a very nice woman who really went to bat for me.. the shipping cost me 70 she got me 30 which to me is better than nothing..the USP is a fantastic platform

  • Brian Mooney

    When did the “intended range” of most handgun shrink to well below 50 yards? This is metaphorically and literally short-sighted. At least the military used to consider a sidearm a 50-yard weapon! I fully admit the sad current state of American shooting in which this seems to be the trend, where handguns are run through there “paces” way out to a whole -gasp!- 15 yards but do we need to encourage it in any way? We can practice mainly at closer distances but still benefit from running a magazine further down range. As recently as the 1970s, I was required as a Licensed PI to qualify at distances up to and including 50 yards. And of course, 50 yards is still required in full-bore competitive Bullseye shooting, and that remains a one-handed exercise.

    As far as the paddle magazine release, what is most common in the the rest of the world, button or paddle? I’ve simply gone over almost totally to paddle guns, and find it pretty convenient, even superior, to button-punching. It is all in what we make a habit, of course, but the paddle keeps the finger near but out of the trigger guard.

    I like your article (enjoyably literate and thoughtful as always) but alas, fail to see where the USP is particularly superior in special ways to my HP VP9, Sig P250, or Sig P226 (this one a great LEO trade-in at $340). Each of these, including the USP, has a slightly different set of virtues and idiosyncracies -not that that I’d walk by a chance to pick up a USP at a very good price. But it simply strikes me as yet another finely conceived and executed European example of the gunmaker’s art.

    • David Higginbotham

      There’s a big issue with the military standard as it would apply to civilian carry. There are very few defensive gun uses that take place at 50 yards. They’re not unheard of. Most writers in this industry focus on more common training scenarios. That’s not an excuse for not practicing at longer distances. And, for what it’s worth, I once owned an XDS .45 with which I could hit an 8″ steel at 100 yards.

  • jnynetwk

    HK USP 9c is my every day carry. I adore the USP even if it looks a bit plain compared to modern polymer guns. I also really like the paddle mag release though I swapped in an HK45 paddle that is slightly larger and a little easier on the finger to use.

    Every time I go to the range, even when shooting other pistols, I always finish up with a few magazines with the USP. It never fails to surprise me a little how smooth and accurate it is even compared to worthy competitors like a PPQ (another paddle trigger) or Sigs.