HECKLER & KOCH MP-5 SUBMACHINE GUN
A Legend in ti's own time!
appearing way back in the middle 70s with the commercial designator,
"HK54", Heckler & Koch's famous 9mm SMG has indeed
come a long way. Subsequently adopted by the German military and
police establishment as the "Maschinenpistole 5" (MP5),
it has since seen widespread adoption and resulting worldwide
rapid increase in notoriety was further boosted by the British Special
Air Service (SAS), who used it in their famous Iranian Embassy raid.
It was an event widely captured on film, showing black-clad, MP5-armed
SAS troopers storming the embassy building. As a result, the MP5
has since experienced a wave of popularity that has yet to subside.
what is the MP5? Is it really, as its designator indicates, a machine
pistol? No, it is not. The designator "Maschinenpistole"(MP)
evolved from ruses used by the Germans in both World War I and II
to mislead Allied intelligence agents who were attempting to gather
data on German small arms development projects. In fact, it was
also used with great success to mask the creation and development
of the first assault rifle -- the MP, later to become the StG, 44!
today, the designator is used with weapons that are obviously not
submachine guns, the "Maschinepistole, HK53," for example.
This particular arm is a scaled down version of the G3 service rifle
and is chambered for the 5.56x45mm (.223 Remington) cartridge. If
anything, the Model 53 is a true assault rifle, meeting all the
classic German criteria perfectly. In contrast, the MP5 meets all
but one of the classic criteria for SMGs.
because it fires from a closed, locked breech instead of utilizing
the unlocked, open-bolt concept of most SMGs, the MP5 is thus a
sort of "machine carbine," rather than a true submachine
gun. However, its diminutive size in comparison to either assault
or battle rifles and the fact that it fires a pistol cartridge place
in more the SMG category than any other.
fact, that it fires from a closed bolt was intentional, a design
feature that eliminates the "lurch" felt with a conventional
fires-from-an-open-bolt SMG when the trigger is pressed. From a
practical standpoint, this allows easier and more accurate use of
the weapon with no training other than that which is required for
shooting a standard HK rifle. Critics of the closed-bolt concept
often point out that increased residual heat buildup results from
this concept and causes "cookoffs." However, real-world
experience has shown this hazard to be far less formidable than
at first anticipated.
W.H.B. Smith's SMALL ARMS OF THE WORLD (Stackpole Books, PO Box
1831, Harrisburg, PA 17105), updated and re-edited by Edward Ezell:
HK54 is the submachine gun version of the G3 rifle. It is as the
G3, a delayed blowback operated weapon that fires from a closed
bolt. There is a theory that delayed blowback operated submachine
guns have less vibration and rise than blowback operated submachine
guns. On the other hand, they are more complex and usually more
A finer degree of accuracy can be obtained with a gun that fires
from a closed bolt, since the only disturbing influence on 'hold'
is the forward movement of a light hammer and/or firing pin as
opposed to the forward movement of a heavy bolt. The 'lock time'
(the period from trigger/sear release to ignition of primer) is
also less on a weapon that fires from a closed bolt than on a
weapon that fires from an open bolt; the other side of the coin
in this case, however, is the cookoff' problem. Automatic fire
heats up a weapon rather rapidly, and a point is reached when
the temperature of the chamber will cause cartridges to function
SMALL ARMS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (DBI Books, One Northfield Plaza,
Northfield, IL 60093), by Ian Hogg and John Weeks, also makes this
MP5 is derived -- by way of the HK54 -- from the successful roller
locked delayed blowback operation, thus permitting it to fire
from a closed bolt with a considerable improvement in accuracy."
By virtue of nearly two decades of field experience with the MP5,
I concur entirely with the observations made in both of these prestigious
publications. The "cookoff" problem is more theoretical
than practical and the gun is , indeed, easier to shoot well under
stress than a typical open-bolt operated SMG.
versions of the basic MP5 (the so-called "A2" model) included
a retractable stocked model (MP5A3), a sound-suppressed type with
either "A2" or A3" stock configuration (MP5 A2 or
A3 "SD"), a stockless, pistol-grip equipped "mini"
model known as the MP5 "K" (Kurz -- short) and, lately,
a version identical to the MP5K, but with a folding buttstock, known
as the "Personal Defense Weapon." All versions utilize
either a 15- or 30-rd. detachable box magazine, feature a dual button,
a 3-position (SAFE-SEMI-AUTO) or, lately, 4-position, 3-rd. burst
control (SAFE-SEMI-BURST-AUTO) selector switch, button and lever
magazine release and protected adjustable sights.
MP5 "SD" model features an integral barrel suppressor
and produces noise levels approximately the same as a light hand
clap when fired in the semi-automatic mode. When fired in the fully-automatic
setting, it is slightly louder, due to bolt reciprocation, but still
very quiet, especially in comparison to suppressed SMGs that fire
from an open bolt.
the last couple of years, the MP5 has also been chambered via special
order to the FBI for the powerful 10mm auto cartridges and recurrent
rumors of its chambering for the rapidly-proliferating .40 S&W
continually surface. Officially, the 9mmP MP5 is intended to be
a 100 meter weapon, but a skilled operator can easily obtain hits
on normal-sized silhouette targets out to a full 200 meters and
beyond. However, critics of the 9mm parabellum cartridge point out
that this exceeds any real or imagined manstopping capability of
the 9mm by a considerable margin. The .40 S&W, especially with
a 155-grain bullet, could minimize this limitation and if used in
its original full-powered version, the 10mm auto cartridge might
well eliminate it entirely.
about the stopping power deficiencies of the 9mmP have existed for
over nine decades and have been re-enforced by the fact that a noticeable
number of SWAT teams who formerly used 9mm MP5's have since changed
to the more powerful 5.56mm HK53. When questioned about the reasons
for the switch, they all advise that they've had too many Failures
To Stop with the 9mmP, even with the increased ballistic performance
of the 9mmP from the MP5's longer barrel and the use of JHP bullets.
the other hand, some of the most famous teams, such as LAPD-SWAT,
continue to use their MP5s with quite satisfactory effects, perhaps
due to the fact that their training doctrine dictates two quick
2-shot bursts into a single target, therefore maximizing trauma
to the central nervous system prior to its involuntary shutdown.
The teams who have switched to the 5.56mm HK53 do not use this concept.
Moreover, the SAS, U.S. Navy SEALs and DELTA all continue to use
their 9mmP MP5s without major complaint, so perhaps the problem
is more training, rather than real-world, oriented.
say that the MP5 is a bit complex for a SMG and that it could be
more simple without loss of mission-efficiency and they're probably
right. Still, let's not forget that the MP5's operation concept
was selected on the basis that, at least in theory, it provided
smoother, less vibration-prone, operation, thereby increasing practical
accuracy. I agree with this idea, although I found many years ago
that proper technique has more effect on such things than most people
conclusion, the Heckler & Koch MP5 is without question a legend
in its own time. It is now a virtual "must have" for any
special-ops team and has achieved worldwide proliferation. It has
without question proven its mettle in both the military and police
arena and is fully deserving of legendary status. As such, it joins
the all-time Greats -- the German MP40 and Thompson -- and will
continue in service for many decades to come.