Gun Review: German Sports Guns GSG-522-SD

Firing an MP5-SD was one of the happiest experiences of my life. Thanks to the folks at AAC I was able to put magazine after magazine of ammo through theirs, fulfilling a childhood dream. There’s something about the shape and feel of an MP5 that’s unique, something that appeals to everyone I’ve ever seen handle one. A German Airsoft company, German Sports Guns, decided to bring that same happiness to the American civilian market in a semi-automatic .22lr firearm called the GSG-522, one of the variants of which is the GSG-522-SD.

First things first here’s me firing a real MP5-SD.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way on with the review.

GSG started importing MP5 lookalikes sometime around 2007, calling them the “GSG-5.” They so closely resembled H&K’s guns that some of the parts were even interchangeable. Naturally this pissed off H&K, who successfully sued GSG (who makes the guns) for something called “trade dress infringement,” which is the legal equivalent of calling someone a copycat. The final decision was that the current stock of GSG-5 firearms could be sold to the public, but no new imports could be made and no firearms could be sold after December 31, 2010.

That didn’t stop GSG for long. Some minor alterations were made and a new rifle, called the GSG-522, started being imported in mid 2010. Those changes were mainly cosmetic, made to differentiate the GSG-522 from the MP5. They are:

  • Textured pistol grip
  • Square front sight
  • Redesigned safety selector
  • Integrated weaver rail
  • Integrated sling bracket

The gun still looks a whole heck of a lot like an MP5, but it’s just different enough to be sold with H&K’s blessing.

Like most good things in life, some assembly is required. A very little amount, though. The stock is the only thing that doesn’t come attached, and there’s a screwdriver included in the packaging to accomplish that specific task. The same screwdriver is used to field strip the weapon for cleaning.

The vast majority of the weapon “feels” just like a normal MP5-SD. The same familiar nonreciprocating charging handle controls the bolt, locks it open, and is extremely satisfying to “karate chop” to chamber a round. The overall length and general profile of the gun feel right, and even the trigger feels as crappy as an actual MP5.

But that’s where the similarities stop.

The fake silencer is completely and utterly fake. The barrel runs the entire length of the “silencer” and the crown protrudes just a hair forward of the front of it. GSG had an issue with the old style of fake cans on the GSG-5, the ATF reclassified them as real silencers because they apparently reduced the report slightly and they were recalled. The new ones don’t do that anymore. The barrel is just a hair over 16 inches, making it a nice legal rifle here in the United States.

Another minor difference is the operating system. Both the MP5 and the GSG-522 use a “blowback” operating system, meaning the pressure in the barrel forces the spent casing out of the chamber directly and imparts some energy to the bolt. With the GSG-522 the bolt is allowed to move freely (like with most .22lr semi-auto mechanisms), but the MP5 uses an ingenious roller-delayed blowback system. This is the same mechanism originally designed for the StG 45, an adaptation of the MG 42′s operating system that eventually made its way into the CETME.

Sorry, let the nerd within slip out there for a second.

The sights on this are somewhat similar to the MP5. One of the outcomes from the trade dress suit with H&K was that the front sight hood was changed from the closed circle that we all know and love to two parallel posts on the sides, more like the front sight of an AR-15. The front sight post itself is changeable, and the gun comes with an assortment of different sights that you can install. The rear sight remains unchanged and consists of a rotating cylinder with different cutouts depending on the shooter’s preference. The rear sight is adjustable for windage, but not elevation.

The magazine may be a little fragile. And I say “may” because it’s more likely an unfortunate isolated incident than a systematic issue. When I loaded up the stick that shipped with the gun for the first time, the feed lip snapped right off and live rounds flew all over my living room. One quick call to ATI’s customer support line and two brand new magazines were overnighted to my apartment, neither of which have failed after being fully loaded and unloaded (the proper way, by firing the gun) many times over.

The MP5′s magazine is able to be so tiny because it’s made of stamped metal, not like the plastic used to made the GSG-522-SD’s magazines, so the .22lr version may not be quite as strong as the “big boy” MP5. Even if the magazines fail, it seems that customer service is quick, courteous, and ready to ship out any needed replacements.

Enough about the technical details, what about the gun itself?

When I first read about this gun I wrote it off as a waste of money, and the biggest reason behind that decision was the caliber. A cheap MP5 clone in 9mm is one thing, but what use could a .22lr clone be? It’s not very good for home defense, you can’t use it in any of the competitions I do, and you can’t take it hunting. The only thing it would be good for is throwing lead downrange. The only benefit I could see would be as a training aid for those who already own an MP5, as there aren’t any caliber conversion kits available.

What I forgot was how fun it was to throw lead downrange for no good reason at all.

Something happened to me a few years ago. Back in college I would spend my weekends at the range with a group of my friends, throwing cheap lead downrange and not really caring if we hit the paper. The recoil of the guns and watching the flying brass were enough to make us happy. But then I started getting serious about shooting competitively, and every range trip became a quest for accuracy and speed. Every range trip, every sight picture, and every shot had a purpose.

As I sat there on the NRA Range, dumping magazine after magazine of ammunition through the GSG-522-SD, it felt like I was back in college. Shooting for the sheer enjoyment of shooting, punching holes in targets lovingly supplied by Birchwood Casey and loving every moment of it. It didn’t matter to me that my sights were slightly off (although the man in the lane to the left of me seemed quite perturbed), I was having fun. For the first time in years, I was burning through lead and range time without a care in the world. And for that purpose, .22lr is the perfect cartridge.

In my opinion, the GSG-522-SD is a great “screwing around” range toy. And I do mean “toy.” Guns aren’t toys in the childish sense of the word, but guns like this are toys for mature adults to play with (responsibly).

Oh, and it’s a tackdriver at 50 yards, too.

German Sports Guns GSG-522-SD

Specifications
Caliber: .22lr
Barrel: 16.25″
Weight: 18 lbs.
Operation: Blowback
Finish: Matte Black
Capacity: Either 22 or 10 round magazine
MSRP: $439

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
Ratings are based on other similar firearms. Final rating is not calculated from the constituent ratings.

Accuracy: * * * * *
From what I can tell it’s a tackdriver. A couple other writers have been doing some more extensive testing on their own GSG -522 and they have the same opinion. Look for a more detailed post in the very near future.

Ergonomics: * * * *
Just like the real thing. I love the charging handle mechanics, and the magazine release is identical to the real thing. The safety is a little wonky and the charging handle isn’t quite big enough, though.

Ergonomics Firing: * * * * *
There’s almost no recoil, and it feels like an MP5-SD on semi-auto.

Reliability: * * * *
Besides the magazine that failed on me, I’m very happy with the way the gun runs. I only had a couple failures, and they can all be attributed to ammunition issues. Moral of the story: don’t expect bulk pack Winchester .22lr to flawlessly function every time. That’s what Eley is for.

Customization: * * * * *
The top rail is only the beginning of the customization possibilities. There’s a gigantic aftermarket for this gun, and a couple other writers are working that angle for you. More information shortly, but suffice it to say you can pimp this gun out however you want.

Overall Rating: * * * *
This is a fantastic little gun. It’s fun to shoot, looks cool, and the mechanics of operating it are a blast. But in reality I think I’d rather spend the bucks on a 10/22. Which, by the way, is cheaper.

ATI’s Website

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

27 Responses to Gun Review: German Sports Guns GSG-522-SD

  1. avatarChris Dumm says:

    ATI overnighted parts to you?  You’re lucky; my VK-22 (by ATI) has suffered three catastrophic failures, and ATI’s customer service won’t even respond to my emails unless I ‘pull rank’ and tell them I’m a gun writer. 

  2. avatarRalph says:

    But in reality I think I’d rather spend the bucks on a 10/22. Which, by the way, is cheaper.

    My sentiments exactly. You and buy 2 Ruger 10/22s for under four bills. Or buy one and a truckload of .22 ammo. I have to acknowledge the downside, though — while quite accurate, the standard $200 10/22 is not a tackdriver.

  3. avatarBub says:

    I have one of the older GSG5s I purchased before the HK lawsuit forced the design change. Functionally it seems pretty much the same and I would agree with your above comments. BTW I know I overpaid for the gun when I bought it, but I’ve always been enamored with the MP5 and when the chance to have a 22lr clone to play around with presented itself I jumped at the opportunity. These are fun guns and made to go out to the range and have fun with pure and simple. Mine probably has 4000 rounds through it and so far so good. Some folks have compared these and the Umarex 22lr clones to glorified airsoft gun, but so what there are folks out there paying this much or more for airsoft guns the last time I checked.

  4. avatarDanny McBee says:

    The moral of the story, H&K is a big crybaby.

  5. avatarScottH says:

    I have a GSG and have put thousands of rounds down range with it. It’s as much fun as one of my 10/22’s. That being said, the screws on the GSG-5 have a tendency to back out on the bolt, or strip after much use. They put a lot of effort into making a nice rifle but went cheap on the screws for whatever reason. Do yourself a favor and buy a replacement screw pack from this guy at $15. HK push pins are also a nice addition.

    http://rrages.com/screws/net.htm

    Then take the hour and swap the parts out, using a little locktite on the bolt screws. You should be able to find a video or two walking you through the process. Fun little rifle

  6. avatarMartin Albright says:

    I have to admit I kind of like the “lookalike” .22s. My favorite is the PPS-22 that looks for all the world like a WWII/Korean war era Russian PPSh-41 Submachine gun, right down to the drum magazine. Saw one in a pawn shop in Fayette-Nam [Fayetteville, NC] back in the 90′s for around $200 but didn’t get it. A buddy of mine got it instead and has put thousands of rounds through it. I haven’t seen one in years.$439 is kind of steep for a plinker, but it’s not completely out of line, especially if it’s well made. I don’t think you can touch a PPS-22 for under $500 (if you can find one at all) so it could be a good buy, especially if these guns are a limited run.

    BTW, isn’t MSRP typically the highest possible price, from which most retailers mark downwards?

  7. avatarMichael says:

    I just picked up a second generation GSG-5 (not the SD model). I have to wait out the 10-wait period in CA, but I can’t wait to take it out to the range. Thanks for the great report.

  8. avatarBurrell says:

    i bought my GSG 522SD + shipping + tax and 2 spare clips for $412 plus change. I love it.

  9. avatarRay says:

    People spend 350 on the metal airsoft mp-5 is 400 really that bad for an actual rifle that can take out squirl and other annoying rodents. Oh an the airsoft mp-5 really pisses off squirls.

  10. avatarCW Smith says:

    I obiviously purchased a second genaration GSG522. I was really impressed with the idea of the firearm as it just looked like outright fun to target shoot or just plink. I had already purchased the Smith and Wesson M&P15/22 and was really having a great time with this well made firearm. It was accurate with the Iron Sights and easy to set up, change to scope, break down and clean, With 25 round mags and very AR M15 like. I was having a ball. I couldn’t wait to get my new GSG 522 put together and have some fun. I was really impressed with the options available for the 522 and ready to order the 110round drum mag before even firing the firearm. The first day I fired the 522 I was already falling in love with the design and most things about it. However, after about 75 rounds I just couldn’t get it dialed in and no consistent shot pattern. I tried different brands of amunition with the same results. I also noticed a consistent difference in sound between rounds of the same make every 5 or 6 shots. I also noticed occaasionally being sprayed with debris in my face, glad I had on my eyes. I read the manual again and once again cleaned the firearm very carefully and completely, just as I did before firing it the first time as that was directed and a usual procedure. I noticed in the manual this time a statement to be sure not to have any lubrication on the amunition, and just a couple of lines below that suggesting it may perform smoother with a high velocity round and now with slight lubrication on it. The next day I did try a higher velocity round(without lubricating the rounds) with the same results. Lack of accurancy , different sounds every 5 or 6 rounds and being sprayed by some residue in my face again. Several times the sound was so different that I pulled the magazine, cleared the firearm and checked for a round or debris being lodged in the barrel (which I was already dissapointed in its thickness and being so light duty a barrel). The barrell was clear and I continued again with another quality brand of amunition. The results were the same and I wound up checking the barrel for debris or a lodged round as this time the sound ocassionally became even more muffeled. I unloaded the firearm again and ran a mop through the barrel several times with no change or effect. Then a round blew back in my face and stuck in the ejector port. I cleared this and tried once more. The second time this happened I unloaded the firearm and put it away. This time I collected around 40 spent cases to examine. The findings were incredible. Most every case, regardless the brand, was out of round at the opening, some were bent or dented. The thing that clinched it for me was about 20% of the cases were slpit or blown out from the rim, I mean actual jagged holes. I cleaned it once more. This time I notice flash burn on the bore wall , even after cleaning with a solvent and tooth brush. I carefully disassembled the 522, carefully putting it bqack exactly as it was upon opening the carton. I then took it back to my place of purchase and showed the evidence of the spent cartridge cases and sharing my experience. I know that firearm purchases are final. I had previously purchased many firearms from this company and after seeing the evedence agreed with me this firearm was dangerous and had placed me in harms way. They offered to send the 522 back to the factory for me or refund my money and take it back as a return. They were to send it back then get with me to see if I would desire to repurchase it, or a different one completely. I was very dissapointed to find this to be a defective , even dangerous, firearm as I was so excited to add it to my collection. I would love to have another one if it was what I expected it to be originally, and as dependable and safe as my Smith and Wesson M&P 15/22. I feel the barrel to be too thin to have any real accurancy and there was a definite defect in the action, At this point in time and after my experience with the GSG 522, I would suggest anyone to think twice before making this purchase. I, at this time, have no plans to purchase another one with the less expensive alternative choices available. I know this as I own quite a few of them. This looked like a great deal of fun but turned into a dangerous exercise with a toy that says to use high velocity rounds in it. I hope your experience is safe and better than mine.

    • avatarCurt says:

      Mine fires once then crimps the second round near the middle of the round. New it fired 11 times before and jamming. Seems very dangerous.Complete waste of money.

  11. avatarRay says:

    I have shot around 500 rounds out of my 2nd gen. Sounds like you were having slam fire before the round chambered. Thats only thing i can think of for split cases. Something certainly wrong with yours. Mine is the SD version.

    • avatarCW Smith says:

      Mine was the SD version as well. I have since read a lot of good reviews on this firearm and come to conclude I had to be the unlucky one to purchase the defective one. I am thinking of trying another one, as I really like the 22 cal clones for inexpensive shooting fun with targets.

  12. avatarThomas says:

    A couple of months ago I picked up a used GSG-522 and I did some shooting today with the weapon with several different brands of .22 ammo, and I can say the best brand of ammo to shoot with this weapon is the CCI Stinger ammo, no problems with misfires , failure to extract etc ! Winchester, blazer ammo, a few misfires and extraction problems ! And definately do not use Aguila .22 Interceptor ammo, fired and lots of black smoke and rim broke off of the shell and had to use a small screw driver to remove the shell ! A very accurate weapon ! But watch your ammo !

  13. I have aHK MP5SD Auto and now have a GSG 522SD.522 cheaper on the ammo and runs great.At the range only the sights and clips give it away from the “SEAL” gun.The 522 is dead on! CCI mini`s run fast,real fast in this.I couldnt spend money on another MP .HK -weep on this one! At least u can field strip it. 3/6 India

  14. avatarDNR says:

    I owned a GSG and was happier to get rid of it. I found that when it gets dirty – it rapid fires – 3 to 5 round burst. Sometimes the bolt fails to close, causing FTF.
    with a FTF of about 10 out of 100, it became a toy and nothing else. unreliable and over priced. Get a ruger 10/22 and mod it.

    • avatarRay says:

      Was it the 1st version or the 2nd version i have a 2nd gen?

      On a side note: I have 1500 rounds through mine and had my first fail to fire last weekend. I pulled the trigger and nothing happened. I have upgraded the screws and installed pins. I pulled the pins and moved the triger assembly and it fixed whatever happened. Something must have bound up causing a problem. Its still a fun toy.

  15. avatarClaude says:

    I found a guy in CT that is making a silencer for the gsg5 and 522 for under$400 bucks. Just screw off the fake can and screw on the real one. Not exactly sure the DB decrease but I plan to find out. Does anyone find any value in doing this. I know the ATF gets another $200 for the tax stamp. I like the idea of a quite 22 for varmints in the back yard.

  16. avatarMike says:

    I took the carbine version out to the range a few days after purchasing it. At first it fired fine. After about 50 rounds there was a jam due to a casing not being fully ejected and in the chamber. After several more rounds there was a loud explosion an smoke coming out all around the chamber. I think it was a ignition before being fully chambered. Checked everything and the gun was fine. After another mag. it happeden again. Everything agin seemed fine, but then it would not chamber a round. It turned out that a brass caing was in the chamber, but the rim was missing. Cleared out the remaining cartridge and called for a RA number. It has been almost a moth now and stil waiting to see what ATI is going to due.

  17. avatarmitchell l thompson says:

    i have a gsg 5/22 sd i purchased new for about 320 i have since put about 4000 thousand rounds down range never had one major failure except the ocassional dud that can happen any time you use bulk ammo with proper cleaning and maintence its a fine reliable weapon the one big drawback is the mags and drums are to exspencive i think based on my studies of trail and erro fedral egale ammo works best for the price

  18. avatarjesse says:

    I cannot seem to get mine to work. I just purchased regular .22lr ammo, and when it is chambered the gun works fine, however it will not reset itself and I have to load the next round manually. I called the retailer and he said i needed to use .22lr HV not just regular .22lr. Has anyone noticed anything similar?

    • avatarRay says:

      Jesse Something sounds like its binding somewhere. Have you had it apart? There is a spring in there that will bind if not put in properly. I have dont that a couple times and you can feel it restricting the bolt when you pull it back. Another big thing is don’t hold the mag when you fire it will jam.

      • avatarMike says:

        I’m having this same problem. How do you get the spring not to bind?

        • avatarRay says:

          The spring I spoke about just needs to be installed properly. It sometimes gets out of place when doing reinstall. Other things to check the bolt make sure its not cracked or split and screws are tight. Older models the bolt loosens up. Also check the springs on the bolt I think they only go in one direction. Having that wrong can cause a bind.

  19. avatarKyle says:

    I wouldn’t rule this out as a home defense gun. Using CCI Stingers I was driving rounds through two sheets of quarter inch thick plexyglass. Also at distances that I would see within my home I can dump a full mag into a silhouette targets cranial area in a few seconds. I don’t care what drugs your on 22 rounds in the cranium will drop anyone.

  20. avatarCorpsman311 says:

    I love my GSG522sd !!!!!!!! I only paid 300 for it(which is cheaper that a 10/22 now) I have since put over 1000 rounds down range with only 1 issue! One of the ears o top of a magazine chipped, now that magazine is only good for 5 rounds or it jams! Called GSG(ATI) got two shipped overnite to my house with no issue!!!! I have added a Quick acquisition optic, collapsible stock, and laser….I would have to agree with Kyle, I can nail a squirrel in the head from 70 yards 3 shots before he falls!!! I wouldn’t rule this lil stinger out as a home defense gun!

  21. avatarCorpsman311 says:

    Oh yeah, if you are a bit of a mechanicaly minded person, you can make the shroud work for a silencer

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