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

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