Gun Review: H&K MP7A1

MP7A1, c Nick Leghorn

The H&K MP7A1 is, unquestionably, a lethal weapon. It’s killed many a terrorist. It has killed the career of Jerry Tsai. And it nearly killed Recoil Magazine. But the lethality of this gun isn’t what makes it so cool — it’s the design. Whether or not you’re a fan of Heckler & Koch, you can’t say that they make ugly guns. They are to the gun world what Lamborghini is to the car world, producing overpriced supercars guns, the pictures of which are frequently pinned up on the walls of prepubescent boys. But is the gun functional as well as aesthetically pleasing? We just had to find out . . .

The MP7A1 falls into the category of a personal defense weapon or PDW. The idea is that you produce a firearm that’s as compact as possible, capable of being fired either single-handed or with a stock and has a massive magazine. The resulting PDW is ideally still capable of putting down the bad guys, but has the added bonus of being compact and portable — perfect for close quarters fighting or where size is a major consideration.

For decades, the MP5 has been the gold standard of PDW firearms. Its compact size and lightweight design (well, for the time) made it ideal for combat helicopter pilots and executive protection details all over the world. And the fact that it looked like pure tactical awesomeness didn’t hurt either.

But the MP5 has issues, namely that as the firearms manufacturing processes improved, the MP5 stayed the same. When most gun manufacturers moved to CNC-machined aluminum for their firearms, the MP5 remained a stamped and welded piece of sheet metal. When most manufacturers were doing pinned or screwed-on barrels, the MP5’s was still riveted in place. And while 9mm ammunition isn’t any less deadly than it used to be, new concepts in bullet design means that smaller and faster rounds can be substituted for the relatively slow and heavy 9mm cartridges. The world has pretty much left the MP5 behind and a replacement needed to be found.

H&K sensed that there was a need to update their PDW line, and so in 1999 they introduced the PDW. Yes, they really did just called it “the PDW.” Imaginative folks, those Germans. Two years later, no doubt after much ridicule, they changed the name to the MP7, and shortly thereafter the final version known as the MP7A1 was made available for sale to military and law enforcement organizations worldwide.

MP7A1, c Nick Leghorn

The best way to think of the MP7A1 is as a really short HK416 with some nifty features. The operating mechanism is pretty much the same — a short-stroke gas piston system is fed through a gas block (under the black body), which knocks back a bolt carrier with a rotating bolt. Even the cocking mechanism is similar to an AR-15, looking for all the world like a standard Stoneresque charging handle. But that’s where the similarities end.

P1150474

While the MP5 used standard 9mm parabellum, the MP7A1 uses a proprietary 4.6x30mm round that’s similar in appearance and performance to FNH’s 5.7x28mm round. The idea is that the smaller diameter bullet travels at a fast enough velocity that the overall muzzle energy is as good as, if not better than, a 9mm round. At the same time it produces less recoil and allows the shooter to carry more of the lighter ammunition. It’s an attractive concept, and the reason FN’s P90 PDW uses a similar round.

My main issue with the MP7A1 stems from that choice of ammo. With the MP5, and specifically the MP5SD variant, you could take supersonic 9mm ammunition and (thanks to the integral suppressor) slow it down to subsonic speeds and nearly eliminate the report. With supersonic ammunition like the 4.6×30, the power of the caliber comes from its speed, not its size. So making a subsonic version would be like making a PG-13 edition of Penthouse.

All that speed has another drawback: sound. Without a silencer, the MP7A1 is somewhere between “uncomfortable” and “deafening” when fired. With a silencer the gun is hearing safe, but there’s no stealthiness at all to it.

Oh, and did I mention that since there’s only one firearm in the world that shoots this caliber of ammo? And that the ammo prices are sky high and chronically unavailable?

So, I don’t like the caliber. As for the gun itself . . .

MP7A1, c Nick Leghorn

There are some things I really love and some things I just hate. Let’s start with the plus side.

MP7A1, c Nick Leghorn

As far as the fire controls go, they’re great. The selector switch on this gun is brilliant, perfectly ergonomic and ambidextrous. Moving from one fire mode to the next comes with a tactile and audible click which lets you know when the setting has been engaged. Unlike the AK-47, slamming the selector all the way down in mid-panic will give you full auto instead of semi auto.

Another thing I like is the trigger. The latest versions feature a Glock-like split trigger that gives you a little more peace of mind, knowing that the trigger is unlikely to be accidentally pulled. Unless, of course, you’re a NYC police officer. Anyway, it’s an additional safety feature and I appreciate it.

While most of the levers and switches are nice, there are two that aren’t. The first is the bolt catch release, which is located above the trigger. It’s tough to activate and located in a really awkward position. I’m not sure how else H&K could have manufactured it, I just know that I don’t like it at all.

The other downer is the magazine release, which is the standard European style. That means the release button is located on the triggerguard and not on the grip. For the MP7 series, magazines are inserted directly into the pistol grip like any common handgun. That keeps the gun much shorter since you don’t need a separate magazine well. But the resulting system is tough to use, specifically when reloading a mag. Despite a lot of practice, I couldn’t find a simple and fast way to get my fingers to hit that release properly. It was intuitive with the MP5, but with the MP7A1 it just plain sucks.

MP7A1, c Nick Leghorn

One feature that doesn’t suck, however, is the built-in vertical forward grip. It’s a simple addition to the gun, but one that makes a ton of sense. It gives the shooter the option of trading a little extra bulk for a much more controllable hold, and that I applaud. Also not sucking: the telescoping skeletonized stock. These guns aren’t about pinpoint accuracy at distance. They’re made for hosing down close range targets. Which makes getting a solid cheek rest irrelevant. However, if you’re looking for accuracy, the gun delivers that in spades.

MP7A1, c Nick Leghorn

We had a plate rack set up about 50 yards away and every time we shot it with the MP7A1 we hit it. The PDW also reliably set off the little packages of tannerite that we had placed at the end of the range, making a rather nice ka-boom sound. Even with iron sights, it was pinpoint accurate.

In short, the ergos of firing the gun are excellent. It feels right in your hands and conforms to your body perfectly as you take your shots. The trigger is crisp and light, and the reset is present enough for government work. As for recoil, its practically nonexistent.

But flip that gun over to full-auto and throw a can on it, and you start having some problems. The gun produces an enormous level of back pressure, which causes a small cloud of exhaust to form right under your nose. After about 10 rounds its bad enough that you can’t really breathe anymore. In short, it blows.

MP7A1, c Nick Leghorn

Despite the epic blowing, the lightweight projectile makes for an extremely soft-recoiling firearm which is perfect for small kids. In semi-auto mode, that is. Until they’re big and strong.

Is the MP7A1 perfect? Nope. Far from it. But its slick design, light recoil and high rate of fire make it excellent for taking out bad guys and looking cool at the same time. The MP7A1 is currently in service with the Navy SEALs and other special forces groups, and for good reason. But if I had my choice, I’d probably pick something else.

Heckler & Koch MP7A1

Specifications
Caliber: 4.6x30mm HK
Barrel: 7.1″
Size: 25.1″
Weight: 2.65 lbs. empty
Operation: Short stroke gas piston
Capacity: 40 round box magazine
MSRP: No gun for you!

Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
All ratings are relative compared to the other weapons in the gun’s category.

Accuracy: * * * * *
It’s amazing the level of accuracy you can get with a grain of rice shot through a 7-inch barrel.

Ergonomics: * * * *
Mostly great, but the magazine release is annoying and so is the bolt catch.

Ergonomics Firing: * * * *
I hate to admit it: perfect. Right up until the point you can’t breathe any more.

Customization: * * * *
Tons of rail space for your tactical pleasure, but not so much on the aftermarket.

Overall Rating: * * * *
Despite my personal gripes, it’s a good gun. It works, it kills bad guys (and bad journalists’ careers), and looks stunning. But it’s not my cup of tea.

comments

  1. avatar John Boch says:

    Did you get it hot and check for accuracy?

    http://www.gunssavelife.com/?p=9228

    HK: Because you suck. And we hate you.

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      If this were a proper rifle, I’d care more about accuracy. But since this is a PDW, the standard I’m using is “can it hit a B/C Zone Target at 50 Yards?” And for this gun, yes. Every time. Even after two mags of full auto.

    2. avatar AZRon says:

      Wow, this time a “super expert operator” got the very first post. Well done Goob, well done! Please tell us more. I’m sure that there many of us who have, ya’ know, actually shot a gun that would benefit from your superior expertise.

      Offal expertise once again on display.

      How ’bout next time, you just type “FIRST!”, and let it go at that.

  2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    Proprietary round = no bueno

    1. avatar PhoenixNFA says:

      I actually found some of these at academy a few months back during the panic. American eagle at $.50 a round. I almost bought a box for novelty and I should have. 3 weeks later the box was gone. Either a PD or someone came and bought it or academy begged federal to refund their purchase towards overpriced 9mm at the time.

      1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        That’s probably more of the exception than the rule.

        I’m not a fan of fly by night rounds that may or may not be around in 5,10 or 15 years.

        Hell, the 40 cal was the end all be all there for awhile, now it starting to fall out of favor. During all this ammo craziness, in my area local gun shops they were giving 10% or more discounts on 40 cal guns because no one was buying them.

        1. avatar Andrew says:

          Thats the first thing I thought when I read about the round. Is it really that different from 5.7×28?

          Chambering a new gun in a new cartridge would seem to spell trouble. I don’t know what the licensing of ammo is like: does anybody know if HK gets to decide who is allowed to actually make the ammo?

    2. avatar Brian says:

      All rounds start out as proprietary, until they become popular and the most common thing on your local shelf.

      The issue with this one is HK’s sales policies, which are a result of decades under German government culture. Unlike FN, HK will go to the ends of the earth to prevent the sale of this “dangerous” ammunition to private individuals.

  3. avatar CB says:

    Call of Duty has shown me the way to maximize this weapon’s potential is to sprint, full tilt, at your enemies with one in each hand. You’re saying this is not correct?

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      Ladies and gentlemen, Reed Knight, III.

      1. avatar C says:

        Operator as f**k.

        1. avatar CB says:

          I feel like operator as f*** could become an amazing gun meme. With images like that one floating around the tacticool crowd.

        2. avatar CB says:

          LOL, that was everything I imagined. 10 internets. Now let’s get an image thread going in the forums.

      2. avatar Roll says:

        ‘Murrica…er, I mean Germany?

    2. avatar Dan Zimmerman says:

      I’ve never been a gamer, but will have to re-think that now. I had no idea you could get that kind of first rate tactical training from COD. And at a bargain price, too.

      1. avatar CB says:

        Oh yeah, right at them, screaming at the top of your lungs. Also works with a pair of over-unders, provided you cut the length down a bit. To think I’ve been popping quail the wrong way all this time.

  4. avatar harrycarry says:

    Loving the gun reviews, keep them coming!

  5. avatar Paul W says:

    Stuff that’s extraordinary proprietary is a bad idea in general–software, guns, whatever.

  6. avatar Nomad says:

    I do not understand all the hate for the H&K / Walther / “European” magazine release. It’s all a matter of training. I find on my P30 that I can reach down with my trigger finger and give the guy a bop to drop the magazine without shifting my grip at all (which is a feat that i have been unable to replicate on any handgun with a “normal” magazine release). Granted I have what some have called freekishly small hands, so YMMV.

    1. avatar Vorpalis says:

      I’m a huge fan of that mag release, too, and I also hit it with my trigger finger, too. To me, it’s the best mag release design I’ve used, and I find the more common button in the grip style frustratingly awkward.

  7. avatar A-Rod says:

    Damn it Nick, if you get to play with and then review the Beretta M93R next, that’s it. We will all hate you.

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      Um, you may not want to read the site tomorrow then…

      1. avatar A-Rod says:

        Fine then!

        I’m gonna go pout now.

        1. avatar lolinski says:

          Oooh, can I complain about how angry/jealous I am going to be if you review a Dragunov SVD? And then you will review it too?

          I can dream, right? Ironically in Norway you can buy the SVD.

  8. avatar Hasdrubal says:

    Engineers took another step down the road towards .9mm with this one… but it does look cool.

  9. avatar Pig humper says:

    Is the safety/selector ambidextrous or still just on the right side of the weapon like the MP5s?
    I hated that. You had to learn to keep your thumb on the “wrong” side of the grip. was way awkward to me for a long time.

  10. avatar Steve says:

    I wouldn’t really consider the MP5 or MP5SD PDW-class weapons as they are firing a slower, higher caliber round, making them SMGs. Granted, the size and purpose of the weapon classes are similar, but PDW typically refers to a small-caliber, high-velocity cartridge weapon. The actual MP5 that H&K labeled a PDW was just a compact SMG (essentially a machine pistol) with a folding stock.

    For me, the MP5 to MP7A1 comparison was apples to oranges. The actual follow-up to the MP5 was the UMP, though the MP5 is still in production because of demand.

    I’ve never heard of the modern H&K-style mag-release referred to as Euro-style… that usually makes me think of the older heel-release present on guns like the Ruger Mk.II and the P7 PSP.

    Lastly, if you are really complaining about smoke after 10 rounds through an MP7A1, it was either over-lubricated or you just need to suck it up. I’ve fired an MP7A1 suppressed – the smoke wasn’t bad. My only complaints were the proprietary cartridge and the charging handle that felt like it was gonna snap off (it’s similar to the AR handle, but made of thin polymer and split down the middle so the actual latching action is caused by the flex of the plastic). I never saw one fail, but if any component on the firearm were to go, that’s where I’d have my money.

  11. avatar Jeh says:

    That laugh at 0:10 had me laughing, it goes to show that comedy isn’t just about someone getting hurt, all it takes sometimes to make ya laugh is a small amount of tanerite.

  12. avatar ropingdown says:

    The 4.6 bullet, like the 5.7, was created based on a NATO RFP for a PDW, probably the reason H&K first called the item simply PDW. H&K’s version was not adopted and I believe they’re still fighting over the issue (with words, of course). Apparently there is high demand for executive protection tools at the command level in NATO. In a just world this would be doubly-true for the Brussels bureaucracy. Despite the innovations, I would guess Vegas odds still favor the guy in blue coveralls holding forged paperwork, delivering a short-barreled shotgun hidden inside a box of plumber’s equipment. Can’t blame the civil servants for trying, though.

  13. avatar Jeff says:

    Hey guys they are a good future investment. When the Combine arrives and enslaves the human race, everyone will have an MP7 – complete with grenade launcher, too.

    1. avatar Jesus says:

      I’ll pass on the MP7 and take a P90 or FN2000.

    2. avatar PhoenixNFA says:

      I got your joke.

      Lambda.jpg

    3. avatar sgtlegendkiller says:

      You son of a bitch.

  14. avatar I_Like_Pie says:

    I suppose I will be the first.

    HK makes some really ugly guns.

    1. avatar Richard says:

      Yes i completely agree! I think the mp7a1 looks like crap, especially with that clunky eotech. But this is coming from a guy who thinks a Glock 19 is a sexy piece of hardware. So take that as you will….

    2. avatar AZRon says:

      Yeah, because I’m fairly sure that most people on this site would agree that it is far more important to have a pretty gun that a reliable tool.

      What would the “my favorite tactical pony brigade” recommend in its stead.

      Don’t keep us waiting mr/ms/mrs operator. Our lives might very well depend upon your stylish opinion. Please elucidate us serfs. As somebody that has actually smelled burnt gunpowder, I wait with breathless anticipation for your expert guidance. I’m kinda’ freaked-out that I haven’t had the benefit of your wisdom until now, I mighta’ gotten kilt carrying a hideous pistol that didn’t match my undies. Can you imagine the shame to my survivors? I mean really, can ya? …so PLEASE don’t hold back any longer. Our lives might depend on your input, especially when it comes to which firearms we can trust with our lives. OK, so HK is out (’cause they’re ugly). What now? Are Glocks pretty enough? Sig? SA? Please, please, PLEASE, we NEED your help. I don’t want to defend myself with an ugly gun, so we need your advice for a .32 (or above) fashion accessory. Preferably something that goes well with gray and/or pink.

      If all else fails, you can always fall back on the “suck/hate you” meme that can’t be more than 10 years old. Good laughs (for parrots) all around. Derp derp a derp derp.

      Hey wait, are you Milton Berle?

      I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I’m going to assume that a revolver is like totes out of the question for a major player such as yourself. Am I co?

      1. avatar Andrew says:

        Oh. My. God. Somebody has a case of the Mondays!

        AZ – calm down. they’re called opinions. We all have them.

      2. avatar I_Like_Pie says:

        Dear God man…chill or take your medication
        Have you considered that something could be functional and ugly at the same time?

        Kinda like your mom.

  15. avatar Hanover Fist says:

    I feel like this is a stupid question, but if these are ‘no guns for you!’ guns, then how are you shooting them?

    I know there must be a legal way to do it, but I just don’t grok how it works. Please to be explaining to this simpleton.

    1. avatar PhoenixNFA says:

      Post dealer samples. And with hk you gotta know somebody who knows somebody. I believe they recently stopped their post sample to anyone thing.

      Manufacturers can chime in but I don’t think with just a law letter I can call hk USA and get an mp7 overnighted.

      Even Richard Ryan from ratedrr has to have hk USA come out so he can shoot the mp7

      1. avatar Jeh says:

        Just like on Sons of Guns with the HK416 and the “SEAL”, they had a representative come shoot it with them, I guess so they didn’t accidentally use it in a none approved H und K way or let a regular person touch it and blow away the wunderwaffe air HK has proclaimed it to have.

  16. avatar Steve says:

    But Recoil said it’s too much firepower for us lowly civilians!

  17. avatar PhoenixNFA says:

    True.

    I have confirmed that HK USA has stopped importing post samples.

    Last year poste mp5s were a grand all day. Now they are 3 grand.

    1. avatar Andrew says:

      Does the “post” in post-dealer sample refer to guns made after the 86′ GCA (that are allowed to be sold to dealers as “example” firearms)?

      I’m always confused by that little corner of firearms regulations.

      I just buy them out of the back of an 87′ buick. (Heeehehehee…)

  18. avatar crzapy says:

    I love these reviews and I love all things full auto and requiring a tax stamp. That being said, these “reviews” are like having salt rubbed into a wound, as the closest I will ever get to firing an MP7 was fondling it at the SHOT show. I would love an MP7, G36, P90, full auto SCAR, or even an M16. However due to the fact that no new machine guns are allowed to be purchased by us lowly civilians due to the firearms act of 1986, watching this is like lusting after Jessica Alba or Scarlett Johansen. It is fun to daydream about, but that is it.

  19. avatar SH says:

    If HK and the Germany delegation weren’t such sore losers, there could have been NATO adoption of the 5.7x28mm round. They might have even be able to have created an MP7 variant chambered for it.

  20. avatar Paul McCain says:

    Chamber that in 5.56 and now we are talking.

    1. avatar Chipsa says:

      Good luck getting your hand around the pistol grip if it’s in 5.56

  21. avatar Jay Wolf says:

    P90 is not perfect but fare better then the HK.

  22. avatar Silver says:

    What’s the point of a review for a gun we can’t own?

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