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This truly is the year of the civilian sub-gun. From the MPX to the CZ Scorpion and all the various options in between, it seems there’s a pistol out there to suit every shooter. The reason is simple: just about everyone already owns an AR-15 and now American gun owners are moving on to more interesting range toys and potential home defense guns. While an original H&K MP5 would fill that role nicely H&K doesn’t seem interested in releasing a civilian version of that gun any time soon and proper examples cost upwards of $29,000. There is hope, however: Zenith Firearms is importing something that is about as close to the original MP5 as you can get without a tax stamp . . .

I mentioned the Zenith Z-5 pistol line earlier this year at the NRA Annual Meeting and the first impressions were very good. I followed up a little while later with the guys at Zenith and pretty soon a small package arrived at my door carrying a German designed, Turkish manufactured bundle of joy. But before we get to the gun let’s take a step back and talk about how this all came to be.

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If you ask some American gun owners, H&K’s unofficial motto is “you suck and we hate you.” That’s arguable been less and less true as the years go by and H&K releases more new guns for the US market. There are still some items, however, that the folks in Germany haven’t exported across the pond in decades for the civilian market. One of those much coveted items is the venerable MP5 and its variants. While the actual H&K gun might be unavailable, there are a couple companies that have found a way around that sticky wicket.

In the latter half of the last century Germany was rather generous when it came to providing their designs and their machinery to overseas manufacturers, allowing them to make local copies. In this case, the Turkish arsenal MKE received a set of German stamping machines (complete with German inscriptions) for the H&K parts and began cranking out a local (officially licensed) version of the iconic MP5.

Fast forward about three decades — the American firearms market is booming like it never has before and MKE wants to get in on some of that cash to bolster its bottom line. The patent on the MP5 design has long since expired, allowing MKE to modify its version of the gun and sell it on the open market, something they couldn’t easily do under their licensing agreement. The only thing remaining on the MP5 is the trademark on the model designation so they slap a new name on it and ship it off to the United States.

The result is the Z-5 line, and the MP5K equivalent is their Z-5P Pistol.

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I’ve spent a fair bit of time with the original MP5K (full review here) and in general the Zenith gun is identical to the real deal. The proportions of the Z-5P are correct, as is the overall design. The rear strengthening plates are present and accounted for on the back of the receiver, for example — necessary additions to combat the added stress of the shorter receiver, but oddly missing from other imported MP5K clones. In fact, it’s probably easier to talk about what MKE has changed rather than what’s the same.

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When MKE first started importing these guns into the US, they changed so much of the gun to meet compliance regulations that it was basically a whole new beast. In the intervening years they’ve gone back toward the original design only changing a bare minimum of items, which makes the Z-5P as close to an actual original MP5K as you can get.

One of the major changes that needed to happen was a redesign of the trigger housing. It looks like they needed to design a way to keep the full auto trigger packs from slotting into the gun and their solution was to create their own polymer trigger group to do the job. They executed this well, and not only does the new trigger group look good but it also feels really good. Except for the actual trigger that is, which is unfortunately similar to the standard MP5 trigger and includes all the associated heaviness.

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For those thinking about simply grabbing a trigger group off GunBroker and slotting it into the gun, MKE is a half a step ahead of you. They have welded a small bar onto all of their magazine wells which only works with MKE’s semi-automatic trigger housing. Full auto trigger groups will not fit without first grinding that little nub off. I’m not gonna ding them on it since it’s easy to fix for those who actually have a registered MP5 trigger pack and want to enjoy some full auto fun, but it’s something that prospective buyers should be aware of.

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Another change is the addition of a Picatinny rail mounted along the top of the firearm. There are a number of aftermarket Pic rails available for the MP5 platform and much like those, this is also a bolt-on accessory that attaches to the top of the gun. This allows the owner to choose whether they want to run an optic on their pistol (something like an Aimpoint red dot) or if they want to go completely retro and run with a simple set of iron sights.

The rail looks awkward and bulky on the gun. The clamping mechanism required to make it work adds a lot of extra material and starts to obscure the beautiful lines of the MP5 design. The rail’s also just a hair tall for my taste. Then again removing it is as easy as pie.

The gun comes from the factory with a fitted hard case, three magazines, and a cleaning kit that all fit in a plastic container.

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The pistol takes down exactly like a standard MP5K — easy as 1-2-3. The major components slide right out of the gun and it works exactly as a normal MP5 should. There are some minor differences in the parts that a seasoned MP5 expert might (and did when I showed some pictures to one) catch, but nothing that the average Joe will really care too much about. All the usual bits and bobs sold online as aftermarket replacements should and typically will fit.

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Just to be clear, that gun is NOT being shouldered.

Speaking of accessories, the Z-5P is indeed properly sized to accept the usual MP5K accouterments. SB Tactical is producing a pistol arm brace specifically for the MP5K these days (which includes the mounting hardware already installed) and they sent me a sample to test out on the gun. Not only does it look amazing, but it also works really well. The guy I asked to model for me had never used the brace “properly” before (attached to your arm), and after trying it he mentioned that it really did help reduce the perceived weight of the gun and steady his aim.

While most external accessories will fit, one very important one will not. In fact it brought the review to a screeching halt and may have sunk the gun’s rating.

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The Z-5P ships with a copy of H&K’s typical 3-lug barrel design. Not only is the barrel threaded for silencers but they also include the iconic 3-lug system which was one of the very first standardized fast-attach systems for silencers. It allowed the operator to quickly add or remove a silencer and use a single can on as many of H&K’s pistol caliber firearms as they have at their disposal.

When I reviewed the B&T APC9 I talked Liberty Suppressors into sending me a 3-lug adapter for my Mystic-X silencer so I could test it out and see how it works. I was excited to do the same thing with the Z-5P. Unfortunately that was not to be.

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This is a close-up picture of the 3-lug adapter on the Z-5P pistol. Having consulted with some MP5 experts and reviewed the technical drawings I know that the OD of the barrel should be uniform from start to finish to allow the mount to work properly. If you take a look at the ridge just behind that small trough highlighted in the above picture you can see that it is clearly higher than the preceding barrel surface. This is a problem.

The way the 3-lug mount is machined is they start with a complete circle of material at that location and machine out the slots to allow the petals on the mount to pass and lock in with the lugs. It looks like in this instance the machinists in Turkey left just enough material in place to pass the QC at the factory yet still keep my Liberty mount from locking on.

I contacted Zenith about this issue and they confirmed that yes indeed my gun was out of spec and immediately replaced it with a new gun (including return shipping on the old gun). According to Zenith that’s the standard warranty response should anyone else have this issue, and they are changing their QC process to include fitting a 3-lug adapter on every gun that comes in to filter out this issue in the future. When the new Z-5P came it had the exact same issue so I’m guessing that this is a common feature on the MKE guns.

Here’s the catch: the 3-lug mount on this gun will work just fine with most silencer adapters. Liberty Suppressors took the technical drawings on the MP5 a little too literally and as a result they expect the mount to be 100% perfectly in spec, when in reality that’s probably not a common occurrence. The SilencerCo 3-lug adapter will fit just fine, for example. Nevertheless the thing is still out of spec, which is a bit of a concern for me. The good news is that the threads on the end of the barrel are still good and will be useful for mounting silencers.

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Out on the range the Z-P runs just fine. I didn’t have any malfunctions, and the gun seemed equally well suited to the few types of ammunition I fed it. Accuracy is what you’d expect for a rather heavy pistol with iron sights: more than minute of bad guy at 30 feet. The trigger is as heavy as a typical MP5 and the controls are still annoying — the thumb selector switch is always a bit awkward for me to action. Then again that’s more of a knock against the original MP5 design and not against MKE’s faithful reproduction.

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So how does this Z-5P/MP5K stack up against the competition? At $1,800 MSRP (street price around $1,700) the gun isn’t cheap, but it also isn’t the most expensive one out there. There are three manufacturers that come to mind when I think of MP5s in this price range: Zenith/MKE, Pakistani Ordnance Factory, and Brethren Armament. There’s a couple more, but they are like the Wilson Combat of MP5s and command an appropriate hilariously high sum of money for their work.

Zenith’s MKE guns are right smack dab in the middle of the three in every way possible. The build quality is miles better than POF (who don’t even really have a “K” version, its just a shorter MP5 and lacks some of the proper “K” features) yet Brethren Armament still leaves them in the dust. It’s the same for price, aesthetics, and just about every other category on the plate. And yet the three are only separated by about $500, which makes the argument for cheaping out less persuasive in this case.

The only reason why I would recommend this gun over the Brethren version is that pedigree. This is as close as you will ever probably get to owning an original MP5 since it rolled off the very same machines H&K sold to Turkey all those years ago. It shares a direct lineage with the original MP5 and for a collector I can see that being a big thing. Of the manufacturers that make licensed MP5 copies, this is probably the best-executed version I’ve seen out there — despite the 3-lug niggles. There’s also the minor fact that Brethren Armament is a small shop and having trouble keeping up with demand, so you’re probably more likely to actually find a Zenith/MKE gun available for sale.

If you want the best MP5K for your money (legally in the United States and without a tax stamp), Brethren Armament for $150 to $275 more gets my vote. But if you want the closest thing to an original MP5K on the market for a price that won’t break the bank (and is actually in stock) then you’ll want to go with the Z-5P.

Specifications – Zenith MKE Z-5P Pistol:

MSRP: $1,800 ($1,675 street)
Caliber: 9mm parabellum
Magazine Capacity: 30
Weight: 4.6 pounds
Sights: H&K notch and post
Barrel Length: 5.8 inches

Ratings (out of five stars):

Fit, Finish, Build Quality: * *
Overall the gun is acceptable, but the lack of attention to detail is evident from the 3-lug adapter all the way back to the end plate.

Customization: * * * *
All of your favorite MP5K accessories will fit just fine, and the addition of a Picatinny rail is a nice touch for optics.

Accuracy: * * *
Meh. Not impressed, but not horrified either.

Overall: * * *
What we have here is the definition of a benchmark. The gun is functional and generally well made and the added extras are a hit in my book. It isn’t the worst MP5K I’ve seen this year, but it also isn’t the best. Middle of the road is the best way to describe it — the definition of average. Definitely worth the money.

34 Responses to Gun Review: Zenith MKE Z-5P Pistol

  1. Too expensive. I’d go with the CZ EVO3 instead. Honestly, the semi-automatic “subguns” don’t make any sense to me unless you put a stock on them and turn them into an SBR. As an SBR, they make a lot of sense. As a pistol, you would be better of with a Glock 17 or something equivalent.

    • n Segal looked really cool in the first five minutes of “executive decisions”. Maybe thats why it costs $1200 more than a brand new glock….. I agree though…. Full size Glock with a machined slide, good barrel, and rmr, and you will still have $800 left ro spend on ammo, holster, belt, and a nice shirt to conceal it on your person. Out-shoot the guy sporting the z5 with iron sights and no ammo all day long…. If you want a toy get this in .22 for $350

  2. I have always wondered why these HK type firearms so pricey? With the exception of the roller lock action and polymer trigger housings, they are not that different than an AK type weapon in construction, stamped sheet metal receivers, pinned/welded in front trunnions. Just the ”HK” thing I guess.

    • I’ve been told (specifically regarding the G3) that the action itself, requires tight tolerances and steel tough enough on machinery, to require frequent attention in order to keep to those tolerances.

      The German approach to dealing with the theory vs practice conundrum, often seem to be to, by sheer force of precision and perfectionism, make practice as close to theory as it can possibly get, in order to make the theoretically and conceptually purest designs workable.

      As opposed to the Russian (AK) approach of just making cheap junk work as well as possible. Or the American (AR) one, of releasing something half finished, use end users as beta testers, and iterate, evolve and improve from there. As Silicon Valley, and current Marine Corps riflemen, amply demonstrate, in the long run, the US approach has a lot going for it.

  3. Like the design – don’t like the price – At all.

    Why not a nitescout at half the price? They even take cheap UZI mags and are manufactured by the last handful of gun owners in all of Connecticut.

    http://www.nitescout.com/products.html

    They were selling at CDNNsports for $499 just a couple months ago.

  4. I bought a true HK SP-89 and SBR’d it. $1,800 is a drop in the bucket compared to that. it’s not that much more than a sig mpx and it’s an iconic HK MP5K. I’ve found people either love it or hate it but I’ve never had anyone that shot my SP-89 conversion say they hated it.

    • Exactly. I have an authentic MP5 and people just giggle when they shoot it. And the Zenith is an exact replica, right down to every HK part fitting it (except trigger group). So its the same gun, same tooling and machining.

      People on here that bitch are only doing so because of the cost, but yet want to add how its a waste of money, its heavy, its a bad gun, blah blah blah. But ask anyone who has actually had experience with the platform and they will tell you its iconic for a reason. And still used today, by many military, police and protection agencies for a reason. Because its the gold standard and still is, for SMG. Perfect balance, feel and maneuverability.

      There is one reason and one reason only people dont like it. Cause they cant afford it. Thats it. All the other bullshit and reasons are moot. They should just say “would love to have it, but cant afford”. Thats really the only reason

      Case in point. If it were free every single person would take it. But if a high point were free (they practically are), most wouldnt. Hell i wouldnt. Just because its out of “YOUR” price range, doesnt mean its not in other peoples price range. Maybe you should have worked harder, payed more attention in school or had more ambition to move up in life and in your career and you could. And then all of the sudden, it wouldnt suck so much anymore after all.

      People are so full of shit on here

  5. I have always loved the MP5, but these are not in my price range for such a gun. Without an arm brace, or SBR license, it just an overweight, unconcealable range toy.

    For $2000+ (out the door with accessories), I could buy a MP5 .22lr rifle, spare mags, LOADS of bullets, and a couple other guns.

    Also, Turkey and Pakistan have a political nature for which I am not willing contribute to financially.

    • Turkey is a NATO country, and THE bulwark between the Middle East and Europe.

      Pakistan, at least the Northern parts, have perhaps the most pervasive “Gun Culture” of anywhere. They’re not currently regarded as “our” friends, but that changes every decade or so. A bunch of militiamen that helped bring down the Soviets, can’t be all that bad. And, in another decade or a few, they’ll be busy demonstrating their love of small arms by messing with ascendant Chinese and Indian efforts to dominate the region, so then they’ll be “our” “friends” again…..

      In both cases, the more money they can make from doing good deeds (build guns), the less dependent they’ll be on Saudi money that come with crazy Whabbi preachers attached.

    • IM pretty sure anyone buying this would not use it as a concealed, defensive gun. So saying it sucks cause its not concealable is like saying a Benelli M4 and AR15 or any other gun that not concealable sucks. Thats not a valid point. And it actually is concealable, maybe not in an inside the waist band holster, but it is for a coat or large jacket, hence the CIA and secret service carried these and continue to do so, concealed.

      And overweight? Its a 4.4lbs submachine gun. ID say for the platform, thats pretty fucking good as far as weight balance. Yea its heavy compared to say a subcompact 9mm. But compared to its peers or comparable weapon, its not.

      Both your arguments on this are dumb and make absolutely zero sense when talking about the general platform and comparing it against other submachine guns, which is what it is. Dont compare it against a pistol, because the 2 are very different and used for different purposes, even if they do both shoot 9mm.

      In reality your just pissed it costs so much and you cant afford it. Because i guarantee if it were 500 dollars you would take it in a heartbeat!

  6. I can see how it might be a fun range toy for some. Personally, the MP5K has always been my least favorite of the family. I could see buying a semiauto MP5 in the “below $1k” price range, but at that pricepoint I just can’t get beyond “compares unfavorably with an AR”. I’ll stick with my current 9mm carbine – a Taurus CT-9 that cost me $400.

  7. In regards to the comments about pricing.
    The costs associated with this is largely governed by the cost of parts.
    Parts alone for a standard kit run around $1300.
    Just something to think about.

  8. A better motto than the “you suck” thing would be “HK: we’d like to make money, but our government won’t let us”.

  9. Useless and expensive are two words that aptly describe these unwieldy guns. On the other hand pistol caliber carbines are fun, accurate, and nimble even In close quarters. Deadly fast. I can run plates 1/2 to 3/4 second faster with my MEC-TEC carbine than I can with the Glock 17 (which provides the fire control and grip frame for the MEC-TEC carbine) from the ready position. Iron sights on both. Nobody asked for my opinion, but here it is anyway. If you just got to have another pistol caliber gun and I know you do, shoot a friends carbine and you will be hooked without the NAS bullshit

    • You call it useless? Then in the very next sentence praise its speed, being nimble and ease of maneuvering. So its not useless. Made no sense with that. Expensive? Really? Have you seen the prices for a german made MP5? This is a fraction of that cost. So really your arguments make no sense. Especially since MKE is contracted out by HK and uses HK tooling. So your in essence buying an MP5 that Turks assembled instead of Germans doing it. Its the same gun. Literally

  10. This review is crap. I shot one of these today and you can not tell a single difference in this gun and the MP5. None. Same fit, finish, controls and feel. Same reliability. Has that smooth feel of the MP5. I can not see anyone making a better clone that matches the German quality of the real MP5 than MKE did. MKE uses HK tooling and they are a direct contract maker of the MP5 for military, so its the same gun, literally. Just one says made in Germany the other says made in Turkey. Thats the only difference. Giving it 3 stars is dumb. Because you are basically saying the MP5 is a 3 star gun. And hundreds, if not thousands of police and military personal prove you wrong. The MP5 is an iconic firearm with swat, police and military. and 1800 is a small price to pay for an EXACT MP5 clone. This review is disappointing. I usually agree with most reviews on TTAG. But this one missed the mark big time

  11. I will say i prefer the 8-9 inch MP5 over the smaller version. But its still not a 3 star gun. Rubbish

  12. Well as a Police Officer that carried the mp5 on swat I had the chance the other day to take both out together. While on the range we did everything that we could with both and they both perform flawlessly. The zenith took every part that the H&K had and mags had no problems either. We shot over 500 rounds that day through both and it was good. When we cleaned them some of the parts got put into the wrong gun and it was pretty funny to see the owner of the zenith because he thought they wouldn’t be interchangeable . Over all we were pretty impressed with it and for the money go out and price a mp5 by H&K you better go rob a bank and their pretty proud of them on gunbroker.

  13. “For those thinking about simply grabbing a trigger group off GunBroker and slotting it into the gun, MKE is a half a step ahead of you. They have welded a small bar onto all of their magazine wells which only works with MKE’s semi-automatic trigger housing. Full auto trigger groups will not fit without first grinding that little nub off. I’m not gonna ding them on it since it’s easy to fix for those who actually have a registered MP5 trigger pack and want to enjoy some full auto fun, but it’s something that prospective buyers should be aware of.”

    Wait a second here…….i know the rules and laws are very confusing from the ATF on certain things. But isnt what you suggested here actually illegal? You said you could grind of the “little nub” and install a registered full auto trigger pack. But isnt the act of grinding off the little nub considered to be altering a semi auto receiver to convert to full auto? Just because you have a registered trigger pack and sear, i thought that still didnt mean you could alter a clone or post 86 MP5 to accept a trigger pack? My understanding is this is prison time, big time. There are restrictions and one of those, again, that the receiver itself has to be a pre 86 one to drop a full auto trigger pack into. Maybe im wrong. You read so many different people saying so many different things. One will say the actual full auto “sear ready” trigger pack has to be registered with the ATF, yet others say no, that the full auto sear is the one that has to be registered. And others say its both. Then people say that you can not modify a receiver that has been designed to accept only semi auto trigger packs to accept full auto trigger packs. Then you have the full auto bolt assembly to talk about as well. Wouldnt that also have to be registered? Again, im no expert. But from everything ive read and heard, filing off that little nub and dropping in a full auto trigger pack and sear is illegal……correct me if im wrong. Someone chime in here on exactly what the rules are on coverting a clone into full auto and doing so legally????

    • Or the reciever has to be considered “sear ready” or “host capable. Still shaving that nub off could get you in a world of shit if caught

      • While the ACT or modifying the receiver to support full auto (or select, as applies) is illegal, it is not illegal to possess the knowledge, or to communicate the knowledge of how to achieve full automatic fire (yet). It is not a suggestion to do so, to inform readers how it would be done, or the steps necessary to do so. Knowledge is not yet illegal, at least not unclassified knowledge (unless one is Hillary Clinton, then anything goes I guess).

        • Good point.

          Maybe he should have mentioned that. Because there are plenty of people not familiar with the sometimes complex rules of the ATF on what is and is not legal. Simply suggesting it could be misconstrued by those not aware as being ok to do. So its a dangerous thing to even suggest it on a gun forum or review with also mentioned that the ACT of doing so is in fact, illegal

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