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There are very few firearms as iconic as the MP5 family of submachine guns. They’ve starred in just about every action movie from 1970 through the 1990’s, appearing in such groundbreaking cinematic tours de force as Navy Seals starring Charlie Sheen, UHF starring Weird Al Yankovic, Escape from L.A. starring Kurt Russel, Sheena: Queen of the Jungle starring Tanya Roberts, and Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach starring Bubba Smith. You know — the classics. While Hollywood might like the gun for its sleek lines and super-cool looks, there’s a reason that the gun has been just as popular with military units and SWAT teams across the world for the last fifty years . . .

The MP5 was developed during a period in history where small pistol caliber submachine guns were all the rage with military and law enforcement units. The guns were designed to be as small as possible, allowing them to be stashed in tight places and easily maneuvered in close quarters. To fill those roles, the various major firearms manufacturing countries all came up with their own designs: Italy developed the M12, America developed the MAC-10, and Germany developed the MP5.


H&K had just finished developing Germany’s newest battle rifle, the G3. The idea at the time was to produce a series of firearms that all had the same manual of arms and operating principles. H&K decided that the roller-delayed blowback action was the way to go. The mechanics of that action were what made the German MG42 machine gun so fast and deadly, and giving that same kind of firepower to the individual soldier seemed like the perfect next step.

For about ten years, the original MP5 reigned supreme. The gun met all of the requirements military and law enforcement units were looking for and performed well in the field. But for some, the gun was still far too big. Even with the collapsible stock that came with the MP5A3 the thing was still too big to comfortably conceal under a trench coat or in a briefcase, and still didn’t quite fit in some extreme close-quarters situations. There was a demand to make the small SMG even smaller and H&K responded with the MP5K.


The “K” stands for kurz — “short” in German. In order to make the gun even smaller the Germans had shortened the barrel and forend, and also trimmed the rear end of the bolt and receiver. The original K version came out around 1971 for the special forces crowd and used a flat base plate at the end of the gun. A 1991 revision saw the addition of a folding stock for comfort and ease of use. The base plate can also be swapped for a standard fixed stock if you really feel like it, but that kind of defeats the point of the gun.

Disassembling the gun is easy as pie — punch out three pins and the guts of the gun spill straight onto the workbench. Getting the bolt disassembled and re-assembled can be a bother though; the procedure calls for twisting the bolt relative to the bolt carrier, and getting everything aligned to reverse the operation usually takes me a couple minutes. There is one slight issue, namely that the receiver is cavernous and cleaning it all can be a pain.

The general rule of thumb is that a smaller firearm is a less controllable, less comfortable firearm, but with the MP5K that  doesn’t seem to be the case. Even the compact handguard at the front of the gun provides sufficient purchase for your hand, and the convenient vertical foregrip allows the shooter to apply some downward pressure to keep the gun from “walking” in full-auto. There’s also nothing to worry about in terms of a reciprocating charging handle — it doesn’t move so your thumbs are safe no matter where you put them other than in front of the muzzle, of course.

(I know, it’s an MP5SD in the video, sue me.)

The MP5K is an absolute dream on the range. Every firearm in the MP5 family has the same basic characteristics. Some, like the SD, just happen to be a little softer shooting than others. The MP5K seems to have the exact same level of recoil as its bigger brothers which makes the gun very easy to keep on target even in full-auto.

I do have some gripes, though.

As with the rest of the MP5 line, the safety selector is relatively terrible. It’s not quite as poorly positioned as the KRISS Vector, but engaging the selector with my thumb is about as comfortable and ergonomic as trying to grab a half-fallen potato chip bag from inside a vending machine. I’m grateful that it’s ambidextrous, but it could definitely use a bit of a redesign in my opinion.

Also problematic is the lack of a last round bolt hold-open feature. It’s something we have come to expect from modern guns, allowing the shooter to know when they are empty in order to quickly reload a fresh magazine. The MP5 doesn’t offer that though, meaning the shooter has to manually operate the action for each new mag.



As is, the MP5K is a very good gun. It’s controllable in full auto, easy to conceal and fun to shoot. But the best feature is definitely the after market parts. The MP5K is awesome as it comes from the factory, but once you start kitting it out with silencers, drum magazines and the like make it even more fun. Anything is instantly twice as fun as soon as you add a can — it’s a well documented phenomena.

There’s one problem, though: the gun is massively outdated. Stamped sheet metal, press-fitted barrels and riveted parts were fine and dandy in 1970. But the modern art of firearms manufacture has progressed a little since then. It’s gotten to the point where military and law enforcement units have started actively searching for replacement firearms rather than spend the piles of money it would cost to maintain their existing MP5 stockpiles. If I had my choice, SIG Sauer’s MPX would be my personal modern PDW. But there’s no denying that any quality machine gun collection should have at least one MP5. Why not make it a K?

Heckler & Koch MP5K-PDW

Caliber: 9mm
Barrel: 4.5 inches
Size: 23.7 inches extended, 14.5 inches compact
Weight: 5.5 lbs empty
Capacity: 30 round magazine
MSRP: $29,000

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

Accuracy: * * * *
Easy to control, but with a slightly high rate of fire (~900 rounds per minute).

Ergonomics: * * * *
The safety selector is awkward to use and the gun is a bit too short for my gigantic paws.

Ergonomics Firing: * * * *
No bolt hold open on the last round, and the magazine release is awkward.

Customization: * * * *
There are tons of aftermarket parts, from silencers and buttstocks to slings and replacement sights.

Overall Rating: * * *
Modern firearms manufacturing definitely seems to have left the MP5 family behind, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a blast to shoot.

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  1. lol Im starting to think some of these reviews of NFA items are post filler 🙂

    EDIT: but great gun porn.

    • From the Wikipedia article:

      “The G3 is a 7.62×51mm NATO battle rifle developed in the 1950s by the German armament manufacturer Heckler & Koch GmbH (H&K) in collaboration with the Spanish state-owned design and development agency CETME (Centro de Estudios Técnicos de Materiales Especiales).”

      They both developed it.

      • The rifle submitted to compete with the FAL, AR10, and SG 510 was a CETME Model B. H&K had noinvolvment in initial developement of the rifle, was only consulted for relatively minor design revisions, and only got full production rights after negotiating with Rheinmetall and convincing them not to pick any of the contract. Still that was only after the German government convinced NWM in the Netherlands to give up distrobution rights to the design. It was not H&K’s.

      • Sounds like Nick’s on the right track here. If the Germans know anything, it’s about how to work well with collaborators.

      • Compromise position.. German engineers developed it, wherever they ended up after the Second Fraticidal War.

  2. Never really understood the American fascination with LSHO and non-reciprocating charging handles. Sure, it is nice that the bolt is held open automatically but it isn’t a deal breaker if it hasn’t. Also the charging handles, so what if it moves? It is not like you are going to be holding the charging handle when shooting.

    • yes, sounds like no problem until you are shooting around the corner of a building to your left, using the corner as a gun support.

      • How is that a problem? You don’t use your charging handle as a support, that is just full retard.

        You never go full retard.

        No offense to people with mental difficulties.

        • No, you don’t but a reciprocating charging handle makes it very difficult to use a vertical support.

        • How?

          If you don’t lean the gun on the charging handle how is it going to get in the way when steadying it against a wall?

          No ninja poses, please.

        • Because it reduces the area of the gun you can use for support. Boy you’ve really got a hard-on for this, don’t you?

        • No hard-on for this, I stick to good looking women thankyouverymuch.

          On a HK rifle it is kinda justified with the charging handle way out in front but on rifles like the AK and FAL, I can’t see it getting in the way unless you support it directly against the wall or doing a mall ninja operator pose.

        • If the charging handle reciprocates with the action and it moves 5″ from farthest forwards to farthest rearward point, that’s 5″ of the gun that is totally off limits for touching while firing. Doesn’t matter if you’re talking about leaning it up against a support, firing from the ground, touching your gear, putting your hand on it for support, firing in brush/trees, etc etc… it’s a section of the gun that, if something touches it there or is in the way of the handle cycling at all, can cause a stoppage. It’s also an opening that can get dirty or plugged with something and affect the gun’s cycling.

          I think it’s nice when the bolt is hidden away on the inside and the charging mechanism doesn’t reciprocate with it when firing.

    • With LSHO, it’s more crucial for ARs since to close the bolt the old fashioned way requires you to pull back the charging handle all the way back above the stock. Reload time is minimized when the bolt release is pressed instead of pulling back the charging handle further back (which you can do as well). With LSHO and bolt release you can keep your rifle on target better when reloading as well. Also, when firing your rifle, the LSHO feature has a distinct motion and sound that alerts an experienced shooter that the chamber is now empty. So even if I wasn’t counting my shots or looking at the bolt, I can usually tell that was my last shot and reload quickly.

  3. Nick you forgot the GREATEST pop culture reference to the MP5… it starred as the D5K Deutsche in 007 Golden Eye for N64… also know as the greatest first person shooter of all time.

      • AUG! AUG! AUG! (Ok, I admit that I love the MP5 and have rented one several times. I actually own a semi-auto AUG so what do I go with: One I can’t have or one I sort-of have?)

  4. The FBI’s 10mm MP5s have a last shot bolt hold open as well as a bolt release paddle like an AR. The FBI wouldn’t buy them without those features so HK complied. They are not continuous auto, though, just two round burst.

  5. Reviews of guns that 99% of American cannot afford or legally own is getting long in the tooth. How about reviews on guns we can actually buy or find in our LGS?

    • I appreciate some NFA item reviews. What I’d like to see more of is details of the operation of some of these items, the control placement, clearing stoppages, etc.

    • Yeah…because we never read about cars or watches we cant afford. It’s nice to dream and what an ignorant comment anyway. Just because you cant afford something doesn’t mean that you cant learn something.

    • SP89 are considerably cheaper and the same gun sans fun switch. plenty of high-quality parts kits on US receiver clones too for a decent price. Pakistani made import full size MP5 for $1500, the price some silly people pay for a boring AR-15. And it somehow got ATF approval for a *pinned* receiver.

      • SP89 is still what, $2K? Thanks, but no thanks. At least the high price for full-auto is justified by the restricted market…

        Or do you mean Lusa SP89? Is it actually related to MP5 in any way?

    • I disagree. I love it. It is fun to read about something you may never have the opportunity to own. It is why the swimsuit issue of SI is popular, why car mags talk about supercars, and not everyone reading yachting mags owns one.

      Do yourself a favor and rent one while in Vegas. Smile lasts for days.

  6. One thing is add to this review is that the mp5 is an excellent firearm to have at the range for a new shooter.

    Every time I bring a beginner to the range the mp5 is hands down their favorite. I believe this is because it “looks” like something you would need extensive training to use but it’s small size, light recoil, and very natural controls (minus the safety) are incredibly simple.

    Not to mention shooting 9mm from the shoulder will make anyone feel ridiculously competent with a firearm.

  7. I have an MP5 clone SBR semi auto that finally started working when i replaced the extractor and extractor spring. Runs like a top now. Its a really fun 9mm carbine, soft shooting and always the most liked by guest at the range. suppressed with subs you cant beat it…

    that being said, a MK18 mod 1 with a 10.3 inch barrel is also soft shooting and about the same length. Its by far my favorite go to blaster.

    Nick, I love all these reviews, but we have GOT to get you some different clothes man, please ditch the horizontal stripes, those havent been popular since steve sported them on blues clues, bro. Cargo shorts get a pass on the range though, but i would ditch those too… 😉

  8. I do not care what anyone says, this is one of if not my all-time desirable gun. If I was asked by the government to do some special mission that only I could accomplish and in return I could have anything I want (Hey, a guy who has no dreams is a guy who has no hope….. lol) I would definitely be getting an HK MK5K-PDW in return. With a Zeiss Z-Point of course … And a couple-a-few-pallets of 9mm.

    I shot a regular MP5 twice in Vegas, once a mag or two, the second time quite a bit. They are amazing. You can write you name across the paper targets like you’re in a video game.

    The MP7 is cool and all but it’s *ridiculously* loud w/o a suppressor and *ridiculously* hard/expensive for ammo. The MP5K-PDW is the best of both words, compact/concealable and battle/CQB ready.

    Now if Only I had some worth to the gov’t for that special mission….. d’oh!!!

  9. FWIW the MP5/10 and MP5/40 both have a Bolt Hold Open device that keeps the bolt open when you fire the last round. Hitting the little square button is as satisfying as whacking the charging handle down though.

  10. I have one of the MP5K PDW carbine clones from DJ Getz Firearms. It was stupid expensive for what it is but I love it. My only beef: it’s hard to get a good cheek weld to look through the sights with ear muffs on, at least with the Choate stock I have. The ear muffs start to slide upwards and that’s not much fun in an indoor range.

    • MP5s are nowhere near unicorn status, if you are willing to break some laws. Otherwise you can always settle for a semi auto version, which is admitedly more money than it is worth. Many people forget that the roller lock system that HK uses is made to be cheap, accurate and reliable with emphasis on cheap.

      Unicorn would be something like a Merkel drilling or a XM8.

  11. I don’t care if I may never own it. It’s still cool to see. BTW how does this get 3 stars when ALL of the other ratings are 4 stars?

  12. The MP5k is the unicorn that I one day hope to own. However with prices spiraling ever higher while my bank account does not I may have to settle for a semi auto version.

  13. Who are the main takers for traditional sub guns days? There’s got to be a market, but everyone seems to pooh-pooh them in favor of AR variants in 5.56.

  14. Thanks for not lying about this mediocre weapons system like so many do…being raised on video games and Die Hard movies.

    HK is a shit company with shit ethics…however, some of their guns are quite competent, and some of them are just disasters or so “niche” oriented as to be pretty worthless for anyone except those whose role the weapon is designed to fill.

    First, the “listed price”. 29K? For that piece of un-heat-treated sheetmetal? NO. A post 86 sample costs what the gun should cost…about 1700 bucks.

    The K is nothing more than a concealable MP5. It’s perfect for helicopter pilots (160th SOAR…NSDQ!) VIP security etc…the large sights are about worthless for anything resembling “precision”.

    The MP5 is great, a classic, very versatile, accurate, stupidly reliable, adaptable.

    The SD is an overhyped inaccurate POS with a 300rd cleaning interval, which is only designed for +P+ NATO spec 9mm rounds.

    The 10/40 are breakage prone triumphs of design. “Ja, Hans, how can vee schtuff zee ten meeleemeetah into zee EM-PEE FIVEZ?” The BHO was because the FBI wouldn’t buy them without one. (I personally love a BHO)

    The 33 and 33K are underrated uber-performers.

    The 53 is a loud ass POS, Less accurate than a 33K (by far!), almost as long.

    The G3 and G3K are amazingly reliable and durable battle rifles. Classics.

    The 51 is an abortion that HK never made, Loud junk used best for converting usable gunpowder into blinding flash and filling-jarring muzzle blast.

    The WORST of all tho, are the UMPs/USCs. What utter disposable garbage. Ask the guys at the USBP Academy in Artesia NM, who MELTED one after only 8 magazines of .40 cal…MELTED.

    And the G36, another breakage prone shitbox, and a ripoff of the AR18 wrapped in German plastic.

    Not everything that comes from the Germans is awesome, some of it is pretty great tho.


  15. Oh and HK is such a shit company, they are (EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT LEGALLY IMPORT ONE OF THEIR UBER-WEAPONS FOR NON LE USE) going around SUING everyone who makes, or has produced HK type weapons from parts kits or from new US made parts.

    That’s what a bunch of dicks they are.


  16. Look who is talking derek. At least when they say they build a gun ,they own up to it.piece of shit or not. You on the other hand farm out some of your builds to incompetent idiots to put together for you .the sucker public buys this faux azex crap thinking the great Derek built it. LOL

  17. Well,yes I really do want a new HK SP5k-PDW However, right now I am any day now going to get the call from my class 3 dealer to pick up my new Zenith Z5rs and DA Wolfman My gun comes with an A2 full stock I have a new German A3 stock and a new (hk parts) Ambi navy-style trigger group to go in it that has the match upgrade which gets you to 4.5 lb pull and very little take-up Bill Springfield hand selected these modules and tuned them to perfection If you want to maximize your shooting experience with any mp5 variant these trigger groups are a must have item

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