Heckler and Koch MP5: A world’s most famous submachine gun

SWAT squad at shooting ringe firing from Heckelr and Koch MP5
Heckler and Koch MP5 Submachine gun used worldwide as primary weapon for various SWAT and Special Operations teams (Photo: Wiki)

Heckler and Koch MP5 is one of the most famous submachine guns ever produced. Since World War II, the German concern of Heckler and Koch has become one of Europe’s largest and most important small-arms manufacturers. Its success has been based soundly on the production of its HK G3 rifle, which was a standard NATO weapon and is still in use all over the world. In the 1960s the company used the Heckler and Koch G3 as a basis on which to produce the Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun.

Rifle-based design

The MP5 was designed to fire the standard 9-mm X 19 Parabellum cartridge. Although this is a relatively low-powered pistol rounds, the HK MP5 uses the same roller and inclined ramp locking mechanism as the G3, which fires a full-power rifle round. The complexity of the system is more than offset by its increased safety. Unlike other machine pistols, the MP5 fires from a closed bolt- the breach block is in the forward position when the trigger is pulled so there is no forward-moving mass to disturb the aim. This makes the HK MP5 much more accurate than other submachine guns. The resemblance to the Heckler & Koch G3 is maintained by the use of many G3 components on the HK MP5.

Nationella insatsstyrkan (National Task Force) Sweden
Sweden’s Nationella insatsstyrkan (National Task Force) operators brandishing theirs Heckler and Koch MP5s (Photo: Sweden Police)


Used by military and law enforcement units in more than 50 nations, the HK MP5 is firmly established as the world’s pre-eminent submachine gun. Over 120 variants of the HK MP5 are available to address the widest range of tactical requirements. The weapon’s unique modular design and a variety of optional buttstocks, forearms, sight mounts, and other accessories give the Heckler and Koch MP5 extraordinary flexibility to meet almost any mission.

The main versions of the MP5 include the HK MP5A with a fixed buttstock and the HK MP5A3 with a sliding metal strut stock. The HK MP5A4 and the HK MP5A5 are the same weapons with the addition of a three-round burst fire capability.

Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun with a silencer attached HK MP5
Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun with a silencer attached (Photo: WikiGuns)

The HK MP5SD is a silenced weapon for use in special or anti-terrorist warfare. The removable sound suppressor is integrated into the design and conforms to the normal length and profile of an unsuppressed weapon. The MP5SD uses an integral aluminum or optional wet technology stainless steel sound suppressor. Unlike most silenced weapons, it does not require the use of subsonic ammunition for effective sound reduction.

Concealed carry SMGs

The HK MP5K was introduced for use by special units, where weapon concealment is often essential. It is a very short version of the basic Heckler and Koch MP5, only 325 mm long and recognizable by a small foregrip, under the almost non-existent muzzle. The MP5KA1 is a special version of this variant with no protrusions so that it can be carried under clothing or in a special holster.

The HK MP5N or ‘Navy’ model is made for US Navy SEALs. Fully ‘marinated’ for operations in seawater, it comes standard with an ambidextrous trigger group and threaded barrel.

Navy SEALs training with MP5 submachine guns in the late 1990s.
Navy SEALs training with Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine guns in the late 1990s. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

In spite of its complexity, the Heckler and Koch MP5 has proved to be an excellent and reliable submachine-gun. Its first users were West German police agencies and border guards, and soon numbers were purchased by Swiss police and the Netherlands armed forces. Single fire variants are widely used by law-enforcement officers in crowded public areas such as airports.

However, it is since the HK MP5 was adopted by the British SAS that it has become the weapon of choice for Special Forces worldwide. The MP5 is inherently accurate because it fires from a closed bolt, and pinpoint accuracy is an essential requirement of any weapon used in a hostage rescue, where innocent lives are at risk.

Technical specifications: Heckler and Koch MP5

Manufacturer: Heckler & Koch GmbH, D-7238 Oberndorf/Neckar, Germany
Designed: 1964–1966
Service: 1966-present
Type: roller-delayed blowback closed bolt
Caliber:  9 mm (0.354 in) Parabellum
Barrel: 225 mm
Weight (empty): 2.97 kg (6lb 8 oz)
Effective firing range:
  • 200 m (656 ft) (MP5A2, MP5A3, MP5A4, MP5A5)
  • 100 m (328 ft) (MP5K, MP5KA1, MP5KA4, MP5KA5, MP5K-PDW)
Rate of fire: 800 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity: 15, 30 or 40 round detachable box magazine and 100-round Beta C-Mag drum magazine
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