By Trampas Swanson

Throughout history, few firearms are ever created that transcend the shooting industry and become iconic symbols across the world. Colt’s Single Action Army, John Browning’s 1911, Kalashnikov’s AK-47 and Stoner’s AR-15 are just a few rare examples of this phenomena. For the German based company, Heckler & Koch (HK), they too have had the honor of contributing to this elite list of iconic firearms in the form of the MP-5 submachine gun. This “wonder gun” of the tactical world is a selective fire, delayed blowback operated 9×19mm Parabellum platform with a roller-delayed bolt. It’s widely versatile use has gone on to spawn over 100 different variants worldwide. Once such variation eluded shooters for years in the form of a semi-auto version of the classic roller-block action pistol titled the SP5K. This month we look at this new release from HK, talk about its origins and find out why it’s so highly in demand.

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Trampas running up close and personal protection drills wih the SP5K.

Origins of a Fan Favorite

Since the MP-5 first saw service in 1966, this lightweight, pistol caliber submachine gun has been highly sought after by military, law enforcement and collectors “in the know” within those communities. In 1980 its popularity would explode as the MP5 was introduced to civilians around the world because of its use on live television by SAS commandos in Operation Nimrod. During this military action, British SAS stormed the Iranian Embassy in London, rescuing hostages and killing five terrorists. Afterwards, the HK MP5 was a household name to civilians and the law enforcement that protected them alike. The MP5 quickly became a mainstay of specialized tactical units of law enforcement agencies in countries such as the United States since then. During the next 20 years, a Law Enforcement agency wouldn’t dream of having a tactical team such as SERT, SRT, SWAT or whatever acronym sounded best to call their team to help get Federal funding, without equipping their operators with the MP-5.

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As with any firearm that sees popularity in Law Enforcement and Military circles, it is only a matter of time before this translates into the civilian market. The MP-5 firmly entrenched into the hearts of gun enthusiasts everywhere when everyone’s favorite Christmas action movie, DIE HARD hit theaters in 1988. Gun owners searched high and low to find a civilian version of the MP-5 with no luck. To feed this demand, HK released two semi-auto versions of the MP-5 platform during the early 1990’s. The HK94 in 16” barrel rifle form and SP89 in a pistol configuration. These two firearms were popular among civilian HK fans but sadly this came to an abrupt halt during President Clinton’s infamous 1993 assault weapons ban. This ban put together by uneducated and uninformed extreme anti-gun politicians specifically named both the HK94 and SP89 among the firearms demonized by the liberal cronies of US government at that time.

Since the bans’ expiration, several clones have hit the market to some success and some failures. Great companies like Black Ops Defense, Brethren Armament and Dakota Tactical have since produced some top-quality reproductions using authentic HK parts while some foreign imported clones have left a bad mark on the MP-5 platform. Regardless of others’ success, a true MP-5 semi-auto “HK” stamped version remained on everyone’s wish list.

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Birth of a Unicorn

Finally, in June of 2016, Heckler Koch decided to release the long awaited “unicorn” to the US market with a few minor adjustments to allow importation and dubbed it the SP5K pistol. Shipping in a lockable hard case from HK’s world famous Oberndorf factory in Southwest Germany, the SP5K chambered in 9mmx19 caliber uses the same cold-hammer forged barrel with fluted chamber as its MP-5 predecessor. Firing from the closed bolt position, this roller block, delayed blowback system operates mechanically exactly like its predecessors as well. The fire controls are clearly marked with the classic universal pictograph markings to span any battlefield language barrier. Feeding the SP5K are traditional 10, 15 and 30 round steel MP-5 magazines as all the original designs. Depending on where the SP5K is to be shipped two 10 round or two 30 round magazines will be included in each case.

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The SP5K ships with two 60 rd mags, bungee sling and armorers tool.

Unlike those that came before, the SP5K comes direct from the factory with a removable Picatinny-style rail for mounting optics although the classic HK Diopter front sight and barrel rear sight that are included on every pistol as well do a great job. Heckler & Koch recognize how taxing the SP5K can be shooting in the traditional pistol format over time and have included a bungee-style sling system with each pistol they sell. If you aren’t familiar with shooting submachine guns, this harness may take some time to get comfortable with the push method of shooting. To aid in the proper safe grip stance for shooting from the sling method, the SP5K’s shrouded handguard has a built-in finger stop to protect the support hand from slipping in front of the muzzle. Once you get the hang of it, the SP5K can produce some very accurate strings of fire in the close quarter environment is was designed for.

SPECS

  • Overall Length 13.9”
  • Height 8.66”
  • Barrel Length 4.53”
  • Sight Radius 10.2”
  • Weight w/o Mag 4.2lb
  • Trigger Pull 6.7lb
  • Magazine Capacity 30 rounds
  • Barrel / Land Profile 6 Grooves / Right Hand Twist

Opportunity Knocks

If you are a regular follower of 1800GunsAndAmmo.com, you already know we are no stranger to reviewing HK products, so it was no surprise to discover a sample of the SP5K would be available for one of our great writers to review very soon. When I was offered the opportunity to be the one to test and evaluate the new SP5K, I jumped at the chance! Having first gained some limited experience with the MP-5 during the late 1990’s, it was while attending SWAT school in 2001 that I really fell in love with the MP-5 platform. Ever since that intense training experience, I found a way to annually shoot some sort of variant or clone of the MP-5 each year whether it has been a local range rental or during SHOT SHOW range day each January. In any case, my time with this iconic firearm has never been nearly enough to fully satisfy me. Once the SP5K arrived from HK at my local gun shop for transfer, I decided to dedicate the next couple of months getting an up-close and personal, learning its ins and outs thoroughly. In short, I was not disappointed in my time invested gathering more firsthand experience and information to share in this review.

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Using the reverse tension created from the bungee sling, shooting is stable and accurate.

During this time taken for various trips to the range and over 1000 rounds of top notch ammunition from Fancy Brass Co sent down range, I noticed several “table top writers” rush their thoughts to the media. From what I read with amusement between test sessions, I began to wonder if any of these YouTube “experts” had any experience what so ever with the MP-5 platform. A lot of the photos used were either generic press release photos direct from the HK website or old “stock” photos of the SP89 and NOT the SP5K! This fueled an even harder look at HK’s new release during each range trip based on over 16 years of experience with the MP-5 specifically.

Range Time

As previously mentioned, this review was spread out over a couple of months of testing at our private training grounds better known as “The Swamp.” Fellow gun writer, Craig Reinolds and my cameraman, Eric Adam were also recruited to help document breaking in the gun as well as share in the fun that only Heckler and Koch firearms can produce. By teaming up on this project, I benefited from having two other opinions coming from novice to former military / law enforcement backgrounds on how well the HK pistol performed as well as some great video and photos. During multiple range trips, the SP5K was ran with targets set up to mimic the close quarter situations it was designed for. Targets ranging from 3 to 10 yards were set up using both paper and steel torso designs. These targets were shot in both static and moving situations such as in personal protection drills.

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Rapid fire transition shots were easy to aquire vitial shot placement hits in very little time.

The recoil of the SP5K using the 115-grain full metal jacket 9mm ammo provided by Fancy Brass Company was pleasantly soft and controllable considering its pistol format. Overall, the SP5K was surprisingly accurate and stable for its size. Head shots and offhand groupings in 3” circles at 10 yards were easily obtained with the traditional HK front post sight and barred style rear sight just by using reverse tension produced by the adjustable bungee sling. Sight picture is very clear and fast to acquire, even during movement drills. When running a full kit or even just a simple chest rig, the bungee sling keeps the pistol close to the body and can tangle with your gear. I was glad the ambidextrous left and right levers were a bit stiff in switching from safe to fire and back because it gave me a positive feeling the safety would not accidentally disengage when running strenuous drills.

For most of the testing, attire was “casual contractor” with simple tactical pants and polo, no heavy gear as more closely associated with long guns. The freedom of movement afforded by the lighter dress allowed the versatility of the SP5K pistol to really shine. One drawback in this handgun set up is the horizontal forearm and hand stop instead of a traditional vertical grip in which “legal issues” prohibits until a proper tax stamp can be filed to allow one thanks to our wonderful ATF regulations. Shooting such a short barrel using the forearm hand stop in an under-grip stance as you would a long gun causes pain in the wrist from an unnatural angle. I found myself shortening my hold and using the magazine well as a secondary grip.

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The SP5K compact is lightweight, easy to manuver and holds close to the body when not in use.

While I was happy to see the inclusion of a Picatinny rail on the top SP5K for mounting a red dot or other form of optic, I did not like how much it blocked the charging handle when it was in the locked back position. Per SOP, the shooter normally just reaches forward and slaps the charging handle downward and lets it freely fly forward to charge the first round. I found the corner of the rails forward left end snagging my glove or scratching the palm of my hand when swiping down on the full profile of the handle. An extended aftermarket handle or just simply removing the rail may need to be in order for future shooting experiences later this year.

As genuinely authentic to the original design as the SP5K succeeds in being, one feature dearly missed from the MP-5 was the paddle-style magazine release used in conjunction with the left to right magazine release button. Due to importation restrictions, the new SP5K features only the button style magazine release. While the left to right cross button release is easy to use, it does NOT offer magazines changes on the move as fast as the original paddle-style. The two 30 round magazines provided by HK worked flawlessly and offered a firm surface to grip and quickly load into the relatively small magazine well. Through over 2000 rounds spent through the SP5K during the test period, I am happy to report there were zero stoppages or misfeeds caused by ammunition or magazines. The only stoppage reported was due to a shooter unfamiliar with how to charge the pistol using the cocking handle who didn’t allow the round to fully go into battery prior to firing it. Thankfully, only a stove top was caused by firing it. (Side note – If you are new to shooting the MP-5 / SP5K series, their magazines will actually hold 31 rounds, but will not function correctly when inserted into the magazine well. This is one of the first items mentioned when attending a Heckler & Koch subgun course.)

Since the MP-5 platform played such a pivotal role in law enforcement for so long, I wanted to see if the SP5K would feed hollow point ammunition as reliable as it had with all the full metal jacket rounds I had feed it over various range trips. I chose 200 rounds of Federal Hydra Shok 124 grain and 150 rounds of Speer Lawman 124 grain ammunition because these would be commonly found as carry rounds in officers’ duty pistols in which the SP5K would complement. Just like the Full Metal Jacket ammunition, the Jacketed Hollow Point ammunition performed flawlessly. This is a huge plus for those who would put the SP5K into service for VIP protection details.

Final Thoughts

In wrapping up my time with the SP5k, I believe Heckler & Koch has scored yet another success in offering fans of the MP-5 a true semi-auto version of their iconic weapons platform. Even in the semi-auto configuration, I can see the SP5K combined with its single point style sling filling the roll of a close quarter protection firearm for private security firms that was once filled by the original MP-5. The SP5K is easy to handle in and out of vehicles, conceals closely to the body and virtually disappears under a light jacket while still quick to get on target and deliver superb accuracy for its class. With its traditional 3 pin system, maintaining and cleaning the pistol is fast and easy without the need for special tools. Being in “spec” with the original MP-5, there are a wide range of pre-existing products ready to be quickly switched out (with proper licensing). This would be a quick and easy answer to the lack of side rails for mounting white lights, lasers or other aftermarket devices commonly added to weapons platforms such as this.

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Take down with the traditional HK 3 pin system is quick and easy to accomplish without tools needed.

To date, I have already made future plans for adding one of these pistols to my private collection for an upgrade project we will cover later in the year. This will include a look at US 922(r) compliance requirements for using US made parts on this German import in preparations to obtain a Federal Tax Stamp for converting the SP5k into a legal short barreled rifle by adding a side folding stock and YES, retrofitting the magazine well with an authentic paddle-style release. The addition of a stock and traditional vertical foregrip will be a true game changer with getting the SP5K back to its original awe-inspiring status the MP-5 platform as well earned. With the help of companies like TPM Outfitters and HKParts.net, the SP5K has all the bones to make one hell of a semi-auto SBR! With a MSRP of $2699.99, most shooters like me will need time to “fund raise” a bit before making that sort of investment. While the retail price may seem a bit high for a pistol, it’s my opinion, when compared to finally owning a true “unicorn” of the HK world is well worth it versus the prices of lesser quality clones. Let’s face it, at the end of the day, even the best MP-5 clone will still never be a true HK product!