The Heckler & Koch MP5 (from German: Maschinenpistole 5, “machine pistol model 5”) is a 9mm submachine gun of German design, developed in the 1960s by a team of engineers from the German small arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch GmbH (H&K) of Oberndorf am Neckar.
The MP5 is currently one of the most widely used submachine guns in the world, having been adopted by numerous military, law enforcement, intelligence and security organizations. In the 1990s, Heckler & Koch developed the Heckler & Koch UMP, the MP5’s successor, though both remain in production.
Heckler & Koch, encouraged by the success of the G3 automatic rifle, developed a family of small arms consisting of four types of firearms (all based on a common G3 design layout and operating principle), where the first type was chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO, the second—using the 7.62x39mm M43 round, third—the intermediate 5.56x45mm NATO caliber and the fourth type—chambering the 9x19mm Parabellum pistol cartridge. The MP5 was created within the fourth group of firearms and was initially known as the HK54.
Work on the MP5 began in 1964 and scarcely two years later it was adopted by the German Federal Police, border guard and army special forces.
The MP5 is manufactured under license in several nations including Greece (formerly at EBO – Hellenic Arms Industry, currently at EAS – Hellenic Defense Systems), Iran (Defense Industries Organization), Mexico (SEDENA), Pakistan (Pakistan Ordnance Factories), Saudi Arabia, Sudan (Military Industry Corporation), Turkey (MKEK), and the United Kingdom (initially at Royal Ordnance, later diverted to Heckler & Koch Great Britain).
The primary version of the MP5 family is the MP5A2, which is a lightweight, air-cooled, selective fire delayed blowback operated 9x19mm Parabellum weapon with a roller-delayed bolt. It fires from a closed bolt (bolt forward) position.
The fixed, free floating, cold hammer-forged barrel has 6 right-hand grooves with a 1 in 250 mm (1:10 in) rifling twist rate and is pressed and pinned into the receiver.
The first MP5 models used a double-column straight box magazine, but since 1977, slightly curved, steel magazines are used with a 15-round capacity (weighing 0.12 kg) or a 30-round capacity (0.17 kg empty).
The adjustable iron sights (closed type) consist of a rotating rear diopter drum and a front post installed in a hooded ring. The rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation with the use of a special tool; the drum provides four different apertures of varying width used for firing at 25, 50, 75 and 100 m.
The MP5 has a hammer firing mechanism. The trigger group is housed inside an interchangeable polymer trigger module (with an integrated pistol grip) and equipped with a 3-position fire mode selector that serves as the manual safety toggle. The “S” or Sicher position in white denotes weapon safe, “E” or Einzelfeuer in red represents single fire, and “F” or Feuerstoß (also marked in red) designates continuous fire. The SEF symbols appear on both sides of the plastic trigger group. The selector lever is actuated with the thumb of the shooting hand and is located only on the left side of the original SEF trigger group or on both sides of the ambidextrous trigger groups. The safety/selector is rotated into the various firing settings or safety position by depressing the tail end of the lever. Tactile clicks (stops) are present at each position to provide a positive stop and prevent inadvertent rotation. The “safe” setting disables the trigger by blocking the hammer release with a solid section of the safety axle located inside the trigger housing.
The non-reciprocating cocking handle is located above the handguard and protrudes from the cocking handle tube at approx. a 45° angle. This rigid control is attached to a tubular piece within the cocking lever housing called the cocking lever support, which in turn, makes contact with the forward extension of the bolt group. It is not however connected to the bolt carrier and therefore cannot be used as a forward assist to fully seat the bolt group. The cocking handle is held in a forward position by a spring detent located in the front end of the cocking lever support which engages in the cocking lever housing. The lever is locked back by pulling it fully to the rear and rotating it slightly clockwise where it can be hooked into an indent in the cocking lever tube.
The bolt rigidly engages the barrel extension – a cylindrical component welded to the receiver into which the barrel is pinned. The delay mechanism is of the same design as that used in the G3 rifle. The two-part bolt consists of a bolt head with rollers and a bolt carrier. The heavier bolt carrier lies up against the bolt head when the weapon is ready to fire and inclined planes on the front locking piece lie between the rollers and force them out into recesses in the barrel extension.
When fired, expanding propellant gases produced from the burning powder in the cartridge exert rearward pressure on the bolt head transferred through the base of the cartridge case as it is propelled out of the chamber. A portion of this force is transmitted through the rollers projecting from the bolt head, which are cammed inward against the inclined flanks of the locking recesses in the barrel extension and to the angled shoulders of the locking piece. The selected angles of the recesses and the incline on the locking piece produce a velocity ratio of about 4:1 between the bolt carrier and the bolt head. This results in a calculated delay, allowing the projectile to exit the barrel and gas pressure to drop to a safe level before the case is extracted from the chamber.
A British police officer guarding Downing Street with an MP5SFA3 semi-automatic carbine fitted with an underbarrel torch and an EOtech holographic sight.
The delay results from the amount of time it takes for enough recoil energy to be transferred through to the bolt carrier in a sufficient quantity for it to be driven to the rear against the force of inertia of the bolt carrier and the forward pressure exerted against the bolt by the recoil spring. As the rollers are forced inward they displace the locking piece and propel the bolt carrier to the rear. The bolt carrier’s rearward velocity is four times that of the bolt head since the cartridge remains in the chamber for a short period of time during the initial recoil impulse. After the bolt carrier has traveled rearward 4 mm, the locking piece is withdrawn fully from the bolt head and the rollers are compressed into the bolt head. Only once the locking rollers are fully cammed into the bolt head can the entire bolt group continue its rearward movement in the receiver, breaking the seal in the chamber and continuing the feeding cycle.
Since the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge is relatively low powered, the bolt does not have an anti-bounce device like the G3, but instead the bolt carrier contains tungsten granules that prevent the bolt group from bouncing back after impacting the barrel extension. The weapon has a fluted chamber that enhances extraction reliability by bleeding gases backwards into the shallow flutes running along the length of the chamber to prevent the cartridge case from expanding and sticking to the chamber walls (since the bolt is opened under relatively high barrel pressure). A spring extractor is installed inside the bolt head and holds the case securely until it strikes the ejector arm and is thrown out of the ejection port to the right of the receiver. The lever-type ejector is located inside the trigger housing (activated by the movement of the recoiling bolt).