Unicorns and Subguns

Scott Lambin Carbines, Giggle Switches, NFA, Short Barreled Rifle 2 Comments

How often do we stumble upon one of the most iconic firearms ever made? Well, up to now…never. We can’t say that. We use and have constant exposure to firearms not obtainable within the civilian market…and damn sure not within the normal mediasphere. We are fortunate to get to play with M2s, M240s, SAWs, PKMs, Select fire AKs and an occasional RPG on a semi regular basis for our day job, but we are not at our day job here…

HKs unmistakable bolt lever is about as ergonomic as it can get. locking the bolt back and sending it into battery can be done from virtually any position, with either hand

It has been about 15 years since we have had the opportunity to shoot and run a select fire Heckler and Koch MP5 through its paces. Recently, a colleague coughed up the cash for one and brought it in for us to gawk at. We quickly opened our calendars to pick a date (or dates) to come over for photographs and range time. Now, living in Illinois there is only a hand full of dealers or manufacturers who have circumvented the anti-gun rhetoric to obtain SOTs, us and the owner of this A3 are two of them.

Over A decade later….

And I giggle whenever I shoot it. My last outing with an MP5 of this capacity was during my time on active duty. The unit I was with was responsible for the quick reaction to hostile threats towards the US Navel 5th Fleet. Our unit was specialized in not only infantry tactics but we spent an exorbitant amount of time in the house doing CQB, and ship boarding with site security. All of which sounds fun, and it was…but being part of a unit that was so compartmentalized, every one of us had to maintain a high level of “Semper Gumbi” not only in tactics but on the range.

They used to tell us that one FAST platoon expended more pistol ammo on a single range day than an entire brigade does in a year…

I’m not sure how true this is, but I can attest to the fact that we shot our asses off. But nonetheless, with every mission [profile] our gear, guns, and tactics had to change just as everyone does circa 2000. We were all grunts, yet we all had to know each other’s job, there was really no such thing as 0311s, 31s, 41s, 51s etc.

Before the M4 was the king of the hill, the HK MP5 was the “catch all” system for what we needed. Close quarters engagements without over penetration, simply due to the dynamic of clearing a house, or taking a ship back. Finally, having the ability to disable a moving vehicle at close distances without throwing rounds all over the place or killing people who didn’t need killing. The MP5 proved to be the force multiplier that we needed…until tactics changed, which caused our weaponry to change.

Designed to take the place of the G3, the Mp5 is the preferred weapon of choice for most of the planets good guys!

Range Time

Once our schedules coincided, the owner of this work of art met me at the range where I could hardly wait to get my hands on his MP5. The gun felt just as I remembered, and had the same aesthetic bad ass as it always had. The delayed roller lock bolt functioned smoothly and the gun itself was solid as a rock. Purchased from a Law Enforcement buyback program, this model was clearly not out of the box new, but due to HKs, flawless design and second to none engineering this piece functioned as if it came directly from the factory floor.

HK’s patented roller blowback bolt design offers consistent function while ensuring safety of the operator without chance of out of battery detonation

We loaded up both magazines with 124-grain ball ammunition to get our feet wet again. Running through a series of singles, double taps and failure drills, I was quickly reminded as to why so many countries rely on this system for their primary weapon in Anti-Terrorism security and Special Law Enforcement Teams.

This model MP5 is not equipped with optics, so we relied on HKs signature diopter combo to drill the center out of our cardboard IPSC and Defense Targets reactive steel silhouette. There are some who will tell you that with such a “short” sight radius for a shoulder gun it is not reliable so there for, an AR platform should be used for…well…everything. Spreading the tape at just under 13.5 inches, we could slam steel out to 100 without a problem and over compensation or hold over. So, in our opinion, the MP5’s sight radius was both efficient and effective. That said, the MP5 is chambered in 9x19mm so you will reach the maximum limitations of the round, not the gun.

Giggle Switch

What fun would a select fire be, if we shot it on semi-automatic all the time?! Coming back to the 25-yard line, we loaded 60 more rounds and zipped through them on the 3-round burst mode fairly quick. Again, HK’s bolt design is responsible for the virtually unnoticeable recoil which obviously made managing it that much easier. Once our bolt locked back on our second magazine, every round was placed within the shoe box sized perforation of the cardboard IPSC target.

The Mp5 is such a versatile system that virtually anyone can efficiently employ it, part of why it has elevated to unicorn status

We loaded up both magazines once more and dumped them into the same target experiencing the same [lack of] recoil as we did in semi and 3 round burst modes of fire, with the same results in the center of the targets. We have said it many times before, we are staunch and unconditional 2nd Amendment supporters, this means that if we have the means and opportunity to pass on our heritage [on any capasity] we will! So, we brought our 10-year-old model to the range and he ran the MP5 through its paces without fail or unintended shot placement. We took all appropriate precautions to ensure run away guns or over zealous trigger pull could be mitigated immediately [Don’t get all bent out of shape, our 10 year old knows his way around guns].

The recoil with the MP5 is truly an underappreciated feature in our opinion. When you shoot the gun, the smooth function is obvious; both in feel and shot placement. It is a true testament when someone who has never shot an automatic gun handles it like a boss with damn near perfect rounds on target through all modes of fire, HK has been doing something right for this long!

The Mp5 A3 has 3 modes of fire, fitting to hard end user needs and mission profiles


ALL guns have them. The MP5 is no different. It was developed in 1966 where larger calibers could be a detriment within close quarters. At the time, HK’s G3 was the shoulder fired weapon of choice, but with the growing number of threats in urban areas, a substitution had to be made. Whether it be bystanders or a 7.62×51 round punching through a wall and taking out team members, the MP5 was born, as a compact system for the German border police and special reactive forces.

Chambered in 9mm the Mp5 can be used for close to medium range engagements; tailor made for Close Quarters Battle (CQB)

It gained its fame in 1980 when it was used to smoke terrorists and rescue hostages by a team of bad ass SAS operators in London at the Iranian Embassy [Iranians were idiots then too]. The use of the HK MP5 by the boys of the British Special Air Service was validation…the planet needed to adopt the Machine Pistol (MP) into their armories.

The appearance of shoddy muzzle discipline should not take away from the versatile use in killing terrorists during Operation Nimrod by the British SAS…at least the 2nd guy in the stacks finger is [kind of] off the trigger (Photo credit – Open source imagery)

For operations such as Nimrod, taking back highly accompanied buildings, vehicles and virtually anything on a boat, the MP5 was and still is dominant. The 9mm round is versatile, however not that versatile where basic infantry units employ them in conventional warfare. Range limitations top the list of most inconvenient. For operators, taking confident shots past 100 with the 9mm is virtually nonexistent [in our eyes]. The energy lost from that distance cannot guarantee a dead bad guy. Yes, we can speculate as to different rounds, loads, barrel lengths, optics etc. but in tactical situations, we typically don’t like to speculate.

Follow Through

We typically do not like to write about guns that you, our readers cannot go out and purchase or shoot. This MP5 is one that not many people (can) readily get their hands on. This is one that we could have shot and called it fun, but we cannot just shoot something of this nature and not let everyone experience it in some fashion.

HK offers obtainable versions of the MP5 in the form of the SP model sub guns. They are classed as pistols and are not select fire. For those of you that are thinking it, we’ll say it. Yes, you can purchase an SP and throw a collapsible stock on it for a semi automatic pistol caliber shoulder gun. Doing so without the proper paperwork will inevitably end up as a felony thus stripping ALL your rights as a responsible firearms owner…at that point you’re not responsible anymore. Not to lecture or patronize…but if you want to convert your SP into an MP clone, make sure you follow all state and federal guidelines in doing so. In either case, you are still getting the top of the line HK engineering and reliability.

It was a real treat to be able to run a true MP5 through its paces again…on our terms…not by an instructor or team leader that has the uncanny ability to make everything suck [by attrition, we too filled those shoes of making something that would normally be enjoyable, into something that wasn’t] we’re not bashing those who did or still do…it’s just the way of the gun world! In any case, it is not very often normal people like us get to place a selector switch on a desired rate of fire and let rounds rip…at least here in the states, the HK MP5 is one of the most sought after unicorns by way of the gun!

HK MP5 A3 Vital Data

Type Sub Machine Gun (Machine Pistol)
Caliber 9x19mm Parabellum
Operating System Roller Blowback
Modes of Fire Safe, Semi-Auto, 3 Round Burst, Full Automatic
Suppressor Ready HK Only
Rate of Fire 800 RPM (Cyclic)
Length 19.5 (collapsed) 26 (extended) Inches
Height 9 Inches
Weight 6 lbs (unloaded) 7.1 lbs (loaded magazine)
Width 2 Inches
Barrel Length 9 Inches
Trigger Pull Tested 7.3 lbs
Sights HK Diopter
Stock Collapsible (Not multi position)
Estimated Value $3500 – $7500 (Depending on transfer status)
Source Arms Unlimited


About This Author

Scott Lambin

Scott brings almost 20 years of tactical operations and training. After honorably serving one term at 1st FAST Company in the Marines, he was not finished serving the country that he loves. Over a span of 14 years, Scott provided protective operations to diplomats, and US Presidents visiting the GWOT hot spots. He then took his expertise to train and mentor Afghan SOF teams in precision marksmanship, protective operations, and close quarters battle. Between and while deployed, he contributed for various print magazines in the firearms industry such as various titles for Guns and Ammo Book Of The AR15, AK47, Combat Arms and Pistol Magazines. Scott is the Co-founder of The BrassTacs Media and Rate of Fire Digital along with industry heavy hitter Sean Utley.

Comments 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *