This week, I finally got my hands on the H&K SP5, the new civilian legal variant of the legendary MP5. An authentic German created and built pistol, this model is especially relevant today. This year marks the 40th anniversary of what is arguably the MP5’s finest hour. The event that put the spotlight on the little German wonder gun.
I am talking about, of course, Operation Nimrod, the Iranian Embassy hostage crisis, or as it is commonly known in colloquial terms, Princess Gate. This was a huge event for the MP5, for a variety of reasons. To start with, it was one of the first successes of a new breed of Counter-Terrorism Forces. Terrorism had gained new life as a tactic starting in the late ’60s. Air Piracy and hostage standoffs were all over the news, and European nations had scrambled to develop special units to handle these situations. However, some early failures such as the Munich Olympics Massacre did not reflect well on the good guys. In the dark hour, a win was desperately needed. And Princess Gate would finally provide it.
Second, Operation Nimrod was a well-prepared action that happened to take place in downtown London. Which meant spectators and cameras. It is also the first well captured Counter-Terrorism event of the television age. In our era of helmet cam footage and cell phone video, this is something we kind of take for granted. I assure you not every bit of video gets leaked from CT units, but enough finds its way to the internet that we can understand it. This was something different entirely.
Counter-Terrorism was and is a secretive club, with most of the events happening under a cloak of darkness. Prior to Princess Gate, it is safe to say that the average citizen on the street might not even know such a thing as Counter Terrorist forces existed. Princess Gate was about to change all of that.
The British Special Air Service, or SAS, had raised a Counter-Revolutionary Wing right after the Munich debacle. When the Iranian Embassy was taken over, they were primed and ready. They rapidly staged in case an assault was needed, and 3 days later, that call was made. A hostage was killed and rolled out the door, with the hostage-takers threat to kill another every half hour. Go time.
And due to the location, the BBC was also on the scene. By modern standards, the footage of the assault isn’t great. It’s grainy and shot exclusively from across the street, showing nothing of the internal action. You can watch it on YouTube right now. But it is still staggering in a historical context. Ninjas in black rappelling down the side of the embassy. An explosive breach, which at the time would have been a classified capability, to gain entry. And oh Lord, those commandos clutching MP5’s, which they would use to dispatch all but one of the terrorists inside. (The sole surviving terrorist hid among the hostages, was identified later, and arrested.)
Now the SAS was obviously not happy about all the publicity surrounding the event. But it was a boon for H&K. Not only the video, but so many pictures were taken with the MP5 in action. H&K posters with images from Operation Nimrod became prolific, and I don’t blame them a bit on this one. Not as a crass advertising bit, but as a ray of hope. Terrorism might be unavoidable. But if you get taken, you can count on this. Men in Black (clutching MP5’s) will be coming to get you. And God help anyone that gets in the way. These original posters and images are so powerful, they still adorned the classroom when I went to door kicker school in the mid-2000s.
For decades, Counter-Terrorism forces were armed almost exclusively with MP5s. Many competitors arose, but nothing ever came close to the fielding of the MP5 and its variants. It is by far the most iconic gun in CT lore, with the image alone conveying a story of daring commando exploits. They are so prolific that I used one as late as 2006 for certain applications, and many are still in service around the world today. Pretty impressive for a gun introduced in 1966.
So it was with much anticipation that H&K finally brought a civilian legal version to market. Select fire models do exist if you are willing to do the paperwork and you can find one. Not to mention the price. And some decent clones have existed for a long while. But nothing pure H&K, until now.
The SP5 is a pistol model, to keep its aesthetics pure. A 16-inch barrel would look ridiculous on an MP5, I think we all agree. Because the SP5 is made in Germany, it also ships completely sans pistol brace or stock. Import rules get weird, for which you can thank the ATF and Congress. But it has all the look and feel of an MP5, right to the rear take down pin.
Which actually makes it feel like two different variants, in my opinion. If you are in it purely for the look and feel, the SP5 out of the box has the aesthetic of an MP5K. The K being a shorter barreled, no stock, variant introduced later by H&K specifically as a concealable option for close protection work. To be fair, H&K a few years ago did release a full up SP5K, with real MP5K dimensions. But there a not a lot of them, and it was missing some of the MP5 details, like the paddle magazine release.
Even with a bit more barrel, the SP5 is a great truck gun as is. Or for concealing in a briefcase, or just sticking under a jacket. Included in the high-quality range bag the SP5 ships in, is an original bungee single point sling. This is also a harkening back to the original MP5K use. Part of the old method for shooting the stockless model was specifically this sling. In theory, you snap the gun out to where the bungee cord sling pulls tight. This is suppose to help you hold the gun down under auto recoil, as well as keep your hands free and the gun concealed under a jacket.
But fortunately, a solution exists if you want to really play MP5. SB Tactical has created a PDW brace for the SP5, that is the best modern solution you can get. It isn’t as perfectly authentic as an MP5 fixed stock, which you could also use if you want to SBR and stamp your SP5. But it is amazing in function, looks fantastic, and makes your SP5 full functional with no additional paperwork.
Other than the stock, the SP5 is as close as you are ever going to get to an MP5 without a giggle switch. The feel and look are pure H&K. Which it should be since this gun rolls off the assembly line in Oberndorf. The action is the legendary delayed roller delayed blowback. It has the paddle mag release, and two German made magazines in the bag. The only shortcoming is that the SP5 uses the notched style rear sight of the K variant, not the series of holes typical of the full-sized MP5s. That is an easy fix though if you desire.
The muzzle device is a slightly modified H&K Navy style, with the 3 lug adaptor and period correct threaded end. This would be most familiar to the US audience, as it is the most common MP5 version stateside. The only change here is that the threaded bit is 1/2×28, not the original KAC 1/2x 32. Which makes it way more useful for most 9mm suppressors.
With the brace installed (and strapped to my forearm), and therefore the ability to shoot the SP5 like God intended, this gun was a pure joy. Not only is it fun, but the action is lightest recoiling 9mm you will ever fire. Not only does this take me back to some good times in the war, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me want to take my shoes off and channel my inner John McClane. For my generation of boys, the MP5 is by far the coolest gun on the block.
The SP5 isn’t cheap at an MSRP of $3085. But you didn’t really expect that anyway since H&K and cheap are mutually exclusive terms. It is, however, a fair price for what you get. A German made replica of arguably the most iconic gun of our time. And a fitting tribute to Counter-Terrorist Forces the world over.