Heckler and Koch own the world of submachine guns, or well, they did throughout most of the 1960s up into the early 2000s. In that time, a legend known as the MP5 arrived and became a mainstay in special operations forces, SWAT teams, and more. The MP5 provided a capable, refined, and accurate SMG at a time when most were open bolt, blowback-operated guns left over from WW2.
HK essentially shrunk the G3 to be a submachine gun-sized platform. The MP5 utilized several innovations at the time and became an instant hit.
This SMG dominated the market, but eventually, HK changed things up a bit. The MP5 was showing its age and was an expensive firearm to produce. By the 1990s, the world entered the age of polymer, and stamped steel was totally out. Or so we told ourselves. HK produced the UMP to be a replacement for the MP5.
The UMP made heavy use of modern polymers and was designed from the ground up to chamber 9mm, 40 S&W, or 45 ACP. While the MP5 had been adapted to various calibers, the UMP could be produced in these calibers fairly easily. The UMP would also be significantly cheaper to produce than the MP5.
Today, we will rip into the UMP and the MP5 and take them to the floor into a knife fight to see which dominates the market.
Operating Systems UMP vs MP5
While both of these guns are Teutonic fighting machines, they are fairly different. From the ground up, they are very different guns. They are submachine guns designed for police and military forces, and they both have seen widespread use.
The differences are stark. The MP5 famously uses the roller delayed blowback operating system. A set of rollers keep the breech closed until the pressure drops to safe enough levels to cycle. The roller delayed is a very refined and reliable system that is extremely functional and capable.
The UMP uses a much simpler blowback-operated system that’s cheap, reliable, and easy to put inside a submachine gun. The breech remains closed long enough for pressures to drop by virtue of the bolt’s weight and recoil springs strength.
The MP5’s popularity ensured that accessorization would have to occur. This forced a number of companies to innovate on a platform designed in the 1960s. The MP5 wasn’t designed to mount optics or flashlights, but they found a way. It often required some interesting solutions. Modern MP5s have an open hand for upgrades, and you accessorize quite a bit.
The UMP came to life at a time when the world loved accessories. HK designed it to be easily accessorized. Adding optics, flashlight, vertical foregrips, and similar accessories takes nothing more than a Picatinny rail mount. From the ground up, it’s a more accessible platform. With the MP5, you can add an optic mount, but the UMP rocks a full-length optic rail that allows for red dots, night vision, and more.
The MP5 delivers more accurate fire. With subguns, it’s hardly an issue, but the MP5 has a much better trigger. The weapon’s action tends to be smoother, and this enhances the accuracy potential of a shooter. Overall it’s a hand-down win for the MP5 if we were to measure groups.
The UMP benefits from a better optic rail, and optics can make a practical accuracy difference. The trigger of the UMP leaves a lot to be desired. The feeling of plastic grinding on plastic certainly drags the trigger down a fair bit.
While the MP5 might win on the field of accuracy, the UMP delivers in the world of ergonomics. Being designed in the 1990s and produced in 2000 certainly gives the gun some advantages. The UMP comes equipped with a last-round bolt hold-open device, so reloads are faster, more intuitive, and easier to commit.
The MP5s lack of a last-round bolt hold-open device ensures you don’t know your guns are empty until it goes click. Both the guns feature ambidextrous magazine release devices, which are nice and easy to engage. The UMP utilizes a much better fire selector that’s easy to activate with the thumb. The MP5 seemingly requires a whole other hand movement to activate.
Where the UMP loses is with recoil. The MP5’s roller delayed system delivers a lot less recoil than a direct blowback system. The UMP jumps around a bit, and the difference is something you can feel instantly.
Well, a tie might be like kissing your sister, but that’s exactly what we have here. Both guns eat and eat without recourse. These weapons are insanely reliable, and the HK reputation is built on these kinds of guns. The UMP and MP5 deliver utmost reliability, and that’s why these guns have been adopted so widely and so far.
Submachine Gun It
The UMP and MP5 are masterclass weapons in submachine gun design. They are well made, easy to handle, reliable, and successful. SMGS, as of late, have taken a back seat to compact rifles, but they still see some use in their specific niche. While the UMP was intended to replace the MP5, it didn’t quite succeed. The MP5 is still produced and fielded, but the UMP has taken a few notable contracts and arrived in numerous special operations units.
HK even made semi-auto versions of the same weapons, and they tend to be expensive. HK seems to produce the civilian MP5 much more often than they produce the USC, the civilian version of the UMP.
Either way, both are stellar guns, and if SMGs were still a popular choice, then a roller delayed or short-stroke gas piston UMP would absolutely dominate the market.