More than a few professional submachine gunners have said
that if the MP5 were available in a decent caliber, meaning
.45 ACP, it would be perfect. Others observe that the MP5
is incomplete without a bolt hold-open device. Procurement
types would like the purchase price of the MP5 and accessories
to be cheaper by 30% or more. While those carrying .45 ACP
pistols have settled for the MP5 in calibers 9mm, 10mm or
.40 S&W, they would still have preferred one in the same
caliber as their .45 handguns.
Heckler & Koch has demonstrated it's not a company that
rests on its laurels, basking in the glory of its current product.
Time and again over its 50 years of existence HK has pushed
the envelope of small arms design and performance. HK has
pioneered evolutionary if not revolutionary developments
such as the first production polymer-framed pistol, the VP70,
in the early 1970s. The world's first caseless ammunition rifle,
the G11, which elicited the statement from the U.S. Military
that this unique weapon firing self-consuming 4.92mm rounds
proved the feasibility of caseless ammunition. The HK Close
Assault Weapon System (CAWS), the world's deadliest shotgun
and the latest development from HK, the OICW, the futuristic
replacement to the US M203 in 2005, are "bullet launchers"
pushed to the limits of technology and materials.
While many informed small arms enthusiasts have heard of
these HK weapons, there was an entire family of HK submachine
guns developed almost twenty years after the first MP5 was
assembled as a prototype in 1965. These prototype sub-guns
eventually brought along the genesis of HK's latest submachine
gun, the new UMP45.
In the early 1980s, the U.S. Joint Service Small Arms Program
(JSSAP) office solicited for an Advanced 9mm Submachine Gun
to arm both conventional and special operations personnel.
Calling for advanced features and design, the "JSSAP Gun"
never advanced beyond prototype development with the
exception of 60 that were reportedly hand-made expressly
for, and issued to, one American unit that will herein remain
nameless. HK developed numerous models and submitted them
for exhaustive testing. In the end this customer decided to
procure the off-the-shelf MP5 and the new HK's were relegated
to their place in only the more exclusive history books.
The HK54A1 with its 50-round drum magazine and the subsequent
SMG and SMG II prototypes were advanced 9mm SMGs built by
HK during the 1980s for this military R&D program. The military's
decision not to purchase the new HK SMG did not deter HK's
drive to improve on the near perfection of the MP5. Throughout
the late 1980s and early 1990s HK continued work on the concept
of a modular submachine gun from which various configurations
could be assembled by the operator for the specific mission.
The use of advanced polymer materials found their way not
only into the magazine but also into the receiver and many
non-stress-bearing parts of the weapon. Prototypes of the
MP2000 and the MP5-PIP (Product ImProved) were made and
tested and have lead to the series production weapon HK now
calls the "Universal Machine Pistol" (UMP).
Available by mid-1999 the UMP45, chambered for the ever-popular
.45 ACP round, is truly the culmination of HK's decades of
worldwide experience with the MP5 and the prototype weapons
described above. Not able to properly "stuff" the short stubby
.45 ACP round into the 9mm MP5's envelope, a new dedicated
model was called for and design work began on the UMP45 in
A quick inspection of the new UMP45 shows that once again HK
has done its homework well. This "polymer MP5" has all of the
capabilities and features of the MP5 and more, yet none of its
drawbacks. It is obvious to this writer that a great deal of
end-user input has been incorporated into the weapon's design.
To say that the design and construction of the UMP45 is a
departure for HK would be accurate. The years of HK
stamping, folding and welding sheet metal to produce new
weapon designs seems to have ended. The unique roller-locked
bolt system also seems to be a thing of the past. Both the
excellent HK G36 rifle and the new UMP45 employ polymers
in the receiver and many internal parts. Metal inserts provide
the strength and durability needed in the pressure bearing
components and provide the guiding surfaces for the bolt.
HK claims the UMP45 has a minimum service life of 100,000
How It Works
The UMP45 operates off the simple blowback system, with
a relatively lightweight bolt with few moving parts (extractor,
firing pin, and firing pin block). The UMP fires from the closed-bolt
position and features a fixed barrel, which is removable by
the unit armorer. A bolt hold-open device, or bolt catch as
it is often termed, is standard on the UMP45 and can be
easily disabled. Fully ambidextrous operating controls
including easily reachable safety/selector levers are present.
Sounds good, you say? Well, it gets better. All these features
are definite improvements over the MP5, as is the suggested law
enforcement price of under $900. Yes, that's right, $900 U.S.
dollars for an HK SMG, hundreds less than a comparably-equipped
The "U" in UMP stands for "Universal", which denotes the
UMP's caliber-convertible capability, though at this time only
a .45 ACP UMP is available. By offering the UMP first in .45
ACP, HK now has a fourth sub-gun caliber, one that will be
welcomed by those carrying .45 ACP handguns. The UMP45
will easily handle a steady diet of ball, hollow-point and +P
ammunition as well as limited amounts of the .45 Super.
To create the UMP, HK designers changed what needed
changing on the MP5 and left the good things be. They
correctly and intentionally left the operating controls of
the UMP in the same position as on other HK weapons.
Thus, someone already comfortable with the controls of
their trusty MP5, G3, HK53, or even the new G36, will find
the controls of the UMP45 right where they should be.
New shooters will find the operating controls of the UMP
to be user-friendly, well-placed and easy to actuate.
As with all HKs, the strong (firing) hand remains in place
on the UMP45's pistol grip, while the free, weak (non-firing)
hand actuates the operating controls. The cocking lever,
magazine release lever and bolt catch can be easily actuated
with the weapon still at the shoulder and ready for immediate
use. The UMP45's safety/selector levers are ambidextrous
but have been redesigned so even short fingers can rotate
the safety/selector lever into the firing modes without the
need to rotate the grip of the strong hand.
The bolt catch resembles and functions like that of the M16
or M4 and is actuated by the follower of the empty magazine.
A quick jab of the thumb during magazine insertion closes
the bolt and "primes" the chamber with a live round. Simple
and efficient, it wastes no movement.
The UMP45 is delivered with fixed iron sights and molded-in
attachment points for mounting rails (MIL-STD-1913 "Picatinny"
rails) or other accessory devices. The rear sight is of a flip-up
design with both open "V" shaped and peep apertures to allow
for low-light acquisition and precision accuracy at smaller or
long-range targets. A metric Allen wrench is provided for
both windage and elevation adjustment, both made in the
rear sight assembly. The front sight is a hooded post similar
in design to that found on most HK long guns. Optional tritium
sights will also be available for the UMP by the time it is fielded
The rail mounting points are molded into the polymer receiver
of the UMP45 at four separate points. These rails can be
attached with the same Allen wrench used for sight adjustment.
One six-inch section can be located on the top of the receiver
in front of the rear sight. A second shorter four-inch section
can be mounted at the left, bottom or right sides of the integral
forearm of the weapon. Any device that fits on M16A3 and M4A1
variants can be attached to these UMP45 rails, to include light
and sight mounts, vertical foregrips, QD sling aftachments, etc.
A UMP45 rail will also be available for the HK MKII Universal
Tactical Light (UTL).
The UMP barrel also incorporates a unique quick-detachable
mounting system for muzzle-mounted accessories such as
sound suppressors and flash hiders. Bothersome threads
are unnecessary on this new system. A simple depresion
of a knurled locking lever allows the sound suppressor to
be mounted. Removal is just as quick and easy. No collars,
springs or locking sleeves are required, nor do you need to
push, rotate or pull the sound suppressor during mounting
or removal. Proven during extensive testing, the repeatability
and accuracy of the weapon when suppressed is assured
by this innovative attachment method. This is going to be
without question the hot ticket for QD suppressor attachment.
Lightweight, baffle-style aluminum Bruegger & Thomet
(B&T) sound suppressors are being imported from Switzerland
for sale with the UMP45. Sound reduction with ball ammunition
is reported to be 20 dBA or greater. No visible muzzle flash
was apparent during our limited testing.
As with most HKs, the 7.9-inch barrel is cold hammer forged.
The UMP bore is chrome lined for durability and has HK's
trade-mark polygonal rifling with a twist rate twist of 1
turn in 16 inches.
As with HK's G36, the UMP45 features a folding stock that
pivots to the right side of the receiver. It is held in the
folded position by a molded locking feature on the receiver,
which doubles as a brass deflector. A rubber buttplate and
cheekrest on the buttstock are also included.
The UMP disassembles into two halves that are held together
by a hinge and a single locking pin, which stores in the buttstock
during field stripping. The upper receiver contains the barrel,
sights, cocking lever and folding buftstock. The lower receiver
includes the magazine well, magazine catch, bolt catch, trigger
mechanism, safety/selector lever and pistol grip. The bolt
allows for the removal of the firing pin and spring and recoil
spring assembly, without tools. A clever firing pin block,
actuated by the strike of the hammer, insures that the firing
pin remains locked unless the trigger is pulled, thus preventing
slam fires or drop-induced discharges.
As the UMP45 is a simple, blowback-operated weapon, there
is no need for the chamber fluting of the MP5. The brass
ejection pattern is a consistent down and forward direction
from the right side of the polymer receiver. The simplicity
of the design makes for easy clean up after firing. No special
tools or brushes are required and access to all of the critical
areas for cleaning are enhanced by the upper/lower receiver
design of the UMP. The polymer can tolerate any cleaning
solvents safe for hands, and little or no lubrication is required.
During its development, the UMP passed all of the normal
grueling military-style testing for which HK has become
famous. Nearly every type of U.S. and foreign military and
commercial ammunition has been fired over more than two
years, and in quantities that would make your reloading
machine wince. During our firing session more than 1,000
rounds were fired without a single stoppage, and this included
ball, hollow-point, flat point, subsonic and even +P ammunition
mixed randomly in the magazine.
The first thing that one notices when handling the new UMP45
is its light weight. The operating controls are familiar and,
as we've noted above, like those of the MP5. The flared
magazine well insures quick magazine changes. The polymer
25-round magazine features a clear plastic strip at the side
for counting the rounds inside. A shorter magazine of ten-round
capacity is also planned.
Filling the magazine by hand was easy. Magazine loaders
are also available for extended range firing sessions. Lessons
learned with the M3 Grease Gun didn't escape HK with the
UMP45 magazine. A single feed position reminiscent of the
M3 is apparent. Sling attachment points are provided for
both left and right handed shooters.
Shooting any new weapon is always the final word in any
evaluation. Many guns feel great in the hand and look good
on paper but perform poorly where it really counts. The
UMP45 did not disappoint us in this regard. The shooting
went 100% flawless. We have to admit that the UMP is
no beauty. However, form follows function, and this gun
worked and handled wonderfully. The lightness of the
weapon makes for fast aiming and target acquisition
mandatory during the classic CQB role of a submachine gun.
The UMP45 is quick when acquiring multiple or moving targets
as well as while firing on the move.
The recoil impulse to the shooter's shoulder was no more
than a 9mm MP5. With far more muzzle energy than a 9mm
submachine gun, the UMP45 delivers superior ballistics compared
to weapons in other calibers, except maybe the 10mm MP5.
This is especially so when firing subsonic ammunition in a
sound suppressed mode, a scenario where 9mm sub-guns
have often faired poorly.
Compared to the MP5
For comparison purposes we were able to bring together
MP5s in all three available calibers to test alongside the
.45 caliber Universal Machine Pistol. We tested the four
weapons for accuracy and controllability in both burst
and fully automatic modes of fire including the tell-all,
25-round "Hell Mary" burst. Semi-automatic accuracy
of the UMP45 was excellent - comparable to that of the
MP5 in all calibers. Firing at 100 yards, the UMP45 placed
all rounds within a 6-inch group on par with the 9mm,
.40 S&W and 10mm MP5s. The hold at 50 yards was dead
on and knothole-sized groups at 15 and 25 yards in
semi-automatic mode were easy, both with and without
the sound suppressor mounted.
For speed we employed the talents of a very experienced
competitive shooter from our nation's leading law enforcement
tactical team. Our drill involved shooting two 2-shot bursts
on a single one-third-size steel silhouette from 15 yards.
Firing from an unsupported shoulder position, the PACT
timer recorded the results. Time and again this shooter
completed this drill in less than one second from the ready
position, both with his issue MP5 and the UMP45 firing 230-grain
ball. Admittedly unfamiliar with the new UMP45, within
minutes and with little practice his first rounds were on
target in 0.70 of a second! We were impressed, and so
Simple blowback, no locking rollers, light weight. None of
this seemed to matter with the UMP45. Hits in the 2-shot
burst mode were within 2-4 inches of the point of aim at
15 yards. This should be great news for tactical teams
around the U.S. and especially those looking for improved
terminal performance from their submachine gun in the
sound suppressed mode. This gun would also make an
outstanding squad car carbine with the semi-automatic
only or semi-automatic and 2-shot burst trigger mechanism.
HK has done it again! They have created the first and
only true modern production .45 caliber submachine gun
that competes head to head with the abilities of the
famous 9mm MP5. In doing so, they made sure that it was
better, lighter, less expensive, more user friendly and far
less complicated than the proven MP5. Best of all the UMP45
is available at a price where an agency could nearly buy
two UMPs for the price of an MP5/10 or MP5/40.