November 12, 2020
“Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it,” Dad used to say. Twenty-seven-hundred dollars is steep money for any pistol, albeit on the low end for some Model 1911s. But the HK SP5K-PDW is not the typical handgun. As a pistol for home defense, a truck (or trunk) gun, or an everyday carry backpack gun, a shortened MP5 variant is more useful in these roles than you might expect.
The new SP5K-PDW is based on the storied MP5 introduced in 1976. Specifically, it’s inspired by the select-fire MP5K, but is most closely related to a shortened semiautomatic HK94 prototype that was revealed as the “P94” at the 1988 SHOT Show. Once the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) authorized its importation, the production model was renamed “SP89” for the year it was approved. It was only offered for a few years before it was eventually restricted.
Supply never met demand for the SP5K. Heckler & Koch GmbH factory in Germany operates at full production capacity to keep up with orders for small arms, but every once in a while product managers seize the opportunity to manufacture limited-run line extensions of legacy products such as the SP5K in 2017. Though retail pricing was set at $2,700, some 1,000 SP5Ks imported to the U.S. were immediately sold, and the few offered today at online gun auctions command more than $4,000.
“MP” in MP5 stands for maschinenpistole, and “SP” sportpistole signifies semiautomatic models. The SP5K is only available with (and will only accept) the semiauto trigger group, but that hasn’t detracted from its real-world capability. The “K” designation is from the German word for short — kurz. The MP5K and SP5K embodies this translation with a shorter barrel and receiver. Regardless of size, all SP5 and MP5 models share the same HK roller-delayed blowback operating system, which became legendary for its accuracy and smooth-functioning reliability.
The suffix “PDW” is a popular acronym for “Personal Defense Weapon,” and it certainly applies here. Given the 13.8-inch overall length, acceptance of available 30-round magazines, and ability to sling it up or conceal-carry it in a backpack, make it aptly qualified for the label.
There are a number of changes and additions worth noting between the SP5K released three years ago and the new SP5K-PDW. First, the SP5K-PDW does not come with a factory-installed optic rail as the SP5K did. It’s an unfortunate change because G&A’s sample shot amazingly well when equipped with an Aimpoint T-2 red dot. Of course, there are aftermarket mounts available, but HK-marked parts are preferred among enthusiasts. Sometimes the HK rail mounts appear for sale, but they cost $400 and sell out quickly.
The SP5K-PDW sports a traditional paddle magazine release in addition to the right-hand magazine release button. The paddle was absent on SP5K a few years ago, which MP5 fans noticed. It’s intuitive to grab an empty magazine and hit the paddle with your thumb before pulling and changing out mags. The purists are now rejoicing for this addition. Paired with the fun-to-slap charging handle, the shooter gets more of the MP5K experience when working the controls of the SP5K-PDW.
The barrel of the SP5K-PDW is also new. The SP5K featured a 4.53-inch barrel that couldn’t be threaded or suppressed, and was equipped with a protective plastic handguard that extended beyond the muzzle. Molded with a handstop, the ribbed handguard was similar to the one that appeared on the HK P94, so there was a historical precident for it. The SP5K-PDW, however, features a so-called “Navy”-style barrel measuring 5.83 inches, and is given an old-school three-lug (aka, “tri-lug”) quick-detach suppressor adapter that’s been threaded and capped with a removable thread protector. Talk with someone who has shot a suppressed MP5, MP5K or MP5SD, and ask if that wasn’t the most fun they’ve ever had shooting a gun. (It was for me.)
Besides the aforementioned features, the SP5K-PDW is identical to the SP5K.
Function & Reliability
I was one of a few HK-trained armorers as a U.S. Marine and later went back to HK for training while working at Blackwater USA. Marines with Special Operations Command (MARSOC), Force Reconnaissance and Military Police Special Reaction Teams (SRT) occassionally used specialized variations including suppressed models. I can attest to the reliability of the MP5 and MP5K. It was rare to see either come into the armory for repair, but when it happened it was usually due to neglect. Besides changing out a few trigger assemblies, I only recall replacing the roller cam retainer plates (and cams) once after a set of plates split in two for a lack of lubrication and maintenence. I can’t imagine someone abusing a gun the way those guys did. As a civilian, you should never experience malfunctioning issues with an HK SP5K due to its design.
Maintaining any member of the MP5 family is fun, too. With a gun safely cleared of ammunition, the SP5K-PDW disassembles by pushing two pins at the rear and removing the backplate. One pin secures the backplate to the upper receiver, while the lower pin secures the bottom of the backplate to the polymer trigger housing and through the bottom of the steel receiver. With the backplate removed, the bolt, carrier, guiderod and spring assemblies can be withdrawn. The trigger housing is pivoted down and pulled away for removal, also. You can brush and lubricate the trigger’s components from the top, but I do not recommend attempting to disassemble the trigger assembly further without training.
The handguard is secured to the front of the receiver by a single pin. Once the pin is removed, it pivots down and comes off by pulling it forward. No further disassembly is required for access to ensure proper care.
At The Range
Like the MP5’s reputation, the SP5K-PDW is more accurate than you’d expect. Despite its short barrel, this pistol had no issues grouping under 2 inches at 25 yards from a benchrest. Using the provided single-point sling, you could slowly do this freehand, as well. It’s hard to believe, but the SP5K-PDW is more accurate than most 9mm-chambered AR-type carbines and pistols we’ve tested — and it fed every type of ammo including heavyweight suppressed loads. ARs are pickier about the ammo you feed them. We never experienced a malfunction with the SP5K-PDW. It was no suprise, really.
I personally own an SP5 with 8.86-inch barrel that’s closer to the original MP5 design with standard forend. With the SP5’s longer barrel, there was only a gain of 50 feet per second (fps) velocity with supersonic loads and 5 fps with subsonic ammo. Ballistically, you’re not losing much carrying a K model. Shooting the same loads between the SP5 and the SP5K-PDW, accuracy was identical. The tall, shrouded post front sight paired with the rotating drum rear sight is easy to align sharply and arguably the easiest iron sight pairing to shoot accurately with. For self-defense use, I’m not convinced a red dot is necessary. (A note to HK purists, the U-notch drum on the HK SP5K-PDW is an HK part and not the same as the diopter-style drum on the HK94, MP5K PDW or MP5K-N.)
I confess, I am an HK fanboy. My dark secret is the obscene amount of money I’ve spent on HK products, often at times when I couldn’t afford them. I’m about to do it again. I used my editorial powers and assigned this new-gun review to myself, just as I did once three years ago before purchasing the last SP5K we reviewed. I could argue “it’s a perk of the job,” but my motives are admittedly selfish. Please don’t hold it against me. If you get a chance to shoot one, you’d become a fanboy too.
HK SP5K-PDW Specs
- Type: Roller-delayed blowback, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 10+1, 15+1, or 30+1 rds.
- Barrel: 4.53 in.
- Overall Length: 13.12 in.
- Weight: 4 lbs., 3.2 oz.
- Stock: None; backplate w/ sling
- Grip: Polymer
- Finish: Black
- Trigger: 7 lbs., 5 oz. (tested)
- Sights: Post (front); quad notch, rotating drum (rear)
- Safety: Selector lever, ambidextrous
- MSRP: $2,700
- Manufacturer: Heckler & Koch, 706-568-1906, hk-usa.com
HK SP5K-PDW Performance
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