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HK MP7 PDW. Serious Compact Firepower

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By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com

November 17th, 2002

Every once in awhile, as the editor of Defense Review, I have the rare and somewhat distinct pleasure of handling and firing a firearm that is not only brand spanking new, but actually manages to knock my socks off. Please keep in mind that I did not expect Heckler & Koch’s newest wondergun, the MP7 PDW(Personal Defense Weapon), to have such a profound affect on me. To be honest, I’ve had a few preformed ideas about the 4.6x30mm round it fires, and they haven’t exactly been positive. This is the result of two things: conversations with fairly knowledgeable people in the firearms community, and late results with the performance of the 5.56x45mm round in Afghanistan.
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Truth is, most knowledgeable people that I’ve spoken with have talked rather condescendingly about PDW’s in general, and the ammunition they fire, in particular. This applies to both the HK MP7 PDW and its proprietary 4.6x30mm ball round, and FN’s P90 PDW and their proprietary 5.7x28mm AP round. I mean, let’s face it–the fact that it’s been taking multiple 5.56x45mm M855 rounds to put some of these Al Queda guys down recently has not helped to change their views. Understand that the 5.56x45mm M855 round is a 62 grain round with a muzzle velocity between 2450 and 3100 fps, depending on barrel length. HK’s 4.6x30mm PDW round is a 26.2 grain round at roughly 2400 fps. Of course, the HK MP7 has a much different mission profile than the M16/M4, but it’s primary purpose is still to save one’s behind when the you-know-what has really hit the proverbial fan. However, all that said and understood—man, I liked this gun! I’ll get back to this in a minute.
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It’s important to first understand the purpose of the “Personal Defense Weapon” category of small arms, and by extension, the HK MP7. PDW’s are designed to give rear-line/auxilliary combat troops and specialized units a select-fire weapon that can still lay down an impressive amount of suppressive fire, while being significantly lighter, more portable, and more concealable than an infantry rifle/carbine. Its ammunition must also be able to defeat modern battlefield body armor, which is one of its primary mandates. For instance, the HK MP7 PDW’s 4.6x30mm round was designed to be able to defeat CRISAT body armor and Kevlar Helmets out to 200 meters. After CRISAT penetration, the 4.6mm ball round will penetrate 10-12 inches of tissue. Once it defeats the armor, the round will yaw inside the target, thus creating a larger wound channel.

You get all this in a pretty lightweight package–3.8 lbs with a 20-round loaded magazine. The MP7 has a really neat design to it, too. Mark White, of Sound Technology, commented(after shooting it himself) that it reminds him of those old Transformer figures. Things fold out, snap open, and retract in Transformer-like fashion, and the weapon is just pretty neat in general. Specifically, the MP7 has a folding vertical foregrip, a nicely integrated telescoping buttstock, and pistol sights that turn into flip-up rifle sights/BUIS (Back-Up Iron Sights). The pistol sights are co-witnessed with the Hensoldt Z-Point reflex sight (red dot) that was provided on the test prototype we fired. When you want to use the flip-up BUIS, you just flip them up and “un-ass”(short for “unassemble”) the Hensoldt. As if this isn’t enough, all the operating controls are really well laid out. Heckler and Koch must have really done their homework with regard to the human engineering aspects of the MP7. The weapon has a business-like appearance, and looks pretty cool, as well.

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Assuming you really couldn’t care less how the MP7 looks, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. I got the chance to fire the Heckler & Koch (HK) MP7 PDW at SWAT Round-Up 2002, and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had with a firearm in a long time. First, it shouldered quickly, so I was able to get a very fast sight picture with the Hensoldt Z-Point reflex sight. Recoil was negligible. During the demonstration, Fred Yates held the MP7 out in front of him like a pistol, one handed, fired it, and the gun’s muzzle hardly moved. Once he shouldered it, it didn’t seem to move at all(This can be seen in the video).

When I shot the MP7 on semi-auto, from the shoulder, the super-light recoil actually took me a little by surprise at first, a pleasant surprise, if you will. On full-auto, the gun just stayed right on target the whole time, even during multiple-shot strings at 900 rounds-per-minute. Felt-recoil impulse was roughly half that of a 9mm subgun. Everyone DefRev spoke with who shot the MP7 came away extremely impressed with it. Most of these people were seasoned SWAT operators.

O.k., on to features, ergonomics, and handling qualities–let’s go down the list: The MP7 shouldered very quickly. Magazine insertion was instinctive(Uzi-style), and the bolt release positioned right above the trigger area, was ambidextrous–so that control was both quick and easy to operate. The safety/selector switch was also ambidextrous and easy to manipulate with either the thumb or index finger. The magazine release, also ambidextrous, was positioned just right and operated P7/USP style–push-down, instead of push-in. The bolt retracting handle on the MP7 is AR-15/M16 style, so it was also ambidextrous, fast to manipulate, and familiar. I also liked how all the operational controls felt, as I manipulated them. The magazine clicked into place positively, and the bolt “clacked” home with authority when I released it and chambered the first round(you can hear these sounds on the video we’ve provided with this article).

The real question mark is on the MP7′s ammo: Will Heckler & Koch’s proprietary 4.6x30mm PDW round get the job done and put the bad guys down? I don’t know. There’s simply no street data on the 4.6x30mm round–yet. Until there is, it’s all conjecture. If the 4.6x30mm turns out to be an inadquate stopper, it won’t matter how confidence-inspiring any other aspect of the MP7 is. If the 4.6x30mm doesn’t measure up to the task for which it was designed, neither will the MP7. Time will tell.

DefRev did not experience any malfunctions while firing the MP7, nor did we witness any problems of any sort while a number of others put the MP7 through its paces. A high round-count testing session, under adverse conditions, would of course be necessary to assess the MP7′s true reliability.
In case you’re wondering how accurate the gun is, I have no idea. We were shooting at blank white targets at a distance of, I believe, 40-50 yards, a range format that was chosen for us, not by us. And, there were already a lot of holes in the targets by the time I started engaging them. According to HK’s MP7 PDW brochure, however, “with it’s 7-inch barrel, the HK MP7 is capable of firing 10-shot semi-automatic groups at 45 meters of less than 2”.
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So, what’s the verdict? Assuming the 4.6x30mm round can actually take care of business, I have to say I think Heckler and Koch (HK) has a real winner on their hands with the MP7 PDW. I really do. It could very well prove useful for vehicle crews and non-front-line troops. It’s even possible that it could be applied effectively to the dignitary protection role and low-key Special Operations missions in urban areas, when protective agents or SpecOps personnel must be able to conceal a firearm(smaller than a subcarbine) that can be used to penetrate vehicle doors and body armor at distances outside a handgun’s effective engagement envelope, under a jacket or vest.

Of course, for dignitary protection, the weapon has to be capable of stopping a man close-in, quickly, with as few shots as possible. If the 4.6mm can’t do this, the executive protection role is definitely out, and I frankly wouldn’t want to see SpecOps personnel carrying it either. Again, this is the nagging question that will remain with me until the 4.6x30mm round proves itself in combat/CQB (Close Quarters Battle).

If the the 4.6x30mm round turns out to be combat-effective against human targets at close range, military operators and/or protective agents will have a compact, controllable little select-fire, body armor-piercing package in the HK MP7 PDW that he/she can use to effectively engage multiple attackers out to 200 meters (200 meters is the maximum operational envelope for the MP7, according to HK) . Frankly, what’s not to like about that? The HK MP7 can be slung, carried, and concealed easily under a jacket or photographer’s vest(or, even better, Royal Robbins’ 5.11 Tactical Vest), or carried into combat, as a secondary weapon, in a thigh holster.

Now, will the 4.6x30mm round itself prove to be effective enough in a real CQB environment? Again, I honestly don’t know. If I said “yes” at this point, I’d simply be guessing. The round just isn’t battle-proven yet. I can tell you this though–I sure as hell wouldn’t want to get shot with it. Also, a lot of research apparently went into the development of this round, and H&K isn’t exactly new at this game. If pressed, I would have to guess that the 4.6x30mm round will get the job done for its intended purpose. Let’s hope. Price of admission will be around $1100 per, about the same price as a G36C, when the MP7 is made available. Unfortunately, if you’re not law enforcement or military, you will not be able to purchase one. This is a shame, because the MP7 is a neat piece, and would make a nice plinking and travel gun.

By the way, the magazine we had on hand for the test shoot was a 25-rounder, which must be fairly new, since the catalogue lists the magazines at 20 and 40 rounds, respectively. 25 rounds, at 900 rpm, goes really quickly, so I would have preferred the 40 rounder, which I would recommend under most circumstances. I did like the Hensoldt red dot sight that co-witnesses with the pistol sights (although you can also use an Aimpoint, EOTech, OKO, DOCTERsight, or any other red dot/holographic gunsight you wish). The Hensoldt’s red dot was very fast to acquire and the sight itself was lightweight and sized perfectly for the weapon. A number of companies will also be offering a suppressor for the MP7 in the near future. Gemtech will most likely be one of them.

Very Important Instructions for Downloading and Playing Videos: If you’d like to see the HK MP7 video DefRev recently shot at SWAT Round-Up 2002, please follow these steps, to the letter : 1) Right-click on the link to the video you’d like to watch. 2) Left-click on “Save Target As…” inside the box that pops open to save the video to your “Desktop” or area of choice. 3) Once download is complete and the video file is sitting on your desktop, right-click on the file icon, and then left-click on “Play” inside the box that’s opened up. This should automatically launch your Microsoft Windows Media player so you can watch the video you’ve downloaded(at this time, we’re not sure that Apple users will be able to view it). Currently, you cannot view these videos using Quicktime or RealVideo. Remember, you must right-click on one of the links below to download the video you’ve chosen properly and then you must right-click again on the file icon once you’ve saved it to your “Desktop” or chosen area, in order to view it using your Microsoft Windows Media Player. This process is different from using the standard clicking method, where you click using the left side of your mouse.

On “Video One”, you’ll see one of HK’s instructors, Fred Yates, explaining various aspects of the weapon and firing it both on semi and full-auto. On “Video 2″, you will see DefRev’s humble editor-in-chief, David Crane, inserting a magazine, releasing the bolt, and firing the MP7 on both semi and full auto. On “Video 3″, you’ll see one of our staff writers, David Engel, firing it on both semi and full-auto as well. To DefRev’s knowledge, it’s the first video on the MP7 to ever be released to the public. Enjoy.

Video 1: Right-click here to download/save video, and watch(using Windows Media Player) HK instructor, Fred Yates, explain and demonstrate the HK MP7 PDW.

Video 2: Right-click here to download/save video, and watch DefRev editor-in-chief, David Crane, load and fire the MP7. I highly recommend this particular video, of course.

Video 3: Right-click here to download/save video, and watch DefRev staff writer, David Engel, fire the MP7.

If you are having trouble viewing the videos please update your windows player and make sure you have the latest codec installed to view the videos. If you get codec errors please visit http://www.divxmovies.com/codec/

DefRev will provide additional links to supplemental still photos of the DefRev team shooting the the HK MP7 PDW at SWAT Round-Up 2002, just as soon as they are developed.

Addendum (11/18/02):
I’d like to extend special thanks to the folks at Heckler & Koch Training Division, with particular thanks going to Mr. Fred Yates. They, and he, were very gracious to us, both in allowing us to testfire the MP7, and to simultaneously videotape the session. I would also like to personally thank the fine people at Walker’s Game Ear, particularly Bob Walker, who supplied their excellent Power Muffs Quad, for me to take to SWAT Round-Up 2002. You can see me wearing them in “Video 2″. The Power Muffs Quad worked really great. While protecting my hearing from all the gunfire that was going on, they still allowed me to hear everything that was being said, and everything that was happening around me on the range. The Power Muffs Quad remained comfortable the entire time, and I wore them alot. Based on their performance to date, I can wholeheartedly recommend this product.

Last, but definitely not least, I’d like to thank the truly amazing people who run SWAT Round-Up. It’s a great event, and I was honored to be able to attend it.

HK MP7 PDW. Serious Compact Firepower by
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About David Crane

David Crane started publishing online in 2001. Since that time, governments, military organizations, Special Operators (i.e. professional trigger pullers), agencies, and civilian tactical shooters the world over have come to depend on Defense Review as the authoritative source of news and information on "the latest and greatest" in the field of military defense and tactical technology and hardware, including tactical firearms, ammunition, equipment, gear, and training.
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