The roller-delayed and roller-locked firearms produced from the Cold War to the present, and used by NATO and countless combatants around the world, have their origins in World War II. Under the Nazis, engineers had a field day producing everything from the first operational fleet of jet-powered bombers and fighters, to the rockets that would form the bases for the U.S. and Soviet space programs, to submarines so advanced one was raised from the ocean to reenter service in the 1950s. Germany also produced firearms such as the MG 42 and the MP 44 series, which evolved into the post-war G3.
The story of the G3 arguably begins during World War I. Unlike the Eastern Front, and the Middle East where the battlefields often retained some mobility, the Western Front was mostly static — defined, before the return of mobility in 1917 and 1918, by battles such as Verdun and the Somme where massed firepower became the perceived arbiter of success. The desire for more individual firepower under these circumstances led to enhancements such as extended magazines, modifications such as the Pedersen Device and MG 08/15, and new weapons such as the submachine gun (e.g., the MP 18, which entered service, and the Thompson, which came too late) and the automatic rifle (e.g., the Chauchat, and the BAR).
Immediately before World War II, many countries were developing designs that incorporated intermediate- or pistol-caliber cartridges into an individual, shoulder-fired weapon. However, none would become as influential as the MKb 42 and MP 43/44. These set the standard, and indeed gave the name Sturmgewehr — assault rifle, to the weapons that would evolve from it either in concept or design.
The MP 44 series of rifles was extremely well-received when it made its appearance on the battlefield. German after action reports noted that the lesser recoil led to more long-range hits — a somewhat surprising fact considering the firearm’s chambering in an intermediate cartridge, the 7.92x33mm Kurz. However, the lower power of the cartridge itself combined with the smooth gas operation of the MP 44 (MP 43 at the time, although there is virtually no difference) resulted in far less recoil during firing, in turn enabling maximization of the 7.92×33’s ballistic capability. If you should find yourself among the few who have an opportunity, go put one hundred rounds through a K98 in 7.92×57, and then do the same with an MP 44 in 7.92×33. You’ll understand.
At close range, the MP 44 could unleash a tremendous and controllable volume of fire against an enemy. Additionally, it was not as prone to failure, due to cold or fouling, as other weapons. Its stamped metal design was revolutionary — so much so that virtually no German gun manufacturers wanted anything to do with it, and Adolf Hitler himself almost killed the project. Eventually, however, overwhelming demand for the weapon overrode the Bohemian Corporal’s amateurish interference. Still, it never entered production on a scale at which it could have significantly influenced the battlefield. Indeed, there were production problems throughout the war, to include fewer magazines, pouches, and accessories than were needed to accompany even the small number of weapons that were issued. Today, finding an original MP 44 magazine is almost as hard as finding a transferrable MP 44.
Even though the MP 44 got a somewhat abortive start during the war, it pointed the way to the future. By 1945, the MP 44 had been outfitted with a quick-detach 4X scope with throw-lever mount, a suppressor, and even the first small-arms-mounted night vision device. Considering that it would take most militaries until the modern day to make such accessories standard, the scope and scale of forward thinking manifested in the MP 44 project was astounding.
If you’re like us at Zenith, you too are an irritating person to watch firearm-rich action movies with. You probably point out everything from chronological problems, to poor trigger discipline, to those endless magazines we all wish we had. And since you’re reading this particular blog, we’re going to assume you are also a true aficionado of roller-delayed goodness, and that you love seeing the little Teutonic select-fire Parabellum wonder—the MP5—in action courtesy of the anti-gun hypocrites in Hollywood.
It would take pages upon pages to list and discuss all the times the MP5 and its many variations have appeared in a Hollywood production. Therefore, we have resigned to sharing just our most-favored five:
- Everybody’s favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard, wins our award for the best movie ever in which the MP5 is given center stage. The number of one-liners in Die Hard is epic, and the movie boasts what is arguably one of the best-written one-liners in history: “Now I have a Machinegun Ho-Ho-Ho.” Given its extensive portrayal of the MP5 punishing Euro-Yuppie terrorists led by Hans Grüber, if this movie is not on your list of holiday films, it should be. If you have never seen this movie, please exit your bubble forthwith.
- Blackhawk Down takes our number two spot. We appreciate this movie’s depiction of soldiers and valor the way they really are, not as they’re sometimes idealized to be. This is not a movie to watch when you’re in less than an optimal mood, but it makes for a good selection on days when you’re solid and need to wax a little reflective. The movie’s dignified portrayal of Mike Durant and Randy Shughart wielding the MP5 stands as one of the more realistic depictions of modern combat we think we’ve seen.
- The Matrix stands alone in third place. While the action is pure science fiction, the movie’s extremely cynical take on cosmic reality does tend to promote genuine pause and contemplation of the more important questions of life. The MP5 gets plenty of face time in The Matrix as well, although mostly in the form of the MP5K. To this day it is one of the most visually stunning films ever made, and the somehow persistently futuristic lines of the more than half-century old MP5 add to the overall mind rush.
- Sicario is another one of those films you really shouldn’t watch if you aren’t feeling fantastic. In fact, it’s pretty grim and more than a little graphic in its details regarding the realities of the war on drugs. However, Benicio del Toro’s character Alejandro Gillick definitely gives the MP5SD some love—to the delight of us old-schoolers who still chomp at the bit to see it lay down the law on bad guys. If you want to see the SD showcased, this is the film to watch.
- Our final selection doesn’t feature the MP5 as much as it should, but just to see it appear in Boondock Saints somehow warms the cockles of our wee hearts. Yes, we are fully cognizant that it is pure fiction, but the vigilante motif is always popular, and for the majority of the pro-gun community in the U.S., this film resonates. If you like watching the bad guys lose, and you want to see the MP5 have a hand in it, check out this film.
We hope you have enjoyed our list of the top five films featuring the MP5. We know you’re probably critiquing it as you read these words, but we’re probably in agreement that the MP5 is not going anywhere. As far as film is concerned, it’s a mainstay.
This is the first in a series of installments focused on the history of the roller-delayed platform.
Following World War II, there was one clear superpower, the United States. In short order, the Soviet Union would rise to superpower status mostly as a result of pillaging occupied Eastern Europe to rebuild its devastated infrastructure, and its successful testing of an atomic bomb. The United States embraced its nuclear power in the post war world, initially thinking that its unique ability (for a few short years) to wield devastating nuclear power, and war weariness in general guaranteed its dominance and security. However, by 1950 the Korean War, and colonial wars across the planet once again demonstrated the persistence, if not the utility of limited wars, and proxy wars for the superpowers.
In an environment initially obsessed with ultra-high technology such as intercontinental bombers and increasingly powerful nuclear weapons, the United States placed generally low priority on small arms development. Although the U.S. Army had been interested in the possibility of a high velocity .22 caliber infantry rifle during World War II, and the M1 Garand had been modified with a box style magazine during the war for experimental purposes, the Garand soldiered on to be produced by H&R and International Harvester in the years following World War II. While the production methods did improve, and the Garands produced in the 1950s are regarded as slightly better in quality, they were otherwise the same standard rifle issued during World War II.
The diminutive M1 Carbine did however get a significant update toward the very end of World War II, becoming the select fire M2 Carbine. Other than the select fire modification, and the addition of a bayonet lug, an extended 30 round magazine of often questionable reliability, and some superfluous muzzle attachments, the M2 was the M1 Carbine which hurled an often very ineffective cartridge at a much higher rate of fire. The M1 Carbine in the guise of the M3 was, however, the first effective night vision equipped weapon in U.S. service.
The BAR, the 1919, and the M2 HMG also remained in service. Even the 1917 stayed in service in some capacity. While the tripod mounted 1919 and M2 were still very effective, the BAR and the 1917 were by Korea beginning to show their age. Even the 1919 was looking long in the tooth compared to the MG34 and MG42 against which it competed during World War II. Other than the 1919A6 which was about as ergonomic as a steel shelled life preserver filled with lead shot, the US had produced little to compete with the impressive German GPMGs by the mid 1950s.
In the handgun arena, the 1911A1 and Model 10, mostly in the guise of the Victory Model soldiered on. The Thompson was still in inventory, but the M3 Grease Gun began to predominate. In short, the United States began to fall behind in a category in which it should have done well. Further, it held back its allies as well. Innovative designs such as the EM2 were completely shelved, and the FN FAL which was supposed to be chambered in an intermediate cartridge was stretched and pushed to its limit as the US finally adopted the box magazine fed M14 in 7.62 NATO and forced an innovative and aggressive small arms industry to conform to its whims, at least for a while.