Few guns in existence owe their fame to the units that used them. The Thompson submachine gun, for instance, is among the most iconic guns ever produced, as are the Luger P08, various models of Winchester lever-action rifle, the M1911 pistol and the Mauser model 98. While each of those guns was employed by one or more elite units, not one of them is famous for that reason. However, the MP5 is different; its outline and form immediately call to mind its use by some of the most elite special operations units in the world. Here are a few of the units that made the MP5 the icon it is today.
- The SAS. If you’re a serious fan of the MP5, any remembrance of that weapon’s past will include Operation Nimrod at Princes Gate, London, in 1980. In the history of special operations, perhaps no images are as seared into the public consciousness as those of SAS soldiers staged on the balcony or repelling from the roof of the Iranian embassy. And what gun was in each of their hands in those images? None other than the MP5. Few units have used the MP5 as long or with as much success as the SAS. Since World War II, the SAS has been Britain’s premier special operations unit, and few of even the best units in other countries equal its reputation. From North Africa to Malaya to the Falklands to Princes Gate to the Sandbox, the SAS has “been there and done that” more than any other existing special operations unit. And its operators have probably done more to sell the MP5 around the world than members of any other outfit or entity.
- GSG 9. GSG 9 is to Germany what Navy SEALs are to the U.S. and what the SAS is to Britain — a premier, exceptionally trained, and extremely competent anti-terrorist organization. In fact, GSG 9 has taught even the SEALs and the SAS a trick or two over the years, especially during the 1970s and 1980s. Though many have not heard of GSG 9, it has existed since 1973, is extremely lethal, and its personnel are as motivated as any special operators in the world. Additionally, GSG 9 has used the MP5 almost since its inception, and no other unit is as familiar with its roller-delayed magnificence.
- U.S. Navy SEALs. If there is a unit that competes with the SAS for the distinction, “most responsible for making the MP5 famous,” it can only be the SEALs. The SEALs were early adopters of the MP5, and they’ve used it for everything from room clearing to ship boarding (and to a limited extent they still do). The MP5, especially in its SD configuration, provided the SEALs with a lightweight, easy to handle, and very compact yet potent package for the tight, confined quarters in which they frequently operate. The SEALs propensity for a good photo opportunity, in addition to their extreme competence and efficiency, has done much to promote the MP5.
- Delta Force. Delta Force has more of an aura about it and more of a veil around it than any other U.S. special operations unit. For every nugget of truth out there about Delta, there are probably a dozen urban myths. Make no mistake about it though, Delta operators deserve a seat of honor at any special operations table. Most of what they have done, we have never heard about and never will. Delta Force was also a relatively early adopter of the MP5, and has had it in its armory for decades. More than a few doors have been kicked in by Delta operators wielding MP5s. Like GSG 9, Delta Force tends to be less public than other Tier One-type units. However, it has built a reputation almost second to none in history, and the MP5 has been along for much of that ride.