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The Sub Machine Gun (SMG) has been with us for many years now and, in fact, their usage as a military weapon can be traced back to the MP18 Bergmann used by the Stormtroopers in the latter stages of WWI. Chambered for 9mm Parabellum and feeding from a box or ‘snail drum’ magazine, the MP18 proved devastating in the close confines of trench fighting, although with its distinctive wooden furniture it was as long and heavy as many modern day assault rifles!

The Bergmann did bring focus to many military minds around the globe though, and by WWII most armies had some form of SMG available, albeit in limited numbers. Even in the early days of WWII the German army had the 9mm MP38, soon to be the cheaper to manufacture MP40. With its folding stock and 500 rounds per minute rate of fire it proved the ideal weapon for a new form of mechanised warfare.

We Brits had the STEN – all metal, easy to produce and simple to maintain, the STEN was a wartime expedient that was available in vast quantities when it was most needed. The Americans of course had the venerable Thompson, followed by the M3 ‘Grease Gun’, the Russians had the PPSh-41 followed by the PPS-42/43, the Aussies had the Owen, and even the Japanese had the Nambu Type 100.

One trend that WWII brought was that SMGs needed to be produced in large quantities, quickly and relatively cheaply. The fine-machining and beautiful wood furniture present on early models soon disappeared, being replaced with stamped parts and plastics. The weapons themselves became generally shorter, lighter, and more compact. Folding stocks became more and more common as troops began to deploy from vehicles on a regular basis.

Machine Pistols

During the Cold War years numerous weapons such as the Samopal CZ25, the Uzi, the Ingram MAC10/11, and the Steyr MPi 69 were produced, which took things in another direction entirely. All of these weapons, albeit that their internal operations were unique, shared one thing in common: they all housed the magazine in the pistol grip. All of them were relatively lightweight, with folding or collapsible stocks which made them very short indeed; in the case of the Ingram this was a miniscule 269mm or 10.69 inches when the wire stock was collapsed! All of them used pistol calibre ammunition, in the main 9mm Parabellum, but gave vehicle-mounted personnel the option to carry a fully controllable weapon capable of automatic fire. During the latter part of the 20th Century as terrorist threats became greater, the short SMG and Machine Pistol soon became a regular sight amongst bodyguard teams. If anyone out there remembers the attempted assassination of US President Ronald Reagan in 1981, you’ll also undoubtedly remember that one of his bodyguards was seen brandishing an Uzi which miraculously appeared from under his suit jacket! At this point I truly believe we entered the era of the Personal Defence Weapon or PDW.

The Rise of the PDW

When it came to military and police markets one brand pretty much ruled the roost; from the late 1960s onwards the Heckler & Koch (H&K) MP5 series dominated the SMG/ Machine Pistol market, and has continued to be the ‘weapon of choice’ for many units to this day. Sure enough there was a PDW variant of the MP5 – the K or ‘Kurz’ meaning short. This however had no stock, sliding, folding or otherwise, until the early 1990s when a side folding synthetic stock was added and the model was renamed the MP5K-PDW. This marked another important turning point as a premier manufacturer of SMGs began officially using the term.

At the same time H&K were looking in new directions as well. NATO requirements in 1989 called for a PDW, and by 2001 H&K had the first of their MP7 models in production. Body armour became the norm rather than the exception and the older, pistol calibre weapons proved ineffective against such protection. H&K developed 4.6 x 30mm ammunition that was able to defeat the type of armour often found in the hands of terrorist and criminals, but that produced minimal felt recoil, and in response to the NATO requirement they developed a weapons platform around the ammunition.

The MP7A1 was manufactured mainly of carbon fibre reinforced polymer with metal components only where strictly necessary. The weapon was fitted with a removable full-length MIL-STD-1913 (Picatinny) rail on the top of the receiver for mounting a variety of optional targeting devices and a folding foregrip which allowed great muzzle control. Standard folding iron sights were fitted as standard to the top rail or an optional 24-hour reflex sight could be attached in seconds without

The MP7A1 handled like a pistol yet allowed targets to be engaged like a rifle. With its 7-inch barrel the MP7A1 was and is capable of firing 10 shot semi-automatic groups at 45-metres of less than 2-inches. Unlike competing designs the handgun-like appearance (not to mention the similarity to other tried and tested weapons like the Uzi) and fully ambidextrous design of the MP7A1 ensured immediate acceptance by several of the world’s leading special operations units and due to its light weight, small size and minimal width the MP7A1 was especially suitable for VIP protection details, pilots, drivers, guards, and support personnel who required hands-free carry of their defensive weapon while performing other tasks.

A True Replica

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There have been a number of airsoft replicas of the MP7A1 that have come to market, yet until the fully licenced version from Umarex appeared all of them ultimately had design flaws which greatly took away from the appearance and even handling; some were undersized, some had added fins to get around the licence situation, and all, in my opinion, lacked that ‘certain something’. With the launch of the Umarex (VFC) version this all changed.

The Umarex H&K MP7 is utterly 1:1 in scale and offered in both electric and gas versions. I first came across them at the British Airsoft Show on the ARMEX stand and was immediately taken, especially as the UK distributor were showing not just the stock MP7A1 but also an MP7 ‘Navy’, but more on this later. When I was offered a gas blowback version to review I was overjoyed.

The MP7 Navy arrived with me in its striking black and red H&K “No Compromise” box, and the weight and heft of the replica immediately impressed me. It felt 100% solid and workmanlike, and looked simply stunning. The attention to detail on this replica is really first rate, and the quality of build superlative. As the Navy variant, the MP7 mimics the set-up used by SEAL Team Six with the front folding grip replaced by a tri-rail with accessory positions at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. It comes, of course, with the full- length top rail and iron sights adjustable for windage and elevation fitted as standard. The three position sliding stock is full metal, as are all the other parts that should be, with the polymer of the main body replicated perfectly; trust me when I say you will not find a mould line or blemish anywhere on the Umarex!

Being the gas version, the Navy handles pretty well too. As the gas is held in the magazine, the replica functions pretty much like the real thing, with working parts rather than a big old gearbox inside. I’ve often been wary of gas airsoft replicas, as all I have tried prior to this have suffered from gas-venting problems, especially on cold, damp British mornings; luckily I received the MP7 during the summer months and thus far it has performed flawlessly.


Once the 40 round magazine is gassed-up and loaded you simply snap it up into the pistol grip; this is as intuitive as hand-meeting- hand and you’re soon ready to rock and roll. The cocking hand handle pulls rearward and when you release it the bolt slams into battery with a very satisfying thump. The safety lever is fully ambidextrous with clear pictograms indicating Safe, Semi, and Full, so it’s easy to select mode of operation, and this is when the fun REALLY starts. Switching to Semi sends BBs off downrange with each squeeze of the sensitive trigger, and the bolt hammers back and forth with each one. Switching up to Full-auto gets even better as the motion and inertia of the bolt going to and fro really puts a little punch into your shoulder.

When the magazine is empty the bolt, like with the real deal, locks to the rear. It’s then a case of mag out, mag in, hit the boltrelease(again mag out, mag in, hit the bolt release (again ambidextrous) which is located above the ambidextrous) which is located above the trigger, and you’re good to go all over again. trigger and you’re good to go all over again. If you need to adjust the hop this is achieved by turning the fake gas adjuster immediately over the muzzle, once set the hop stays set.

For testing I made use of .20g BLASTER BBs and NUPROL 2.0 High Performance Green Gas, and over a series of 10 shot strings ended up with a consistent average muzzle velocity of 335fps. This was during pretty warm weather which would indicate to me that the replica is site-friendly out of the box, although as with all gas guns I’d suggest that you chronograph regularly, especially on very hot days.

The Navy, although short, shoulders and handles well. Over iron sights the accuracy was good out to the usual airsoft engagement distances, which was impressive, but when I added a Walther 3 MOA Nanopoint red dot sight things got interesting real fast. The MP7 is by its very nature an excellent CQB gun and is by its very nature an excellent CQB gun and with the addition of a sight that lets you keep both eyes open and makes target acquisition a snap, it becomes an absolute dominator. The Nanopoint (retailing at around the £65-£70 mark) is absolutely perfect for the MP7 as it’s low profile, slim-line, and exceptionally rugged.


Overall I have to say that the MP7 Navy as a gas variant was all that I’d hoped for and more. It’s a small but solid package that delivers performance from the word go, and priced at the £270 mark you’re really not paying a lot for what is a replica in all ways. The Navy comes with a single 40 round magazine so you’ll undoubtedly be looking to acquire more of these, and this sadly, as with all gas replicas, is where things start to get a little pricey. You’ll need to buy VFC/Umarex specific magazines; these are pretty easy to find but expect to pay £45 for a 20 rounder and £55 for a 40.

The really good thing about the Umarex replicas though, and this goes for all of them, is that they are distributed by ARMEX in the UK. Rather than buying in some unlicensed copy that’s nearly but not quite an MP7, you can buy confidently in the UK and benefit from both the accuracy of replication and true warranty support. I know the ARMEX technical support team personally and these guys are truly very, very good and committed to the service they offer. The MP7 Navy is one hell of an airsoft replica, backed up by very good people. Again, trust me when I say you can really buy one of these with confidence, and you’ll still be enjoying that bolt slamming back and forth for years to come!

For further information on the MP7 Navy and all the other great licenced replicas offered, along with stockist details please visit www.armex-airsoft.com.

  • H&K MP7 Navy GBB RIF - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • H&K MP7 Navy GBB RIF - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • H&K MP7 Navy GBB RIF - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • H&K MP7 Navy GBB RIF - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • H&K MP7 Navy GBB RIF - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge