The Budget MP5 - The Zenith Firearms ZF-5 Review

by Warrior Poet Society

John Lovell runs some rounds at the range through this MP5 clone from Zenith Firearms and offers his thoughts on this updated take on the iconic MP5 design, made wildly popular in the 80s and 90s through movies like Die Hard. It was also a weapon platform made popular among warriors experiencing its compactness, accuracy and durability in CQB. 

It only took me a few minutes of running and gunning with the ZF-5 before I realized I was holding five and a half pounds of pure nostalgia and wanted to jump into a Diehard movie. I imagined myself wearing a dirty wife beater and walking barefoot on broken glass hunting Hans Gruber. T

he ZF-5 is a semi-automatic pistol platform for CQB chambered in 9mm and with 30-round capacity magazines and a smooth-running trigger that allowed for an impressive volley of projectiles to be sent down range. It has an 8.9-inch cold hammer-forged barrel, an ambidextrous safety lever by Magpul, and can be outfitted optionally with a number of accessories.

Obviously, I equipped mine with the WPS Rifle Sling. I equipped mine with an SB Tactical HKPDW stabilizing brace and a high quality sight. Without those additions, the basic version runs about $1,600. With the accessories, it will probably ring in at about $2,500-$3,000.

An MP5 Clone that Improves on the Original

Holding the ZF-5 was like holding the MP5 of yesteryear. and it reminded me of why that subcompact machine gun became one of the go-to tactical weapons of many tactical teams. It feels stout, almost indestructible, because it is stout--and it shoots really well and reliably (though I did have some trouble with the magazine feed when I filled them to the brim with their 30-round capacity

As you might imagine, I recommend stripping one round out to avoid this problem. After doing that, I had no problems. This accuracy and reliability is, in part, due to its roller-delayed blow back system, which tends to soften recoil and allowed me to stack shots at close, intermediate and further distances at a very rapid rate of fire. 

The roller delayed system is a direct carryover from the MP5, and a welcome legacy I'm glad they held onto. As far as improvements, Zenith replaced the original MP5's awful safety selector switch design to a slight improvement in terms of accessibility. The switch is ambidextrous (yay for that) but it's still somewhat non-intuitive in where it's positioned on the gun. 

I hope Zenith continues to engineer improvements to this. And as I mentioned before, this gun is really well made. It feels like I could use it as a sledgehammer if I needed to, and on the range I had zero stoppages—if you don't count the aforementioned feed failures. Which leads me to an impressive plus for this pistol-chambered carbine—its chamber design flutes/crimps the casings for easier ejection. PCCs can sometimes have double feed problems because casings don't eject properly. Not so with the ZF-5.

A Few Downsides

There is a slight critique on these types of guns in general. My IWI Tevor and X95 have the same issue— an external reciprocating charging handle. In close quarters, pressing up against structures and bracing the gun, it's possible to create a stoppage by bumping or putting to much pressure in a c-clamp brace on the charging handle. 

Reloads were tough. Another slight critique is the magazine well—no flaring in the design so it requires an exacting insertion when changing magazines. The bottoms of the magazines themselves were sharpish. So when changing magazines, you might not want to have dainty, moisturized girl hands (like me) or you might want to wear gloves. I kind of cut up my hands slapping the bottoms of these magazines. 

Bottom line: It's a bit pricey but it was a lot of fun to shoot and I liked it a lot. Whether it's worth a $3,000 price tag I'll have to let you decide.

Train Hard. Train Smart. Live Free. Don't Get Hans Grubered.