[SHOT 2023] A Look at Heckler & Koch’s MG4 and MG5 Belt-feds By: Matthew Moss


One of the best parts of the SHOT Show is being able to get hands on with some really interesting firearms. This year was no different with Heckler & Koch, to my surprise, displaying their belt-fed machine guns: the MG4 and MG5. While I don’t think we’ll be seeing these on the commercial market any time soon, it was great to get to handle them in person.

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The MG4 and MG5 are the German Bundeswehr’s light and general-purpose machine guns. Germany selected the 5.56x45mm MG4 in 2005 and announced its procurement of the 7.62x51mm chambered MG5 in 2013. Both guns are gas operated and use a rotating bolt, they both make extensive use of polymer and the guns on display were in the now classic RAL 8000, which is the green-brown finish the German Bundeswehr field them in.


HK MG4 (Matt Moss/TFB)

Until the adoption of the MG4, the Bundeswehr did not have a 5.56x45mm chambered light machine gun, instead relying on the MG3 general-purpose machine gun. The MG4 was adopted as part of Germany’s Infanterist der Zukunft (or Future Infantryman) modernization in the 2000s. The MG4, unloaded and without optics or accessories, feels light and handy and both guns have an intuitive manual of arms and removing the barrel is quick and simple.

HK MG4 action (Matt Moss/TFB)

MG4 Specs (per H&K):

Caliber: 5.56x45mm
Operating principle: Gas-operated
Feed mechanism: Belt fed
Rate of fire approx.: approx. 830 rounds per minute
Weight: 8,200g / 18lbs
Barrel length approx. 450mm / 17.7in
Length min./max. approx. 830/1030mm / 32.6/40.5in

HK MG4 action (Matt Moss/TFB)

The MG4 is currently issued at the platoon level, while the EGB-Fallschirmjägerzug company’s issue them at the squad level. The German Army began procuring the MG4 A3 variant in 2021. The MG4 is also in service with Spain, Albania, and Portugal.


HK MG5 (Matt Moss/TFB)

The MG5 was developed as the successor of the venerable MG3 (which was derived from the MG42). The 7.62x51mm MG5 is gas-operated and belt-fed and is designed so it can be mounted on existing MG3 mounts and tripods already in service. HK note that “the universal MG5 can be used by dismounted infantry in the ground role, as well as for air defence or as a vehicle mounted/co axial machine gun.” The MG5 and MG4 share a number of similarities as the 7.62mm weapon was developed from the 5.56mm MG4. The feed pawl mechanism is similar and ergonomically the two weapons feel very similar and share the same manual of arms. The MG5 entered service with the German military in 2015 and is steadily replacing the MG3, with just under 20,000 expected to be in service by 2025.

HK MG5 with top cover open (Matt Moss/TFB)

MG5 Specs (per H&K):

Caliber: 7.62x51mm
Operating principle: Gas-operated
Feed mechanism: Belt fed
Rate of fire approx.: approx. 680/740/800 rounds per min depending on variant
Weight: 11.60kg / 25.5lbs
Barrel length: approx. 550mm / 21.6
Length min./max.: approx. 960/1202mm / 37.7/47.3in

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