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Review: Zenith Arms ZF-5 Large Format Pistol

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When most of us think about a clone or replica firearm, we’re inclined to imagine something of mediocre quality that is not quite as good as the original. Whether it’s the fit and finish that isn’t quite right or the functionality which fails to deliver, clone buyers are sometimes forced to just make-do with a copy. While this may have been the fate of some replicas in the past, the ZF-5 by Zenith Firearms is no such offender. While the semi-automatic ZF-5 is certainly modeled after the MP-5, it is a firearm built and machined from the ground up right here in America.

The Company

Although Zenith just began manufacturing the ZF-5 in 2021, they are no newcomer to the HK clone business. Before branching off on their own, Zenith imported clones under other brands for Turkish firearms and munitions manufacturer MKE. The word back then was MKE had purchased the machinery and tooling from HK, so these clones were as good as they get. Many of those clones were imported and sold and are still out there being enjoyed today, but Zenith went another route.

I’m sure you may be wondering, as I was, if Zenith brought over all that unique and expensive equipment and tooling all the way to Afton, VA, to build these guns. The answer is no. Interestingly, these new styles of clones are all made using modern manufacturing techniques and equipment. The receivers are made on modern CNC machines, not those antique hydraulic presses and cutters you may have seen in some online pictures. The cold-hammer forged barrels arrive as blanks and are finish-milled in house. As is the case with even some big-name manufacturers, the magazines for the ZF-5 are subcontracted to a third party. To quote my contact at the company, “Zenith manufactures all the critical components in house except the polymer, and smaller components like springs and pins.”

The finish is also something to behold. The receivers are parkerized and then Duracoated for a combination of a matte type of finish but with a classy sheen. The barrels on the other hand, are nitrided prior to their coating of the same paint. These guns are simply beautiful, even down to the near-perfect welds. All these components are machined, built, and assembled by approximately 75 employees to create a weapon system that can easily be mistaken for the real thing. Zenith ventured out to create something truly unique and incredible while being more affordable to the average gun enthusiast and accomplished the task.


25 yards, one hole groups. Not bad.

The Performance

I’ve read countless reviews and watched the same number of videos on the MP-5 and its roller-delayed operating system, but shooting this gun is a feeling one simply cannot comprehend without experiencing it first-hand. I shot the first 5 or 6 shots at a somewhat rapid rate, and they all landed right on target. The recoil impulse is so gentle and smooth that your sight picture hardly leaves your target. You can literally feel the bolt gently rolling back and forth, making it one of the most pleasant and comfortable firearms I’ve shot thus far. The renowned diopter sight picture is easy to use: Just rotate the drum to get a smaller or wider hole for more precise or more general shot placement. The sights from the factory were perfectly zeroed as well. Eventually, I opted to mount a red-dot sight using the included claw-attachment picatinny rail. I was a bit wary of the attachment method at first, but once torqued down and mounted I had no issues whatsoever. The height of the lower 1/3 mount on my optic did not allow a co-witness, but it is certainly attainable with a lower-mounted optic. Once I zeroed the sight, the accuracy of the ZF-5 meant that I was easily shooting holes through holes at 25 yards using a rest. The made in America cold-hammer forged barrel did not disappoint.

Although I do not have a 9mm suppressor, the barrel is both threaded 1/2×28 and equipped with the ubiquitous tri-lug adapter. I used the tri-lug flash hider throughout the review, and it worked exactly as it should with no problems.

For as antiquated of a design this may be, there are plenty of options for upgrades and customization. As stated in the specs, the upgraded safety selector from Magpul is excellent. It’s designed with 2 different lengths/profiles between the left and right side. This can easily be switched to accommodate left or right-handed shooters and their safety preference. The equipped polymer handguard is the classic profile of the MP-5 but can be easily switched by removing a single pin. The same goes for the stock and buttplate. Included is a standard polymer buttplate with a sling-swivel. This too can be switched out to any number of after-market options by just removing a single pin. The ZF-5 can go from the classic look, to an M-Lok railed, kitted out SBR with a minimal time and effort.

The manual-of-arms is also a part of this weapon’s charm. The ergonomic, locking charging handle just begs for you to give it the “HK slap.” The ZF-5 comes with 2 options for releasing the magazine as well. An “AR style” button on the right side will release the magazine but the paddle-release is classic, and in my opinion functions better.

Speaking of the magazines, the 30-round all-steel magazines are good-looking and durable, with a Duracoat paint finish is a mix of matte and glossy. The chrome follower ensures reliable feeding and I had not a single hiccup, jam, or malfunction with either the ZF-5 or the magazines over the hundreds of rounds I fired through the gun. Every magazine fed flawlessly with several different types of ammunition and the gun ate and ejected everything it was fed. The shells are ejected fast and far with no interference at all from the picatinny mount sitting above the ejection port.

The trigger is probably the only thing on this weapon that leaves a little to be desired. The 6-pound, single-stage pull is a tad gritty, and heavier than it needs to be. The break is very clean once you get there, and the reset albeit long, is audible and tactile. The trigger shoe itself is very comfortable. It’s a curved profile trigger and the width provides plentiful surface are for your finger. The trigger guard is also large making this weapon easily able to accommodate gloved hands.

All in all, the ZF-5 is a “clone” that I really don’t like calling a clone, even though it technically is. Zenith isn’t just making the same gun, with the same tools and machinery but without the famous name. Instead, Zenith decided to take the design of a world-renowned firearm and bring it into the future. The proven reliable roller-delayed action functions  exactly as it has for decades. Modern CNC machining doesn’t take away anything from the original, and arguably adds a degree of precision not seen in other similar productions. Consequently, this allows Zenith to produce these guns at a lower cost which is passed down to the consumer. More people can now own and experience the beauty, function, and design of the MP-5 without feeling like they had to compromise. The fact that it’s made in America by an American company makes the whole deal even better. During all my correspondence with Zenith, they were attentive, informative, and prompt to respond. I can only assume the customer service operates much the same way. To me, this is just as important as the quality of the product and is a very commendable attribute.

Zenith also offers the ZF-5 in some different configurations. There’s the original ZF-5 that we’ve shown and discussed here. Three pistol formats are also available including the ZF-5K, and a rifle format (ZF-5L) are expected to be coming along soon.

Accuracy & Velocity

Accuracy was tested from 25 yards from a bag rest using five, five-shot groups for each load tested.

  1. Remington UMC 115 grain – smallest group 1.0 inches, largest group 1.50 inches
  2. Norma 115 grain – All groups measured within 1.0 inches
  3. Norma 124 grain – All groups measured within 1.0 inches

Velocity was measured using a ProChrono chronograph from 10 yards. The ambient temperature was 93 degrees Fahrenheit. There were no failures to feed or fire throughout any of the testing.

  1. Remington UMC 115 grain – Average velocity of 1,212.8 FPS.
  2. Norma 115 grain – Average velocity of 1,315.5 FPS
  3. Norma 124 grain – Average velocity of 1,211.9 FPS

ZF-5 Specifications

  • Manufacturer: Zenith Firearms
  • Action Type: Gas-operated roller delayed blowback
  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Capacity: 30 rounds
  • Grips: Polymer lower/grip module
  • Frame: Parkerized steel with black Duracoat finish
  • Barrel: 8.9 inch cold-hammer forged 4150 CMV – threaded 1/2×28 with tri-lug adapter
  • Barrel Rifling: 6 groove, 1:10 RH twist
  • Sights: Fixed hooded front, adjustable 4-aperture rotary drum rear
  • Trigger Pull Weight: 6 pounds, 1 ounce (Lyman digital gauge)
  • Overall Length: 17.9 inches
  • Width: 2.0 inches
  • Height: 8.3 inches
  • Weight: 88 ounces (without magazine)
  • Accessories: 3 magazines, tri-lug flash hider, claw attachment picatinny rail, sling, Magpul ambi safety selector, cleaning kit, thread protector, hard carrying case with wheels (Premium Package)
  • MSRP: $2,376


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