By: Warren Gray
“The core competence of B&T is the integration of firearms
expertise and state-of-the-art engineering into practical
solutions for special military and police users.”
— From the B&T web site, 2020.
The small defense-supplier firm of Brügger and Thomet (pronounced “Brew-ger and Toe-met,” and now officially B&T), based in Thun (“Tune”), Switzerland, 14 miles southeast of Bern, was founded in May 1991 by Karl Brügger, the current owner and CEO, and Heinrich Thomet, who left the company about 2006 to become a Cyprus-based, independent, international arms dealer, but that’s another story altogether.
Initially, Brügger and Thomet produced high-quality suppressors for the domestic Swiss market, which had no sales restrictions at that time, even for civilians, motivated by the need for quality suppressors for the Heckler and Koch (H&K) MP5SD submachine gun. 20 years ago, firearms historian, writer, and U.S. Army Reserve Major Sam Pikula visited Karl and Heinrich in Switzerland, interviewing both men, shooting at their indoor range, and lauding them in his subsequent article as “Masters of Excellence.” Their official parting came six years later, and in 2011, the company was formally renamed B&T AG, with the “AG” meaning “share company,” or “corporation.”
B&T’s first major success was gaining the contract to supply the German Army’s KSK (Special Operations Command) with Impuls (“Impulse”) IIA carbon-fiber suppressors for their P12 (modified H&K USP45 Tactical) pistols, after a grueling, 10,000-round endurance test with absolutely no damage to either the P12 test pistol or the suppressor. Defense writer Charlie Gao of the National Interestrecently called this superb weapon “the finest .45 ACP gun ever to exist.” As a direct result, H&K, universally recognized as producing the very best firearms in the world, now exclusively uses B&T suppressors on all of their weapons with threaded barrels.
B&T currently has 70 employees, of whom only 20 are actually involved in the manufacturing processes, monitoring 17 CNC (computer numerical-control) workstations and nine conventional workstations. The rest are involved in design, marketing, engineering, distribution, or global trade (import/export.) They work very closely with companies such as Heckler and Koch, Beretta, Steyr, Aimpoint, Trijicon, and Surefire during all production and marketing phases. The company began producing its own line of complete weapons in 2004, the first of which was their very-compact, MP9 submachine gun.
In order to learn from the excellent design features of major arms manufacturers, B&T maintains an extensive collection of approximately 500 different types of weapons for reference purposes in designing and developing new products. As we shall see, they have greatly improved upon several existing, European designs, and achieved tremendous success in the process. B&T USA is their American affiliate and importer, based in Tampa, Florida, the headquarters of the U.S. Special Operations Command, and headed by Navy veteran Timothy Nickler. Let’s examine some of their best products:
Current versions of the Impuls IIA are manufactured from black-anodized, aircraft-grade, aluminum tubes, with six unusual, conical, stainless-steel baffles. There is an impulse module (hence the name, Impuls), also called a Nielsen device, which can be easily adjusted to change the bullet’s impact point without adjusting the weapon’s sights, so the operator can accurately shoot to the same point of impact whether the suppressor is attached or not. Sound reduction is 32 decibels. Original, B&T suppressors are unfortunately not available for purchase in the United States, but they are manufactured under license to the same exacting standards and tolerances by Capital City Firearms (CCF) of Richmond, Virginia. Impuls pistol suppressors are produced in .22 LR, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.
B&T also manufactures quick-detachable (QD) suppressors for various submachine guns in 4.6mm (for the H&K MP7A1) and 9mm, assault rifle suppressors in 5.56mm and 7.62mm, sniper rifle suppressors in 7.62mm, .338 Lapua Magnum, and .50 BMG, FN Minimi machine gun suppressors in 5.56mm and 7.62mm, and hunting rifle suppressors in .22LR and .243.
VP9 “Veterinary Pistol” (2014):
Marketed inoffensively as a “Veterinary Pistol” for euthanizing sick horses and cattle, in an era when most veterinarians use lethal injection for such matters, the true purpose of this weapon is abundantly evident from its roots, as a modernized, modular version of the World War Two, British Welrod silent pistol for special operations raids.
The Welrod was a bolt-action, magazine-fed, integrally-suppressed pistol with a 3.25-inch barrel in either .32 ACP or 9mm, with a six-round or eight-round magazine, with the sound level reduced to just 122.8 decibels in .32 ACP, quieter than a CO2 pellet pistol. It was literally the most-silent pistol in the world.
In comparison, the B&T VP9 is also an utterly-simple, manually-operated, bolt-action, 9mm repeater, using modified, five-round, SIG P225 magazines. The outer tube is machined, stainless steel, with a black, anti-glare, corrosion-resistant finish. The operational suppressor is manufactured from a machined, aluminum tube, using field-replaceable, silicon-rubber buffers and a front seal for maximum sound reduction. Field replacement takes about three minutes. The barrel is only 1.97 inches long, with a screw-on suppressor adding an estimated four extra inches.
Overall sound level is reduced to 129 decibels (the noise of a car door being closed), not quite as good as the Welrod, but exactly the same as the “world-standard,” H&K MP5SD3 9mm submachine gun, which is still quite remarkable, and is advertised as “the most-quiet pistol in this caliber on the market.”
USW-A1 Universal Service Weapon pistol (2017):
This is actually more of a mini-carbine or personal-defense weapon than an ordinary pistol, with a slim, handy, side-folding stock and custom, belt holster. The USW design is based upon the recently-discontinued, Swiss-made, Sphinx 3000 pistol, which was essentially a vastly-improved, Czech CZ 75 service pistol. It features an aluminum-alloy lower receiver and polymer grip housing and trigger guard for light weight, with top-quality, Mec-Gar (Italian-made) magazines holding 17, 19, or 30 rounds of 9mm ammunition, and an Aimpoint Nano miniature, optical sight. Barrel lengths of either 3.1 inches or 4.4 inches are available, and the muzzle is threaded for attaching a suppressor. USW conversion kits are also available for the Glock-17/19/20/21, SIG P320 (the USW320), and Walther PPQ. Retail price for the USW is about $2,400.
In 2018, a more-conventional, striker-fired, USW-P (Police) pistol was introduced, without the side-folding stock. The new USW-SF is the striker-fired update for the normal USW weapon, retaining its minimalist, folding stock.
Ken Hackathorn, a former Special Forces shooting instructor and specialized author, recently tested the USW, and wrote that, “With just minor practice, the stock can be deployed and locked into place in...less than two seconds...Regardless of skill level, the USW doubled the effective range of the user...far greater than most observers would believe...Adding an extra anchor point via the minimal shoulder stock was an asset. The real deal-breaker was the Aimpoint Nano sight...It (the USW) can be deployed quickly and used with great advantage compared to the standard, service pistol...After shooting the B&T USW, the first words uttered by nearly everyone (are), ‘This is really cool!’”
MP9 Machine Pistol (2004):
This was a development of the selective-fire, Steyr TMP machine pistol in 9x19mm, adding a side-folding stock, a rail system for mounting sights, and a new trigger safety. It has a 5.1-inch, threaded barrel, and transparent, polymer magazines that hold either 15, 20, 25, or 30 rounds. Two of the most-noteworthy users are the Royal Netherlands Air Force, for their F-16AM Fighting Falcon jet pilots deployed to the Middle East (usually in Jordan), and Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) Spetsgruppa Alfa elite, counterterrorist unit (suppressed models.) The semi-automatic, civilian variant of the MP9 is known as the TP9. Retail price is about $2,000.
Other variants have been designed or produced in .45 ACP (the MP45 machine pistol) and 6.5x25mm CBJ, and the latest 9mm model is the MP9-N. MP9s are now used by various units in Belgium, Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, France, India, Indonesia, Lebanon (Republican Guard), Macau, Netherlands (F-16 fighter pilots, and special operations unit), Poland (Presidential Guard), Portugal (armed forces), Russia (the famous, FSB Alfaunit), Singapore, Switzerland (armed forces, as the new, Mp. 14 personal defense weapon), South Korea (Special Forces), and Thailand.
APC9/10/40/45 Advanced Police Carbines (2011):
Despite the “carbine” name, this is actually a fairly-compact, 9x19mm submachine gun with a 6.89-inch barrel, also produced in 10mm as the APC10, in .45 ACP as the APC45, and there is a .40 S&W prototype as the APC40. It’s an updated and re-engineered variant of the moderately-successful H&K UMP9/40/45-series (Universal Machine Pistol) submachine gun, already in active service with 28 nations worldwide. The APC9 fires from a closed bolt at a rate of 1,080 rpm (18 rounds per second), with translucent, polymer magazines holding either 15, 20, 25, or 30 rounds each. They come standard with an Aimpoint TL1 optical sight. A suppressed version, the APC9-SD, is also available, as a modernized successor to the venerable H&K MP5SD3. Retail price is about $2,350 to $2,600.
APC9s are currently used by Austria (COBRA counterterrorist team), Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Jordan, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Switzerland. As of 2019, the Westchester County Police Department in New York uses the APC9SD integrally-suppressed variant, and the U.S. Army recently purchased 350 APC9K sub-compact models with 4.3-inch barrels for their Personal Security Detachments (armed bodyguards for high-ranking officers), with an option for 1,000 more weapons.
This was a folding-stock, 9mm subcompact carbine released in the U.S. by B&T USA, but only 400 were available for sale. It was very similar to the SITES (Italian) Spectre M4 submachine gun introduced in 1980, which remains in active service with Swiss and Italian special operations forces, and the French National Police, but the KH9 was semi-automatic only. Barrel length was six inches, with magazines holding either 15, 20, 25, or 30 rounds. A KH45 version was planned, but not released. Retail price was $2,250. This short-lived and expensive project was soon discontinued, and replaced by the less-costly GHM9 the following year. The KH9A1 is no longer listed on B&T’s official web site.
Subcompact carbine in 9mm only, with 6.89-inch standard barrel or 4.33-inch compact, threaded barrel on compact models, with semi-automatic capability only. This is a larger and more-traditional model than the ultra-compact, MP9 machine pistol, with magazines holding 15, 20, 25, or 30 rounds. There is also a GHM9-C (Compact) variant, and a GHM45 variant in .45 ACP. Retail price for the GHM9 is about $1,550-$1,650.
APR308/APR338 Advanced Precision Rifle sniper rifles (2005 and 2007):
This is a bolt-action, sniper rifle in 7.62x51mm NATO (.308-caliber) or .338 Lapua Magnum, based upon the French-made, PGM Mini-Hécate 2 (Hecate, or Hécate in French, was the Greek goddess of magic and witchcraft) design, but B&T has made major improvements. It’s a modular design, with a side-folding, polymer stock, 10-round, detachable magazine, and free-floating, forged, fluted, 24-inch barrel, with a muzzle brake that reduces felt recoil by 40 percent, although a quick-detachable suppressor, the APR308 GRS, may be used for a sound reduction of 36 decibels. A Schmidt and Bender PMII 3-12x50 LP scope is provided as standard, and the rifle’s accuracy is below 1 MOA, with a 99-percent hit probability against head-sized targets at 400 meters and torso-sized targets at 800 meters. Retail price is about $3,500-$4,000.
Other variants include the APR308P(Police) with 19.7-inch barrel, APR308S (Suppressed) with 15.7-inch barrel and integral suppressor, and APR338 in .338 Lapua Magnum with 27.2-inch barrel, introduced in 2007. An APR338 GRS suppressor reduces sound levels by up to 25 decibels. Retail price for the APR338 is a whopping $9,735.
It is used by military and police forces in Chile, Georgia, India, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Romania, Singapore (army), South Korea (Special Forces), and Ukraine.
APC556/APC223 Advanced Police Carbine (2015):
This relatively-new weapon is produced in numerous variants, including the selective-fire, APC556 assault rifle, the semi-automatic APC223 for police, and the very-compact, APC556 PDW assault weapon, with cold-forged, barrel lengths available in 12.1 inches (standard), 10.4 inches (compact), 16.5 inches (APC223 Match), or 8.7 inches (APC556 PDW), with 30-round, polymer magazines, although standard, M16 magazines may be used.
It’s based upon a classical configuration, with a short-stroke, gas piston located above the barrel, an aluminum-alloy upper receiver, and a polymer lower receiver for reduced weight. The skeletonized, SIG-influenced, polymer, shoulder stock folds to the right, as on the SIG SG551/552/553 series. This is a huge advantage in compactness and overall length over the ever-popular, M4/HK416 carbine series, which has no such capability, due to its rearward-protruding, recoil-buffer design, which forces the use of a sliding stock, instead. Retail price is about $3,000, very steep, indeed.
Today, the standard, service rifle of the U.S. Armed Forces is the Colt M4 or M4A1 carbine, with 14.5-inch barrel, recently replacing the longer, M16A2 rifle with 20-inch barrel. A specialized variant for close combat, favored by U.S. Special Forces and Navy SEALs, the Mk. 18 CQBR (close-quarters battle receiver), sports a very-compact, 10.3-inch barrel. The new, standard-length, APC556 carbine effectively bridges the portability gap between the M4 carbine and Mk. 18 for soldiers in vehicles or helicopters, while retaining greater muzzle velocity, accuracy, range, and lethality than the specialized, ultra-short Mk. 18.
The French Army Light Aviation (ALAT) service is reported to have ordered small numbers of APC556s for the 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment (4e RHFS), which already employs the excellent, HK416F short carbine as an aircrew, self-defense weapon. This is probably because the APC556 is an absolute, top-quality weapon with a side-folding stock, which makes it at least five inches shorter, handier, and more-compact than an HK416, even with a 1.7-inch-longer barrel, while hanging low over a pilot’s chest, within the tight confines of a helicopter cockpit. It’s still unclear precisely which version the French have acquired, because this carbine is produced with a 12.1-inch barrel standard, but also in even-more-portable, “compact” and PDW models.
APC300 Advanced Police Carbine:
This weapon is very similar to the APC556, but with an 11-inch barrel, chambered in .300 BLK (Blackout), with a standard, Rotex-IIA suppressor. Sound is reduced to 121 decibels, which is very quiet by modern standards. The .300 BLK cartridge (7.62x35mm) is the same length as 5.56mm ammunition, in order to use the same magazines, and is available in either lightweight, supersonic loads or with heavy, 220-grain, subsonic bullets for enhanced noise suppression. Retail price is about $3,000.
U.S., British, and Dutch special operations forces have already used this round, mostly with the new SIG MCX carbine, which achieves energy levels slightly greater than the Russian AK-47 (7.62x39mm) cartridge, while using standard, M16-style magazines in converted carbines.
APC308 Advanced Police Carbine:
This is essentially an APC556, but with a 13-inch or 18.9-inch barrel, chambered in 7.62mm NATO, with 20-round, polymer magazines. The shorter version is a direct competitor for the HK417A2 Assaulter or FN Mk. 17 SCAR-H CQC, both with 13-inch barrels, while the longer version is more of a designated-marksman weapon, similar to the HK417A2 Sniper model. Retail price is about $3,350.
SPR300 Suppressed, Precision Rifle:
This is a bolt-action, suppressed, special-purpose rifle in .300 BLK, with a 9.84-inch barrel and integral suppressor, producing a sound level of only 121 decibels with no muzzle flash, which is more-silent than most air rifles. A 10-round, transparent, polymer magazine is standard. Retail price is about $5,000.
GL06 Grenade Launcher (2006):
This is a breech-loading, single-shot, 40x46mm grenade launcher with a side-folding, skeletonized stock, and an 11-inch barrel. A less-lethal variant (the LL06) with a bright-yellow stock and frame was produced for police applications, together with a special, bean-bag-style ammunition load provided by B&T. This unique weapon has been proven accurate to within 2.75 inches at a range of 82 feet.
The GL06 and LL06 are used by military or police forces in Canada, Estonia (armed forces), France, Hungary, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lithuania, Poland Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (LL06 only.) They have also been exported in very small numbers (one to seven examples) to Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Germany, Iceland (police “Viking Squad” SWAT team, LL06 only), Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Netherlands, Oman, Portugal, Serbia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
In conclusion, B&T is a small but high-quality, high-technology, arms supplier offering legendary, Swiss precision for military and police applications. With a growing number of successful contracts, especially in Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, the United States, and at least 40 more nations worldwide, fulfilling the growing needs of modern, armed forces and police units, their future looks very bright.
Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism, and is an NRA member. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, and four college degrees, including a Master of Aeronautical Science degree, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author and historian. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.webs.com.