By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2022
“Under the watchful eye and technical direction of original co-founder
Karl Brügger, B&T has evolved into more than a supplier of its own
renowned suppressors and tactical rail systems to police, special forces,
and elite, military units around the world. B&T designs and manufactures
some of the most technologically-advanced, high-performance weapons
in the business…B&T’s mission is to provide professional operators
with complete, mission-adaptable, advanced weapons systems that
perform without fail, under the most demanding conditions possible.”
— From the B&T web site, 2022.
On August 11, 2020, Gunpowder Magazine very kindly published my original article on “Swiss Precision: The Guns of Brügger and Thomet,” about the world-famous, Swiss, defense-supplier firm, now officially known as B&T, founded in May 1991 by Karl Brügger, the current owner. On April 26, 2022, this author traveled to picturesque Thun (pronounced “Tune”), Switzerland, in the majestic Swiss Alps, where B&T headquarters is located. There, I received an unprecedented, private, facility tour and lunch with founder and CEO Karl Brügger himself, a very rare honor, indeed, since the company does not normally offer factory tours or interviews.
My wife and I were initially greeted by Andy, B&T’s sales and marketing manager, formerly a German soldier for 10 years, and working for Karl Brügger for the past six years. He guided us through the B&T Shop, located just one block southwest of the headquarters building. It is essentially a retail, gun store, open to the public, selling B&T firearms, as well as all types of accessory items, ranging from backpacks to bipods, ballistic vests, scopes, and other shooting supplies from various manufacturers. Further, the shop contains two indoor shooting ranges, one for pistols and one for rifles (25 meters), with walls of white, polymer blocks backed by steel plates, and computerized settings for target lighting conditions, or moving targets.
In the same building as the B&T Shop, the company is expanding its machine shops and other office spaces. This is where we met Marko, a production supervisor, who expertly assembled a GL06 40mm grenade launcher as we watched.
The men and women of the B&T production branch assemble all weapons by hand. After hand-assembly, each firearm is test-fired at the factory with at least 20 rounds of ammunition, at an indoor range where they check the weapons for accuracy, muzzle velocity, muzzle flash, acoustics (for suppressors), and other characteristics.
After our tour, we returned to the main headquarters building at Tempelstrasse 6 in Thun, a five-story, 54,000-square-foot, ultra-modern factory constructed in 2012, to meet Karl Brügger in person. He’s a very high-energy person, direct, focused, and extremely knowledgeable on all aspects of his company’s operations; and he has a sense of humor, as well.
While marketing is always important (B&T representatives attend the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, in January of each year), Brügger actually receives more orders by word of mouth from very satisfied customers. His main philosophy is “Demo, demo, demo!” – constantly demonstrate the firearms – always building, testing, and improving them.
B&T currently has 105 employees, of whom about 40 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 2020, for the first time since 1943, the U.S. Army wanted to purchase ultra-compact, 9mm submachine guns for their Personal Security Detachments (PSDs), armed bodyguards for high-ranking officers. Several leading manufacturers submitted designs, with B&T offering their APC9 and APC9K Advanced Police Carbine models. The Army rigorously tested each gun by completely disassembling it down to the last, tiny part, mixing the pieces, and then reassembling the weapons to simulate austere, field conditions.
Only B&T’s guns worked flawlessly after reassembly, due to the high precision and attention to detail that goes into producing each separate component of each firearm. As a result, they were awarded a contract to produce 350 APC9K sub-compact models with 4.3-inch barrels for Army, with an option for 1,000 more weapons; and the U.S. Air Force purchased a further 85 APC9Ks for their PSDs in 2020.
At the factory, we watched one of the B&T technicians use a three-dimensional, computer-aided design program to verify the precise fit and attaching point of a suppressor to one carbine, including the slots for turning the device with a wrench, and a tiny ratchet for holding the rear of the suppressor in place. B&T initially produced high-quality suppressors for the domestic, Swiss market, because there was a need for quality suppressors for the Heckler and Koch (H&K) MP5SD submachine gun.
B&T’s first major success was gaining a contract to supply the German Army’s KSK (Special Operations Command) with Impuls (“Impulse”) IIA 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. 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; and B&T supplies many suppressors to Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Belgium, and other European arms manufacturers.
In order to learn from the excellent design features of major arms manufacturers, B&T maintains an extensive collection of approximately 500 different weapon types to reference when designing and developing new products. As we shall see, they have greatly improved upon several existing, European designs, and have achieved tremendous success in the process. B&T USA is their American affiliate and importer, with a staff of 40 people, based in Tampa, Florida, which is also the headquarters of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
Brügger generously treated us to a typical, Swiss/German lunch of schweinebraten (roast pork) and polenta (ground corn, actually a northern Italian dish), with a few tiny, Swiss chocolates for dessert at the nearby Restaurant Kreuz. As we continued discussing B&T products over lunch, Brügger admitted that his only regret was not entering the American market sooner. The recent Army contract has given the company much more notoriety in the United States. U.S. sales are skyrocketing, especially over the past year, and his production capabilities cannot keep up with the huge demand for B&T firearms.
Now, let’s examine some of their best products. Much of this information was covered in detail in my original, August 2020 article on B&T, but it’s been updated here with the passage of time, and new information received:
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. Impuls pistol suppressors are produced in .22 LR, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.
Since 2019, B&T USA produces the complete line of B&T suppressors in Tampa, Florida. The basic material is imported from Switzerland, and the quality-assurance (QA) standards as implemented are identical. This assures that any U.S. customer will have a 100-percent-identical, B&T suppressor when acquiring it from the Tampa factory.
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 numerous sizes, from .17-caliber to 9.3mm. Suppressor prices range from about $300 to $1,100, depending upon the caliber.
Station Six-9 (2021): (Still called the VP9 “Veterinary Pistol” in Europe, since 2014.)
While it certainly can be used by veterinarians for quietly euthanizing sick cattle and other livestock, the true purpose of this weapon is abundantly evident from its roots, as a modernized, modular version of the World War Two, British Special Operations Executive’s (SOE) 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 Station Six-9 is also an utterly-simple, manually-operated, bolt-action, 9mm repeater, using modified, five-round, SIG P225 magazines, although a .45 ACP version, the station Six-45, is also available, using M1911A1 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 for the VP9 (5.12 inches, including suppressor), or 3.1 inches for the Station Six-9 (6.1 inches, including suppressor) with a screw-on suppressor adding an estimated three extra inches. Retail price is about $2,300.
Overall sound level is reduced to less than 125 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 on the B&T website as “probably the quietest pistol in the world.”
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 Swiss-made, Sphinx pistol, which is 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 (USW-G), SIG P320 (the USW-320 or USW-M17), and Walther PPQ (the USW-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 gun was a development of the selective-fire, Steyr TMP machine pistol in 9x19mm; added are a side-folding stock, a rail system for mounting sights, and a new trigger safety. B&T notes that it is, “Probably the smallest, 9mm submachine gun in the world.” 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.
Another variant has been designed and produced in .45 ACP (the MP45 machine pistol). The latest 9mm model is the MP9-N. MP9s are now used by various units in France, India, Malaysia, Netherlands (F-16 fighter pilots, and special operations unit), Portugal (armed forces), Russia (the famous, FSB Alfa unit), Switzerland (armed forces, as the new, Mp.14 personal defense weapon), and the United States.
APC9/10/40/45 Pro Advanced Police Carbines (2011):
This is a fairly-compact, 9x19mm, submachine gun with a 6.89-inch barrel. It is also produced in 10mm as the APC10, in .45 ACP as the APC45 Pro or suppressed APC45-SD Pro, and there is a .40 S&W as the APC40 Pro. 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 Argentina, Brazil, Slovakia, and Switzerland. As of 2019, the Westchester County Police Department in New York uses the APC9SD integrally-suppressed variant, and the Miami Beach Police Department uses the APC9K Pro. In 2020, the U.S. Army 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. The U.S. Air Force purchased a further 85 APC9Ks for their PSDs in 2020. These weapons are only 15 inches long with the stock folded.
GHM9 Gen. 2 (2017):
Subcompact carbine (nicknamed the “Grasshopper Mouse,” after a small animal that eats scorpions) offers 9mm, semi-automatic capability, with barrel variety of 6.9-inch standard barrel or 4.3-inch, threaded barrel on compact models; or 8.9-inch or 16.5-inch barrels on longer models. This gun is a larger, more-traditional model than the ultra-compact, MP9 machine pistol. It holds magazines of 15, 20, 25, or 30 rounds, and utilizes a hydraulic buffer to reduce felt recoil. 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.
SPC9 Carbine (2020):
This is a hybrid weapon, nicknamed the “Frankengun,” created because a police agency in Europe required a 9mm carbine with the same handling features and ergonomics as the AR-15 platform, and B&T’s innovative, hydraulic recoil buffer. It’s semiautomatic only, with a nine-inch barrel in standard configuration, and a 16-inch barrel coming in the near future. There’s also a shorter-version, the SPC9-PDW, with a 5.9-inch barrel, and a suppressed-version, the SPC9-SD, with a 4.5-inch barrel. All versions hold transparent, B&T magazines of 10, 20, or 30 rounds, and it accepts Glock or SIG magazines.
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 3-12×50 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 $3,900.
Other variants include the APR308-P (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 Georgia, Luxembourg, Romania, Singapore (army), 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. Versions offer variety in barrel and magazine. Cold-forged, barrel lengths are available in 12.1 inches (standard), 10.4 inches (compact), 16.6 inches (APC223 Match or Sport models), or 8.7 inches (APC556 PDW). Polymer magazines of 30-round are usual, although standard M16/M4/AR15 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; a polymer lower receiver for reduced weight; and a hydraulic buffer to reduce recoil. 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 that mandates use of a sliding stock. Retail price is about $3,150, very steep, indeed.
The new, standard-length, APC556 carbine effectively bridges the portability gap between the Colt M4A1 carbine, with 14.5-inhch barrel, and Mk. 18 carbine, with 10.3-inch barrel, 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 received small numbers of APC556 PDWs for the 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment (4e RHFS), which already employs the excellent, HK416F short carbine as an aircrew, self-defense weapon. The APC556 PDW is an absolute, top-quality weapon with a telescoping stock, making it at least seven inches shorter, handier, and more-compact than an HK416; it hangs low over a pilot’s chest, in the tight confines of a helicopter cockpit.
APC300 Advanced Police Carbine:
This weapon is very similar to the APC556, but with an 11-inch barrel, chambered in .300 BLK (Blackout), and 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 14.3-inch (previously 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 rifle (DMR), similar to the HK417A2 Sniper model. A hydraulic buffer reduces recoil forces. Retail price is about $3,350.
SPR300 Pro 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, and its accurate range is about 150 meters. B&T advertises it as, “The most-discreet, urban sniper rifle on the market.” 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, or GL06 Yellow) 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, the Safe-Impact Round (SIR.) 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, Slovenia, 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 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, Iceland, Italy, 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, as well as a booming civilian market, their future continues to look very bright, indeed.
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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism, and he 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, historian, and hunter, and this is his 100th published article. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com.