The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

B&T Universal Service Weapon

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne and B&T USA

In January 2015, Europe was shocked by the massacre of 11 staff at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, and the subsequent murders of an unarmed cop and of four civilians at a Jewish supermarket. A terrorist cell allying themselves with Al Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula (AQAP) engaged in a three-day running gun battle with French police and security personnel. They were eventually shot dead, though not before shutting down air and road transport in northern Europe.

In the aftermath of the attack, law enforcement officials faced some sobering facts. The three Islamic terrorists claimed their actions were in defense of the prophet Mohamed, who had been defamed by the satirical magazine’s publication of supposedly offensive cartoons. In return for spilling ink, they decided to spill blood and tooled up with a variety of hardware sourced from the Balkans. Between the three of them, they had AK variants, a VZ58, Skorpion machine pistol, an M80 Solja anti-tank weapon, and fragmentation and smoke grenades.

This attack was unfortunately a prelude to another massacre that would occur in November of the same year. Three cells with three terrorists each used AKs and TATP suicide vests to kill 130 victims, injuring and maiming over 300 more. All of the terrorists had previously fought in Syria for Daesh before returning to Europe.

Adding an MRDS adds more components than you might think. Note frame-mounted bridge for Aimpoint Nano.

Adding an MRDS adds more components than you might think. Note frame-mounted bridge for Aimpoint Nano.

Faced with coordinated attacks from multiple cells armed with explosives and full-auto long guns, the average beat cop armed with a 9mm SIG SP2022 handgun was at a distinct, and fatal, disadvantage. One of the first to confront the Charlie Hebdo attackers was National police officer Ahmed Merabet. Hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, he nevertheless bravely exchanged fire with the terrorists across a park before being wounded. While bleeding out on the pavement, his assailants walked up and shot him in the head.

Despite the hardware overmatch, there’s little political enthusiasm for officers to be routinely equipped with patrol rifles in Europe. While the sight of jocked-up cops at airports and railway stations has become commonplace, there’s a general antipathy toward the same image when transposed to the suburbs. Europe, in general, has a collective distaste for black-clad stormtroopers, and given historical precedent, it’s not hard to fathom why. What then could be done to level the playing field a little?

There’s a lot of empirical evidence from both operational deployments and the competition circuit to show that putting miniature red-dot sights (MRDS) on handguns makes it easier to connect with targets at longer ranges, versus relying on iron sights. Which isn’t to say MRDS’ don’t come with their own set of drawbacks, notably battery life and durability, especially when attached to the slide of a semi-auto. Most recently in the civilian world, the advent of pistol-caliber carbine division in USPSA has simply underlined what we’ve known all along — the fastest way to improve a pistol shooter’s scores is to hand them a rifle. Stocks > grips.

The USW’s Sphinx origins are evident when compared to the SDP shown above. Although the forward cocking wings add weight, chopping and reprofiling the slide offsets.

The USW’s Sphinx origins are evident when compared to the SDP shown above. Although the forward cocking wings add weight, chopping and reprofiling the slide offsets.

Adding a stock to a handgun is hardly a novel concept. Churchill liked the Mauser C96 he used in the Sudan campaign so much he bought three more upon returning home to London. Through the years, various Luger and Hi-Power models have had stocks added to them. Proving that ideas never die and simply get recycled, modern-day versions can be found in countries with gun laws every bit as ridiculous as the U.S. — Israel being a notable example. There, a cottage industry has developed devoted to adding stocks and chassis systems to the one-handgun-allowed-per-licensee, most of which are fairly bulky and prevent carrying the result on a belt. B&T’s USW takes a different approach, being designed from the outset to incorporate an MRDS and a stock, rather than bolting them on after the fact. The result, while bigger than a conventional handgun (after all, that extra hardware has to go somewhere) is surprisingly trim given the potential performance increase it offers. Using the Sphinx line of pistols as a starting point, the USW gives the user increased hit potential with a package weighing less than most 1911s.

At its factory in Thun, Switzerland, B&T has carved out a reputation for building highly engineered designs and upholding the Swiss reputation for quality. The USW continues in this vein — it feels solid in the hand without any snag points and sharp edges, while gaps and rattles are non-existent.

Whether by design or accident, the Sphinx pistol’s architecture handily lends itself to adaptation to the USW concept. In terms of machine time, the most involved part of milling out a handgun frame is the grip area, as there’s a whole pile of chips that have to be removed in order to get a magazine in there. Until the advent of four-axis CNC machines, that long, square-edged hole had to be broached, which was both time consuming and required a lot of up-front investment in a single-use tool. Sphinx addressed this problem by means of a separate, polymer grip that was then attached to an upper chassis, in much the same way as STI’s line of double-stack 2011 handguns.

brugger and thomet usw pistol

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