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B&T VP9 Review: “Veterinary Pistol”

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B&T VP9 is an integrally suppressed, takedown, bolt action pistol, based on a World War II assassination tool. Up until now, the VP9 has been unavailable for purchase in the USA. This combination of the exotic, the diabolical, and the impractical produces a deep lust for the B&T VP9 in any gun guy who’s familiar with it.

B&T came to recognize the demand for its updated remake of the World War II wet work Welrod pistol. But the Swiss-made VP9 is subject to U.S. import restrictions, and for reasons outlined below, B&T USA can’t bring the pistol into the country in its current form. However, the company has a plan to meet the demand of collectors and enthusiasts alike.

It’s releasing a limited run of 250 B&T VP9s in the U.S. market ahead of the debut of the pistol’s importable successor, the Station-IX. The new gun, named as a tribute to the birthplace of the Welrod, will be here later this year in 9×19 and 45ACP flavors, with different magazines and roll-markings distinguishing it from the original B&T VP9.

In the meantime, B&T USA is taking advantage of the expanding footprint of its Tampa machine shop to manufacture 250 VP9 receivers, barrels, and silencers. Manufacturing these parts in Tampa allows the company to avoid the import restrictions faced by the Swiss-made VP9. These U.S. receivers and barrels are mated with small parts brought in from B&T Switzerland to make Tampa roll-marked guns that are functionally indistinguishable from those made in B&T’s Swiss factory. It’s one of these 250 guns that we’re reviewing.

EXOTIC

When the VP9 arrived at our office late last year, it was the first commercially transferred B&T VP9 in the U.S. All the VP9s before this were made in Switzerland and disqualified from importation because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says Americans can only have foreign-made pistols longer than 6 inches and taller than 4 inches, measured with the mag removed. Breech to bolt knob, the B&T VP9 is 5.9 inches, and it’s barely 2.5 inches tall since the majority of the pistol’s grip is composed of its magazine. Further, silencers are flatly restricted from import into the U.S., and the B&T VP9 comes with two.
B&T VP9 and suppressor

So, between the size of the pistol and the fact a silencer is an integral part of the gun, B&T’s never been able to sell the VP9 in the States. That changes when B&T USA releases guns made from its limited production run of U.S.-made VP9 receivers, barrels, and cans this spring. The Tampa VP9 ships exactly as a Swiss VP9 would, in a presentation case that holds the VP9 pistol body, two silencers, and two magazines, along with some tools and accessories.

Anyone familiar with B&T’s penchant for coming up with cute acronyms (GHM9 = GrassHopperMouse9, for example) might notice the rod of Asclepius engraving with “V” on the pistol and recognize the VP9 as “VeterinaryPistol9.” (Similarly, we wonder if the Station-IX 9mm was purposely named to bait the nickname “69.”)

TWO-STAMP PISTOL

Before talking about the pistol itself, we’ll address the $400 elephant in the room. Yep, it’s a two-stamp pistol. The B&T VP9 ships with a wipe-based operational silencer that’s Hollywood-quiet in addition to a louder, aluminum baffled training silencer so you can use the system without consuming those valuable, but sacrificial wipes.

On that note, keep in mind the ATF has gone back and forth over the years on allowing the sale of wipes to unlicensed people. B&T says they’ll sell wipes to any FFL/SOT so they can restock your can when your wipes are used up. We’re hoping the ATF dials back on this regulation so wipers can order ¼-inch-thick, 80-durometer rubber sheets from McMaster Carr and make their own. We can dream.
B&T VP9 suppressor parts

We called the B&T VP9 integrally suppressed at the outset of the article, which is the best way we could describe how this pistol and the included silencers are designed to work exclusively with one another.

The pistol’s 1.9-inch-long barrel has a couple of ports to slow full power 9mm ammo to subsonic speeds, much like you’d find on an HK MP5SD. The oversized action forms a cavity around the barrel. As either of the VP9’s cans is screwed to the M13.5 x 1 left-hand threaded barrel, it fits inside the rim of the action body and seals with an O-ring to form the weapon’s first gas expansion chamber. A dozen ports in the base of the VP9 silencer bleed gas into the attached can’s first stage.

Oh, man. This is where the B&T VP9 gets quiet. So. Damn. Quiet. There’s no contest between a silencer that uses wipes and one with aperture baffles. The first round we put through the VP9 using the wipe can had us giggling.

TICK.

Go ahead and hold the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and blow until the pressure drops it free. That “TTTT” noise? That’s it. Make that sound as loudly as you can without engaging your vocal cords, and you’ve just created the sound coming from a VP9 firing full-power 9mm ammo.

The rubber wipes provide maximum noise suppression for about 8 to 12 shots. The next 8 to 10 shots get a bit louder, but they’re still quieter than a conventionally baffled silencer. After 20 or so shots, the rubber wipes begin disintegrating, and the gun gets progressively louder as more gases and unburned gun powder follow the bullet out of the silencer. [For more wiped cans, checkout the Gemtech Aurora II (also on RECOILtv), the Knight's Armament XM-9 (RECOILtv here), and our crazy chimera, the Odessa-Aurora]

CHEAP DATE

When it comes to choosing ammo to put in the VP9, keep in mind two things. First, the ported barrel obviates the need to use expensive, subsonic ammo. Any standard pressure ammo you put in the VP9 is slowed to subsonic speeds, eliminating the supersonic crack of the bullet passing the sound barrier. Second, hollow points and wipe cans don’t mix. Tearing through the wipes will clog the expansion cavity of a hollow point. A rubber-filled hollow point will expand unevenly, at best, fail to expand at all, or simply cause a round to go sideways inside your silencer in the worst case. Needless to say: Don’t use hollow-point ammunition in the B&T VP9.

So, despite buying a limited-edition gun that requires two tax stamps, you’ll actually save money because it runs best on cheap, ball ammo. Bargain! While this argument for the VP9 as a budget-friendly investment sounds reasonable to us, a financially sensitive significant other might not truly appreciate your thriftiness in this regard. We take no responsibility for marital strife resulting from the purchase of a B&T VP9, but there’s always room on the RECOIL couch for you. Call before crashing, rent is due on the first of the month, and you can pay in ammo.

DIABOLICAL ROOTS

Despite what B&T may want you to believe about the nature of the VP9 as a veterinary tool, it’s far more No Country For Old Men than Old Yeller. Karl Brügger tells us the pistol came from a request for 25 silenced, bolt action pistols by a European client. They only had four months to design, manufacture, and deliver the guns, so they looked at historical designs — the WWII-era Welrod design rose to the surface. The client approved, and B&T turned the 32ACP design into a 9×19, making just five extra guns for themselves.

“We thought 25 for the customer and five for our hobby guys would be enough,” says Brügger, “We never imagined that there was [great] demand from the market, as well.”

While the original 1942 Welrod relied on its odd, bicycle pump-like looks as a means of obfuscation, Brügger made its reincarnation smaller and capable of breaking down into three large pieces that allow the VP9 to be secreted in ways that a folding Glock could only imagine.


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The B&T VP9 comes with a presentation case worthy of any safe queen, but it’s not practical for trips to the range or for building better worlds through the surgical use of violence. So, we set out to find a discreet case to hold the pistol and few goodies that suited the clandestine flavor of the kit. We wanted something understated that’d barely register with the cleaning staff if it were left on a hotel room desk. We decided the shape and ubiquity of a shaving kit bag would do the trick.
B&T VP9 case

We called our friends at Mean Gene Leather and asked if they’d like to make a bag for a cool little assassination kit. Who could say no? Gene Higdon himself took up the charge and within a couple weeks we had a heavy-duty, custom-made, leather dopp kit with three enclosed compartments to organize and protect the VP9’s receiver, its silencer, a couple mags, and a box of ammo. All of this stows in the bag’s base with folds of leather enclosing the top of each compartment. This leaves room above to carry a few more boxes of ammo or real toiletries that might prevent a casual glance from revealing the payload beneath.

MECHANICS

The mechanics of the gun are impressively simple and supremely reliable. The action is a twin-lug, rear-locking manual affair that runs via a rotating bolt tail. To run the gun, get a regular firing grip while activating the grip safety, and pull the trigger. To reload, palm the giant disc on the action’s rear, turn it a quarter turn, and rotate the pistol to dump the spent brass from the action; there’s no ejector. Rinse and repeat four more times per magazine.

To keep things as simple as possible, the gun has no takedown lever. Instead, a large flathead screw retains the bolt. Pull it, and the bolt slips from the action for field maintenance. Pull four more Torx screws from the grip module to access the trigger shoe assembly, trigger bar, trigger sear, and grip safety. This reveals major, Swiss-style refinements, in the form of four ball bearings responsible for the trigger bar’s smooth movement and the trigger’s clean 5-pound break.

RANGE TIME WITH THE B&T VP9

Two things will get your attention when you get the B&T VP9 on the range. We’ve already covered one — it’s damned quiet. The quietest 9mm pistol we’ve ever shot. It’s at least as quiet as a suppressed 22LR, perhaps quieter. It’s so quiet that we were inspired to make a list of things louder than the VP9.

•Opening a bag of chips
•Slapping a challenge coin on the bar
•Dropping the bolt on an AR
•Grasshoppers
•Dropping a brick on a grasshopper
•A conversation between Chris Tucker and Roseanne Barr in a library
•Losing an NFA item in a boating accident
•A dog aggressively licking his balls
•Cries of help from Jeffrey Epstein’s cell

The second notable thing we experienced while on the range is the vacuum whoosh you hear and feel when retracting the bolt after firing a shot through the wipes. The “TICK, THUCK” sound effect of the gun firing and reloading is something we’ve just never heard coming from a pistol … let alone one firing 9mm supers.


We shot five mags through the first set of wipes, recording group sizes and muzzle velocities. Since this gun is really designed for contact shooting, we weren’t concerned with benching the gun and testing for the tightest groups. We found the gun produced an average group size of 3 inches shooting offhand at 7 yards with all the ammo we shot. That included Norma ENVY, 124-grain ball from Sig, and Blazer 115-grain ball, plus a couple Winchester RA9T 147-grain hollow points for the hell of it. To have some fun, we ran a walk-back drill starting at 7 yards and got back to 35 yards before dropping a shot on a 12×12-inch steel plate.

Norma Envy was our baseline ammo, and we chronoed it to see how the various configurations affected velocity. We clocked it at 846 fps with no can, 868 fps with the practice can, and 896 fps with the wipe can. Those are much reduced rom the 1,098 fps we got from the Envy in our 4.7-inch Sig P320 barrel, showing the tiny, ported barrel is effective at slowing down fast ammo.

We had two issues with the pistol — one we take credit for, the other we put in B&T’s court. Immediately after shooting the Winchester hollow points, the otherwise reliable pistol stopped sending bullets. Unfired rounds revealed centered, but just a little light, primer strikes. We left the range, went home and cleaned the bolt, returned the next day, and ran 150 rounds of mixed ammo through both cans without a stoppage. Near as we can tell, the hollow point shredded a wipe and the backpressure of the reload might have sucked a chunk of rubber into the action, finding its way into the striker channel and slightly slowing or shortening the striker stroke.

The other issue is with the VP9’s sights. The front sight is machined into the action body, but the rear is a press-fit chunk of plastic that looks like something Glock owners throw away every day. The pistol arrived with the rear sight half out of the dovetail. It took two more shipments of sights from Tampa before we figured out the only way to get a rear sight to fit and stay put was to rip the metal base off and shove the bare polymer trapezoid into the dovetail with a thumb. It works, and we really don’t need a sight to hit something the muzzle is pressed against, but really B&T? We love this gun, but absolutely hate you for putting a crappy $3 rear sight on a $3,000, two-stamp, highly collectible pistol.

CLEAN-UP the B&T VP9

From its leather-wrapped presentation case that emits an imaginary Pulp Fiction gold glow as it’s opened, to the cute, twig-breaking sounds it emits while firing 9mm rounds, this thing is one of the coolest firearms we’ve gotten our hands on. The uncertainty of how to deal with refilling the wipe can is a bit of a wet blanket, as is having to pay for two tax stamps and wait six to nine months (we hope) on a couple of ATF Form 4s.

B&T is still dialing in the VP9’s price, but we expect the 250 guns to hit dealers priced under $3,000 — then a bunch will probably find their way to the secondary market priced at upward of $3,500. We haven’t heard what the Station-IX production guns will sell for, but it’ll be similar. And, we’re told by B&T, the Station-IX will include both a wipe and a training silencer.

The B&T VP9 represents the current brass ring of collector’s guns for the CONCEALMENT crowd, unless you’re an assassin. Then it’s a tax write-off. In either case, consult your significant other or accountant, respectively, before these guns hit B&T dealers in late spring, if you hope to have a chance at scoring one of the coolest firearms to hit these shores in a long time.

B&T VP9 stat sheet

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in CONCEALMENT #17]


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