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The B&T APC9k — What the MP5 Wishes it Was

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Whether you blame John McClane or Tom Clancy, the roller-locked MP5 has captured the imagination of the public for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, the guns themselves are nowhere near as long lasting in use as they are in movies and videogames. Now that the APC9 is in the new season of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, it feels like a whole new debut on a whole new scene.

When Big Army asked for a new submachine gun, we thought that Sig Sauer would have it in the bag with the MPX. We were wrong. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Swiss firm formerly known as Brügger & Thomet came in for the win with their APC9k. When B&T set up their American arm, military contracts weren’t even on their mind; while 99 percent of B&T business in Europe is all about contracts and OEM production, the American arm would be all about the civilian market.

apc9 fire lower

Maybe B&T was just as surprised as everyone else. An initial order of 350 subguns was placed, with the intention being to replace well aged and outdated Mp5s, especially Mp5ks. All told DoD is looking at acquiring at least 1,000 of them, and we anticipate this theme to continue throughout many government agencies in the years to come.

Will this be the end of the MP5? One would hope, at least if you’re a fan of parts availability and keeping guns running.

APC9 EARLY DAYS

B&T wasn’t originally founded as a firearms company, but a suppressor manufacturer. Chances are if you’ve gotten your hands on a big-name factory silencer such as an HK or Glock made in Europe, B&T made it.

From silencers, they expanded to mounts and other accessories requested by Euro gun companies. Then, they moved to handguards, buttstocks (the UMP buttstock looks like a B&T for a reason), spare parts for armorers, and finally standalone firearms. To this day, B&T makes a lot of parts and pieces for European manufacturers, all while now being a direct competitor.

The original design for the APC was literally scrawled on a napkin by Karl Brügger. Brügger was daydreaming about what a modernized easy-to-work-on MP5 would look like, or rather, what the MP5 should have been.

THE NEXT GENERATION

Way back in Issue #17, we covered the first generation of the APC9. At the surface level, there appears to be very little difference between the first generation and current models. B&T took careful note of what end-users wanted changed, and then they brought that plan into action.

RECOIL apc9k supressed

Firstly, the reciprocating charging handle is gone, replaced with a dual self-folding non-reciprocating charging handle. The pistol grip is now removable and can be replaced with any AR-style grip that you want; curiously, this was part of the original napkin sketch of the APC9, but didn’t make its way into production until Gen 2. The selector lever is now easier to use, eliminating one of the complaints we had ourselves with Gen 1, and the bolt-hold-open and bolt release have been combined into a single control. The final large change is that the bolt is modified to allow for trigger groups that can accept Glock and Sig Sauer magazines. B&T told us there are some, “new tricks with the barrel” as well, but couldn’t go into detail without divulging trade secrets.

All of this makes for a now actually ambi rifle with more customization options. No more lefty-playing-righty on this one — we’re beyond the 1990s now, it’s all the same. A note about the magazine conversions: The government didn’t buy them. There are many Glocks already in SOCOM hands and the M17 in Army hands, but the Army never asked for the conversions in the first place. Which makes sense, because government. Regardless, if the DoD ends up requesting one in a flash of common sense, B&T will be able to provide them.

FEATURES and OPERATIONS

A small gander at the fire control group betrays its AR-15 origins, but with some twists. The standard semi-auto B&T trigger can be moved to “safe” regardless of the firing condition of the weapon. Normal AR triggers won’t allow the selector to move to safe if the hammer is forward. You can drop-in your normal semi-auto trigger, but you won’t have the ability to move it to “safe” with the hammer forward. The full-auto FCG is a different beast altogether. Instead of an auto-sear right above the selector level with its own hole, B&T uses the hammer pin to house their auto-sear.

B&T APC9K fieldstrip


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Takedown and field stripping is easy if you’re even vaguely familiar with modern weapons. Two pins on the trigger assembly are pressed in order for it to be removed. Then the stock assembly is pulled down and rotates out along with the recoil spring. Finally a pin is removed from the bolt so it can slide out from the rear. While you can break the B&T APC9k down further, this is all you’ll probably ever need to do. The collapsible stock doesn’t lock closed, allowing it to simply be pulled open to your desired length. An intuitive push-button mechanism is present on the bottom of the assembly to allow it to be collapsed for storage or transportation.

One area we’d like to see changed is in the realm of sling loops. As configured from the factory there are two small snap-loops for an HK-style rear sling, and nothing up front. While there are a pair of rails on either side which a QD point or sling loop could be mounted, we’d really like to see a QD point instead of antiquated HK loops at the rear.

OUTFITTING the APC9K

Nothing says PDW quite like a red dot sight, so an EOTech was an easy choice to roll in conjunction with the OEM sights. A stubby TangoDown grip provides a good place for your support hand, as handguard real estate is kept at a minimum. For a weapon light we went with a 1k-lumen SureFire XH35 with a set of extended PHLster ARC toggles installed for ease of activation.

Of course the B&T ships with a three-lug silencer mount standard,  so why wouldn’t we add a new Dead Air Wolfman. The Wolfman started out as a basic in-line improvement to the Wolf silencer, but Dead Air couldn’tleave well enough alone. They not only improved the blast chamber to be more durable but also added standard AR-tool capability to the system. Regardless, the Wolfman was absolutely the better choice for the B&T APC9k over a standard Dead Air Wolf.

MAG WOES

The B&T APC9k as designed feeds from proprietary, clear polymer, double-stack magazines. Each 30-round magazine has an optional slip-on rubberized buttpad to help protect the mag body when it hits the ground. Still, we did have a problem with one of our magazines, but not with the bottom. The spine of the magazine itself split down the back, something we’ve seen with a lot of clear plastic magazines, and refused to feed due to excessive feed lip spread.

Just goes to show: inspect your gear. For all that some have complained about polymer magazines versus those manufactured from metal, a quick visual glance can usually tell you if a plastic mag has sh*t the bed. Not so with metal mags.

AT THE RANGE

On the range, the word of the day was smooth. While blowback operation is known for its reliability, invariably the action is clunky due to the massive bolt required for operation. Usually this equates to greater-than-normal recoil for a 9mm, and excessive muzzle flip to boot. None of the normal downsides of a blowback weapon were present. With some experimentation we’re pretty sure we could write our names with full-auto on a target as easily as pissing it in the snow.

The secret sauce here is all about balance and engineering. There are a ton of small things that B&T does that add up to more than just a sum of their parts. The nested hydraulic spring and buffer combination is exceptional. Their aluminum extrusion process is particular expensive because it’s so precise — any kind of misalignment can cause bolts to chatter. The APC9k bolt itself has a special coating on top of the standard finish to make them ultra-slick. And sounding like something from a bond villain, the QPQ bolt is laser-hardened because B&T found that to be the most consistent process.

We talked to Tim Nickler, CEO of B&T USA and he told us this, “Every single gun is made exactly the same way, built to the same procedures, to the same specifications, for the most consistent product.” If we just read all of this somewhere, we might think he’s full of sh*t — but the real proof is on the range. Side-by-side with several other 9mm subguns, the B&T definitely knocked the pants off of them in terms of perceived recoil and controllability.

apc9k mp5k comparison

OLD & BUSTED vs. NEW HOTNESS

Ultimately, the B&T APC9k probably won’t surpass the zeitgeist of the Mp5 — at least not until it’s used in enough action movies and video games to inspire the next generation of door kickers. Even now we are beginning to see it in games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. But as far as actually using, shooting, and maintaining? So long, HK. You had a good run.


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