Green Alps, blue lakes, fine guns. A brief report from B+T AG facility in Thun, Switzerland

B+T building that hosts their office, manufacturing and storage facilities

B+T building that hosts their office, manufacturing and storage facilities

Being a gun nut and a traveller, I really wanted to visit Switzerland for a long time. This October I finally put these plans to life, and made a week-long leisure trip across the German-speaking part of Switzerland with my wife. Our main goal was just to see the country (which turned out even much more beautiful than we expected), and my own goal was also to get a taste of the Swiss gun culture. Part of this goal was achieved by visiting two local gun collectors (more about this later, probably), and another part was achieved by using an invitation I received from B+T AG folks during latest IWA-2013 expo in Nuremberg. After some planning, I was offered a factory tour and a visit to a shooting range, and below is my humble report on the event.

Before we start, a couple of words about B+T AG. Formerly known as Brugger & Thomet, this private company is located in the suburbs of the city of Thun, surrounded by beautiful mountains, green pastures with neat village houses, and phlegmatic cows, eating grass in the middle of the Swiss Army tank shooting range located nearby. Over the last two decades, B+T earned its fame first by producing its own semi-automatic version of the famous HK MP5 submachine gun (known as B+T 96) and some sound suppressors, and later by introducing a whole spectrum of small arms, intended for police, military special operations and civilian use. B+T also makes accessories for other brands of small arms, serves as a Swiss distributor and dealer for Heckler & Koch and some other foreign companies, and runs a large gun & tactical accessories store near its factory.

Current product line-up of the B+T includes following gun families:

  • B+T MP9 compact submachine gun, based on the redesigned Steyr TMP, and its semi-automatic derivative, TP9, available in pistol and carbine versions. MP9 is a neat little gun which can be used for VIP close-protection teams, special police operations in urban environment, and as a military PDW (Personal Defense Weapon). It uses locked-breech action, resulting in mild recoil despite relatively light weight of the gun
  • B+T APC 9mm submachine gun and semi-automatic carbine. As its name suggests, Advanced Police Carbine is primarily intended for police use, as a duty / patrol gun that is also suitable for SWAT-type uses. It is bigger than MP9 and has a bit more accuracy due to better trigger and overall ergonomics. It is also simpler than MP9 because APC is built around simple blowback system. APC is a well-thought weapon, completely ambidextrous and capable of mounting a wide array of accessories, some of which are provided with the gun (such as Aimpoint Red Dot sight)
  • B+T APC-556 automatic carbine (“assault rifle”) and APC-223 semi-automatic carbine, built around 5.56mm / .223 Rem ammunition. Both weapons are visibly based on the concept of the smaller APC9 submachine gun, but internally these guns use conventional gas operated actions with short stroke pistons and rotating bolts. Like their smaller brother, APC-556 and APC-223 are fully ambidextrous and fully customizable. Thanks to the built-in hydraulic buffer, recoil is very soft, and the guns appear to be very controllable in rapid fire.
  • B+T APC-300, a derivative of the APC-556 chambered for .300 Whisper (a.k.a. .300 AAC Blackout). It seems that this gun has a lot of potential, thanks to a wide range of loads available in this relatively new promising caliber; it can be used with subsonic loads and sound suppressor for special operations (as well as for hunting or recreational use, where permitted by law); with supersonic loads it is a close match (ballistically) to the venerable 7.62mm Kalashnikov AKM warhorse, while being much more customizable and significantly more accurate (after all, it’s a Swiss gun)
  • B+T VP9 “veterinary pistol”, a 21st century reincarnation of the WW2 era Welrod silenced manually operated pistol. Promoted as a veterinary tool to silently and humanely put down wounded or infected animals, it also can be used by other qualified personnel, which may have legitimate and urgent needs to put down some son of a b#tch without much noise.
  • B+T APR bolt-action sniper rifles, in .308 Win and .338 LM calibers. These highly accurate weapons are widely used by various Law Enforcement organizations across the world, and also by a number of target shooters in Switzerland and elsewhere.
  • B+T SPR special purpose rifles, based on the APR but scaled down to work with .300 Whisper ammunition, especially useful for relatively short-range urban work specific to Law Enforcement. Combined with proprietary B+T sound suppressors and sniper-grade .300 Whisper “Swiss P” ammunition, developed in cooperation with B+T by another Swiss company, RUAG Ammotec, these rifles offer excellent accuracy and stealthiness.
  • Finally, there is a 40mm GL-06 grenade launcher, a stand-alone single shot weapon which can be used with both less-lethal and “lethal” (i.e. HE-FRAG) 40mm LV ammunition of almost any type.

Now, let’s go back to the factory tour.

Like I said before the main B+T facility is located in a single modern-looking building, located in the industrial suburbs of the city of Thun. It contains offices, design bureau, manufacturing and storage facilities – all in a relatively small, but very well laid off and very clean working space. Production and storage facility takes most of the 1st floor. Normally B+T purchases pre-fabricated aluminum and steel parts from third party suppliers, and then cuts them to size and finishes using state-of-the-art CNC equipment. Same applies for polymer parts. Complete guns are assembled, subjected to strict quality inspection, and then packed for delivery to various customers around the world.

Design bureau is surprisingly small – during my visit I’ve seen just three engineers there, working on their computers, but even a team that small can quickly produce new and interesting designs. For obvious reasons I cannot tell you right now, what they are developing, but I can tell that their new designs look very promising and interesting to me.

The gun and tactical accessories shop, owned by B+T, is located in the basement of the adjacent building. It is quite spacious by Swiss standards, and has very nice selection of guns, accessories, 5.11 clothes and anything else a shooter can find useful in his gun-related hobby or work. A very useful addition to the shop is a small, but well equipped 25-meter indoor range, where potential customers can try a gun before buying it. This range was used to allow me to shoot some of the B+T weapons. Due to time restrictions, my shooting was limited to just three weapons – TP9 carbine, APC9 carbine and APC223 carbine. All were tested with and without accompanying quick-detach sound suppressors, also made and sold by B+T.

The TP9 was tested first. It’s a handy weapon, which can be fired with or without shoulder support, provided by a side-folding stock. It can also be fired single-handedly, if required. Recoil is mild, and with sound suppressor and sub-sonic ammo you do not need any hearing protection even in a small indoors range. I liked almost everything about this gun, except for its relatively long and heavy trigger pull. I was told that this is a “feature” rather than “bug” (using IT slang), as the MP9, its parent weapon, is intended for use mostly in the high-stress situations where none can expect target-grade accuracy.

APC9 came second. It has much better trigger and more comfortable stock. A really fun gun to shoot, which also can be effectively used as a serous LE tool. It also can be used in conjunction with quick-detach B+T suppressor, and in this configuration it really shines on.

APC223 came last. Due to lack of subsonic 5.56mm ammunition on hand I didn’t dare to shoot it with ear protection off, but it still sounded not so loud. It also has a good trigger and very well thought ergos, and what I liked most about this gun was a lack of any felt recoil, especially when firing with suppressor attached. It was like firing an airgun, except that it still put a lot of energy into the target with each supersonic 5.56mm bullet.

Overall, I was quite impressed with both the factory of B+T, and its products of typical Swiss quality. And I was especially impressed with and grateful to B+T personnel, who were kind enough to bring me in and show me all described above and something more.



Max Popenker

Max Popenker is a long-time firearms enthusiast and semi-amateur firearms historian from Russia. His primary interest is in automatic firearms, their evolution and use. He wrote a number of books on the subject and maintains a Modern Firearms website at http://world.guns.ru


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  • Zugunder

    Ha-ha “aluminum”? I’m sorry, I really am. Nice article though, thanx Max!

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Wha?
      Wait, is this one of those bizarro world posts from someone that despite having no idea what they are talking about is going to dredge up some prehistoric “fact” about what’s been “proven” to work?

      Yea, you know what? Nevermind. Of course aluminum receivers will never hold up. I mean besides all the guns that use aluminum receivers, like the AR-10, AR15, SCAR, ACR, XCR, etc. Not to mention that disastourous HK UMP whose glass filed nylon receiver will outlast the steel bolt/carrier that rides inside it.

      Yep, “aluminum” is the joke here.

  • Comradecole

    Very nice article. I’m jealous. Though I am putting their shop on my list of places to visit whenever I can make the trip to Switzerland. Also, It would be really cool if they could export their MP5 (B+t 96) to the US as a commercial pistol or carbine. I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

    • Porty1119

      It’s legally possible; commercial viability would be the question. I’m not personally an MP5 fan, but I can certainly understand the draw of a quality Swiss gun.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    My TP9 was one of most disappointing guns I have ever owned. I’m so glad I sold it when I did. Had such promise… But…

    – parts where ridiculously expensive. And I own an MP5, I still couldn’t accept some prices.
    – action was entirely too rigid/defined in its operating window. If you want to suppress it without massive amounts of blowback you MUST HAVE their suppressor. I have 3 cans I tired including a large volume subgun can, it didn’t matter, it would blind me in two semiauto shots fired.
    – no possible way to adjust the action for ammo or suppressed use (weights, gas port, regulator, locking piece, etc)
    – extremely complicated action. Probably why two components of the action would easily surpass the cost of the entire gun
    – folding stock was TERRIBLE
    – sights were a joke, needed optic.
    – I had dreams of a very lightweight UZI going in, it was far more finicky expensive custom handgun with an uncomfortable stock attached as an afterthought

    So, I really want to like the idea of their new line. And if they can manage to keep their prices competitive (they really have no choice in the matter imo, even HK is hurting bad with their policies and pricing), manage to deliver a product that really is reliable over a range of conditions, and manage to get the idea that parts really should be accessible regardless of how great you think the design is, then I’d give them another try.

    But…. They have direct competition for SIG now for everything but the VP9/welrod. I have yet to see them even show the intention of being serious about new products for a civilian market.

    • ikuturso

      Your terrible experiences with the TP9 must have left you scarred for life. I’m happy to hear that you got rid of it and wish you well on you way to recovery.

      As a happy TP9 owner and shooter, I’d like to address some of the issues mentioned.

      Like any other weapons system, the MP9/TP9 has had its share of teething problems. Unlike some other designs, it has grown out of these problems since.

      The MP9 is virtually uncontested in its own little niche for a compact, lightweight 9mm PDW/SMG in the LE/military market. In some instances, it has even successfully assumed the role of a full-size SMG as a LE patrol carbine.

      “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” -Arthur C. Clarke

      A conventional suppressor on the MP9/TP9 acts as a muzzle booster, not unlike the MG-42. The factory can reduces this effect and provides full reliability, although it does slightly increase the ROF.

      The MP5 ejection port is considerably farther away from the shooter’s eye. However, the MP9/TP9 brass catcher unit greatly alleviates this effect and, in certain applications, is an essential part of the mission-specific equipment.

      The folding stock was designed within the constraints of weight, bulk and rapidity of deployment. These constraints were set by its specific LE/military role. As such, it provides more than adequate support while being extremely easy and fast to open.

      The ghost-ring sights are basically just back-up sights, as the LE package includes an Aimpoint Micro. However, one can still successfully engage targets at 50 yards with them.

      As a pistol, the TP9 is mediocre at best, due to its proportions and the relatively heavy trigger pull. Adding a stock and optics changes the game completely. This, of course, applies to most other “assault pistols” as well.

      Much of your critique simply owes to the fact that the TP9 was not designed for the US civilian market.

      Your UZI comparison however, is quite unfair, as the MP9/TP9 will run circles around any UZI variant at a third of the weight.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        MP9/TP9 has had its share of teething problems. Unlike some other designs, it has grown out of these problems since.
        Oh, how interesting. Because to the best of my knowledge, the only thing B&T did to the TMP they started with was very minor sight and option changes. Perhaps you can catalog all the changes that B&T made to the function of the gun!? I’d be interested because the carrier, bolt, barrel and barrel guide, you know, the “action” works in the Steyr and vice versa.

        The factory can reduces this effect [shitty suppressed performance] and provides full reliability,
        There are no known or available parts to modify the ROF on the platform. Given the way the action works, I find it very hard to believe they have alternate rotating barrel and barrel guide assemblies. Even if they did, one set for suppressed would exceed the cost of the gun.

        [brass catcher] is an essential part of the mission-specific equipment. Ok… I see where this is going. : I forgot all those super secret special agents that don’t want to leave 9mm brass casing around, they install brass catchers so as to alleviate the eye burning ammonia that is plentiful from the ejection port when using the gun suppressed – again – this is during those super covert missions.

        The folding stock was designed […] Oh, was it design to flex and slap your cheek over and over? Was it designed so that the pivot screw securing the stock to the gun threads into .1″ of nylon, meaning after any serious use it’s stripped and walking out? It’s a POS. Was it designed be a $2 injection molded part that B&T wants over $175 for?

        ghost-ring sights are basically just back-up sights The ghost ring sights were replaced YEARS ago. They went to a traditional post and notch which despite being more useless are lower profile, as they know they can’t be used anyhow.

        will run circles around any UZI variant Sure, except in all the areas that I mentioned.

        – Reliability suppressed or unsuppressed
        – Cost
        – Complexity
        – Aftermarket and OE support
        – Performance suppressed
        – Iron sights
        – Durability and construction, stock screw threads directly into nylon

        But hey, they are very light!

        You’re right. The TP9 was not designed for the US Civilian market. Because we have a lot better and cheaper options available to us.

        SO… when B&T gets their act together and releases a proper firearm, I’ll be interested, but it will only be considered after intense scrutiny of how serious they are this time.

        As a side note, interesting, that if the MP9/TP9 is so amaze-balls, why they are abandoning it, and have the replacement guns using VERY Uzi like blowback system…. Hmm….

        • ikuturso

          I didn’t mean to sound quite as arrogant as I perhaps did. My apologies. I hope we can continue in a more civilized manner with our favorite subject.

          Your information on the technical updates is somewhat out-of-date. While the stock and the rail are the most obvious changes from the TMP, most of them are internal. I don’t have the complete list, but there are changes concerning at least:

          – metallurgy (materials, heat treating, coating)
          – recoil shoulder in the barrel (for longevity)
          – polygonal rifling

          – three-lug QD suppressor interface
          – firing pin geometry (for longevity)
          – feeding geometry (ramp and throat)
          – magazine polymer
          – metal bushing for the stock screw (oh yes!)
          – trigger safety
          – drop safety
          – firing pin safety

          In the current MP9-N, there are further (mainly ergonomic) changes such as:

          – rotating ambidextrous safety/selector lever
          – ambidextrous mag release
          – enlarged charging handle
          – extended bolt release

          These improvements have dramatically changed the performance and durability of the MP9/TP9, especially compared to the TMP.

          Many of these changes are relatively recent and may not be present in the TP9’s that reached the US. Comparing a TMP, or even an early TP9, to the current production is like comparing an early AR-15 to the current crop. Except it didn’t take them 50 years…

          I have fired my TP9 suppressed and unsuppressed, without cleaning, for around 1500 rounds without any malfunctions. When I finally cleaned it, I couldn’t remove the barrel from the sleeve without first carving out the carbon fouling. Never missed a beat, though. The factory has run much more demanding tests on the MP9.

          In my experience, there never was a need for different barrel/sleeve configurations. It works just fine with or without the factory can, subsonic or supersonic etc.

          Professional users aside, I like the brass catcher because I’m too lazy to pick up my brass at the indoor range.

          I have heard some reports (including yours) of people getting slapped by the TP9 stock. I have experienced this with some other guns, but never the TP9. Perhaps this is due to differences in body proportions or shooting stances. Or perhaps I have chubby cheeks. Yes, it is possible to flex the stock if you try hard, but this kind of tension is really not necessary (at least for me) to run the TP9 fast.

          Last time I checked, B&T has no plans to abandon the MP9/TP9. The blowback-operated APC was introduced as a full-size carbine and was never meant to replace the MP9.

          I understand your frustration, I’ve been there before (haven’t we all?). I just thought bashing a good product with outdated information is a bit unfair.

  • claymore

    Nice job with the report really liked the pop up captions built into the photos

  • oneOf7billion

    Hey that’s where I live!
    You can use google street view to see more details of that tank shooting range. It just happened that the tanks were practicing when the google car drove by. When you move along the street the tanks you see on google will change from Leopard 2 to CV9030.

    Here’s the google street view link:
    https://www.google.ch/maps/@46.7497875,7.5893694,3a,75y,200.84h,87.13t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s8MJn536zMYmuPpeLtzKYzA!2e0

    • KestrelBike

      Hah oh cool! Thx for sharing 😀

  • Jimmy Ray

    That VP9 Welrod “Vegetarian Pistol” needs to be imported.

  • 3Gunner

    I have a B&T APC-9 Suomi, very nice supressed carbine. I really liked their shooting ranges outside.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Excellent and thoroughly-professional article, Max — as usual :). Thanks very much for sharing your travels in Switzerland and the impressions thereof.