TFB REVIEW: B&T APC45-Swiss Subgun Precision

    Pistol caliber (especially .45 caliber)  submachineguns are a lot of fun to shoot.  I personally have experience with the Thompson, M3/A1, MAC-10, the KRISS (Originally TDI) Super-V and the H&K UMP45.  While I have always been intrigued in the H&K UMP45, the ones I saw come up for sale from time to time were far overpriced for the condition that they were in.  I also was not at all interested in the USC conversions, as those remain a headache to complete, and very expensive to purchase as a finished job. I did remain on the lookout for faulty SMG’s chambered in .45, however.  A few years ago, B&T released an outstanding option for a .45 caliber SMG: the B&T APC45.

    CHOOSING THE APC

    Long time listener, first time caller…

    I have to credit my interest and exposure to B&T firearms to the coverage from TFB’s Steve, Max, and Nathaniel starting years ago, as well as Pete’s continued interest in the brand.  A few years ago, I handled a B&T  APC223 and a KH9 for the first time.  Handling one of their firearms is an experience in itself, as one can appreciate the precise functioning and craftsmanship in their work.  Despite this, I was pretty good in both the .223 and 9mm carbine department.  When I saw that B&T was putting out a version of their APC in .45, however, I resolved to start saving up for one.  Recently, when visiting one of my favorite independent gun stores in the American Southwest, Bear Arms Firearms, I came upon one in a semi-auto pistol configuration and the rest was a done deal.

    Specifications (per B&T):

    • Product ID:  BT-36018 (semi-automatic only, pistol configuration)
    • Caliber: .45 ACP
    • Mag Capacity: 25 rounds
    • System: Recoil operated, closed bolt blowback action
    • Barrel length: 175mm/6.89″
    • Twist rate: 406mm/turn or 1/16″
    • Rifling: 6 groove, RH
    • OAL: 395mm/15.55″
    • Height with mag inserted: 275mm/10.82″
    • Weight with magazine inserted: 2.4kg/5lb 4.64oz

    Additional specifications, (my measurements):

    • Unloaded Weight with brace, RDS and sling: 5lb 10.4oz
    • Loaded magazine weight with 230gr: 1lb 9oz
    • Trigger pull weight: 12oz 1st stage, 3lb 2nd stage for total of 3lb 12oz
    • MSRP:  Approx. $2300.00
    • Magazine Price, 25 round steel: $79.99

    Initial Impressions:

    B&T in case w/accessories

    The B&T APC45 with all included accessories. Note the single magazine.  The manual is very well written, but one particular phrase was a bit strange, however: “Remove bolt carrier assembly and magazine prior to transportation”.   As far as I know, removal of the bolt carrier for transport is not even a legal requirement in Switzerland.

    The APC45 ships in a very nice hardcase.  The provided manual is well-written, with many useful diagrams. The firearm comes with a sling, magazine loader, a very nice cleaning kit, and one 25-round magazine.  Here is where I must get my one major gripe about the gun out of the way:  The select-fire SMG version ships with three magazines: 12, 17, and 25 rounds.  Why deprive the consumer of this perk?  To ship any firearm of this price range with one magazine is most disappointing.  If it’s a profit issue, just charge slightly more for the firearm and save the consumer the inconvenience of ordering that initial extra magazine.  Sure, I intend to order extra magazines, but this is the one issue I have with my purchase.

    Rear view of magazine with ammunition witness holes.

    Front view of magazine. The welded front looks very much like an MP5 magazine body.

    The fit and finish on this firearm are top-notch.  Every control and movement of the working parts is smooth, precise, and repeatable.  The firearm came properly lubricated and clean.  One can feel the slight resistance of the hydraulic buffer when racking the bolt back.  The magazine inserts smoothly and clicks into place securely, without the slightest bit of wobble or rattle, no matter how much force one imparts on the magazine in any direction.  This is due largely to the magazine securely indexing on three different points.  The welded steel magazines are reminiscent of MP5 magazines in the manner in which the magazine body locks together at the front.  The included sling can either attach to a QD swivel at the rear of the receiver, or to a removable nylon loop on the side of the lower receiver.

    Underside of handguard.

    The overall finish of the firearm itself was very good, but there was a noticeable “ding” on the handguard next to the front sight.  Perhaps this happened while the firearm was being shipped, or while being handled at the store.  The magazine release, bolt catch, and bolt release are all easily reachable if one uses a magwell grip with one’s support hand.  The ambidextrous safety moderately digs into my thumb when firing, though not nearly as bad as on some other SMGs such as the UZI.  More on this later.  The front and rear backup iron sights flip up and start secure even under recoil.  The rear sight is easily adjustable for windage and elevation (albeit with tools).  The front handguard comes with rails at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions, though the 3 and 9 0’clock rails can be easily removed.

    TRigger warning

    Top view of FCG

    top view of hammer and disconnector inside of the lower. Note the similarities to the AR15 FCG.

    The B&T APC45 is as easily triggered as a blue-haired college senior in a library “cry closet” during final exams…(Sorry, I couldn’t resist!). In all seriousness, the trigger is a seriously slick two-stage number.  The first stage take-up is 12oz.  With an additional 3lbs of pressure, the trigger breaks crisp and clean and feels much like the SA pull on a Sphinx pistol.  The hammer and disconnector look much like that of an AR, but these surfaces are trued and polished to a very high level.  The trigger bow is also very tactile and comfortable to engage, especially during rapid fire strings.  The reset is very precise, making for very short split times.  I have trigger time with over 50 different models of open and closed bolt SMGs over the years, and I can unreservedly say that this is the very best SMG trigger I have yet to experience.

    Range Results

    APC45 ready for accuracy testing

    Ready to run through a ton of .45 at the range.

    After fully familiarizing myself with the operation of the APC45, I grabbed hundreds of rounds of various .45 ACP loads and headed to the range.  Originally, I intended to perform the majority of this review with an SB tactical folding arm brace attached to the pistol. Due to a postal service SNAFU, I ended up doing most of the shooting with the pistol as it ships.  I fired the APC45 with 7 different FMJ and JHP loads.  The pistol was fired while tensioned on the end of the sling, off a front support, from retention, upside down, and sideways.  I tried limp-wristing the pistol, bump-firing, and using magazines mixed with FMJ and JHP.  I am happy to report I did not have a single malfunction so far, having fired 750 rounds without cleaning.  The APC45 will happily cycle through whatever you feed it, including a box of semi wadcutter rounds I cycled through it just for kicks.

    cartridge ready to chamber

    A key to the APC45’s reliability is the rock solid and reliable presentation at an optimal angle of each cartridge for chambering.

    Recoil impulse was very soft, especially for a hefty bolt in a blowback gun.  It was softened all the more by the mini hydraulic buffer at the rear of the receiver.  Really, it feels like the majority of the recoil is when the bolt travels forward and impacts the front of the receiver.  Doubletaps were very easily accomplished, as the sight picture stays put rather well even without a stabilizing brace.

    Good cowitness with irons and optic.

    The APC45’s backup sights cowitness well with a mini-RDS that is not on a riser.

    There were a few details about the APC45 that weren’t optimal for me during my initial extended range session of 600 rounds.  About 200 rounds in, I noticed an abrasion starting to form where the metacarpal bone of my thumb intersects with the trapezium.  This was due to a protrusion on the lower receiver for the disassembly pin impacting that area.  As to the non-replaceable grip: My largish hand was unable to easily position as high as I would have liked on the pistol grip due to the grip angle.  The left hand side magazine release button would only work with great effort and quite a bit of travel, while the right hand side release worked far easier.  My last quibble is that I would have found it better to have the position of the bolt catch and bolt release reversed in order to get the firearm back in action a bit faster when reloading.  The bolt catch is on the bottom of the magwell, and if the release was there instead, it would be incredibly easy to activate when inserting a fresh magazine.

    Bolt catch

    Bolt catch on the bottom of the magwell

    Hitting the mark

    The APC45 lived up to its precision construction.  The cold hammer forged and nitrided barrel exhibited an excellent degree of accuracy for a pistol. Though my personal range results were excellent, this pistol is likely capable of a even a bit more accuracy than this author was able to achieve.  It is most certainly the most accurate of the SMG/PCC platform “pistols” that I have fired.

    Accuracy results @ 50 yards with front support, no stabilizing brace.  Groups measured center-center. These are 5 shot groups using a 3MOA Vortex RDS.  All loads 230gr:

    • Black Hills Match: .75″
    • Black Hills Remanufactured:  2″
    • Remington UMC FMJ: 1.51″
    • Remington UMC JHP: 1.31″
    • Winchester White Box: .833″
    • Federal Hydrashock JHP: 1.34″
    • Federal Champion FMJ: 1.71″
      5-shot group @ 50 yards

      5-shot group @ 50 yards demonstrative of the excellent accuracy of the APC45

      One of the best groups

      One of the best groups of the day at 50y.

    The weight and balance of the B&T APC45 helped me burn through this drill with speed and perfect accuracy.

    The pistol was just as impressive moving on to longer ranges and more dynamic situations.  The mini hydraulic buffer helped this soft-shooting subgun hammer a fast paced steel course with an inverted V target array no problem.  I was able to transition between shooting close up targets and a silhouette set at 75 yards no problem.  I tried a rapid fire drill at 15 yards, dumping an entire magazine as fast as I could pull the trigger.  All rounds stayed in the “down zero” zone of an IDPA target.  Ten sets of failure drills at 25 yards yielded a score of -1.  This pistol is very easy to shoot, even without a brace.  During my time at the range, I gave it to someone with a lot of (ongoing) experience on the “two way range” to try out.  They concurred that the trigger was excellent and that it was a very controllable firearm.

    Breakdown and Bracing for the future:

    Broken down for maintenance.

    The APC45 Broken down for standard maintenance. Note buffer on front of stock assembly.

    Breaking down the APC for standard cleaning and maintenance is extremely simple. Simply press out the 2 captured disassembly pins, and the upper and lower separate.  Remove the mainspring, reversible bolt handle, and bolt and you are done.   Eventually, my PSB from SB tactical did arrive.  I figured my first breakdown for cleaning would be an excellent time to install it.  All that is need to install the PSB is removal and reinstallation of one screw and replacement of the endplate with SB Tactical’s side folding brace assembly.  Total time for the install took 2 minutes.  I also plan on installing a forward handstop and mini-light, and modifying my Gemtech Blackslide suppressor with a 3-lug adapter to complete this .45 subgun build.

    Front view of the bolt carrier and bolt face.

    Overall impressions:

    If one is in the market for a .45 caliber PCC or SMG, and can afford it, the B&T APC45 is an excellent option.  I have a KRISS Vector in .45 and it does not have the same build quality or precision feel as the APC, nor does the H&K UMP45.  My MAC-10 can’t even come close.  Objectively, The APC45 is extremely well built, is very accurate and possesses the lightest and best SMG trigger that I have measured.  It also demonstrated flawless functioning with no cleaning through a moderately high round count of 3 different types of bullet profiles.  The recoil impulse is mild and the muzzle rise is negligible.  Subjectively, though the initial cost and lack of extra magazines are hard hurdles to overcome, I have zero buyer’s remorse.  It’s just an excellent, accurate, and reliable firearm.

    PSB folded

    Does the APC45 fit a practical purpose in my collection?  While it would make a great truck gun for people who primarily have to worry about two legged threats, I deal more more with wildlife, so no. (Though I sincerely B&T will hop on the 10mm train at some point). I will primarily use it for PCC competitions and having fun at the range.  This particular firearm is going to get a lot of trigger time in the future.  I better start saving for those magazines, though….

    For more information on B&T…just stay here on TFB! (B&T’s website is somewhat spartan)

    Thanks to Hughston Shooting School for logistic support and range time

    Rusty S.

    Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


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