Within the ranks of the U.S. Army are Personal Security Detachments (PSD) and High Risk Personnel (HRP) security teams that provide safe and timely transportation for command staff. These jobs require a constant state of readiness that encompass mission planning, vulnerability assessments, convoy escort, protection of principal dignitaries, and security in threatening environments. These soldiers take their jobs seriously, as they does of their gear.
On July 26, 2018, the Army's Product Manager for Individual Weapons at Picatinny Arsenal reannounced the Sub-Compact Weapons (SCW) project that included the need for a new subgun, suppressor, magazines, tools and spare parts.
The Army determined HRP needed a small arm more capable than issued sidearms, but still concealable, and one that was handier than a rifle or carbine. It is unclear whether the HK MP5 and MP5K in inventory were worn out, or unavailable to meet demands, but the request went out for a submachine gun firing the 9mm round from a barrel length of 5½ inches or shorter. The overall length was specified at 15 inches or smaller with a collapsed stock and without a suppressor attached. It also had to weigh less than 7 pounds. Lastly, soldiers issued the SCW had to reliably put four out of five rounds within a 4-inch circle at less than 40 yards.
It was written that the SCW would have to include ambidextrous controls, selective fire and be finished a nonreflective black. The new subgun would have to perform optimally with 147-grain 9mm loads and function with marking or other training rounds such as frangible ammo. Why 9mm? The Army said that a 9mm SCW would ease the logistical strains that can result from having to supply exotic rounds.
The MPX was thought to be an easy win for SIG Sauer, and others had their eyes on the CZ EVO 3 Micro. It was also speculated that the Army could simply purchase an updated HK MP5 variant or Beretta's PMX. The bid to win the $2.6-million contract for 350 guns (and up to 1,000) didn't get much attention until the Army announced that B&T won the competition with its APC9K Pro.
“APC” is an acronym for “Advanced Police Carbine.” The “K” stands for “Kurz,” or “short,” and “B&T” is the shortened name for Brügger & Thomet of Switzerland. The APC9 was introduced to Europe in 2011 in 9mm, and was quickly engineered for .40 S&W and .45 ACP offerings. The standard model's barrel length measured 7 inches and featured a right-side folding polymer stock. A carbine variant with a 16-inch barrel was also developed for the commercial market, as well as integrally suppressed models.
There was also an APC9/40 Pro model introduced in March 2019, which featured a non-reciprocating charging handle and a replaceable pistol grip that would accept AR-15-style grips. There is also a Pro model that features a lower receiver that feeds from Glock-pattern magazines. The APC9 is currently employed by nine nations.
The APC9K Pro was also reconfigured as a semiautomatic pistol so that it could be sold as a commercial firearm to the U.S. market. The major differences between the non-civilian and civilian pistols are the absence of full-auto markings, a selector lever that rotates to a third automatic-fire position, internal sear, a side-folding or collapsing stock, and a removable stubby vertical grip. Besides the functionality and some different furniture, the APC9K Pro is virtually the same gun as available to U.S. soldiers.
The APC9K Pro Pistol is a blowback-operated semiautomatic. The upper receiver is steel with the rear machined to prevent any attempt to make it run like its full-auto cousin. The semiauto bolt assembly is a heavy brick that's precision machined with a polished and ramped bottom lug that recocks the AR-15-style trigger assembly. The hammer face is also polished for smooth interaction with the bottom of the bolt.
Though it looks nothing like an AR-15, the APC9K Pro shares familiar ergonomics with the AR's lower receiver besides the AR-pattern trigger assembly. The ambidextrous selector lever has a different appearance and feel than an AR-style selector, but inside the operation with the trigger is the same. The ambi selector's wide paddle is wide enough for positive engagement with the shooter's thumb, but it is made of plastic and the contour makes it uncomfortable to reengage the safety. The opposite side of the lever also rubs against the the trigger finger near the knuckle. It doesn't matter which handedness you are.
The trigger's internals are made of steel, but the trigger shoe is a polymer composite, which feels the same as the lower receiver's construction. The magazine release modifies the AR's pattern with a push-through bolt activated by a serrated button on both sides behind the magazine well. Since the APC9K Pro locks the bolt to the rear on an empty magazine, this gun also adds a conveniently located and useful ambidextrous bolt release/catch.
The APC9K bolt can be pulled to the rear by the Pro's new dual auto-folding, non-reciprocating charging handle. The bolt is driven forward by a captured recoil spring and a guiderod assembly that inserts within the rear of the bolt at the top. Because of this, the firing pin assembly and barrel are engineered with a low bore axis positioned just 1½ inches above the hand. This reduces recoil's leverage and helps to keep the muzzle down. The barrel measures close to 4¼ inches if you remove the three-lug suppressor adapter, i.e., thread protector. With this thread protector attached, it measures 5 inches.
The forend features a pair of M-Lok slots at 9 and 3 o'clock, which include a pair of polymer 2½-inch rails attached. The 6 o'clock rail is machined to the upper receiver and comes with a single-point sling attachment that also serves as a handstop since civilians are not permitted to attach a vertical grip.
What makes the APC9K Pro more than a conventional pistol is the side-folding arm brace that was developed in partnership between B&T and SB Tactical. The receiver mount for the brace attaches to the upper and includes a spring-loaded bump stop to soften hard recoiling loads and redirect the bolt's direction as it cycles. The BATF does not consider the SB Tactical brace a stock, so its use does not reclassify this pistol as a short-barreled rifle (SBR), which would require more BATF involvement. However, the brace does improve aimed fire, as BATF had previously ruled that it can touch the shoulder while firing as long as the brace hadn't been altered from its original design.
Function and accuracy testing was completed during several visits to the range by Guns & Ammo staff. Our ability to keep groups within 3 inches or less extended to 50 yards with 147-grain loads. The barrel twist is not ideal for accuracy with 115-grain or 124-grain loads. It was obvious that the twist rate was spec'd fast to run heavier subsonic bullets that could be suppressed. That said, we did confirm its reliability with frangible and polymer bullets.
The APC9K Pro platform demonstrated why it was selected for U.S. Army security personnel, and it was fun to shoot. To that end, it would also serve civilians extremely well in home defense or personal defense roles.
B&T APC9K Pro Pistol Specs
- Type: Blowback operated, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm (tested); .40 S&W or .45 ACP
- Capacity: 30 rds.
- Barrel: 5.4 in., 1/2x28 threaded with 3-lug suppressor adapter
- Overall Length: 22 in. (extended); 13.5 in. (folded)
- Weight: 5 lbs., 15 oz. (tested)
- Brace: SB Tactical arm brace, folding
- Grip: B&T (AR-15 pattern)
- Length of Pull: 13.38 in. (extended)
- Finish: Nitride (steel)
- Trigger: 4 lbs., 13.7 oz. (tested)
- Sights: Folding, elevation adj. post (front); folding dual aperture, windage adj. (rear)
- Safety: Two position, ambidextrous lever
- MSRP: $2,450
- Manufacturer: B&T, 813-653-1200, bt-arms.com