The fact the Army was looking for an SMG, or submachine gun, was big news a couple of years ago. They hadn’t adopted a submachine gun platform for “big Army” since the M3 Grease gun from World War 2.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Army put out a request for samples for modern submachine guns with a rather strict requirement. The Army wanted a very small SMG, and their newest effort to field one would be called the Sub Compact Weapon system. As we know now, the winner would be B&T’s APC9K.
While B&T won, the U.S. saw submissions from HK, SIG Sauer, CZ, PTR, and many more; all of which were considered, but ultimately discarded. The Army’s strict requirements made it tough to configure a weapon to meet the branch’s specific needs while remaining a thoroughly reliable and modular platform. The Army purchased only 350 APC9K SMGs initially, with an option to purchase 1,000 more if they saw fit. Those numbers, and the fact that we have about half a million active-duty soldiers, should tell you that the new SMG was not intended as a general issue weapon.
In 2020, the US Air Force followed suit and purchased a small number of APC9K submachine guns to replace their own aging MP5s.
APC9K Design Details
So what’s so great about the APC9K? Well, Bruger and Thormet make fantastic firearms, real premium grade, well-reputed stuff. The Army’s requirement for a submachine gun necessitated a short 5.5-inch barrel and a telescopically collapsible stock. It had to weigh less than 7 pounds, fire 9mm rounds, and be 15 inches or shorter with the stock collapsed. The Army also had an ambidextrous requirement, as well as an external safety, 20 and 30 round magazines, and semi and full-auto modes.
The APC9K sports a 4.3-inch barrel with a suppressor adapter, a collapsing stock, weighs 6.7 pounds, and comes in around 14 inches with the stock collapsed. The APC9K fits or beats all the required specs on top of being a well-made firearm. K is a german designation meaning Kurz, which translates to short.
The APC9K utilizes a very simple blowback system. It’s nothing fancy and is the same system used in early SMGs like the M3 Grease Gun. This closed-bolt blowback system does create more recoil than necessary for a 9mm cartridge, however, and necessitates a combination of heavy bolts or springs to function correctly. Modern SMG options from SIG and HK offer more refined roller delayed blowback and short-stroke gas pistons, which can make the weapon lighter and recoilless. As a result, if you offered me a selection of SMGs, I’d be more likely to choose a SIG MPX due to its lighter recoil and profile.
APC9K magazines are true SMG magazines that feed from a staggered column. They tend to be easier to load, slightly more compact, and more reliable for full-auto fire. B&T magazines are famously translucent and made from a polymer material.
One major benefit to the APC9K package is its modularity. Much like the M4 platform, the APC9K can be fitted with a wide variety of accessories, stocks, muzzle devices, and even a multitude of lower receivers. The different lowers allow the gun to use Glock or SIG P320 magazines.
The US Army adopted the P320 series as the new service handgun in 2017, and the P320 lower would offer commonality between handguns and the APC9K. That being said, it’s an option you’ll want to avoid. It alters the gun’s ergonomics, and the SMG magazines offer more capacity and a shorter magazine profile.
Shooters can attach a multitude of optics, suppressors, lights, lasers, and vertical grips to their APC9K SMGs. It’s a very modern choice for modern soldiers, and modularity matters on the modern battlefield.
The Role of the APC9K
Adopting a submachine gun is generally an odd thing to do for a service branch. Submachine guns have become niche weapons, like shotguns, in which their role is very limited for a military force. They fire a pistol caliber round that lacks the range and penetration of a rifle round. Carbines (short rifles) like the Mk18 and the LVAW, on the other hand, grant shooters compact platforms that deliver a much higher degree of penetration and range.
But then, that’s why the APC9K isn’t a general issue weapon. The Army’s goal is to arm Personal Security Details, or PSD teams, with APC9K submachine guns. Situationally, this makes sense. If you are in an urban environment protecting a General Officer, a submachine gun isn’t a bad option for those closest to the principle. The APC9K provides a light and handy weapon system for those who may need to escort a principal through doors, into cars, and through very tight quarters.
The APC9K offers the user a very compact weapon that’s more potent than a pistol, even if not quite as capable as a rifle. Soldiers assigned to PSD details do not have the primary goal of winning a gunfight as infantry units might under most circumstances. Their goal is to protect the principal and get them out of danger. A submachine gun can be handled with a single hand better than a rifle, can be used easily inside a vehicle, and can lay down suppressive fire with ease.
Why a 9mm and not a PDW caliber?
The Navy SEALs have famously made use of the MP7, with some operators carrying them during the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, and that left many wondering why a similar weapon couldn’t be adopted for Army PSD teams. The MP7 almost perfectly fits the bill. The barrel is 7.1 inches, but the overall length is only 16.3 inches. It also weighs a mere 4.2 pounds. It’s a hair bigger than necessary but does fire the kevlar killing 4.6x30mm rounds.
Those 4.6×30 rounds outperform 9mm in penetration and effective range all while delivering lighter recoil. However, the Army wanted the magazine forward of the pistol grip, and they wanted 9mm. While JSOC and SOCOM might have the MP7, its tools, and ammo in their pipeline, Big Army does not.
Big Army has the 9mm, specifically their new M1153 9mm load. This 147 grain jacketed hollow point does a good bit better than the old school 124 grain NATO loads we’ve been using since the 1980s.
I’d imagine it’d be tough to work a new caliber into the arsenal, and that would require an entirely new degree of testing, logistics, and the headaches that come along with it. The 9mm is an effective round that’s already in place in the Army’s logistical plans and supply chain.
An SMG To Beat
The APC9K offers the Army a very compact, high quality, and modular platform that outperforms a pistol and is more compact than a rifle. In the niche the Army is looking to fill, the APC9K will do a very good job.
Read more from Sandboxx News
Feature image courtesy of B&T Arms