HK USP 9mm with B&T Impulse II-A.
By Sam Pikula
I make a habit of perusing European gun magazines. Not only do I get a different perspective of shooting and firearms, but I often get advanced information about new products before they appear on our shores. Several years ago I began to notice that a Swiss suppressor company called “Brügger & Thomet” was mentioned in more and more advertisements and articles. Cursory examinations of their suppressors (or as they are called in Germany and Switzerland “schalldampfers”) in Swiss gunshops showed they were very well made and robust in construction. However in all honesty I must admit that my interest, while somewhat piqued, was still not enough for me to investigate further. This all changed though when I read in gun publications such as Shotgun News, Gun List, and last but not least Small Arms Review, that not only were Brügger & Thomet (pronounced Brewger & Tommet) suppressors being offered for sale in the US, but that Heckler & Koch had adopted B&T suppressors after they passed a grueling 10,000 round endurance test. I happened to mention in passing to a Swiss friend of mine that I would like to visit their company. As luck would have it my friend (who is also a gun dealer) was acquainted with Messrs. Brügger & Thomet and arranged an appointment for me to visit their offices.
Brügger and Thomet was founded in 1992 by Karl Brügger and Heinrich Thomet and is located in Spiez, Switzerland. Spiez, about 50 kilometers southeast of Bern, is found in the heart of some of the most beautiful mountains and lakes in Europe if not the world. Herr Brügger and Thomet were long time automatic weapons enthusiasts and the liberal (in the classic sense of the word) gun laws of Switzerland allowed them to actively pursue their interest. In the late 80’s and early 90’s the MP-5 became a very popular submachine gun in Switzerland. Just as in the United States, most “MP-5’s” started out as Hk-94’s semi’s and were then converted to full auto as Heckler & Koch would not sell any factory MP-5’s to civilians. There was also a demand for the MP-5SD (the SD being an acronym for schalldampfer) and a number were converted to this version as well. Unfortunately many of the SD conversions were poorly executed and were a far cry from the Oberndorf models. Enter Messrs. Brügger & Thomet.
Karl Brügger and Heinrich Thomet felt this situation was intolerable and began to search for ways to fix the poorly converted MP-5SD’s. Before I go further you have to understand the following: Prior to January 1st, 1999, there were absolutely no restrictions whatsoever on suppressors in Switzerland. A Swiss citizen could just walk into a gunshop, buy a suppressor, and walk out. No tax, no paperwork, and no license. This freedom gave a steady market for suppressor sales and ready feedback on their performance. Through hard work, experimentation, and lots of sweat, Brugger & Thomet began to gain a solid reputation for quality and dependability. Gradually the partnership evolved and Herr Thomet became the Managing Director and Herr Brügger, who is by trade a mechanical engineer, the chief designer. As the firm grew, B&T created their own designs and continually improved upon them always searching for new techniques in manufacturing and materials.
While B&T worked on their line of suppressors they also became a retail firearms dealer selling rifles, pistols, ammunition, and accessories to the public. As time passed the firm evolved and grew from being a retailer to the sole Swiss distributor for companies such as Heckler & Koch, Beretta, Steyr, Trijicon, Eagle Industries, and others. Currently the Brügger & Thomet partnership has three divisions: The B&T Trading and Consulting Division which buys, trades, and sells obsolete/surplus weapons (B&T was responsible for exporting 50,000 Austrian StG-58 FAL parts kits to America), the Manufacturing Division which develops and manufactures suppressors and other accessories, and finally the Representing Division which represents the aforementioned companies.
Arriving on a sunny Friday afternoon in August I was greeted by Herr Thomet and sat down for a pleasant chat. He discussed the history of the company and how it had changed over the years. Every time I speak to someone like Heinrich Thomet I feel a little guilty and am very grateful for their time as I know just how busy a successful entrepreneur is. Phones and faxes were busy ringing away and employees were unpacking inbound crates and packing outbound ones. Later we were joined by Herr Brügger and they showed me some their current products.
I was particularly interested in their Impulse II-A suppressor as this model was adopted by the elite German KSK Commando’s and survived the aforementioned 10,000 round endurance test by Hk with no damage to the test pistol or suppressor. Hk was so impressed by the quality and durability of B&T suppressors that they entered into a contractual agreement with them and now sell Hk pistols matched and serial numbered to the B&T can. This acceptance by Hk was no mean feat as Hk has incredibly high standards. Karl showed me an Impulse II-A that was rejected by Hk for having nothing more than a slight scratch on the tube that was barely noticeable.
The Impulse II-A shares most of the same internal characteristics of other B & T suppressors. The tube is constructed from aircraft grade aluminum and the six steel baffles are made of a special Swiss ordnance steel called ETG-100. All told, the Impulse II-A weighs ten and one half ounces and is affixed to a threaded barrel with a locking ring. The II-A is designed for 9X19, 10 MM, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP handguns that utilize Browning style barrel locking designs. The impulse module (also called a Nielsen device) can easily be adjusted to change the impact point of the bullet without the operator going crazy adjusting the sights. This is a great feature as the pistol can shoot close to the same point of aim whether the suppressor is attached or not. The unit is simple and easy to disassemble for cleaning and the shooter needs no tools. The Impulse II-A has a sound suppression of -36 db wet and -26 db dry.
What I found intriguing with B & T suppressors was the unusual six fluted step cone baffle design. Karl told me he got the idea for this design while working as an apprentice in the Swiss Government Powder Factory (similar to our Rock Island or Picatinny Arsenal) in 1983. The basic concept had been developed at the factory but the Government had done nothing further with the design. Karl continued to refine the concept on his own after he left the factory and developed it into the present system.
Following the Impulse model Karl then showed me their MP-5 QD (Quick Detachable) model and it really lives up to its name. Karl produced an MP-5 and after a little practice I could pop it on and off in three or four seconds. Once on the weapon and locked down you would swear the can is welded to the barrel. The three standard protruding barrel lugs fit into a corresponding collar on the suppressor which in and of itself is sufficient to lock the can on the weapon. However there is a twist-literally. With nothing more than a spring lock to hold the suppressor it would be possible in CQB and other scenarios for the operate to inadvertently slam the weapon into an object (or lets be frank here-a hard contact shot to an enemy) which could dislodge the can. The B&T design holds the suppressor on the barrel by the spring loaded locking collar and a manually twisted locking ring. All you have to do is snap the can on the barrel, give the locking ring a twist and a half, and voila, it’s attached! If the shooter wants to drop the can and shoot loud, B&T has a quick detachable five prong flash suppressor that locks on the barrel in the same manner the sound suppressor does.
Heinrich let me have a sneak preview of a prototype suppressor and barrel for an M-249 SAW (FN Minimi to the Europeans) that was really neat. The can slides over an integral flash suppressor on the barrel so an operator isn’t blinded by the flash or gives away his position in a tactical situation when the can is removed. A similar system is used on their SOPS Assault Rifle Suppressor except the flash suppressor allows the use of rifle grenades. They also make several suppressors for 7.62 NATO sniper rifles and even have a model for a Barrett Light Fifty-a weapon that can really use one!
Currently B&T has sold over 11,200 suppressors worldwide which means they must be doing something right. Try as I might I couldn’t find out just which high speed, low drag units were using B&T suppressors. Part of this is do to the fact they sell their products wholesale to companies such as SIG and Hk who market them on their own. The other reason is that a number of their direct customers have non-disclosure clauses in the purchase contract and B&T is not allowed to reveal this information.
B&T also makes a number of scope mounts that allow the use of the Aimpoint and several other brands of holograhic sights on such diverse weapons as the AK-47 and MP-5. Complimenting their scope mounts is B&T’s line of tactical light mounts for ASP flashlights that mount on pistols, submachine guns (particularly the MP-5), and assault rifles. Karl also showed me the blueprints for a new design he created to mount an ASP tactical light to an MP-5 and then asked me, “Sam what are you doing this evening-would you like to go shooting?” (“oh gee, I don’t know, let me think for a moment, well,uhhhhhhh, I guess so” ). I immediately said yes and we made plans for a rendezvous later that evening.
After a fine traditional Swiss dinner with my wife, Karl picked me up at the hotel and off to the range we went. Arriving at a rather non-descript looking building, we entered and descended down a flight of stairs and I found myself in a modern underground shooting facility replete with pro shop, cappuchino/snack bar, and dining area. There was also a spectator gallery from which visitors could look out into a multi-lane 25 meter range. The range was divided in two sections: a 25 meter paper target range with automatic target placement and retrieval, and a 25 meter row of 10 inch falling plates with remote control reset. In all honesty I must admit that I have never liked indoor shooting ranges, however if all were as nice as this one I’d probably change my mind.
Karl opened his range bag and withdrew ammo, magazines, an Hk USP in 9 MM, one of B & T’s Impulse II-A suppressors, and we prepared to make ready. We ran a man sized silhouette target out to 15 meters and Karl handed me the USP now loaded and sporting the Impulse II-A. I squeezed off five rounds at the center of the target and immediately noticed the absence of any holes. Well, color me embarrassed. Now I know that when someone misses a target that badly a popular refrain is, “Well geez, it ain’t me! It’s gotta be the gun!”. But seriously I didn’t see how I could miss with all five shots-after all, I’ve earned four Expert Diplomas from Gunsite, at least proving that I can hit the floor with my foot once in three tries. Karl said, “don’t worry”, disassembled the suppressor, and adjusted the index ring. He then reassembled it, locked it once more on the USP, and handed it back to me saying, “Try it now”. I fired five more rounds and noticed a world of difference- five shots about three inches above point of aim at 15 meters falling roughly into a two and a half inch circle. Five more rounds fell in the same area and didn’t open the group any larger-now this was more like it!
All told I ran about 150 rounds through the USP both with and without the Impulse II-A and except for the reduction in sound, the only other characteristic I noticed was a decrease in the pistols cyclic speed. Accuracy and reliability appeared unimpaired. Moving on to something with a little more power Karl pulled out his MP-5/10 in 10 MM.
I’m a big fan (fan as in fanatic) of the full power 10 MM. For a number of reasons I think the 10 MM is the best pistol cartridge in the last 30 years. I mentioned this earlier to Karl whereupon he asked if I had ever fired the MP-5 in 10 MM. When I told him I hadn’t he brought his along. Perched atop his MP-5/10 was an Aimpoint holosight on a B&T mount. The nice thing about the B&T mount is that it rests very low to on the weapon and allows the use of the factory installed iron sights. Springfield Armory was so impressed by this mount they became the exclusive US distributors for it. At this point we moved to the falling plates side of the range and both Karl and I fired a number of mags through the “Ten”. The Aimpoint on the B&T mount coupled with the MP-5/10 made short work of the plate rows.
While Karl and I were taking turns on the MP-5/10 I noticed a gaggle of rubberneckers in the spectator area who were pointing their fingers at us and studying our every move. I was puzzled as to their behavior. I mean yeah, sure, we were shooting subguns and suppressors-but that’s not really that big of a deal in Switzerland. Karl noticed me staring at them and anticipating my query said, “German tourists, they can’t believe we can own these here!”. Mystery solved.
About this time the owner of the hotel we were staying at and a friend of Karl and Heinrich’s showed up at the range with his MP-5A3 also fitted with a B&T suppressor. We fired a number of mags through it, and, like the Impulse II-A, it worked flawlessly. I also must admit that I could shoot the falling plates faster and more accurately with the “Nine” than I could with the “Ten”.
Several weeks later I toured B&T’s factory and was very impressed. Almost every part and component, other than a few finishing processes, is done on state of the art CNC machines. The nice thing about CNC tooling from a diversification aspect is that a manufacturer is not strictly tied to one type of enterprise. For instance everything from prototype artillery shell components for the Swiss Army, to artificial hips (no joke), was being produced alongside suppressor baffles.
In conclusion I was very impressed by Brügger & Thomet. They have got the gun business down cold. That is they understand guns and business. How many times have we seen someone who knew guns and had a great product(s) go bankrupt because they didn’t understand business. On the flip side I have witnessed successful firearms firms and one major firearms training center lose money and respect because they acquired a bean counter at the helm who didn’t understand guns. Karl Brügger and Heinrich Thomet however are dialed in and a I predict a long and profitable future for their partnership.
Due to red tape caused by a plethora of bureaucratic barnacles, Brügger & Thomet suppressors manufactured in Switzerland are not available in the United States. However they are manufactured under license here by Capitol City Firearms (P.O. Box 29009, Richmond, VA, 23242, phone 804-740-4926, fax 804-740-9599) and follow the same strict tolerances and quality control standards as the Swiss models. If you want a suppressor with a new age design built with old world craftsmanship I strongly suggest you check out Brügger & Thomet.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N6 (March 2000)