B&T rose to prominence in the United States when their APC9K submachine gun was selected by the U.S. Army Sub Compact Weapon (SCW) to arm their personal protection units. But the company has a long history of producing arms for elite European special forces teams. However, most of their success has been with the MP9 and APC line of submachine guns, and their GL06 grenade launcher, which has seen wide usage with riot control police. Their rifles have not proven as popular, despite the evident quality of their entire product line. But why?
B&T’s offering in the highly competitive 5.56mm assault rifle market is the APC556. Similar in layout to their APC9, the APC556 is a short-stroke gas-operated rifle with a modular design and a SCAR-style reciprocating charging handle. As B&T’s primary product line continues to be suppressors, the APC556 naturally comes with an adjustable gas regulator that can reduce the amount of gas for use with B&T’s line of Rotex suppressors.
The rifle is also fully ambidextrous, with its safety/selector being present on both sides, and an ergonomic bolt catch on both sides within easy reach of the shooter’s trigger finger. The rifle also features a hydraulic buffer on most stocks for the dampening of the recoil impulse.
However, a possible ergonomic gripe about the APC556 is the reciprocating charging handle. While the FN SCAR was mostly successful, the reciprocating charging handle was often a source of complaints from American users. B&T appears to have adapted their APC9 to use a nonreciprocating, folding charging handle on their APC9. The new folding charging handle can be seen on the APC 9 Pro and the SCW adopted by the U.S. Army.
The development of the folding charging for the APC9 could mean that the same handle could be offered on the APC556 if demand is there.
Despite the excellent features of the APC556, not much information is available on people who have adopted it, with no major purchases being announced. Rumors are that certain units in the French Air Force have adopted the APC556 on a limited basis, which would be interesting given that the rest of the French military is transitioning to the HK416F, one of the APC556’s direct competitors.
Comparing the HK416A5 with 279mm barrel to the APC556 with 264mm barrel, the APC556 weighs 3.8 kg to the HK416A5’s 3.3kg. With a longer barrel and larger rail, the HK weighs less. This is probably due to the receiver of the APC556 weighing more, due to the larger nature of the bolt and charging handle versus the HK416.
While the half-kilo more of weight could be a reason for the APC556’s lower sales, a more likely reason is the cost. While prices for military arms are not easily found, looking at other firearms in B&T’s catalog and the price of the APC223, the civilian version, suggests that the APC556 would cost somewhere in the realm of $2500 or more. While this is fine for small police units, it’s unlikely to see general adoption.
But is B&T aiming for the bigger military market? The company is still rather small and would have to significantly expand to fulfill a large order, and the “APC” in their APC-series of weapons stands for “Advanced Police Carbine” after all. Even the adoption of the SCW was on a relatively small scale, with less than 1,000 units being procured.
Charlie Gao studied Political and Computer Science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.
Image: Creative Commons.