TFB Review: Tara TM-9 DA/SA Striker-Fired Pistol

Category: Firearms | Reviews

Over the years, TFB has occasionally posted some tidbits about a pistol called the TARA TM-9, starting way back in 2013. Since then, we’ve gotten occasional updates on this interesting 9mm hailing from the nation of Montenegro in southeastern Europe. Montenegro is a small country, just east across the Adriatic sea from Italy. Montenegro’s bordering neighbors include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosova, and Albania. One of the Montenegrin industry’s leaders is TARA Aerospace AD. This modern manufacturing company serves as the parent company for the small arms division that produces the TM-9 pistol, among some other firearms including a polymer-receiver and piston-operated AR-type rifle. Now after several years of its earlier iterations seeing use abroad, the TM-9 is available in the US for the first time, as TFB recently reported.

Tara Small Arms @ TFB:

The TM-9 arrived in this nice case, with semirigid construction, a built-in handle, and nylon weave texture on the surface.

The TM-9 arrived in this nice case, with semirigid construction, a built-in handle, and nylon weave texture on the surface.

Fortunately, I recently had the opportunity to test out one of the early TM-9 units to be brought into the States. When I first got wind of this handgun, I suspected it might turn out to be little more than a Glock knockoff. Tara’s first-gen models certainly looked the part, but in actuality, there is much more to this pistol than first meets the eye. Vastly different from most polymer/striker guns like Glocks, the TM-9 features a double-action/single-action trigger mechanism. This type of trigger is extremely rare in the striker-fired world and is typically found on revolvers or hammer-fired semiautos. Though other double-action-style striker guns have predated the TM-9, like some of Walther’s decocking P99s, they are far and away the exception rather than the rule.  Additionally, the TM-9 has evolved externally. The current generation has come into its own, with updates to the ergonomics, grip texture, aggressive slide serrations, extended beavertail, and more. The Tara gun also possesses a remarkably low bore axis as well as earning excellent marks for fit and finish, likely owing to its aerospace manufacturing genesis.

Unzipping the case revealed the TM-9, along with its three magazines and alternate backstrap sizing options.

Unzipping the case revealed the TM-9, along with its three magazines and alternate backstrap sizing options.

In light of the above-mentioned positives, when I unboxed the gun and began to handle it, I soon began to like it more than I thought would be the case. It was readily apparent that this was not the mere knockoff I feared it might be. Although it felt comfortably familiar in the hand compared with many other modern double-stacks I’ve wielded, the gun’s particular geometry and low bore axis were distinctive. It gripped great, pointed well, and seemed competently crafted. I appreciated the angled serrations on both the front and rear of the slide. The ambidextrous magazine release was a nice touch as well. Tara opted to use metal mags in order to avoid any plastic-on-plastic drag, and I found them inserting smoothly as well as dropping free speedily. The gun came in a nice structured case, with three backstrap size options and three 17-round mags. The mags featured numbered witness holes on the back panel from rounds 4-17. In all, my first impressions were estimable, but of course, the real question would be that atypical trigger.

This visual demonstration should give you an idea about the length of the TM-9 trigger's full double-action mode.

This visual demonstration should give you an idea about the length of the TM-9 trigger’s full double-action mode.

The first dry-fire pull was definitely heavy and seemed like a mile of travel – unsurprisingly. I’m most accustomed to single-action triggers, so this DA/SA number was a significant departure from my norm. Of course, I knew going in that this would be the case, but it was still something of a foreign experience. I wasn’t sure how it would shoot – if that extra length and 7.7lb weight might make it relatively awkward to operate for live-fire testing. When range day came, I took along a friend who is a highly-trained and experienced pistol shooter, far more so than myself. I put the TM-9 in his hands and told him to dry-fire it first, without telling him what to expect since he didn’t have prior knowledge of the gun or its DA/SA functionality. After his initial trigger pull, he looked taken aback and asked if the trigger was supposed to be that heavy. I then gave him the rundown on the hows and whys of the TM-9, and his lightbulb went off. He dry fired several more times, experimenting with functions like the reset to SA mode versus full let-off. We then began loading mags and set about the real work.

Although the trigger took some getting used to, the TM-9 shot smoothly and accurately with rapid reps on steel plates.

Although the trigger took some getting used to, the TM-9 shot smoothly and accurately with rapid reps on steel plates.

As anticipated, the adjustment and learning curve that started with dry fire continued into live. Coming from standard single-action poly/strikers, the DA/SA style was understandably different. However, it didn’t take long to adjust. Once I’d run a few mags and started to get a better feel for the travel and weight, the break, and the shorter reset to SA versus full release back to DA, I could really begin to appreciate how good the TM-9 felt and shot. Accuracy and speed were solid, with the steel plates that were our primary targets easy to hit repeatedly and quickly. I could definitely appreciate the gun’s low bore axis, with its accompanying tame recoil impulse and low muzzle flip. The gun also cycled well straight out of the box, even without a prior cleaning/lubricating (although after the first few mags I did field strip it and apply a few dabs of CLP, following that initial dry testing).

Some significant improvements have been made over the course of the TM-9's version evolution, including the slide serrations, grip texturing, and overall build quality.

Some significant improvements have been made over the course of the TM-9’s version evolution, including the slide serrations, grip texturing, and overall build quality.

We were only able to run 250 rounds – thanks a lot, ammo price spike – but had no issues caused by the gun. I did experience one fail-to-fire, but my associates and I believe this was the fault of the round, not the firearm. Interestingly, this did give me the perfect opportunity to experience one of the TM-9’s DA/SA benefits. When the round in question gave me a “click” instead of a “bang”, I opted to let the double action do its thing. I simply let off of the trigger fully and then re-engaged, rather than having to cycle the slide manually as you normally would. On the second strike, the round fired. This highlighted one of the key differentiating features with the DA/SA system.

Older generations of the TM-9 can be most readily distinguished by their lack of the current version's patterned grip texture, and the inclusion of finger grooves.

Older generations of the TM-9 can be most readily distinguished by their lack of the current version’s patterned grip texture, and the inclusion of finger grooves.

In all, the TM-9 was reasonably enjoyable to shoot. After that initial acclimation period, the gun quickly grew on me and I came to appreciate it more than I thought I would. I think the key for this gun is context. Is it going to replace your standard single-action carry gun or duty weapon? With the length and weight of the trigger pull, probably not. But I still think there’s a valid place for it. I’ve heard some competent instructors talk about the benefits of using long, heavy triggers like those found in many DA revolvers to help teach new shooters. It forces the student to be purposeful about each pull, given that execution requires more than a typical Glock or Shield. My friend, who I mentioned above, refers to this employment of a DA as “the thinking man’s trigger”. He’s reported taking this method with brand-new shooters who don’t come in with the same SA-preferential baseline that most of this blog’s readers will probably have, and I did. Many of those neophytes, without prior expectations regarding how short or light a trigger should be, have taken to double-action shooting with surprising speed and ease. Then later on, once they’ve built up good fundamentals with a trigger that’s purposefully ponderous, when they’re properly prepped for shorter/lighter versions and ready to start trying other makes/models, they tend to have a relatively easy time with it.

The long, heavy DA/SA trigger will feel a bit strange to many shooters, but that doesn't make the Tara TM-9 bad. In the right niche, I think it has potential to succeed.

The long, heavy DA/SA trigger will feel a bit strange to many shooters, but that doesn’t make the Tara TM-9 bad. In the right niche, I think it has potential to succeed.

What capped it off for me was the lack of reliability problems. I’d read about others’ past experiences with older TM-9 generations being less than stellar, with some functional failures and slipshod manufacturing/QC. From what I could see with this current-gen version, such issues appear to have been left in the past. The model I tested worked well and looked/felt like good quality for the price. As long as the gun I used is truly representative of the latest generation’s quality and functionality, bearing in mind that I wasn’t able to run a high round count, this area doesn’t look to be the problem for Tara guns that it may have been in the past. So although I still might be a bit leery of older-gen models (i.e. those without the patterned grip texturing seen in some of this article’s photos), if you can get your hands on a current version like the one I tested, take a look. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised, as I was. If you have a use case for the DA/SA trigger or can see the potential helpfulness of this gun as a trainer, with a $529 MSRP it may be worth it for you. While it lacks the easy shootability of many other poly/striker guns, that’s not without reason, so don’t necessarily count it out. It’s a long and heavy pull, sure – but in the right circumstances, that can actually be okay. It’s not my new favorite sidearm of all time, but I do think it has its own legitimate value. Check one out and feel the difference for yourself! See you at the range.


Images courtesy of Tara Small Arms and the author.


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