“The last thing the world needs is another Glock clone.” How many times have you heard that from shooters trying to prove they are world-weary and cynical?
I don’t really agree—I think any new gun is a good thing. But, what if it wasn’t quite a clone? What if the pistol paved its own path as a defensive handgun? Would that be worth a look?
I think it would.
The Tara Aerospace TM-9X is that gun. At first glance, it looks like a clone of the Glock G17, and in many ways it is, but I ask you: Is that a bad thing? The G17 is arguably the most popular handgun in history, with its only real competition in that category coming from its sibling, the G19.
The TM-9X has a polymer frame with a coated, stainless-steel slide. It’s chambered for 9 mm and has a magazine capacity of 17 rounds. Sound familiar? The TM-9X even fits most of my holsters designed for the Glock G17 pistol.
The gun operates pretty much like all the others. It’s even striker fired—sort of. That’s where the difference lies. This gun is equipped with what the manufacturer calls the DARE (Double Action Rapid Engagement) trigger system. I have heard this called a DA/SA trigger, but it’s not. In my mind, that’s a good thing, since I do not like DA/SA triggers, both for myself or for others.
The trigger system on the Tara TM-9X is not a true DA/SA. I have to be honest: At first, the trigger was my only complaint about the gun. The pistol showed up as I was shooting a lot with a 2011-platform handgun with a wonderful single-action trigger, and the contrast was a bit striking. I fully admit I am a trigger snob, and to jump from a 2.5-pound, finely tuned single-action trigger to a stiff, significantly heavier double-action finger-cramper was a bit overwhelming.
However, I am also open-minded about firearms. This pistol was not developed to shoot competition; it’s designed for defensive and duty use. There is a school of thought, not necessarily wrong, that states that a hard trigger pull is safer on a defensive pistol. I sometimes forget that not all gun owners are gun people. They do not shoot and train as much as those of us who love guns and shooting. They’re simply not as dialed in to the intricacies of their carry pistol. For many a gun is a tool, not a lifestyle. Here, a trigger that’s a bit stiffer makes sense. It can force an extra fraction of a second into the decision-making process in a fast-breaking, life-threatening situation and potentially help avoid a negative outcome in a stressful situation. That’s why most law enforcement and military pistols have a heavier trigger pull. In the case of the Tara TM-9X, it’s also safer on paper because the gun is not cocked until the trigger is pulled.
This handgun has a substantial, double-action-style trigger pull of slightly more than 7 pounds. Still, this trigger has a design that will attract the modern shooter. If you are a “feel the reset” kind of shooter, you will love this handgun. According to Tara, the trigger reset is miniscule at just 3 mm, and I won’t argue. It’s also loud and tactile. If you let the trigger reset, but do not release it all the way, it becomes a single-action (SA) [sort of] trigger pull. They call it: SPEAR (Semi Precocked Enhanced Action Reset.)
No matter, it’s much faster to pull and easier to control. I expected it to be lighter, as factory statistics say it should drop to 5.5 pounds, but I didn’t see that on my trigger scale. In fact, it only dropped a few ounces off the double-action (DA) trigger pull, mostly, I suspect, because you are still holding back against a giant spring. However, the SPEAR trigger pull feels lighter and much cleaner, and I find the gun much easier to shoot if I only release the trigger to the reset.
If you release the trigger all the way, it shifts back to double-action. This allows repeated hits on the primer in the event of a failure to fire. Just keep pulling the trigger, and the striker will keep smacking the primer. All in all, this is a good design for a defensive pistol.
The trigger was a bit rough at first. Guns are machines and machines require lubrication, and there was very little on the gun when I received it. So, I added some Brownells Action Lube Plus to the hard-contact areas, including the hook on the striker and on the end of the trigger where it contacts the hook to pull it back against spring pressure. The slide contacts also got a little of this grease. The rest of the moving parts got a spritz of Rem-Oil. The trigger became much smoother as a result. The pull weight dropped an ounce or two and it lost the grinding feeling of metal on metal.
One other good feature on this firearm is a very low bore axis, which moves your hand higher on the handgun. This helps in controlling the handgun during recoil. I used this gun in several of our weekly pistol shooting events at Proctor Fish and Game Club and found it was easy to control in recoil and fast on repeat shots. I am not a “feel the reset” guy, so it was a bit of a transition in shooting style that resulted in slower split times than with my other handguns, but accuracy was quite good. Once I transitioned to this much different trigger, I found I was shooting pretty well with the gun. We ran a wide range of drills and stage scenarios and I could always walk away with my head held high.
I asked some of my shooting buddies to try the gun and a bunch rose to the occasion. Of course, it was my ammo, so volunteers were not in short supply. The results were universal. At first, to a man, they complained about the trigger, but at the end they learned the gun and shot it very well. Everybody changed their initial opinions. The defining question I asked was, “would you buy this gun?” It was unanimous that given the price point, they would. But, they all wished the trigger pull was lighter.
I might also note that this was at the height of the ammo shortage, so this gun digested a wide variety of ammunition. I had some from Federal and the new Remington Ammo factory loads which, as might be expected, worked flawlessly. I also shot a lot of handloads that ran without a hitch.
But, my supply didn’t last long. Soon enough, I was looking through all my pockets, ammo-storage areas and under my truck seats. I found several of those coffee cans we all use as dump stations for loose ammo. I dug out all the 9 mm rounds I could find. I know they were safe because I put them there, but darned if I knew what the bullet weights were. There were a multitude of ammo makers, both foreign and domestic, as well as my handloads. There was also a wide range of bullet weights and styles as well as some frangible ammo. The gun ate it all with pleasure and never a complaint. This is not a fussy pistol.
The handgun has the three-white-dot, fixed sights that until recently were ubiquitous in the industry, and I found the gun to shoot slightly low at 25 yards. The sights are dovetailed in the slide both front and back and would be easy to upgrade. Tara offers night sights on its website, and I am sure other sight providers have options that will work, too.
There are wide serrations both forward and aft on the slide. The grip has aggressive checkering front and back and a smoother pattern on the sides, and the TM-9X comes with three replaceable backstraps. With the long reach of the DA trigger, I found that the small size offers the best fit for my hand. The backstraps are changed using a tool that is fitted into the rear of the grip and serves as a pin to hold the backstrap in place. One note: The owner’s manual is not very complete and it fails to mention that this tool locks into place inside the magazine well. So, be sure to find the square lock on the rear, inside the magazine well, and compress it before attempting to remove the tool. Doing this only takes three hands.
The ergonomics of this pistol are otherwise quite good. The square-front trigger guard has a double dip along the bottom to make a bit of room for your ring finger on your strong hand and the index finger on the support hand. There is a dab of stippling in front of the trigger guard on the frame to rest your trigger finger on when not shooting. Those with huge hands might appreciate it, but it’s out of reach for me.
The grip has a cut out that allows your finger to reach in and pull out a sticky magazine. However, I experienced no trouble with sticky magazines, due in part to the metal magazines supplied with the pistol. There are three of them, in fact, which is a very good thing as any serious shooter needs at least three mags, not two. The magazines do not interchange with Glock mags; I know because I tried. That’s a pity, but the supplied mags work well.
The external extractor multi-tasks as a loaded-chamber indicator. There is a rail under the front of the frame to mount accessories. The magazine release is a true ambidextrous one and will work from either side. The slide release is located only on the left side of the pistol.
One nice feature is the gun can be disassembled without pulling the trigger. I know that in “theory” you always check for a loaded gun, but this added bit of precaution helps remove the human factor, which is generally what fails when it comes to safety. It’s a small thing for the safety minded, but a giant thing for mankind.
Breakdown is simple enough. Remove the magazine and triple-check that the pistol is clear of all ammunition. Lock the slide back, then turn the disassembly lever clockwise until it stops. Release the slide lock and pull the slide assembly forward of the frame. Then pop out the recoil-spring assembly and the barrel, just like all nearly every other striker-fired pistol on the market.
To reassemble, install the barrel and the recoil-spring assembly and fit the slide from the front. Pull the slide all the way back and release.
The gun is a bit more elegant than the industrial-looking Glock, with the slide wearing beveled edges at the corners. In the front, it’s a tapering bevel that looks good, and the rear of the slide ends at a forward angle rather than the square Glock design. The trigger guard is square, but with some angles and cuts that remove the harsh, institutional look of the Austrian pistol.
The Tara is made in Montenegro, a European country on the Adriatic Sea and part of the Balkans. This is the first firearm I have reviewed that was made there and I can say that the fit, finish and quality seem to be very good. Will we see more handguns from there? Who knows? I remember the first Turkish shotgun I saw, and I never expected that industry to grow as it has. I hope we do see more Montenegro-made handguns. If they can provide the level of quality of the TM-9X reviewed here at its lower price point, I think we may come to embrace these Balkan handguns as we have firearms made in other areas of Europe.