OVER YEARS, I’ve come to be quite a fan of the FAL rifle in general, and of DS Arms in particular. The main reasons are the unbeatable quality and reliability of their firearms and their enthusiasm for providing serious weaponry for real-world applications.
Because of my heightened interest in the DSA product line, my insistent badgering of the staff with technical questions and inquiries into “new stuff,” I’ve come to establish a great rapport, even a friendship, with Marc Galli, the general manager.
In a recent discussion with Marc, he mentioned that he’d been following our publication for some time, and tracked the procession of stories. “It’s time for something new,” he said. That “something new” that Marc referred to is their line of Brugger & Thomet TP-9 pistols.
DSA is the exclusive US importer and agent for Brugger & Thomet AG of Thun, Switzerland. One of the world’s most advanced firearms technology labs, B&T has established itself as a world leader in manufacturing and development of sound suppressors and mounting systems for military, law enforcement and civilian applications. In 2001, B&T acquired all patents, drawings, materials and production rights for the TMP pistol from the Austrian firm, Steyr.
The TMP was resurrected in 2004 by B&T with improvements and design changes with the MP-9. Since then, various government and police units worldwide have adopted the MP-9. B&T’s refined MP-9 pistol has truly become “something new” in the world of firearms with its innovative design. No other product delivers the features found in the MP-9. At a mere 44 ounces, it’s the smallest, lightest, most accurate and modular platform of its kind.
In late summer of 2006, DS Arms received ATF approval to import the MP-9 into the US market as a semi-automatic-only pistol with no vertical foregrip or stock. This US import model has been designated the “TP-9” pistol, short for “Tactical Pistol-9mm.” The pistol is made entirely at Brugger & Thomet’s Thun, Switzerland, facility.
Essentially, the TP-9 is a 9mm select-fire polymer-framed pistol of innovative design with integral Picatinny rails on top and bottom to allow a modular attachment of accessories, such as optics, tactical lights, and foregrips. Upper and lower receivers are made of high-impact resin polymer. The configuration of the muzzle also allows instant attachment of suppressors.
By the end of 2007, DSA will be offering an American-made B&T Rotex III quick detach suppressor for use on the TP-9. An option of a folding shoulder stock and foregrip (on NFA short-barreled rifles and select fire models) makes it a viable replacement for heavier and more expensive shoulder-fired sub-guns presently in service with the military and law enforcement. Cyclic rate of fire is 900 rounds per minute (rpm). For civilian fans of the exotic, the weapon is only available in its semi-automatic trim.
We were able to obtain a sample of both the civilian pistol and military/police modular weapon system for testing. The weapon is definitely unusual in its appearance, bearing resemblance to the Mac 10 pistol or Uzi pistols, but only vaguely. The TP-9 is more ergonomic and less cumbersome in its grip and lighter than its aforementioned predecessors.
Its operation incorporates several features that utilize familiar handling techniques. Specifically, it functions from a closed bolt and is loaded through the magazine well in the pistol grip, and chamber loaded by a charging handle at its rear, like the ubiquitous AR15/M16. The bolt holds open after the last round is fired. Magazines are removed by a magazine release in the normal location for handguns, fore of the pistol grip and aft of the triggerguard.
Controls are user-friendly and aptly located. Mag release is in the normal location for pistols, and the bolt release is on the lower receiver over the left side of the pistol grip. Note takedown latch at front of lower receiver. Note crossbolt.
The crossbolt safety/selector operates like Remington’s dominant 870 police shotgun, traversing laterally through the receiver, which is easily disengaged by the side of the trigger finger. A second version is available for the select-fire guns that functions only as a selector, but has all of the internal safeties, including the GLOCK-type trigger safety, which has a curve more congruent with the trigger itself. The pistol has two safeties, a drop and crossbolt safety.
Utilizing a 5.11-inch rotating barrel and recoil operation, there are no gas tube, piston, or rings to maintain. Ignition comes from an internal hammer, and the double columns of its magazines are fed via dual ramps.
Among the design improvements that B&T made to the gun since acquiring the project were the Picatinny top and front covers, and a model with front side rails as well. They also improved the barrel by changing to a barrel nut with a 20mm radius for smoother action, and added a barrel sleeve with a new stop of the barrel and a 3-lug adapter for suppressors.
The GLOCK-style trigger safety and shoulder-stock were also B&T additions, as well as a lighter hammer spring, which reduced the trigger pull by 2.87 pounds. B&T also optimized the feed ramps for better reliability, used translucent and stronger material on the magazines, created the holster interface on the triggerguard and designed the reciprocating QD holster for the gun.
A new bolt catch is coming in late 2007.
Field stripping is unorthodox, but easily achieved. With a verified unloaded weapon, bolt closed, the takedown latch is depressed while the guide rod, which protrudes through the back of the top cover, is pushed forward and the cover lifted. The détente plate at the front of the weapon is pressed rearward while the top cover is removed. The bolt and barrel assembly can then be compressed and lifted out of the top cover.
Since using the TP-9 as an entry weapon for tactical police and military units is the obvious application, we decided to design our testing around this function. Beginning at 15 yards, I triggered semi-automatic shots in slow and rapid-fire strings and found that I was able to keep my hits in an area roughly the size of a man’s head. Shooting for precision was hampered somewhat by the weapon’s linear trigger, which was so heavy that it was difficult to hold steady when it broke. This wasn’t nearly as much of a factor with the shoulder stock and foregrip in place. Regarding the heavy trigger, B&T’s Karl Brugger told us that “the design with the safety features didn’t allow for a lighter pull.”
Still, we were able to get groups of about 1.5 inches while firing in semi-automatic free standing from 25 feet. The square-notch rear sight and front post looked like standard pistol sights in silhouette. Windage is easily adjusted by a screw on the right side of the sight. Elevation is adjusted by turning the vertical screw at the bottom of the post from inside the top cover.
During testing we had mounted a M-21I Meprolight Scope on one gun and a Trijicon ACOG TA31 on the other, interchanging the two at times. The guns’ Picatinny rails made attaching the reflex scopes a very simple process.
Frankly, as anyone would be, I was looking forward to the next stage of testing: full auto. We began the full-auto tests with Black Hills’ 124-grain FMJ ammo, which the TP-9 predictably fed like a lawn seeder. CorBon’s 147-grain Performance Match and Winchester Ranger FMJ were next, then MagTech 124-grain FMC, which also fed with 100 percent reliably. While all of the FMJ ammo functioned without fail, the real test, of course, would be hollowpoint ammunition.
Keeping our fingers crossed, we tried Federal 135-grain Personal Defense Hydra-Shok, and Winchester 115-grain Silvertips, Hornady 147-grain TAP CQ, again without fail. After this, it was on to Remington 124-grain +P Golden Sabers, and finally, Extreme Shock’s 124-grain Nytrilium “Fang Face” HPs. With functioning going so well, I grabbed some very old FMJ ammunition, its origin I don’t even recall. Still, the gun would not falter. We simply couldn’t get this weapon to fail. Velocities tended to average around 1180 feet per second (fps).
All full-auto testing up to this point was done from 7 yards and closer. There was a tendency for the gun to rise in full-auto, and a fore-grip seemed essential to controlling this. Recoil with the shoulder stock in place seemed nominal. Keeping the rounds in a “head-sized” area was challenging while “dumping” entire magazines, but quite easy with 3 to 4-round bursts.
For me, the most impressive test was yet to come. We set up several pepper-poppers at 15 yards, and I began drilling one steel silhouette after another in rapid succession. Moving back another 5 yards, I continued the drill, quickly hammering each popper in rapid succession, never failing to get hits on each slab of steel. Not only was this very satisfying, but the value of being able to engage numerous staggered targets so quickly and effectively is obvious.
Loading the 15, and 30-round magazines was as smooth as any high-cap pistol, though the magazines don’t drop free as we’d prefer. (The release does spring the magazines out to half an inch.) The magazine well is relieved on the sides to facilitate quick removal and allow them to be pried free if they became stuck.
Working the charging handle was achieved with much ease. We found the process to be very user-friendly. The safety/selector switch was easily manipulated by the trigger finger and with the support hand on the opposite side. We also found the single point harness to be very functional and simple to use.
Testing the gun transpired over the course of two range sessions. On our second day, we shared the range with Bethany Police Department during one of their training sessions. This proved more productive than expected, since their range master and SWAT officers took an immediate interest in the gun. Range Master Sergeant Jack Jenks hefted the select-fire gun and found that he liked its weight and ergonomics, and declared it “interesting.”
Tinkering around, he figured how to field strip and reassemble it. He commented on the gun’s design as being “pretty neat.” Not surprisingly, he quickly took me up on my offer to shoot it, and since he had plenty of ammo on hand, I told him to have a go at it. Jack shot the gun quite a bit, and was so impressed with it he began asking me about price and parts availability.
I got Marc Galli on the phone, and Marc provided affordable pricing information for law enforcement agencies, and assured me that the parts were readily available through DSA. Later, SWAT Lieutenant Dave Rogers shot the TP9, and echoed Sgt. Jenks’ enthusiasm for the gun. By the end of the afternoon, Sgt. Jenks stated that he was interested in trying to purchase two guns for his SWAT team.
Meanwhile, the gun continued eating up every round of ammo fed through it.
Tactical units in need of a sub-gun should give serious consideration to the TP-9. Lighter, shorter, and less expensive than other typical guns, the TP-9 would seem an obvious top pick. In this case, inexpensive doesn’t mean cheap. The guns we tested showed very good combat accuracy, delivered bursts with surgical precision, and absolutely would not quit.
TP-9s lend themselves to quickly affixing suppressors, optics, lights, or foregrips. They’re also available with front side rails, and come in finishes of black, desert tan and OD green. DSA is also offering an NFA TP-9 short-barreled rifle for those individuals residing in states that permit NFA firearms. The TP-9 SBR features the same folding stock as the select fire version, minus the select fire capability. The TP-9 SBR is available directly from DSA.
In my mind, these guns ultimately seem a top choice for the sub-gun role.