Gun people are some of the most generous hobbyists you’ll ever meet. They’ll put their favorite rifle or pistol in your hands, loaded with a magazine full of their own ammunition, step back and watch the lead fly. I make a point of returning the favor and paying it forward when I can. For my part I’ve introduced beginning shooters to the joys of the AK-74, the Mosin-Nagant, and whatever gun I happen to be testing for TTAG. Yesterday, thanks to this firearms fraternity, I shot my first machine pistol . . .
The 9mm Steyr TMP (Taktische Maschinenpistole) is a blowback-operated machine pistol with a locked breech and a rotating barrel. It is purely a machine pistol, with no provision for attaching a shoulder stock. The civilian-legal SPP version is expensive and was only imported in small numbers; those who know about it encountered the gun via the Counterstrike and/or Call Of Duty videogame franchises.
A fellow shooter unpacked his SPP at the shooting quarry this morning and gave Wayne and myself a few magazines of 9mm to play with. Wayne asked me to strike a pose with the empty Steyr, and being a natural ham for the camera I was happy to comply, unfortunately without either hearing protection or good trigger discipline. (I may not have been demonstrating quite perfect range practice, but the gun was empty and pointed downrange at some targets I was itching to destroy, with an excellent backstop behind them.)
Once I was done mugging for the camera I donned my ear protection, loaded myself a magazine, and mercilessly shredded an empty cooking-oil jug. Destroying targets with the civilian SPP variant of the 9mm Steyr TMP was like driving a 1969 Jaguar E-type and realizing that it really doesn’t handle well compared to a modern car.
The Steyr’s trigger pull was extremely long (perhaps 3/4 of an inch) and somewhere between 17 and 20 pounds in weight. Each round fired was a test of will and strength between the trigger and the musculature of my finger, which I eventually won. The TMP’s sights are small, fixed and hard to use, although I did wring acceptable practical accuracy out of the gun with them.
Most surprising (and disappointing): the Steyr’s vigorous recoil. I’m not sure how a 42-ounce two-handed 9mm pistol produces vigorous recoil; it probably comes from the fact that the entire barrel recoils rearward about 4mm during the firing cycle before it rotates and unlocks the breech.
Whatever the reason, the SPP faintly bruised my left index finger where the front handguard’s safety tang kept slapping it. The full-auto TMP’s vertical foregrip would prevent this problem, but the civilian-legal SPP must avoid the vertical foregrip to avoid being classified as an ‘Any Other Weapon’ under the NFA.
The result is an unwieldy two-handed pistol with a big 30-round magazine and all the devastating penetration, range and stopping power of the 9mm Parabellum. The TMP shot much more comfortably when I fired it two-handed like any normal automatic pistol, instead of trying to go all Tier 1 with it pressed forward against its sling tension. With this technique, it shot as well as any pistol could shoot with a 17 to 20-pound trigger pull.
Twenty or 30 rounds downrange proved that there are plenty of good reasons why the Steyr TMP/SPP never really took off in the American market. I’m still extremely grateful to our new friend at the shooting quarry for letting me give this fascinating bit of firearms esoterica a whirl.