The B&T TP9 started life back in 1989 as the select fire Steyr TMP (tactical machine pistol). Neutered semi-auto versions were later imported to the US as the Steyr SPP (special purpose pistol). Exactly what the “special purpose” is remains a mystery to this day . . .
Steyr only produced the SPP between 1992 and 2001, at which point Swiss gun maker B&T, then known as Brugger & Thomet, purchased the rights to make the SPP. B&T improved on the design, most notably by adding a spot for a folding stock, a suppressor mount, a trigger safety and Picatinny rails across the top, fore grip area and just in front of the ejection port.
B&T’s TP9 isn’t priced for the faint of heart. They go for around $1,800. Extra 30-round magazines run a staggering $80 each. Your hard-earned $1,800 will get a poorly made plastic box, an owners manual (with “hole” spelled “whole”), a cheap sling, the requisite lock, one magazine . . . and a Swiss-made plastic gun in either black, green,or tactical peanut butter.
I bought the tactical peanut butter version because I got an incredible deal. My LGS had a customer abandoned his order and let the gun store sell it on consignment. If I told you what I got it for you wouldn’t believe me.
Reading the owner’s manual resulted in a minor existential crisis. That’s just not something I regularly do. However the TP9’s disassembly process is, well, unique.
After clearing the weapon, you press down on the GLOCK-style forward takedown latch, which releases the bolt’s spring tension. Then you press in another two tabs, one above the barrel and one below the charging handle. Using your third hand, you separate the slide and receiver. At this point the barrel and bolt can be pushed reward and lifted out of the slide.
The internals of the TP9 are unique, too. The trigger mechanism resembles a crab’s pincher.
The barrel has four locking lugs that run almost the entire length of the barrel.
The backup charging handle hole on the bolt is a thoughtful feature. In the event that the bolt gets stuck — requiring more leverage to manipulate than the small rear-pull polymer charging handle can produce — simply insert a 9mm round into the hole and use it as a makeshift charging handle. Ba-bam.
Some people are put off by the TP9’s charging handle. I’ve owned this gun for a few months; I’ve cycled the bolt hundreds of times. I haven’t noticed any wear and have grown to like the charging handle’s flexibility. Just be aware that when the bolt’s retracted, you can twist it dramatically, Gumby-like, without the risk of bending it.
The TP9’s rear peep sight is windage adjustable while the front post sight is fixed. Although this gun is clearly meant for a red dot (B&T shows the TP0 with an Aimpoint T1 micro mounted as on its website), the simple low profile sights allowed for acceptable accuracy.
The trigger pull is heavy and long, but smooth. The tactile reset is also long, which slows follow-up shots. The conveniently located non-ambidextrous safety is of the push button variety. It’s easy to disengage while moving your finger from the straight ready position to the trigger. I rarely use the manual safety; the TP9 has a trigger blade safety a la GLOCK.
The grip has adequate serrations on all sides. The large palm swell fits me perfectly, but small-handed shooter beware: you may not find it as accommodating. The shape of the palm swell naturally keeps the shooter’s hand high on the grip.
On the down side, only one of the three polymer magazines I have for the gun drops free. I normally use my left had to pull empty mags out anyway, but for $1800 I expect my $80 mags to read my mind and know when I want them to jump out of the gun.
All of the 30-round mags easily accommodate a full complement of 9mm round. Caveat loader: the feed lips are unusually sharp. If you stuff the magazine as you would a traditional pistol mag, you’ll cut your finger. Fortunately the mags can be loaded by pressing the rounds straight down into the mags like an AR magazine.
Recoil is minimal — especially for such a lightweight gun. The TP9’s rotating barrel long lock time helps with recoil reduction. As does the fact that the gun’s a bit front heavy, due to the unique barrel locking assembly and suppressor attachment device.
The 25mm tri-lug suppressor mount is unique to the TP9, requiring a proprietary suppressor. The mount isn’t directly attached to the barrel; it locks onto the barrel via a cam pin. It’s all well made and doesn’t require the use of a booster. But the cost of buying a suppressor that you can only use with one firearm is a definite turn-off. Still, I plan on buying one. That long lock time should translate to an extremely quiet firearm when suppressed.
The B&T TP9 just begs to be turned into an SBR. A slot to add a right side-folding stock is built into the rear of the lower receiver. The TP9 would be unusually small for an SBR. With the stock folded the whole package would measure just under 12 inches.
Accuracy testing was done at 15 yards off of bags with a 12x Nikon p308 scope. (Mounting such a large scope on such a small gun definitely attracted some attention at the range.) We tested the TP9 with IMI 115gr, Magtech, Caparms target Match, Sellier & Bellot and Precision Delta ammo.
IMI did pretty well.
Sellier & Belliot was acceptable, too.
With the right ammo the TP9 is impressively accurate. Using Precision Delta we got this five-round group. As will all guns, find the food it likes and stick with it.The other good news: the B&T TP9 was 100 percent reliable. Which, for $1800, is something a buyer has a right to respect.
So is the TP9 worth the money? Only if you love small, quirky, high-quality, pistol-caliber guns that like to run and run. A small market to be sure, but one that’s sure to be satisfied with the TP9.
Specifications: B&T TP9 Pistol
Overall length: 11.9 inches
Width: 1.96 inches
Height: 9.2 inches (with 30-round magazine)
Barrel length: 5.1 inches
Weight: 3.4 lbs.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style * * * * *
Clunky, but cool.
Customization * * *
B&T makes a brass catcher and a discreet shooting bag that allows you to fire the pistol in the bag suppressed. 15, 20, 25 and 30 round mags are available. Plenty of rail space to mount whatever you want. And adding that rear stock is easy…once you’re legal You’re stuck with the stock trigger, and I suspect that won’t change. One full star off for that proprietary suppressor mount.
Reliability * * * * *
It’s been dead nuts perfect through well over 500 rounds of everything from steel-cased Russian ammo to high-end match grade rounds.
Accuracy * * *
About two-inch groups at personal defense distance with most 9mm ammo. Mine really likes Precision Delta.
Overall * * * *
The TP9’s extremely expensive — and extremely well made. Add a stock and suppressor and it makes an outstanding personal defense weapon.