What gets most of the media attention on the TM-9X is the trigger, which is a little different than most. This is a striker fired system that also allows for restrikes like a traditional DA/SA firearm. TARA bills it as the “DARE System.” standing for Double Action Rapid Engagement. Think of it less as DA/SA and more of a double action trigger with a short reset.
The TARA website bills the TM-9X’s DARE trigger as breaking at 7.7lbs. Using a Lyman digital trigger scale, I found that to be correct, on average. There was, however, a 4 oz wide extreme spread among the five pulls to make up that average.
The first trigger pull is going to travel a fairly long and squishy 18mm, then you’ll run into a hard wall that breaks at 7.7 lbs. After the slide travels back and resets forward, the trigger will then have short travel of only 3mm before you’ll feel a very hard and obvious reset. Pull back another 7.7 lbs and it breaks again. Let the trigger go all the way forward and pull it back 18mm, and it will break again at 7.7 lbs. Have a misfire? Just pull the trigger back again, and it will break at 7.7 lbs, after 18mm of travel.
The break is always going to feel the same and be the same weight no matter what. The only difference in feel is the amount of travel you experience prior to that break. Given the weight of the trigger, regardless of whether it’s the first or any consecutive round fired, and given that it’s a relatively lightweight pistol without much weight up front, it takes some disciplined practice to learn to move the trigger fully through its cycle while keeping the sights on target.
That said, this is a full-sized/duty-sized gun, with plenty of real estate to get a solid grip. An undercut trigger guard and a full beavertail ensures the shooter gets a high grip on a gun with a low bore axis. That’s a combination for great control and low perceived recoil.
Textures abound. The TM-9X sports deep angled cuts on both sides of the front and back of the slide, so finding a grip on it with or without gloves is no issue. The frame also features scale-like texturing just forward of the squared trigger guard for the placement of the support hand thumb, or the trigger finger when not firing.
The arched grip includes a variety of textures on all sides. The backstraps are interchangeable, allowing for a shorter or longer grip to accommodate hand and finger size. The beavertail portion of the grip is integral to the backstrap itself. Most shooters will want to spend the time it takes to find which backstrap works the best for them. Whereas finger placement is always important, a too short or too long “length of pull” on this particular trigger will result in fatigue and unnecessary muzzle movement that’s going to be challenging to correct.
The ambidextrous magazine release is textured and angled well, so the firing hand easily finds it to drop the magazine. Anyone used to firing polymer framed modern pistols should reach it instinctively. There’s plenty of pressure ejecting the magazine as well, and I never had any need to pull an empty magazine free. However, if a magazine was stuck for some reason, and just banging the gun hard on your knee didn’t drop it, the front of the grip has the familiar half-moon cut out at the bottom for gripping the magazine baseplate, just in case.
The sights are your standard three white dots. The front and rear are both steel sights and they are both drift adjustable. They work just fine, and pop up in the line of sight just like they should. I was surprised that the rear sight was angled back on the front edge instead of forward. TARA missed an opportunity there, as that one simple change would have allowed the slide to be manipulated by racking it off the rear sight.
The external extractor also serves as a loaded chamber indicator, and sticks out just enough to see, or more importantly feel, if there is a round in the chamber.
I was pleasantly surprised that a firearm at this price point comes with three quality 17-round metal magazines. Each one is capacity marked at rear witness holes, and includes a plastic base plate.
Take a look at the frame compared to a GLOCK 19. Note that on the TM-9X, only a small portion of the forward rail is integral to the polymer frame, and there is no metal sitting on top of these portions. The rest of the rail, just behind those portions, are all metal, and look closer to what we see on chassis style guns like Sig’s P320.
The TM-9X feels pretty good in the hand, and pretty good to shoot as well. The full beavertail grip, the overall size of the platform, and the low bore axis make this a 9mm that is very easy on the hand. Expect very minimal recoil and fast follow up shots.
Precision wasn’t noteworthy, either for good or ill. The inexpensive Armscor 147gr FMJ cartridge actually shot the best, averaging 2 1/4″ groups at 25 yards. The best defensive load was the Winchester PDX1 Defender 124gr +P cartridge. The worst shooting round, and this rarely happens, was IMI’s 115gr Die Cut JHP bullet, averaging 3″ groups. All accuracy testing was performed untimed, seated off bags and each result is the average of 5 rounds over four shot strings.
At the bottom of the grip, you’ll find a lanyard bar and/or a place to insert an armorer’s tool. An obligatory Pic rail sits at the front of the frame, and in case you were wondering, Safariland GLOCK 17 holsters fit it just fine.
When Jeremy handed me this gun, he asked that I take a look at some of the comments posted under his short video review of the firearm (video embedded above, though the comments are on the TTAG post). Many readers were concerned about the safety of the gun, due primarily to what appeared to be valid issues raised by a gunsmith on YouTube going by the handle of Mike Papa Kilo.
In his video, he shows what is essentially the firing pin sticking out after the striker drives forward. Even more concerning, he shows what appears to be the firing pin block failing as he is able to get the firing pin to drive forward enough to strike the primer of a round, simply by pulling back and releasing the striker itself.
I was able to duplicate one of the issues demonstrated by Mike Papa Kilo. With the firearm field stripped, I was able to pull back on the rear of the striker, release it, and watch the firing pin poke right on out, where it stayed in place. The result was intermittent, but most of the time, the firing pin block did not block the firing pin from coming forward, and then the firing pin block actually kept the firing pin forward.
In the photo above, I’m not holding the striker forward. It’s stuck like that after I’ve pulled the striker back and released it. The firing pin block is holding it in place. That’s not what a firing pin block is supposed to do. I pulled several of my own striker fired pistols to see if I could duplicate the result with any of them. I could not.
The DARE trigger means the striker is at rest unless you are pulling the trigger. This is a very important fact to keep in mind. Unlike many other striker fired pistols, it is not cocked at any point until you pull the trigger. Remember, no matter if it’s the first, second, or 17th round fired, the trigger weight is exactly the same, since it’s cocking the striker every single time and it will fully cock and release the striker even if the slide doesn’t reciprocate (it’s a true double action).
The possible danger of the firing pin so protruding, and more specifically that it is held forward, is twofold. First, it may not be drop safe. Given how hard it is to pull the striker back, and the weight of the trigger pull, I find this extremely unlikely, but theoretically possible, much like a Series 70 1911 although in the TM-9X’s case, the sear also prevents the striker’s forward movement.
The bigger potential issue is that since the pin is stuck forward, it may strike the primer with enough force to set off a round, creating a chain reaction resulting in a full-auto pistol that empties the magazine. Even if it doesn’t run away on you, even a single slam fire is no small concern.
Don’t threaten me with a good time. But no, sadly, no chain fires (or slam fires) happened during my testing.
Over the course of a month and three trips to the Range at Austin, I put just over 600 rounds through this TM-9X. The first 500 were all Armscor’s 147gr FMJ. The next 100 were five different defensive loads and an assortment of random rounds leftover from past shooting sessions.
These loosies were simply loaded mix-matched together in magazines and shot purely to test the pistol’s reliability. I shot single-handed, both right and left, and with a traditional two-handed grip. I limp-wristed, and even fired it upside down a couple of times. I lubed the gun with CLP prior to shooting it and never cleaned it again until the review was done.
I had no malfunctions of any kind, with any round, in any shooting position, at any time. No round failed to fire or eject. At no point did any round fail to feed. Zero thrilling chain fires. No magazine ever failed to load, lock in place, or drop free. The TM-9X’s reliability was nothing short of perfection.
To further test if the gun is drop safe…I dropped the gun. Simply enough, I pulled the projectile and powder from a commercial case, loaded it into the breech, and dropped the gun. First, I dropped it a few times on a concrete landing until I realized the slide was taking chunks out of my concrete landing. At that point, I kicked it up a notch.
Standing on my porch railing, I dropped the gun on a big rock. The total distance was 11 feet. For the first 20 drops, I made sure the gun landed on the back of the slide. After that, I did another 20 drops in a wide variety of positions. Finally, I put on a welder’s gauntlet and hammered the back of the slide into the rock a whole bunch of times.
The primer was never struck and the round never fired. The really surprising thing is that, after all of the abuse, I pulled the trigger and was rewarded with the primer being hit, and the gun going bang. That is very impressive.
The same semi-scientific test the Sig P320 failed years ago, the TM-9X passed, and then it passed a whole lot more. Not only did the original P320 fail the drop test, but it was quickly disabled after a few drops of only 5-1/2 feet. This TARA TM-9X never fired when dropped, and was still running after intentional abuse.
I expected to return a completely broken gun. I did not. I was insanely, unrealistically hard on the gun, but at no point did the primer ever ignite until I pulled the trigger.
So why didn’t anything go wrong, when I could duplicate the issue so many times with the slide off? Well, first of all, the slide was off. Although the firing pin would protrude when the slide off, any jostling would cause the spring to pull it back in.
In essence, any rearward movement of the slide itself was enough to keep the firing pin block from holding the pin stuck forward. Next, in the real world, if a cartridge is there, the firing pin has the primer to bounce back against.
I thought perhaps the firing pin was striking the primer, just not with enough force to set it off. However, loading another primer-only case into the breech and racking it and reloading it over and over again proved no marks on the primer whatsoever (photo above).
There may be other reasons that behavior with the slide installed on the frame isn’t the same as the behavior with the slide off the frame. For instance, how the trigger interacts with the firing pin block and the important fact that the sear itself provides a forward travel stop for the striker.
While that early SIG P320’s striker would slip over the sear, rendering the trigger dead after reasonable drops as I mentioned earlier, even after an insane amount of abuse the TM-9X’s trigger was still functional. This means the striker never passed the sear.
Regardless, the end result is that what looks bad on the bench wasn’t duplicated on the range…and I tried really dang hard.
With the ongoing scarcity and subsequent costs of handguns in the United States, I’m welcoming anyone who can introduce new products to the market. TARA Aerospace has done just that, providing an affordable duty-sized pistol with most of the features you’d expect.
The TM-9X’s true double action trigger system with its trick short reset makes it a stand out in the striker fired pistol market. To be truly competitive in 2021, though, TARA should offer a threaded barrel, an optics cut, and most importantly, a firing pin block that works as it should.
SPECIFICATIONS: TARA Aerospace TM-9X
NATO Stock Number: 1005-77-000-0001
Caliber: 9X19mm NATO
Weight: 800 grams
Barrel Length: 113mm
Rifling: 6 groove right hand
Magazine Capacity: 17
Magazines included: 3
Sight Radius: 165mm
Trigger System: DARE
Case: Lockable Soft Case
Backstraps: 3 interchangeable
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * *
Industrial and fairly utilitarian. The TM-9X is clearly a duty gun, and there’s not much style to it.
Customization * *
Multiple backstraps and you can swap the sights out fairly easily with the standard dovetail.
Reliability * * * * *
The TM-9X ran perfectly with a wide variety of loads, including after what I expected to be destructive testing.
Accuracy * * *
Solid 2½” groups out to 25 yards, or thereabout, with a variety of loads.
Overall * * * and also zero
The TARA TM-9X is clearly reliable and reasonably accurate. None of its features other than the DARE trigger system really stand out, but like many polymer framed striker fired pistols, that’s kind of the point. It’s a good, fast shooting duty pistol at a reasonable price. But the firing pin block that doesn’t seem to block concerns me a bit too much. No, there didn’t seem to be any issue in the real world. I tested it fully, and have come away not only sure it won’t fire until you want it to, but also seriously impressed with the pistol’s durability. That said, the firing pin block is a basic safety device that isn’t performing its function as it should, and the manufacturer should seek to immediately remedy this flaw. If you’re going to have a firing pin block, it should, you know, block the firing pin whether it’s a redundant safety or not.