Can you name five guns produced in the United States? That’s easy. You can probably name five guns produced in Russia, China, the U.K., and many more. Can you name five guns produced in Montenegro? Can you name any guns designed and made in Montenegro? I bet you can’t until now. The Tara TM9 is a handgun made in Montenegro and imported into the States rather recently.
It comes from Tara Aerospace, which is a rather new manufacturer of small arms in the small Balkan country of Montenegro. Now, at first glance, the TM9 appears to be a fairly standard, somewhat boring pistol. It’s an all-black, polymer frame, striker-fired pistol. Outside of being made in Montenegro, there doesn’t seem to be anything wild with the gun. That is until we dive into the history of the Tara TM9, and it’s a rather bizarre but interesting story.
The Origin of Tara Aerospace
Tara Aerospace is the largest weapon manufacturer in Montenegro and located in the town of Mojkovac. Tara Aerospace is the now privatized name of a former state-owned weapons factory. Originally known as the Fourth of November factory, it originally started operations in 1984. In either 2011 or 2014, it was purchased and privatized with a heavy stake in the company owned by a man named Heinrich Thomet.
Readers likely recognize the name as the “T” in B&T. Thomet left B&T before their current fame and is a bit of a shady character. He’s a Swiss Arms dealer who’s been accused by Amnesty International of running guns into conflict zones illegally.
The United States investigated him for shipping weapons from Serbia to Iraq and he was involved in a massive ammunition deal dramatized in the film War Dogs. His character was played by Bradley Cooper. While he maintains his innocence, there were several individuals who named him as a silent partner during the deal.
Thomet was placed on the Defense Trade Controls watch list by the United States. This list is a “do not do business with” list. He apparently found a way to get off the list. In 2017, he, the US Government, and a British firm called Chemring worked together to provide munitions to the Syrian conflict. This guy is so secretive we don’t even have a photo of him for the article.
After acquiring Tara Aerospace, they began production on the TM9. They now produce the TMX9, an upgraded version of the gun. In addition, Tara has produced an AR-15 and AR-10 type rifle as well as a 9mm AR type submachine gun.
Importing the Tara TM9
Centerfire Systems currently sells the TM9 and has a rather lengthy blog post about the gun on its website. I’ll give them full credit for being pretty up-front about the guns. Their story made me buy one out of pure morbid curiosity. I’ve spent 200 bucks in worse ways.
According to Centerfire Systems, Tara sold the first gen batch of the TM9 to an overseas importer that agreed not to import them to the states. This makes sense because, if they suck, the American firearms press will be all over them. America has a massive press machine here. Well, that dealer sold them to a US Importer who either didn’t know or didn’t care about the agreement and sold them to Gander Outdoors.
Before the Tara TM9 went up for sale, Gander got out of guns. The original importer obtained their pistols back and likely bought them at a great discount. At this point, Tara realized their pistol was imported to the United States and they weren’t stoked about it. They decided to release a statement about the pistols on their website.
The Tara-Arms Statement
TM-9 pistols (Gen-1) have been sold as an experimental pre-series development since 2018. Many of them were sold as blank-firing pistols but then brought to the market as real guns. Please check the serial number on your TM-9 pistol (Gen-1) with the list below and take note to use your product accordingly. Only rubber bullet ammunition should be used with these pistols.
This seemed to throw a wrench in the gears of the importer, who is likely trying to sell the pistols. The few models that have leaked into the hands of shooters don’t get a good reputation. Lots of vocal folks went to forums talking about reliability issues with the gun. The statement from Tara, combined with the bad reviews, stopped the guns from selling. Eventually, Centerfire became the dumping ground, and they released them at a price lower than most Hi-Points.
The Tara TM9 in Real Life
Tara really wants to chase Glock. They even stole the “Perfection” line from Glock. The first impression I got was this is a boring video game gun you get in the first mission and quickly forget about. It looks so generic! The gun came with two magazines and a rather nice soft carry case.
The gun has three-dot sights, a Picatinny rail, and not much else. It’s very 1998 in its features. One of the more interesting aspects is the trigger. Most striker-fired polymer frame pistols use a partially cocked striker. The Tara TM9 uses a full-on double-action trigger. That’s interesting but nothing crazy. What is neat is that it’s kind of a DA/SA design.
After the first shot, the trigger reset is very short, and it is essentially a single-action trigger. However, if you release the trigger completely, it reverts back to a full double action. If you ride the trigger, this gun is for you. I appreciate things that are different, but I don’t have a huge use for this type of trigger, except in dry fire. You don’t have to re-cock the gun to get good dry fire training in.
I don’t normally ride the trigger, but I figured with the TM9, I would give it a go. The first trigger pull is quite long and very heavy. It is smooth, but it’s heavier than most modern double-action revolvers. I still achieved good accuracy when I rode the trigger and with the first shot in double action. Hitting gongs at 25 yards wasn’t tough.
Releasing the trigger and working the double action over and over certainly wasn’t the fastest or most accurate way to get things done. It resulted in lots of shots fired a little off target. The Tara TM9 is certainly best used by riding the trigger.
The grip is nearly bare of texture. When your hands sweat in the heat of Florida’s September, the gun starts moving. You have to really clamp down on the grip to control it. The ergonomics remind me of Gen 3 Glocks. Everything is for right-handed shooters only. The magazine release is impossibly small and difficult to reach. The slide lock is also super small and difficult to use.
Tara installed a slight overhang at the rear of the grip. This allows for a nice high grip free of slide bite. Speaking of, when you move the slide, you can feel the slide grind and grit its way over the rails. The slide rails are covered in tool marks and certainly aren’t buttery smooth.
It’s a 9mm handgun with a 4.5-inch barrel and full-sized grip. The recoil is as you’d expect. It’s tame and easy to control.
Does the Tara TM9 Run?
That’s the magic question. We can forgive a lot of things as long as the gun runs. I fired 204 rounds with four failures. That’s not great for a modern handgun. The four were failures of the slide to go fully into battery and required my thumb to press the slide closed.
Maybe some fine sandpaper and oil can smooth it out. For now, I see why Tara didn’t want them imported into the States. It’s still an interesting curiosity for me, but I wouldn’t recommend others purchase it for anything other than a curiosity.