This compact family of pistols and personal defense weapons with a name that rhymes with nausea are one of the least known combat arms in the world– but that shouldn’t stop you from really digging on them.
Why the B+T?
When the first submachine gun designs popped up around the middle of the First World War, they were an interesting compromise between the large full power bolt-action rifles of the day, and smaller handheld pistols and revolvers. The concept, which gave a soldier better firepower than either (at short ranges) while being more compact than the former, proved popular in combat.
From the early Thompson M1921 of the Prohibition-era and its contemporaries the MP18 and Lanchester, to the cheaply made stamped metal M3 Grease Guns and STENs of WWII, and on to the improved Heckler and Koch MP5, British Sterlings and UZIs of the 1960s, the class evolved until, by the 1990s, they had largely worked themselves out of a job, being replaced by modern 5.56/5.45mm compact rifles with collapsible stocks and even smaller machine-pistols such as the Micro Uzi and Beretta 93R.
However, the Austrian Steyr group hit upon a concept subgun that, just slightly larger than the holsterable machine-pistol, yet much smaller than a Colt AR-pattern SMG or MP5A5. This gun was the TMP
Designed by Styr’s chief engineer, Friedrich Aigner (the man who also later went on to hold several patents including those on the Steyr M and L series pistols), in 1989 the company perfected their Taktische Maschinenpistole (Tactical Machine Pistol), or TMP.
Using a rotating bolt, the gun’s simple blowback action was reliable while its polymer frame kept the weight down.
This gun was hefty for a pistol, at 46-ounces, or about a half pound more than a Colt M1911, and it was a little long, at 11-inches overall, or about three inches longer than the longslide Colt with the same length barrel– but the TMP could fire 9mm rounds (which it could pack in up to 30-round detachable box mags) at up to 900-rounds-per-minute.
Odds are, it took you two seconds to get that out– in that time the TMP could zip out 30 rounds and run dry. And a Colt 1911 can’t do that.
A TMP in action
The Austrian Federal Police’s Einsatzkommando Cobra, their specialized anti-terror team, as well as neighboring Italy’s Gruppo di Intervento Speciale (GIS) which performs a similar task for the military police there soon adopted it.
The SPP, note the flush 15 and extended 30-rounders
An even smaller version, without a buttstock and capable of being holstered like a standard pistol, the SPP, was designed. This gun shaved an inch and a few ounces off the standard subgun, but could still hold its full cyclic rate. Above it is shown with its flush-fit 15 rounder and extended 30s.
Nevertheless, by 2001, Steyr had gone soft on the idea of the TMP due to the country’s import/export laws on certain munitions. You see at that time a controversy erupted over the export of SSG 69 sniper manufactured by the Steyr Company and Hirtenberger ammunition of Austrian production to the embattled Croatian Army during the 1990s while the Balkan country was under embargo. With that, the company washed its hands of the TMP.
However, don’t worry, someone else eagerly picked it up.
Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk