The Auto-Ordnance TA-5 Pistol. The classic Tommy Gun takes on a whole new life in a pistol configuration with a 50 round drum. Find it on the Auto-Ordnance website at: http://www.auto-ordnance.com/PA-1TH_ta.html.
Don’t believe what you read on the internet about the 50 round drum. They are easy to load and use, but not so easy to get out of the gun due to the lack of a last round hold open feature. Click on the picture to get a bigger version. Note that this drum was loaded with 3 rounds in the last slot. Never load less than 5 per slot because as the drum turns, less than 5 flop down in the channel and can jam the drum.
A very effective ladder rear peep sight makes the TA-5 accurate out to 100 yards and beyond, without the need for fancy optics and clip on accessories.
I found the drum to be unwieldy for a tactical situation, much like this ban era AK-47 pistol that had a 75 round drum soldered onto it. If we could all hip shoot accurately it might be effective, but ammo is still too expensive to practice that much.
But awesome firepower is awesome firepower no matter how you shake it.
With a WWII era 20 round stick mag this gun is extremely wieldy and feels like it was made for urban combat.
My biggest issue with the drum was its lack of a last round hold open. This is actually impossible with the drum becuase the hold open is inside the magazine well. The stick mags have this follower that engages the bolt hold open for the last round with perfect reliability.
I can pretty much promise you that you will not see another review of the Auto Ordnance “Thompson” TA-5 Pistol that suggests you buy one to use as your main tactical carbine, but that is the way I see this gun. If you want an effective close quarters combat carbine in a pistol caliber that hits harder than 9mm, I have not encountered a cleaner and more effective candidate than this in the sub-$2,000 category. At an MSRP of $1,377 and street price substantially less, the TA-5 is a lean, mean fighting machine that eats everything you put through it and shoots into a ragged hole at 25 yards. What else do you need?
Since Kahr took over the Auto Ordnance name in 1999 they have been making extremely high quality versions of the traditional “Tommy Gun,” or Thompson Sub-machine gun. The standard model 1927 is reminiscent of the classic Al Capone era Thompson, and the M1 version is almost a perfect match to the carbines issued to our troops during World War II.
The TA-5 Pistol is a hybrid between those two guns. The 1927 has a top mounted cocking handle, which was originally designed to accommodate the classic Thompson drum magazines in both 50 and 100 round sizes. It also has a front fore-grip. The M1 does not have the front grip but instead has the military straight front stock. It also has a side cocking system, which is historically correct, but limits it to using only the stick mags made for Thompsons. There is no historical Thompson that was ever made in the TA-5 Pistol configuration. That gives it the luxury of escaping its historical trappings, so it can be judged on its own merits as a modern tactical weapon.
If you are going to buy this gun, I feel it should be either because you want a really cool fun gun, or you want it as your urban combat tactical carbine in a pistol length barrel. The .45ACP is an effective and accurate round out to 100 yards and beyond, and if .45ACP is your caliber of choice, you don’t have a lot of options out there for tactical carbines with high capacity. That leaves us with two questions for any viable candidate.
- Is the gun reliable? – In our tests we used Olin (Winchester) 230gr. Hardball and some 230gr. Lead reloads from my personal stash. We had zero misfires.
- Is the gun accurate? – We fired several drums and several 20 round stick mags on the bench in casual shooting at 25 yards. After ten rounds there was a ragged hole less than 2” wide, with no flyers, and all subsequent rounds passed through that same hole.
You probably have already asked the question, “why on earth didn’t they put the front grip on the pistol version?” The answer may surprise you. It is because it is not legal. A pistol cannot legally have a foregrip under the current firearms laws. Kahr does market a version of this same gun as an “SBR,” or Short Barreled Rifle, and that gun has a removable shoulder stock and the 1927 style foregrip. As with all SBRs, to buy one you must live in a state that allows them, and you must pay the ATF a $200 tax and fill out an application form for the gun before will be allowed to buy it. Then it takes upwards of 3-4 months before you get the gun. This pistol is a lot easier to own, and much cheaper. The SBR has an MSRP of $2,554.00, plus the $200 tax. You may also ask if the shoulder stock from the 1927 model fits the pistol. This would also be an illegal modification in a gun with a barrel under 16” unless it is built and registered as an SBR.
On it’s own merits I found that this pistol was very effective, well balanced, and resembled a light carbine sized copy of a submachinegun, kind of like an MP-5. The receiver is made of 6061-T6 aluminum, not steel, so it is much lighter, and, especially with the stick mags, the gun handles extremely well. I don’t know why, but Kahr is only shipping these pistols with a 50 round drum right now. The drum is great, an incredibly devastating amount of firepower, but as a handy and quick urban combat gun I think it is too heavy and unwieldly. I have several WWII style Thompson 20 round stick mags and I much preferred the balance and feel of this pistol with the old sticks instead of the drum. There is also no last round hold open with the drum, so you better get done what you need to with the 50 rounds you have. Getting that drum off is a two handed and ideally two person job. You have to hold back the very heavy bolt spring while simultaneously hitting the mag catch and pushing on the side of the drum. It is difficult for one person to do all of those things without the drum crashing onto the floor. The bolt hold open lever on all of these Thompsons is in the magazine well. Stick mags have a follower that climbs the side of the magazine as it is unloaded, and when it reaches the top, it holds the bolt open for a mag change. It is a really quick mag change with the sticks, and besides the millions of surplus 20 rounders on the market, Kahr makes a 30 round stick as well.
Functionally the TA-5 was flawless. Don’t believe what you read about these drum magazines being “thumb busters.” They aren’t that at all. You just have to read the directions on how to load them. It is possible that the original Thompson drum magazines were dangerous to load, but Kahr has perfected both the internals of the gun and the drum magazines so that they work as you would expect. The 50 round magazine does take some getting used to for sure. If you look at my pictures, you will see the slots in the internal drum mechanism. You have to make sure they are full, with 5 rounds in the space, or the rounds topple over and jam the drum. Once we figured that out we had no issues at all. You determine the number of cranks that will be enough to make the last rounds feed and you don’t have to crank it any more than that. Once you get it down, the gun will fire as quickly as you can pull the trigger and, from what we saw, with 100% reliability. Thankfully, .45ACP prices are finally coming down so guns like this are becoming more affordable to shoot again.
Not a lot of people are going to tell you to go out and buy a wooden stocked gun with no rails as your main urban combat carbine. But if you aren’t the type to load up rails with gadgets and gimmicks and you just want and handy, accurate and reliable workaday gun, I think the Auto Ordnance TA-5 Pistol is a good choice.
For more information visit the Auto-Ordnance website at: http://www.auto-ordnance.com/PA-1TH_ta.html.