TP-70 .22 LR

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Call it 1.5" at 15 yards. Roy says his 80-yard steel torso gong isn’t safe either!

The DA/SA trigger pull is very smooth and the gun seems to like standard velocity ammo the best.

I was poking around in the safe the other day and this appealing but still serious TP-70 begged to see the light so I thought I’d share it with you. This charming tyke has caused me no end of enjoyment for close to 45 years. I originally bought it in the later 1970s as a back-up gun for duty carry. It’s in .22 LR — this had also been made in .25 ACP — and fits the bill perfectly as a sort of mini-me to a full-sized holster gun. I think that’s what made them so popular when they were first introduced. The “Buds” as they were fondly called, had all the features and benefits of something like a bigger S&W auto of the time, but were shrunk for shirt pocket convenience. Think of it as a blend of a tiny Colt pocket .25 auto and the DA workings of a Walther, give or take a bit.

Edgar Budischowsky, a Czech-born firearm designer, became modestly famous for a couple of high quality designs, none of which really caught on in the U.S. However, in 1973, an American company called Norarmco (Norton Armament Corp.) of Mt. Clemens, Mich. manufactured Edgar’s little TP-70 (originally made in Europe) and sold them through 1977. Norarmco called it the Budischowsky TP-70 and made it of cast and machined stainless steel parts. Overall quality was quite good and both the .22 LR and .25 ACP versions sold decently if not in huge numbers.

In 1977 Norton must have changed hands or re-organized and quality suffered as I saw many references to soft slides and issues with reliability with their guns. The guns made in Michigan were of good quality, but guns made in Florida and Utah later were not up to par. I’m not sure how many were made by each company but from what I could glean, about 5,000 total were made. The serial number on mine is in the 300s and is marked as a Norarmco gun, made in Michigan. Quality seems very good and the gun runs fine. There are, however, sometimes issues with the .22 versions needing extractor work and hammer spring upgrades when they start to misfire or fail to extract. Good luck finding any parts though.

The TP-70 istiny butfools the eye into thinking it’s a big gun.
Roy’s has the original box and paperwork.

The TP-70 is a tiny bit smaller than a Keltec P-32. Note the take-down lever.

Some Thoughts

At about 12 oz., 3.5″ tall, 4.65″ overall, 2.6″ barrel (1.5″ of that is rifled barrel) and a 6-shot magazine, the Bud is pocket-friendly and very definitely fun to shoot. Amazingly, it is a DA/SA design, complete with a slide-mounted safety doing double-duty as a hammer drop. The slide release functions like a real one and take down is with a classic rotating lever on the starboard side. There’s a recoil spring guide rod and the mag catch is at the bottom of the magazine, like a 1903 Colt auto. The grips are some sort of hard plastic but nicely made, and details like the slide serrations, sight-track on the slide top and nicely curved grip frame all serve to give it big-gun looks and feel. I’m reminded of the old Austin Seven auto; a perfect “full-sized” car — only very tiny.

The sights are particularly smartly designed and give it a “real” sight picture, unlike the grooves or non-existent sights on many pocket guns. The DA trigger pull is another surprise and is longish but smooth. Single action is another delightful revelation, delivering a light and predictable let-off. Accuracy is, not surprisingly — very good. An excellent trigger, good sights, clean, sharp rifling and good .22 ammo mean this gun shoots 2″ groups quite handily at 15 yards. And yes, my 80-yard torso gong sometimes rewards me with an unobtrusive “tink” if I take my time single action. How fun is that?

Prices on a TP-70 seem to be in the $500 to $800 range. If you go shopping, I’d hold out for the original maker, Norarmco, as their quality really is better. As an aside, Iver Johnson made the TP22 which is “sorta” like this but clunkier and cheaply made, although they run fine. The Walther TPH .22 also mirrors the Bud in build quality and some features (I’ve owned them too), but just doesn’t have the same charm as the little Bud does, at least to me.

Still, all are good excuses to go shopping, if you ask me. Not everything needs to be biggie-sized, you know.

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