As one of a VERY few unofficial historians concerned with the history of Intratec in general as well as the TEC-9, I often see inquiries as to the flawed company's history, but rarely see correct answers given as to what actually happened with Intratec and why they did x, y, or z. I suppose, with nothing better to do on my hands, I thought it would be nice to give you guys an unofficial history of Intratec as best I know it.
Intratec came into being in 1984, and it basically bought up the remnants of a 50% Swedish-owned company called Interdynamic USA. Interdynamic USA was technically an American company and its KG-9 and KG-99 semiautomatic pistols are very much American-made guns with American-made parts, but 50% of the company was owned by Interdynamic AB of Sweden. Basically, Interdyanmic USA was formed by two guys: Swedish firearms designer George Kelgren (who later ran Grendel, Inc. and now runs Kel-Tec, which of course makes some nice guns) and a Cuban-American firearms designer named Carlos Garcia. Their first pistol, the KG-9 ("Kelgren and Garcia, 9mm"), fired from an open bolt and was banned from manufacture within one year of design, in 1982. Only 2,500 were made. Kelgren went back to the drawing board and designed the KG-99, a closed-bolt-firing semiauto pistol. In addition to changing the bolt assembly and safety (if you can call the little push-in charging handle a safety...the KG-9 didn't have one at all!), he added a threaded barrel. He also designed three other variants: the KG-99 Mini, which featured a shorter, threaded barrel, no barrel shroud, and a screw-on muzzle extension, the KG-99 Sport (identical to the Mini, but did NOT have a threaded barrel...if you ever find one of these, buy it, because you'll never see another one...Intratec later revisited the design with the AB-10 after the Assault Weapons Ban, but I'm getting ahead of myself), and the KG-99S/S, a stainless steel version of the KG-99. It's believed that less than 100 KG-99S/S's were produced and they represent the most desirable closed-bolt KG-99-family gun ever produced (including guns made by Intratec).
As I said, though, Intratec came into being in 1984. George Kelgren needed capital to found Grendel, and he figured that by selling all of Interdynamic USA to Carlos Garcia (while also convincing the Swedish parent company to pull out), he could really get the money he needed. So he did. Carlos Garcia renamed the company Intratec, hoping to capitalize on the company's use of space-age high impact ABS plastic for a "modern" sounding name. He also renamed the KG-99 the TEC-9, again because of the high impact plastic frame. The KG-99 Mini became the TEC-9M ("TEC-9 Mini") and the KG-99 Sport was dropped altogether. Brand new were the TEC-9S/S (the stainless steel model) and the TEC-9M S/S (the Mini in stainless steel...although I dare anyone to find one of these from the first year of production in late 1984).
Garcia made only one initial design change to the gun: he changed the complex front sight to a simpler, just-as-sturdy milled steel "button." The rear sight remained unchanged. It's this kind of front sight that is, in my opinion, the best sight you can get. Within a few months, however, Garcia wanted to take action against people violating the manual and shooting +P+ submachine gun ammo that had been cracking the receivers. His solution was to replace the simple recoil buffer with a screw-on metal "end cap," making the gun more durable. If you see a gun that lacks this metal cap AND isn't threaded for it to begin with, it's still safe to shoot; just run 115 gr. NATO ball ammo through it. And on the bright side, the guns not threaded for the end cap are worth a bit more than those threaded for it.
One of Kelgren's hallmarks left with him, however: Kelgren liked marketing his guns to law enforcement as well as families, believing it to be the right thing to do and that that's how shooters were best represented (we see Kel-Tec ads like this all the time). Some of the KG-99 ads, if you can find them, show off-duty cops plinking with KG-99's while another shows a father demonstrating the gun's function to his son in a safe manner. Garcia was convinced that the right way to go about it was to market the newly-renamed TEC-9 to 21-26 year old males. This is where we start getting reports of questionable marketing from Intratec. However, contrary to most reports, the TEC-9's made from 1985-1987 are just fine in terms of quality. They don't jam to heck like the ones made later so long as you use factory magazines, the proper ammo, and maybe (not always) polishing the feed ramp with terrycloth.
In mid 1987, Intratec USA went bankrupt after defending itself in a lawsuit put out by the anti-gun crowd. Intratec technically won the lawsuit, but it was a hollow victory since Intratec had to liquidate its assets. Garcia found himself on uncertain ground. He formed the Navegar Corporation to absorb Intratec and provide assets of its own (I've heard rumors that Navegar was set up to make backpacks, canvas bags, and outdoor clothing, but I can't back this up). Needing to churn out a quick profit, Garcia introduced a .22 caliber pistol of (I think...it may have been Garcia's design) George Kelgren's design called the TEC-22 "Scorpion." Contrary to popular belief, the TEC-22 is not a .22 LR TEC-9. It is its own seperate design. But he still was running out of money. And this is where the TEC-9 got its reputation as a piece of junk.
Garcia made the fateful decision to cut back on quality control, thus lowering the price of the TEC-9. He also dispensed with the good quality "button" sights and replaced them with stamped sights that were spot-welded on the guns, sometimes not even lined up correctly. Although the TEC-22 managed to survive the quality control breakdown due to an inherently better design, the TEC-9's already questionable quality due to its finickyness about ammo and magazines fell totally apart. Still, the guns sold to Garcia's target market even better than before due to their lower price, which is why you started seeing the "gang banger" image attached to the TEC-9.
By late 1989, the gun banners in CA decided to ban both the TEC-9 and TEC-22 by name in the state's Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Ban. Garcia got around it pretty easily: he just changed both of the guns' names. The TEC-9 became the TEC-DC9. Although you'll find some folks that say this was to "screw over" Washington, DC, it actually stands for "Designated California." The TEC-22 Scorpion became the TEC-22T Scorpion, with the "T" symbolizing a redesign that involved a threaded barrel. Intratec also introduced a nickel-finished TEC-22 called the TEC-22N that year, but the gun sold very poorly. In 1990, it was replaced with the TEC-22S/S, a stainless steel variant. 1990 Also saw the introduction of the TEC-Kote finish, an improved stainless steel finish that was primarily meant to keep the guns looking new after you'd run a ton of gun cleaner over them. The TEC-DC9 Kote, TEC-DC9M Kote, and TEC-22 Kote were the names of the three new guns. Unfortunately, Intratec also decided to include a list of just what TEC Kote could prevent in terms of rust and corrosion. On that list, which makes sense to gun collectors such as us, was "sweat stains." But some reporter decided to ask Intratec if that meant their guns were resistant to fingerprints. "Yes, because there's no rust now when you..." but the "yes" was all the media needed to start saying Intratec's guns were fingerprint-proof and thus being sold to criminals.
1990 also saw yet another diversification. Renowned Israeli pistol shooter Nehemia Sirkis designed the Intratec CAT-9, which sort of looks like an deformed Glock for lack of a better description. It's actually a fine design, but because Intratec was willing to put so little money into quality control, the guns suffered mightily. In 1995 and 1996, respectively, the CAT-45 and CAT-380 were added to the company's production line. I once spoke with a dealer about the CAT-45. "If Intratec gave a damn about quality control, you'd see tons of these and not Hi-Points as someone's first carry piece," he said, turning the gun over in his hand.
In either 1991 or 1992, Intratec made the only physical design change from the TEC-9 to the TEC-DC9 (as in, the standard one as well as the TEC-DC9S/S and TEC-DC9 Kote): they replaced the gun's dual sling swivels with a one-point sling bracket that attached between the upper receiver and the lower receiver. Intratec also introduced the Protec-22 and Protec-25 in 1991, which were two really low-quality pocket pistols. Although the Protec-25 was discontinued in 1994, it was reintroduced in 1995 after the Assault Weapons Ban was passed to help keep the company afloat.
Of course, then we had the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, which banned the TEC-DC9 and TEC-22 by name. Intratec almost feel apart, but reintroduced the guns in early 1997. The TEC-DC9 was technically eliminated. But the smaller TEC-DC9M was only an "assault weapon" because it had a threaded barrel. Intratec did the obvious: produce the pistol without a threaded barrel as well as the TEC-DC9's one-point sling bracket.
Renamed the AB-10 (After-Ban 10 rounds, although actual 10-round magazines are quite rare and Intratec sold the guns with new old stock 20-round and 36-round magazines), there were only two variants: the AB-10 and the AB-10S/S Stainless Steel model (which featured the best quality stainless steel finish Intratec ever put onto its guns...it replaced the old stainless finish AND TEC Kote). The TEC-22 became the Sport-22, sold with a 10-round magazine and having the barrel threads faired over. A Sport-22S/S Stainless model was also made, though is somewhat rare (I'm not sure why). Paradoxically, Intratec FINALLY became more concerned about the guns jamming less...but only at the expense of accuracy. Garcia STILL thought it necessary to cut corners in quality control to have an affordable gun. With sales of the newer CAT-45 and the never-successful CAT-380 flagging, these guns were discontinued in 1998 (although I double-checked and the CAT-380 was discontinued early in the year while the CAT-45 lasted later into the year...they were not simultaneously taken out of production). The Protec-22 only lasted into 1996. By 1999, Intratec was relying on the AB-10, the Sport-22, the CAT-9, and the Protec-25. The first guns to go were the Protec-25 and the Sport-22, which disappeared somewhere around 2000. The CAT-9 lasted into early 2001, but not any further. In the end, the AB-10 was all that was keeping Intratec alive. Although advertised for 2002, manufacture ceased in late 2001.
There have been occassional rumors that George Kelgren, the gun's designer, may yet design a KT-9 to compete with Masterpiece Arms' MPA10 and MPA30 designs; an improved TEC-9 that feeds any ammo with a higher-quality lower receiver. But thus far, nothing has come of that.
If your gun jams, the first thing I would do is polish the feed ramp with a terrycloth and make sure the extractor is screwed in all the way with its Allen screw. Also use factory or Scherer magazines...anything else is just junk, including (sadly) the 50-rounders. If you're doing all this, using 115 grain NATO ball ammo, and your gun is still jamming, then take apart the gun and polish the inside of the upper receiver with a terrycloth as well as the bolt ONLY where it comes into contact with the upper receiver (you don't want the gun going full auto...I know some people mess with their triggers, but I would NOT advocate that, despite the lousy pull). This solves most jamming problems. If it's still problamatic, then start cutting coils off the recoil spring (NOT the firing pin spring) one coil at a time until it stops jamming. Do this AT the range and make sure you run a full magazine through the gun before clipping off another coil. Clipping coils is a last resort situation because you'll wear the spring out pretty past (google "sksparts" for a good source of replacements), but it will stop any jams I know of.
I hope I educated you a little about the TEC-9 and its history.