Arrival of the Rival
A rival is someone who competes against others, so Canik built a new competition pistol to give shooters the edge. But as Senior Correspondent Rod Pascoe found, the new SFx Rival is in a race of its own – to top the fastest-growing sector of the handgun market
Turkish manufacturer Canik has been a major player in the aerospace industry with its reputation for precision engineering in that country. After years of hard work some of the largest aerospace corporations turned to this relatively new company and began setting up contracts to produce aircraft parts and today, giants including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Airbus continue to use Canik parts.
In 2009 the company spread its wings and added firearms to its portfolio with early models catering to home defence and personal protection applications inspired by market success of the Clock with its polymer frame, striker-fired mechanism and multiple inbuilt safeties. Over time, Canik kept up with industry trends and has expanded its products to now offer more options for customers with differing requirements and budgets.
While still a major supplier to one of the largest segments of the firearms industry ‑ the concealed-carry market in the US ‑ the new SFx Rival gives Canik an entrée into the sporting gun market. But their task as a relatively new entrant is to persuade customers their product is better than the rest – the Rival is just one in an array of handguns in Canik’s line-up but is the one with the look of a competition pistol.
Outdoor Sporting Agencies (OSA) in Melbourne is Australian distributor for Canik and gave Australian Shooter the chance to put the Rival through its paces. This will be the sixth pistol in OSA’s Canik catalogue and is Australian pistol club friendly in terms of calibre, barrel length and magazine capacity.
What’s in the box?
The plastic case is full of goodies to get a new shooter started, each accessory item having its own spot in the foam-lined lid. These include a nylon cleaning brush and rod, two extra grip backstraps (choice of small, medium or large), a punch to remove the pins for taking out the backstraps and accessing other parts and finally a miniature Canik which, with buttplate detached, reveals some other bits and pieces such as spare yellow and red fibres for the front sight, a medium and large magazine release button plus assortment of screws, washers and Torx bits that fit into the ‘muzzle’ of the little pistol which itself acts as a hex wrench – neat!
To complete the accessories in the lid is a short bar which screws into one of four reflex sight adaptor plates and acts as a cocking lever to give the shooter something other than the sight itself with which to rack the slide (the adaptor plates accommodate most current reflex dot sights on today’s market).
In the main section of the carry case is the pistol itself in a grey plastic holster with basket weave texture. The competition-style holster is a new addition with the Rival – earlier Canik models came with a flat paddle that sits on a belt close to the body, which suited more the self-protection role. With its locking system which grips the triggerguard, the Rival holster may well meet the requirements for most competitions. Two extra 10-shot magazines, a cartridge loader and instruction manual are also included.
A feature of the Rival is the coating colour, Canik Rival Grey, created by Cerakote. This, combined with the H122 gold bling on the trigger safety, magazine release, mag-well and slide stop levers separates the Rival from Canik’s earlier models. In fact everything is grey, right down to the holster and cleaning rod but apart from the colour combination the Rival doesn’t look like anything else in Canik’s ranks.
This full-sized fibre-reinforced polymer-framed pistol has a number of new design features from earlier Canik models ‑ different slide and frame shape, particularly in the grip, triggerguard, backstraps and beavertail and, in keeping with modern trends, it’s optics-ready.
The front texture of the grip has been updated and backstrap pattern made more aggressive to further increase grip on the pistol, though I’d have preferred some textured bulk on the sides of the grip to fill the hand rather than its flat side plates. There’s a Picatinny accessory rail under the frame which is becoming fairly standard on polymer-framed pistols these days.
The take-down process for removing the slide is a little different to some and instructions for stripping are in the manual. The five-inch barrel is fluted with what looks like rifling, but on the outside, my guess being this reduces the amount of contact between barrel and slide. The breech end of the barrel also has serrations to match those on the front and rear of the slide, the flat recoil spiring captive on a steel guide rod that’s square rather than round.
Canik borrowed design and engineering features from some well-established gunmakers and one of their earlier models, the TP9, takes its inspiration from the Walther P99 of the 1990s and the Rival also carries features seen on the Walther PPQ Q5 match pistol.
Deep serrations extend around the front of the slide with a long cut on top and a short one on each side helping with weight distribution and/or appearance. I prefer to rack the slides of pistols from in front of the ejection port, a habit that comes from not wanting to rub the carbide sight-black from the rear sight. Along with the step in the slide just behind the front sight, these serrations give plenty of opportunity for a firm hold. At the back of the slide is an adjustable rear sight mounted on the optical sight cover plate and once removed, one of four supplied adaptor plates accommodate most popular brands of reflex red dot sights.
This is the first Canik model to sport an adjustable sight and shows the designers of the Rival have sports shooters in mind. The back of the slide exposes the back of the firing pin and, coloured red, alerts the shooter to the striker being cocked. One item not normally included with pistols is the Canik punch for disassembly of parts with ease, Canik’s way of letting the shooter fix or make changes to the pistol that might otherwise need the services of a gunsmith. The long slide stop lever is again a borrowed design and is duplicated on the right of the frame, the gold magazine release catch can be repositioned to the other side and the accessory box gives you a choice of three magazine release button lengths.
The gold mag-well helps with faster reload but can be removed if the rulebook dictates for certain categories or divisions of competitions. With the mag-well removed the end of the butt incorporates a ‘self mag-well’ internally shaped to accommodate mag loading.
Canik, along with dozens of manufacturers worldwide, have benefited from almost 40 years of improvement on the revolutionary Glock system and as such, trigger mechanisms have been top of the R&D list. The Canik triggers I’ve tried have all been vast improvements on the original Glocks and Rival’s diamond-cut aluminium flat trigger is another gold touch. According to advertising material the trigger mechanism is an upgraded version of the flat aluminium trigger found on the TP9 Elite Combat model. The diamond cut surface helps prevent slippage and increase trigger control, while weight reduction in the trigger and a shorter reset felt pretty smooth when dry firing. Before heading to the range I cleaned and lubricated the Rival as per instructions.
At the range
I chose factory-loaded ammunition across four brands ‑ Geco, PPU, Federal and Sellier & Bellot. Some were 115-grain weight, some 124gr, some were lead round-nose, some jacketed either hollow-point or FMJ and one was copper-coated lead. All functioned in the handgun without a fault – feeding, firing, extracting and ejecting at a high rate of fire without missing a beat.
Most ammunition printed around three inches high on paper even after winding the sights to their lowest setting though a higher front sight would solve that. There was plenty of adjustment available in the rear sight to cover any windage variations. Apart from being higher, I’d have preferred the dovetail-mounted front sight to be the traditional Patridge-style rather than red fibre but that’s personal preference and an easy fix with Warren sights, available from Canik as an accessory.
The grip was quite comfortable and stable despite the full-house factory loads and a pistol weighing a mere 835 grams. As mentioned, I’d have preferred some roundness or fullness of the grip rather than the flat sides and Talon Grips in the US offer an aftermarket alternative.
Accuracy was respectable with all types tested and comparable to other pistols of the same design and firing mechanism, although the standout was PPU 124gr jacketed hollow-point with a group size of 70mm shot offhand at 25 yards (with some load development, shooters will quickly settle on a home-load that suits them and the gun). Groups were marginally smaller with a reflex dot sight fitted, the trigger smoother than I expected and although it weighed almost 5lb it didn’t feel like it.
I mentioned Canik’s in a race of its own ‑ a new player in the firearms industry attempting to beat off competition in an ever-growing 9mm, striker-fired, polymer-framed handgun market. Every time I review such a firearm, I’ll repeat there’s a limit to how much manufacturers can make cuts to the costs of producing a gun without compromising function, reliability, accuracy, safety and integrity of their brand.
So in order to be competitive in this market they have to value-add somehow, all of which makes it even more difficult for potential buyers to differentiate between brands and even models within each brand. So incentives for customers might include improving the trigger, making the gun optics-ready, including an extra magazine, bottle of oil, holster, padlock or extending the warranty. In the case of the Rival, Canik has value-added with all the accessories and attachments mentioned and have also practical and cosmetic embellishments and improved performance to add to the appeal.
On top of that Canik added an adjustable rear sight indicating the Rival is targeted at a specific segment of the market ‑ sporting shooters. Canik designers read the rule books of a number of shooting disciplines both with and without optic divisions such as IPSC for example, to make sure the Rival met requirements of the match.
Canik stock a wide assortment of accessories and spare parts and independent aftermarket suppliers have begun producing a number of enhancements such as grips, sights, compensators, thumb rests, steel recoil spring guides, extended magazines and so on to enhance the Rival and turn other Canik models into competition guns.
The Canik SFx Rival will appeal to those after a functional, polymer-framed, striker-fired handgun that’s affordable yet has enough attributes for competition shooting – it’s ready to shoot right out of the box. At time of writing, OSA expect the Rival to land on our shores early in 2022 with a recommended retail price of $1585. I didn’t test the Rival to the point it failed or became unreliable but I’m sure that, as firearm supplier to the Turkish Police Force, Canik will have made sure it didn’t.
Canik SFx Rival self-loading pistol
Calibre: 9x19mm (9mm Luger)
Magazines: 3 x 10-round
Barrel length: 127mm
Overall length: 205mm
Weight: 835g including empty magazine
Operating system: Short recoil, locked breech, striker fired
Safety system: Trigger safety lever, firing pin block
Mag release: reversible and extendable (small, medium, large)
Distributor: OSA Melbourne, Victoria.
RRP: $1585 (at time of writing)