Something for everyone
Canik’s Big Five will have you spoilt for choice
It’s fairly common for handgun manufacturers to launch a new model from time to time to supplement or enhance their current range be it a new calibre, change in barrel length, grip design, colour scheme or sighting systems. But as Rod Pascoe writes, Canik has such a diverse variety it’s debatable whether or not the phrase ‘Big Five’ actually covers it.
Although the brand has been around for a few years servicing the personal defence, military and law enforcement sectors, Canik is venturing more and more into the civilian firearms market and now have an entrée into the sporting gun arena with an array of models with the ‘look’ of competition pistols which comply with Australian laws covering barrel length and magazine capacity. Outdoor Sporting Agencies (OSA) is Australian distributor for Canik and gave Australian & New Zealand Handgun the chance to put the Big Five to the test.
What’s in the box?
In order to jump into the lucrative market created by Glock, Canik went with the same formula of handgun technology and production techniques, therefore the models reviewed here all have short recoil, locked breech and striker-fired mechanisms with multiple inbuilt safeties, are polymer-framed and fire 9mm Luger (aka 9x19mm) ammunition. Sound familiar? The five are the TP9 SFT, TP9 SFx Model 2, Mete, SFx Rival and TP9 Elite Combat, each presented in a strong and versatile plastic case complete with all the goodies required to get a new shooter started.
As well as two extra 10-shot magazines and cartridge loader, each accessory item has its own spot in the foam-lined box which includes a nylon cleaning brush and rod, one or two extra grip backstraps (depending on the model), a plastic box containing other bits and pieces such as extra yellow and red fibres for the front sight, medium and large magazine release buttons and an assortment of screws, washers and Torx bits. The Rival model has a unique ‘miniature’ Canik that, when the buttplate is removed, includes all the above and the little pistol itself doubles as a hex wrench. A Canik Punch is also provided for removing the backstraps and accessing other parts.
To complete the accessories (apart from the SFT) four adaptor plates which fit most brands and sizes of reflex dot sights are included, along with a cocking lever that screws into the side of the adaptor to give the shooter something solid to hang on to with which to rack the slide. In the main section of the carry case is the pistol itself housed in a plastic flat-paddle holster that’ll sit close to the body on a regular dress belt but, in the case of the Rival, a competition-style holster is supplied along with five dot-sight adaptor plates.
Canik TP9 SFT
Now we’ve covered what the five models broadly have in common let’s examine the individual characteristics as they’re all very different and, apart from their physical appearance, not all feature the same options. First up is the base model TP9 SFT, the only one that doesn’t have a cut-out in the slide to accept a reflex dot sight. It features a fibre reinforced polymer frame and the slide has a Cerakote over Tenifer finish with a set of Warren fixed sights with a fibre optic front – not everyone wants a pistol optics-ready and are happy with open sights.
Sporting a 127mm threaded barrel with thread protector it has a full-sized frame with fairly rudimentary slide release just on the left side and is the only pistol in the line-up with this feature. It’s fitted with a loaded chamber indicator which shows as a red pop-up hinge on top of the slide behind the chamber and unlike the others, deep diagonal cuts are concentrated only around the rear of the slide but still provide sufficient grip for racking. At time of writing the SFT is available in either Black or Flat Dark Earth (FDE), weighs 823 grams and retails for around $850.
TP9 SFx Model 2
Next is the TP9 SFx Model 2 with its slightly longer slide housing a 132mm non-threaded barrel. Designated the premium version of the TP9 series, the slide has extra cuts at the front to give additional grip when racking as well as weight-reducing cuts at the top. As with the SFT, the Model 2 has a full-sized frame but is also magwell-ready and has long ambidextrous slide releases. The Warren sight-set has the fibre optic front dovetailed into the slide and windage adjustable rear fitted to a removable plate which, when removed, provides the option of fitting one of four supplied adaptor plates to fix a reflex dot sight to the slide.
The trigger is an improvement on the SFT with a shorter stroke and reset. The firing control components are nickel-plated and unlike some others, the Model 2 doesn’t have a loaded chamber indicator but offers an interesting choice of finishes including Tungsten, Patriot Brown, Sniper Grey, FDE and Throwback with its black slide and white frame. At around $1000-$1100 depending on finish, this is a versatile pistol which qualifies in IPSC Production division but check the rulebooks for your chosen matches to make sure it complies. The Model 2 weighs 866 grams.
The third option is also a full-framed pistol with a whopping 146mm barrel in the threaded version. The Mete (met-A) is a slightly different animal to the previous two and I suspect that because it’s so different it might be a commercial version of a firearm made for a particular customer with specific requirements, maybe a foreign police or military force (France comes to mind).
The Mete has a longer slide to house that barrel, similar pattern of slide serrations and cuts as the Model 2 and sports a set of Truglo Tritium Night Sights rather than the fibre optic colour front sight. It also has a loaded chamber indicator, comes with a removable magwell and cut-out on the slide to adapt a reflex sight, yet this is where there’s a major departure from the other Canik optics-ready models. Because the fixed rear sight is attached directly to the slide rather than the removable blank, the cut-out for the optic sight is smaller than the other optics-ready versions and therefore only a limited number of micro reflex sight options can be accommodated in the smaller space.
So instead of the usual four adaptor plates being supplied to cover almost the entire range of standard dot sights, just one plastic plate comes with the Mete to interface with Canik’s own house-brand reflex dot (the MeCanik) and other similar micro dot sights including Trijicon RMR, Crimson Trace RAD Micro and Shield to name a few. However, with one of these smaller micro reflex sights fitted the fixed sights become co-witnessed to the dot which again makes me think a specific customer wanted it this way. The Mete weighs 870 grams and is available in Black or FDE, price without a threaded barrel Mete SFx is $1050 and a threaded barrel Mete SFT is $1190.
Number four and leading the pack of full-sized pistols is the Rival. Unlike other Canik full-sized models the Rival is targeted directly at the sporting shooter complete with a competition click-adjustable rear sight and is the only pistol in the line-up to have this. The Canik Grey version has a gold trigger safety blade, magazine release, magwell and slide stop levers but apart from its H122 gold bling/grey colour combination the Rival isn’t like anything else in the Canik catalogue.
This fibre-reinforced polymer-framed pistol has a number of new design features ‑ different slide and frame shape particularly in the grip, triggerguard, backstraps and beavertail and, in keeping with modern trends, it too is optics-ready. The front texture of the grip has been updated and backstrap pattern made more aggressive to further increase grip on the pistol, although I’d have preferred some more 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 pretty much standard on polymer-framed pistols these days.
There are other unique features of the Rival such as the 127mm fluted barrel with what looks like rifling but on the outside and my guess is it 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, probably more decorative than practical, while deep serrations extend around the front of the slide with a long cut on top and short ones either side to help with weight distribution and/or appearance. I prefer to rack pistol slides from in front of the ejection port, a habit that comes from not wanting to rub the carbide sight-black from the rear sight and along with that step in the slide just behind the front sight, these serrations give plenty of opportunity for a firm hold.
The flat recoil spring is captive on a steel guide rod that’s square rather than round. The rear of the slide exposes the end of the firing pin and, coloured red, alerts you to the striker being in the cocked position. Also at the back of the slide is the adjustable rear sight which is mounted on the optical sight cover plate and, once removed, one of five rather than four supplied adaptor plates accommodate almost all popular brands of reflex red-dot sights. The fifth plate in the mix is specifically for a micro-style reflex sight and has an integral fixed open sight, the plan here being to have the dot and fixed sight co-witness, similar to what’s achievable on the Mete. This is the first Canik model to offer such sighting options and shows the Rival’s designers have the sports shooter in mind.
One item not normally included with pistols is the Canik Punch which allows 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 side of the frame. The magazine release catch can be repositioned to the other side and there’s a choice of three magazine release button lengths. The magwell helps with faster reload but can be removed if the rulebook dictates for certain categories or divisions of competitions and with the magwell removed the end of the butt incorporates a ‘self magwell’ internally shaped to accommodate mag loading. Available in Canik Grey or Black it retails for around $1550 to $1600 (read an extended review of the Rival in Australian Shooter, April 2022).
TP9 Elite Combat
The TP9 Elite Combat is last of the Big Five in Canik’s catalogue and the only compact-framed pistol of the group. Modelled on Walther’s P99 the Elite’s grip is about 8mm shorter than its full-sized brothers and sports some interesting performance components designed in collaboration with Salient Arms International (SAI), including a fluted and nitride-coated match-grade barrel, thread protector, magwell and fibre optic sights. It also features Canik’s Enhanced Trigger System including a flat-faced aluminium trigger and accessories already mentioned: four optics mounting plates, changeable magazine catches, changeable backstraps, two extra magazines and loaded chamber indicator.
There are actually seven versions of the Elite model including the Elite-S with a manual trigger safety on top of all the inbuilt safety systems, which adds a little more to the cost and is another unique features that may have been requested by a particular customer. The Elite-S is available in Black and FDE and there’s a special model called the Executive with distinctive SAI gold barrel. Apart from the ‘S’ versions the regular Elite Combat is also available in Executive finish along with Black and FDE and an unusual finish to both slide and frame called Eleven Dagger. Priced between $1200 and $1300 for the ‘S’ version, the Elite is top of the price scale but has all the quality of the Rival as a competition gun. However it does have fixed sights but there are others made by several manufacturers that can be swapped out.
At the range
Before setting off I cleaned and lubricated the Caniks as per instructions. I found my lighter target loads wouldn’t reliably function due to the strength of the recoil spring but there’s a fix for that with aftermarket springs and rod guides available from a number of makers including Canik. Without resorting to changing anything on the guns and to overcome the lack of power of my home loads I chose factory-loaded ammunition across four brands ‑ Geco, PPU, Federal and Sellier & Bellot. Some were 115-grain weight, some 124gr and 150gr, some lead round nose, some jacketed either hollow-point or FMJ and one was copper-coated lead.
All ammunition in all pistols performed faultlessly, feeding, firing, extracting and ejecting at a high rate of fire without missing a beat, most of it printing groups around half-an-inch high on paper with the fixed-sighted models at 25m. Windage adjustment is possible on all fixed-sighted models via the dovetail-mounted rear sight but the Rival had plenty of adjustment in the rear sight to cover both windage and elevation variations. I’d have preferred the dovetail-mounted front sight to be the traditional Patridge style rather than the red, yellow or green fibre optic but that’s purely personal preference and an easy fix with Warren sights available through Canik as an accessory.
The grips were quite comfortable and stable despite the full-house factory loads from pistols weighing well under a kilogram, though as mentioned I’d have preferred some roundness or fullness of grip rather than flat-slab sides (Talon Grips in the US offer an aftermarket alternative). Accuracy was respectable with all types tested and comparable to other pistols of similar design and firing mechanism although one of the standouts was PPU 124gr Jacketed Hollow Point with a group size of 55mm shot offhand at 25m with the fixed-sighted Elite Combat and my failing eyes. The Rival achieved similar results but preferred the Federal 150gr Syntech coated lead bullets.
With some load development shooters will quickly settle on a home-load which suits them and the gun. Groups were marginally smaller with reflex dot sights fitted, triggers on both the Elite and Rival smoother than I expected with crisp release and although they had a pull of almost 4½lb it didn’t feel like it.
I mentioned Canik is a new player in the firearms’ industry, bidding to hold off the competition in the ever-growing 9mm, striker-fired, polymer-framed handgun market, yet there’s a limit to how far manufacturers can go to reduce the costs of producing a firearm without compromising function, reliability, accuracy, safety and integrity of their brand. So to be competitive in this market they have to somehow value-add, all of which makes it even more difficult for potential buyers to differentiate between brands and even models within each brand. Incentives for potential buyers might include improving the trigger, making the gun optics-ready, including an extra magazine, oil, holster, padlock or extending the warranty.
In the case of the Canik they’ve value-added with all the accessories and attachments mentioned and have also practical and cosmetic embellishments and improved performance to enhance the appeal. I’m impressed by the value-for-money aspect of these products and variety of options, their accuracy and reliability on par with more expensive brands – and they’re pleasant to shoot.
In reviewing the Big Five we’ve actually covered 21 individual stock items from Canik’s catalogue where there’s a choice of colour schemes for all five models, sight options on most and threaded or non-threaded barrels on a couple. On top of that Canik added an adjustable rear sight and improved trigger to the Rival, indicating it’s targeted specifically at competition shooters so Canik designers have read the rule books for a number of disciplines, IPSC Production Division for example, to make sure their pistols meet match requirements. OSA now stock the R06 reflex sight adaptor plate to supply to current Canik owners who may wish to fit the SIG Romeo dot sights, also imported by OSA. The R06 plate comes supplied with the Rival models and replaces the R03 plate in the kit.
I feel the most popular models will be the SFx Model 2 and Rival for competition followed by the Elite Combat where a compact frame is preferred. The 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 out of the box). I didn’t test these pistols to the point where they failed or became unreliable but I’m sure that as a supplier of firearms to the Turkish and other police forces and the military, Canik would’ve made sure they didn’t.
Canik stock numerous accessories and independent aftermarket suppliers have begun producing grips, sights, compensators, thumb rests, recoil springs and guides, extended magazines and so on to enhance all Canik models and turn them into viable competition guns. The available additions are further widened by other brands such as Glock itself offering comparable and interchangeable parts and Canik have taken that into account when designing the Big Five. The choices are immense so the only thing now is to work out which one suits you as there’s literally something for everyone.