November 23, 2015
Just about two and a half years ago, I reviewed the original TP9 from Canik 55, and this past year, the new Canik TP9SA was introduced and has been getting a lot of attention. This pistol is imported by Century Arms, and one of the reasons it has been getting a lot of press is it seems to be a very well-made pistol with a suggested retail of only $339.
First, let me answer the question I'm sure most of you are voicing: What the heck is Canik 55? Canik 55 is actually a division of Samsun Yurt Savunma, one of Turkey's biggest defense contractors. Like seemingly every gunmaker in the region they make CZ-75 clones, but their original TP9 (which is still available) is more a copy of the Walther P99. The new Canik TP9SA is an evolution of the design, and I have to say I'm impressed with the changes.
The Canik TP9SA is made in Turkey and is a polymer-framed striker-fired pistol chambered in 9mm Luger. Canik has worked out an exclusive import deal with Century Arms International, and its name is all over the pistol as well.
While the original TP9 looked very much like a Walther P99, the new Canik TP9SA (especially its slide) is a blending of designs, and looks very familiar. While some have said it appears to be the love child of a S&W M&P and Walther PPQ, I think it most closely resembles the new H&K VP9 (only with a magazine release U.S. consumers want).
My test sample was all black, but the Canik TP9SA is or will shortly be available in various frame colors including tan, green and white, with the slide Cerakoted to match.
This is a full-sized pistol. It sports a 4.46-inch barrel and is 7.55 inches overall. It's rather tall at 5.7 inches. It weighs 28.8 ounces empty. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit I'm a big fan of full-size 9mm guns, especially striker-fired ones.
The slide is serrated along the top, ostensibly to reduce glare, but I contend that's more for looks than anything else. The slide serrations are flat-bottomed, the design of which I've found to be the most functional. On the left side of the slide is "CANIK by CENTURY ARMS." On the right of the slide, near the muzzle, it is marked TP9SA.
The barrel has a ramped, fully supported chamber. The recoil spring is a captured flat-wire-type around a full-length steel guide rod.
The Canik TP9SA sports steel 3-dot sights, a marked improvement over the original's polymer sights. The original's sights had dots made of photo-luminescent paint (hit them with light and they glow for a while), but the Canik TP9SA's dots are just plain white.
The rear sight is driftable in its dovetail for windage and has two set screws. It has a vertical line on the rear below the notch which helps for fine tuning when adjusting for windage. The front sight is dovetailed in from the front, which I've been seeing quite a bit lately.
The pistol has a loaded chamber indicator in the top of the slide, and just forward of the rear sight you'll see the decocker. Push down on it to decock the striker, although I don't know why you'd want to do that. More on this in a bit.
The Canik TP9SA frame sports a MIL STD 1913 rail for lights/lasers/etc. The trigger guard is large and rectangular, with serrations on the front. The trigger is serrated and features a Glock-like safety lever on the front. There is also an internal firing pin safety in the slide.
The original TP9 is a DA/SA striker-fired gun, whereas the Canik TP9SA is a single-action only pistol. Trigger pull on my sample was very nice. After a smooth take-up, it broke at a relatively crisp 5 pounds even.
As an aside, Canik 55 seems to have changed its company logo since the original TP9 came out. Back then, it was a dolphin, which seems a bit odd for a gun company, and its CZ-75 clones was its "Dolphin" line. Now the company logo is a very European bird crest (which you'll see at the bottom of the Canik TP9SA's grip), and the Dolphin line has been renamed the Shark Series.
It is supplied with two 18-round magazines made by Mec-Gar. Mec-Gar is the OEM magazine supplier for a number of well-known pistols, including the Ruger SR9, S&W M&P, Walther PPQ, Beretta 92 and SIG P226. The magazines are blued steel with polymer basepads and followers. They have index holes at the rear to quickly identify how many rounds are still left inside. While the index holes are unmarked, there are 17 of them (for every round but the top one).
By complete accident, I discovered that the magazine bodies for the Canik TP9SA dimensionally seem to be identical to SIG P226 magazine bodies. The index holes are in a different location, and the mag catch cutouts are a slightly different shape (the TP9SA's are larger) but, otherwise, they seem identical. My SIG magazine wouldn't seat in the Canik due to the smaller mag catch cutouts, but the Canik TP9SA mag seated and, at least during my brief test, ran just fine in my SIG P226 SAO.
The magazine release is steel, square and checkered. Empty magazines dropped free of the gun. The pistol has interchangeable backstraps, and two different sizes are supplied with the pistol. Also included is a tool, a push pin, to remove the roll pin holding the backstrap in place.
The backstraps and the frontstrap of the Canik TP9SA have some raised squares for gripping, but I wish there were more of them, or they were a little more aggressive, as the plastic between the squares is awfully smooth.
There is a textured area on the frame above the trigger guard, ostensibly for your left hand thumb when shooting with a two-hand hold, but it is in the wrong place; it should be in front of the takedown lever, not behind it.
The slide rides on steel rails inside the polymer frame, and looking inside the Canik TP9SA frame reveals a setup that seems vaguely familiar; after all, there are only so many ways to build a striker-fired gun.
Takedown is simple. Remove the magazine and make sure the gun is unloaded. Pull the trigger to drop the striker, or use the decocker, and then pull down on the takedown levers on either side of the frame just above the trigger. The slide will come off the front of the frame.
There is a little controversy surrounding the Canik TP9SA, specifically whether a single-action pistol should ever have a decocker. The rear of the striker is painted red, and if you can see it through the hole in the back of the slide, youÃll know it is cocked. The pistol has no external safety.
Century Arms and other retailers are promoting the fact that the Turkish National Police have adopted this pistol, buying 25,000 of them in 2013. Poking around the Canik 55 website reveals that apparently the Turks adopted the TP9SF, which is identical to the Canik TP9SA except that it doesn't have a decocker.
The Turks are reportedly carrying it in Condition 3 (chamber empty), which is just a stupid decision, in my opinion. Any carry method that requires two hands to get the gun ready to fire is bad news waiting to happen. If you don't trust your troops to carry a single action pistol properly loaded and ready to fight, adopt a DA/SA pistol. Or, I don't know, maybe give them more training?
A decocker on a DA/SA pistol is a functional option. But putting one on a single-action-only pistol seems completely unnecessary to me. I've heard some YouTube commandos decry it as dangerous, and say it eliminates the Canik TP9SA from consideration by them as a carry gun; after all, if the decocker gets accidentally depressed, the gun won't fire until you work the slide.
I suppose that anything that can happen will happen, eventually, but "accidentally" hitting the decocker hard enough to drop the striker will take some work. The decocker does not project from the slide, is protected by the rear sight and takes about 6 pounds of pressure to work.
I would carry the Canik TP9SA without worrying about the striker getting accidentally decocked (and have internalized my tap-rack-bang response if any gun I've got fails to fire), but if that is your concern, it shouldn't eliminate the pistol as an excellent choice for home defense. The decocker-less TP9SF seems like it would have been a much better choice for Century Arms to choose to import, but there is nothing inherently wrong with the Canik TP9SA.
This is a full-size duty pistol, chambered in 9mm, with a good trigger, which means shooting was not just pleasant but fun. While reset was a little longer than on some of the other striker-fired pistols on the market, the good trigger allowed me to shoot the pistol quickly and accurately.
I hammered paper and steel until my hands started to shake; not from excitement, but from wind chills far below freezing. The only good thing about Michigan winters is they end.
The Canik TP9SA also comes with an injection-molded holster that features a locking mechanism very similar to the Blackhawk Serpa, and both a paddle and belt loop attachment. While the provided holster isn't the best out there, it works. I'm not sure how the very Serpa-esque locking mechanism doesn't violate Blackhawk's patent, but I'll let the lawyers fight about that.
Accuracy off sandbags was more than acceptable, averaging 3-4 inches. The pistol had a tendency to throw flyers, usually the first round cycled into the chamber by hand; otherwise, the groups would have been closer to 2 inches.
Any pistol adopted by a national police force after torture testing has to be tough, and the barrel life on the Canik TP9SA is advertised as more than 30,000 rounds. In addition to the pistol and two magazines, you also get a magazine loader, a cleaning rod, and brush. That's not a bad deal for a pistol that is so reasonably priced.
The original TP9 was a bit ugly, with poorly thought-out sights, but I found it to be completely reliable. The new Canik TP9SA seems a completely different animal. In quality and workmanship, it seems the equal to just about any other striker-fired gun on the market, and in my opinion looks much better than the original. Just because something is inexpensive doesnÃt mean itÃs cheaply made. The Canik TP9SA is inexpensive mostly because labor costs in Turkey are much lower than in the U.S.
The Reliability Standard
I've heard some gunwriters say you shouldn't trust a carry gun until you've fired 200 rounds of your carry load through it with no malfunctions. Others say that is generous, and a better standard would be 1,000 rounds.
Seriously? What planet do these people live on?
Do they even know how much just 200 rounds of premium defensive ammo costs? Somebody's been getting free ammo for too long. With my current pick of carry ammo, Hornady's Critical Duty 135-grain +P 9mm load, sold in 25-round packs, the suggested retail of 200 rounds works out to $239.44. Plus tax.
Most other brands are equivalently priced, averaging about a dollar a round. Someone thinking of buying the Canik TP9SA or any other economically-priced handgun doesn't have that kind of money to spend on test ammo. If they did, they'd be buying a Tier 1 pistol like a Glock, S&W M&P, etc.
But carrying a pistol like the Canik TP9SA with unproven reliability is a bad idea. So how about a real world reliability standard for people who actually have to buy their ammo and yet still want to feed their kids?
I've got what I think is a realistic standard by which to judge a carry gun's reliability that won't break your wallet.
First, if your pistol won't run reliably with FMJ ammo, forget about it. Some pistols still need a short break-in period, but if the pistol isn't running without a hiccup with FMJ for the last 50 rounds of a 200-round break-in period, don't trust it, don't carry it.
And if you're buying a new handgun for self-defense, putting 200 rounds downrange in practice to familiarize yourself with the gun is something you should be doing anyway.
Second, you need to know if the pistol will run reliably with your defensive hollow-point of choice, but those are pricey. My suggestion is to fully load every magazine you have and intend to carry with those hollow-points and run them through the gun, and then do it again.
Most jams are not caused by bad guns so much as bad magazines, and we need to test both. The more mags you plan on using, the more rounds your magazines hold, the more ammo the test will require, but my procedure will still be much more affordable and tests each of your magazines from fully loaded to empty status, twice. As the Canik TP9SA came with two 18-round magazines, my test (18 rounds x2 x2) would burn up 72 rounds.