High performance at a low price
By Warren Wilson
“Don’t send this one back.” I heard that more than a few times from the officers I invited to the range to shoot the Canik TP9SA over the course of a few days. Two weeks earlier, while walking the 2015 SHOT Show floor with The Police Marksman editor, Steve Tracy, I had no idea that the Century Arms booth would be so relevant to this publication. An enthusiastic young man working Century’s booth asked us if we’d ever felt a really good trigger on a striker fire gun. He handed us the new Canik TP9SA imported by Century Arms. We were both impressed. The trigger was great and the reset was distinct, though just a little spongy. It looked and felt very much like a Walther P99, but with an American-style magazine release button instead of that funky trigger guard lever. I asked about the retail price of the TP9SA, as I continued to squeeze and reset the impressive trigger. When he replied, “less than 400 bucks,” I sought out the person in charge of sending review pistols to gun writers.
At the time, I was completely unfamiliar with Canik (I am told the C is pronounced as a soft J or Ch). Canik is a Turkish military weapons manufacturer whose reputation for quality control is well respected. The TP9SA’s predecessor, the TP9, is a double-action, striker-fire polymer pistol. It has also met with good reviews. With the TP9, just as with all standard, double-action hammer fired pistols, the first shot requires a longer trigger pull while subsequent squeezes are much shorter. The TP9SA is a more traditional (if you will) striker-fire, polymer frame pistol with a trigger pull more akin to a single action; hence the ‘SA.’ There is no external safety and each trigger pull is uniform from first to last.
Frankly, I hoped the gun would function relatively well, but I had no higher expectations due to its low price and unfamiliar maker. I was pleasantly surprised by many of the features I found. The grip’s side plates are aggressively stippled, as they should be for a firearm intended for duty use. The front and back straps have a group of raised bumps that could be more aggressive, but still allow for a solid purchase on the pistol. The Canik is more than serviceable in this area, especially when compared to at least a few of its more expensive competitors.
The pistol comes in a hard case, with two 18-round Mec-Gar magazines, two different back straps, two cleaning tools, a magazine loader, and a pistol lock. The included holster features both a standard belt loop attachment and a paddle setup. The belt loop model is pretty solid, while the paddle seems a little flimsy for serious work. However, it would be more than adequate as a range holster, which I believe is its intended role. This gun has an accessory rail and a familiar two-piece trigger. Another pleasant surprise was the pistol’s ergonomics. Sharing not only the appearance of a P99, it also has a similar feel. It weighs about 28.8 ounces unloaded and 36.8 ounces filled with 18 rounds of 124-grain ammunition.
The TP9SA is not exactly the prototypical concealed carry pistol. Its grip is long so that it can accommodate the 18-round magazine. The barrel is 4.5 inches and its overall length is almost exactly that of a Glock 20/21 or a five-inch barrel 1911. The dedicated pistol carrier could most certainly conceal this gun with the right cover garments and gear, but the TP9SA is most likely intended for duty or home defense. The internals are chrome plated and then coated, which at least partially explains the smooth operation of the trigger and slide. An RCBS scale consistently measured a pull of 5.8 pounds from the middle of the trigger. Officers who fired the TP9SA complemented both the trigger pull and its reset. There is just no way a pistol with an MSRP around two thirds the price of other comparable models should have a bang button this good.
Most guns of this design require that the trigger be pulled to release the sear before disassembly. The TP9SA has what is essentially a de-cocker on the top of the slide in front of the rear sight. Pressing the button releases the sear and allows the pistol to be disassembled without the need to pull the trigger. Don’t be alarmed. It is flush with the slide and takes deliberate effort to depress. I don’t see any accidental activations happening. To disassemble, first make certain the gun is unloaded. After the sear is released by pressing the de-cocker, remove the magazine. Then apply a little rearward tension on the slide while pulling downward on the takedown latches. Pull forward on the slide to remove it from the frame. With your index finger, remove the captured guide rod and spring from the barrel. Lastly, remove the barrel from the slide. Reassembly is in reverse and this process will be very familiar with owners of other striker fire pistols.
Despite the TP9SA’s similarities to the Walther P99, holsters for the Walther do fit the Canik. Several popular duty holsters were tried with the Canik. The Safariland 6280 made for the Glock 20/21 would work, though it was a little tight. The Canik fit perfectly in my Galco Combat Master made for the Glock 20. Assuming this is true for all holsters made for these popular pistols, there should be no difficulty in finding a duty holster, but you should still try before you buy.
The TP9SA looked like it was sufficiently lubed from the factory, but I gave it a quick wipe-down and a few touches of oil. The first day, we brought 200 rounds of Georgia Arms 124-grain FMJ and 50 rounds Corbon 115-grain JHP +P. The second day, we fired another 50 rounds of Remington Golden Saber JHP 124-grain +P and 50 rounds Federal HST 124-grain +P JHP. The Canik just hummed along like a sewing machine. It’s impressive to see that level of reliability in a pistol at this low price point. If my math is correct, 350 rounds of a variety of ammunition was fired without an issue. The ammo went much quicker when we fully loaded the 18-round magazines. It takes a bit of determination to get that last round in, but the less stubborn shooter could just use the included magazine loader.
The TP9SA seemed to have a little more felt recoil than similar designed pistols, which confused me because it also felt to be a little more front-heavy. None of the other shooters shared those feelings, so it might just be me. Still, when speaking of recoil, even the Corbon 115-grain screamers were controllable in this full-size 9mm.
No pistol review is complete without accuracy testing. From the bench, I was able to get a 3.4-inch five-shot group with Remington Golden Saber 124-grain +P, with the best three rounds grouping right at an inch. Both groups were shot from the bench without aid of mechanical rest on a cold and windy day. That is more than acceptable for a defensive pistol. Unfortunately, the groups were centered about 5 inches high of the point of aim at 25 yards. I found myself using the ‘six o’clock hold’ like I have to for a few of my 1911s. In fact, the 1911 I’ve carried on duty for the past five years has that affliction and I’ve never shot less than a 100 percent on a qualification with it.
I’ve seen a lot of young cops come and go and not many of them were financially flush with cash coming into the job. Saving a hundred or more dollars on a duty gun purchase is a big deal to a 20-something newbie. Equally important for many of us who have worked nights and evenings almost exclusively is the ability to afford some protection to leave at home for our spouse. I could see this pistol filling both roles. Throughout my experience with the TP9SA, I kept looking for a dangling thread to pull that would unravel my flourishing fondness for it. I think serious professionals are not supposed to like economical guns, but I am really encouraged by this pistol. From everything I’ve researched and experienced, the TP9SA could be a serious competitor for the big boys in the law enforcement market. That kind of competition could be good for the consumer; especially when the street price of the Canik is between $325 and $370. There may be no better value available. PM
Warren Wilson is a Lieutenant with the Enid Police Department in Oklahoma. He is a former SWAT team member/leader and has been in law enforcement for 19 years.
1. A rapid-fire five-shot group from 10 yards.
2. The TP9SA comes with a holster, lock, two magazines and magazine loading device.
3. The Canik TP9SA is similar in appearance to the Walther P99.
4. The Canik’s de-cocking lever is on top of the slide, making it unnecessary to pull the trigger before disassembly.
5. The TP9SA field strips similarly to other striker-fire, polymer handguns and comes with two different back straps.
6. The Canik TP9SA is an excellent choice as an economical full size, off-duty carry pistol.
7. The author thinks the TP9SA has potential as a low-cost duty pistol for law enforcement.