A review of the Turkish company Canik’s line of inexpensive and exceptional 9mm pistols.
Canik is a line of 9mm pistols being imported by Century Arms. Century, a U.S.-based company situated originally in Vermont, moved the operation down to Florida almost a couple of decades ago.
It had to be those Northern winters.
Canik pistols are manufactured in Turkey in a plant filled with modern CNC machining centers. You might think that, because a country hasn’t been seen as a long-time known manufacturing center, it can only be making low-rent products. Let me make the younger readers aware, especially those driving a Japanese car: When I was growing up, “made in Japan” was synonymous with plastic crap. Now look at how far they’ve come.
Well, when the Turks decided to get with the 21st century and make things for themselves (the Canik line is used by the Turkish military and police), they decided to do it right … so new buildings filled with new machines, making firearms that are the amalgamation of the best designs extant.
Covering the whole line of Canik pistols—the TP9 being the current model name—would take more space than we have here. As the line evolved, and as Century Arms and Canik evolved the line to meet customer demands, they inadvertently created a wide variety of what will be, at some future time, collectibles.
The Canik line of pistols blends various features, depending on which particular model you select. Let’s start with the magazines—because all self-loading pistols are dependent on magazines.
The Canik line works with all Canik magazines, assuming you have the proper length. If you’re trying to use a flush-fit magazine from a Canik TP9 Elite subcompact in the full-sized guns, you’ll fail. But the longer magazine will work in the shorter pistol, and all models with similar length of frames will use the other magazines.
Century and Canik offer magazines, so you don’t have to worry there. Plus, the Canik line originated with magazines based on the Walther PPQ series, so if you have a source of those, go for it. (I suspect that Walther magazines will cost you more than Canik, but sometimes you score a deal.)
If you want extra capacity, it isn’t difficult to find magazines for your Canik with up to 20 rounds, and you can always go to Taylor Freelance and get bolt-on magazine extensions that’ll give you more, more, more. They make Plus-4 and Plus-9 extensions in aluminum and brass. The Plus-4 is just a new baseplate; the Plus-9 includes a replacement magazine spring, because you’ll need it.
The TP9 Elite SC is a compact carry pistol, and the modern iteration (Canik has been making pistols, and Century importing them, for a few years now) has a top plate for mounting a red-dot optic. This is a sub-compact size and holds 12 rounds in the magazine, unless you opt for an extended magazine. That makes the frame a compact size and bumps capacity up to 15 rounds.
The firing system is the one many shooters expect, a striker-fired system with a trigger-blade safety and internal safeties to prevent discharge when dropped or otherwise roughly handled. If nothing hits the trigger, there’s no bang. And when you do go to install a red-dot optic, Canik has got you covered. A small box resides in the carry case, with the tools and screws you’ll need to bolt on the optic of your choice. Well done, guys.
My second Canik is the TP9SA. The first one was an all-black 9mm when they were referring to the pistols as the “Canik 55” line, the start of the pistols that were taken right from the Walther 99 series. The TP9 is the name now, and this one has several details changed from the earliest.
Here, the striker system is still wedded to a striker-drop pressure plate in the slide. If you don’t want to leave the unloaded TP9SA with the striker cocked, press down on the decocking plate, mounted in the slide. This safely drops the striker without discharge. (Still, keep it pointed in a safe direction, if for no other reason than to maintain good habits.) This requires the slide to be worked to re-cock the striker, but you’d have to do that anyway to chamber a round.
Why do it this way? You get a better trigger for one thing. The striker system was now turned into an almost single-action or 1911-like trigger pull. You still got the trigger blade safety and the internal drop safeties, but you get a crisper trigger with a shorter reset than is on my Canik 55. (By the way, I still like the 55.)
Now, the TP9SA I have is the Desert Tan model. Here, Canik used a dye in the polymer mix to create the tan color in the frame and matched it with a Cerakote finish on the slide. The backstrap is left black, as are the controls. That’s the sort of thing that Canik and Century are very responsive to. The TP9 Elite SC has a gray/silver Cerakote slide over black. Other models offered different color options in the past, and they do now as well. How about a two-tone TP9? Or, the Signature Series TP9SFx Whiteout done in a white Cerakote with black accents?
So Many Extras
And, the TP9SA came with a pair of magazines, magazine loader, holster and holster mounts so you can choose from inside-the-waistband or outside-the-waistband carry. As a matter of fact, they all do. If you get a Canik, you get a pistol that’s ready to go right out of the box, including a lock and extra backstrap.
This leads me back to Taylor Freelance. The Canik is popular in competition (cost, great triggers, accuracy and reliability are all big selling points for competition shooters), and in addition to the magazine extensions for the Canik, Taylor can provide you with magwell funnels, weighted brass backstraps, mag-release buttons and slide-rackers.
Slide-rackers? Yes, if you’re using a Canik with a red-dot, you might want an extension on the slide to rack the slide without using the red-dot itself. It also props the pistol up off a table, for those stages where you have to start with the pistol on a table and not in a holster.
All the Canik pistols have Canik-made barrels that have, in all instances, proven accurate. This is one of those details on which competition shooters are unforgiving, and everyone, even those who only have a pistol for everyday carry, have benefited from. An accurate pistol is a must in competition; an accurate pistol barrel is also a more-reliable pistol as a result. A tighter, centered chamber means the extractor is more consistently positioned to grab the rim. And a bore with more consistent dimensions means a more-consistent combustion and bullet-bore transit time, which keeps the cycling of the pistol in a smaller window of variance. They all also have a loaded chamber indicator, a lever on the top of the slide.
Speaking of competition, that leads me to the METE. This is a full-sized Canik, but it’s set up for competition as well as duty. The two magazines it comes with have an 18- and a 20-round capacity, backstraps, optics plate on the slide and a competition-improved trigger. Unlike the slightly curved trigger of earlier Canik pistols, the METE has a flat-faced trigger. There’s still a safety in the trigger blade, but the geometry is designed so that when you bring the trigger back to fire the METE, the point of release has the pivoting trigger oriented straight down. Your trigger press is thus straight back to less-disturb your aim.
Now, the METE line is set up for competition, so you might think you have less need of aftermarket upgrades. You could be right, but the serious competition shooter won’t leave anything to chance. So, even with a METE, you might want to investigate upgrades … but one that you probably won’t be looking for is a trigger upgrade.
Cloned from Walther pistols, the Canik line already has an excellent trigger system, regardless of which model it’s in. However, and as I mentioned, serious competition shooters leave nothing to chance. As a result, you can find aftermarket trigger upgrades, whether to install yourself or pistol smith upgrades to make the trigger even nicer. However, that won’t be necessary on the METE.
So Much Value
And as if all of this wasn’t enough, the cost is entirely bearable. In fact, it’s a deal most of the time. For instance, the current version of my TP9SA, the TP9SF, in Desert tan, has an MSRP of a penny less than $400. That’s a ready-to-go pistol, with two magazines, holster and accessories, in a lockable case, for less than four bills.
If you’re looking to get a sub-compact carry gun and must have a slide ready for a red-dot sight, then the TP9 Elite SC lists for a mere $40 more than the TP9SF … and it has all the gear as well. For daily carry, target shooting, plinking or competition, it’s hard to beat the Canik combo. With Canik from Century Arms, you get accuracy, reliability, accessory availability—everything in one box—and at a reasonable price. Compare that to the big names everyone at the gun club knows and tell me there aren’t advantages to not owning the same gun everyone else at the gun club owns.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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Thank you for this presentation Patrick, it is refreshing to hear of new players who are worth knowing. I am afraid price won’t stay that low for long if success really kicks in. I have yet to shoot a Canik myself, but a good friend of mine has 2 and swears by them; he prefers them to his former Glock 17 and Browning Hi-Power (the Hi-Power was very used and slack to be honest).
Century Arms. Which used to be Century Arms International. Which used to be Century International Arms (CIA, get it?) You have to hand it to this CIA front company, they have a sense of humor. What is really funny is that they are known as a CIA front company all over the world, but the average American owner of their product is clueless to that fact.
Well, it looks a bit bold, isn’t it ? May be you are right, but if it is so, those at CIA who planned this “tactic” … well … don’t look as proficient as they would like to be.