Canik TP9SA: Turkish 9mm Polymer Strike Fired Import

By Todd Burgreen

Century International Arms is well known for their manufacturing and import efforts related to firearms. These efforts give the US consumer opportunities to own weapons that would not be normally available via domestic manufacturers or other importers. The latest offering to attract attention is a handgun designed and manufactured in Turkey by Canik 55. Canik 55 is a division of Samsun Yurt Savunma, one of Turkey’s biggest defense contractors. The specific model designation of the handgun evaluated is the TP9SA. It is chambered in 9MM. (A .40S&W chambered variant is available as well.) The TP9SA is a polymer framed striker fired handgun that distinctly resembles the Walther P99. While certainly similar in appearance, the TP9SA is not a pure clone with different frame/slide and barrel dimensions. It is seriously doubtful that parts will interchange.

The TP9SA evolved from a previous Canik model, the TP9, which is a true DA/SA striker fired handgun with a decocker button on top of the slide; more on this later. The TP-series of pistols are the first standard issue polymer frame pistol of the Turkish Police Force. During weapon trials the TP9 handguns underwent 50,000 round endurance testing multiple times without having to change out any damaged or failed components to keep them functioning as intended.

The Canik TP9SA has a reinforced polymer frame and steel slide with a significant design emphasis on ergonomics for ease of function. The slide is covered with ceramic coating for durability. A serrated rib along the top of the slide helps diffuse sunlight off the top of the slide keeping sight picture crisp. Stippling and raised grooves adorn both the front strap and the forward face of the squared-off trigger guard. Material has been relieved where the trigger guard connects to the grip allowing for the shooter’s hand sit as high as possible on the TP9SA. This allows the Canik TP9SA to sit low in the user’s hand. This assists in limiting muzzle flip during recoil. The frame features an extended beavertail to help prevent slide bite as well as further manage recoil, especially during rapid strings of fire. Each pistol has an integral railed dust cover and comes with interchangeable backstraps to accommodate individual shooter requirements for grip feel. Horizontal cuts are found at the rear of the TP9SA’s slide for increased purchase when manipulating the slide. A loaded chamber tab protrudes above the slide at the ejection port area when a round is chambered. You can see and feel it easily. The extractor is large and stiff for durability and reliability.

The Canik TP9SA employs the familiar browning locked breech shot recoil tilting barrel design operating method. The barrel locks up tight when in battery. As made popular on previous weapon designs, Canik slightly modifies Browning’s design by moving the locking recess from the barrel; instead utilizing a single locking lug milled above the barrel’s chamber using the slide’s large overhead ejection port as its locking recess. The front contour of the barrel lug cam slot has been cut square to direct counter-recoiling forces up and forward into the barrel itself to reduce stress on the lug.

The TP9SA’s cold hammer forged rifled barrel measures 4.09 inches contributing to an overall length of 7.5 inches. Weight is 1.42 pounds with a height of 5.75 inches finishing off measurements. The Canik TP9SA comes from Century International Arms with what is listed two eighteen (18) round magazines. This T&E found it impossible to get more than seventeen rounds into the magazines. Along with a pair of Mec-Gar magazines, a few other accessories were included in the TP9SA’s fitted plastic case: a polymer retention holster featuring finger release mechanism along with two different types of attachments—belt slide and paddle, a magazine loading device, cleaning kit and a large backstrap insert that can be swapped for the smaller insert already in the grip.

As alluded to above the TP9SA has a certain feature separating it from other handgun designs. A decocking lever found atop the slide between rear sight and ejection port is definitely not the norm for us here in the US. It is a carry over from the TP9SA’s cousin the TP9 which was a DA/SA striker fired design. The decocker on the TP9 served its obvious named function on the DA/SA model. With the TP9SA, which features an excellent and consistent trigger pull, activation of the lever will render the trigger inoperable requiring the slide to be racked to reset the trigger. In actuality, you only need to move the slide about 3/8 inch to reset the trigger, but this can be problematic to do in a hurry. Canik may have decided this was desirable for safety reasons alleviating the need to pull the trigger for disassembly. Another reason could be the practice of certain locales to carry with empty chamber necessitating manipulation of the slide when bringing into use. Whatever the reason, users need to be aware of this feature.

Take down of the Century Canik TP9SA is easy and intuitive. First, unload it, make sure magazine is removed. Now, lower the slide and decock the gun. Pull the slide to the rear about an eighth of an inch and while holding it there, pull down on two buttons on either side of the frame, just above and in front of the trigger. Now slowly push the slide forward off the frame. The captive recoil spring comes out as does the barrel once the slide is off the frame.

T&E was conducted at Echo Valley Training Center, a private range located near Winchester, VA, where many local and federal law enforcement tactical team members train. Fellow shooters at the range perked up when first exposed to the Century Canik TP9SA. Many confessed ignorance of even being aware of the handgun’s existence or origination. It was deemed wise not to go into details until the TP9SA was experienced first hand in an effort to limit preconceived notions or handgun snobbery. This was based on it being a Turkish import from Century with a MSRP in the mid $300s. It was decided to dedicate some time evaluating the Canik TP9SA using several drills experienced during training with Graham Combat, Robert Vogel, Suarez International, Tactical Response, STORM MOUNTAIN, and other schools. Drills included working around breaching facades, door entries, and other CQB activities typified by experiences encountered in shoot house environments. A premium is placed on a quick handling accurate handgun such as the TP9SA with multiple rounds fired in quick succession the norm to put a target down. The natural point ability of the TP9SA comes into its own in this realm; after all the Walther P99 is often complimented on this point with it only reasonable for the TP9SA to follow suit considering similarities.

The TP9SA ergonomics and handling characteristics were quickly appreciated along with a more US based button magazine release located on the frame versus European style trigger guard lever. The full size grip frame and overall balance of the Century TP9SA made felt recoil negligible. The short reset trigger with a pull weight of approximately 5 pounds made rapid accurate strings of fire more feasible compared to trigger arrangement found on other striker fired pistols. The quality of the TP9SA’s trigger is the real surprise and contributes to the feeling of getting more than what you are paying for with the TP9SA…an envious position for any product. Black Hills Ammunition, Federal and Winchester ammunition was used. Loads fired spanned 115 grain to 147 grain with hollow points and FMJ bullet types utilized. Significantly, no malfunctions were experienced while firing over 500 rounds during range visits. Another ammunition brand used for T&E and imported by Century is HotShot Elite manufactured in Slovak Republic.

A weapon like the Century Canik TP9SA should be fired as it is designed to be used—standing without support and while moving to get off the “X”. This is the true measure of accuracy combining trigger pull, grip, and sights. First round hits were the norm fresh out of the box on the various Echo Valley Training Center steel targets, plate racks, and dueling trees thanks to the SA trigger. The advantages of the TP9SA trigger with its compact, minimal creep pull characteristics was proven with the TP9SA regularly produced 3.5 inch groups at 25 yards when fired from standing unsupported positions. Sights are a 3-dot variety with the rear sight is adjustable for windage. Both front and rear sights are polymer, which will not find a warm reception with users. The TP9SA shot point of aim right out of the box.No slack given or excuses made for the TP9SA when stating it is well made no matter what its MSPR is. This is not a Turkish bazaar cheap knock off. After all Canik is a NATO and ISO certified manufacturer. Century has discovered another worthwhile product in the form of the Canik TP9SA that most likely would have been unknown here in the US if not for their contacts around the world.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N3 (April 2017)
and was posted online on February 17, 2017


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