TP9 SFx: Continuing Evolution of Century Arms Striker-Fired Import

By Todd Burgreen

Century Arms is well known for its efforts in manufacturing and importing firearms. These efforts give the U.S. consumer opportunities to own weapons that would not normally be available via domestic manufacturers or other importers. One of the more successful and well-received offerings is the Canik lineup of handguns. The Canik is 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 TP9 SFx. It is chambered in 9mm.

The TP9 SFx has evolved from previous Canik models. This is a credit to the success of the design. Many imports are “one and done” affairs. The Canik TP9 lineup has thrived. This is a testament to its overall quality. The first standard-issue polymer frame pistols of the Turkish Police Force hailed from the TP series. 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 TP9 series comprises polymer-framed, striker-fired handguns. The initial TP9 offerings distinctly resembled the Walther P99. While certainly similar in appearance, the TP9 is not a pure clone. It has different frame/slide and barrel dimensions. It is seriously doubtful that parts will interchange.

The Canik TP9 SFx has a reinforced polymer frame and steel slide with a significant design emphasis on ergonomics for ease of function. The slide is covered with a ceramic coating for durability. Serrations along the top of the slide help to diffuse sunlight reflection off the metal, keeping the 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 the shooter’s hand to sit as high as possible. This allows the Canik SFx 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.

Canik/Century developed the SFx to serve as the premium version of the TP9 series in order to show off the potential of the platform. The user knows something is different as soon as the SFx’s case is opened. Multiple modular features such as grip size, front sight fiber-optic tube, magazine release button, and extended slide lock are noticeable. What really gets your attention are the four mounting plates that accommodate various red dot sights. That’s right … The Canik TP9 SFx has the slide relieved and drilled/tapped to facilitate the mounting of several of the most popular red dot sights. A Warren rear sight mated to the fiber-optic front ensures that the user is taken care of if the red dot optic path is not chosen. Two 20-round magazines are included with the SFx. Magazines from the other TP9 models will also work with the SFx.

Picking up the SFx and manipulating it only reinforces the good vibes created by its aesthetics. Slide serrations and cutouts on the front of the slide show that some attention to detail was exercised in crafting the SFx. Overall tolerances with the SFx are tighter. The shorter trigger reset and overall light weight of the trigger pull leave no doubt that the SFx is not your standard Canik.

The Canik TP9 SFx employs the familiar Browning locked breech short-recoil tilting barrel design operating method. The 5.2-inch barrel locks up tight when in battery. As made popular in previous weapon designs, Canik slightly modifies Browning’s design by moving the locking recess from the barrel. Instead, the weapon utilizes 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.

As alluded to above, the TP9 SFx has a certain feature separating it from most other handgun designs—the ability to install a red dot optic. There is no resisting the ever-growing popularity of handguns featuring red dot sights (RDS). Competition handguns have sported enhanced sights, whether red dots or magnified optics, for decades now. These competition examples featured red dots that were big and ungainly affairs with complex, often times, custom mounts utilized for a “gaming” application and less than ideal for everyday carry. This is not the case with the current RDS offerings coming on line. A perfect example of this was the Trijicon RMR Type 2 was mounted on the SFx. The original RMR proved a favorite candidate for mounting on handgun slides. Trijicon embraced this by upgrading the RMR Type 2’s electronics design and battery contacts to increase reliability under the harshest use and stiffest recoil typified by the operation of a semi-automatic handgun slide.

Proficiency with a handgun is one of the most perishable weapon skills. This is further impacted as we get older due to changes in our vision causing difficulty in transitioning focus between sights and target. A solution to this problem is already widespread in rifle shooting. By adding a red dot sight to your AK or M4, your shooting skill generally improves in terms of accuracy, speed and proficiency at engaging moving targets. While a little more challenging technically speaking, due to size restrictions with a handgun, this was decided to be the best course of action with handguns. Suarez International is a great source for information, training and the procurement of quality gear related to red dot equipped handguns. Suarez was one of the earliest proponents of the concept.

Users of the Canik SFx equipped with the Trijicon RMR 2 find that they no longer have to switch focus from target to sights, and they invariably eliminate the “front sight focus” that is so difficult for older shooters to maintain naturally. Handgunners with a red dot equipped weapon can now do as nature intended—focus on the threat/target. Moreover, because it is far easier to index a red dot than three protruding pieces of steel, they find they can take shots beyond what was considered possible with iron sights. Hitting steel at 100 yards on the first shot is very possible with the Canik SFx, as well as running CQB drills at times that were considered impossible to achieve before. This is thanks both to the RDS concept making the best use of the shooter’s vision and the intuitive operation of such handguns as the SFx.

Range testing of the Century Canik SFx took place at Echo Valley Training Center. The SFx’s high-quality iron sights were used initially. The handgun’s accuracy and ability to place strings of fire on target raised expectations that the red dot was not needed. With that said, two initial T&E priorities were making sure that Canik SFx’s reliability was not compromised, and that the Trijicon RMR Type 2 red dot proved a worthy addition by increasing capability beyond what was experienced with the iron sights. Another concern was being able to find the RMR’s red dot just as quickly as one would expect to find the traditional iron sight front post, especially in fast-paced close-range affairs.

One component of the RDS concept that was not present with the SFx was the use of co-witnessing suppressor height iron sights to assist in seamlessly finding the red dot and to act as a backup in case of an unlikely electronic failure. Even with this said, the Canik SFx with RMR red dot sight assisted in engaging targets at close distances with the red dot easy to pick up rapidly, a process facilitated by being able to keep both eyes open. The Trijicon RMR Type 2 red dot offered the capability to engage multiple targets in rapid sequence with faster transition between targets compared to open sights; at the same time, it provided adequate accuracy out to at least a hundred yards. The RMR achieves this by superimposing an aiming point on the target while not totally obscuring it, as the dot is not that large. As many “maturing” shooters can attest, the single focus plane of the red dot makes it easier to shoot accurately than when trying to align front and rear sights. Both the SFx mounting bracket and Trijicon RMR Type 2 sight withstood the recoil and heat generated by repeated strings of fire. The RMR weighs only 1.2 ounces, which aids its ability to withstand the inertial forces experienced as a slide reciprocates.

It was decided to dedicate some time to evaluating the Canik SFx using several drills, including 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 Canik SFx with multiple rounds fired in quick succession. The natural point ability of the SFx comes into its own in this realm, with the RMR red dot proving advantageous. Both eyes open with a red dot superimposing “on target” information is hard to beat.

A weapon like the Century Canik TP9 SFx 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 the effects of the trigger pull, grip and red dot RMR sight. First round hits were the norm on the various Echo Valley Training Center steel targets, plate racks and dueling trees. The combined advantages of the TP9 SFx trigger, with its compact, minimal creep pull characteristics, and the Trijicon RMR were obvious; the SFx regularly produced 3.5-inch groups at 25 yards when fired from standing unsupported positions.

The Canik TP9 SFx’s ergonomics and handling characteristics were quickly appreciated. The full-size grip frame and overall balance of the Canik SFx made felt recoil negligible. The short reset trigger with a pull weight of approximately 4 pounds made rapid accurate strings of fire more feasible than would the trigger arrangements found on other striker-fired pistols. The quality of the SFx’s trigger is the real surprise and contributes to the feeling of getting more than what you are paying for with the TP9 SPx … An envious position for any product. The ability to securely mount your red dot of choice only bolsters this impression.

Black Hills Ammunition, Federal, Hornady and SIG SAUER ammunition were used. The loads fired ranged from 115-grain to 147-grain and included hollow points and FMJ bullet types. Significantly, no malfunctions were experienced while firing over 500 rounds during range visits.

The Century Canik TP9 SFx is an example of a handgun that pushes the envelope past “safe” norms, while still maintaining real world application. The Canik SFx increases the effectiveness of a handgun beyond what most thought capable.


Century International Arms
Black Hills Ammunition
Echo Valley Training Center
Federal Cartridge Company

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N10 (December 2017)
and was posted online on October 20, 2017


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