The Evolution of the Canik TP9: Everyman’s Combat Handgun Becomes the Apex Predator

Mechanical systems evolve over time. The earliest German Messerschmitt Bf 109 A fighter plane first flew in 1937. That remarkable aircraft sported a Jumo 210A 600-horsepower engine driving a fixed-pitch two-bladed propeller. Seven years later the Bf 109 G-6 carried a Daimler-Benz DB 605A-1 powerplant producing 1,455 hp turning a constant-speed variable-pitch paddle-geometry three-bladed prop. The G-6 was easily twice as capable as the earlier A model. The Nazis ultimately produced 33, 984 copies of the plane. Operational pressures exerted by full-bore combat on three fronts drove the Bf 109 to evolve over time.

The family of Canik TP9 pistols as imported by Century International Arms rep-resents arguably the best buy in a combat handgun in America. Now fully evolved through five generations, the TP9 offers everything a name-brand pistol might along with certain features available nowhere else all at a superb price.

The original TP9 was effective and reasonably priced yet offered a fairly blocky aesthetic.

Origin Story

Several years ago Century International Arms began importation of the Canik TP9 handgun. Built in Turkey at an ISO 9001-certified weapons production facility, that original TP9 represented an amalgam of proven handgun designs. Canik produces rocket launchers and sniper rifles as well as parts for the aviation industry. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Airbus all use their components. While their weapons have not exactly been staples on this side of the pond in years past, the Turks know how to make good stuff.

That original TP9 was most closely related to the Walther P99. The gun ran off of the expected short recoil tilting lock operating system pioneered by the Browning Hi-Power. This basic system of operation drives every major handgun on the planet including models by Glock, SIG Sauer, Smith and Wesson, FN, and HK. Like the P99, the TP9 sported a striker-fired single action/double action trigger and a manual slide-mounted decocker button. The TP9 trigger offered the option of a pre-loaded striker for accuracy or an unloaded state with a longer, heavier trigger pull for safety. Unlike the P99, the decocker on the TP9 was ambidextrous. The striker protruded slightly out the back of the slide to indicate its status.

The gun’s 4-inch cold hammer-forged barrel was formed from 32CrMoV12-10 steel rated for +P loads. The gun came with a pair of superb Mec-Gar 18-round magazines along with a nice polymer holster that included two mounting attachments. There were interchangeable backstraps to suit various-sized shooters. On top of all that was a proper array of cleaning equipment all shipped in a tidy lockable polymer case. That TP9 cost just over half what a comparable name-brand handgun might.

The TP9SA included a slightly elongated slide and barrel along with a radically redesigned grip geometry. This gun both looked good and ran well.

Evolution Through Natural Selection

That original TP9 was indeed a superb combat handgun at a remarkable price point. However, the gun’s lines were a bit blocky, and the side of the grip sported a cavorting dolphin. The next generation TP9 SA was a response to the vagaries of the American shooting public.

The TP9 SA added a slightly longer frame and slide along with a blade safety in the trigger face. The SA could be had in both black and tan finishes and sported a more streamlined aesthetic. The TP9 SA included more aggressive grip stippling and a shape that better suited the human hand. The SA still retained the slide-mounted decocker. While this provided a safe way to drop the striker for disassembly, the slide had to be partially drawn to recock the striker after it had been disengaged. This made for a slightly awkward manual of arms. The TP9 SA added a mechanical loaded chamber indicator atop the slide.

The subsequent TP9 SF retained the elongated slide and barrel of the SA along with everything else that was good and wholesome about the design. It did, however, delete the slide-mounted decocker. In this configuration, the mechanism fully transformed into a Glock-style striker-fired trigger. While there was the standard bevy of internal safety mechanisms, the sole external safety was a blade in the trigger face. Keep your finger off the trigger, and the gun is on safe. Put your finger inside the trigger guard, and the gun goes hot.

The TP9SF includes the SA upgrades but dispenses with the manual decocking button. In this configuration the gun approximates the striker-fired trigger system of a GLOCK pistol.

The TP9SFx is the race gun version of the line. Longer, heavier, and sporting a 20-round magazine, the TP9SFx is a joy to run. With a micro red dot sight in-stalled like this one from EOTech the gun offers phenomenal performance.

Speeding Things Up a Bit

The TP9 SFx is the race gun version of the TP9 series. The slide and barrel are stretched out yet a little bit farther, and the elongated slide is slotted at its nose for lighter weight and faster lockup. The front sight now includes a fiber optic insert, and the rear of the slide is cut to accept a variety of common micro red dot electronic sights.

The slide release is extended for faster, easier purchase, and the magazine release has a little extra button that can be attached to poke it out a bit as well. The magazine capacity is expanded to twenty. Also, the gun is available in a cool gunmetal grey bake on finish. There is also an extended cocking rod that can be affixed to the side of the slide for lightning fast operation. The included polymer holster is upgraded to accommodate all these advanced features.

Up until this point the slide release has been mounted solely on the left side of the frame, while the magazine button remained easily reversible. Where the earliest TP9 looked a bit blocky and awkward, the latest TP9 SFx looks like it fell off of the set of the latest Star Wars movie.

All of the newest TP9 variants sport an imbedded trigger safety tab.

The Apex Predator

Each of the TP9 variants discussed thus far has been a full-sized combat handgun. They would all render superb service on a nightstand or in the glove box of your car. However, I have packed all four concealed and found that you have to want that pretty hard to pull it off. These guns run great on the range, but they eat into you rather badly on a long car trip or while wearing minimalist Southern attire like shorts and a t-shirt. The TP9 SF Elite-S is the answer to the concealed carry conundrum.

The TP9 SF Elite-S is chopped back to be stubbier than even the original TP9 before it had its snout elongated. Magazine capacity is pruned back to fifteen, but the grip is shrunken commensurately. The TP9 SF Elite-S retains all the evolved good stuff of its forebears to include the fiber optic front sight (with included replaceable inserts) and trigger-mounted safety. The striker-fired trigger can hold its own with name brand guns costing hundreds more. In addition, the slide release is now replicated on the right side of the gun.

There is an additional lever located on the bottom of the trigger guard that looks at first brush to be a magazine release lever in the manner of the Walther P99 or HK VP-series guns. However, the magazine release on the TP9 SF Elite-S remains the reversible pushbutton in the expected spot. This incongruous little lever is actually an inspired manual external safety.

Benefits of the Safety

Glock handguns occupy the holsters of fully 65% of American Law Enforcement officers, and they have only a trigger face blade safety that is externally accessible. However, I know of five episodes wherein sworn LE officers had accidental discharges with their GLOCK handguns. Four of which resulted in significant officer injuries. Each resulted from a training failure, but a discrete external manual safety would have prevented most of them. The manual safety on the TP9 SF Elite-S is easily engaged and easily disengaged. If you don’t want it then don’t use it. If you really don’t want it the gun is available without it. However, I like having the option of a little extra safety, particularly when I am carrying around kids. The TP9 SF Elite-S occupies the same mid-sized envelope in the handgun spectrum as does the GLOCK 19.

Practical Impressions

These guns run. I own all five of these heaters and have put countless rounds through them of all geometries without a failure. The extractors are grossly over-designed, and the grip geometry, particularly in the latest versions, is comfortable, firm, and attractive. I find that I shoot about as well with the stubby TP9 SF Elite-S as I do with the longer service pistol models. The TP9 SFx race gun is pure ballistic joy on the range.

Magazines drop free on all five weapons, and the controls run fast and well. Muzzle flip and recoil are indistinguishable from higher end weapons. The latest striker-fired triggers are easily the equals of the big name pistols. I like the overall layout, and the various color options make them look just super cool. Anything designed to ride on a Picatinny rail will run on these guns. Nowadays a manly European eagle emblem has replaced the original’s cavorting dolphin, for those who might be concerned with such stuff as this.

Ruminations

I have been shooting for fun and money for more than a quarter century now, and it is rare a gun really impresses me these days. The TP9-series pistols, however, are simply superb pieces of kit. The features are clearly contrived by gun guys who really know pistol shooting, and the latest TP9 SF Elite-S offers a few things like the discreet extra safety not available in other guns at any price.

Regardless of your budget, the TP9-series pistols are now competitive with the best HK, GLOCK, FN, and Ruger have to offer. Considering that they are markedly cheaper than their competition just sweetens the deal. The extended family of Canik TP9 pistols is a perfect example of the elegance of mechanical evolution in action.

For more information about Canik, click here.

***Check out GunsAmerica for a TP9 Canik.***

About the author: Will Dabbs was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, having been immersed in hunting and the outdoors since his earliest recollections. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mississippi and is the product of a traditional American nuclear family. Where most normal American kids get drunk to celebrate their 21st birthday, Will bought his first two machineguns. Will served eight years as an Army Aviator and accumulated more than 1,100 flight hours piloting CH47D, UH1H, OH58A/C, and AH1S helicopters. He is scuba qualified, has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning, and has summited Mt. McKinley, Alaska–the highest point in North America–six times (at the controls of a helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains). For reasons that seemed sagacious at the time he ultimately left the Army as a Major to pursue medical school. Dr. Dabbs has for the last dozen years owned the Urgent Care Clinic of Oxford, Mississippi. He also serves as the plant physician for the sprawling Winchester ammunition plant in that same delightful little Southern town. Will is a founding partner of Advanced Tactical Ordnance LLC, a licensed 07/02 firearms manufacturer and has written for the gun press for a quarter century. He writes solely to support a shooting habit that is as insensate as it is insatiable. Will has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than thirty years and has taught his Young Married Sunday School class for more than a decade. He and his wife currently have three adult children and a most thoroughly worthless farm dog named Dog.

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Texf6 July 30, 2018, 8:32 am

    I concur with the TP9V2. That’s the iteration that I most favor also having 2 TP9SA’s. Observation about the SA’s that keep them from being a go to. It’s not the decocker as I agree with one poster that it requires too much force to accidentally engage. Also one only need stroke the slide perhaps 3 mm and it’s recocked. Nope, it’s the fact that a high ride on the trigger facing doesn’t deactivate the trigger blade safety. One must consciously ride the trigger toward the lower end of the blade almost using the trigger guard as a point of reference. While this may be “good trigger control practice”, its a show stopper for me for the SA to be an EDC. No such problem with the V2. Never an issue with XDs, Ruger SR9s, or my sole Glock. If it happens to me at the range while enjoying recreational shooting then there is no way that in a stress filled situation that I want that “oh yeah moment” of I forgot to ride the trigger blade low enough.

    Texf6

  • Mr. Shifter February 14, 2018, 4:06 pm

    I absolutely concur with Mr. Dabbs, Canik makes a fine weapon. I personally own three TP9SA models and one SF model. The SA is my daily carry weapon. I have been using the first supplied holster and pistol for a three years….and when I say carry, I mean EVERY single day from the second I put on my pants until the second I take them off. The de-cocker has NEVER gone off, by hitting it, never. It takes so many pounds of pressure to activate I never worry about it…..like 7lbs on the side and 10lbs on top….something like that. The supplied holster has gone through hell and still hangs in there. What a bargain this weapon is. You can purchase two for the price of one of the expensive ones and trust me, they preform just as well/better. I’m about to purchase a newer version, not sure which one. Get over it “Glock Guys” and just admit that Canik does make a great weapon…..it’s just your pride that keeps you from saying so…..or mostly, just the fact you don’t own one, nor fired one and just won’t admit another company can make a fine weapon at half the price. “Canik, best striker fire trigger, period”, and accuracy…..unreal. I also own many SAR Arms 9mm, Girsan 1911’s and Tisas 1911’s….all made in Turkey and all fine weapons. Oh, and guess what, my Winchester SPX Marine Extreme 12ga was made in Istanbul Turkey and still are……why?,…because the Turks can make fine weapons, like it or not. If you like the Turks or not, doesn’t take away the fact they make great weapons.

  • Lloyd Dumas February 14, 2018, 5:58 am

    I’ll pass. Do not care for plastic guns old fashion and stubborn. I wonder if these new materials were available at the time what would John Browning choose, steel or plastic.

    • Jeremy February 14, 2018, 11:04 am

      I suppose you drive a vehicle from the 50’s? Does your “old ways” prevent you from buying cars with polymer components?

      • Clint March 8, 2018, 7:09 am

        I agree with Lloyd even though I do have a Canik TP9 and have other plastic toys due to not being able to get quality “old” stuff anymore. Most of my carpentry tools are old school. Not saying that some of the newer products aren’t better but don’t chastise us old guys who prefer “old ways”. You will wish for the past if you’re lucky enough to live that long.

  • Sky Buster February 12, 2018, 10:32 pm

    My experience with the TP9-SFx was not steller. Out of the box, it would frequently
    fail-to-eject. A call to Century Arms resulted in a different recoil spring. Problem
    solved. In the first 500 rounds, the tip broke off the striker. I wouldn’t trust my life
    to one.

  • Ditto February 12, 2018, 6:17 pm

    Hmmm… I guess that’s … sort of interesting… but I completely disagree with the author’s premise. Comparing the evolution of the TP9 to that of a battle tested WWII fighter plane is ridiculous. Why didn’t they just make the TP9 right to begin with. From the start the gun was interesting because it was cheap. But it was always flawed. Each succeeding iteration has tried to answer criticisms of the gun. Meanwhile, people like John Browning with the 1911, and Gaston Glock with the G17 pretty much got it right to begin with.

    • Tim Allen February 12, 2018, 8:51 pm

      So why are there gen5 Glocks? I tested Glocks at my local range, then I bought the Canik tp9sf elite. No regrets. Great shooter, more in the box, sweet trigger, better sights than glock, and the difference in price buys more magazines and ammo. Glock owners are always trying to justify their excessive money spent. Glocks are not the gods of all handguns. You are probably still having sex with your first (yourself), and swearing there is nothing better.

      • Threedhuntr February 14, 2018, 3:10 am

        😂

  • Erik February 12, 2018, 1:38 pm

    One of the best purchases I made is Canik TP9SF. I have other polymer guns from Glock, S&W and HK but Canik trigger is better than any of them even though it is cheapest of all them. Now I am waiting for release of TP9SFT.

  • Richard Fuller February 12, 2018, 12:09 pm

    I like reading write ups like on the TP9. My question isn’t on the TP9’s, however, I hope there is an answer. I know the M1 carbine had .30 cal bullets designed for pistols. What were the pistols? Has an automatic been made for this .30? I figured if anyone knew, it had to be you guys! Thank you.

    • BIGKIELBASSA February 12, 2018, 12:38 pm

      Automag 3 was made in .30 Carbine. Mine shoots well with a nice trigger . They are no longer made but I’ve seen them at gun shows around $1400. Lots of fun . Only other handgun ,a revolver, now made in .30 carbine is a Ruger Blackhawk.

    • Andrew N February 13, 2018, 12:50 am

      It’s not the .30 cal or an Auto, but a very comparable round is the .327 Federal Magnum. Ruger and a few others make revolvers for it, and Henry just came out with a lever action as well. I have a Ruger Single Seven and it’s a blast! (No pun intended…sort of) 500 ft. lbs. of energy from the high power load, 370 from the lighter one, with very manageable recoil. I just bought the Henry, but have yet to take it out. Find someone with this round and try it out. The revolver also allows me to shoot .32 H&R Magnum, S&W .32, S&W .32 Long, and even the .32 ACP.

  • BOhio February 12, 2018, 11:33 am

    If you’re not going to follow the accuracy testing protocol of American Rifleman, then don’t bother publishing your “results”.

    Best four of five, at 13y? Ridiculous.

  • Lough Sun February 12, 2018, 10:32 am

    I have the TP9 V2, I have no idea why you left that one out of the family of pistols. If you put the original tp9 in there you should have put the V2. I agree with your article I thought that was just a clumsy oversight now that it offended me or anything lol.

  • Jim February 12, 2018, 9:29 am

    I am a Gunsmith and Mech. Eng. and I agree with everything you say regarding these fine firearms. The manual safety on the SF Elite is inspired engineering and makes me wonder why it isn’t used on all new designs. I own the TP9 SF Elite and TP9FX and both just run.

  • Rip February 12, 2018, 8:19 am

    Now add on a slide lock on the right side and you will get some lefty money!

  • Marcelino February 12, 2018, 7:58 am

    I’ll stick to Glocks, simplicity, competitive pricing and wide aftermarket parts. Besides Turkey’s Erdogan is not a friend, never was, never will be.

    • Bill February 12, 2018, 8:41 am

      Not a Glock fan, but agree on the Erdogan thought. He seems bound and determined to turn Turkey into another Islamic “heaven” like Iran.

    • Scott February 13, 2018, 3:08 pm

      Well the Canik is a private company and has got no relations with the turkish government what so ever. They aren’t even the leading pistol in the turkish military and security forces. So i wouldn’t worry about that politicial stuff even though you are right about erdogan.

  • NRSNick February 12, 2018, 7:44 am

    I have two of them and they are my go-to carries. Awesome triggers and ergos and eat everything without failure. You didn’t mention the DA model, which was discontinued for reasons I have never been found to cause concern or have ever failed me. I actually prefer it. The SF-Elite I have is fantastic as well.

  • akjc77 February 12, 2018, 6:55 am

    Only thing I have against it is where it’s made! Turkey has a Islamic dictator in Erdogan and I don’t think they should be a NATO partner anymore.

  • Dr. Strangelove February 12, 2018, 4:28 am

    Quite a coincidence that you would compare this pistol to the Messerschmitt, because Turkey is becoming much like Nazi Germany. They are not a friend of ours nor our ally Israel. I won’t buy any of their products.

  • Roy T Bynum February 12, 2018, 3:56 am

    This whole concept seems to me to compliment the new lines of polymer based super pistols like Kel Tecs PMR -30…super sleek well balanced and yet having a rocky start has proven a standard in the Indy s try.

  • Will Drider February 11, 2018, 7:47 pm

    I was turned off by the slide top decocker/required slide reset and unknown brand history when they first arrived. They kept my interest as more and more favorable reviews surfaced. Your excellent Article put all the inportant info together, Well Done.

    I’ve been a Vitamin “G” guy for decades but was originally a “G” hater. A Dept choice forced my hand and “Try it you’ll like it” was a understatement. I think that same encouragement will prevail with the Canik Line, then you add on the current price point! The imbedded safety on the trigger guard is genius and unabtrusive though some will scoff at its presents and the possibility of it being unintentionally engaged. It wouldn’t bother me a bit.
    I don’t need one but there is a difference between need and want. Tomorrow is a new day.
    Thanks again for a good Article,
    Will

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