Andrei Karlov, the Canik55 TP9SF Elite-S, and Gory Death on YouTube
Andrei Gennadyevich Karlov was born in Moscow in February of 1954. A graduate of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Karlov was a veteran diplomat with impeccable credentials. He served in various posts in Asia to include ambassadorships in both North Korea and Turkey. Karlov was fluent in English and Korean as well as his native Russian. On December 19, 2016, Andrei Karlov was gunned down on HD television as he delivered a speech at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey.
Karlov’s assassin, a 22-year-old Turkish police officer named Mevlut Mert Altintas, intended to shine a light on Russian military involvement in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
Born into a secular family, this young Turk apparently radicalized into violent Islam while training in police school. The man had served two and a half years in an elite Ankara riot police unit. He had also been part of Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s security detail on eight different occasions.
Unlike most political assassinations that grace our history tomes, you can watch this one unfold in gory detail on YouTube. The art exhibition was titled “Russia Through Turks’ Eyes,” and it came at a time when relations between Russia and Turkey were teetering. There had been recent protests by Turks against Russian involvement in the Syrian Civil War, most specifically the Battle of Aleppo, and the region was festering.
Altintas used his police credentials to gain entry to the event and stood in the background throughout most of Karlov’s speech. Those in the gallery presumed he was a member of Karlov’s security detail. The video of the event is undeniably poignant.
Altintas shifts from one position to another during Karlov’s time at the podium. He seems unnaturally calm. He fidgets a bit but gives off no real evidence of his intentions right up until he draws his weapon.
Altintas moves to the left rear of the venue, apparently in an effort to establish a better angle for his shot. From a position behind, and to the rear of his target, he draws his concealed firearm, a Canik55 TP9 Compact 9mm handgun, and adopts a quick two-handed stance. He then fires several rounds, striking Karlov from behind and wounding three spectators.
After the shooting Altintas walks about smashing pictures and shouting in both Arabic and Turkish. His diatribe (“Allahu Akbar”) translates into: “God is the greatest. We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad, for jihad. Do not forget Aleppo, do not forget Syria.” And, “We die in Aleppo, you die here.”
Turkish security forces responded in short order and cut Altintas down. Andrei Karlov was taken to a Turkish hospital but succumbed to his wounds shortly thereafter. The killing came at a particularly critical time.
World Events, a Communist Church, and Regional Fallout
In 2015 Turkish forces shot down a Russian military aircraft that the Turks claimed had strayed into their airspace. This plane had been engaged in combat operations in Syria in support of Syrian government forces. In retaliation, Russia imposed restrictions on its citizens attempting to travel to Turkey as well as economic sanctions.
Andrei Karlov was ambassador to Turkey at the time of the shoot-down, and he blamed the Turkish government squarely for the event. Diplomatic relations were not normalized between the two nations for some eight months afterward. Karlov claimed that Russian warplanes were not bombing civilian targets in Syria, a questionable narrative that drew criticism from around the globe.
As former ambassador to North Korea, Karlov was instrumental in the opening of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Life-Giving Trinity in Pyongyang in 2006. For his efforts he was awarded the Order of Seraphim of Sarlov. Karlov received the title Hero of the Russian Federation posthumously after his assassination. The exhibition hall where the killing took place was ultimately renamed in his honor as was the Ankara street that houses the Russian embassy. Karlov’s likeness was reproduced on a series of Russian postage stamps.
The Turkish Canik55 Company is a state of the art weapons manufacturing concern that produces handguns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers. They also make parts for the international aerospace industry. Their aviation customers include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Airbus. Canik55 weapons equip the Turkish armed forces as well as Turkish Law Enforcement agencies.
The imported Canik55 TP9 pistol has been a staple from Century International Arms for years now. The TP9 family of guns represents arguably the best value in a tactical handgun on the modern American market. I penned an omnibus article for GunsAmerica back in February of 2018 that covers all the variegated variants available at the time. The TP9SF Elite-S is a proper facsimile of the gun Altintas used to kill Andrei Karlov. A quick perusal of the offerings on GunsAmerica shows this particular weapon running between $388 and $469.
The TP9SF Elite-S pistol sports a 4.19-inch cold hammer-forged barrel formed out of 32CrMoV12-10 steel rated for +P loads. The magazine accepts fifteen-rounds. The firing pin protrudes slightly from the rear of the slide to indicate the state of the striker.
The frame on the TP9SF Elite-S is undercut slightly behind the trigger guard to lower the bore axis. There is also a dedicated loaded chamber indicator that is detectable both visually and by feel.
My gun sports a Cerakote steel-colored finish on the slide the company calls Tungsten. At risk of seeming silly, the steel color juxtaposed against the black polymer frame seems to strike a cool, sinister tone.
The magazine catch is reversible, and the slide release is bilateral.
There are interchangeable backstraps as well as a front sight fiber optic insert. In classic Canik55 fashion they also include spare light rods in case you happen to break one.
TP9SF Elite-S has an intuitive and effective finger-actuated safety not found anyplace else. Use it if you want, don’t if you don’t. I personally like it a lot. If it offends you the standard TP9SF Elite model eschews it.
All TP9 guns sold in this country come with a plethora of accessories. These include an excellent polymer retention holster with both paddle and belt attachments widely adjustable for cant. The gun has a single spare magazine and a mag loader along with a generous array of cleaning tools all in a nice lockable plastic case.
The striker-fired trigger on the compact TP9SF Elite-S is in the same league as that of a Glock or HK VP9. However, the TP9 typically runs at least $150 to $200 less than these more mainstream guns. I find the TP9SF Elite-S pistol to be comparably accurate to any polymer-framed combat handgun on the market today. The gun fits the hand nicely and is sedate on the range.
The controls on the TP9SF Elite-S offer fast operation, and the compact chassis will pack anywhere a Glock 19 might. The slide is grooved both front and rear for easy manipulation when sweaty or rushed. Magazines drop away freely. The gun shoots straight and runs fast. It is also just stupid reliable. I love shooting mine.
Ours is a fairly wretched world wherein you can pull up video of a man being shot to death on YouTube. Such violence as this has always been a lamentable part of the human condition, but it becomes somehow more personal and repugnant when you can watch it unfold while comfortably ensconced in your favorite recliner. In the murder of Andrei Gennadyevich Karlov, however, we see darkness ultimately fail.
Karlov indeed became a martyr, while Altintas joined the swollen ranks of misguided dead terrorists. Relations between Turkey and Russia were minimally inconvenienced, if at all. Blood was spilled, families grieved, and the world otherwise stayed pretty much the same. In the final analysis, both men died for absolutely nothing.
1.77 lbs Empty
Group Size (inches)
Winchester Defend 147-gr JHP
Browning 147-gr FMJ
Armscor 124-gr FMJ
Winchester White Box 115-gr FMJ
Hornady 115-gr FTX
Group size is best four of five shots fired at 12 meters. Velocity is the average of three shots across a Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph oriented ten feet from the muzzle.