If I had a dollar for every gun that was characterized as a “Glock Killer” I’d have, well… several dollars. At least. The Canik TP9SF Elite may not be the gun that causes Glock to shed its mortal coil, but the Austrian maker would be wise to look over its shoulder now and again.
I first put my hands on a Canik pistol about five years ago when I spent some time with a Canik TP9 SA. The SA “Single Action” was like all Canik TP9 pistols, “inspired” by the very fine Walther P99 series pistols. Having owned actual P99s, at the time I was not overly impressed. Yes, it was inexpensive and like all the Caniks had a very good trigger, but it left me wanting more.
The tolerances were not tight, it rattled like a can full of loose change and like the Walther P99 QA models, featured a decocker that when depressed caused the trigger to go dead. Let’s just say that was not all that popular a feature.
Fast forward a few years and Canik has released a bevy of new models, all still deriving from the Walther P99 inspiration but now much improved in quality and features. In fact, it’s hard to think of a manufacturer that has released so many variants of a single model without expanding to a new line. I count 14 current TP9 choices and that doesn’t include the discontinued ones.
That’s a lot of TP9s.
Is it a compact?
The Canik TP9SF Elite is a compact size, striker fired, semi-auto pistol chambered in 9mm Parabellum. As you might guess with model designations all containing a “9”, you can get any caliber you want as long as it’s 9mm. Henry Ford would be proud.
Although compact implies smaller it is not a small pistol. It is marginally smaller than the full size TP9SF though it weighs about the same. Weight is one of the first things you notice on the Elite. The sturdy steel slide contributes to the 28+ ounce unloaded weight and gives the pistol a slightly top-heavy feel.
It’s a good 5 ounces heavier than a Glock 19 and it’s all in the slide. A look inside and you can see there’s a lot of beef there. The hefty slide is balanced by an equally robust recoil spring.
Even though it is a “compact” pistol you get a very generous 15+1 ammunition capacity with the standard magazines. You can also get the Elite with ten round magazines if you reside in a state with slightly backward ideas on such things.
The pistol tested here is the Canik TP9SF Elite “Tungsten” model. No, it’s not actually tungsten though with the weight of the slide you might think so. Canik has applied a tungsten colored Cerakote finish to the slide over the default Nitride finish for a muted two tone appearance. The Cerakote has a very finely pebbled, non-glaring texture to it.
The brand and model lettering on the slide is deeply embossed into the thick steel. It’s definitely not flashy but good looking in a utilitarian sort of way. On the Elite models Canik has opted for the extended ambidextrous HK-like slide release levers which is an improvement over the folded-over slide locks on the non-Elite models.
You get conventional cocking serrations on the slide both front and rear and a more than adequately sized tactical rail underneath.
To clone or not to clone
The magazine release is reversible and on the grip where it belongs. The trigger guard paddle magazine release levers on the Walther P99 are a feature I’m happy Canik chose not to clone here. The trigger is wide and the integral trigger safety blade is just about perfect. The travel is minute, it depresses flush with the trigger surface and doesn’t bite when shot like some do. That’s a small detail but done well.
The grip has textured panels left and right, and small raised pebbling front and rear. Two different sized interchangeable backstraps are included with the gun’s kit. I found the standard backstrap plenty big enough and the palm swell encourages the web of your thumb up into the pronounced beavertail.
The top of the grip is deeply channeled for your thumb and index finger which completes a very comfortable and secure feeling grip. You’ll see the TP9SF Elite’s trigger guard has a slight undercut as well. The net effect of these features is to give you a comfortable and secure grip as high on the pistol as possible and close to the bore axis.
I don’t have big mitts but this grip arrangement allows my trigger finger to engage the trigger at the distal joint, and my thumb can operate the magazine release without adjusting my hand position. If you have bigger hands just slip on the larger backstrap.
Canik has included a red tipped cocking indicator just like the P99s which protrudes out of the retaining plate when the striker is cocked. It is a somewhat helpful visual cue of the pistols firing condition. Unlike the P99, the well it sits in is too small for me to feel the indicator protruding with a fingertip.
What you have so far is a really solid feeling pistol that is slightly larger, heavier and more ergonomic than a G19. Worried yet Glock? Maybe not. But there’s more.
Canik features all metal Warren tactical sights on the TP9SF Elite. At this price point it is not surprising you don’t get Tritium night sights but you do get a fiber optic front sight. Honestly the fiber tube diameter is smaller than optimal but it beats a plain white dot all day long. The rear sight is a blacked out “U” notch. There is no RMR cut to mount an optic.
Then There’s The Trigger
Ah yes, the trigger (this where you Glock fans might want to go grab a soda or something). Canik triggers have been excellent ever since the TP9 line started out and the TP9SF Elite is no exception. As you squeeze the trigger you will find exactly ¼” of free play followed by 1/8” of compression. As you apply more pressure the trigger doesn’t move another micron until it breaks like a dry twig at right around four pounds.
There’s no mush, creep, grit, stacking or any of those other nasty things associated with lesser triggers. It’s precise and consistent. Bang.
As you release the trigger you get a very noticeable reset after a very short 1/8”of travel and you’re ready to go again. OK, maybe it is not the best trigger you’ll find on any pistol but you’ll be hard pressed to find one better on a gun in this price range, period. Well done Canik.
After inspecting the pistol, field stripping it and giving it a once over it was time to get down to business. By the way, field stripping the Elite is an absolute breeze vs. trying to pinch down the takedown nubs on a Glock as you claw the slide back.
From what I had seen about the Canik TP9SF Elite and a few minutes of dry firing at home I was pretty excited to hit our newly re-opened range. It was a warm sunny afternoon and it felt great to be out there. It doesn’t get any better, right? Well, not exactly…
I got through two magazines of warmup shots and… stovepipe jam. OK, cleared the brass. I went through another magazine and had yet another failure to eject. What’s up with that? In fact, out of the first 200 rounds I believe I had seven ejection failures. It was then I started watching the gun more than the target.
I could see that even when successfully ejecting, the brass was lobbing a very anemic foot or so above the pistol. As a very small lightbulb went off in my head I looked down at the open box of shells…
Sometimes It is The Arrow…
As you no doubt have experienced, ammunition supplies are pretty spotty these days. As I go through a prodigious amount of it I grab what I can, when I can. You can’t always be picky. In this case I had grabbed 500 rounds of Winchester “Service Grade” 9mm.
It was something I don’t recall using before but hey – it was in stock. The plain brown cardboard box looks cheap but you can’t judge a book by its cover, can you? Well, maybe you can.
I suspect this stuff had a pretty weak recipe and just didn’t have the pop to reliably motor the Canik’s substantial slide mass and spring around. It seems I was right.
Returning the next day after digging into my stocks of Federal, Sig and Blazer brass I tried it again. The difference was striking. Brass was flying like the Walendas and I cranked through another 250 rounds with exactly zero malfunctions. Shots filled the bullseyes, the trigger rocked and the Canik was doing everything I had hoped it would do on my first trip.
The massive slide that had been challenging the cheap ammo was now an asset as the muzzle flip was negligible and made follow up shots quick and precise.
No doubt a little breaking in helps but never discount the compatibility and performance of certain ammo with a particular gun. I’m usually down on guns that are picky eaters but in this case I’m inclined to point a finger at the ammo. I’ll feed the rest of that stock to some other pistols and see how they fare.
So is Glock quaking in their boots? Probably not, but Canik has so much going for it I’m sure they’ve taken some notice. The Canik TP9SF Elite give you better ergonomics, better sights and a better trigger than a G19 Gen 5 for a list price of about $200 less. The G19 is a little smaller and lighter, carries better and crushes the Canik in aftermarket and accessory support. If a Glock isn’t exactly how you want it, somebody sells the part you need to make it that way.
If you’re thinking about a new pistol for the range, home defense, competition and yes even carry, the TP9SF Elite is a serious contender. The box comes with a spare mag, speed loader and a holster – everything you need to get started. Canik does offer night sights as an aftermarket option and you have your choice of a Tungsten slide like this one or basic black. And you can get any caliber you want…
As long as it’s 9mm.
|Model: Canik TP9SF Elite Tungsten|
Barrel Length: 4.19″
Overall Length: 7.28″
|Weight: 28.3 oz (w/empty mag)|
Trigger Weight Measured: 4 lbs.
Sights: Warren Tactical, Fiber Optic