Testing The Canik TP9SF Elite Pistol
Written by Guest Article / Contributor , in Section Gun Reviews
A couple of years ago, a friend who worked at a gun shop mentioned a new pistol that he had purchased, and he was raving about its performance. He talked about how great the trigger was, how accurately it shot, its excellent reliability and how he thought it was better than most polymer-framed pistols on the market.
He said that it was a firearm made in Turkey, and he told me the price he paid. After hearing the dollar amount, I’m sure I made a face that was a cross between skepticism and downright snobbery. He later brought it by the store so I could see it, and after trying the trigger, I thought he might be on to something. The manufacturer of that pistol was Canik Arms.
After hearing about Canik’s TP-series pistols, I watched as the line evolved while certain updates were made and different features were added. I also kept an eye on firsthand reviews of various Canik pistols and kept seeing the same positive comments over and over again. So, I felt it was time to take a look at one for myself and was kindly introduced to the Canik TP9SF Elite.
The TP line of Canik pistols is imported by Century International Arms. And though the pistols are not from a country that most Americans associate firearms with (Turkey), there’s a lot to be said about their features and design execution—as a lot of American shooter have already found out.
The TP9SF Elite is essentially a shorter version of the TP9SF, with a few extras. The model I received was not the “S” model, which has a manual safety located at the rear of the triggerguard. I tested the non-S model that operates like a typical striker-fired pistol without a manual safety.
So, who is the Elite model for? The name implies something tactical or especially dressed with cutting-edge features. Based on the suite of enhancements made for the TP9SF Elite, that might be partially true. But it’s main distinction is its size. The Elite model is reduced both in height and overall length in comparison to the TP9SF. It is intended to be a more concealable weapon than the standard TP9SF while retaining enough size and capacity to be a true fighting weapon.
The TP9SF Elite is 7.28 inches long with a 4.19-inch barrel. It weighs in at 28.32 ounces with an empty magazine, and has a height of 5.27 inches. Because of its shorter height, the magazine capacity is 15 rounds instead of the TP9SF’s 18 rounds. However, higher-capacity TP-series magazines can be used in the Elite model as well.
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The TP9SF Elite is currently offered only with a black polymer frame. It is also outfitted with a loaded-chamber indicator, a cocked-striker indicator, front and rear slide serrations and an ambidextrous slide stop. The slide has a durable tungsten grey Cerakote finish, and it complements the black frame quite nicely.
Other features include a match-grade, cold-hammer-forged barrel, a reversible magazine release button and a dust-cover Picatinny accessory rail. The Warren Tactical sights are a nice step up with a fiber-optic insert (red or green) in the front blade.
Straight out of the box, the kit that comes with the Elite model is first class in its offerings and in its layout. The case is very organized, and the key components include a cleaning rod, a cleaning brush, two backstrap pieces (one on the gun), a punch for the backstraps, a magazine loader and a black polymer paddle/belt holster with a solid retention device.
Additionally, two MEC-GAR magazines with an anti-friction coating to assist with reliability are included. MEC-GAR is a top-tier magazine manufacturer and actually produces the “factory” magazines for a large number of big-name gun companies.
After such an exhaustive list of features and accessories, most people would be cringing in anticipation of the price for such a complete pistol package. But fear not, friends! The MSRP for this particular model is just $459, and you can find it for less with a little judicious shopping.
So, what’s the catch? With everything the TP9SF Elite offers at such a low MSRP, one would think that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” It would seem that to get the performance touted about such an inexpensive pistol would be like shooting for the moon. Only time and rounds on the range would reveal any fatal flaw, so I conducted three different testing sessions with the TP9SF Elite to prove its capabilities.
In total, I fired more than 700 rounds through the TP9SF Elite during the course of the review. I did this for a particular reason, but I’ll be discuss that in a bit. The first 400 rounds through the Elite were get-to-know-you shots to test for reliability and experience how the pistol handled and shot. The ammo used during this phase included Federal Premium’s new American Eagle 115-grain Syntec TSJ load, Blazer’s 115-grain Blazer Brass FMJ rounds, Hotshot Elite’s 115-grain FMJs and Sig Sauer’s 115-grain FMJ ammunition.
During this phase of the evaluation, the TP9SF Elite did not malfunction a single time. Right out of the box, it gobbled up those 400 rounds with an “Oh, please!” attitude. The pistol’s handling and performance were fantastic. With about a quarter-inch of zero-friction pre-travel, the trigger broke perfectly at an average of 4.25 pounds, and had a very short reset.
Canik claims the trigger pull was improved with this model over the others. I can’t vouch for that since I didn’t have much time with any of the others, but it’s my belief that the Elite model is definitely in the top two or three models for trigger pulls on striker-fired pistols. It just might be the very best trigger I have tried, but I would have to revisit a couple of other models on the market just to be sure.
The ergonomics of the Elite were superb, and the texturing is just the right balance between holding an eel and trying to milk a cheese grater. Though the bore axis is not the lowest on the market, the recessed undercut behind the triggerguard allows the user to get a secure, high grip on the pistol to help control recoil and acquire a more natural point of aim.
While the Warren Tactical sights are highly regarded in the industry, I had just a little difficulty getting a quick sight picture. Between aging eyes, the narrow rear sight and the very fine fiber-optic front insert, it took me a bit longer to get on target. I found that the sights were great for precise target shooting, but I would probably opt for a set of three-dot night sights.
Getting On Target
The accuracy trials were conducted during a separate range session, though the sample TP9SF Elite had not been cleaned yet. Reliability was still going to be observed while shooting groups that day. On hand were two ammunition offerings each from Federal Premium and Sig Sauer, which are listed in the accompanying table.
The testing was done at a distance of 15 yards and from a standing bag rest. The pistol was not locked down or snugged into a V-rest, so there was definitely a significant human factor present throughout the session.
After shooting three 5-shot groups with each of the four loads, the best average group size of 1.46 inches came with Sig Sauer’s 124-grain V-Crown JHP load. Additionally, the best five-shot group of the day was obtained with the same load, and it came in at just 1.06 inches.
After the accuracy “benchmarking” was done, I continued on firing the four premium loads until I hit the 300-round mark. Now at 700 rounds, the gun still had not malfunctioned one time despite not having been cleaned yet.
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The reason I went to this extreme was to wring out the pistol as much as possible, given my resources, to get a large enough sample to provide hard results to the readers. Not to cast shade on the TP9SF Elite, but there have been a few anecdotal reports about malfunctions occurring. I wanted to acknowledge my awareness of those reports, and knowing about them, I went into the test to do what I could to make the pistol malfunction—within reason. So, I fired the Canik TP9SF Elite one-handed, from the hip and even sideways. There simply weren’t any failures of any kind.
I even went further and shot four magazines of some truncated metal jacket (TMJ) ammunition that has proven to be problematic for some of my most reliable pistols. Despite all of the fouling and gunk that had accumulated after 700 rounds, the test gun fed the TMJ ammunition without a single hesitation. The pistol simply would not malfunction.
One thing I noticed with some of the observations made by other people was that their sample models actually got better after firing some rounds through them. So, it’s possible that something of a break-in period helps get things going right, though I don’t think there should be a break-in period for any modern pistol.
I do know that the sample I received had been previously fired, so it’s possible someone else did the break-in ahead of me. All I know is that without the benefit of cleaning, the TP9SF Elite shot around 760 rounds without so much as a hiccup. That’s more than good enough for me.
Plenty Of Value
Too often, we are subject to market conditions that dictate the “better” the product, the more money it costs. For the Canik TP9SF Elite I received and reviewed, that’s simply not the case. In my opinion, no one can point out any other striker-fired combat pistol on the market and detail something necessary it has that the Elite model does not.
It has a handsome and durable Cerakote finish on the slide that complements the polymer frame, and it has all of the trimmings associated with a modern fighting pistol. Pile on great ergonomics, exceptional reliability, great accuracy and a trigger pull that’s to die for, and Canik Arms amazes with this product even before a price gets mentioned. The low street price is just sprinkles on a jumbo sundae.
If you’re looking for a high-value proposition, give the Canik TP9SF Elite a hard look. Its capabilities and performance make it a serious contender, and in today’s world of modern pistols, that’s quite the accomplishment.
TP9SF Elite Specs
Barrel: 4.19 inches
OA Length: 7.28 inches
Weight: 28.32 ounces (empty)
Sights: Fiber-optic front, Warren Tactical rear
Finish: Black, tungsten Cerakote
For more information, visit canikusa.com
This article was originally published in “Concealed Carry Handguns” 2018. To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com .