Full size polymer-bodied pistols of decent quality generally cost from $500 to $750 these days. If you dip below the $500 mark it may mean you’re getting something of significantly reduced quality and reliability. Turkish gun manufacturer Canik is challenging that notion with their TP9 SA pistol.
The $399 TP9 SA is an evolution of their TP9 double-action/single-action pistol. The SA model is single action only and comes in black and desert tan Duracoat. I spent time shooting the TP9 SA this month and found it to be quite the good value.
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Why Consider the TP9?
While getting performance and quality on a budget is a goal for many first-time gun buyers, the reality is difficult or impossible to achieve. The TP9 SA seems to be the first legitimate answer to that quest in a full-size pistol.
In addition to the low price, the TP9 SA has several positive qualities that make it worthy of consideration, including interchangeable backstraps, eighteen rounds of 9mm in high-quality magazines, and perhaps the best trigger you’ll find on any striker-fired pistol at any price. I’m not kidding.
TP9 SA Specs:
- Chambering: 9mm
- Length: 7.5”
- Height: 5.7”
- Width: 1.35”
- Barrel: 4.09”
- Trigger: ~4.5 lb.
- Sights: White 3-dot with drift-adjustable rear
- Safety: n/a
- Weight: 24 oz.
- Slide: Black or Desert Tan Duracoat
- Capacity: 18+1
- MSRP: $399
Shooting the TP9
I quickly fell in love with the trigger. Shooting the TP9 SA is very enjoyable on that score. Despite the good trigger, the first thing I noticed is that this pistol shot really low for me. At 5 yards, it was shooting a full 1.5” low and the point of impact didn’t begin to become close to “normal” until after 15 yards. This anomaly could have been my mechanics, but I spoke with several others at the range who all claimed it shot low for them, too.
Mechanical offset issues aside, I was able to shoot the TP9 for small groups, so there’s nothing wrong with its accuracy. The pistol is comfortable in my hand and the trigger reach was quite short. For the purposes of this review I only put a few hundred rounds through the pistol, but it ran perfectly and it was an enjoyable experience. As per usual, my hands were all over the slide-lock lever so there were times the pistol did not lock open on the last round. All my fault.
Comfort and Controllability
The TP9 comes out of the box with the small backstrap installed, making it very comfortable and easy to shoot for people with smaller hands. The grip angle is more vertical than you find on a Glock, more akin to that of a Walther or H&K pistol. The grip contour is nice, but like pretty much every other polymer gun, the grip texture is only serviceable for dry hands.
I found the TP9 SA to be a relatively soft shooter, but despite the low bore axis it does have a bit more muzzle flip than I find on most comparable pistols. The slide and frame are quite narrow and the frame is no wider than the slide, and straight sided, so I did not enjoy the absence of a support-hand forward “thumb rest” protrusion on the frame since I use my forward thumb to help manage recoil and muzzle rise while firing.
Components and Features
The trigger on the TP9 is fantastic. It’s lighter than I’ve found on any other striker-fired pistol, at around 4.5 pounds. The action of the trigger is completely grit free and while there is quite a bit of initial takeup, the break is crisp and the reset short. I’d take this trigger on any of my pistols. The rest of the controls seem well placed and I had no trouble running the gun.
The slide machining is seemingly of excellent quality, but I note that the desert tan finish on the gun I shot was more like paint than Cerakote. Pretty sure it is some kind of Duracoat finish. The 3-dot sights are nothing to write home about. I had no trouble picking them up, but they’re perhaps not best for all-purpose use. I tried, but was unable to find any aftermarket sights available.
The big point of contention among the features is the decocker on top of the slide. This feature seems to be a vestige of the original TP9. Whereas a decocker makes sense for a DA/SA gun, it makes no sense whatsoever on a single-action gun. The only positive function of the decocker here is for fieldstripping. You can press the decocker and then remove the slide without having to press the trigger first. Beyond that, any engagement of the decocker simply renders the trigger dead, so an accidental engagement means your pistol is not ready to fight and you have to work the slide in order to get the gun back in working order.
As far as I’m concerned, this flaw makes the Canik TP9 SA a no-go as a defensive weapon and relegates the pistol to plinking and competition use. Nothing terrible there, as a sub $400, 19-round stock pistol that actually works is not a bad way to get into competitive shooting!
There is a 3-slot picatinny rail on the frame. The steel magazines are quite nice. They’re made by Mec-Gar, which is known for quality. While the grip does not seem overlong, the 18-round capacity is another nice feature.
The price is nice! The value is nicer! The customizable grip size and the good fit for small hands will be welcome features for many folks—women especially. The capacity is excellent and the trigger is just about the best I’ve ever seen. Did I mention the price?
The TP9 SA is a bit too big to be a good carry gun. The decocker is practically useless and pretty much disqualifies the pistol for defensive carry, anyway. The sights are not well suited to all-purpose use and the lack of aftermarket options is not awesome.
So for rating the TP9…
There’s nothing terribly excellent about the shape and comfort of this gun, but nothing terribly bad either.
I’m deducting a bit for the slight extra bit of muzzle flip and the lack of a frame contour for a forward thumb rest, but surely this won’t be an issue for everyone.
I found it to be a darned accurate shooter, though it did shoot rather low for me (and everyone else at the range that shot this pistol). This one required a full-on twelve o’clock hold.
The TP9 is not well suited to concealed carry. This is a plinker and competition gun.
The price is the thing most folks will first take notice of, but the value for that low price appears to be excellent. While I only put a few hundred rounds through it, I have read from people I trust where this pistol endured 1000-round challenges without a hiccup. So reliability would seem to be component to the value.
My opinion is that the Canik TP9 SA is a pretty darned good pistol and would be an excellent way for a new shooter on a budget to get into the hobby. It would also seem to be a great option for those with small hands to get a good pistol that fits.
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