Canik TP9 Elite Combat—The Value-Priced Defensive Pistol
Turkey has a longstanding tradition of manufacturing licensed models, then producing evolved domestic variants. The Canik series of handguns started as budget clones of the German Walther P99. The quality of Caniks has always been decent, but the initial designs showed a certain disconnect from real-world uses—not surprising given the limited private gun ownership in Turkey. One model with a single-action striker had a prominent decocker which would produce a dead trigger with no way to re-cock without racking the slide. Another had a light, crisp trigger with the geometry so poorly chosen and materials so flimsy that it couldn’t be reliably fired with a high thumb two-handed grip. After all those growing pains, Century Arms now imports six variants of TP9, from a basic everyday-carry configuration to a dedicated race gun. TP9 Elite Combat (TP9EC) is the most recent offering, designed in part by Salient Arms International and manufactured in Turkey. The U.S. contribution to the design shows in the much better thought out pistol than in some of the previous efforts. As a mainstream, striker-fired Browning, tilt-barrel design, TP9EC brings multiple useful features to the game.
TP9EC uses a Cerakote polymer frame with metal rails and locking block. Inside, it’s a conventional tilting barrel Browning-type mechanism. Designed by Salient, a 4.55-inch nitrided fluted barrel is threaded 13.5x1LH and features a knurled thread protector with flats for the included wrench. Canik makes up for the less known brand with extra features and accessories included at no extra charge. The pistol comes in a hard case with a flush-fitting, drop-free, 15-round metal magazine and a spare with a +3 extended floorplate; four micro red dot mounting plates covering just about every MRDS on the market; a magazine loader; an adjustable cant plastic holster with an unorthodox retention device; a larger backstrap; a trigger lock; cleaning jag and bore brush; and a disassembly instruction card. For actual carry, something other than the included holster would be recommended: the retention method requires pressing the latch towards the muzzle with the index finger to draw (not a very quick or comfortable motion). A mag loader is included, but loading by hand proved just as quick and easy.
The first impression is very favorable. The pistol fits the hand well, with just enough texture for retention without being abrasive. All controls are accessible while retaining a low profile. The flared magazine well is another Salient upgrade, with a wide funnel for quick reloads and a bit of a pommel to aid retention. The magazine release button is placed, textured and tensioned just right and reversible for left-handed shooters. Salient-designed, dovetailed, fiber-optic front and non-glare square notch rear sights provide a good sight picture. The rear sight is retained with two set screws but requires a pusher tool for adjustment. From the box, the pistol shot substantially high and somewhat to the right of center, but sight adjustment was quick and easy. The pistol also pointed high for me; installing the smaller backstrap corrected that, providing a more natural point of aim. For longer range, the rear sight can be removed completely and replaced with a red dot—I ordered a Vortex Viper 6 MOA model while starting testing with the standard iron sights. The inclusion of four plates allows the TP9EC to support most of the pistol optics on the market, so long as they are rated to withstand the slide motion. Swapping the rear sight for a micro red dot takes just a minute.
The new trigger was the unexpected but most welcome surprise. Previous designs felt good but could lock up if the finger was placed too high, if side pressure was exerted or if the crease rather than the pad of the finger contacted the safety tab. This trigger fixes all problems and provides the best experiences of all Canik series. The trigger face and the wide red-anodized safety tab are metal. The tab is hinged very high, close to the frame. Once the take-up is met, the finger comfortably presses across the entire 3/7-inch width of the flat trigger face, making for a very controllable pull. The weight is the same as other models, around 4.5 pounds, but it feels more crisp and repeatable with around 1/16-inch reset conducive to controlled rapid fire. The red striker indicator protrudes from the back of the receiver when cocked, permitting tactile verification in the dark. The ambidextrous slide stop lever is easily reached with either thumb or forefinger and features a nicely textured shelf. While great for locking the slide back or unlocking it during reloading, this lever frequently ended up held down by the thumb of the strong hand during firing, preventing slide lock on the last shot.
The disassembly process is simple but unusual: verify clear, pull the trigger to decock, pull the slide forward 1 inch and lift it straight up. The recoil spring is captured onto the guide rod. Reassembly is the reverse of the field-stripping process. Very little strength is needed for field-stripping.
Shooting the Canik TP9EC is very pleasant. The minimal recoil, moderate muzzle flip and a good trigger all add up to a feeling of confidence, further improved by 100% reliability with all kinds of ammunition, from 50-grain hypervelocity Liberty HP to 185-grain Seismic subsonics and everything in between as well. The pistol feels equally good during single-strong or weak-hand shooting as well. Accuracy was verified with the gun in a two-handed hold over a sandbag. At 15 yards, groups centered between 2 and 7 inches above the point of aim, with the heaviest bullets printing higher.
[ADAM–CHART SET Up PER OLEG]
Load Average Velocity Average Group
Liberty 50gr HP 1945fps 2.75in
Velocity (no longer sold) 88gr 1460fps 2.5in
Maker Bullet 115gr CHP 1335fps 3in
SIG SAUER 124gr JHP 1215fps 2.7in
Speer Lawman 147gr TMJ 980fps 3.2in
Seismic 185gr HP 955fps 3in
The group shape, with minimal elongation but with one or two fliers out of every 10, suggests to me that the shooter’s skill was inadequate with the combination of sights and trigger. The groups shot from a rest were considerably higher than those fired freehand, meaning that the motion of the pistol in recoil affected the point of impact. The pistol also twisted noticeably to the right when fired for accuracy, but that was not observed when firing it standing combat-style. The pistol seems capable of better accuracy than my test results, so I re-shot with a Vortex Viper 6 MOA mini red dot at the first opportunity. With the optic, groups were reduced only slightly, but the speed of target acquisition doubled! The shaking of the red dot during the trigger pull betrayed the real source of limited accuracy, the heavy combat-weight trigger. Switching it out for a 3.5-pound variant would make the TP9EC into more of a target pistol, but the risk of accidental discharge with gloved hands would increase.
What does this mean in practical terms? At 15 yards, I can make repeated rapid hits on a 4×4-inch square. At 50 yards, hits on a steel silhouette are guaranteed 100%. TP9EC accuracy is not match grade, but it is respectable for a fighting pistol. The gun is very comfortable to shoot: a back-to-back, 200-round training exercise won’t induce undue fatigue in the user. Much like a certain Croatian design before it, Canik brand has a good chance of going mainstream in the U.S.