Ask anyone on the street to name which country makes the finest machines on the planet, they’ll reply, “Germany” or “Switzerland”—and for good reason. Industry legends like SIG Sauer and Heckler and Koch hail from these European titans of industry. Very few people, including myself, would reply, “Turkey.” At least until they had the chance to shoot the pistol of choice for Turkey’s law enforcement officers, the Canik TP9SA imported and sold by Century Arms.
The Turkish TP9SA is a striker-fired, semiautomatic, polymer-framed handgun chambered in the ubiquitous 9x19mm cartridge. Sound familiar? It should, pistols of this type have been flooding the market for over a decade in the hopes of dethroning the Austrian king. Most have one or two improvements over Glock’s pistols, and either match or surpass the gold standard’s price point. Turkish arms-maker Canik chose a different route: they decided to make a true competitor to Gaston’s pride and joy that bests it in nearly every category—and for less money.
The model preceding the TP9SA is the TP9. Based on the successful German Walther P99, the TP9 improved its design by replacing the HK-style magazine release with a more traditional push-button one. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the P99 specifically because of this magazine release. So naturally I bought a TP9 as soon as I could.
Despite the TP9’s improved controls over its German forebear, the frame’s awkwardly rigid construction and hefty trigger pull prevented the TP9 from achieving “must-have” status. Thankfully, the SA variant remedies these issues while retaining its affordable price point.
Since my grasp of the Turkish language is fictional at best, I can only assume the “SA” at the end of the gun’s name stands for “single action,” despite it being striker-fired. Upon closer inspection of the TP9SA’s inner workings, the trigger is more single-action than most striker-fired handgun. Although this sounds contradictory, the TP9SA basically pre-primes its striker further than most competing designs. This, combined with a more-scalloped, better-polished sear, achieves a shorter, lighter trigger pull that feels more like a single-action gun than the typically spongy, striker-fired one.
What’s amazing is just how effective this is. The original TP9 has a pull reminiscent of a double-action revolver, doing the shooter no favors for accurate shooting. The trigger is one of the main reasons I passed up on the previous model of this Ottoman automatic, despite its affordable price and impressive reliability.
Aside from a great trigger pull, the TP9SA also sports a slew of other improvements over the original TP9 that make it a much more comfortable pistol for shooters. Interchangeable back straps, a slimmed grip shape, and omnidirectional back and front strap checkering demonstrate that the TP9SA engineers incorporated lessons learned from the previous model, resulting in a surprisingly comfortable sidearm.
This is especially impressive given the size of my hands; small Mechanix gloves are barely too small for my mitts. If the gun fits me, it is a suitable choice for smaller-handed shooters of the fairer sex. So when you come home from your FFL with two, you can insist one is for her. And unless she’s only accustomed to SIG P210s or Hämmerlis, she’ll love it. Additionally, thanks to the interchangeable back straps, larger shooters can increase the size of the gun’s grip to better facilitate their massive meat hooks.
Obviously, good ergonomics and a quality trigger greatly aid in both usability and accuracy, but the barrel and the sights are just as important. Thankfully the TP9SA has a cold hammer-forged 4.4-inch barrel and effective three-dot, adjustable sights. The latter is a lifesaver for shooters using different grain ammo than the gun was originally zeroed with. The front sight post also features a white vertical line between the two dots of the rear sight.
Just forward of the rear sight is the TP9SA’s most controversial feature: a decocker. Since the gun lacks second-strike capability, decocking the pistol renders it useless until racked again, even with a round chambered. On the previous TP9 model this made sense. It allowed shooters accustomed to guns like the SIG P22X series the ability to decock their handgun, giving it a heavier trigger pull on the first shot. While I’m not personally a proponent of this manual of arms, some shooters swear by it.
That said, on a gunwhose trigger can only drop the striker and not rearm it, this button is a liability. While this feature is absent in the next evolution of the TP9, the TP9SF, shooters should not be overly concerned with it so long as they acknowledge and train around it. Especially since the button itself is difficult to accidentally activate due its location and the force required to do so.
Below the muzzle is the TP9SA’s accessory rail, a must on all modern semiautomatic pistols. Many shooters never take advantage of this feature, but if they’re looking for a perfect bedside gun for home defense, the addition of a tactical light could save their lives. Not being able to see your assailant makes neutralizing them prohibitively difficult, as does a gun with poor accuracy. Good thing this wasn’t the case with the TP9SA.
Accuracy from the TP9SA was good, but not astounding. Firing from a table at 15 yards, the grouped under two inches with all the varieties of 9x19mm ammo ranging from 115-grain to 124-grain. When employed with heavier rounds like the 147-grain CCI Lawman TMJ ammo, the groups more than double in size and shifted a full three inches right. In all fairness, this is a fairly uncommon round, and even with sub four-inch groups at 45 feet, the TP9SA would still be an effective home-defense gun. However, unless a shooter only has 147-grain ammo at their disposal, I would advise against its use in this handgun.
Last, but certainly not least, is the gun’s finish. One of the strangest trends in Canik’s line of handguns is the extensive finish options they offer on them, ranging from classic coats like black, olive drab, and desert tan to oddball colors like gold and titanium. Currently, the only two colors imported by Century Arms are black and desert tan. On all models, the finish appears to be a baked-on Duracoat-like finish. It’s even throughout and reasonably resilient to wear and tear.
With an MSRP of $368, and a street price even lower, the TP9SA offers budget-conscious buyers a tremendous amount of value. Shipping with a magazine loader, Serpa-style holster, and two magazines gives the average shooter the perfect home defense gun without breaking the bank. While there are certainly better handguns available on the market, most are at least $150 more expensive.
Image by Jim Grant