Gun Review: CAI Canik TP-9

When Mr. Bond grew tired of his German mouse gun, he “upgraded” to the Walther P99. I don’t know how many of you out there upgraded along with him, but if you’re like me you didn’t. My “excuse” for shunning the gun: I’m not a huge fan of the P99’s H&K style magazine release. You know, the kind located on the trigger guard? Its proximity to the trigger is as welcome as hot-sauce in saline solution. Ergonomically? Awk-ward. This made the gun a attractive to me as . . .

Isabeli Fontana is to Elton John. I could appreciate the gun’s objective beauty but it didn’t really appeal to me, personally. And yet, at the time, in the Bay State, it was the only gun available (and affordable) with pre-ban hi-capacity magazines.

And so, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away from uninfringed gun rights, I obtained a S&W Wather P99. I loved everything about the pistol but three simple things: the grip, trigger, and magazine release. Oh, and the cost. But that’s more of a testament of the lack of places to shop for guns in Massachusetts than to the pistol being over-priced.

I prayed that someone would answer my cries for ergonomic reprieve deep in the heart of Massive Taxes. But it wasn’t until after I made the blue state exodus that the Turks (yes the People’s Republic of Turks) answered my prayers with the TP-9.

Century International decided that Canik55’s take on the P99—the TP-9—was too great a deal to pass up for all us Americans. They imported a boatload of them and showcased thesemi at last year’s SHOT show, where they caught my eye.

The first thing I noticed about the TP-9 from the SHOT show coverage: the TP-9 had more bling than Lil Jon’s teeth. The slide sports a two-tone hard-chrome finish. Combined with the polymer frame, assuming actuarial longevity, it should easily outlast the user.

The TP-9 arrived at my FFL’s literally jammed into its hard case. Like the aforementioned sunglass-wearing British rock star, it was brimming with accessories. I’m fairly certain that someone over at Century or Canik had to sit on the thing to close it. After wiping off the packing oil, disassembling and re-oiling, I grabbed a few boxes of my favorite 9mm and headed out the door.

Handling the TP-9 at the shop I had no issues with its ergonomics. Out at the range, the gun’s edges dug into my hand. I blame a combination of gorilla grip and tiny hands. I fitted the included alternative back-straps to no avail. Then I made a discovery: when the TP-9’s striker is primed (by pulling the slide to the rear) it moves the trigger slightly back and into the comfort zone for those of us with less than orangutan-sized fingers.

Initially I was excited. I’d finally found the perfect P99 replacement! The TP-9 striker-decocker made me hesitate. Foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds but it’s what I want (what I really, really want) from a trigger pull. When you’re under stress, you want unconscious control; it’s why I prefer Glocks to to XD’s and 1911’s to Berettas. That being said, with enough diligent training a person could defend their home with a Nambu pistol or a Sharps rifle.

To make sure my gripes with the Canik’s grip weren’t the result of small-handed prejudice, I enlisted the help of my 6’3″ ham-fisted buddy. Steven found that the TP-9 points naturally. He said the grip was noticeably more comfortable than his Glock 19. I guess you can strike the TP-9 off the list of holiday gifts for the Mrs., unless your Mrs. is an Amazonian goddess.

The TP-9’s magazine release is where God intended: just behind the trigger guard. When depressed, the oddly placed decocker (just ahead of the rear-sights ) blocks the firing pin while de-cocking the hammer or in this case, striker. When you rack the gun the trigger doesn’t actually move. When the shooter applies a tiny bit of pressure it “clicks” and moves past its standard DA position and rests at a shorter one. This makes the trigger pull lighter and shorter. But the fact that you have to “stage” the trigger seems a recipe for disaster—unless you utilize the decocker.

The TP-9’s recoil is noticeably greater than it’s Austrian counterpart. I’m not sure if it’s down to the frame’s lightweight and heavy slide or a simple testament to the action’s violence. But we’re talking about relative recoil; I don’t know of a single flinch-making full-sized 9mm handgun.

Cleaning and lubricating the TP-9 is as easy (or easier) than a a Glock. After clearing the TP-9, pull down the disassembly lever, pull the trigger and push the slide off the frame. Canik55 does you a huge favor by chroming the slide of the pistol. You can simply wipe it down with an old rag then re-oil and you’re all set to sit back in your favorite EZ-chair and smile with pride at the glistening metal.

The TP-9’s “night sights” are your standard three-dot fixed sights with phosphorescent (read: glow-in-the-dark) paint. Shine the beam on the irons for a few seconds and BAM! Instant tritium. Well almost. While obviously not the same quality or consistency of luminescence that tritium offers, the TP-9’s sights were still more useful than normal sights. Plus, who can afford tritium these days?

Cost is this bad boy’s real appeal. If you need a reliable semi-auto but you don’t want to drop serious change on something you’re not entirely sure is worth the extra dough, the TP-9 is a great choice. It ships with two 17-round magazines, a Serpa knockoff holster with two mounting options, a cleaning kit, and two back straps; all for a hair under $300. It’s like getting a P99 for the cost of a P22 and without the spotty reliability so prevalent in the little .22 automatic.

But all is not perfect in the land of foot stools and steamy baths. The TP-9 has one major flaw: a God-awful trigger. While it doesn’t exhibit any creep, it’s long and heavy as hell. My trigger scale tripped at 8.5 lbs. Mind you, this is a DAO striker-fired pistol not a match-grade 1911. Still, it makes accurate shots beyond 25 yards pretty damn difficult. Unless you’re accustomed to shooting revolvers in DA. Did I mention the strange trigger pull after the striker is first primed? I think I did.

Canik55 does a lot of good things with their TP-9. It’s a great value for someone on a budget interested in getting a striker-fired handgun for home defense. But if you seek a knock-off Walthar P99 that shoots like a Glock, this is not the pistol you’re looking for.

Specifications: CAI Canik55 TP-9
Caliber: 9mm
Overall: 6.75″
Weight: 1.7 lbs.
MSRP: $350ish

Accuracy: * * * ½
The TP-9 showed decent groupings using NATO spec 9mm and Aquila 124 grain. Combat accurate.

Ergonomics * *1/2
The gun felt like a spiky plastic brick in my hands, but the controls are all easily
reachable. The trigger is ideal for double-action revolver fanboys. Anyone else, not so much.

Fit & Finish * * * * *
The gun ran 100 percent with the ammo I tested (approx 350 rounds) and locked up tight with zero rattling. The hard chroming was attractive, durable, and easy to clean.

Accessories * * * * *
Standard picatinny rail underneath and not only includes a holster, but also fits existing Walther and S&W P99 holsters with little or no modification.

Value * * * * *
The guys over at Century / Canik55 nailed the price point on this gun. Bonus! You get more accessories than you do with guns twice its price.

Overall * * * *
Despite the tractor-pull-like trigger pull, I find it difficult to dislike the TP-9. The gun’s no wall hanger but if you’re looking for an attractive, combat accurate pistol for home defense, and you’re on a budget, the TP-9 is an excellent choice.