Gun Review: TriStar C-100 9mm Pistol

By: Austin Knudsen

I return with another entry in my never-ending quest to find quality, affordable defensive handguns. My latest contender: the Tristar C-100, chambered in 9mm.

The C-100 is manufactured by Canik and imported into the U.S. by Tristar. Canik guns have made quite a splash in the U.S. handgun market in recent years because, bluntly, they are cheap. However, in this case “cheap” does not mean “crap,” it means affordable.

As in really affordable. The reason everyone has been talking about and buying various models of Canik handguns in the last few years is because they are a lot of gun for not a lot of coin. Case in point: a friend bought this barely used C-100 at his local gun store for all of $300. He was kind enough to let me borrow it, as I’ve been testing a range of CZ-75 clones lately.

The C-100 is the spitting-image of the CZ-75 Compact model, made by CZ in Czechoslovakia.

And here’s my test C-100:

The difference between the CZ-75 Compact and the Canik C-100: price. You can argue fit and finish with me, but honestly, the C-100 is well-built. I think it’s all about price. The CZ retails in the $475-500 range. I see the C-100s selling for $350 or less.

So how can Canik make a nearly identical CZ-75 Compact clone, and sell it for 40 percent less than the real deal? The answer, my friends, is pure politics. Canik pistols are made in Turkey. Turkey is known for its skilled labor force and its modern manufacturing facilities (lots of other name brands have figured this out, putting their name on Turkish shotguns).

What else does Turkey have? Labor unions that are not as developed as American or European labor unions. Therefore, Turkey’s skilled, labor force works for a lower daily wage than any unionized American or European firearm manufacturing labor force. That keeps Canik’s labor costs down and the savings are passed on to the customer. Economics 101, folks.

But enough about that. The C-100 looks like a CZ-75 Compact and feels like a CZ-75 Compact, but does it handle and shoot like a CZ-75 Compact? Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve never owned a real CZ-75 Compact. However, I’ve owned and reviewed a few CZ-75 clones now, and I was very pleased with the C-100.

Details

The C-100 comes with a lockable hard plastic case and two fifteen-round magazines, along with a variety of accoutrements (manual, cleaning brush, lock, etc.). The magazines appear to be very high quality, and are of gloss-blue finish with blue plastic followers, black plastic base pads and witness holes.

Just for essess & gees, I tried the C-100 with a couple of magazines for the Israeli-made Bul Cherokee pistols (also CZ-75 clones) I had for testing. While the BUL magazines were for full-size pistols and extended below the bottom of the C-100’s grip frame, the magazines functioned perfectly in the C-100 and locked the slide back when empty.

Like I said, the C-100 is a dead-ringer for the CZ-75 Compact. The slide is steel, but the frame is aluminum. That’s a good thing, as the C-100 is intended to be a defensive carry pistol, and all-steel pistols tend to get left at home because they are heavy.

Not that the C-100 is a flyweight; this is still an all-metal pistol. The C-100 is a double-action/single action pistol with a thumb safety, not a de-cock lever. This allows for 1911-style cocked-and-locked, condition one carry.

If one so chooses to tote the C-100 in double action mode, one must first chamber a round, then carefully lower the hammer by depressing the trigger and holding onto the hammer while carefully lowering it. That puts the C-100 and any true CZ-75 pattern pistol into double action/single-action mode. The gun can now be carried hammer-down on a loaded chamber, for a double-action first shot followed by single-action follow-ups.

The C-100 comes with decent checkered black plastic grips that look like the grips on the CZ. Sights are steel three-dot combat sights that also appear to be a perfect facsimile of the original.

The single action trigger measured at just over five pounds, with a bit of creep before the shot broke. I couldn’t find a tool mark anywhere on the C-100, inside or out. The barrel locked up solidly with no play when I pushed down on the barrel hood, and the rifling looked perfect. According to Tristar’s website, all C-100s have a Cerakote finish which is tough and resists wear.

Size-wise, the C-100 is very similar to the GLOCK 19 which is obviously the market competitor Canik/Tristar is challenging here. The C-100 is a touch heavier, with its metal frame, but barrel length, grip length (approximately), and magazine capacity are all the same as the G19.

Heck, the C-100 even fit in my leather GLOCK 19 holster (well, sort of…it was a bit loose) in a pinch. Good friend and custom leather holster maker extraordinaire E.J. Redding provided an OWB pancake holster he’d built for a CZ-P01, which fit the C-100 perfectly.

 

So How’d it Shoot?

Pretty well for a “cheap,” semi-compact defensive pistol. It didn’t wow me, but it didn’t disappoint me either.

For testing, I put six different 9mm loads through the C-100: Federal 147 grain Hydra-Shok HP, American Eagle 147 grain flat-point FMJ, Speer 124 grain Gold Dot +P HP, PMC Bronze 115 grain FMJ, Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ, and my own hand load consisting of a Rocky Mountain Reloading 115 grain plated FMJ propelled by 4.6 grains of Bullseye.

All loads were fired by me from a sandbag, at 25 yards. A sixth round was loaded in the magazine to ensure consistent pressure on the bottom of the chamber throughout all shots (if you believe in such things). The results:

From best to worst:

  1. PMC Bronze 115 grain FMJ. This plinking/target load (which I have found to be of high-quality) put up a pleasing sub-3-inch group.
  2. American Eagle 147 grain flat point FMJ. Another quality practice load, which produced a decent 3½-inch group.
  3. Speer 124 grain Gold Dot +P. This is a quality self-defense load that was producing an OK four-shot group until a flier opened it up to just over 6 inches.
  4. Federal 147 grain Hydra-Shok. Another quality self-defense offering. A stellar 3-shot group (the first 3 shots of the group, actually), which were opened up by a couple fliers and pronounced vertical stringing.
  5. Hand load: Rocky Mountain Reloading 115 grain plated FMJ with 4.6 grains Bullseye. Again, a decent 3-shot group spoiled by a high and low flier.
  6. Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ. The turd in the punch bowl.

Just for scale, that’s my size 11 hiking boot. For the OCD crowd, this is a 12-inch group. I’d post the picture with the tape measure, but it would just make me angry.

My Impressions

I have a thing for semi-compact defensive handguns, and compact CZ-75s are as sexy to me as tall redheads. I’ve lusted after a CZ-75 Compact with its traditional operating setup (thumb safety without a de-cocker) for a long time, but just could never justify the price tag. Plus, could it really do anything that my G19 doesn’t?

But for $300, the C-100 is a real contender against the mighty G19. The girth of the grip frame is a little much for those of us with short, fat fingers, especially when trying to fire the gun double action. In single action (which is how I would carry it and any CZ-75), this problem is alleviated.

It’s still bigger in your hand than holding a single stack 1911, but all double stack, high-capacity pistols are. If the C-100 was mine and I was carrying it every day, I’d invest in a set of thin grips. If you have large paws like its owner does, that won’t be an issue.

The C-100 certainly no target pistol, but target handguns cost money. You aren’t going to find one for $300 and you probably won’t carry it every day either.

The C-100 is an affordable defensive pistol. It shot a couple of loads well enough, certainly passable for personal defensive use. It also showed a few flashes of brilliance that were wrecked by fliers.

One thing I do appreciate: the C-100 shot directly to point-of-aim. The sights were dead-on and didn’t have to be moved. This may seem a minor point, but it is not always the case, even with more expensive handguns. This is a good reminder that you should put at least a couple of hundred rounds through any new carry gun before you rely on it for self-defense. You need to know what ammo it likes and ensure that the sights are aligned.

The trigger was decent, and I say this as a confirmed trigger snob. It’s no match 1911 or single action S&W revolver trigger, but it’s more than workable.

I would have preferred a bit lighter pull, there’s very little creep in the single action pull, and it broke cleanly. For a $300 Turkish clone, it’s well worth the price of admission.

Conclusion

I’m a fan of the C-100. It doesn’t do anything that my GLOCK 19 doesn’t, but it costs about $200 less. The C-100 was completely reliable, as neither the owner nor I have experienced a malfunction in hundreds of rounds. As affordable handguns go, this one may take the prize for “best buy.”

Specifications: Canik C-100

Caliber: 9mm or .40S&W
Capacity: 15 + 1 (9mm), 11 + 1 (.40)
Barrel length: 3.7 inches
Overall length: 7.2 inches
Height: 5 inches (approx.)
Weight: 1 ½ pounds
Price: $350

RATINGS (out of 5 stars):

Accuracy: * * *
Acceptable accuracy from a semi-compact defensive pistol, particularly given its price point. For what this thing cost, it shot much more accurately than I was expecting. It’s no target pistol

Ergonomics: * * * *
CZ-75s are very comfortable to my hands. While it’s on the girthy side, all the controls are all right where I want them, and single action trigger is easy for my short, fat fingers to reach.

Trigger: * * *
At over five pounds single, this is no target trigger. But forgivable in a $300 pistol, there’s very little trigger creep before a fairly crisp break, followed by a good audible and tactile reset.

Reliability: * * * * *
No problems here at all.

Customize this: * * * *
No rail = no lights/lasers/bayonet/chainsaw attachments for the dust cover. I know Crimson Trace makes laser grips that will fit. Sights appear to be as replaceable as the CZ-75 Compact. Lots of aftermarket grips out there, too. Holsters aren’t exactly plentiful, but they aren’t unheard of.

Overall: * * * *
For a street price of $350 or so, you get a proven, reliable design that’s more than accurate enough for its intended purpose.

 

 

comments

  1. avatar Timothy says:

    My EDC is a Canik C100 that I’ve sent to Cajun Gun Works for a trigger job, hammer replacement (the Canik hammer looks retarded), novak night sights, and a refinish in hard chrome. I love that the aluminum frame cuts weight over the CZ steel. I shoot as well with this gun as I do with my 6″ barreled revolver

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      Can I use paint stripper to remove the weird black coating?

      1. avatar little horn says:

        Cerakote is weird to you?

        1. avatar Anonymous says:

          Little bit.

      2. avatar Timothy says:

        Stripper paint sounds like something my wife would get upset over.

  2. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    I have a SAR B6P. Also Turkish made with a plastic frame. Almost the same gun. A CZ clone or a EAA gun all decent copies of the CZ. All under $300.

  3. avatar i1uluz says:

    3, 2, 1, start the Turkey firearm bashing due to politics. Instead of “cheap” maybe inexpensive would better describe Canik pricing.

    1. avatar whoopie says:

      I’ve never heard any of these sanctimonious Turkey bashers having an issue with the fact that the AK platform is the preferred weapon of every communist tyranny and terrorist group.

  4. avatar Bloving says:

    Those Caniks are hard to dislike. I remember a special purchase of their S120 we had a few seasons ago that I came within a hairs breadth of buying myself. The only reason I didn’t was I’m still in acquisition mode for daily carry pieces and the S120 was a mighty brick of a gun… nothing in the budget right now for guns that don’t fulfill a specific need for me.
    🤠

  5. avatar former water walker says:

    Not bashing the gun…just the Muslim dictatorship who manufactured it. No Turkish guns for me. Or Springfield or Rock River Arms…

    1. avatar James G Losinger says:

      Ohhhhh. Principles.

  6. avatar WhaaaWhaaa!!! says:

    I own the standard CZ-75 and it is a fantastic firearm. I bought it last year, and before I did, I hit the web to research all the clones out there, and there are many of them. I ended up going with the actual CZ, even though most of the clone reviews were great. I decided that I didn’t mind paying a little extra, as I do have a Czech branch in the family, and it felt good to support the premier Czech firearms manufacturer, as the Czechs seem to be one of a very few number of European countries that are moving in the right directions, regards civilian firearm ownership.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      I’ve almost bought this pistol at least a dozen times.

      I’ve shot both the real deal and clones. For carry, I don’t think there is a better gun for me than a P-01 or a P07. I prefer the decocker only versions. (Which is why I’ve never purchased a c-100) I actually think the P-07 is the better gun for me but I like metal guns…

  7. avatar strych9 says:

    Hilarious that this comes out today. Just yesterday I saw one at one of the local pawn shops. I asked the guy to turn over the price tag…$475.

    I laughed and then switched over to that fake “as long as you can” type extra loud laugh before walking out.

    1. avatar WhaaaWhaaa!!! says:

      Pawn shops and LGSs are getting downright ludicrous now in what they’re asking for used firearms.

  8. avatar J_cobbers says:

    If you want a good, Turkish made, CZ-75 compact clone with modern styling, I love my Sarsilmaz CM9 Gen 2 (Combat Master Generation 2) It is the updated version of what EAA has branded in the US as the SAR K2P (a.ka the Sarsilmaz CM9). Picked it up with a couple of extra mags for about $300 and change. As I understand it, it can run on standard CZ 75 mags as well.

    Basically it’s like the C-100 with all the modern bells and whistles: polymer frame with choice of 3 back-straps, nice ergonomics (but could use a little more aggressive texturing), 17 +1 mag capacity, ambi safety, reversible mag release, pic rail, fully adjustable rear site (windage and elevation), chamber witness hole, SS barrel, and decent trigger pull for DA/SA.

  9. avatar beefeater says:

    “If one so chooses to tote the C-100 in double action mode, one must first chamber a round, then carefully lower the hammer by depressing the trigger and holding onto the hammer while carefully lowering it.”

    Why bother risking the ND and thumb injury from the slide? Either carry condition 1 or condition 3. Attempting condition 2 without a decocker is just stupid.

    1. avatar binder says:

      People have managed it for decades.

    2. avatar duroSIG556R says:

      not really, just get a sand bucket.

  10. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Hey, are CZ-75s available with barrels in the 4.25 inch range? And are there less expensive clones?

    1. avatar Austin Knudsen says:

      The Tristar C100 is basically a “commander” barrel length CZ-75. Other contenders would be the CZ P01, CZ P07, Bul Cherokee Compact, and the actual CZ-75 Compact.

  11. avatar ironicatbest says:

    I rember a conversation between two bird hunters. Younger guy “This Savage Fox is just like a Parker”,,, old timer says” Yeh, but it ain’t a Parker”. ,. If you want a CZ buy a CZ, except no substitutes.

    1. avatar binder says:

      I have a Shadow for a full size and a C-100 for carry. Don’t assume that CZ guys are brand myopic. The ONLY thing the CZ has over the C-100 is parts availablity. The CZ aluminum frames different externaly than the steel framed CZs, the C-100 is NOT. So the muscle memory is the same (the C-100 is just a LOT lighter)

      The one issue with the C-100 is the main spring and firing pin springs are overpowered. Get the kit from CGW and you will be 70% of the way to the full trigger job.

  12. avatar LC in CO says:

    I have a Tristar p120 and a CZ tactical sport. I compete with both and I’d actually say the quality between the 2 is about equal. That is saying a lot.

  13. avatar Mort says:

    I own this gun. The maker is stamped “Canik 55” as imported by Tristar out of KC, MO (as opposed to a separate line of pistols by Canik imported by different distributors, e.g. CAI). It’s the two-tone, with the “matte chrome” slide (which really looks just steel spray-painted silver).

    It’s as robust and reliable as any hammer fired DA/SA out there. Basically everything Knudsen said is true… and you can indeed carry it chambered with the hammer down– I’ve taken apart the slide, and it has a firing pin block like modern CZ-75 pistols. Supposedly, it is a direct clone of the Tangfolio (which is a CZ-75 clone). I paid about $300 for it. I also have the L-120 full-sized… different slide and recoil spring, but just as reliable.

    I put G-10 grips on it to slim it up… it’s one of the two pistols I own that doesn’t have rubber grips or a sleeve… I liked the G-10 so much. I wanna say “J LOK” on Amazon? It’s been a while… I could be mistaken.

    The magazines are Mec-Gar… nothing unusual there. But 100% reliable.

    I like this gun… too much. I don’t need it, but it’s too good to sell and not really worth much money. So, it gets shot a couple times a year, and then awaits the Apocalypse, I guess….

    Highly recommended. When someone says to me, “You get what you pay for, and you need to spend $500-600 for a proven sidearm…,” I think of this pistol. And I think, if I had to take an all metal pistol for a $300 budget, why do a Taurus or Hi-Point or whatever… this is gun I would pick. It’s a winner.

    Unless you have hangups about the Turkish thing… but, if I was a Crusader, I’d pick up Turk sword and swing it at infidels just the same. Boycotting Turkish arms is up to you. It’s just a tool to me, and it was made and sold a few times before I bought it.

    Be safe.

  14. avatar Bohucka says:

    I have a C100 and the machining is excellent. I’ve only shot it about 600 times, but it has been flawless so far.

  15. avatar Ansel Hazen says:

    Another true test of whether or not it’s a candidate for an inexpensive carry piece is can a woman rack the slide? Too many excellent products out there have women struggling to load the first round, and when they find they can’t they give up.

  16. avatar Salty says:

    Czechoslovakia ceased to be a country ohhhhhh, 24 years ago back in ‘94? Not trying to grammar nazi ya but whatevsies…
    also it’s”accept no substitutes “…
    As far as Turks go, this has better fit or finish than most of the others and styling is straight up boringly/mundane/acceptable black. So many times thoset Turk made deals styles look so weird. Like it’s pretry ok up to a point then they ruin it with weird finger grooves or like Springfield’s grip zone type barf stippling errors

  17. avatar Ry says:

    As a younger husband/father of 2 little guys, these are the types if reviews I like to see. Really, how many different AR review do you need? But hidden gems like these, the Bersa BP9, etc are way more interesting. Solid, well made, and keeps enough in the bank after purchase to buy ammo and diapers. I’ve been looking for an all metal truck gun and started looking at used Taurus pt909 and Stoeger Cougars till I stumbled across these Canik/Tristar models.

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