Apex Gunsmithing
26May/14

Overview: Canik TP-9 (Walther P99 Clone)

Continuing with the Turkish made budget guns I have on hand, today's look is at the Canik TP-9.  This $300 (as of the time of writing) pistol brings to market a much cheaper alternative to Walther's premium priced polymer pistols and is available in a wide array of colors.  Ours is black, because we're boring like that.

If you want the TL;DR jump to the bottom for the Summary segment and enjoy the pictures!

For anyone who enjoys my gunsmith rambling about design and manufacture quality, I'll be following this one up with a separate tech review as well as a full detail strip and reassembly guide.

Profile view of the TP-9

Profile view of the TP-9

Overview and Features

The TP-9 is much like its siblings in the Canik family a fairly faithful clone all around.  It's a full sized pistol with what we've come to call a "service pistol" length slide and barrel in the 4" neighborhood but has a full-ish sized frame slightly longer than the ubiquitous Glock 19.  Two backstraps are included: a medium-small and a large, swapped by way of one large and very tight roll pin through the grip which amusingly doubles as a lanyard ring.

The pistol ships with a pair of high quality Mec-Gar manufactured 17-round magazines with overly large baseplates that put the overall gun firmly in full size pistol territory frame wise.  I'm fairly confident that P99 factory magazines will work in the gun, along with copies and SW99 mags.  A single slot frame rail allows mounting moderate or small accessories comfortably, though my old Insight M3 is too long by enough to look silly.

Controls wise, the pistol is largely what you expect of a modern semi-auto.  The magazine release is an aggressively textured square button rather than the trigger guard style available on Walther's original guns.  The slide stop is long and flat with minimal texture and nothing to write home about, while the takedown latch is easy to grab hold of and pop the slide off.  Speaking of decocking, that's where the gun veers away from convention; the P99 is one of the few decocking DA/SA striker guns out there and a prominent ambidextrous button on the top of the slide will drop the striker safely.

The sights are acceptable but not amazing copies of the distinct Walther adjustable combat sights, and are polymer for those concerned about material on their sights.  I would expect any Walther P99/PPQ type sights to drop right on with no issues, which is a plus.  A witness hole through the slide's back plate provides a cocking indicator by way of a bright red tip on the back of the striker body.

Sights and cocked indicator

Sights and cocked indicator

In addition to the two magazines, the pistol ships in a sturdy hard case with a number of mediocre hard plastic accessories.  A loose fitting SERPA-esque holster with belt slide and paddle attachments is included and would serve as a range holster at the very best.  A cheap plastic magazine loader is thrown in, so if you're one of the handful of people who haven't bought a MagLULA yet it might save some wear on your thumbs.  A cleaning rod and bore brush round out the general accessories, while the requisite cheap cable lock is included for safe storage compliance.

Main Attraction - Trigger & Decocker

Without a doubt the biggest draw to this particular Canik is its faithful reproduction of the unique Walther striker system.  The P99 is a reasonably well known pistol, but it didn't pick up a ton of popularity during the bulk of its many years on the market.  The lack of aftermarket, Walther premium price and lack of consumer awareness didn't do any favors for the manufacturer, nor did having several variant letter codes that confused people.  The DA/SA and decocker equipped gun is the "AS" model, while the essentially SAO model is the "QA" which would later evolve into the PPQ.

I'll dig much deeper into how the P99 system works in a future tech review post, but the short version is that the pistol is a true DA/SA system.  Pulling the trigger from the striker uncocked position cocks and drops the striker, while racking the slide grabs the striker on a sear that is released by a much shorter trigger pull.  Pushing the ambidextrous button on the top of the slide drops the striker from its perch on the sear but otherwise leaves the internal safeties engaged to safely decock it.

Unfortunately Canik's otherwise faithful clone falls very, very short here.  The pistol out of the box has a double action pull somewhere around or over 12 pounds and isn't the least bit smooth, while the single action letoff has a whole lot of creep mixed with grit and weighs in at 8-ish pounds.  The reset is a tactile and audible click and is very short, which is one of the few redeeming qualities of the gun's trigger out of the box.

Being the tinkerer I am, and with the owner's permission, I polished everything up pretty well during my detail strip and examination phase.  This combined with a striker spring swap dropped the DA/SA pulls to a much more manageable 9 and 5.5-6 pounds respectively.  Much of the roughness in the pull can't be effectively removed because it's the trigger bar brushing against the frame in several spots.  Overall, still not great but usable with work.

TP9 glamor shot!

TP9 glamor shot!

Build Quality and Concerns

I've rambled at length about Canik's generally excellent quality and trigger weight notwithstanding the gun is very well built.  The machining is clean, the finish is smooth, and the polymer frame is solidly constructed without any flash or seams jutting out.  Unfortunately on this pistol in particular, Canik seems to lump clean and sharp into the same category and it's very possible to tear up your hands on the slide serrations.  Barrel quality seems on par with the CZ clones with clean rifling and a well done finish to match the slide, but the feed ramp could use some additional polish in my opinion.

The bulk of my concerns for the gun are ergonomics related, which is a good sign overall.  The frame's beavertail area is boxy, driving the rounded over corner into the inside of your thumb regardless of your grip.  The backstraps both have extremely prominent humps, which Glock fans will likely be just fine with but others may not appreciate so much.  The grip overall is fairly slim, and a Hogue slip on grip sleeve works well on it to give a bit more palm swell if need be.  The slide stop is a miserable little piece of stamped sheet metal that has traces of a botched pressed checkering job, and is probably among the least confidence inspiring parts of the gun.

My single largest concern is the amount of work necessary to make the trigger on this gun live up to its potential.  The design is sound, the parts are reasonably well made, but without a lot of polish to the fire control surfaces, trigger bar, fire control housing walls and possibly other locations it will be nearly impossible to smooth out significantly.  A basic polishing pass can make the trigger acceptable but not good.

Canik TP9 field stripped

Canik TP9 field stripped

Summary

  • Build Quality: Solid and functional, a mostly faithful P99 copy
  • Ergos: Good, but grip hump and squared off beavertail may be uncomfortable
  • Trigger: Outright bad out of the box, but acceptable with inexpensive tuning
  • Aftermarket: Sights and mags should be Walther-compatible
  • Price: A good buy for $300 and a viable alternative to their CZ clones!
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