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Review: Canik Mete SFT and SFX

[This article originally appeared in CONCEALMENT #25]

Canik Mete SFT and SFX, the evolution of a bargain handgun.

RECOIL was perhaps the first print publication to give ink to the Canik line of striker-fired handguns, way back in RECOIL Issue 18. We were impressed enough to keep one in the safe for ammo tests, loaning to new shooters, and as a benchmark for more expensive guns that didn’t offer more, but would lighten your bank balance to a much greater degree. Now that the brand has made almost another seven trips around the sun, it’s as good a time as any to see what’s changed.

Canik Mete SFX

Canik Mete SFX

The original TP9SA featured a somewhat goofy decocking button just in front of the rear sight, which never bothered us but attracted the ire of a number of keyboard commandos who proclaimed it would get you killed on the streets. That got deleted a few years back (and the pistol was renamed the TP9SF), so they had to switch to disparaging the pistol’s Turkish origins instead. It also had fairly small, low-profile sights (bad) and a serrated rib between them (good). Both of these have gone away, and the new Canik Mete model pistols have big, bold, three-dot irons for those who need help remembering how to line up their front and rear sights.

Canik TP9SF

Canik TP9SF

For anyone who’s able to tie their laces unassisted, the rear sight can be taken out of its dovetail and flipped 180 degrees, resulting in an undercut and serrated, flat black sight picture. Hanging with the cool kids is now easier, thanks to an optics cut that’ll accept both the RMRcc and Shield footprints, and the front sight is tall enough to cowitness with either MRDS. As a bonus, the captive recoil spring now rides on a steel, rather than plastic, guide rod, but it’s still set up for NATO ball ammo, so gamer, just-makes-minor reloads will struggle.

Forward cocking serrations have been added to the slide, which together with some internal lightening cuts have shaved a half ounce from its overall weight. The fully cocked striker has been retained, resulting in one of the sweetest trigger pulls of any polymer-framed handgun currently on the market. Our well-worn older gun with a polished striker tail tripped the gauge at 3.25 pounds, while the box-fresh Mete SFT came in at 4 pounds even, and we expect that to drop 4 ounces or so as it wears in.

Canik Mete SFT

Canik Mete SFT

Moving on to the frame, the Mete SFT has added a pair of ambidextrous slide lock levers, where previously lefties were out in the cold. Although we wound up chopping the original extended left-side lever on the TP9SA, as a high grip would sometimes prevent it from functioning, there were no such incidents with the new version. There’s a flared magazine opening on the Mete, with an extended magwell included in the package, which seems to be developing into a trend. Backstraps are replaceable on both the old and new guns, and the two spares provided can be swapped out by driving a single pin with the punch that ships along with a holster, spare mag, cleaning rods, and cutesy tool kit.

While there’s some changes in the frame’s geometry in certain areas (undercut trigger guard, better texturing on the front strap), we estimate about 80-percent remains identical to its predecessor. The old gun’s slide will fit on the Mete’s frame, while the reverse isn’t true; major parts such as its 4.5-inch hammer forged barrel, MecGar magazine, and the recoil spring assemblies will interchange without issue.

Canik SFX Rival

While the Canik Mete SFT is a duty-sized package, the SFX Rival is a long-slide competition model that steps up its game even further. Although the job of styling the pistol looks like it was given to a 12-year-old boy — let’s do lightening cuts everywhere! — beneath the material removal and bling lies a very competent race gun for Carry Optics or Production divisions. Whereas the duty guns sport excellent triggers for striker-fired systems, the SFX is the first out-of-the-box polymer handgun we’ve shot that’s comparable to a 1911 — it really is that good. Although it comes close, even the ill-fated Hudson H9 comes up short when comparing them side by side, and the nearest striker-fired bang switch in terms of quality is the Timney Alpha competition trigger in a G34.

Physically, the SFX trigger comprises the usual components, but in this case the small safety lever everyone’s gotten used to since 1982 extends to almost the entire width of the face. This really begs the question of why haven’t we been doing it this way all along? There’s no chance of it standing uncomfortably above the trigger’s surface, as it is the surface, making for a better overall feel.

Canik evolution. The original TP9SA had a lanyard loop that approximately zero U.S. users have any use for, while optics mounts have seen almost universal acceptance. Somewhere along the line, we removed its loaded chamber indicator. Because they’re for idiots.

Like its less expensive brethren, there are a couple of sighting options. The installed iron sights are elevation and windage-adjustable, with a wide rear-sight notch and narrower fiber-optic front, leaving plenty of daylight light around it for both rapid acquisition and reasonable precision. Our sample SFX shipped with a house-brand Chinese red dot, so in the name of science, we popped off the rear-sight mounting plate, bolted up the MRDS adapter, and screwed the aluminum-bodied red dot to it. For comparison purposes, we added a widebody Shield RMS to the SFT and hit the range.

After firing a few rounds to reacquaint the synapses with the original TP9SA, there really wasn’t much we could do with or to that pistol that the previous 6,500 shots hadn’t already told us. In comparison, the SFX and SFT seemed altogether familiar, and that’s a good thing. Any improvements were evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, and while grip feel and recoil impulse are extremely subjective and personal things, the new grip geometry seems to suit our hands a bit better than before. Sights are hands down better than before.

The house-brand red dot has yet to prove itself, but features a wide window for rapid acquisition with a noticeable blue tint.

With so many excellent choices available to the consumer these days, the question of whether Canik handguns retain their status as top of the heap in the value-priced category is valid. As of writing, the TP9SA is available for a street price of around $375, just $25 more than when Caniks first came to market, which is remarkable given the intervening years of panic buys, supply chain arse-ache, and Brandon-esque inflation. The equivalent Mete model will cost you 100 bucks more, and only you can decide as to whether the improved feature set is worth the upcharge. The SFX is a whole ’nuther ball of wax, and if you’re looking for a dedicated range tool, there isn’t anything out there right now that matches it in terms of price-to-performance ratio. The past half decade has shown us that Canik can hang with the best of them, and were we to find ourselves in a sticky situation armed with one, we’d feel confident in our equipment.

Make: Canik USA
Model: Mete SFT, SFX
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Weight: 1.6 pounds, 1.9 pounds
Capacity: 18 rounds
Barrel Length: 4.5 inches, 5.2 inches
Overall Length: 7.5 inches, 8.3 inches
MSRP: $520, $575
URL: www.canikusa.com

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