As we begin a new decade, the 9 mm conceal carry semi-auto pistol market is duking it out once more to claim as much customer holster space as possible. Not long ago the single-stack, subcompacts 9 mms went toe-to-toe with the pocket size .380 ACPs. Then in 2018 the Sig Sauer P365 kicked off the next high profile trend of providing a nearly single-stack sub-compact sized profile while sporting a double-stack 10-round magazine.
By the end of 2019 other gun companies were taking on the Sig Sauer P365's 10+1 ammunition capacity by offering subcompacts with flush fit 11 and 12 round magazines, including the Springfield Armory Hellcat,the Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 Subcompact and the Canik TP9 Elite SC. If we're honest about it, what we're seeing here is a reboot of the quarter-century old Glock G26. While remakes of classic Hollywood movies can be touch and go, these latest double-stack sub compacts demonstrate noteworthy updates and improvements to the original concealed-carry concept. In addition to the headline snagging increased magazine capacities, more subcompact defensive pistols are leaving the factory with another trending feature: red dot optics ready slides.
The Canik TP9 Elite SC with Sield Sights RMS, right side view.
During the 2019 NASGW annual expo, I had the opportunity to take a closer look at the TP9 Elite SC, which is distributed in the U.S. by Century Arms. Canik is a respected small arms manufacturer based in Turkey which has become a major supplier for European military and law-enforcement agencies. I was impressed by the pistol and the reasonable price point for the load of features it offers, so it was the next 'new breed' subcompact 9 mm that I opted to work with. This latest member of the TP9 series is, like its predecessors, a polymer framed, striker-fired semi-auto with a tilt-barrel design based on the Walther P99.
The majority of carbon steel pistol slides leave the factory with one corrosion resistant treatment. But this slide has two. It's been nitrided and then treated to a Tungsten color Cerakote coating. The slide is beveled at various locations, to reduce weight and give it a sleek appearance, with canted cocking serrations located at the front and rear. A visual and tactile loaded chamber indicator is located on top of the slide, just behind the chamber of the barrel, with a red cocked striker indicator located at the rear. The metallic white dot front sight is dovetailed into the slide. The dot is filled with white phosphorous enamel that glows green in the dark when charged briefly with a bright tactical light. The drift adjustable, metallic rear sight features a square notch and a slightly hooked front face for one-handed cycling of the slide (against a belt or shoe heel). The duty sized TP9 pistols have the rear sight mounted to a filler plate which is removed from the slide when a red dot optic is installed.
The slide cut out for the reflex sight is longer so as to accommodate a greater variety of optic brands and models. However, the TP9 Elite SC's rear sight is mounted directly to the slide, which makes sense for a dedicated defensive pistol. This also means that space between the loaded chamber indicator and the rear sight is only 1.65" long. That’s not much space to work with. While the duty-size pistols ship with up to four optics mounting plates, the SC model reviewed here shipped with a single mounting plate that currently fits just one optic, the Shield Sights RMS-4MOA Reflex MiniSight, which is sold separately. The RMS is among the smallest reflex sights on the market and it's a tough little customer which has become something of an industry standard.
A closer view of the Shield Sights RMS reflex sight mounted to the slide of the Canik TP9 Elite SC.
It features an aluminum housing, automatic brightness adjustment, and an anti-reflection 1x lens. A single CR2032 3V lithium battery powers the 4 MOA or 8 MOA red LED light source for two to three years of constant on operation (there is no off switch) if the optic is stored in a dark location. It's a slick little optic that I enjoyed working with but it's not cheap. If you buy the RMS at Brownells it currently costs $400, which is less than the suggested retail price. The TP9 Elite SC has a suggested retail price of $429.99, so you essentially double the price of the platform by installing the optic. The 3.6" barrel features traditional lan-and-groove rifling. It's supported by an all steel dual spring recoil assembly.
Removing the slide reveals an interior configuration and short rail set inspired by the Glock Safe-Action design. The polymer trigger has an integral safety, also borrowed from Glock, that's red instead of black. The trigger pull is smoother than many typical factory installed striker options with a lighter take-up and a distinctive stop before firing. This trigger broke at 4 lbs. 3 oz. of pressure with a short, distinctive trigger reset. In short, it feels like an upgrade. The black polymer frame has a 1" long, two slot Picatinny accessory rail molded into the dust cover and a square profile trigger guard.
The ambidextrous extended slide stop lever and takedown lever are the most Walther-like of the external controls. The metallic square button magazine release has a checkered surface for positive purchase. The comfortable grip frame has interchangeable back straps (two are provided). The grip's molded in texturing consists of block texturing along the front strap, pyramidal bumps on the backstrap and a skateboard tape like random texturing on the sides. This mix of textures is effective without being abrasive. The grip length can be modified via the magazines.
A view of the controls on the left side of the Canik TP9 Elite SC.
If the 12 round magazine is outfitted with the provided flush-fit base plate, you get a two-finger grip similar in length to the Glock G26 or the Walther PPQ M2 SC. The textured 12 round magazine's finger rest extension adds 0.75" to the front strap of the grip. The wraparound polymer base of the extended 15 round magazine adds 1" of textured support to the front and sides of the grip frame. In most situations, purchasing a handgun is a two step process. First you buy the gun itself and then you have to hunt around gathering up accessories for it. The support gear included with the TP9 Elite SC's hard case reads like an accessory shopping list: - Foam Lined Hard Case - OWB or IWB Convertible Polymer Holster - One 15 Round Extended Magazine - One 12 Round Magazine with Finger Extension and Flush Fit Base Plates - Two Interchangeable Backstraps - Polymer Optics Base Plate (Shield RMS) - Optics Tool Kit with Mounting Hardware - Bore Brush - Cleaning Rod (Patch Tool) - Trigger Lock - Owner's Manual
A view of the accesories that come with the Canik TP9 Elite SC as they appear in the hard case.
Having worked with $1,000+ handguns that shipped with only a single magazine, I appreciate the courtesy Canik shows customers by providing this many accessories with the gun. Even the interior of the case is well thought out. There are cut outs in the foam for all of these items, a space for a third magazine and the pistol slot is as optics ready as the gun is. Overall the TCP9 Elite SC exhibited top-notch fit and finish throughout. The pistol feels sturdy and well balanced with an authoritative snap when the slide slams forward. This pistol's styling is sleek and eye catching. The subtle two-tone gray Tungsten Cerakote finish for the slide is a nice touch, making the pistol stand out from the crowd without too much bling.
Some double-stack sub compact 9 mm pistols can be frustrating to work with because the grips are blocky and the little finger of the shooting hand is left to fend for itself. However, the TCP9 Elite SC proved to be a comfortable fit for my somewhat smaller hands. The 12 round magazine finger extension was a just right fit for a three-finger grip. With the RMS sight installed and the better than stock trigger, this pistol handled and shot like models that cost a good deal more. At the shooting range the TCP9 Elite SC continued to rack up points in my book by operating reliably with a variety of full-metal-jacket and defensive hollow point 9 mm loads. There is no mention of +P ammunition, for it or against it, in the owner's manual so it was tested with standard pressure fodder.
Bench rested accuracy testing was conducted at 15 yds. for five sets of five shot groups using the Shield RMS red dot optic to aim. The Colt Defense 124 gr. jacketed hollow point load (manufactured by DoubleTap) printed a best single five shot group of 2.79" with a five group average of 2.88".Hornady's Critical Defense Lite 100 gr. FTX round produced a best group of 1.56" with an average of 1.67". Sig Sauer's Elite Performance 115 gr. full-metal-jacket practice grade load yielded a best group of 1.95" with an average of 1.78". So often defensive pistol purchases feel like an exercise in compromise.
A particular gun may be the right size and caliber for your needs but it costs more to get the features you want, it holds less ammunition than you would prefer or the grip isn't quite right for your hand shape. The new Canik TP9 Elite SC offers a much more satisfying shopping experience with a set of features often reserved for more expensive models, a ready-to-shoot accessory set and a comfortable grip for a variety of hand shapes. This pistol and gear set has a suggested retail price of $429.99 but real world prices are around $50 less. For more information, visit centuryarms.com. Specifications: Manufacturer: Canik USA U.S. Distributor: Century Arms Model: TP9 Elite SC Optics Ready (HG5610T-N) Action: Semi-Automatic, Striker Fired Caliber: 9 mm Slide Finish: Tungsten Cerakote over Nitrided Steel Cocking Serrations: Front and Rear Frame: Textured Black Polymer Backstrap: Textured, Interchangeable Accessory Rail: 1" 2 Slot Picatinny Grip: 4 Side Texturing Trigger: Polymer with Integrated Safety Trigger Pull: 4 lbs. 3 oz. (As Tested) Safeties:Left Side Manual, Firing Pin Block, Trigger Safety Magazine Release: Extended, Ambidextrous Front Sight: Phosphorous White Dot Rear Sight: Drift Adjustable, One-Hand Operation Barrel Length: 3.6" Overall Length: 6.7" Height: 4.6" Slide Width: 1.10" Grip width: 1.15" Weight:24.9 oz. with Empty 12 Round Magazine and Optic Capacity: 12+1 or 15+1 Rounds Twist: 1:10” RH Rifle Grooves: 6 Accessories: Hard Case, Concealed Carry Holster, One 15 Round Magazine, One 12 Round Magazine With Finger Rest and Flat Base Plates, Optics Hardware and Tool Kit, Two Backstraps, Cleaning Rod, Bore Brush, Trigger Lock, Owner's Manual MSRP: $429.99 Red Dot Optic: Shield Sights RMS-4MOA Reflex MiniSight ($400 at Brownells)