Canik keeps throwing out one banger after another, I have followed them somewhat closely watching eagerly to see what comes next. I bought a Canik TP9 Elite Combat (EC) a year or two ago, and I was very pleased with how it functions. The latest thing from Canik to cross my path is the new Canik SFX Rival 9mm which is the subject today.
The SFX Rival
The Rival is being marketed as an IDPA competition gun, with both its size and weight restrictions meeting the standard for most competitive circles. The Rival does this while bring all the many features from all its Canik siblings, with things like ambi-slide release, reversible and extendable magazine release, flat trigger-shoe, undercut trigger guard, magwell-flare and a picatinny accessory rail up front. In addition to these features, the Rival has deeply cut slide serrations, as well as a fluted barrel. Like many of the TP9 family it also comes optics ready, with an assortment of baseplates and sight options. All this with two custom Cerakote color schemes, mine has the Rival grey with gold accents.
As usual with Canik, the pistol came in a hard plastic case with an assortment of tools for cleaning and maintenance. It also came with a Kydex holster and spare magazine pouch, as well as a couple magazines.
My very first initial thoughts of the Rival were pretty flashy, it seems quite busy to the eyes. But I wanted to find out quickly though if the busy looks matched up to a busy time shooting targets.
As I expected, the Rival felt nearly identical to my TP9 in the hand. A good thing in my estimation as both of the pistols feel great filling the hand and giving a good textured grip to control with. I actually rubbed the Cerakote off of my other Canik doing draw drills, shooting and reload drills constantly. And after all that, the Rival felt like an old friend. My fingers instinctively landed on every control with perfection, and it didn’t take long to notice just a couple things.
The first thing was the ambidextrous slide release, I think perhaps the Rival uses a stronger spring because there is more felt resistance on the slide than my other guns. This translated into just enough extra effort to annoy me, but that’s all.
I also noted that the extended magwell-flare seems to be a better fit than the one on my other Canik, this made reloading even easier than I anticipated. Magazines were easilly slid into place with little to no effort.
The trigger felt fantastic, which has been my typical experience with these higher grade Canik pistols.
Once I was on the firing line with the Rival, I decided it would be a good idea to compare it to its well-known relative, the TP9 EC with a Vortex red dot. With a stack of ammo on the tailgate, we went to town. The first order of business was to adjust the Holosun red dot for proper impacts, which didn’t take very long. In less time than it took to empty the magazine, I was hitting my pop-can targets.
Going back and forth between the Rival and the Elite Combat, it didn’t take long to feel and see the differences between the two pistols. The triggers felt very comparable, as they should. It seems they are the same in everything but their colors. The grip area on the Rival was a bit more generous, allowing for more engagement with the grip.
The mag release on all of the TP9 family seem to be reliable and easy to manipulate. The Rival shared that trait, but it did feel ever so slightly stiffer than the others. This could have simply been that it was newer and not worn in. The dual slide-release levers on either side of the frame felt significantly stiffer than other TP9s I’ve shot.
Then again, after shooting several magazines through the gun, that seemed to loosen up. One thing that I felt was a significant improvement on the Rival was its flared magwell. Blindly stabbing the magazine into the gun took nearly zero focus to get it right. I quickly became proficient at fast and smooth reloads. This was a definite improvement over the EC, and not an insignificant one.
The Rival plowed through an expensive pile of Magtech 124-grain ammunition and Winchester 115 grain, showing no failures or malfunctions during the shooting other than an ammunition malfunction confirmed in several other pistols. The bluish-grey Canik Rival finish was losing its shine in the afternoon sun, exchanging it for a powder-burned darker shade.
Pros & Cons
The overall experience shooting the Rival was an outstanding one. It offered flawless function and very predictable, accurate hits. The quality and just plain performance of this pistol is quite evident, as good as almost any striker-fired poly-framed pistol I’ve played with over the years. The aggressive serrations of the slide as well as the engraving details bring a bit of “noise” to the gun’s image, but for me, it just works. The ease of reloading the pistol, the filled palm with a great grip, the smooth trigger, and the short reset all just make this pistol feel like it truly is an excellent Rival for others.
Buying yourself a Rival is not, however, a sure shot to becoming the next John Wick. Still, at the price, it isn’t going to kill you either. The adjustable grip backstraps, extra magazines, and extra sight mounting options are also a fantastic value. The modularity of the mag-release buttons also help the shooter perfect their fit.
The Holosun 507 was a perfect companion for this pistol. I’ve used many slide-mounted optics now, and this one seems to be a great option for not just the Rival but any pistol. The various mounting plates that come with the Rival will allow you to mount whatever optic you choose.
There are a couple of things I would change about the Rival if given the chance. First of all, it seems like a chance was missed to port the barrel to match the fancy slide cuts. Not only would that have added to the mall-ninja factor, but it would also have helped a bit with the recoil. For a full-size pistol, the Rival did seem to climb a bit more than I expected from a ported slide. Even a built-in compensator up front would help with that. The fluted barrel itself seemed fine, and I expect that friction is reduced as well in that weight loss.
For a pistol directed at the competitive shooter, I feel like the many features of the Rival are an absolute win. It is affordable but feels like you are getting so much more for your money. The many extras just keep coming as you get into it, and those included extras allow many gun owners to do what they love most – customize their gun.
The beauty of this pistol is that it is flashy and handsome right out of the box, and it is indeed ready to lay out one target after another with speed and comfort. I have to say, Canik continues to bring us consumers new options, and the Canik Rival is a great option to consider.