Despite there being a bad shortage of 9mm handguns a couple of years ago, in 2023 many well-known brands are reasonably available and are facing challenges from all quarters of the market, lower priced, par priced, and higher priced. We recently took a look at three lesser-known nameplates to see how they shaped up against household handgun marques, and we found a lot of quality.
Our first test gun was the Canik TP9 Elite SC HG5610T 9mm Luger, $419. Readers have asked us to test the TP9 SC, in part because of the Canik’s affordable price. A word of caution: The price spread on this pistol was more extreme than the other two handguns tested. While we found an example new in a shop for less than $400, some online sites were asking $599, and the optics-mounted pistol was as high as $699. Beware scalper prices. We found three identical Canik 9mm pistols within a 50-mile radius at fair prices, like our test gun. Caniks are manufactured in Turkey and have earned a favorable reputation. The early pistols were more utilitarian, and some had add-on safety levers we did not like. The present Elite type seems well developed and looks well finished. As a parenthetical, we don’t feel that the “SC” nomination (Sub-Compact) is accurate. This isn’t a sub-compact pistol, in our view. It is a compact, save for the short grip.
Our second handgun was a Shadow Systems MR920 Combat 9mm Luger, $830. We have previously tested the MR920; this was a new optics-ready pistol, which we found for sale just shy of $800 in a well-stocked shop. We found these handguns offered online for as much as $989. We don’t mind paying a little extra to a stocking dealer, but $170 extra doesn’t sound right. This 9mm compact handgun is in most ways an elevated Glock 19, but you could not purchase a Glock 19 and add the slide, barrel, and sights to the pistol and spend this amount of money. To be clear, Shadow Systems doesn’t modify a Glock pistol; they simply manufacture their own receivers. The pistol has been available when Glocks were not in the past two years, with the situation now somewhat reversed.
A Walther PDP F-Series 4-Inch 2842734, $599, was our third gun. It, too, was a pistol some readers have asked that we review. The Walther was more consistent in price. Most examples were priced from $589 to $639. Walther’s Performance Duty Pistol F-Series has an upgraded and reconfigured grip that was designed with female shooters in mind. The polymer-frame handle is designed to accommodate not simply smaller hands, but the female hand structure — a certain size hand, with long fingers. The sole female rater on this team really liked the hand fit. But all the male raters also liked the hand fit of the Walther.
Here’s more about the pistols individually:
Gun Tests Grade: B-
The pistol is supplied with a hard-plastic case. Two backstraps, a standard and extended magazine, mounting plate for a red dot, Allen wrench, a manual, and a credible plastic holster are included. The holster is a good fit and may be configured for inside-the-waistband (IWB) carry or on the waistband. Unlike some terrible cheap and thin holsters supplied in a package, the Canik holster is durable and versatile. It is more comfortable as an OWB than an IWB, as expected. Simple reverse the belt clips, and you have an IWB holster. You don’t have to chase down a spare magazine or holster because they are supplied. The pistol’s two-tone finish, tungsten over black polymer, is attractive. The grey tungsten slide features forward cocking serrations. We found no fault in the finish, and there were no visible tool marks when the pistol was disassembled.
|Action Type||Semi-auto, single action|
|Overall Length||6.7 in.|
|Overall Height||4.6 in. to 5.0 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.45 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||26.0 oz.|
|Weight Loaded||31.0 oz.|
|Slide Retraction Effort||15.0 lbs.|
|Front Strap Height||1.5 in.|
|Rear Strap Height||2.5 in.|
|Barrel Length||3.6 in.|
|Grip||Replaceable back strap|
|Grip Thickness||1.25 in.|
|Grip Circumference||5.6 in.|
|Magazines||(1) 12 round, (1) 15 round|
|Rear Sight||Serrated, wedge type|
|Front Sight||White dot, dovetailed|
|Trigger Pull Weight||4.5 lbs.|
|Trigger Span||2.75 in.|
|Sight Radius||5.4 in.|
The sights include a drift-adjustable U-notch rear. The front sight is a highly visible white dot. The sights are better than the PDP’s factory sights and are equal to the Shadow Systems in daylight sight picture. The ambidextrous slide stop is large and easily manipulated. Speed loads are quick. The slide lock never contacted the hand during recoil and locked the slide back, as we have sometimes experienced with other types. The grips are slightly raised in places, making for a good surface for the firing grip. The side straps are pebbled.
Take down is similar to a Glock’s. You clear the pistol by removing the magazine and checking that the chamber is empty. Then, the trigger must be pulled and the striker released. You press two tabs down to field-strip the pistol. The recoil-spring assembly pulls off the barrel, and the barrel slides out. The Canik is a simple handgun to maintain. All three pistols take down in the same manner.
The action of the pistol is different from the other 9mm handguns tested. This is a single-action pistol. When the slide is racked, the striker is fully cocked. The striker protrudes from the rear of the slide, making an enameled red dot visible. The only manual safety is a finger lever set in the trigger face. There is also a firing pin block. Some will not be comfortable with this set up, similar to the Springfield XD full-size pistol. However, the XD adds a grip safety.
The pistol is supplied with two magazines. One is a flush-fit-with-finger-rest 12-round magazine and the other an extended 15 rounder with a sleeve attached to allow a full firing grip and convert the grip. While this works okay for short-range shooting, we found it isn’t ideal. With the short magazine in place, most shooters have a finger trailing off the butt. The extended magazine did not feel solid. When firing, the sleeve moved and even rattled. After all, you cannot have a jamming tight fit of a magazine to a magazine well and expect rapid speed loads. After some firing, the raters agreed that the pistol did not allow full palm contact while the back of the hand and fingers were in register. Trigger reach is good, however. The trigger is the lightest of the three handguns tested at 4.5 pounds. It is controllable, not particularly crisp, but will respond well to a trained shooter. Reset is fairly sharp.
For draw-and-fire engagements, we shot at human silhouette-sized targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards. Most of the ammunition used for combat shooting was Remington UMC 115-grain full-metal-jacket cartridges. We fired 50 rounds in each pistol. We also added 10 rounds of Hornady 115-grain XTP fired at the 15-yard line offhand. The Canik grouped well at 7 yards, but at 10 yards, the looseness of the extended magazine made quickly adjusting the hand harder. Next, 15-yard groups were the poorest of the test, but still in the 7 ring. Half of the raters actually did better shooting with the 12-round magazine in place.
The pistol turned in a good showing in fast shooting, but it was not as accurate overall as the other pistols. Off the bench at 25 yards, our team fired the Canik with the Remington FMJ load, the Hornady 115-grain XTP, and we added the Federal 124-grain HST. Five-shot groups averaged 3.0 to 3.5 inches.
Our Team Said: While the pistol is accurate enough for personal defense in most situations, the Canik is the least accurate pistol tested. We’d spend the extra money to get the Walther.
9mm Luger Range DataWe fired all groups from an MTM K Zone rest at 25 yards, shooting strings of three five-shot groups for each load in each handgun. We used an RCBS Ammomaster Chronograph to measure velocities at 10 yards.
|Remington UMC 115-grain FMJ||Canik TP9 Elite SC||Shadow Systems MR920 OR||Walther PDP F-Series|
|Average Velocity||1120 fps||1145 fps||1166 fps|
|Energy||320 ft.-lbs.||335 ft.-lbs.||347 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||3.0 in.||2.5 in.||1.75 in.|
|Average Group||3.5 in.||2.9 in.||2.4 in.|
|Hornady American Gunner||Canik||Shadow Systems||Walther|
|115-grain XTP 90244||TP9 Elite SC||MR920 OR||PDP F-Series|
|Average Velocity||1099 fps||1123 fps||1154 fps|
|Energy||308 ft.-lbs.||322 ft.-lbs.||340 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||2.9 in.||2.6 in.||1.8 in.|
|Average Group||3.5 in.||3.1 in.||2.2 in.|
|Federal Premium 124-grain HST JHP||Canik TP9 Elite SC||Shadow Systems MR920 OR||Walther PDP F-Series|
|Average Velocity||1149 fps||1168 fps||1180 fps|
|Energy||363 ft.-lbs.||376 ft.-lbs.||383 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||2.4 in||2.2 in.||2.0 in.|
|Average Group||2.95 in.||2.8 in.||2.4 in.|