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: A
The pistol was supplied in a cardboard box with a gun rug, cleaning rod, backstraps, two magazines, and owner’s manual. The pistol is the same in outline and dimensions to the Glock 19 and fits all Glock holsters. The Shadow Systems pistol, unlike many Glock handguns rebuilt with aftermarket parts, is reliable, as reliable as the Glock 9mm, judging by our previous testing. Reliability is the bottom line in a personal-defense pistol. Just the same, all three guns tested were reliable and have a good reputation in that regard. We are testing against other two other pistols at different price points, not custom Glocks with aftermarket parts, but we believe a pistol comparable to the MR920 cannot be built for less than $1000.
|Action Type||Semi-auto, double action|
|Overall Length||7.4 in.|
|Overall Height||5.04 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.3 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||24.0 oz.|
|Weight Loaded||29.0 oz.|
|Slide||Black phosphate-finished steel|
|Slide Retraction Effort||16.0 lbs.|
|Front Strap Height||2.0 in.|
|Rear Strap Height||3.6 in.|
|Barrel Length||4.0 in.|
|Grip||Replaceable back strap|
|Grip Thickness||1.3 in.|
|Grip Circumference||6.0 in.|
|Magazines||(2) 15 round|
|Front Sight||Fixed, tritium dot|
|Trigger Pull Weight||5.5 lbs.|
|Trigger Span||2.45 in.|
|Sight Radius||7.0 in.|
Unlike previously tested Shadow Systems pistols, the slide here features a cut out for optics. Otherwise, the pistol is similar to the other Shadow handgun tested in the past, with forward cocking serrations, black finish, and bronze-colored barrel. The pistol features a Glock trigger action with a special connector, according to our inspection. The previously tested Shadow Systems MR920 trigger action broke at a clean 4.5 pounds. This pistol’s trigger is also very clean, with a sharp reset, but trigger compression weighed in at 5.5 pounds, the same as most Glock 19 handguns of the current generation.
The grip treatment is excellent, with a nice mix of adhesion and abrasion. The grip tang is extended and feels good in the hand. Grip inserts are supplied; we changed them out and liked them. The original Shadow Systems test did not include using the supplied magazine well. In this case, we added the magazine well with good results. Note: The Shadow Systems pistol is not compatible with Glock magazine wells because the Shadow frame is different. The trigger guard undercut is also different from, and is superior to, the Glock 9mm pistol. The two 15-round Magpul magazines worked fine, and the pistol accepts Glock magazines. Because the pistol fits Glock 19 holsters and accepts Glock magazines and parts, resupply is simple enough.
Elsewhere, we found the Shadow’s sights were superior to the other two pistols. While the Canik has good sights, the Walther’s sights ride a little too low for fastest sight acquisition. The Shadow Systems pistol features wedge-type rear sights and a tritium-dot front sight.
While we are not testing a Glock in this report, it is inevitable that comparisons be made against the Glock due to the similarity of the Shadow Systems pistol. The pistol is well worth its tariff over the Glock. The Glock is a double-action pistol. The action of the Shadow Systems handgun works in the same manner as the Walther. The slide is racked, partially cocking the striker. To fire the pistol, trigger pressure results in the striker being forced to the rear and then the striker breaks against sear pressure and flies forward, firing the pistol. A safety lever set in the trigger face prevents lateral discharge and acts as an additional drop safety to prevent the pistol from firing. Previously, the Shadow Systems handgun tested began out of the box with a 4.9-pound trigger but became smoother and lighter after the test fire, breaking at about 4.5 pounds. The pistol tested in this report is smooth enough, but its compression remained at 5.5 pounds.
To take the pistol down for cleaning, move the unloaded pistol slightly out of battery and press the takedown levers. The levers seem easier to manipulate than a Glock pistol’s, we thought. The trigger action must be de-cocked. The pistol seems tighter than the Glock 19 but does not require a break-in period. The test team believes the Shadow’s NPOA (natural point of aim) grip system was one of the Shadow’s best advantages. The backstraps are marked H, N, and L. Our shooters preferred the L-marked insert, with the “L” standing for Low. To change the grip inserts, the shooter drives out a pin, removes the insert, and then replaces the insert with another from the package. The pistol features a light rail for mounting combat lights, the same as the other two handguns.
We found the MR920 to be a good combat gun. Combat firing was noticeably superior to the Canik, but at the price it should be. The pistol comes on target quickly. The grip fit the hand much better than the Canik, but not quite as nicely as the Walther PDP F. The Shadow pistol was sure and fast at closer range. At 10 yards off hand, the Shadow Systems demonstrated good combat ability. At the 15- and 25-yard marks, it was just behind the Walther in combat firing. The trigger action is usable, and the bright front sight is also an advantage. Fired for absolute accuracy at 25 yards, the pistol was accurate enough for personal defense, with most groups at the 2.5-inch mark.
Our Team Said: We like the Shadow Systems pistol. This is a credible, reliable handgun that some of our shooters preferred over 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.|