Istanbul, Not Constantinople
There is a good chance you have a song stuck in your head. If not, look it up so you can suffer with the rest of us. Given that this is a website about living a more adventurous life, you may be wondering why I am making music references and if I’m ever going to get to the point. Fear not. The song is a reference to the capital of Turkey. Turkey is the country of origin for this review’s subject, the Canik SFX Rival.
As I’ve mentioned before, I got bit by the competition bug. It’s been several matches since that first after action review I published, and I’ve learned a lot since then. Dare I say it, I’ve even gotten a little better.
I wanted to move from Limited, where I was using a compact gun not well-suited to the task, to Carry Optics since that’s where all the cool kids shoot. Could I have stayed in Limited and used a gun I already own? Absolutely. Could I have moved to Carry Optics and used my Glock 19 that already has a dot on it? Sure. Would either of those have given me an excuse to get a new gun? No, so the choice seems clear.
A Carry Optics gun has to be a Production legal gun, but with a slide mounted red dot sight. A frame mounted optic tosses you into Open division and racing with guys who’s holsters cost more than my first car seems like a bad idea. Since we are in the Golden Age of guns and just about every major manufacturer offers full size guns that accept red dot sights, my options were legion. They even included guns with the word “Legion” in the name. Sig’s non-Legion offerings were also on the table, along with Beretta, Glock, CZ, Shadow Systems, Tanfoglio, and so on.
The Hunt for a Gun
After diving down lots of research rabbit holes to include reading Matt’s review of his CZ P-10F, some hemming and hawing and some trying out the CO guns other shooters had at my local matches, I narrowed it down to a few options. The CZ P-10F was proving tough to find. The Shadow 2 Optics Ready, while really really nice, was just not doable with my budget. For a brief moment, I thought about getting a Gen 5 Glock 34 MOS. All I would have needed to get was a holster and a red dot (MOS models of Glocks come with optics plates). I have a ton of magazines for it, new magazines aren’t expensive and I’m familiar with the platform. It would have made a lot of sense, so obviously that was a no go.
When I just accepting that I’d be waiting a while, a mysterious stranger enticed me with something exotic. It wasn’t a guy in a dirty KISS shirt offering me candy to get in the van. No, this time it was my favorite FFL who also happens to be an extremely knowledgeable and talented shooter.
The Rival he’d just gotten in met 100% of my requirements: available, not known for being a piece of junk, within my budget, and not requiring a ton of extra time and money to get match ready. With the additional incentive of having zero experience with the platform, how could I say no?
I won’t bore you with a long history of Canik you can look up yourself since you’re a grown adult and more than capable of hitting up your search engine of choice.
What I will bore you with is a short one. Canik has been making rocket launchers and doing OEM work for the biggest names in the aviation industry for decades. Their first entry into the market, the TP-9 was inspired (some would say rather heavily) by the Walther P-99 and received some mixed reviews. Many wrote them off as being another second rate gun company who just built things based on whatever patent had most recently expired.
The revamped TP-9 and its different configurations and evolutionary branches like the Mete and now the Rival have gone a long way to dispel these criticisms.
Features and Accessories
The Rival is Canik’s first competition-focused gun and is supposed to be ready to compete in USPSA, IPSC and IDPA out of the box. This is close to true, as that box is loaded with accessories.
It comes with four optic mounting plates, five if you buy the Rival Dark Side, two magazines, a magazine well (it is not installed by default in case the shooter’s chosen equipment division does not allow them), a holster, three different sized backstraps and three different sized magazine eject buttons. Additionally, it came with a chamber safety flag, extra sections of fiber optic rod for the front sight, a soft bristled bore brush, a patch rod and a roll pin punch.
The crown jewel of the included accessories was the mini Rival. The grip is hollow and inside is where you’ll find extra screws for the optics plates, the charging handle that screws into the optics plates (using this is neat but WILL put you into Open Division in USPSA so be careful). This is also where the magazine eject buttons are stored. Additionally, it has a screw driver head that fits into the little red tip on the muzzle that works with the magazine well screws, optics plate screws, and magazine release screws. It’s pretty handy.
The only thing I had to buy for this gun to actually be match ready was additional magazines. I did not expect the gun to also come with a belt and magazine pouches, but a third magazine could have gone in the empty magazine cutout in the box’s foam and I would have been happy to pay the additional cost. I realize this is not standard with most handguns these days, but for a competition gun it would have been nice.
One thing worth noting about the magazines is every Canik handgun uses the same pattern magazines. This makes it easier for them, since they only have to make one type and it makes it easier for the customer, because figuring out if a magazine is compatible between Caniks is basically a “yes” if it’s long enough.
During the week and a half or so between the night I picked up the gun and an upcoming match, I tried to get familiar with the gun and it’s controls. It points a little differently than what I was used to. The grip is somewhere between a Glock and a CZ. It isn’t much, but it’s enough to require doing the “can’t find the front sight” wrist roll until you get the feel for it. It’s definitely muzzle heavy when empty, but it’s also got a polymer frame and a 5 inch barrel, so that makes sense.
Factory sights are a serrated black rear and red fiber optic front. Sights are a very personal thing, but I found them easy to pick up when dry firing at home. A little back yard testing revealed that daylight didn’t affect the sights negatively and the fiber front sight illuminated just as well as a Dawson front sight that was right next to it.
The rear sight notch is a little wider than what I’m used to, and that’s by design. A wider rear notch in proportion to the front sight makes it easier to get the sights lined up, albeit with allegedly less precision. Like bore axis height, there are probably some people who this matters to. I am not one of them and since this gun was built with significant input from world champion and Team Canik shooter Nils Jonasson (who uses a stock Rival to ruin the lives of other competitors), it probably doesn’t matter to him and won’t matter to you.
The Grip and Ergonomics
The grip itself is a little less squared off than a Glock, but not as ergonomic as a CZ. That said, it still fit my hand well and I appreciate the skateboard tape type texture, though I would like to have seen the texturing cover a little more of the surface of the grip. This is yet another instance of nobody at a major manufacturer asking me for my opinions. It does work well though, so maybe they know more than I do.
The trigger guard has unique undercuts both where the grip frame meets the trigger guard and towards the middle where the support hand’s trigger finger rests. This isn’t something I’ve seen often on a gun from the factory, but I like it.
The Canik comes with the small backstrap installed, leaving the user to use the supplied pin punch to change it out for a larger one if they so choose. After fiddling around in dry fire for awhile, I decided to try the other backstraps since the Small didn’t give my support hand quite enough purchase on the gun itself. I pulled a Goldilocks on this one( minus the felony B&E) and went for the medium. The palm of my support hand had plenty of contact with the gun with out the grip being so large as to hinder getting my trigger finger placement where I wanted it.
The only real issue I had was with the magazine eject button that came on the gun. Like most competition style buttons, this one stuck out quite a bit and I hit it when establishing my grip. It wasn’t enough to actually drop the magazine, but it was something I kept thinking about so I changed it out and went with the small size. What surprised me was that these buttons are simply caps affixed to the stock magazine button with a screw. That stock magazine button is really nicely checkered.
If this was anything other than a gamer gun, I’d run it with that flatter button with no qualms whatsoever.
A feature that seems neat at first glance is the positioning of the slide stop. It’s back where a shooter should be able to reach it with their shooting hand thumb with out needing to adjust their grip much, if at all.
Using the slide stop on the clock is generally considered bad practice in competition. It means the shooter has shot their entire magazine empty. Typically, you should reload before this point so that if you miss something you have a few spare rounds and the additional weight of the remaining rounds helps get the magazine out faster. Shooting to slide lock, instead of leaving a round in the chamber, adds the extra step of engaging the slide release before being able to shoot again. This is added time, which is bad in competition.
In the streets, where competition will get you killed and there are no transferable skills at all, the less time you spend with your weapon inoperable the better. I sincerely hope I don’t need it, but if I do it will make for a faster dropping of the slide than usual.
The trigger is flat, which threw me off a little since I have virtually no experience with a flat faced trigger. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was a little odd the first few pulls of the trigger in dry fire. The trigger is probably the best striker fired trigger I’ve ever shot. Once you hit the wall, the trigger breaks cleanly. It does not move under tension the way a Glock trigger does. The reset is relatively short, since the over travel is short too. Another odd thing about the trigger is the safety.
Every striker fired pistol I could think of has some kind of trigger safety. Several have some sort of thin bladed part in the middle of the trigger face that the shooter depresses first before the trigger itself moves and the Canik Rival is no different in this aspect. What is different is that the majority of the actual front surface of the trigger is the safety. It’s actually kind of neat looking and while the thinner safety on the Glock never bothered me, there are people who say it bothers them after a long day of shooting.
That wide trigger safety is also nicely checkered, and I found it just grippy enough to give my finger some purchase.
The magazines themselves seat and drop with out issue, and the magazine bodies seem to be well made. My only gripe is the plastic floor plates seem cheap. The fact that it also came with two extra floor plates kind of makes me wonder if they’re not built to last.
The holster fits the gun well and has an adjustable tension screw right below the trigger guard. The bright gray color makes the basketweave print look cheap, but don’t let it fool you. It’s a good holster. The only issue I had was the fact that the slots the belt goes through were too narrow for my Blade-tech outer belt. Lucky for me, I got a good deal on a gently used Boss Hanger that I could use to attach the holster to the belt instead.
Taking it to a Match
Being the adventurous soul I am (my wife uses the short hand “idiot”), I decided a USPSA match would be a great place to shoot the gun for the first time.
Do the sights need to be adjusted? Does the gun even work? What better time to find out than on the clock?
A civilized person would say “not at a match. Literally the opposite of what you’re doing, clown,” but I didn’t have time the weekend between the match I’d already signed up for and getting the gun so away we went.
I loaded the magazines the night before, one of the neat tricks I learned over the course of this adventure, and none of them loaded to the listed capacity.
The two magazines that came with the gun have a theoretical capacity of 18, but I could only get 17 in each. The three extra Canik magazines I got that came with +2 floorplates would only take 18 rounds. Thankfully, they wore in a little as I topped them off between stages and they can now be loaded to the listed capacity. It seems odd for magazines to need to be broken in but they work now so I can’t really complain.
The holster performed exactly as it was supposed to, which exceeded my expectations. As stated above, it looks cheap but don’t let that fool you. It is surprisingly good and did it’s job well. Not having to worry about your holster fouling a draw, not being where you expect it to be, or letting go of the gun when it shouldn’t are all you can ask from a holster. This one did all that and did it well enough that I see no reason to replace it until somebody comes up with an appropriately garish flamingo print holster for the Rival that calls to my inner Floridaman.
The gun itself had one hiccup mid stage that required me racking the slide to clear a stoppage. This might possibly have had something to do with the fact that I didn’t oil the gun before the match. Or more accurately, it definitely had something to do with the fact that I didn’t lubricate the gun before shooting the match. Which, by the way, is recommended in the manual. That being said, when I took the gun to the designated safety area and applied some Rand CLP, it ran with out another malfunction thereafter.
It’s funny how following simple instructions in a manual can improve the performance of a mechanical object. Who knew?
After shooting the first target on the first stage, I remember thinking “I can go fast!” I wouldn’t say I actually went fast, but I definitely went less slowly than normal. The trigger was just as nice in live fire as it was in dry fire. The short overtravel and quick reset of the trigger lent themselves towards making the gun feel fast.
The dry practice with the gun had helped tremendously and the sights were both quick to line up and accurate enough that I was able to call my misses (a first for me) and knew it was me, not the gun when they happened.
Recoil was extremely manageable and it felt like the gun wanted to get back on target after every shot.
Even before the magazines wore in, they were reliable and reloads were a piece of cake with out the external magazine well installed. Why didn’t I install it? It’s a pretty simple process, just sliding it on and driving in a screw to hold it in place. I wanted to see how reloads would go with out it, and knew I’d be shooting with this gun in Carry Optics where it wouldn’t be allowed.
Overall, I have to admit my expectations were exceeded. The gun was accurate, reloads were good, and it was easy to get the gun on target from the draw and transition between targets. It fit my hand well after the few pre-match tweaks I made and functioned reliably after I did what I should have done the night before and applied some oil.
Lessons Learned & Closing Thoughts
The lessons learned from this last match definitely include some things I need to work on, like getting faster at everything and figuring out what an acceptable sight picture is for the particular shot I’m trying to take.
There are other tweaks and refinements I need to make, but I’ve gone on long enough about my shooting.
In regards to the gun itself, I learned that not only should you actually follow the provided instructions, but despite my failure to do so the gun ran wonderfully and is capable of shooting well beyond my capability.
Canik’s Rival is a great gun. You can shoot the gun as it comes in the box in Production, adding the magazine well makes it a fine Limited gun, and removing the magazine well and adding a red dot will (probably, I don’t have the dot yet) make it an equally good Carry Optics gun. I would, with out hesitation, recommend this gun to someone who is looking to get into competition.
I would also recommend it to someone who wants to try something different. I didn’t pay Canik much mind until now, but I think I will in the future.