I have to admit to a bit of gun prejudice. Blue steel and walnut, chrome and cocobolo are what catch my eye. I do own and use a few black polymer handguns and find them useful, but when it comes to pride of ownership there is nothing like a 1911, High Power or CZ 75. This brings us to the subject of this review.
An Example of the Gun Maker’s Art
The Canik 55 pistols are clone guns. That simply means it isn’t the original: that is the CZ 75. Just as Kimber handguns are 1911 clones, the Canik 55 is a clone of the CZ 75. A company manufacturing a handgun on a certain pattern may make changes and these may be beneficial or not. The handgun may be built to be sold more cheaply or it may be improved to meet higher standards.
The Canik 55 is a good example of the gun maker’s art. It was designed to be a good gun at a certain price point and arguably we get a little more than we were willing to pay for in this handgun. The handgun compares more than favorably to the original.
For some time, I was involved in an occupation that demanded the best life saving gear. Everything I owned had to have a purpose. I have moderated the stance on the handgun pictured and own and use quite a few handguns with no clearly defined purpose. However, there are times when I rely upon a handgun and the Canik 55 is part of my defensive battery and a trusted piece.
A Handy, Accurate Choice
When I do not feel like going cocked and locked and feel that 15 rounds of 9mm +P is sufficient, and perhaps I do not feel like carrying a spare magazine, the Canik 55 is a choice. The handgun may not be your choice, but it works for me with good reliability and accuracy. The accuracy part is especially important for recreational shooting.
The pistol is often at home ready and handy, or in the truck without a holster. You cannot do that with the Glock or a cocked and locked 1911. And perhaps I should not with the double-action first shot pistol either, but it is a handy go anywhere, do anything handgun. As for the 9mm Luger cartridge, I will not insult your intelligence by claiming modern ammunition development has made the 9mm an equal of the .45.
Of course not, and anyone that claims so has no experience in interpersonal combat, or just doesn’t understand physics.
Just the same, there have been improvements in the way the cartridge is loaded and modern 9mm defense ammunition offers respectable performance. As for using a pistol from a company I had never heard of until a few years ago, a bit of research showed that the manufacturer is world class. Canik 55 is a division of one of the largest defense contractors in Turkey, Samsun Yurt Savunma.
Simply put they do not make inferior products. The pistol you purchase in America is in line with military and police forces in Turkey.
A Bit of History
I have been accused of writing biblically, as in the beginning there was—but a bit of history is in order. While the pistol may be taken on its own merits we need to know a little about the original. The CZ 75 was designed by the brothers Josef and Frantisek Koucky. The CZ 75 combined a double column magazine with a double-action first shot trigger. The pistol is said by some to owe much of its design to the Browning High Power, but I see more of the Petter pistols in the CZ 75 than I do the Browning.
The pistol uses a bushingless barrel lockup and angled camming surfaces, true, but so do many other handguns. The Browning system is excellent. A better description is the CZ is an original design based upon the Browning principle. The CZ differs in featuring a slide that runs inside the frame instead of the reverse as used by most modern handguns. This gives greater slide-to-frame contact than most pistols and may be a source of the often excellent accuracy demonstrated by these pistols. The slide configuration also results in a lower bore axis that limits the leverage available for the recoil arc.
The combination of straight to the rear recoil and little muzzle rise makes for superior control even with heavy loads. While the 9mm isn’t usually thought of as a hard kicker with +P and +P+ loads a lightweight 9mm may exhibit snappy muzzle flip. The CZ 75 is among the most controllable of handguns, even in the compact versions. The CZ pistol maintains the advantages of the type when modified into a compact short slide pistol.
The Canik 55 pistol (as tested) features a frame design, which is modern, stylish and a bit different from the standard CZ Compact. I like it a lot. The pistol resembles the Baby Eagle, a once popular and acclaimed pistol. The pistol only weighs 27 ounces and features a 3.9-inch barrel. The double-action trigger breaks at about 14 pounds and is very quick, so quick it is almost abrupt. With practice, this type of trigger can be very fast to a center hit at close range.
The single-action trigger is very nice at four pounds—crisp. There is a bit of backlash, as is characteristic of the CZ trigger action.
A few words on selective double action:
- This pistol does not feature a decocker.
- Once the pistol is loaded, you must manually lower the hammer by carefully controlling the hammer as the trigger is pressed.
- There is a manual safety that you may press “on” after you lower the hammer. Most shooters will find the long double-action trigger press a sufficient safety feature for concealed carry.
The selective double-action feature is sometimes misunderstood. It is true that the manual safety gives the user the option of cocked and locked carry, but the majority of shooters will carry the pistol hammer down and ready for a fast reactive shot. The advantage of the manual safety is in tactical movement. Whether in a pistol competition or in a defense situation, once the first shot is fired most double-action pistols require the pistol be decocked to make it safe.
The Canik 55 pistol is made safe by placing the safety on. You may then safely engage in movement and if you must fire again simply thumb the safety off. This is an advantage in a pistol that places the tactical over the technical. The safety was stiff out of the box and required considerable but consistent effort to manipulate, but with several dozen deployments smoothed up.
The pistol is delivered in a lockable box with two 15-round magazines. In this day when many handguns are supplied with only one magazine—and that is ridiculous—the Canik 55 is well appointed. The example tested was the chrome version. I like this very much. The plating is even and the finish excellent. The pistol is supplied with rubber grips that do exactly what they are supposed to do—provide good purchase.
A word to the wise: A slight difference in dimensions between this and the original CZ 75 means the grip panels do not interchange. I can live with this but be careful if, like myself, you enjoy custom grip panels.
Nice Enough, with a bit of Flair
The Canik 55 is nice enough and offers enough flair to give the user a generous portion of pride of ownership. A neat trick is that the three dot sights are supplied with luminous green fill in paint. Once hit with light they will glow for a few minutes in the dark. Since tritium sights add significantly to the price of a handgun this is a good addition. The sights are good examples of iron sights.
The combination of good sights, good trigger action and a low bore axis add up to a pistol that is pleasant to use and fire. The pistol handles more like a single action than a double action and combat shooting was natural and effective. The double-action trigger press takes some effort to master, but it is useful to perhaps seven yards with practice, much the same as any first shot double-action pistol.
The Canik 55 Shark is a 50-yard Pistol
In the single-action mode, man-sized targets may be addressed to 50 yards or more by those who practice.
That is correct: the Canik 55 Shark is a 50-yard pistol, not a 25-yard pistol in trained hands. It takes a lot of practice to maintain your skills and that means a lot of ammunition. We all have a budget and that budget is stretched by handloading. The RCBS Rock Chucker was kept busy loading up a few rounds for practice, and the Oregon Trail 125-grain RNL bullet over enough WW 231 for 1000 fps was useful. This combination proved accurate enough for meaningful practice.
I also tested the pistol with a wide variety of personal defense ammunition. Some of the results are posted in the accuracy table. As you can see this handgun is more accurate than the general run of short barrel, short sight radius handguns. It is accurate enough to perform all-around duty as a home defense or personal carry gun, to dust off pests in the wild or serve in IDPA competition.
I am not easily impressed, but this handgun impressed me favorably. Had it been more expensive I would have expected this performance, but this handgun retails for less than $500. We seldom get more than we pay for but in the Canik 55 9mm pistol, we have just that.
Average of two, five-shot groups from a solid bench rest at 25 yards.
|CCI Blazer 115 grain FMJ||1090||3.0 inches|
|Federal 124 grain Hydra Shock||1101||2.0 inches|
|Speer Gold Dot 124 grain +P Short Barrel||1140||2.5 inches|
|Speer 147 grain Gold Dot||956||1.9 inches|
|Oregon Trail 125 grain RNL / WW 231||1000||3.25 inches|
|Speer 115 grain TMJ / WW 231||1101||2.0 inches|
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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