Turkey’s role in world politics is important as it lies right on the border of Europe and Asia. The government of Turkey mimics ours — in many ways — with an elected president, parliamentary representatives from each of the 81 provinces, and a judiciary branch. The country is highly industrialized and exports products around the world.
The firearm business in Turkey is particularly robust. A Turkish business directory lists over 260 companies producing firearms. 85 of those companies list shotguns as the major product. Eight companies manufacture rifles and nine companies list handguns as the primary product. I was somewhat surprised to learn my new Winchester Wildcat .22 rifle was made in Turkey by Istanbul Silah.
Many of the companies manufacture air guns and a few manufacture ammunition or gun parts. It’s not unusual to find a firearms manufacturer who also manufactures aviation parts. We are fortunate, in that several of the pistol manufacturers export products to the United States.
Good Quality — Fair Prices
I’m not sure what it is about the Turkish economy that allows it to produce firearms with quality equal to that of German, Italian, and American-made firearms but at considerably lower prices. It’s not unions, as there are no unions in Turkey. Perhaps it’s fewer levels of management and lower marketing costs. I don’t know, but I’m glad it’s the way it is.
Turkey not only equips its own military (strength over 500,000, and all males are required to serve) with firearms created in country, it exports firearms to a reported 70 countries. Many of the exported firearms are destined for military and police use. Firearms used by military and police are well-tested, which demands high quality and reliability standards in the design and manufacturing process. The volume also helps with pricing.
My first semi-automatic pistol was a Stoeger that was made in Turkey. It was essentially a Beretta 8040 Cougar. Beretta owns Stoeger, and shortly after the purchase, it moved tooling for the Cougar to Turkey. That Cougar is a delightful gun that is now owned by one of my sons. However, I digress. This report is about six modern handguns produced by Turkish companies, all sold in the U.S. and priced considerably below similar handguns made in Germany, Italy, and the U.S. I’ll discuss them in alphabetical order by brand and model.
First up is the 9mm Canik TP9SA in FDE. This gun is imported by Century Arms and was normally priced somewhere around $349–$389 at retail. The TP9SA is one of many models of Canik pistols imported by Century. This is the only gun in this report that doesn’t belong to me. I borrowed it from my good friend Alf Evans, who I sometimes play bass guitar for at the church where he is the worship leader. Alf has had this gun for several years, and it is his favorite of several 9mm handguns. I can see why.
As I shot it along with the other five handguns in this report, had I not recently put myself on a gun diet, I’d be looking for one to add to my carry gun rotation. The pistol handled nicely and proved to be quite accurate — in addition to being attractive. The TP9SA came packaged in a plastic case along with a paddle retention holster, extra magazine, cleaning brush, and exchangeable grip panels. Of course, the case also included the requisite trigger lock and owner’s manual.
Girsan is known for its quality line of 1911 handguns, plus a few originals such as this MC28SA. This one captured my attention while browsing EAA listings for affordable carry guns. It’s not a S&W M&P clone, but it sure is a doppelganger in both appearance and function.
The gun arrived in a plastic carrying case with two extra grip panels giving the shooter the option of small, medium, and large grips, plus a tool for swapping the grip panels. The medium panel installed at the factory fit my hand the best. I was immediately impressed with how much the look and feel of the MC28SA matched that of Smith & Wesson’s original M&P, of which I own several.
The trigger is different because the Girsan has the blade safety trigger. Smith and Wesson handles that function a little differently, but the other controls closely match those of the S&W, including the grip texture. The dimensions were the same and so was the weight.
The features varied slightly. Girsan equipped its pistol with 3-dot sights — the rear one being a Novack style. Instead of the fish scale cocking serrations on the M&P, the Girsan has angled serrations at the back of the slide and abbreviated serrations at the front.
I have two guns — SAR B6 and SAR 9X Platinum — made by Sarsilmaz Firearms Corp., doing business in the U.S. as SAR USA. Sarsilmaz is a privately-owned company in Turkey that produces guns for law enforcement, military, and civilian use. It is the sole supplier of pistols for the Turkish National Police and the Turkish Armed Forces.
SAR introduced its B6 handgun to the U.S. market in September 2012. The B6 is a polymer-framed clone of the iconic CZ-75. It shares the easy handling, feel, and operation of the CZ with a decent trigger and sight. The B6 was, and still is, a fine handgun for personal use, including home and self-defense. It carries well, shoots well, and has been proven to be durable.
SAR 9X Platinum
I first saw a SAR 9 at the 2018 NRA Expo in Dallas. I was not impressed. My first thought when looking at it was “just another black gun.” The SAR 9 is different than the SAR B6, but I didn’t see it as an improvement.
Later, I read about the extensive testing the SAR 9 had been put through in order to qualify for military acceptance, but it still didn’t make me want one. However, this year I was captured by an ad for a SAR 9X Platinum. I reached out to SAR to see if I could get one and the answer was positive.
This is one beautiful gun. I didn’t pick up on it when looking at a totally black SAR, but it’s almost a clone of the H&K VP9. The Platinum edition came with lots of goodies — including swappable grip inserts, extra magazine, holster, magazine carrier, and even a light that will mount on the dust-cover rail.
I really liked the SAR 9X except for the trigger, which was meeting some kind of resistance during the pull. I studied the gun a bit and discovered the trigger bar was rubbing against the inside of the frame. It appeared to be bent. I straightened it with a pair of needle-nosed pliers and, lo and behold, the trigger became more than acceptable. It felt and fired great.
Most of us know Stoeger as a shotgun company, but it has manufactured handguns from time to time. Stoeger also makes air guns, some of which are quite sophisticated. In recent years, Stoeger has been offering STR-9 and STR-9 Compact pistols. This made the STR-9 platform affordable by offering different configurations.
I opted for the STR-9 Compact packaged with one magazine and one backstrap. The all-up model includes three magazines, three backstraps, and Tritium sights. I would put the STR-9 up against handguns costing twice as much, as far as performance and reliability.
Stoeger put all the features into the STR-9C you would expect to find in a carry or home defense gun. The sights have large white dots, one in front and two to the rear, and are made of steel and dovetailed into the slide. Trigger manipulation is very solid with very little take-up and a crisp break at 5 lbs. If you shoot the STR-9, you’re going to like the trigger.
The Tisas 1911A1 U.S. Army model is a historically correct reproduction of the original U.S. Military service pistol. It’s the only .45 in my selection of Turkish pistols for this review. All the others are 9mm. From its Parkerized finish and hammer-forged barrel to its weight and feel, this pistol accurately replicates the original, military-issue, Government Model pistol.
The Tisas U.S. Army 1911 ships with one 7-round Mec-Gar magazine, cleaning brush, and manual in a factory box. It accepts any aftermarket magazine and accessories that would fit an American-made GI M1911A1. Tisas firearms are imported into the U.S. by SDS Imports of Knoxville, TN.
How Do They Shoot?
Based on ammunition available, I took a measured approach to shooting these guns for this report. Except for the Canik, I’ve personally put several hundred rounds through each pistol. I had Norma Range Ammo, Armscor FMJ, Hornady Hunter, Pilgrim JHP, Red Zone JHP, IMI JHP, Geco JHP, and Norma MHP to shoot through the 9mm guns. I only had Pilgrim JHP for the .45.
I used EZ2C Targets with six circular targets per page. Using a different brand of ammo for each page of targets, I shot several five-shot groups from each gun into its own target. The photo you see with this article was my fourth in the series and was shot using Armscor’s FMJ ammo for all five of the 9mms and Pilgrim .45ACP +P JHP for the Tisas M1911A1.
I could have photographed any of the targets in the series, and the results would have been similar. The range was 10 yards, and I shot freehand from my wheelchair. I cannot explain why the holes in the Stoeger STR9C target appear larger than the other 9mm targets because it’s the same ammo. Perhaps it was the angle of the target path which was lower than the others.
As you can see, every one of these targets shows excellent grouping for a personal protection handgun. I have carried both the SARs and the Stoeger as my EDC in the past. The Girsan is currently the gun I keep in my truck console. I gave the Canik back to Alf and the Tisas M1911A1 represents my historical WWII M1911A1 handgun.
Any One of Them Is Worth Buying
If you’re not able to locate or afford one of the better-known U.S. or German-made pistols, the pistols described here are representative of excellent alternatives being imported from Turkey on a regular basis. Canik, SAR, and Stoeger have U.S. locations that sell through distributors. Girsan is imported by EAA Corp., and Tisas is imported by SDS Imports of Knoxville, TN. All the guns described here were readily available when I wrote this — during the midst of the great Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ammo shortage.
For decades, shotguns from Italy have been some of the most coveted among shooters and collectors. Today, firearms from Turkey are gobbling up market share. What are your favorite imports? Share your answers in the comments.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November of 2021. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.