In this economy, shooters are looking for a reliable, affordable pistol. One such pistol might be the $439 Canik 55 S-120—a full-size 9mm CZ-75 clone with a 4.7-inch barrel, a 17-round capacity, and a dry weight of 2.26 pounds. Long recognized for its quality shotguns at value prices, TriStar Sporting Arms, imports the Turkish-made S-120 line.
Cheaper Than Dirt! recently had a chance to shoot a loaner S-120 TriStar provided on a test-and-evaluation basis. Cheaper Than Dirt! currently does not carry this model, though we do list another Canik model imported by Century International Arms. For 2013, TriStar is importing several more Canik 9mm Luger and 40 S&W pistols for personal defense and target shooting. The Canik (widely pronounced cahn-EEK) pistols are available in blued, brushed chrome, or polymer finishes and come in a variety of series based on frame, length, and weight variations. All are double/single action semi-autos with snag-free rear sights mounted in dovetails and blade front sights pinned into the slide. Like other pistols in the line, the $439 S-120 comes packaged with a black hard case, an extra magazine, a safety lock, and a cleaning kit. TriStar offers all pistols with a one-year warranty.
The maker, Canik 55, is a division of Samsun Yurt Savunma, one of Turkey’s biggest defense contractors. The company’s logo is a small dolphin symbol. However, none of our test pistol’s exterior or accouterments were branded with the dolphin logo. Cheaper Than Dirt! lists a TP-9 (imported by Century Arms) by the same maker that prominently displays the dolphin logo, though it’s currently out of stock.
According to Tristar, the S-120, a CZ-75 clone, is the heavier version of the L-120 9mm, which weighs in at 1.75 pounds, or about a half-pound lighter than the S-120. The L-120 gets its weight savings by employing a steel-alloy frame. Our test pistol’s frame is listed as steel as is the slide. A magnet did react to both parts of the gun.
Capacity is listed as 17 rounds, which when we counted, came out to be 16+1. The blued-steel Mec-Gar mags had plastic bumper pads to protect the bodies, which were staggered double-stack designs that narrowed to single-stack blue-plastic followers at the top. We found it difficult to fit more than 14 rounds into the magazine unless we used a plastic push-down loader to help. During our function, accuracy, and chronograph testing of about 300 rounds, we didn’t have any malfunctions or stoppages of any sort, due, we believe, to the well-made magazines feeding into a ramped, fully supported chamber.
In operation, the S-120 works like a traditional DA/SA pistol with an exposed hammer. When you load the pistol and release the slide forward, the trigger moves all the way forward, a span of about 2.25 inches from the deepest part of the backstrap to the middle of the trigger face. Some smaller-handed shooters may have trouble getting a positive pull on the trigger as a result.
A light pull on the trigger moves it about a half-inch, then stops. Further pressure moves the trigger to its break weight of 5.8 pounds. The final part of the trigger stroke was reasonably crisp and predictable, in our opinion. When decocked, the trigger stays at the forward most position. There, the shooter can press it for a long DA pull of about 11.6 pounds, according to a Lyman digital trigger-pull gauge.
We chronographically and accuracy-tested three brands of ammo in the Canik. All-in-all, we fired 200 rounds apiece of 9mm Winchester USA 115-Grain FMJ Q4172 (50-round box, CTD #2-WNQ4172BX), Federal American Eagle 147-Grain FMJ Flat Points AE9FP (50-round box, CTD #9-15402), and Hornady Steel Match 125-Grain HAP Bullet 90275 (50-round box, CTD #2-H90275).
In our test gun, these selections generated smaller velocities than the manufacturer-supplied readings. The Hornady 90274 was rated at 1110 fps at the muzzle, and over a PACT chronograph with infrared screens, we saw 1019 fps. In a 4-inch test barrel, the rated muzzle velocity for the American Eagles was 960 fps; we got 878 fps. And for the Winchester USA 115-Grain FMJs, the factory muzzle velocity was 1190 fps, and our reading was 1048 fps.
Accuracy and points of impact were substantially different at 15 yards. The Winchester 115-grain FMJs were by far the most accurate and regulated to the sights. Best choice: the Winchesters shot an average 2.25-inch group size at that distance, and perhaps more important, the point of impact (POI) in the center of the target corresponded to a 6 o’clock hold.
The Canik’s sights are black polymer, and we suppose the rear is drift-adjustable for windage in its dovetail, but we would be very careful pushing the plastic sight to avoid breaking it. The front sight is pinned, so replacement Meprolight front blades or sight sets, or other aftermarket blades could conceivably be inserted to change POI elevation for a favorite load. Three inserts on the sights are mildly and temporarily visible in low light as yellow-green dots.
In the hand, the CZ-75-inspired design is easy to understand and operate. The low-profile slide has a two-position thumb safety located on the left-hand side, with the Safe position being up, and covering a red dot on the slide. In this Safe position, the hammer is locked back as well as the action. With the safety lever down, the gun is set to Fire. We thought the lever operated smoothly and positively with an appropriate amount of thumb pressure up or down.
The lack of texture on the backstrap and the slick brushed-chrome finish allow the grip to move around if the shooter has wet or oily hands. The full-size, thick grip offers a suitable amount of purchase for a large hand, but shooters with smaller hands should hone in on how the grip feels and make sure they can reach the trigger at the double-action trigger position before buying.
The obvious appeal of Tristar Sporting Arms’ S-120 9mm is value. For around $439, the shooter can buy a new full-size pistol with a reasonable trigger, plenty of capacity, and in our limited tests, perfect reliability. It would be easy to spend twice as much for comparable performance.
|Tristar Canik 55 S-120 Specifications|
|Overall Length||8.1 in.|
|Overall Height||5.5 in.|
|Barrel length||4.7 in.|
|Weight Loaded||43.6 oz.|
|Slide & Frame||Steel, Brushed Chrome Finish|
|Grips||Textured Black Polymer|
|Sight Radius||6.0 in.|