Six Delightful Handguns From Turkey

Posted 6/6/2021

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 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. Eighty-five of those companies list shotguns as their major product. Eight companies manufacture rifles and nine companies list handguns as their 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 also 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 their products to the United States.

These six handguns featured in this report are representative of many affordable pistols manufactured in Turkey and sold in the US. Top Row: Girsan MC28SA, SAR 9X, Tisas M1911A1; Bottom Row: Canik TP9SA, SAR B6, Stoeger STR-9C

Good Quality — Fair Prices

I’m not sure what it is about the Turkish economy that allows them to produce firearms with quality equal to that of German, Italian and American firearms but at considerably lower prices. It’s not unions as there are 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 with many of the exported firearms for military and police use. Firearms used by military and police are well-tested which helps with quality and reliability. The volume also helps with pricing.

My first semi-automatic pistol was a Stoeger made in Turkey. It was essentially a Beretta 8040 Cougar. Beretta owns Stoeger and shortly after the purchase, they moved tooling for the Cougar to Turkey. That Cougar is a delightful gun now owned by one of my sons. This report is about six modern handguns produced by Turkish companies, all sold in the US and priced considerably below similar handguns made in Germany, Italy and the US. I’ll discuss them in alphabetical order by brand and model.

Let’s Break Them Down Starting With Canik

Canik TP9SA
Canik TP9SA

First up is a 9mm Canik TP9SA in FDE. This gun is imported by Century Arms and is usually 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. It’s a very nice handling pistol and very accurate in addition to being very attractive. The TP9SA came packaged in a plastic case along with a paddle retention holster, extra magazine, cleaning brush and exchangeable grip panels, along with the requisite trigger lock and owner’s manual.

Next Up is Girsan

Girsan MC28
Girsan MC28

Next up is a Girsan MC28SA. Girsan is known for its quality line of 1911 handguns plus a few originals such as this MC28. This one captured my attention while browsing EAA listings for affordable carry guns. It’s not an 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 have several. The trigger is different because the Girsan has the blade safety trigger and S&W handles that function a little differently, but the other controls closely match those of the S&W, as does the grip texture. The dimensions are the same, the weight is the same. Features vary slightly. Girsan equipped their 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.

A Couple of SARs

I have two guns made by Sarsilmaz Firearms Corp., doing business in the US as SAR USA, the SAR B6 and the SAR9X Platinum. Sarsilmaz is a privately-owned company in Turkey that produces guns for law enforcement, military and civil use. They are the sole supplier of pistols for the Turkish National Police and the Turkish Armed Forces. SAR introduced its B6 handgun to the US market in September 2012.

SAR B6

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 sights and is priced such that we were able to sell it in our store for $340. We sold a ton of them, especially when SAR started offering them in colors like pink and purple. Today a typical advertised online price is $349. The B6 was, and still is, a fine handgun for personal use, including home and self-defense. It carries well, shoots well and is durable.

SAR 9X Platinum
SAR 9X Platinum

I first saw a SAR9 at an NRA Expo in Dallas in 2018. I was not impressed. My first thought when looking at it was “just another black gun.” The SAR9 is different than the SAR B6, but I didn’t see it as an improvement. Later I read about the extensive testing the SAR9 had been put through in order to qualify for military acceptance, but it still didn’t make me want one. But this year I was captured by an ad for a SAR9X Platinum. I reached out to SAR to see if I could get one at a writer’s price 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, an extra magazine, holster, magazine carrier and even a light that will mount on the dust-cover rail. I really liked the SAR9X 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 became good.

Back in the Stoeger Business

Stoeger STR9C
Stoeger STR9C

Most of us know Stoeger as a shotgun company, but they have 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, making the STR-9 platform affordable by offering different configurations. I went for the STR-9 Compact packaged with only one magazine and one backstrap. The MSRP is $329, but I bought it for $299. The all-up model with three magazines, three backstraps and Tritium sights has an MSRP of $449 and can be bought for less than $400. 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.

A US Army 1911A1 Without the Steep Price

Tisa 1911A1 U.S. Army

The Tisas 1911A1 U.S. Army model is a historically correct reproduction of the original US 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. It ships with one 7 round Mec-Gar mag, a cleaning brush and manual in a factory box. It accepts any aftermarket magazines and accessories that would fit an American-made GI M1911A1. Tisas firearms are imported into the US by SDS Imports of Knoxville, TN. Several retailers currently have their US Army M1911A in stock for around $450.

How Do They Shoot?

Ammunition Available for Testing During the Ammunition Shortage
Ammo Available for Testing During the Ammunition Shortage

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 of them. I’ve had success finding ammo during the shortage by ordering from manufacturers who sell direct from their websites. I had Norma Range Ammo and 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 rounds of five shots 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.

Turkish Pistol Targets
Turkish Pistol Targets

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 US 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 US locations that sell through wholesale distributors. Girsan is imported by EAA Corp. and Tisas is imported by SDS Imports of Knoxville, TN. All of the guns described here sell for under $500 and were readily available when I wrote this during the midst of the great Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ammo shortage.

(www.canikusa.com, www. eaacorp.com, www.sarusa.com, www.stoegerindustries.com, www.sdsimports.com)

SAR9X — A New 9mm Turkish Delight

In the latter part of 2012, European American Armory (EAA) began importing SAR pistols into the US. I was running a gun store and training academy focused mainly on the Texas Concealed Carry License course. Many of our attendees had never shot a gun and were undecided about what handgun to buy. We provided loaner guns for these people for the shooting proficiency section of the course. Our loaner bag contained a Sig SP2022, an S&W M&P, a Glock 19 and several SAR B6s. The B6s were attractive to us because wholesalers were offering them at discounted prices designed to introduce them to the US market. We had some confidence in the B6 because it was like EAA’s Witness, an Italian gun made by Tanfoglio, with which we had previous experience. Both guns are CZ-75 knockoffs.

We sold a ton of B6s, including one sale of six to an attendee of our class who liked the SAR (and its price) so much, she bought one for herself, one for her husband and one for each of her college-age kids. Colors were available then and there was at least one pink and one purple gun in that mix. Although I added both a B6 and SAR’s second US offering, a K2, to my own collection back then, I didn’t manage to hold onto them. The K2 is internally the same as the B6, but it’s more squared off on the outside. I recently asked my son, who was active with me in the gun store business, what happened to our loaner B6s when we closed our business and he reminded me we gave the loaner bag of guns to one of our instructors who was starting a training business of his own to replace the one we were closing down.

As a bit of background, Sarsilmaz Firearms Corp. is a privately owned small arms manufacturer based in Düzce, Turkey. The company was founded in 1880 and is the largest small arms manufacturer in Turkey. Sarsilmaz produces handguns for the Turkish National Police and the Turkish Armed Forces and exports firearms to over 75 countries. In 2018, Sarsilmaz founded SAR USA to import and distribute Sarsilmaz firearms in the United States. They are headquartered near Auburn, Alabama.

The B6 and K2 are hammer-fired guns. I first saw the striker-fired SAR9 at an NRA Convention in Dallas in May 2016. I found it interesting but didn’t follow up as I was no longer selling guns or doing live training. Now that I’m back in the business as a gunwriter and online instructor, I pay attention to new guns and when the SAR9X was announced, I reached out to SAR’s marketing representative to ask for a test and evaluation sample. I see and handle a lot of guns. Very few create the Red-Ryder-BB-Gun-under-a-nine-year-old’s-Christmas-tree reaction I had to this gun. My example gun has a platinum Cerakote finish with accenting controls and grip panels in black. It looks amazingly like the H&K VP9. In fact, I’ve read some references calling it the “Turkish VP9.” The SAR9X is pre-packaged as a duty gun for a police officer or civilian looking for a carry gun. It arrived in a red plastic case containing a paddle retention holster and matching magazine carrier, both a 17-round and a 19-round magazine, a light to mount on the picatinny rail, extra back straps and grip panels, a magazine loader, a punch for changing out the backstrap, a cleaning brush and rod, a manual, and of course, a gunlock. The packaging was part of my initial reaction at receiving the gun, but the attractiveness of the gun amplified it. Even if we carry concealed, most of us like to have an eye-catching gun when it comes time to show it off to our gun-loving friends.

SAR9X packaging
The SAR9X comes packaged with everything you need to put the gun to work.

There are lightening cuts above the cocking serrations at the front of the slide. Bold, three-dot sights grace the top of the slide as do pre-drilled holes for optics mounting. The frame features textured, replaceable grip side panels and backstrap, a pebbled front strap with mild finger grooves — just deep enough to ease your hand into the proper grip. Further enhancing the grip is a high undercut on the trigger guard which is plenty big for gloved operation and also features serrations on the front to aid the grip for users who like to place the forefinger of their support hand on the front of the trigger guard, something I’ve begun to do lately after years of shooting. It helps steady my grip. The magazine release is just beneath a thumb groove on the grip and is reversible.

The SAR9X closely resemblers H&K’s VP9

There’s an ambidextrous thumb safety, a blade trigger safety and an internal striker block safety that doesn’t release until the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. The striker-cocked indicator is a small red triangle at the base of the trigger. If you see that red indicator, the gun is cocked. If the gun is not cocked, the trigger remains to the rear and the red triangle is not visible. The trigger was a little rough when I first started handling the gun, but after dry-firing it 20–30 times at home and firing a couple of boxes of ammo at the range, it smoothed out. The trigger pull is now consistently a little over 4 lbs. and all the initial grunge is gone.

The SAR9X weighs just 27.5 oz. It’s 7.6″ long, 5.5″ high and 1.4″ wide. That puts it in the size category of the Glock G19 and many other defensive handguns, including ones I carry regularly. I wasn’t sure the paddle holster in the kit would work for me, so I slipped the gun into the leather IWB holster I wear every day and it fit fine. That holster was created for a Sig P226, but I have successfully used it for a variety of guns. Even before shooting the SAR9X I had the feeling it was going to become my regular carry gun.

I’ve already mentioned the trigger was a little grungy when I first started shooting the SAR9X, but it cleared up and when it did, I found it predictable and easy to tune my finger to. I had some issues early on with the gun not cycling and ejecting rounds. My bad. I took it to the range initially dry as a bone. After putting a little oil in all the recommended places, the pistol began to run like you’d expect a VP9 to, only it’s not a VP9. It’s a $500 Turkish-made Sarsilmaz, and those folks know how to make good firearms and are able to do it without having to charge exorbitant prices.

I’ve been fortunate in having ammo to shoot during this time of shortages thanks to Norma entering the handgun ammo market, Hornady offering a new Handgun Hunter round that I figure if it’s good for four-legged animals I would be safe in carrying it for possible use against two-legged mammals that might become a threat, and a new company in Florida — Pilgrim Ammunition. The SARX9 is a delight to shoot. After the early issues with feeding, a result of me not lubricating the gun before shooting it, it just chugged along regardless of the ammo I was using. I only had one box of practice rounds, so it was pretty much all defensive ammo going down the pipe, and to my delight, whenever I did my job with the sight alignment and trigger press, the gun did its part in tightly grouping the rounds on target.

Sarsilmaz apparently has a mounting plate for the SAR9X available from their Turkey operation, but you don’t need a mounting plate for a red dot sight with mounting holes that line up with those cut on the top of the SARX9’s slide. Among those are the Swamp Fox Sentinel, the Shield SMS 2, the Shield RMS C and the Sig Romeo 0. I reached out to the folks at Riton and they sent me one of their mini red dot sights, an X3 TACTIX MPRD. The holes aligned perfectly, the threads on the screws they provided with the sight were correct for the holes in the frame so the sight installation was a breeze.

The slide is predrilled for mounting optics.

Zeroing it in was also a breeze as it was already aligned at 15 yards. I dug through my holster drawer for an IWB holster that would fit the SAR with the red dot sight installed. The one I chose is a Crossbreed SuperTuck Holster that fits the SAR9X perfectly with the red dot installed. So now I’ve entered the brave new world of carrying concealed with a red dot sight installed. The Ridon has a 50,000 hour battery life and no off switch. You turn it on in the morning and it will automatically go off after 12 hours. If you’re still out close to 12 hours, just turn it on again.

SAR9X with Ridon X3 Red Dot
The SAR9X with Ridon X3 Red Dot Sight
David carries his SAR9X in a Crossbreed SuperTuck holster.