Hands on with the Canik SFx Rival
A trusted companion for plinking, competition, and home defense -- is the Canik SFx Rival the new standard for polymer pistols? Come find out.
Licensed Concealed Carry Holder
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One of the most underrated and primarily unknown polymer pistols available on the market today is the Canik SFx Rival. This full-size pistol is loaded with features out of the box that manufacturers like Glock and Smith & Wesson can’t beat, with a price point that’ll shock you.
And the best part about the Canik SFx Rival is that it’s reliable, eats any ammunition you feed it, is exceptionally accurate, and is a fun gun to shoot.
In This Article
Who is Canik?
Canik is a firearm manufacturer that started in the aerospace defense industry. They partnered with Lockheed Martin, Airbus, and Boeing, eventually developing the TP series of pistols that Turkish Law Enforcement adopted.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Canik partnered with Century Arms to import the TP pistols into the United States. Now the Canik pistol lineup includes the TP9 Series, the Mete Series, the Rival Series, and the Signature Series.
What about the Canik SFx Rival?
I’m the proud owner of four Canik pistols, including two TP9 SFx’s, the SFx Rival, and the SFx Rival Steel frame gun. I speak from thousands of rounds put through these guns when I say these guns are workhorses. The SFx Rival pistol was a complete overhaul of the original SFx design to include new oversized ambidextrous controls, a new trigger, and a new pistol design altogether.
With input from National and World title Canik shooter Nils Jonasson, this pistol was designed with the competitive shooter in mind. Nils has won multiple National and World titles shooting the Canik SFx Rival pistol and has proven time and time again that this gun is a contender among major firearm manufacturers.
No other firearm manufacturer today includes as much as Canik does when you purchase a firearm from them. The Canik SFx Rival has a fiber optic front sight, two magazines with two base pads, a speed magazine loader, a mag-well, a holster, a punch and tool kit, a cleaning kit, different size back straps, other sized magazine release extensions, a gun lock, manual, and optic plates for various red dot optics. They even include spare fiber optic if you ever need to replace the front sight material.
The Rival pistol makes for a great plinking gun, checks all the boxes of a competition pistol, or can even be used as a bedside home defense gun with all the accessory attachments. The Canik Rival is legal to use in IDPA, IPSC, and USPSA competitions without restrictions.
The 1913 Picatinny rail allows you to attach any light or laser that is compatible with the Pic rail. Finally, this gun is completely ambidextrous and can be set up for a left-handed shooter with the reversible magazine release.
Features & Specifications
Rival Grey or Rival Dark Side
Design and Features
The most important fact about the Canik Rival is that it can fit just about any hand size because of the interchangeable back straps, different magazine release sizes, and ability to swap release sides to set the gun up for lefties. The back strap sizes make it possible for big and small hands to comfortably grip the gun while still reaching the trigger without too much or too little trigger finger.
The magazine release sizes vary from sitting close to flush against the frame of the gun to protruding further out to make it as easy for the user as possible to reach and activate the magazine release. Finally, the Rival is outfitted with an ambidextrous slide release, making it easy to find and manipulate.
Frame, Slide, & Sights
The entire gun comes in two colors, Rival Grey or Rival Dark Side, and both frames are made of synthetic material. The frame has a 1913 Picatinny rail, an optional external mag-well you can install, and three grip back strap sizes. The trigger guard has a double undercut to make it easy to maintain a higher grip on the gun. The beavertail was also redesigned to make it more ergonomic. The aggressive grip texture is featured on the sides and front strap, with the back strap featuring its own texture.
The slide of the Rival pistol has an overall length of 8.1 inches with a 5-inch barrel. The aggressive serrations on the front and rear of the slide make it easy to manipulate the slide, even if wearing gloves. The slide is already optic cut and includes other optic plates with the gun so you can mount your favorite red dot optic. The front sight is a fixed fiber optic with an adjustable rear sight. Even with iron sights, you should always check zero when you go to shoot your gun for the first time and adjust the sights to your eyes.
As mentioned earlier, the Rival pistol has a 5-inch barrel. The longer slide length, coupled with the 5-inch barrel, helps improve the accuracy of this pistol. The longer sight radius is a plus side to the Rival, especially if you don’t have great trigger discipline to align the sights throughout the entirety of the trigger pull.
When it was first released, the most intriguing feature of the SFx Rival was the brand-new trigger design by Canik. The original SFx had the premium Canik trigger set up as a single-action trigger with nickel-coated action components.
Canik created a new trigger for the Rival; a lightened 90-degree diamond cut aluminum flat trigger, still including a trigger safety. This trigger has some slight texture on it, has a wider trigger safety shoe, and is what I consider to be a race-ready trigger. Usually, the first piece I replace on any stock firearm is the trigger. With the Rival, I have no need or desire to make a trigger upgrade (or any other upgrades for that matter.)
If you compare the Rival’s stock trigger to any other firearm manufacturer’s gun out of the box, the Canik wins every time. You don’t need the most expensive firearm to shoot competitively, but you do need a few features that matter to have a competitive advantage. One such feature of any quality competition gun is having the best possible trigger.
Aesthetics and Comfort
The biggest struggle I see when people shoot handguns is the gun not fitting them properly. Unfortunately, few gun owners spend time setting a gun up right for them, even if the firearm manufacturer includes other back strap sizes and magazine release sizes for them to tinker with. The one thing everyone should do when they buy a gun is to outfit the gun with included or aftermarket accessories until the gun is comfortable for them.
Aesthetically, both versions of the Rival are good-looking. The Rival Greg is cerakoted with gold accents, giving it a few features that really pop. The Rival Dark Side is perfect for those shooters who like the more greyman-type-looking firearms. The other thing to note about the Rival is while the gun may be aesthetically pleasing, it is also purpose driven. What I mean is, for example, the slide serrations are designed in a way to look cool but are also beneficial for manipulating the slide, with or without gloves on.
The SFx Rival is a striker-fired gun with built-in internal safeties as well as a trigger safety. These guns are drop tested and beyond before ever being produced. Each Canik by Century Arms pistol is eligible for Canik’s Limited Lifetime Warranty if anything is ever wrong with the handgun.
Performance & Range Report
The gun truly speaks for itself when you see the groups it makes on paper. Canik pistols are also used by some of the best competitive shooters in the country and are used to win National and World Titles in action shooting competitions. Watching videos of Carry Optics National Champion, Nils Jonasson, using the Canik SFx Rival in every stage to win First Place is the best way to see the gun in action.
Nils’s review of the Canik SFx Rival-S is also worth the watch if you’re interested in the steel frame gun.
Recoil management is one of the most important things to consider when making a firearm purchase. Without physically shooting the gun for yourself, it’s hard to know what the felt recoil will be like. That said, almost everyone can manage the recoil of this pistol with the proper grip on the gun. The trick to having the least amount of felt recoil from any firearm is feeding it the right ammunition it prefers.
Most folks who reload their own ammunition aren’t just on a budget but are also tuning the ammunition to their gun(s). They develop a load with a specific powder charge, primer, and bullet that runs reliably through the gun and is accurate to shoot but with the least amount of felt recoil possible.
If you don’t reload, even choosing the best factory ammunition can improve the felt recoil of a gun. The Canik Rival, in my experience, prefers 147-grain 9mm ammunition, and my favorite is Super Vel ammunition. They make competition 147-grain ammo that meets the speed requirements for minimum power factor for USPSA, so I can also use this ammo in competitions. The felt recoil is minimal, and the gun easily returns the sights back to where they started when shooting multiple shots in a row.
The biggest test of any pistol is how reliable it runs with various ammunition, including different powders, bullet weights, and bullet profiles. I tested the Canik Rival with reloaded ammunition, factory new ammunition, and a plethora of bullet profiles, including the Syntech ammo from Federal, hollow point defensive ammunition, and jacketed from Super Vel.
The Rival cycled it all and had zero hiccups, failure to feed, or failure to eject issues. None of the bullet profiles or coatings failed to function, which is a testament to the gun’s reliability in different scenarios.
Takedown & Maintenance
The Rival disassembles as easily as a Glock. First, ensure no magazine is in the gun and the chamber is clear before attempting to take your gun apart. The next step is to ensure the trigger has been depressed so the firing pin is not cocked. Then using two fingers, pull down on the takedown tabs on both sides of the frame. The slide then moves forward and upward to come off the frame. The spring can be depressed and come out to remove the barrel from the slide. That’s it!
I always clean my firearms before a match, but once the match has begun, especially if it’s a multiple-day match, I do not clean my guns in between days. Call me superstitious, but it’s what I do. Depending on how often you go to the range or let guns sit in your safe, you might want to clean the gun every few thousand rounds or before storing it for long periods of time. More importantly, always use good oil or grease after cleaning your firearm. I prefer using Gun Butter with my Canik Rival pistols.
It keeps the gun oiled better as it doesn’t evaporate like most oils do after a few hundred rounds. Their penoiler allows me to apply oil on the rails and in tight spots without having to disassemble the gun.
The last thing to note about maintenance is to remember to clean your mags. Using a punch, you can depress the spring inside of the magazine to relieve the tension on the base pad so you can slide the base pad off. Then the plate, spring, and follower should come out of the magazine. They make brushes specific for cleaning the inside of magazines, so you don’t have to reach in there physically. Do not oil your magazines; you can use a dry lube to spray inside of them before reassembling the mag.
The life of your magazine springs will depend on how often you shoot and whether or not you keep your magazines loaded all the time or not. You can measure a new spring for the overall length and check if the length has gotten shorter over time or simply compare a new mag spring to a used mag spring to see the difference in wear. Springs are cheap and easy to replace and can save you a lot of headaches in malfunctions. Maintain your gear, and it’ll take care of you.
The usual alternatives to the Canik SFx Rival are your full-size Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, and H&K handguns. Even with these well-known firearms, none of them come with as many accessories, nor are they as feature-rich as the Rival.
Aftermarket support is extremely important, especially with the Canik Rival being a competition-style handgun; you need base pad extensions, holster availability, holster hangers that are compatible, and small parts like springs, spare parts, etc. The Rival has a ton of aftermarket support, and the only upgrade I have made to my Rival is adding the LOK Grips brass back strap for additional weight, and depending on the division and sport, the brass mag well.
The heavier the gun, the less felt recoil, and the more pleasurable the gun is to shoot. The Rival-S came out after I got my Rival pistol, or I would’ve gone straight to the steel-framed gun. With the LOK Grips back strap’s additional weight, I can still get the gun pretty close to shooting each shot as flat as the steel frame Rival.
The Shooter's Score
The Canik SFx Rival is very accurate, which is key for competition shooting and helping shooters feel confident. When training with the SFx my women’s shooting classes feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
The Rival is well-balanced and easy to handle, though it might feel top-heavy for people with smaller hands or kids and would be a poor fit for concealed carry.
Fit and Finish: 9/10
The Rival has a very high-quality build. Its craftsmanship, durability, and overall assembly are uon par with much higher-priced firearms.
The Rival comes packed with accessories, outclassing competitors such as Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, and H&K in terms of out-of-the-box features.
The Rival is incredibly reliable — I’ve used mine across various events and shooting conditions, including USPSA Carry Optics, Steel Challenge divisions, and 3 Gun competition, and put thousands of rounds through it without complaint.
Given the comprehensive features, accessories, and quality, the Rival is an unabashed bargain. It’s more affordable than comparable options — especially when you take aftermarket additions into account.
Pros and Cons
- The best value on the market right now. Canik goes above and beyond to give customers everything they need in the box to be able to carry, compete with, or enjoy their pistol without having to order any aftermarket supplies like a holster or optic plates.
- The price of a Canik with everything included is way cheaper than buying a Glock, Smith & Wesson, H&K, and other well-known firearms and having to buy everything the Canik comes with on top of the stock pistol.
- The Rival is a striker-fired gun, which makes it easy to operate and disassemble by the average gun owner.
- The gun’s overall length can make it top-heavy for kids or people with smaller hands. The key to successfully shooting this pistol is properly gripping the gun as high up as possible.
Straight up — you cannot go wrong with this pistol. It is accurate, reliable, ambidextrous, and fun to shoot. The price point is crazy worth it for everything Canik includes with the gun.
I just recently had over 50 women shoot all of my Canik pistols at an event I host annually. Women aged 13 to 65+ all had nothing but positive feedback about the SFx, the Rival, and the Rival-S guns. I installed the small back straps on the SFx pistols and the Rival, and the guns fit all of the ladies just fine.
I personally have shot the Canik Rival in USPSA Carry Optics and Steel Challenge divisions, and just recently shot it in a 3 Gun competition. It ran lights out at all of the matches shooting 147-grain Super Vel Ammunition 9mm.
The Canik SFx Rival should be on your “need to buy” list if you’re looking for a new handgun to enjoy, have at the house, or compete with in competition. The price point is unbeatable for the quality of pistol you get int return.