In the world of combat handguns, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of operator beards and tattoo sleeves as we make our purchase decisions. While we gear up for life-changing moments that may arrive with a potential threat, we sometimes forget to have a little fun along the way. Competitive shooting is a great way to hone your skills, and it also facilitates more social interactions with people of like mind, resulting in strong camaraderie and a good time had by all.
To help pave the road to competitive shooting, Canik has just introduced a new model that offers top-tier features and performance without the consumer having to take out a second mortgage to get in the game. Canik designed the new SFx Rival specifically to compete in IDPA, USPSA and IPSC without any restrictions. And with a host of supplied tools and accessories, the SFx Rival has everything you need to hit the ground running for well under $700.
Canik SFx Rival Traits
In many ways, the SFx Rival is very similar to Canik’s new line of METE pistols, but a few upgrades have been introduced to make the Rival exceptionally fit for competition. Like the METE line, the Rival has the new modular construction for easy and complete disassembly with a simple punch tool.
The frame also includes the ambidextrous slide stop as well as the double undercut triggerguard for increased shooter comfort. The Rival wears the same improved and aggressive grip texturing as the METE line, and it includes Canik’s holster fit-and-lock system for secure retention. Sporting the same redesigned beavertail, the Rival ships with three backstraps for a custom fit. It includes a magazine well that attaches to the grip at the user’s discretion.
Where the Canik SFx Rival begins to part ways with the METE line is in the extra features and accessories that it offers. First, the mag well that I mentioned is crafted from aluminum rather than polymer. Also, two aluminum baseplates come included in the kit so the user can swap out the polymer baseplates on the two 18-round magazines to add a bit of extra weight to maximize drop-free reliability.
Aggressive, Cut Slide
Up top, the slide showcases very aggressive serrations for easy slide manipulation. Though prominent and aggressive, the serrations are still very comfortable to engage manually. For additional weight savings, the slide also features cut-outs on top and on the sides as well a couple of relief cuts on the bottom of the slide upfront.
These cut-outs, along with a couple up front that provides a hint of the barrel, give the SFx Rival a wicked, no-prisoners-taken aesthetic with its gray Cerakote-over-Nitride finish. And to help dial in your favorite load, the Rival also includes an adjustable rear sight that can be corrected for windage and elevation and that includes a serrated face to mitigate glare. The front sight is a fiber-optic post that comes with both red and green pipes to suit your preference.
Another substantial upgrade is the new 90-degree, diamond-cut aluminum trigger that features a flat face and lightened pull. Because the METE series already had a great trigger, I’m not sure how the folks at Canik improved on it but they certainly did. The average pull before the break measured just 3.68 pounds and the trigger offered an extremely short reset. It felt like only a couple of millimeters of forward travel before there was a very tactile and audible pop on the reset.
Modular Design Features
Not enough? The Canik also includes three different magazine release extensions for the reversible release. Shooters achieve the perfect release height if so desired. Canik includes a small tool kit as part of the package. It works to change out the mag release extensions and install the included adapter plates.
Speaking of which, the Rival comes with four aluminum optics adapter plates to mate up with the most popular optics on the market from Trijicon, Vortex, Leupold, Doctor, Meopta, Shield, Sig Sauer and others. Two other optional plates are available to order for the Aimpoint Acro C1 and the C-More STS. To mount an adapter plate and an optic, it’s important to use the screws provided in the tool kit supplied by Canik and not the screws that came with the optic. But the instructions are very clear and quite detailed for a very easy installation process.
The race guns with a striking gray finish with gold accents. But Canik also offers the Rival in an all-black version dubbed the Dark Side model. It pushes more toward “tactical” applications, shipping with a fifth adapter plate. The plate works with the Mecanik M01 red dot, along with Shield, JPoint and Leupold Delta Point Pro footprints. This particular plate also comes with an installed. rear sight for co-witnessing with the optic.
As for the complete package, both models include the small toolkit, a cleaning rod, cleaning brush, two mags, two aluminum baseplates, an aluminum mag well, a punch tool for disassembly and the three backstraps. The package also includes a fairly nice holster, adjustable for different cants and belt sizes. When you consider that the MSRP for everything mentioned above is just $680—and likely to sell for well under that price—the new SFx Rival is a phenomenal value on paper. The next step was to see how it actually did on the firing line.
Trial By Fire
With the assistance of a couple of range buddies, the SFx was given a thorough workout on three different occasions. The first time was without an optic and the other two were with the Mecanik M02 red-dot supplied with the review pistol (not part of the retail kit). I’ll just say right up front that everyone was absolutely impressed with how it performed.
As far the shooting experience itself goes, the Rival offered a fairly flat and relatively soft recoil impulse. Part of that was because of the lightened slide, and the rest was due to the great ergos with the high grip purchase and grippy texturing for solid control. Handling was fantastic with the customizable mag release for quick and confident engagement and the ambi controls like the slide stop for left-handed shooters.
For a striker-fired pistol, the Rival’s trigger borders on phenomenal with its only competition being Walther’s Dynamic Performance trigger. And it’s this superb trigger, with its exquisitely short reset, that allowed for excellent offhand accuracy as well as extremely quick (and accurate) follow-up shots. The only negative I could find with the trigger was with the take-up—and it’s not really a negative.
There are a few millimeters of extra-clean pre-travel before you hit the first wall. Then there’s about a quarter-inch of further travel through slightly increased resistance before the second wall. After that, there’s a satisfyingly crisp break for the shot. This is nitpicking on my part since I don’t want to come across like I’m gushing over this pistol. But if there was a way to reduce the pre-travel, that would be the one thing that could improve the trigger pull.
Just like everything else, the accuracy of the SFx Rival was outstanding. I had two bench sessions at 25 yards with the Rival—once with iron sights and once with the Mecanik M02 red-dot. As usual, I shot a few tighter groups with the red-dot installed. With the irons, I was able to get groups in the 1.5- to the 1.75-inch range at 25 yards, but things got more interesting after that.
Using the red-dot, I tried a few different premium loads from Federal, Sig Sauer, and Hornady and average group sizes for most loads measured between 1.28 to 1.46 inches. While my METE SFx loves Hornady’s 115-grain Critical Defense load, the SFx Rival was crazy over Federal’s 135-grain Hydra-Shok Deep offering.
Average groups with it were just 1.10 inches with the best group, believe it or not, of 0.76 inches at 25 yards. That group might have been just an accident, but an average of 1.10 inches is better than what most custom smiths guarantee for high-end and ultra-pricey pistols. The trick is just surveying ammunition that’s on the market and finding what your pistol likes.
Speaking of the red-dot, the Mecanik M02 red-dot offered strong performance as well. Matching the Vortex Venom footprint, it has a fairly wide field-of-view without resulting in an overly exaggerated height. It features a 3-MOA dot powered by one 2032 battery, offering a life of 65,000 hours at the lowest setting. The M02 includes buttons for manual adjustments of the dot brightness and dials to adjust both elevation and windage one MOA at a time.
The Mecanik M02 features a waterproof and shockproof housing. Without long-term testing, it’s hard to know how durable it is; only time will tell. But for me, as good as it is or isn’t, the M02 would only see recreational use because it shuts off automatically after four hours. That’s a deal-breaker for me with a red-dot that’s used on a defensive pistol.
In the end, whether it’s for defense or use in competitions, a pistol has to be absolutely reliable. That’s not a problem for the SFx Rival. During three different range sessions and with almost 900 rounds fired, there was not a single malfunction of any kind. This is typical of my experiences with several Canik pistols up until now. They just run hard and fast and never break their stride.
When the smoke cleared and after having cataloged all of the SFx Rival’s specs, features and performance metrics, it’s tough to come up with anything negative about the pistol. If I absolutely had to nitpick, I would prefer a better friction fit when the magwell is slid onto the frame. The fit was just a hair loose and I felt the set screw was doing a bit more work than it should have been doing. Even so, I haven’t noticed a problem yet, and as I say, that’s really nitpicking.
When it comes down to it, the Canik SFx Rival is a superb pistol—and not just for the money. Yes, it’s an outstanding value, but I would still call it a superb pistol even at a much higher price. It’s just that good. If you’re looking to make a splash into competitive shooting and are looking for a GOAT-tier, polymer-framed pistol at a reasonable price point, the SFx Rival is the answer to the question and is now the one to beat. For more information, visit canikusa.com.
SPECIFICATIONS: Canik SFx Rival
- Caliber: 9mm
- Barrel: 5 inches
- OA Length: 8.1 inches
- Weight: 29.5 ounces (empty)
- Grips: Polymer
- Sights: Fiber-optic, rear adjustable
- Action: Striker-fired, semi-auto
- Finish: Rival Grey or Rival Dark Side
- Capacity: 18+1
- MSRP: $680
Canik SFx Rival Accuracy Results
|Hornady 115-gr. Critical Defense||1,186||1.14|
|SIG Sauer 124-gr. Elite V-Crown||1,128||1.24|
|Federal Premium 124-gr. +P HST||1,254||1.32|
|Federal Premium 135-gr. Hydra Shok Deep||1,105||0.76|
This story originally appeared in the June-July 2022 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Get your copy today at OutdoorGroupStore.com.