Test: the inexpensive all-steel Canik SFx Rival-S pistol also has a lot to offer to IPSC shooters...

Canik presented its latest competition pistol, the SFx Rival-S, to the general public for the first time at the SHOT Show 2023. It also caught the eye of our trade fair team, as you can read in our all4shooters report on Day 4 of SHOT Show 2023. With a robust steel frame, the SFx Rival-S offers the ergonomic design of the well-known Sfx Rival with polymer frame, which has already been tested here by the all4shooters team, but now in an all-metal vesrion and – according to the manufacturer – "forged for superiority" construction. The SFx Rival-S is suitable for IPSC Production and Production Optics. The model has features such as an optics cut and a slide with front and rear serrations, fiber optic sights and an improved straight trigger. It also features an oversized magazine release and ambidextrous controls.

Out of the box – first impression of the new Canik SFx Rival-S

Personally, I have long been a fan of Canik pistols, especially when it comes to price-performance ratio. The accessories that are included with the respective guns are lavish and are currently unparalleled on the market. But what does look like in detail?

In addition to the all-steel pistol itself, Canik supplies two 18-round magazines. Two magazines are now standard with most manufacturers, ok – but also included are: 

  • Two additional aluminum magazine base plates
  • one magazine loader
  • a jet funnel that is quick and easy to install
  • an absolutely usable holster
  • a tool set
  • a cleaning kit
  • Five different optic base plates
  • an additional red and green fiber optic insert for the front sight
  • Three interchangeable backstraps to adapt to your own hand
  • three magazine release extensions
  • an instruction manual

and all this in a high-quality, very sturdy transport case.

The second foam insert in the case of the Canik SFx Rival-S contains a holster, cleaning tool, magazine loader, a punch for changing the backstraps and 5 adapter plates for the OR interface, and the manual. 

With this "package" included in the scope of delivery, Canik already offers the shooter many options and a lot of bang for the buck. The included holster in particular is a nice addition, which is rather unusual in the industry. This holster is an absolutely solid option for getting straight into the action and for normal, sporty use, as it fits snugly on the hip and has sufficiently good retention (level 1). The special feature: all Canik guns come with a comparable accessory package and are therefore "ready to go" out of the box even the less expensive versions and pure utility pistols, from sub-compact to full-size. But now back to the gun itself.

On the dust cover we find a forged steel Picatinny rail. This makes the SFx Rival-S a perfect, very rigid carrier for various attachments. The rigidity of the material is not only important for gun flashlights and lasers, but also for the many accessories that are still available for the Rival-S: for example, in the form of a compensator that can be attached using the Picatinny rail or an optics mount, e.g. for the IPSC Production Optics Division. Because the Rival-S is a pistol that can be transformed into a fully-fledged IPSC-capable gun in just a few simple steps with the help of the in-house accessories – and in almost any individually desired color (at least this applies to the attachments). Interesting to know is that Canik factory shooter Nils Jonasson (USA) is currently dominating the IPSC Production Division on the other side of the pond with this model.

The components of the Canik SFx Rival-S in detail

The sturdy and customized case is already included in the scope of delivery of the Canik SFx Rival-S. 

One of the most striking features of the Canik SFx Rival-S is of course its forged steel frame. This significantly improves the durability, functionality and rigidity of the pistol. Thanks to the increased weight of the pistol compared to its polymer framed sibling, the forged frame also helps to significantly shift the center of gravity and significantly reduce felt recoil. This directly makes the pistol one of the top options for competition shooters, especially in disciplines where quick shot strings are important. During the test, I was impressed by how "flat" the pistol shot. This was probably mainly due to the solid grip, which was also very easy to control thanks to the comfortable grip shape. The overall weight of this pistol is 1,210 g (2.67 lb). The ribbed front strap and the interchangeable backstraps are sufficiently and moderately textured, which makes for a comfortable and very secure grip. The texture is a little less rough than I would personally prefer, but the lighter recoil impulse also reduces the need for more aggressive texturing.

The already slightly beveled magazine well of the Canik SFx Rival-S can be made even more "load-friendly" by attaching the supplied jet funnel. 

While the forged frame of the SFx Rival-S already has a slightly beveled magazine well, Canik also supplies a larger, additional jet funnel. This can be attached to the pistol with a single screw, as this add-on part is very cleverly simply attached to the end of the grip frame and secured with the single screw. This allows the gun to be converted from Production to Standard in a flash. This opening, which can then really only be described as a "funnel", offers all the mechanical advantages that the shooter needs for faster reloading in time-critical situations. During the test exercises I completed, which consisted of drawing, firing, reloading and firing again, this magwell proved to be very helpful. It was fairly easy to load the two 18-round magazines directly into the pistol and be ready to fire again quickly. However, if the jet funnel is installed, you should also fit the extended magazine bases, as the 18-round magazines are very flush with the base of the jet funnel and it is quite possible that the magazine will not lock properly if inserted too gingerly. I therefore switched directly to the optional 20-round magazines, which protrude clearly from the grip and immediately eliminate the problem.

The slide of the SFX Rival-S has rear and front serrations to provide a better and safer grip for necessary manipulations. The front cocking serrations are deep enough to support press checks and the rear ones are also non-slip and enable reliable handling of the gun. Especially in combination with a red dot sight, as this can restrict the grip options on the slide. The slide of the Canik Rival-S also has upper and side cut-outs that make the fluted 5-inch barrel visible. The eye eats first, after all, and there are a lot of visual details on the Rival-S that make it very appealing. The barrel is of course purely a matter of aesthetics, but the cut-outs not only look good, they also shift the center of gravity and reduce the slide mass at the same time, thus enabling smoother shooting. 

The Canik SFx Rival-S has controls on both sides. The magazine release can be easily swapped if required. Deep serrations ensure a secure hold when loading and during press checks. 

Although the pistol is ready for mounting red dots, it also has very sharp and precise open sights. Canik uses the type of sights I prefer in sporting applications as standard: a red fiber optic front sight in combination with a black rear sight, both of which together ensure an absolutely distraction-free sight picture. Windage and elevation adjustment each work very precisely and can therefore be set to any load. For those who do not want to use a red dot, I would describe these sights as ideal. In addition to the original sights, the CANiK Rival-S comes with a total of five different adapter plates, which can be used to mount most of the red dot sights available on the market. 

The in-house MeCanik red dot sight mounted on the SFx Rival-S. 

One of these options also has a back-up rear sight, which can be used in conjunction with the Aimpoint Acro as an emergency sight with the existing front sight. For those who are not yet familiar with red dot sights: the rear sight is usually not high enough to protrude beyond the base of a red dot. Therefore, a higher sight, originally designed for silencers, is usually necessary to compensate for the failure of a red dot. Intelligent solutions like this one from Canik are therefore very user-friendly. Personally, I believe that in this day and age, all modern semi-automatic pistols should at least be optics-ready. It is therefore a good sign to see that Canik includes this – as well as the adapter plates. The in-house optic from the MeCanik accessory line round off the picture here once again, proving once more that Canik is pursuing the goal of being the "one-stop store" for its customers.

Controls and trigger of the Canik SFx Rival-S

If you prefer classic wooden grips, Canik also offers various walnut variants in its optional accessories range. 
Optional accessories for the Canik SFx Rival-S include accessory kits in assorted colors, allowing you to accentuate your pistol individually.  In addition to backstraps in S, M and L sizes, the kits also contain jet funnels and slide stop levers in the same color. 

With controls that can be used on both sides, Canik meets the needs of left and right-handed users alike. The slide stop can be easily activated and released with the thumb. The magazine release is clearly visible and can be quickly moved to the other side of the grip. Another very nice feature is the textured front index point on both sides of the slide for a high and firm grip on the gun. For fans of customization, accessory sets are available in various colors so that the controls and grips can be exchanged and recombined to suit your personal taste. The colors red, blue and yellow are available for the grip scales, slide stop lever, magazine release and the optional thumb rest. Wooden grips, e.g. made of walnut in various designs, are also available as an option. Hardly any other centerfire match pistol on the market offers as many customization options as the Canik Rival-S.

The trigger and its characteristics are probably the most important perceived attributes of a firearm. Personally, I was very happy with the flat aluminum trigger blade set at 90°. The trigger of the Rival-S feels great, the reset is extremely short and the trigger safety is also slightly textured, which helped me to keep my finger in the same place at all times - even during fast firing strings. The trigger pull weight was consistently between 1.7 and 2 kg. The short trigger travel is consistently smooth, with no creep or other rubbing sensation. Trigger wall is well defined and there is only a tiny amount of creep before the pistol releases the firing pin. This minimal creep is really only marginally noticeable. The already mentioned, very short reset supports the shooter during quick firing strings and the weight of the gun helps him/her not to let the sights leave the target.

Canik SFx Rival-S specs and price 

Model:Canik SFx Rival-S
18+1 cartridges
Barrel Length: 
5"/127 mm
Micrometer rear and red fiber optic front
Sight Radius:
197 mm

Lightweight 90° Diamond Cut Aluminum Flat

Trigger Pull Weight:
1,850 g approx. 
Frame Material:
Black or chrome
Dimensions (LxWxH):
226x36x145 mm
1,210 g
1.499 euro (black finish), 1.549 euro (chrome finish)
Hard case with 18-round spare magazine, jet funnel, 3 backstraps, 5 adapter plates for red dot sights, holster, magazine loader, cleaning and tool kit, replacement fiber optic inserts in green and red

The first shooting range impressions of the Canik SFx Rival-S with ammunition from GECO, Norma, S&B and Magtech

While the shooter is responsible for the accuracy, each gun delivers its own precision in combination with the ammunition. During the test, however, I was very impressed with the accuracy of the SFx Rival-S, and my expectations were quite high. From shooting groups on paper to shooting at more distant steel targets, the gun delivered everything it was supposed to and helped me as a shooter to achieve my goals to the maximum. I could even say that this gun made everything very easy for me. At a distance of 10 meters, I was able to consistently achieve shot groups of around 2 cm in diameter freehand – minus a few outliers, which were clearly my fault. The Norma Safeguard 115-gr hollow point and the GECO 124-gr SX obviously gave me the best groups. In the end, however, the pistol produced above-average results with every type of ammunition I used. In addition to the ammo types already mentioned, I also shot it with the Sellier & Bellot ammunition from the bulk pack as well as with the S&B and Magtech cartridges from the 50-pack, all three types with 124-gr and 8-g full metal jacket bullets respectively, and last but not least with the Action Extreme from GECO with its lightweight 108-gr (7.2 g) hollow point bullets.

There has not been a single malfunction in the 600 or so cartridges that I have put through the pistol so far during this first test. From the lightweight Action Extreme hollow-point cartridges to the 124-gr FMJ training ammunition, everything worked perfectly. My favorite training ammunition is the GECO 9x19 SX 124-gr FMJ, which I find offers the best blend of cost and performance while being easy on the shooter's health. I also find that it shoots softer than current ammunition with 115-gr bullets, but that may be my subjective opinion. Apart from the obvious reliability, the SFx Rival-S is of course also very good and above all pleasant to shoot. The steel frame makes this modern pistol very smooth and flat shooting. I had no trouble burning through a box of ammo quickly while basically staying on target. Shot after shot, this pistol delivered great and helped me stay on target. If there was a snag, it was due to a careless grip technique (too little strength) or a lack of concentration on my part and not the gun. The increased weight definitely helped me improve my accuracy and allowed me to maintain greater consistency, especially at longer distances. 

First verdict on the Canik SFx Rival-S from the all4shooters.com team

Here is a direct comparison of the two versions of the Canik SFx Rival-S. The Rival-S Chrome (left) costs 1,549 euros and the black version 1,449 euros. In view of the technical features and the accessories included, these are really competitive prices. 

Overall, I am very impressed with the Canik SFx Rival-S. As a longtime admirer of the value for money offered by other Canik pistols available in this country, I can only say that the Rival-S brings another notch of quality and performance to the table. There were no malfunctions during my test and I was able to achieve exceptionally high, repeatable accuracy on paper targets. The smooth recoil and flat shooting characteristics of the Rival-S allowed me to complete a variety of shooting drills very quickly. The SFx Rival-S is currently available in two variants: the black version I tested and the shimmering silver chrome version. In my opinion, €1,449 for the black version and €1,599 for the silver version are a worthwhile investment for anyone looking for a competition gun suitable for optics and who might want to use it for several disciplines. 

Shooting instructor and all4shooters.com author Christian Bender. 

About the author: Christian Bender is a full-time shooting coach, enthusiastic hunter and shooter. He is one of the few instructors on the market who regularly takes part in competitions and puts himself to the test in public. He obtained his hunting license almost 30 years ago, while still at school, and has since taken part in numerous training courses both at home and abroad. He has several official instructor qualifications and is himself IHK-certified. His training courses are often fully booked months in advance and are a benefit for hunters, sport shooters and professional gun owners alike. He also coaches competitive shooters in individual coaching sessions, mainly with a focus on improving performance.

You can find more information here on Christian Bender's offical Instagram channel and here on the website of shooting instructor Christian Bender

You can find more information about the SFx Rival-S on the Canik website.

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