A few months ago, I had the chance to shoot and review Canik’s new for 2023 fully metal striker fired pistol, the SFx Rival-S. I really enjoyed shooting that gun so much that I kept shooting, practicing and competing with it even after finishing the original reviews. My earlier accounts linked above only covered approximately the first 300 rounds I put through the pistol.
At some point after those 300 rounds, the gun started having malfunctions more and more frequently. Initially I ruled out my own handloads, tried different factory Canik magazines, etc. I made my best effort to try to cancel out all possible variables by process of elimination. I kept up this trial and error process for almost another 300 rounds or so. After participating in a match where the gun malfunctioned at least once in every stage and also had it interrupt a different practice session, I decided to contact Century Arms. While not an exact count, I estimate that by this point the pistol had just shy of 600 rounds since I took possession. When I reached out to them, I took the time to write a detailed email and send several photos explaining what my issues were. They responded the following day with a pre-paid label, so I shipped the gun back to them. Almost exactly a month later, FedEx dropped off my repaired SFx Rival-S at my doorstep.
I had three distinct issues with my malfunctioning pistol. The first was that every time I inserted a freshly loaded magazine and hit the slide catch, the slide wouldn’t bring itself into battery automatically. It would drag and I had to push the slide into battery more often than not. When I first started shooting this gun, this was not happening as much and I had just assumed that both the brand new gun and brand new mags needed some time to “break-in”. Obviously once this kept happening well after the 300 round mark, my opinion changed.
The second issue was that the gun kept jamming in a very specific way: the nose of any FMJ bullet would get caught at the bottom of the feed ramp and block the slide from moving forward. I can best describe it as the bullet’s nose becoming lodged in a nook between the magazine and the bottom edge of the feedramp. Initially I wondered whether this was an issue with my handloads as I like to seat 9mm rounds with an overall length of 1.150”. That measurement is on the longer side but it’s well within SAAMI specifications. When factory rounds started jamming this way too, I figured it probably wasn’t my handloads. At the time, I also assumed that this was part of the reason why I had to push the slide into battery. I assumed that on the times when the rounds didn’t outright jam and seize the gun, that the bullet’s nose would still drag enough to prevent the slide from going into battery on its own.
Inconsistent extraction was my last issue. Sometimes I’d get a double whammy with a malfunction like the one I described above while also have an un-extracted fired casing that got left behind in the chamber. Other times, when shooting the last round in a magazine, the slide would lock back and the spent casing would merely be resting on top of the magazine’s feedlips (as if the slide didn’t have enough spring power to bounce the spent casing off the ejector).
Initially I tried troubleshooting everything myself with a common sense approach. Was it my handloads? Let’s try factory ammo. OK, maybe try different mags (I have a total of five factory Canik 18-round magazines made by Mec-Gar). When I was shooting this gun, I stole some OEM Mec-Gar +2 extended basepads off some Mec-Gar Beretta 92 mags I had to use with the Rival-S. Those actually ran fine at first before the set of problems began to manifest. Eventually, I ruled out these +2s as well. Regardless, I had issues with bone stock brand new Mec-Gar Canik mags anyway. At the time of the troubleshooting, I had a Trijicon SRO mounted to the slide using the provided Canik #2 factory plate. I checked to see if any of the mounting screws were protruding and getting in the way. Nope. Not that either.
HOW CENTURY ARMS FIXED MY RIVAL-S
After Century Arms returned my repaired gun to me, they also included a work order summarizing everything they did to that pistol. My Rival-S was stripped down and inspected and they polished the feed ramp. All critical springs were replaced with stronger upgrades including the original extractor and recoil springs. Outside of the gun, Century Arms replaced each basepad on all 5 of my factory magazines. The work order also claims that they test fired it with 90 rounds. After receiving the repaired handgun, it was oiled and lubricated, and returned to me in a basically in like-new condition. Because the gun had the same external wear and handling marks as before, I knew they sent me the same gun. The weight of the new recoil spring was certainly noticeable when racking the slide.
BACK TO THE FIRING LINE
To save myself some time, instead of mounting and zeroing the SRO back on, I decided to just shoot it with the already dialed-in factor rear iron sights. When I sent the gun back, its round count was a little less than 600. The work order claims that they fired 90 more rounds to function test it. Since having the gun in my possession again, I’ve fired at least 156 rounds (+/- a magazine loaded with loose rounds). All of these rounds were factory loaded ammunition including 124-grain South African PMP, 124-grain Federal American Eagle FMJ, 124-grain Fiocchi FMJ, 115-grain Blazer Aluminum and 115-grain Winchester White Box (USA9MMVP)*. This puts the current round count between 800-850 rounds. Merely blasting away at the same target with all that ammo would be boring and a waste of time, so I did as much as I could get away with at the indoor range in lieu of a proper shooting bay. I shot at least 50 rounds at 25-yard NRA B8 targets. The rest of the ammo was used for Bill Drills or for doubles. Honestly, I’ve not had any issues with the Rival-S since they fixed it. I think it’s ready to go back to USPSA.
Around the same time I was having issues with my own specimen, I started hearing about others’ issues with these guns as well. Not all Rival-S shooters were equally affected. Some people at my club who were breezing along just fine with their pistols and round counts way higher than mine. At the same time, I wasn’t the only one having issues either. Whether it was factory ammo or handloads didn’t matter too much either. Honestly, I don’t have enough information nor have I been in touch with Century Arms since they sent me the RMA. If you know something, I’d actually like to learn more because I wasn’t sure if this happened to certain batches or just a handful of pistols. Even with the issues, I’ve had a lot of fun reviewing and shooting this gun. Its a full-size, heavy gun that has a more than decent match-ready striker fired trigger and it lends itself quite well to accurate shooting. Because the Canik’s action and semi-automatic mechanism borrow from the Walther’s tried and true designs, I knew the issue wasn’t some type of fatal flaw from a new design. Every gun manufacturer has had and will have issues that come up–what matters is how a company handles and fixes things. In my case, Canik and Century Arms did right by me and they deserve credit.
**That specific Winchester 115-grain factory load is on the warmer side and “feels” like a +P from the way it recoils. With as warm as it is, it was giving me problems prior to sending the gun in. I decided to put aside the remainder to test it in the gun again. No issues. It actually groups fairly decently at 25-yards. Aside from the issues discussed in this article, I’m still of the opinion that the Canik SFx Rival-S does need a light break-in period.
The Magazine Over-Insertion Issue
This is a last minute addition to this post, as I just found out about this particular issue. (7/23/23)
After looking over a few YouTube videos like this one, it seems that some Rival-S shooters are experiencing reliability issues due to magazine over-insertion. That could obviously cause the slide to drag on the feedlips and interrupt proper cycling. Maybe it explains why I had to push the slide into battery sometimes. I’d like to note that every magazine I had did have its basepad replaced with a thicker one (presumably to prevent over-insertion). I sincerely have no idea to what extent this is an issue on the entire fleet of Rival-S pistols. If you have one of these guns, this is probably something to keep in mind and look over on your particular pistol. Where it gets tricky is that sure, adding a thicker basepad to a standard mag will prevent over-insertion–but what about when you run magazines with extensions for Carry Optics, Limited, Limited Minor or Open? Using the o-ring or the spacer would seem prudent, in any case.