Gun Review: TriStar T-120

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TriStar 120

One of the things I really appreciate about being a writer for The Firearm Blog is being exposed to platforms and weapons I would otherwise not have access to, or go out of my way to try. At SHOT 2015 I had been scheduled for a review of the TriStar T-120, but due to scheduling was not able to get my hands on one until this past November—long enough that I had nearly forgotten about it.

When it arrived, it was out of the blue and an unexpected surprise. I do my best to try and evaluate guns (especially ones that I have no experience with) on their own merit and not allow myself to be distracted by their public reputation (if possible). This one was no different, and it seems to be a generally well liked gun. We’ve posted on some of the other items in the TriStar line up previously, including the P-100 which is a compact CZ75 clone.

Construction

So, yes, this is pretty much a CZ75 based gun and the style looks quite a bit like a IWI Jericho 941. All TriStar pistols are manufactured by Canik 55 (in Turkey). Canik is a NATO-certified small arms manufacturer that produces weapons for several non-US military and law enforcement organizations (something new I learned).

The T-120 is a a 9mm semi-automatic with an aluminum frame and steel slide. The action is DA/SA. The sights are pretty standard having a snag-free dovetail sight on the read and fixed blade front sight.

The sights are not bad--though I've become very fond of fiber sights.

The sights are not bad–though I’ve become very fond of fiber sights.

I was sent the “desert sand” which had a Cerakote finish and black polymer checkered grips. The hard plastic case had two 17 round magazines included. The package also includes a gunlock, cleaning kit and basic owner’s manual.

Pretty standard package these days.

Pretty standard package these days. Rounds not included.  Though it comes with a friendship bracelet.

The slide rides inside the frame and tracks via a full length steel guide rod.

The slide rides inside the frame.

The slide rides inside the frame.

The T-120 does have an external safety which is located on the left side of the frame behind the slide release. When engaged, the safety is designed to block the trigger, hammer lever and the hammer immobilizing the entire firing mechanism. The safety flips upward and downward (up is safe).

Technical Specifications

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Slide: Steel
  • Barrel: Steel 4.7”
  • Action: Double/Single
  • Capacity: 17 Rounds
  • Sights: Rear Snag-Free Dovetail, Fixed Front Blade
  • Grips: Black Polymer Checkered
  • Overall Length: 8.2”
  • Weight: 30 ounces
  • MSRP: $500 (street ~$450)

Observations

In general I found the gun to be pretty well built. Everything looked clean and precise. The feed ramp even appeared to have been polished.

The frame and slide mating was tight and I did not feel anything “sloppy” or loose.

It breaks down exactly like a CZ. Drop the magazine (after, of course, verifying the pistol is completely unloaded). Make sure the hammer is dropped (i.e. in the forward position). Then simply pull the slide back until the small notches (on the left side of the slide and frame) are aligned. Hold the slide in this position and remove the slide stop. The slide then will slip forward and off of the frame. You can then remove the recoil spring an barrel. To reassemble, basically reverse the above.

Easy to break down.

Easy to break down.

Overall I found the controls to be a bit firm and took a but more “umpfff” than I would have anticipated. I’m not saying that is bad—it just has a tight fit on nearly every component.

The trigger in double action mode was right around twelve pounds and just over five pounds in single action (I didn’t take pictures of the trigger gauge, but the measurement was done with a Lyman).

Shooting the gun was interesting. It felt like it had much less recoil than my Glock which I would expect based on the weight and function of the slide inside the frame. Because of this I found I naturally was able to get back on target more rapidly. I didn’t fire a ton of rounds through it, somewhere just around six magazines worth.

My biggest frustration with it was due to the smaller slide profile. Since the slide rides inside the frame, there was less to grip onto for racking it. The serrations cut into the frame are nice and aggressive and help with this, but I think it would be a tad bit more challenging to manage a malfunction (though in all fairness I did not attempt this, nor did I experience a malfunction). In any case that is something that can be mitigated with practice.

The serrations are pretty aggressive.

The serrations are pretty aggressive.

Aftermarket components should be readily available since the grips and magazines are CZ75 compatible.

Conclusions

Having never handled a TriStar before, I was decently impressed. I wasn’t really sure what to expect and ended up being surprised at how well constructed it appeared to be, and how smoothly it functioned.

It is about a $100 less than a CZ75 (street price on Gun Broker) which is not a bad deal if you like this platform. If you already have CZ75 magazines, or plan to get a CZ75 in the future, the magazines are interchangeable which is nice. I think the low recoil and solid feel are definitely selling point, especially when coupled with the lower price point. I may actually look at adding one to my collection this upcoming year.

If you are interested in more details you can visit the TriStar Arms website: http://www.tristararms.com/



Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


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  • kipy

    I bought a C100 after watching James’ review (6 months ago maybe?). I’ve been very happy with the quality for the price. In fact I was just shooting it last night with my cousin who is a diehard Glock 19 fan and even he admitted to liking it quite a bit.

  • Slim934

    Not only is it cheaper but you get a cerakoted finish vs. the abysmal polycoat finish that standard cz75’s have.

    I just wish they made them with decockers.

    • iksnilol

      I think the decocker parts from the CZ might fit.

    • Twilight sparkle

      Usually you get what you pay for and CZ’s are parkerised under the polycoat which actually holds up fairly well from my limited expierence. I have nothing against Tristar pistols and I’ve recommended them to people, but it’s no cz75.

  • Lance

    Another CZ 75 clone……. YAWN!!!!

    • Ecnal

      Another Lance shitpost…… YAWN!!!

    • mechamaster

      More like Jericho clone. And Jericho is CZ75-pattern ( So CZ-ception ? )

      • LCON

        I Love the Jericho lines. very sexy.

    • cs

      The Grip looks very Sig-Sauer like.

    • Cynical_Asshole

      another Lance comment.

      Yawn.

    • DW

      You are the only one I know to yawn when butthut.

  • Southpaw89

    Have an L-120 that I picked up for $300 new a couple years back and am very pleased with it. The gun is comfortable to shoot, more accurate than I am, and I have yet to have a failure (though I have not used it heavily). Only thing I’d like that is lacks is ambi controls, but otherwise a great gun, and much better looking than all of the plastic that’s flooding the market these days, especially with wood grips.

  • Reef Blastbody

    I own a number of the Tristar/Canik CZ clones. Love them, especially for the price/quality point. The build quality is equal to CZ’s. I own a P01, SP01 Phantom, P07, P09 and RAMI as well, so I have a good basis to compare.

    Century imported some of the same models as Tristar under the Canik name, the Shark was their name for the T-120, as well as a compensated model. Wish they’d sold the larger Stingray here. Gorgeous gun, and had ambi controls. have the compact and it’s a tack driver.

  • Andrew Hobby

    I bought the T120 when it first came out a couple years ago. I think I’ve put maybe 2000 rounds through it. I can remember maybe 2 stovepipes, ever. The gun has run flawlessly.

    I do believe that when I first got it, I took it apart and stoned the sear surfaces to make the trigger a bit cleaner feeling. Other than that, the only issue I’ve ever had is that an internal screw holding a trigger spring came loose. It took about ten seconds and a dab of loktite to fix it.