Aaron Cowan of Sage Dynamics takes a critical look at the Agency Arms Field Edition
You want a custom Glock? Swing a dead cat in the dark and you can’t miss someone offering just that. The word "custom" when it comes to guns used to mean expert gunsmithing, tuning, intricate engraving and all manner of other artisan and functional modifications to make a firearm perform, or just look better. These days, in the much commercialized world of the polymer pistol, some of that art has been lost to the relative ease of creating a "custom" gun. Nowhere is this truer than in the world of Glock. The venerable line of striker fired pistols is now into its 4th generation and is in use by as much as 70% of domestic police departments, celebrated (and to a lesser degree, derided) by the citizen shooter for self-defense or sport, it’s no wonder that so many companies are offering custom services for the Glock ranging from simple trigger guard under cuts to gold "increased lubricity" barrels.
The stock Glock pistol is a performer, a workhorse and in my opinion, the best out-of-the-box self-defense handgun on the market. It is a consistent balance of precision tolerances, reasonable trigger weight, accuracy and highly repeatable reliability. But it’s attractive in the way that a mobile home is attractive; it will get the job done but no one is looking to it for aesthetic inspiration. There is always room to improve a firearms performance, and for those wishing, its appearance as well.
Because of this truth, the Glock in particular has seen custom modifications from the function-only frame stipples and slide serration improvements to the extreme slide windows, Cerakote paint jobs and overboard precision internal tuning. Obviously there should be a balance between form and function and many companies (such as ATEI) offer reliable and proven modifications to the Glock platform. Others may take experimentation to the point of range-only reliability, where the gun looks great but doesn’t perform in even the lightest of harsh environments. I prefer a customized Glock; but I’m picky. The look has to take a back seat to practical improvements where I think the Glock can be improved. You shoot any firearm enough and you will identify things you want to be tighter, re-angled, adjusted or smoothed out. I’ve been shooting and carrying Glock for over a decade and my feelings on what I like and don’t like about it are solidified. Despite Glock introducing excellent improvements in each new generation, they seem to ride more on the conservative side when it comes to certain features and as a LE/military focused company, I can’t blame them. This doesn’t mean I’m going to leave my Glock stock, either.
"Despite Glock introducing excellent improvements in each new generation, they seem to ride more on the conservative side…"
For a few years I found everything I needed in personal improvements; aftermarket trigger, undercut and grip improving stipple to the frame, but I could only do so much. A slide from Zev Tech met the rest of my requirements and I carried my 19 without fail each day; confident in its improvements. Late last year I was approached by a company I had not heard of to review one of their custom Glocks. I agreed and began speaking with Mike Parks of Agency Arms about the firearm he was going to build off of a Gen 3 Glock 17 I supplied. Mike told me that Agency kept it simple; they offered three packages, a Field Model that had reduced slide weight but no slide windows, an Urban Model with top and side slide windows and a Hybrid Model with only a top slide window. Internally all three models were identical in what Agency did and just as important, didn’t do. I opted for the Field Model, I don’t like slide window cuts, too much of a chance of debris getting into the internals for my liking.
While I waited for my gun to be returned to me I spent a few sessions on the phone with Mike getting a sense of what set Agency Arms apart. The photos he shared with me showed a unique, flat profile trigger with a less-aggressive trigger safety; aggressive rear slide serrations and a frame cut thumb ledge just forward of the frame takedown levers. Mike walked me through the parts that they replace in their build; the trigger shoe/trigger safety and the safety plunger spring. Every other part in the gun remains OEM factory. Instead of throwing out what is known to work, Agency improves it by reducing friction contact points and tuning metal on metal movement areas in the striker, trigger bar and safety plunger. Mike has a passion for his product that comes out every time he speaks about an existing process or a new idea and it was hard for me to not get excited about testing the gun that was coming to me. It sounded awesome, but would it perform? My Gen 3 17 was returned to me in the Field package in a short time and I was able to find out.
"Impressed" is a word I don’t use very often when getting a first look at something. This was certainly an exception. I picked up the Field package from my FFL and immediately set to dozens of dry fires on the Agency trigger to get a feel for it; short take up, a clean break and constant, positive pressure through a short reset. The reduced profile trigger safety did not interrupt my finger contact on the trigger face like many other custom Glock triggers (and the OEM trigger that many of them are modeled directly after). The rear slide serrations held a small but impressive detail; they have been angled to give a more positive and aggressive grip, almost sticking to the fingers on contact. The slide’s front serrations are equally as aggressive. The frame stipple is just the right amount of abrasive with a trigger guard undercut that is more universal than shooter’s-hand-specific, which I like a lot. Without a single round fired I was already impressed.
All Agency Arms models come cut for a Trijicon RMR; I added an Adjustable 6.5 MOA RMR and began my review. Like all firearms I review, I pre-clean and lubricate the weapon with Fireclean and then run 2000 rounds through the weapon without any additional lubrication or cleaning. My tests go from the mundane to the extreme-but-realistic, with periodical accuracy tests along the way. The reliability of the Glock is already well known; I wanted to see if Agency Arms made any modifications to the handgun that took its tolerances or weight out of the originally intended specifications that would cause it to be unreliable, inaccurate or uncomfortable to shoot. With so few parts in the Field Model being “aftermarket” and the only truly aesthetic feature I could identify being the slide cut Agency "A," I was initially comfortable with the idea that it would perform well. I honestly didn’t expect it to perform as well as it did.
"I honestly didn’t expect it to perform as well as it did."
My first 200 rounds were spent getting a real feel for the Agency trigger and the forward thumb ledge known as the "Accelerator Pad." This angled ledge gives your support hand thumb a rest, with which downward pressure can be applied to the frame to aid in keeping the muzzle flatter during successive fire. I’d seen it cut on other guns before, but never as a standard feature and honestly never so well executed. It forced me to move my thumb a little further forward than I am used to but was well worth it. The 9mm recoil in a fullsize Glock is already manageable, with the ability to add a little more positive downward pressure, the muzzle stays very flat and I saw noticeable improvements in groupings when shooting at my maximum-accurate speed.
The trigger. What can be said about this trigger that hasn’t already been said about the internal combustion engine? It’s a work of engineered art that was merely waiting to be invented and perfected. The constant positive pressure lets you know where the trigger is at all times in its travel, the flat profile gives a sure contact without the uncomfortable initial placement on Glocks standard trigger. So many aftermarket triggers are profiled after the OEM trigger that I felt like a faster horse would never come along and then Agency Arms does for triggers what Henry Ford did for the Automobile. They didn’t invent the trigger, but they damn sure got it right. It has none of the unsure sponginess I’ve seen in other aftermarket drop-in kits and the profile is very complimenting of the Glocks grip angle. From running the gun as fast as I could to shooting 8"x8" steel out to 100 meters, the trigger was consistent, even as it suffered Georgia clay, water, ice and mud as the testing progressed.
The improved slide serrations and frame stippling held up to my abuse, more than one mud bath and a few drops in sand or clay left the gun wet and slick, but working the controls was not an issue. Sure I could have designed a test that no gun could survive in order to show a failure point; instead I just pushed the boundaries of what a buyer may expect their gun to perform through in training, self-defense or competition.
"…I just pushed the boundaries of what a buyer may expect their gun to perform through in training, self-defense or competition."
For accuracy, Agency Arms leaves the stock barrel alone. Glock did it right as far as they are concerned, and I tend to agree. Most shooters will never truly appreciate the advantages of a match barrel and there has never been much of a cry for any coating improvements for anything other than aesthetic purposes. My first 5 round grouping test at 25 meters with 147 grain Gold Dot was a respectable 3” spread. My last 5 round group at the same distance, literally the last 5 rounds of my 2000 round test was shy of a 4” spread. Not my best, shooting, but for standing and unsupported I was happy with it, and more importantly, very happy with the Field Model. Of course, when filming my video review for my YouTube channel I shot 8”x8” steel at 100 meters, something I hadn’t even though of attempting previously. So is the Field Model accurate? Yes, yes it is. It’s as accurate as a stock Glock but much easier to replicate shot for shot thanks to much desired improvements. After 2000 rounds I did not experience a single malfunction in testing. Impressive, but honestly it shouldn’t be from a modern, well-made firearm.
Those who customize the Glock should hold their product to such a standard. Agency Arms may be a new company, but so was every other company at some point and time in business is not alone a reliable measure of product quality. As far as I’m concerned, Agency Arms does the Glock right. They improve what needs to be improved and they leave the rest alone. The Agency crew is very passionate about their product and they put their services to market at what I think is a reasonable price. Is Agency going to become the next big thing in custom handguns? If the quality of their product is any indication, I think so.
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