Photo Credit: Steve Coulston
GLOCK Perfection Perfected
I just can’t leave well enough alone… I’m pretty sure it is a sickness. I have this strong desire to modify just about everything I buy to "enhance" or "upgrade" the performance. Especially with firearms. Nowadays, customizing your latest black gun build isn’t that big of a deal as there are millions of parts being produced to help consumers personalize and tailor their evil looking ARs. Hey, Black Rifles Matter too you know… But don’t leave out handguns. Folks have been fine tuning 1911s and the like for years. These mods used to only be done by master craftsmen, who would meticulously hand fit every part. Many of these modifications were for race guns used in sporting competition. Economical handguns (read plastic) that are popular for duty and home defense are also being retrofitted. Better grip, trick slide, red dots, lights and lasers, you name it. Pistols like the Glock and Smith and Wesson M&P series are probably the most modified and customized pistols on the planet. No, I don’t have any statistics to back that last statement up, but if seems apparent to me there is a very large market for turning a $500 Glock into a $2,000 blaster that Han Solo would be proud of.
"Why pay someone else to do that?" you may ask. "I’m pretty good with a Dremel and soldering iron." Ummm… Yeah, I used to say that. I have burned my fair share of grips and frames. At the time I looked at my work and was very pleased. I think that is because I had never held a professionally stippled frame. I never had enough balls to take a Dremel to one of my pistol slides however I have cut off and modified rifle parts. Not bad, not bad… that makes me an armorer, right? Dremel level unlocked!!!
For this article I’d like to focus on the defensive handgun. In my case, it is the Glock. The first handgun I ever bought was a Gen1 Glock 17. Before I start, I am going to say, "Yes, I agree with you that I should never have modified it…" But I did. Years ago I was shooting a lot of S&W M&qmp;P9s and the Glock was sitting all alone in the safe feeling sad and unused. I wanted to stipple my first handgun and used the Glock frame as the test. Too late to turn back now! I burned, cut and sanded the frame until it was entirely changed. The good news is older Glocks have thick frames so I was able to get a very aggressive stipple pattern without burning through. The grip was extremely aggressive and would have sanded the calluses off a lumberjack. This was a non-slip, sure grip frame for sure. Not too fun to carry AIWB though… Rubbed my muffin top raw.
The bad news was it looked like absolute crap, but hey, form follows function right? Well sort of. I would find out later you can have both form and function. Years passed before I would send the frame to a friend of mine who actually knows what he is doing. Chris Damato is a full time soldier in the US Army but also runs a pistol modification company called Damato Custom Stippling. He took my mangled frame and resurrected it. How? Beats the hell out of me but he sanded out my handy work and re-stippled it with his trademark starburst pattern. He added an undercut, magazine release recess, chopped the grip to handle G19 mags and then Cerekoted it FDE. The pistol you see in the pics today is the final product. I was pretty much blown away. The grip is fantastic. It looks great, but allows the pistol to stay stuck in my hand even when it is wet or slippery. It is one of the more aggressive stipple jobs I have had done, but it remains my favorite and my muffin top doesn’t mind too much.
For triggers I went through a few, but settled on the Zev Fulcrum Trigger. The trigger offers a smoother trigger pull, wider trigger face, crisper break and better reset than the factory trigger. Oh, and it has red on it, which makes it better right? Red means fast, or at least that is what I am told. Regardless, the trigger has functioned well in the pistol. It’s not the lightest weight or crispest trigger I have ever used in a Glock, but it has always been a constant performer that feels a lot better than the stock trigger in my opinion and offers up fast shots.
As this is a Gen 1 Glock it only has the single pin for the trigger, slide stop and locking block instead of the later improved duel pin configuration. I found that the single pin didn’t want to play nice with an enhanced slide stop. It converted my semi-auto hand gun into a single shot bench gun. For whatever reason during the firing cycle it would lock the slide back. It could be due to the fact the lack of the upper pin allowed it less spring resistance to activate. Perhaps the spring tail was too long and the barrel was somehow pressing it up. Actually it was to a point, but even after I trimmed the spring it still happened. I was just about ready to drill the second pin hole then thought better of it. I put back the original slide stop and wadda ya know… it worked like a champ. Go figure. Maybe it is my meat hooks…? Regardless, that part will stay stock for now.
The final frame enhancement I added was the Rainier Arms Magazine Advanced Release System or M.A.R.S. This is an ambidextrous magazine release for Glock Gen 1-3 pistols. The Gen 4 version is in development and I had a chance to see it at the North West Shooting Sports Expo that was held in Tacoma Washington. The MARS is a replacement for the factory magazine release and installs the same way as the original. It adds a 6061-T6 aluminum textured pad on the right side of the frame and gives right handed shooters the option to use their right index or middle finger to drop the magazine without shifting their grip (for most folks without spider fingers, using their thumb to drop the magazine means breaking their firing hand grip). The MARS allows the shooter to drop the magazine without changing their grip. For me, I have traditionally used my middle finger to reach under the trigger guard to activate the magazine release on the left hand side of the frame. I am right handed. My left handed friends will often use their middle finger on their left hand to activate the magazine release on the left side. With the MARS I can easily drop the mag with my middle finger on my firing hand. My index finger is a little awkward as it doesn’t want to bend that way without breaking my grip.
NOTE: The MARS was not designed to be operated with the shooters thumb. If you buy it thinking you will use it this way, you will end up frustrated and disappointed. When shooting left handed I can still reach under the trigger guard with my middle finger to activate the MARS or press the magazine release on the left side. The system works well if used the way it was designed and I am looking forward to the Gen4 release as well.
Slides. To modify or not… Umm, MODIFY!!! Well, I sent out the stock slide to a machinist and had some lightening cuts added to it then had it Cerekoted. While the cuts helped with press checks and charging the slide it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted something with a more shaped feel to it. While at SHOT Show 2016 my friends at Voodoo Innovations were debuting their newest offering that was… you guessed it. A series of custom slides and barrels for Glock 17s and 19s. I was walking past their booth and the slides on display made me stop in my tracks because they looked so unique. I had never seen a slide cut like that before. It is a replacement slide that features a complete redesign of the rear cocking serrations and adds front cocking serrations with a re-profile of the top edges of the slide. Upon interviewing VDI I found out a few interesting tid bits. First the slide profile was done to add more options for manipulating the slide; however it also reduces the reciprocating mass of the slide and in return was supposed to reduced felt recoil. The top profile was added to help draw the eye down the slide to the front sight. It actually works and I have another Glock with a similar beveled top edge for that very reason. The slides are all compatible with factory Glock components which makes finding replacement parts easy. The slides also come with three different recoil springs for standard use, sub sonic loads or +P loads. An adapter is included so the slide can be used on Gen 4 Glocks as well. All the slides are made from 416R stainless, have a lifetime warranty and are treated with VDI LifeCoat.
The slide comes in three different models. The Brawler has the profiled slide and suppressor height sights. The Enforcer features the same slide, XS suppressor height sights and is cut for a red dot to accept a variety of optics of your choosing. It also comes with a cover plate if the red dot is not installed. Lastly, they offer the Slayer which comes with the profiled slide, XS suppressor height sights with tritium inserts and your choice of red dot. As you can imagine, the price is a bit steeper with the Slayer.
Each slide assembly will ship with the VDI match grade barrel that is threaded in 1/2×28 for compatible suppressors and compensators. The barrel is chambered in SAAMI Spec 9mm match chambering features match grade rifling, tighter tolerances and a thread protector.
I was fortunate enough to get an early release of the Enforcer Slide cut for a Trijicon RMR. It was promptly installed on my G17 Gen1 frame. My RMR was still on order so I took the time to familiarize myself with the slide sans optic. During that time I took it to the range to get used to how the suppressor sights tracked. The XS sights took a little getting used to as they have the notched rear and the white dot front. Even still, I found that it pretty much hit where I aimed. If I did my part that is. One thing I found to be interesting is the brass ejected pretty much straight back bouncing off my noggin. This phenomenon didn’t’ happen all of the time, but often enough. I was using 9mm 115gr FMJ Freedom Munitions remanufactured rounds with the standard spring that came with the slide. No malfunctions were noted.
A few weeks later the Trijicon RMR came in. Taking off the cover plate I went to install the optic. The screws that came with the RMR were too long. Maybe the cover plate screws would work… Nope. They were too short. I was going to resort to cutting the RMR screws, but decided to check my local hardware store first. As luck would have it I found the in-the-middle screw that fit just right. Once the RMR was installed I spent some time dry firing and manipulating the slide. For those who have not shot a lot of red dot equipped pistols it takes a bit of getting used to. The key is to not search for the dot. Present the pistol as you normally would and if you fundamentals are sound the dot will appear where it should. Personally I prefer my rear site to sit in front of the RMR, but that was not to be with the Enforcer slide. Maybe one day VDI will offer that option.
Photo Credit: Steve Coulston
Range time with the optic mounted was rather uneventful. Put the dot on the target, press the trigger, hit the target and move on. I do like having a rugged red dot on the slide as it gives me another way to manipulate and work the slide. Don’t be afraid, the RMR can handle just about anything you can throw at it. The slide cycled just fine with the RMR installed and no malfunctions occurred. I am currently waiting on a 9mm sound suppressor to arrive which could be several more months so I was unable to shoot the Enforcer with a suppressor attached. Obviously I plan to once it comes in.
Overall I am impressed with the VDI Glock upgrade. The aesthetics are pleasant, but more importantly it functions well and is definitely an upgrade from the factory slide. In regards to the 6 o’clock brass eject, I haven’t figured that one out yet. I plan to cycle wider variety of rounds through it in the future to see if the issue persists. Again it wasn’t every time. I would also recommend the screws that are used for the cover plate also be designed to work with the RMR or at the very least the proper sized screws should come with the slide. As mentioned before, I received an early release and the full production model may have resolved that issue. For those in the market for an aftermarket slide and don’t want to ship off their factory slide to get modified, the VDI series of slide assemblies will treat you right. They don’t come cheap and cost $669.99 for the Brawler, $779.99 for the Enforcer and even higher for the Slayer. The cost of the Slayer will vary depending on which optic you have installed.
In summary my Glock project was a success. The only thing it lacks is a weapon mounted light. As the frame is a Gen1, there is not a way to mount a light without a special adapter or modification to the frame. At this time I have not found the solution I am looking for in that regard. I any readers have suggestions, let me know in the comment section. Other than that, the frame, trigger, MARS and VDI slide with RMR all work nicely together and make for a formidable pistol. If Mr. Solo were still around, I think he would approve.
Photo Credit: Steve Coulston
* The views and opinions expressed on this web site are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Guns & Tactics Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.