July 17, 2013
By Dusty Gibson
Gaston Glock never intended to create "perfection".
Instead, the curtain-rod engineer with a background in synthetic polymers wanted to design a sidearm to meet strict criteria desired by the Austrian military for its next service pistol.
Glock's first firearm design was also his 17th patent—the now famous 9x19mm Glock 17—which won the Austrian contract in 1982 and soon became the most commonly used handgun in the world. In fact, the Glock 17 remains a standard-issued sidearm of NATO.
Millions of people trust their lives to the reliability of Glock pistols, but popularity and perfection are mutually exclusive goals. Since there's no perfect way to satisfy every operator, folks tailor the polymer platform to fit their own unique objectives. From night sights to triggers and anything in between, there are likely more ways to customize your Glock than there are for a plastic surgeon to reconstruct your face.
While some modifications require an experienced gunsmith, the average shooter can install most parts in just minutes. Determined to improve upon the "perfect" plastic pistol, I set out to find and test the most popular drop-in Glock mods available today.
Among the most widely debated Glock modifications is the trigger mechanism. Glock factory triggers are widely accepted for their reliability and safe function in an everyday carry or service weapon, and it's completely reasonable for some people to refrain from tinkering with the standard 5.5-pound trigger.
However, those who demand superior trigger performance should check out the complete drop-in kits from GlockTriggers.com. They offer several trigger systems depending on your particular objective. Specifically, the EDGE Competition Trigger System is an IDPA-and USPSA-approved kit, which can easily improve your rankings in future matches.
Performance enhancements of the EDGE Trigger System are immediately noticeable when dry-firing, and translate into obvious improvements at the range. Smooth, consistent travel from the first pull until the breaking point eliminates the grainy response from the factory trigger. The lighter 3.5-pound break enables a more delicate squeeze without drawing the muzzle off target — and faster follow-up shots are possible with a short, crisp reset. With a little practice, double-tap groups become tighter and land more consistently in the 'A ' box on USPSA silhouettes.
The all-inclusive EDGE System includes: a smooth trigger and polished trigger bar which are modified to reduce pre-travel; a lighter 3.5-pound polished connector; a trigger housing with simple over-travel adjustments; an OEM trigger spring and firing pin safety; Wolff reduced power 4-pound and 4.5-pound firing pin springs; Wolff firing pin safety spring; and extra OEM spring cups. That sounds like a major project, but I was able to install the entire system in about 15 minutes while following along with the installation video on GlockTriggers.com.
Extended Slide Stop Lever
Attempting to engage the factory slide stop lever can be quite a challenge, especially on newer pistols that aren't yet broken in. The shape of the standard lever is a common complaint among most shooters — especially competitors — who have trouble engaging the low profile lever with their thumbs. It's also difficult to grip the underside of the lever when locking the slide back.
An easy and affordable trick is a Glock extended slide stop lever, which comes standard on competition models 34 and 35. The replacement lever drops in by simply popping out two roll pins with the punch tool on the Lone Wolf 4-in-1, dropping in the new lever and replacing the pin. The trapezoid-shaped dimple on the replacement lever is small, but significantly easier to engage and improves weapon manipulation.
The base plate on Glock magazines can be replaced for additional capacity and ergonomic enhancements. Taran Tactical Innovations
makes a base pad kit
that is popular among competitive shooters because it adds five extra rounds and additional weight so the magazine can easily drop out of the mag well.
For everyday carry, folks often install base plate extensions from Pearce Grip for an ergonomic enhancement. Specifically, adding an extension to subcompact Glock magazines — such as the Glock 26 — provides a comfortable spot for your pinky finger to ride so it doesn't hang off the bottom of the frame.
Modifying a Glock magazine is relatively simple, so long as you can remove the factory base plate. The retention tabs that hold the base pad in place make it difficult to slide it off with your bare hands. Unless you're the Incredible Hulk, you will probably need to use pliers to carefully squeeze the sides of the magazine to remove the factory base pad.
In the late 90s, Glock started adding rail attachments to the frames of their Gen 3 pistols. Attaching lights and lasers to the rails of a pistol greatly improves target acquisition.
The Viridian C5L is a small yet powerful attachment that fits nearly any railed gun — even subcompact pocket pistols. It tucks neatly between the trigger guard and muzzle, and combines a durable 100-lumen flashlight with a 5mW green laser. The green laser is visible out to 100 yards in daylight, and extends out to one mile at night. Ambidextrous activation buttons are easily engaged with your trigger finger, or simply by drawing from Viridian's optional TacLoc holster. The C5L combined with a TacLoc holster maximizes your effectiveness in any self-defense situation, and it's also a whole lot of fun at the range.
Extended Magazine Release
Similar to why folks add an extended slide stop lever, adding an extended magazine release significantly improves weapon manipulation. Glock recognized this on its Gen 4 model, which came standard with a magazine release more than double the size of Generations 1-3. However, many folks still complain about the sharp edges of the Gen 4 mag release buttons. The factory configuration was left standard on this project, as the magazine release on new Glocks works well for me.
For those looking to change their mag release, consider installing a replacement from TangoDown or JP Enterprises. Both options are affordable, and likewise popular solutions to a common problem.
Modifying the grip is perhaps the most personally subjective alteration one can make on a Glock. The intended use of the pistol largely dictates one's desired grip enhancements. Folks often custom stipple their frame, or even seek a grip reduction if the gun feels too bulky in their hands. Each of those modifications has its own respective advantages, but both require specialized labor to complete correctly.
Competitive shooters often stick gritty skateboard deck tape to specific parts of the grip to enhance their weapon manipulation. However, a more fitting option is a granulate grip from Talon. They accomplish the same task as skateboard tape, but are custom-cut to wrap precisely around the frame. Talon grips are also available in a rubberized texture, which is better suited for carry guns, as the granulate texture has an uncomfortable tendency to rub against skin and clothing. The grips are inexpensive and install in minutes with a heat gun or hair dryer.
Another quick, significant grip improvement is the Grip Force Adapter (GFA) from Grip Force Products. If you haven't already experienced the infamous Glock thumb injury, take it from me and my bloody hand — get a Grip Force Adapter before the slide bites your thumb. The Grip Force Adapter is essentially a beavertail, that mounts to the back strap of the frame and prevents injury, while simultaneously improving grip angle. Getting a higher purchase on the bore axis allows the operator to more effectively manipulate the pistol and control muzzle flip for faster follow-up shots. Grip Force Adapters are available for all Glock generations, and come in a kit with two different sized backstraps and a longer trigger housing pin.
The plastic factory U-Dot sights are one of the most common complaints among Glock operators. Many folks refer to the sight acquisition as 'ball in the bucket, ' which is a simple concept that works well, but their plastic design is undesirable.
The U-Dots may work just fine for plinking, but you shouldn't rely on them for practical applications. The cheap plastic construction poses a laundry list of disadvantages for everyday carry, home defense and competition uses. Repeatedly drawing from a holster is known to wear down the front sight post — or even worse, fracture it completely off the slide. The lack of tritium also makes U-Dots virtually useless in low-light conditions.
Trijicon Bright & Tough Night Sights are a popular solution to Glock's factory flaws. Their metal construction makes Trijicon sights much more durable for practical deployment, and self-luminous three-dot tritium greatly improves accuracy at night. The configuration pictured here uses Trijicon's GL11 Green Novak Rear Sight, which is also available with orange or yellow tritium inserts. Another variation of the Bright & Tough Sights are Trijicon's new HD Night Sights, which offer a unique photo luminescent paint on the front sight post for quick sight acquisition.
Changing the sights on a Glock is the most difficult drop-in modification, but can still be accomplished without sending your slide to a gunsmith. Most sight manufacturers recommend professional install, but don't let that advice deter you from changing your sights.
All you really need are few tools and a steady hand. Before conquering the project, I suggest acquiring a Lone Wolf Distributors 4-in-1 Armorers Tool. Changing the front sight post is a breeze with the included 3/16-inch nut driver, and the 3/32-inch pin punch comes in handy for several other drop-in mods on this list. A useful gadget for carefully installing rear dovetail sights is the MGW Sight Mover. You'll also want to anchor your new sights into place with a drop of thread locker.
While there's essentially nothing wrong with factory Glock barrels, there are a number of circumstances in which shooters would want to change their barrel. For example, threaded barrels enable the quick attachment of suppressors
Others replace their barrel with stainless steel Lone Wolf and Storm Lake barrels to improve accuracy and to fire lead-cast bullets. Another option is to drop in an alternate barrel for a caliber conversion, if you wish to practice with different cartridges in the same weapon. Most aftermarket barrels drop in easily with absolutely no modifications. However, availability is very limited, with some models backordered 12 weeks or more.