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Glock’s Newest Pistols

Gaston Glock’s handguns are offered much like Henry Ford’s Model A. They’re available in any color you want, as long as it’s black. While other firearms manufacturers are more than happy to offer numerous finish options, such as nickel-plated steel and desert tan polymer, the Austrian gun maker keeps it simple with its black Tenifer finish. This tough, non-glare, and corrosion-resistant finish gives Glock pistols their black, utilitarian appearance.

Glock pistols have had very few changes in appearance since their 23-year commercial production run began in 1986. In 1988, Glock added grenade-style front and back grip checkering to its pistols. In 1996, finger grooves began to be incorporated in the front grip on most models. In 1998, the tactical rail for lights and lasers became standard along with the finger grooves. That means the Glock pistol has been unchanged externally for a decade. For 2009, that changed!

New features are available in the Glock lineup. Short Frame models accommodate officers with medium or small hands, and a new Rough Textured Frame provides a more secure grip for officers of all hand sizes. Even olive drab colored frames are offered for military use. These options and improvements are notable since the offerings from Glock do not change very often.

Popular Pistols

Glocks are some of the most common pistols used by police for both duty and off duty. Three major reasons exist for their market dominance. The first two are the semi-automatic’s reputation for reliability and accuracy, even under extreme conditions. Glock pistols go “bang” every time their trigger is pulled, and they hit what they’re aimed at.

I didn’t clean the three pistols tested for this review between shooting sessions. Despite being remiss of proper maintenance, all three fed every kind of ammo I loaded into their magazines without a hitch. An officer who shoots competitively with me had so much faith in the Glock line that he fired the Model 30 in a scored off-duty match, right out of the box. He felt no need to sight it in or fire any “break in” rounds. True to form, the Model 30 cruised through the course of fire, and the officer was pleased with his score. Glock’s third advantage is its competitive pricing. Police departments that issue duty guns must include price in their selection process. Everyone desires the best, but a reasonable price is necessary when the taxpayers are footing the bill. For the same reason, individual officers often use price as a criteria when choosing their own personal sidearm. While officers who are also firearms enthusiasts may plunk down serious cash for a high-end sidearm, those who view their gun just as a tool lean more toward cost considerations.

Glock’s reputation for reliability, accuracy, and a reasonable price combine to make it a highly popular brand. New features that appeal to the needs of individual police officers can only enhance their market appeal.

Short Frame Models

The full-size Model 21 and the subcompact Model 30 are rather thick handguns chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. The original Glock Model 17 9mm needed some beefing up to accommodate the old warhorse .45-caliber round. Officers who wear size XXL gloves can manage these large handguns, but those with average to small sized hands may have a problem manipulating the big pistols.

Glock responded to its target audience and has released Short Frame (SF) versions of its .45-caliber guns, designated 21SF and 30SF. Now officers with smaller hands who prefer a large caliber pistol for duty or off duty have the option of a Glock with a slightly smaller grip. I obtained both a Model 30 and a Model 30SF for comparison. These compact versions of the duty sized Model 21 offer large caliber knock down power in a concealable package. Comparing them side by side, it was hard to visually tell them apart. I found I could differentiate the two guns only by reading the SF lettering on the right side of the frame, located just above the trigger guard. Upon close inspection, the open area behind the magazine well is noticeably smaller on the SF. The contour of the rear grip frame is reduced in size, however, both pistols share the same 10-round magazine.

The 30SF measures just 2mm shorter from the grip tang to the face of the trigger when compared to the standard Model 30. On paper this number seems small, and one would think such a tiny change wouldn’t matter. But when you hold the pistol in your hand, those two millimeters make all the difference in the world.

Because I wear XXL gloves, I wanted more opinions than just my own. I sought out several officers with medium sized hands to give them the “Short Frame Challenge.” They picked up and held either a 30 or a 30SF and then switched back and forth between the two Glocks. Each officer could instantly tell the 30SF from its larger sibling. All officers agreed that the 30SF felt smaller and better in their medium or small hands. If they were to purchase one of these Glock .45 pistols, they said the SF was the way to go. The 30SF also pointed better in my big hand than standard Glocks with their radical grip angle. Several aftermarket frame manufacturers offer reshaped frames for various Glock pistols. There are also kits available to fill in the hollow back strap area with a bedding compound, which then allows the owner to grind down the frame for a custom contour. Glock’s new SF models offer police officers a factory frame option that may feel and shoot better. Officers can hold the guns in their own hands and make their own informed decision.

Rough Textured Frame Models

Police officers who train outdoors, rain or shine, have found that their Glock’s polymer frame can become slippery from rain, snow, mud or sweat. As a common solution officers apply skateboard tape to the grip frame. This sandpaper type surface certainly makes the gun easier to hang on to, but it doesn’t last forever, and it’s very susceptible to the elements.

Glock has addressed police officers' needs with its new Rough Textured Frame. The RTF was first offered on Glock’s most popular police duty gun, the .40 S&W Model 22 at the beginning of 2009. The 9mm Model 17 has also just been offered with the option of the RTF, and other models may be coming soon. The RTF consists of hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny raised dots stippled on the sides and rear of the pistol’s grip. They are also between the front strap’s finger grooves. The new stippling feels similar to sandpaper. It provides a very secure grip for your hand that will not wear away or fail due to exposure to weather or sweat. Officers familiar with Glock pistols were universally impressed with the gun’s new feel when they held it. They did question if the rough texture would act like a cheese grater on their hands when fired extensively. There was only one way to find out—test firing.

I fired 150 rounds through the weapon as fast as I could press fresh cartridges into its 15-round magazines. The skin on my palms was intact. As odd as it may sound, my shooting hand actually felt rather good; the RTF sort of massaged my hand a bit. There were no negative aspects of the RTF. You could shoot this gun outdoors for a week and never lose your grip or cause abrasions to your hand.

The 22RTF also sports Glock’s new curved slide serrations. They look kind of like reversed shark gills. The forward-pointing crescents create a racier appearance, plus they perform their job well. I’m not sure that they’re a huge step forward in functionality, but they do work as well as the standard vertical striations, and they are pleasing to my eye.

Standard Glock Features

For those familiar with the 23-year-old Glock pistol, the SF and RTF versions are still the same old pistols, which is to say they are utterly reliable, accurate and sell at a competitive price. No jams or misfires occurred while shooting various ball and hollow point ammunition with the three models tested.

Glock barrels do not have standard, sharp cut rifling. The standard six grooved barrels (eight in the .45 caliber) are rounded and easier to clean after a long day at the range firing copper jacketed bullets. Lead bullets without a copper jacket should be avoided, but if they must be fired, extra attention should be given to cleaning the barrel.

Glock sights come in several heights, in polymer or steel, either fixed or adjustable, and with either white dot or tritium night sights. Glock’s own tactical light fits right on the dust cover’s rail, as do any standard lights or lasers.

The Glock “Safe Action” trigger system prevents the pistol from firing unless the trigger is deliberately pulled. The lever in the middle of the trigger must be depressed to pull the trigger completely to fire. The gun cannot go off if accidentally dropped due to the trigger bar’s internal safety ramp. Despite the fact that the trigger deactivates three safety features, it still provides a consistent pull that helps keep rounds on target. The 30SF’s pull measured 4 pounds, 12 ounces on my Lyman digital trigger pull gauge. The 30 and 22RTF both measured around 5.5 pounds. These are all excellent combat triggers right from the factory.

Field stripping the Glock pistol is accomplished by making sure the chamber is empty and then removing the magazine. The trigger must be pulled to complete the takedown procedure, so it is imperative that the user visually and physically inspects the chamber to guarantee it is empty. After the trigger is pulled and the striker is released, the two takedown levers on either side of the frame are pulled downward while slightly retracting the slide. The slide will then move forward off the frame, and the barrel and recoil spring (captive on its guide) can be taken out for cleaning. Reassembly is just the reverse of this process but without the need to pull down the takedown levers. The slide moves rearward on the polymer frame’s steel guides and snaps into place.

Current Glocks use their extractor as a loaded chamber indicator. It takes some practice to visually and tactilely have confidence to tell the difference because it protrudes only slightly on the right side of the slide when a round is loaded.

Options and Accessories

New Glocks come in a padded hard case that includes an extra magazine, a magazine loader and a cleaning rod and brush. Glock offers a key lock system at extra cost that fits in the space at the bottom of the grip. It locks and secures the pistol from unauthorized use. Extended magazine catches, slide stop levers, and various pull weight trigger springs and connectors are available directly from the manufacturer. Glock also sells its own line of holsters, magazine pouches, a magazine base flashlight mount, and various caps, shirts, jackets, pens, patches and key chains.

However, one of Glock's more interesting items is not even offered for sale. R. Lee Ermey, a retired Marine, actor, television host and law enforcement supporter, is a spokesperson for Glock. I was lucky enough to meet Ermey at one of the many trade shows he attends. He handed me a large pewter coin, cast with his image on one side and Glock’s logo on the other. The coin quotes the line he made famous as the drill instructor in the film “Full Metal Jacket.” Glock’s new SF and RTF models allow officers to choose the pistol that is right for them so they can quote Ermey and say, “There are many like it, but this one is mine.”

Steve Tracy is a 20-year police veteran with 18 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He also is an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force less-than-lethal force and scenario based training. He can be reached at

Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2009

Rating : 9.3

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