Gene Shuey, Master Gunsmith, AGI Director & Instructor, gave the following overview while a guest on an AGI teleseminar.
I suggest four things to anyone interested in customizing their Glock: better sights, better trigger, complete grip enhancement with a textured surface to keep it from being slick and a good aftermarket, American-made barrel. With that, you have a foundation upon which you can build for many specific purposes.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Improving the trigger could cost as little as $25 and enhancing the frame to be more functional and aesthetically pleasing requires some simple tools and the knowledge you can learn in American Gunsmithing Institute’s Building the Custom Glock — Volume 1 DVD. Quality barrels are available that can easily be installed, sights can be tailored to the handgun’s mission, and an external safety is also an option.
Those who carry a Glock are the most likely to consider having it customized, but there are a few important factors to decide at the beginning. What is the gun going to be used for? This is important, because sometimes what you think you want doesn’t match the gun’s proposed use. It’s like driving a Corvette off-road. You may want a Corvette, but if you need to go off-road it’s not going to work. Similarly, certain things designed for a competition gun won’t work well when backpacking in the wilderness.
Glock Carry Guns
A lot of first-time Glock owners chose a Glock because it’s simple to use, and they’re getting a concealed-carry permit. In this case I usually recommend a better trigger, better sights and some work on the frame.
For example, the triggerguard is blocky and square, and with prolonged shooting it can really beat your index finger. This becomes an issue if you go to a shooting school and shoot a few thousand rounds in a weekend. You need a change there to make the gun more comfortable in your hand. If you plan on doing a lot of shooting, but you’re on a budget, you’ll probably want to shoot reloaded ammo. If you reload yourself, you’ll want to use cast bullets and plated bullets, but you can’t use a standard Glock barrel with these bullets.
Here’s why. Glock barrels use polygonal rifling. If you look inside one, it looks like an octagon. It doesn’t have the square grooves we call cut rifling, which is found in American rifles and handguns. They do this for several reasons. One, they use hammer-forged barrels, and it’s a much faster, easier, and less expensive process to hammer forge polygon rifling than it is cut rifling. Also, Glock was originally designed for European police and European military personnel who only shoot jacketed bullets.
They wanted to be able to shoot jacketed bullets under all kinds of adverse conditions. These conditions include dirty barrels, increased pressures, extreme fouling, and sometimes even under water, all without sacrificing accuracy. It was never designed to be a competition or sporting pistol. When it comes to firearms, the American market is quite different than the rest of the world. We have greater flexibility in that we can use the same pistol for competition, hunting and for self-defense.
You have two choices when using an American barrel, a drop-in version or one that’s been fit by a gunsmith. If you are a gunsmith or training to be one, don’t be afraid to put in a gunsmith-fit barrel. They are not difficult to do. Glocks have a simple design, so don’t be afraid to do a little bit of experimenting. However, if you really want some advanced help, AGI offers another “How To” DVD on customizing Glocks, (Building a Custom Carry Glock – Volume 2). Combined with Volume 1, they will walk you through all phases of trigger jobs, accurizing, cosmetic work and a lot more. They will teach you a lot more than the average person or gunsmith knows about Glocks.
Frame and Grip Enhancement
There are several factors to consider for grip and frame enhancement. You want to make the gun fit your hand as comfortably as possible. You can do grip reductions, change the shape of the grip and take the finger grooves off.
The reason for removing the finger grooves is because they don’t really line up properly for most people. Another reason is because when you’re drawing the gun out of your holster or picking it up off the counter quickly, you don’t always grip the gun the way you would if you were to draw it slowly or place it in your hand.
Another thing I will often do is open up the triggerguard. In addition, the triggerguard itself is flat and has some sharp edges I modify to make it look more like a 1911 or a SIG. I also undercut the triggerguard so the hand can get higher up on the gun, which helps reduce some of the muzzle rise and recoil.
Lastly, I usually shape it a little bit differently by taking off some of the square surfaces. Most importantly, I’ll put a different texture on it.
Some people like to use skateboard tape or another nonskid, adhesive-backed material. This works great in improving your grip, but you probably don’t want to use it in a carry gun. Skateboard tape will rub and wear out the lining of your jacket, and if you have it in an inside of the pant holster, it’s going to chafe your skin and maybe even cause some bleeding. So for a carry gun, I suggest using a textured surface or a rubberized, textured, adhesive-backed material. It works well and is nonabrasive. The grip is perhaps the most important thing. If you lose your grip when you shoot, you’ve lost your sight picture and your trigger control. In a defensive situation, that can be deadly.
It’s often helpful to relieve behind and underneath the triggerguard and on the backstrap. Even though it’s not a beavertail, you can remove some polymer there and where the web of your hand fits up underneath. This helps get the grip higher, or I should say, the gun lower in your hand. By removing material there, it magnifies the effect of grip reduction without going into extreme frame modification.
There are also many ways to texture a grip. You can cut it in, you can use a heating element, you can also use a cutting wheel that’s V-shaped. Choose the method that best fits your ability.
I’ve put adhesive-backed rubber on one of my carry guns, and it works well and is very comfortable. In the volume 2 DVD we cover how you can make a template to put it on straight.
There are more options for sights than probably anything else and manufacturers continue to come out with different versions all the time. Some Glock owners have trouble with the sights because they’re basically a point-of-aim sight, or in other words a combat sight.
You may want to add night sights because the magazines or your buddies have you convinced they are good. But, night sights may not be the best suited for the gun’s intended use.
There are a several different types of night sights. Some are better than others. For example, some night sights have three little donut-like markings containing a tritium element. The donuts can be distracting if you are shooting in daylight.
For night sights, I prefer the Heinie Straight Eight. They look like a figure eight, one ball over another. In the daylight, you can’t see them, but at night they shine brightly, so there is no distraction in the daylight.
There are different size fiber-optic elements and different colors. Sometimes when shooters get older or have diminished eyesight they’ll use two colors, like red in front, green in back. Having a different color for the front sight makes it easier to put it in the center, equally spaced between the rear sights and even on top for the height.
The one sight I don’t recommend is called the XO or XS sight. That’s the one that was commonly used on express rifles. It has a very shallow V for the rear sight, and the front sight is a great big white golf ball.
The problem with this type is it’s hard to do precision or accurate shooting. It’s basically a point-of-aim type of sight. Most of your targets will be covered with the big white ball for the front sight. If the subject is close enough to use that type of sight, you don’t need a sight at all. That’s why I don’t recommend them.
So you basically have three different types of sights from which to choose — black sights, fiber optic and night sights. Within each one of those categories there is a great selection. For example, you can get a wide sight, or a narrow sight. This will determine how much light you’ll see between the front sight and the rear sight.
If it’s a carry gun, consider how you plan to carry. That is going to dictate the shape of your front sight. If it’s a target sight with sharp edges, when you put it in your waistband and pull, your skivvies could come out with it, you could get cut, or a little bit of leather could be shaved from the inside of your holster and end up on the front sight.
We’ve already discussed barrels, but the heart of a gun is the barrel, so let’s consider a few more factors. If the barrel is not accurate, there is nothing you can do to the rest of the gun to make it accurate. So, if you build a very expensive gun and/or very reliable gun, or an attractive gun, or the gun of your dreams, put a good barrel in.
Think about it like an equilateral triangle. All three legs are equal and the same length. One leg of that equilateral triangle is reliability. The second one is accuracy. The third one is quality of work and distinction of appearance. Each one is equal. So, if you’re going to build a good gun, put a good barrel in.
If you use an inexpensive $90 barrel, it may be somewhat accurate, but how well is it made? What kind of material does it use? How good is the heat-treating? What is the geometry? When I say geometry, I’m referring to the locking lugs, the hood on the barrel, and the concentricity of the bore to the chamber. That’s very important. I know of several off-shore barrels and some American barrels that are very cheap. Some of these have had failures. They could split, crack or separate. That’s usually because of bad alloy, bad material or bad heat treatment. Good barrels have good rifling, their chamber is concentric, and it’s within SAAMI spec. Usually the rest of the geometry will be right on the money.
For a gunsmith-fit barrel, you will have to make some measurements and fit the hood, the length of the hood and possibly the width of the hood. The locking area, where it rides up on the locking block, may have to have five to fifteen thousandths trimmed off. You can use a mill or a file to do this.
Although any of this can be done by watching our step-by-step videos, for your first time I suggest using a good drop-in barrel. There are several. Bar-Sto makes one and KKM Precision makes a very good and extremely accurate barrel for a drop-in. I have one of the few barrel-testing machines in the country, and when I build a high-end gun, I will select the barrel from the manufacturer and test it.
Trigger Options and Aftermarket Parts
There’s also a wide variety of options when it comes to triggers. This creates a problem because the average guy off the street will pick up a catalog and purchase a brand X connector, brand Y springs and try to use it with his brand Z trigger bar. He puts it all together and guess what? It doesn’t work.
It doesn’t work because of the different geometry. A Glock is not a precision gun, but it will always go bang by using the Glock design and parts. We Americans want precision, accuracy and speed, so we start playing with the geometry, replacing Glock parts with aftermarket parts. It’s a crapshoot whether it will work or not.
Here’s what I do to solve this. I buy parts and I have companies send me parts, and I test them. I will mix and match and find the idiosyncrasies of the mixed and matched parts. It can get really confusing because you also have different generation Glocks and some aftermarket parts work better in some than others. Even if there’s nothing wrong with the parts, they just don’t all work well together.
Instead of replacing all the trigger parts, I recommend modifying or enhancing the existing parts. That avoids the problems of using mix-and-match parts. In this case, instead of replacing everything, the only two areas changed are the three springs and the connector. We’re going keep everything else the same, but you, as the gun owner, are going to polish the parts. It’s really simple. It’s going to give you a 90 percent better trigger that works great, but costs less than $25.
Isn’t that better than spending $300 for sophisticated trigger bars, metal triggers with over-travel screws, with different connectors and ending up with a five percent better trigger?
Not only is the trigger going to be better, but it’s going to be reliable, and that’s the key to a carry gun. Changing out the springs and the connector, polishing it the right way and in the right places, is going to give you a great trigger that will go bang every time you want it to go bang.
You can learn how to do this, as well as a grip enhancement, in the video courses. All you need are some very simple tools – a Dremel tool with a couple of sanding drums and a file.
There are some real advantages to the Cominolli thumb safety. With this thumb safety, when you have it on, you
can’t pull the trigger. But you can still load and unload the gun and work the slide, which means you’re not going to have an accidental discharge.
Some Glock purists cringe at the idea of putting an external thumb safety on a Glock, but we are simply making it safer. The Glock warranty is not voided, either, so it’s something to consider.
Along with the things we’ve already discussed, other fairly easy things to do are extended mag releases and extended slide releases. Glocks aren’t difficult to work on and the sky is the limit in regard to what you can do to them.
And don’t forget to take advantage of AGI’s special deals on the videos, exlusively for GunsAmerica readers.
*The American Gunsmithing Institute also offers a full gunsmithing course for those wishing to pursue this interesting career.