A week or so back, we slapped together the ultimate Gucci Polymer 80 hand cannon. It was a veritable who’s who of L33T ( that is leet, short for elite, for anyone older than 35) parts, the Glock knockoff we wish we could buy from the factory. It was, in short, magnificent. Looking. Magnificent looking is the operative phrase here because it functioned about as well as a Chinese Stealth Fighter. Which was hugely disappointing, because we want a gun, not a decoration. A gun that doesn’t go bang every time might as well be a poorly designed club, and we at Guns America Digest do not endorse that option.
This was a let down on so many levels, it actually hurts my heart. Because I personally believe, now more than ever, we should all be able to make our own guns with simple hand tools that are never ever listed on a form 4473. Far from being a conspiracy to sell more factory guns, this is a personal belief need to have. I wanted this to work so bad I could taste it. So we opted to cowboy up and try again.
Now as I have stated in the past, I am not a gunsmith. Not even close. You should not even consider letting me near your NightHawk/Turnbull with a screwdriver, and probably not with just white gloves. But I am a Glock Mechanic, forged in the fire of necessity. I not only have a Glock Armorers certificate, but I ran Glock exclusively for all my years on the competition circuit and most of my years in combat. I have seen and corrected things most Glock owners will never encounter in their wildest dreams.
The most stunning mechanical truth about a Glock, to me, isn’t that things don’t break. It’s how well that a Glock will run, even with broken parts. I had a Gen 2 17 once, that kept hitting to the left one day. No matter how far I drifted the sights, up to have the sight hanging off the dovetail, it was shooting a tight group left of the target. Because the slide was cracked. All the way in half, right at the ejection port. It ran several hundred rounds that way before I noticed, and no telling how far it would have gone. ( Glock warrantied it, despite the gun being 20+ years of hard use old.) I had to order a new locking block for one of my teammates, because his broke, which raised a lot of eyebrows. But it kept working till the new one arrived. The guns are hard as nails.
Which brings us to diagnosing our Polymer 80 build. There is just not that much to go wrong, so I had faith I could fix it. The primary problem we are having now with some break-in is one of two malfunctions, a stovepipe or an inline stovepipe. Which are very nearly the same thing. And typically in a Glock, that is one of two reasons.
The first possibility is a worn-out magazine. The magazine in a Glock is actually part of the ejection cycle. If you don’t believe me, you can see this for yourself next time you go to the range. Put a round in the chamber, and remove the magazine. Hold your hand under the mag well, like an old school cup and saucer grip. When you fire, the hot brass will fall out in your hand. 100% of the time, at least in 9mm caliber.
Which leads us to the diagnosis problem. I was using all factory magazines, 3 of which are new, without extensions. And while we do see the malfunctions start with extended magazines in race guns, never with standard capacity mags. Extended mags require a spring swap every 6 months depending on use, but not once have I seen a Glock factory mag that is worn out. Which is also true for several other factory brand pistol magazines, but my longest personal experience is with Glock. I have “pre-ban” 1993 magazines, on their original guts, that still cycle every thing I own.
The next possibility that will cause a Glock to start the stovepipe malfunction is a worn out number one pin. Also known as the trigger pin, this is the big one below the pin that retains your locking block. These pins are usually good for about 20,000 rounds. Also, your Glock will generally run and quit well, even with only half the pin still in the gun. But, for reasons unknown, you will start to get stove pipes whenever the pin is close to breaking. An easy way to tell is to pop the pin out and lay it on a flat surface. If it is U shaped or bowed in the middle, it is about to go. Slapping a new one in is a 100% fix, for the price of about $2.
Which is also a big problem with our Polymer 80 build. There is zero chance we have worn that pin out in 200 rounds. But….. we did drill the hole that pin resides in. And there is absolutely nothing we can do for that. Cringe O’meter pegged, we have to move onto another possibility.
Last, and least likely, is the barrel. For two reasons. First of all, what is the number one consumer demand in an aftermarket Glock barrel? Everybody, it seems demands the aftermarket create a match grade barrel. They want a bump inaccuracy, which means tighter tolerances because they want the $600 Combat Tupperware to also be a 1 inch at 50 yards gun. Which in my opinion also defies logic. You bought a Glock so that mud, sand, and no oil since Moses was the original owner, the gun always goes bang. There is a bit of, shall we say, slop in the Glock design. But, like an AK47, that is also what makes it so stupidly reliable. The minute you start messing with that equation, you start reducing the Glock factory’s legendary reliability. I do a lot of things to my race guns. Aside from sights, I do zero things to my home defense Glocks.
The second issue that a barrel could potentially have is being at the end of a tolerance stack. A tolerance stack would mean, in manufacturing, that we have a whole lot of interacting parts that are all at either the high or low side of the acceptable tolerance. No parts, anywhere, are made to exactly 100% the right size. It might be thousands or ten thousandths, but a parts maker always has a tiny bit of plus or minus. Where this can bite you in the ass is the off chance, but possible, everything is in the plus category, and stacked together stops working. All those parts individually might be fine in other guns. But together, not so much. Add to this one other simple fact. Only one company, Glock Inc, is making parts off of a drawing. Everyone else is making parts off a measurement and hope.
Fortunately for us, we could step this back. Glock does now make and sell factory threaded barrels, and at very respectable price. For $155 they are available right from the Glock Factory Store. This seemed like a very reasonable attempt to make our Polymer 80 work.
And unfortunately, was once again to no avail. The factory Glock barrel did improve our rate between stoppages, but not enough to call this build 100% reliable. We are still having malfunctions at a rate of about 1:25, which is absolutely unacceptable in this day and age.
This was a fun build process, no doubt about that. And one I would recommend if you are into tinkering. But it just didn’t perform well enough to trust, for any serious purposes. I would welcome the comments if you have made a Polymer 80 that ran flawlessly, and we will tinker with this one a bit more over the next year as time permits. But for now, we have to call this one a bust. For defense or combat, my “Glock” is going to have to be stamped Glock. It might be magic in the water down there in Smyrna, but whatever it is it’s working.