Tag Archives: modern pistols

A Fishy Race Gun Proposal: Beretta 96

In my review of the Beretta M9, I teased that I would be looking into a true competition gun based on the Beretta 92 platform. In this article, I’ll go into it a little deeper.


Why build a race gun at all? I like USPSA. (More on that later.) I like tinkering. I don’t want to be boring and buy the same gun everyone else is using1. There you have it. As I’ve said in the past, I like Beretta 92 platform. It points naturally for me, and my M9 is one of the softer-shooting 9mm firearms I’ve handled. (Obviously. It’s enormous and heavy.)

Given that I find myself really enjoying USPSA, I want to explore some of the other divisions. Given that I don’t have $2500 to spend on a 20112, nor much experience with the 1911 platform, nor much interest in learning how to tinker with the 1911 platform, I don’t have much reason to go in the traditional direction. Given, finally, that the thing slowing me down is not the handgun but rather my limited skill, I don’t mind slightly suboptimal equipment.

Since the kinds of race-y modifications I’m considering take me out of USPSA Production, the obvious place to aim is Limited, where scoring depends on power factor, and 9mm Major isn’t allowed. I need to do a little testing to verify, but my suspicion is that I’ll be insignificantly slower shooting .40 S&W, and the more forgiving scoring will help me out.

So, let’s look at the parts.

The Parts

Beretta 96A1
We’ll start with the gun itself. The Beretta 96 was the first 92-pattern gun chambered for .40 S&W, which is the minimum caliber required for shooting Limited Major in USPSA. The original 96, being simply a 92 with a larger-bore barrel, did not cover itself in acclaim. It was, in fact, oft-maligned for falling apart. The 96A1, a 2010 refresh of the design, solved many of the issues, adding a recoil buffer in addition to heavier construction elsewhere. As a recent design made of alloy, rather than plastic, its street price is about $675. Figure $725, shipped and transferred. Stock magazine capacity is twelve, going up to fifteen with MecGar’s extended jobbers.

The 96A1 also features a front sight dovetail, which brings me to my next item.

The traditional sighting system for Limited guns is blacked-out rear sights and a fiber-optic front sight. Wilson Combat sells just such a setup for the 96A1, coming to about $1003.

Quite a bit going on here. The stock Beretta trigger is plastic, which doesn’t bother me overmuch, and bends a long way forward, which makes it difficult for me to get a good finger on it for the double-action pull. Wilson Combat and Beretta both make an identical steel trigger which features a less aggressive forward bend and a shorter overall reach.

While I’m working in the trigger well, I plan to remove the factory trigger return spring and replace it with a reduced-power unit, to score an easy improvement in trigger pull weight.

The trigger and reduced-power return spring come to about $50.

Action tuning
Wilson Combat sells an action tune kit for $80, which includes three options for lightened hammer springs, a trigger bar, and a chrome-silicon trigger return spring. As far as I can tell, this kit is the only way to get the Wilson trigger bar, which is an important part of tuning lightened trigger pulls.

It goes like this: you install a reduced-power hammer spring. (The kit includes a 12lb spring, down from the 20lb factory spring.) Your gun no longer reliably ignites primers. You install the trigger bar, which lengthens the hammer arc and delivers more impulse to the firing pin.

This is one of the most important mods for a competition gun, and would probably bring the double action pull weight well under ten pounds, and the single-action pull weight to the vicinity of three or four, much better than stock.

Skeleton hammer
The skeleton hammer not only looks cool, it also masses less than the factory hammer. A given spring therefore drives it more quickly, which helps to reduce lock time and increase the energy delivered to the firing pin. $30 from Beretta.

Steel guide rod
This isn’t all that necessary, but I prefer steel parts where I can get them. It also does a little to combat muzzle rise, being a heavier-than-stock part out near the muzzle. $25 from Wilson Combat.

Extended magazine release
As I mentioned in the M9 review, I can’t reach the factory magazine release from shooting position. Wilson Combat makes one which would fit right under my thumb. $50.

Magazine guide
The hammer spring block on 92-pattern pistols normally has a lanyard loop. Wilson Combat makes a magazine guide instead, a sloped piece to guide misses aft into the magazine well. $50.

Gunsmith work
Living near Pittsburgh as I do, Allegheny Arms is within driving distance. As one of the premier Beretta gunsmiths of the modern day, they offer two services of which I want to take advantage. First is a decocker conversion. For a carry gun, I like having a manual safety. For a gun whose sole purpose is competition, I want to do as little as possible coming out of the holster.

Finally, I’m not great at reloads, and any little bit helps. Allegheny Arms will do a fairly aggressive magazine well bevel. It isn’t a full-on magazine funnel, but combined with the Wilson Combat magazine guide, it would meaningfully improve my first-try reload percentage. All together, the gunsmith work comes to $285.

The stock Beretta magazines are useless for Limited. To start off, I’d want to buy four MecGar 15-round magazines for a total stage capacity of 60 rounds. That adds $100 to the total. Eventually, I’d probably want to experiment with custom followers and longer extensions4, but given that I could spend an essentially unlimited amount of money tilting at that particular windmill, we’ll leave it off for now.

Beretta’s stock finish is fine, but I’ve always wanted a Flat Dark Earth or Desert Sand Beretta. Leaving it at the local cerakote shop costs about $300 for barrel, slide, and frame, plus armory services.

If you’re keeping track, that puts me at right about $1500, not including the cerakote finish. (That seems fair. It’s completely unnecessary, so I could always do it later.) That cost includes some shipping, but maybe not all of the shipping, and of course fixes the value of my time at zero5. In return, I get a Beretta competition pistol, more or less the pinnacle of the platform, for about half of a reasonable 2011 build. It’s what you might call vintage—Beretta hasn’t been properly popular on the competition circuit since the 1990s. It has a tremendous amount of cool factor for me, a massive Beretta fanboy, and even parvusimperator would agree that the 92-pattern pistols are pretty.

So, why haven’t I started building it? Well, a forum post brought a new contender to my attention, and the choice turns out to be harder than I expected. Stay tuned. Next week, we’ll have a look at another Fishy race gun idea, and the week after, we’ll decide which one it’s going to be.

  1. Sometimes, people settle on a given platform because it’s the best. Competition frequently, but not always, finds that platform. For instance, the downforce revolution in Formula 1 came after a long period of mechanical-grip-only racing. We understood aerodynamics, and there were no rules preventing it. It was just that nobody thought to try it. 
  2. Probably can barely even get a used model from a reputable maker at that price. 
  3. I’ll borrow parvusimperator’s sight pusher. If he doesn’t have one, I’ll borrow his brass punches. 
  4. Woo, 3D printing! 
  5. If I consider building a gun leisure, I think that’s reasonable. 

Glockblaster Shooting AAR

I’ve spent more time with my Glockblaster since I last wrote about it. Since then, I’ve taken it to class, taken it to a two-gun match, taken it to a USPSA match, shot it a bunch on the range, and carried it frequently.

So let’s review, Q&A Style.

Is the red dot an improvement over iron sights?
Yes. The red dot is amazing. It does require practice, especially on the presentation, but it is a superior sighting system. It makes moving targets and long-range targets easy.

Does the compensator function as advertised, or is it just a barrel weight?
Yep! The compensator does its job. If dry and run with underpowered ammo, the gun may jam. The compensator definitely works to compensate using gasses. Note that a bigger compensator would be more effective, but then it would be harder to conceal and we’d have to mess with recoil spring weights. I’m running a stock recoil spring assembly, and the pistol functions well.

Is this gun as good as a 2011 in USPSA Open?
No. It comes close, but we can definitely get more performance out of the system. It’s not uncompetitive in Open, but it’s definitely suboptimal compared to a tuned 2011. It’s also a lot cheaper than a tuned 2011. And, requires a lot less tuning. Tuned 2011 mags are $130+, Glock mags are $20. At this point though, the limiting factor is definitely the knuckle-dragger behind the trigger. Yeah, I’ll probably get a custom 2011 someday, but for a guy getting started it’s fine.

Is this gun concealable?
Yes. It’s big, especially with the light. But not more so than a Glock 34 with light or government model 1911 with light. It’s no Ruger LCP, but it is concealable with a good holster and a little effort on one’s part.

How was the optic choice (RMR06)?
I really like the RMR for its class-leading battery life and durability. It’s got a smaller window than a number of competing sights, but I haven’t found this to be a big deal, given presentation practice and the compensator. I like having manual intensity control much more than automatic intensity control. Also, I really like the smaller dot size. That’s a preference thing, but mine is for the little dot.

How is the magwell?
The magwell is well made, but probably not worth it. It does help push my hand higher, and it closes off the gap at the back of the frame. Those are nice. It doesn’t make the magazine opening that much bigger, so I don’t notice much difference on my reloads. That said, I also suck at fast reloads, so maybe I’ll see a difference down the line with more practice. I will say that I have had zero problems with the magwell either coming loose, or not working with magazines. All magazines I’ve tried work fine, even stock Glock 19 mags with factory basepads. No problems inserting those.

Is the flat face trigger worth it?
Oh yeah. Love the trigger. It feels way better than stock. If you’re on the fence for this one, go for it. Do it. You won’t regret it.

Do I regret not getting a lot of slide work done?
Well, my slide doesn’t have front cocking serrations, windows, or little skulls. I don’t care. It’s got the RMR milling, cerakote over the milled surface to fight rust, and that’s it. Don’t need anything else. Also, why bother with front cocking serrations when you have a milled mount for an RMR? It’s a sight with a bonus cocking handle built right in.

The Five Seven is Stupid

It’s true. The FN Five Seven1 is profoundly stupid. Too stupid to have a good time.

There’s nothing really good about it. If you hold one, you’ll notice that the grip is quite long. The better to accommodate the longish 5.7×27 mm rounds. It’s awkwardly long, and it’s fat at the back, narrowing at the front. So, vaguely egg shaped, if you were to look at it from the top. Nothing else is like that, and there’s a reason for that. They could have made it a long oval like a 1911. People like that. Or even something squarish like a Glock or USP. Both of which work well for people. But no.

The trigger is awful. Apparently you’re pulling the trigger bar across the whole Sahara desert. It’s mushy, gritty, and creepy. Nothing redeeming about it.

The slide release is weird. Like everything else about the gun, it’s plastic. Or polymer. Whatever. But it gives absolutely no feedback. It doesn’t feel like it’s a lever. You press on it, and it feels like a solid molded protrusion. Until you press down like it owes you money. And then it will release the slide. It’s too small. It really doesn’t do its one job.

The safety on the Five Seven is proof that a frame mounted safety can be done extremely stupidly. It’s directly above the trigger. You can reach it with the tip of your trigger finger. Or your weak hand thumb. No one else does this. It’s unintuitive. It’s easy to engage accidentally, and engagement isn’t even positive. If anything, it’s negative. It’s everything a safety shouldn’t be.

How does it shoot? Well, recalling the time I spent on a range renting one, it’s ok. The sucky trigger made me sad. The round has good paper punching ballistics. Very flat shooting. So, that’s a plus.

At least, as long as you’re made of money. It’s an expensive pistol that shoots expensive, hard to find ammo. Terminal performance of actual rounds that have seen service is atrocious. Maybe defensible in the P90 when you can riddle the bad guy’s face with 15 in a second, but not so good for a pistol. You get 20, though, so there’s that. It’s also very loud for what it is. So it’s a poor choice for the recoil-averse, even though there’s no recoil. That bang and flash will induce flinches anyway.

I think the biggest indictment of the Five Seven is that both Fishbreath2 and I should like it, and both of us don’t. At all. It’s a hipster gun that’s ultramodern and grew out of the last years of the cold war. It’s flat shooting. It should be our favorite thing since the 9 mm Luger round. But no. It’s a super expensive curiosity. It doesn’t really do anything well that you can’t get elsewhere.

Except, I guess, be the Ultimate Status Item for drug lords. It’s got that going for it.

  1. No, I’m not going to capitalize it the way the FNH Marketing department wants. That’s stupid too. 
  2. It really is a terrible piece of kit, and something I wanted to like. I just can’t bring myself to it. The controls are awful, and I am this blog’s resident AK shooter. -Fishbreath 

Glock Gen 3 vs Gen 4

Yes, this is somewhat old data. But I haven’t found one source that has everything one should know about the two generations of Glocks on the market. So I’m making one. We’re going to break down each difference here, and then talk recommendations at the end.

Grip Configurability
The Gen4 Glocks come with four backstraps: medium, large, medium with beavertail, and large with beavertail. They can also be used with no backstrap. The Gen3 comes in just one size. It’s very roughly the same size as the Gen4 with medium backstrap. So it will fit most, but you might get a better fit on the Gen4.

Grip Texture
The Gen4 Glocks added a reasonably aggressive grip texture. Gen3s are smooth sided, except for the Gen3 RTF2, which also comes with some good texture (but is harder to find). If you’re looking for stippling work, the Gen3s have a bit more material to work with in their grips that you can shape and play with.

Grip Accessories
The Gen3 doesn’t have possible backstraps to make things difficult. So there are more options for magwells for competitors, especially if you’re looking to tune the weight of your pistol to get the perfect balance between heavy to absorb recoil and light for transitions. Some magwells for the Gen4 can be had made for a backstrap. Otherwise, you’ll be modifying them to fit. It’s not very hard, just something to note.

Mag Release
The Gen4 has a bigger mag release than the Gen3, and it’s reversible for lefties. It’s easier for the small-handed to push. Mods abound for both platforms.

The Gen4 has a somewhat different internal path for the trigger bar to take. Stock Gen4s (that aren’t 34/35s) come with a different connector than the Gen3s to compensate. If the same components are put in an otherwise similar Gen3 and Gen4, the Gen4 will have a trigger pull about half a pound heavier. As always, components are easy to mix and match to get the pull you want. Trigger components, including trigger bars, from a Gen3 will work in a Gen4 without difficulty. If you stick with the Gen4 trigger bar, remember to apply lubrication to the bump on the tab that engages the drop safety plunger. It will improve the feel of the trigger. Always lubricate between the trigger bar and trigger connector.

Barrel Fit
From Gen3 to Gen4, Glock changed something about the barrel fit. As a result, while drop-in match barrels will generally improve the accuracy of a Gen3 Glock, they will provide at best no measurable improvement in a Gen4 Glock. The OEM barrel actually does better than some aftermarket drop-ins for some loads. So don’t waste your money simply for accuracy if you have a Gen4. Note that both generations of Glocks will see improvement from a professionally-fitted barrel.1

Recoil Spring Assembly
Glock changed from a single-spring recoil spring assembly in the Gen3 to a dual-spring one in the Gen4. Not much difference to feel in 9 mm, but it improves hotter calibers like .40 S&W. Note that competitors interested in an aftermarket guide rod and spring kit will either need an adapter or a guide rod designed specifically for the Gen4. This is a part that does not interchange.

There you have it. Overall, I think the Gen4 is a little better in 9 mm for most people. Some custom builds might be easier to do on a Gen3. It’s not a huge difference though, so don’t sweat it.

  1. By a Real Gunsmith who knows what the hell he’s doing. Fitting a barrel is tricky, and this is something that isn’t easy to do after a youtube video. If you’re springing for a fancy fitted barrel, get it done right. 

On the .40 S&W

.40 S&W is an interesting cartridge. It started as a shortened version of the reduced-power load of the 10mm Auto round, and it’s often been branded as “short and weak”. On the other hand, it’s been a bridge in the caliber debates between .45 “size/weight guys” and 9mm “capacity/velocity guys”. It’s now fallen out of vogue somewhat. Let’s take a look.

The .40 S&W has been a super popular law enforcement caliber for the past twenty years or so. The FBI led the adoption. In the .40, for a round a trifle bigger than 9 mm, cops got a more powerful round that was a lot more effective. But the overall length was similar to that of 9 mm, so you didn’t need a big frame like 10 mm auto did. This meant that smaller hands had a chance of controlling guns firing the .40 round with good technique. And it could happily pass all of the FBI’s ballistics tests where 9 mm generally couldn’t.

But technology advances. By now, 9 mm hollow point rounds have caught up with .40, and can also meet the FBI’s ballistics test standards. This makes the advantages of the 9 mm round readily apparent:

  1. More rounds1
  2. Lower cost
  3. Lower recoil

That said, the .40 still holds some advantages over the 9 mm round. Clearly, if you are a LEO, your agency might issue something in .40. In which case, it behooves you to carry and practice with .40. And if you just like the round, by all means. Carry it. I’m not going to stop you.

  1. Makes Major power factor easily
  2. Does very well against intermediate barriers.

Let’s pull these apart. For USPSA and similar competitions, shots landing outside the A-zone of the target are penalized less if your power factor is high enough to “make major.” Power factor equals bullet weight in grains times velocity in feet per second divided by 1,000. Presently, it must be over 165 to make major. It is possible to do this with a 9 mm round carefully loaded, but this is somewhat dangerous, as you’re exceeding the pressure specs for the cartridge, with all the hazards that entails. Most commercial .40 loads will easily make Major, and it’s also a lot easier to handload .40 rounds that make major. As a result, .40 S&W is a popular caliber for competitors.

Intermediate barriers are pesky things you need to get to in order to reach your target, like auto bodies. For a CCW holder, this probably won’t be an issue that often. But it might be for law enforcement agencies, and it’s a reasonable consideration for issue weapons.

So, while 9 mm might make more sense, .40 is still an effective choice. If you like it, rock on. If you don’t, there are other choices that work well too. And it’s a great way to make major.

For the curious, I own an M&P 40, and might make another for open division gun games. I usually carry and train with 9 mm.

  1. Two more rounds in Glocks and M&Ps, more in some other designs. I don’t think two rounds difference is all that much better. It is better though. And other designs have a bigger spread, which might become significant. 

Wilson Combat’s New EDC X9

The double stack 1911, colloquially known as a “2011”, is super popular amongst competitive shooters. And for good reason. Combining the short, light, tunable 1911-type trigger with modern magazine capacities is a winning recipe. The problem is in the magazines. They’re not reliable. Want ones that work? Be prepared to shell out $140 per tuned magazine. And don’t drop them in the dirt. And there’s not any kind of overinsertion stop on the magazines, so if you jam them in with the slide locked back, you can jam them inside the gun, and you’ll need tools to get it out. Have fun.

Wilson Combat is working to change that. They’re about to release a brand new pistol: the EDC X91. It’s chambered in 9 mm. It’s got that 1911 SAO trigger goodness. And best of all, it uses reliable, modified PPQ M22 mags. Yes, that’s right. A 2011 with cheap, reliable mags.

It should sell well at it’s price point of a trifle under $3000. I’m sure competitors would prefer it in .40 for that major power factor scoring. And it’s competing with a bunch of tuned limited and open guns at that price. But they don’t take reliable magazines.

  1. The preorder page at Shooters Connection has gone live, and you can find photographs there. 
  2. Earlier versions of this article had these as Beretta M9 magazines. Our initial source was in error, and that is incorrect. They aren’t the M9 magazines, but a derivative of the PPQ magazine made by Mec-Gar (Who also makes OEM PPQ magazines for Walther. 

New VP Pistols from HK

I’m a big fan of the VP9. It’s a great pistol at a good price point. It has the best ergonomics around, an excellent trigger, and it handles recoil well. Of course, there are always things people want.

And HK has listened.1

The new models (currently released in the European SFP- series nomenclature, because someone else has the trademark for VP- there) are as follows:

  1. A longslide model (SFP9L/VP9L). Because who doesn’t like competition-y longslide versions. More sight radius is better. Also, longslide pistols look cool. Right now it looks like HK has done lightening to the longslide without adding a bunch of holes for mud to get into. Which isn’t a big deal for most, but is still nice for those of us who take classes in Somme-like conditions with sadistic shooting instructors.
  2. A subcompact model (SFP9SK/VP9SK). A smaller backup gun that can take the same magazines as its bigger brother. Yay. Interestingly, this will probably have a good sight radius for its size class due to how the slide is designed. I know lots of people have been wanting this
  3. An optics-ready model (SFP9OR/VP9OR). It’s got the interchangeable slide plates for a bunch of common optics, right from the factory. Pistol optics are cool

Am I interested? Of course I am. There are also two other pistol options available that aren’t of much interest to me, but might be of interest to you:

  1. Optional button mag release instead of the paddles. Hopefully this takes the same magazines. I guess HK got tired of people complaining. I like the paddles, but finally an option for those who don’t.
  2. Optional thumb safety. Yes, Virginia, it’s frame mounted. And it also looks nicely shaped to be easily accessible, but not in your way. I don’t care for these, but you might. So here’s the option for you.

Finally, HK is introducing new, bigger, badder, factory 20 round magazines. Score. I love me some extended magazines.

  1. This is a record for fastest turnaround time from Oberndorf. Give them a round of applause ladies and gentlemen. 

Battle Royale 2: M9 vs P320

Let’s compare the US Army’s old M9 to their new P320s1. I’ve got a P320F Tacops2 and Fishbreath has an M9, so we’re going to do a comparison.

We’ll start with the M9. The M9 is alloy framed, and has a double action trigger. In double action mode, the trigger has a pull weight of about 11 lbs, and in single action mode it has a pull weight of about 6 lbs. It has a frame mounted safety/decocker, a fixed forward sight, and an adjustable rear sight. The fixed front sight cannot be easily replaced with a tritium sight or a fiber optic sight.3 It does not have an underbarrel accessory rail. Side grip panels can be changed, though the grip is pretty fat.4 Small-handed users may find the safety/decocker or the trigger (in double action) hard to reach. Standard magazines come in 15 round capacity.

The P320 is polymer framed, and has a striker fired trigger. Its trigger pull is rather short and somewhat heavy at about 7.5 lbs when compared to other striker fired pistols. It is modular, and can be converted to the subcompact or compact models by swapping frame, slide, and barrel. Front and rear sights are both dovetailed, and are therefore easy to change out. There are three sizes of grip available for a given frame length, so small-handed users can find something that will work for them.

On to the direct comparison!

How do they shoot: Trigger?
This isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. The P320 trigger is almost like a heavy SAO trigger. It’s short. About 7.5 lbs. The M9 has that double action trigger. The P320’s will be easier to shoot well, for some given definition of “well”5. The M9 will be more resistant to negligent discharges from poor handling habits. Your preference will determine which you prefer. I have not yet met a striker fired trigger or a double action trigger that will convert those who dislike the system.

How do they shoot: Recoil?
Both are full sized guns. The M9 is heavier, so it will absorb recoil better. Not that the 9 mm is some kind of superhot round.

How do the ergonomics compare?
P320 gets the nod here. It’s newer. It’s got interchangeable frames, which you can replace for about $40. So it’s very easy to get one stippled or reshaped, or try to do so yourself. Plus, there are three sizes available (note that only the medium sized one comes in the box). The aluminum structure of the M9 frame restricts grip size somewhat. You can get thinner grip panels, but that’s about it. People with normal sized hands or larger will not have trouble with either gun. People with small hands will have an easier time getting the P320 to a place that works for them. Also, the M9’s mag release is quite low, and trickier to reach. It requires a good bit of grip shifting. Aftermarket options are available to remedy this. The P320 has a nicely sized mag release that is easy to press as it comes from the factory.

How does the aftermarket compare?
It’s a pretty mixed bag. You can find cheap mags for the M9, if you don’t mind 15 rounders. MecGar makes 18 rounders which are quite good. SIG makes 17 round (standard) and 22 round extended magazines for the P320F. There are a reasonable number of sight options available for the P320. M9 front sight work requires a drill press. Wilson Combat makes a good number of aftermarket M9 parts to improve the trigger. Only Grey Guns does P320 trigger work, and they’re annoyingly closed about such things. Only now are they starting to release parts for DIY trigger work. Overall, I think the M9 wins by a little bit, but not by much. The P320 should get better given the US Military contract. Emphasis on should. Neither is looking to give Glock a run for its money in the customization department anytime soon.

And now, it’s time for the Main Event of the Evening!

Which should you buy?
Unlike my first Battle Royale, this one is a lot harder to call. It comes down to this: Which trigger do you prefer? If you like double action triggers, buy an M9 like Fishbreath, and drive on. If you prefer striker fired triggers, buy a P320 and call it a day.

  1. At the time of writing, P320s aren’t available to the general public with thumb safeties, so mine lacks this feature. Also, I don’t like it on striker fired pistols, so I wouldn’t get one if it was available. 
  2. Comes with 22 round extended magazines, TFX front sight, and Siglite rear sights. Otherwise it’s a regular P320F. 
  3. This problem is corrected on the M9A3, which has a front sight dovetail, and sights can be changed by the user. This isn’t what the Army has though, so it’s only of interest if you’re buying one. The M9A3 is also a lot more expensive. 
  4. Also corrected in the M9A3, which uses the Vertec-type grip. 
  5. Fishbreath disagrees, providing the following remark: “Striker-fired triggers are better than a DA pistol’s double action trigger and much worse than a DA pistol’s single-action trigger.” 

Review: ETS 22-round Glock magazines

For a while I didn’t understand the point of aftermarket Glock magazines. Factory Glock magazines are really cheap. Factory Glock magazines are reliable. Saving a couple bucks on some other brand’s magazine didn’t make sense to me. And that was before I read a ton of unfavorable reviews about crappy Korean-made aftermarket mags and others that don’t work.

Then I found these ETS magazines. They’ve gotten generally positive reviews, and have a lot of things going for them. They seem to actually work for people. And they come in more sizes than the Glock standard 17 round and 33 round massively large magazine for full size pistols. I bought a few 22-round (9mm) magazines to see for myself what they were like.

On the ETS website, you will notice that they not only makes the 33-round “Happy Sticks” and the standard magazine sizes (17 rounds for full size, 15 for compact, 10 for subcompact, various reduced-load variants for evil communist hippie states), but they also make magazines targeted at competitive shooters. If you shoot Limited division in USPSA or Practical division in 3-gun nation, your pistol magazines must have a height less than 141.25 mm (colloquially referred to as “140 mm magazines”). USPSA Open division shooters are limited to mags that are less than 171.25 mm tall (colloquially referred to as “170 mm magazines”). Happily, ETS highlights in the product name their 140 mm and 170 mm compliant offerings. For the record, their 140 mm magazines hold 22 rounds of 9 mm, and their 170 mm magazines hold 27 rounds of 9 mm.1

The magazines themselves are made out of transparent, smoke-colored plastic. There’s no metal liner like on factory Glock mags. The ETS mags seem durable enough to me, but I haven’t driven over them or used them for many years yet. Transparent is nice because it lets you see and count your bullets, no matter how you pull the mag out of the gun. Also, they look really cool. In terms of guts, they take the same followers and the same sort of springs as standard Glock magazines. Clearly these are longer, so you’d want longer springs. But if you wanted to replace them with Wolff extra power Glock magazine springs, no problem. Also, the floorplates are the same design as factory Glock magazine floorplates. So if you want more weight to help them drop free better, you can add any existing aftermarket metal “+0” floorplate for Glock magazines.

I experienced no problems in my use of these magazines. I could load 22 rounds, as advertised. I had no trouble inserting fully loaded magazines, or getting empty magazines to drop free. The slide locked back appropriately on an empty magazine. There were no feeding problems to report.

I did not “stress test” these magazines by stomping them in mud or driving over them. I did drop them onto concrete a couple times fully loaded, and they didn’t explode. I’d expect them to be more durable than factory mags with extenders, because they don’t have to deal with a join in the middle of the body.

I’ve also had a bit of time with Magpul’s Glock magazines. I experienced no reliability problems with those in class (though they belonged to another shooter so I did not use them for the whole class). I cannot speak to the long-term durability of either. However, the Magpul magazines don’t have any of the little convenience features that endeared me to the ETS magazines. They are opaque, and have many fewer witness holes than stock Glock magazines. They do not clearly confirm the height of their magazines on their website. They also use a different floorplate design. The price difference isn’t really anything significant, so I’d take the ETS magazines over the Magpul ones.

ETS extended magazines are a great choice for competitive shooters and those looking for more bullets in the magazine. They are longer than stock magazines2, but if you want to conceal them, feel free to try to figure out a way to make that work. They’re a hell of a lot cheaper than a factory mag and an aftermarket extender, and provide about as many bullets, with none of the breaking on drop issues.

  1. I shoot 9 mm because I’m a “tactical timmy” and I like more bullets. Plus 9 mm is cheap, and just as effective with good defensive ammo. If you take your pistol competition more seriously than I, you probably are interested in the .40 versions, since it’s a lot easier to make Major power factor with .40. The 140 mm ETS magazines hold 19 rounds of .40, and the 170 mm ETS magazines hold 24 rounds of .40. 
  2. DUH. 

SIG P320 X-Five SHOT Preview

Covering one of the things I didn’t get to talk about while SHOT show was running. Let’s look at SIG’s new P320 X-Five. They’re really on a roll lately, aren’t they?

The P320 X-Five is SIG’s attempt at making a competition ready firearm out of the box. Sort of like what Kimber did for 1911s in the early nineties, they put a lot of much-desired modifications into the gun at the factory, saving you hassle and money. At least if they got it right. Let’s see what they did.

The X-Five has a new frame, with a different grip. I like this grip better, at least judging by looks. Granted, I haven’t held one. But it looks like it has good texture and the kind of shape you can really bear down on. The frame is also weighted, to get the balance right and improve recoil management. Recoil is absorbed by weight, which is why lots of competitors like frame weights. This one comes with some right out of the box.

Moving up the gun, the trigger has been worked over at the factory to be better, and it’s got a flat-face trigger shoe. Sounds good. Apparently it’s really nice, though I’ll have to judge that for myself.

The slide has been lightened with the usual coffin cuts. Fun. Plus, a bull barrel has been fitted. So there’s weight to try to absorb recoil force, but the light slide should return to battery quickly. Provided one has a good grip.

Sights are from Dawson Precision, so they should actually be good. You can remove the rear sight, which is attached to a cover plate, and mount a Romeo 1 mini red dot instead if you prefer.

With the P320 X-Five are four 21-round factory extended magazines, right in the box. That’s good.

Here, we see SIG trying to release a package to be out of the box ready for competition. I like to see this sort of thing, and it looks like they’ve done a good job. Of course, a lot of this stuff is hugely personal, so we’ll see what people think of a bunch of decisions made for them.