Glock’s are hugely popular: this is as obvious a statement to gun enthusiasts as “Chevy 350’s are common” is to motor heads. While a number of shooters may prefer something other than Gaston Glock’s polymer wonder, few can argue against its out-of-the-box performance. Aside from tritium sights, I’ve never felt like the seven Glocks I’ve owned needed an upgrade. That doesn’t mean I haven’t felt the desire to take my proverbial Chevy 350 and toss on a jetted carb, straight pipes and an aluminum intake manifold. My go-to review handgun is a Gen 3 Glock 17, so I’ve had the opportunity to try out a number of parts for this platform.
As mentioned above, the first upgrade for me is also the only necessary one: the sights. Stock Glock polymer sights are jack-of-all-trades, master of none. The polymer used is too soft to be durable. The dots aren’t big/bright enough to be fast, nor are they small enough to be precise. I say, pick one and be good at it. I don’t build my Glocks for sharpshooting, I build them for speed. As such, I like the big front dot, rear line “ice cream cone” style tritium sights from XS Sights. They’re too big for shooting super-precise groups, but are extremely fast for the eye to pick up (compared to standard size dots), day or night. Install takes about 15 minutes.
The other option is to go with an optic. While there are many factory Glocks that come with an optic mounting spot (the MOS, modular optic system lineup), there are many millions of Glocks out there with standard slides. Your two options are:
- Buy a new slide. Pictured below is a new slide from Grey Ghost Precision with a mounting spot for a Trijicon RMR. (Slide review coming soon) Cost is $399 for the slide, which is sold stripped (missing internal parts, slide only).
- Have your existing slide milled out. I sent off my stock slide to Battle Werx and in addition to other work, they milled in a mounting spot for a Vortex Venom. Cost is ~$99 for that machine work. (Full slide review also coming soon.)
It is possible to co-witness iron sights and a red-dot optic in such a configuration, provided you’re using the correct height iron sights. Slide work is also done to add aggressive ridges for easier racking of the slide and to reduce weight.
The stock Glock trigger is functional. That’s about the highest praise I’ve heard heaped upon the factory shooter-to-gun interface. It is also mushy and has a lot of creep. Upgrading here usually provides immediate and tangible improvements. I received a Deus Ex Machina Gunfighter trigger for review, and was happy that I did. Despite knowing how “ho-hum” the OEM trigger was, I hadn’t financially justified the upgrade yet. After just a few mags to adjust to the new trigger pull, my accuracy improved by a marginal yet noticeable amount. Cost as shown, $135. Install took ~5 minutes.
When my Glock was new, I felt the grip was just fine. Given years of wear with just under 10,000 rounds through the gun, it is still functional. But I want it to be “grippier”, more aggressive. Again we have two main options:
- An external “wrap” that provides a tackier surface, such as DIY skateboard tape of a commercial product such as the Talon Grips. Less permanent and much cheaper than option #2. Cost is around $18, install time about 2 minutes.
- Permanently melting a more aggressive grip pattern into the grip, “Stippling”. Simultaneously cutting off finger grooves, opening up the mag release area and other mods are commonly done by the stippler. Done by a deft hand, this is a great way to improve grip and add a great deal of unique flavor to an otherwise anonymous gun. Done by an unskilled amateur, this is a quick way to ruin the serialized frame. Cost varies greatly, but is often between $100-200. Wait time is usually between 1-4 weeks to ship it out to a pro and get it back.
Changing out the barrel on a handgun can certainly modify its utility. A threaded barrel which allows the mounting of a suppressor makes shooting a much different (and better, in my opinion) experience. This necessitates revisiting the optics section above if you want to get suppressor height iron sights so you can see above the can. Or affix a compensator for more of a “race gun”. Some swear by the accuracy increases in a match barrel. Your mileage may vary, but there’s no doubting how much buying a new barrel can impact the comfort zone your handgun operates in. I picked up a Silencerco threaded barrel to affix an AAC TiRant-45 to my G17. Cost is around $150, takes under a minute to install. There’s an excellent primer on Glock barrels by Graham Baates here.
What’s left? We’ve changed out where you hold, the trigger you pull, the sights you aim with and the barrel the bullet travels through. There are minor upgrades and niche unlocks available yet.
If the stock slide stop/release lever is a little petite for you (as it is for me), an extended version is a nice choice. Cost ~$20, install time, around 5 minutes.
If you’ve been out SCUBA diving and thought to myself, “man, I could really go for a mag dump right about now”, Lone Wolf (and others) offer Maritime Spring Cups. These little plastic half-moons not only allow true underwater firing, but allow a safety measure for those who may find themselves shooting shortly after being partially or totally submerged. Or for killing POISONOUS, INVASIVE FISH.
There are still even more options out there, cosmetic and functional alike. Many of these upgrades aren’t just for Glocks, but are applicable to a wide array of handguns. If you’re interested in beefing up your hand cannon, figure out what you want your gun to be best at and design it around that. If you aren’t comfortable and competent fiddling with the guts of a gun, get a hold of a gunsmith. Let me hear how you’ve modded your handguns in the comments below!