As 3-Gun competitions continue to sweep across the country with a flurry of popularity and growth, you may be considering to give it a go at some point. Within that decision lies many questions. Where do I compete? Are there different classes? What specific equipment do I need? In the next couple of articles, I will cover one of the key pieces of equipment needed to compete in 3-Gun competition, the pistol. After decades of shooting, I’ve become a big fan of Glock products due to their simplicity and near flawless reliability. I carry a Glock 19 or Glock 43 depending on season and what I’m wearing but for target and competition shooting, the Glock 34 is king. Designed to be the “Practical Tactical” by Glock, it is categorized as a competition pistol.
A great resource is the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) which contains more information and rules on 3-Gun competition.
Ever since I separated from the military, I greatly miss the type of shooting we used to conduct in the 75th Ranger Regiment. It was always dynamic and realistic which is a stark contrast to the static shooting conducted at your average gun range. To fill this void, a couple of non military friends of mine, who also enjoy shooting, suggested we attempt 3-Gun competition this spring. Having developed a comfort due to extended time behind various carbines and pistols, I jumped at the suggestion and began researching what I need to be prepared for this endeavor. Both of these friends shoot shotguns competitively so I tapped their experience for pointers on becoming more proficient with a shotgun. While performing a quick inventory of my current firearms, I noticed a possible weak link in the pistol department. I don’t own a target specific or competition handgun. Now I’m sure I could have got by with my Glock 19 but this was a perfect excuse to look for another gun to add to my collection. Having owned several Glocks over a span of 20+ years and becoming intimately familiar with these firearms, I was leaning towards the Glock 34 to assume the roll for 3-Gun competition.
Choosing the most effective caliber is a concern for 3-Gun competition and should be heavily weighed when selecting your pistol. I chose the Glock 34 9mm pistol to take advantage of the few extra rounds afforded by the smaller bullet. Scoring values at 3-Gun competitions may be different depending on your caliber size. This ensures someone shooting a high recoil pistol like a .40S&W or .45ACP, which are harder to control, aren’t disadvantaged compared to shooters using smaller calibers like 9mm. Check with your local club or visit their website to determine if they use the Major/Minor scoring values. Major/Minor scoring is more common in larger matches that involve cash prizes but our club scores everything as Major so my decision to use a higher capacity, low recoil 9mm made the most sense.
Check out this in depth article on 3-Gun competition for additional information.
The Glock 34 was designed to be the same length as a model 1911 pistol due to it’s proven long standing reputation and accuracy. With a 5.31″ barrel and their standard hexagonal rifling, the Glock 34 is a very accurate pistol out of the box. 5.31″ is also the maximum allowable barrel length in most competition divisions so Glock was clearly paying attention. Couple that with a lengthy 7.55″ sight radius and you’re sure to consistently bang the steel in a fast paced 3-Gun environment. The standard Glock 34 comes with a decent, albeit plastic adjustable target sight. The optional MOS version (Modular Optic System), includes a machined slide that facilitates the mounting of several different mini red dot sights without the need for a gunsmith or machine shops assistance. My local gun shop only had the Glock 34 Gen 4 MOS version in stock so I ended up purchasing it. Although the 3-Gun class I will participate in does not allow optics mounted on the pistol, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have the option if I ever decide to change classes or use the pistol for other types of competition that do allow it.
The standard ergonomics of the Glock 34 are well thought out by the engineers in Austria. A 108 degree grip angle follows the natural human form and the bore center resides a mere 20mm above the top of your hand. This low center of bore axis allows maximum control of the recoil and rapid follow up shots which is a key feature not found in many competitors models. Controlling the recoil for quick follow up shots is what will keep you ahead of your competitors while running and gunning through a 3-Gun course. Another key advantage over a 1911 or any single stack competition pistol is the 17 round capacity found in the Glock 34. With certain 3-Gun regulations allowing magazine extensions, you can easily carry over 20 rounds of 9mm per magazine which will greatly reduce the your overall time by requiring fewer mag changes.
Check out this video courtesy of Glock demonstrating their pistol ergonomics.
Further enhancements to the Glock 34 include a slightly lighter trigger pull of 4.5 pounds versus the 5.5 pound trigger commonly found on most Glock pistols. The lighter trigger reduces the amount of force needed by the shooter to fire a round increasing accuracy. Speaking of lighter, the Glock 34 slide has a generous lightening cut on the top exposing the barrel and greatly reducing the weight of the slide. This allows the slide to cycle quicker and is a common modification to competition pistols. Another departure from standard Glock ergonomics is the addition of their extended slide release. This 3D “bullet style” slide release is much easier to engage than Glocks standard flat slide release. When changing magazines in the heat of competition, the last thing you need is botching the mag swap by fumbling with the slide release. The OEM extended slide release is fool proof as I’ve never missed it with my right thumb.
Unique on the Gen 4 models is the adjustable back straps, a welcome feature that Glock owners have been eagerly waiting for. The prior generations were simply a one size fits all pistol which just doesn’t work with all hand sizes. The small back strap is integrated in the frame reducing the trigger distance by .08″. Adding the medium back strap is equivalent to a standard Glock frame and the large back strap will further increase trigger distance by .08″. In addition to the adjustable back straps, the Gen 4 model has changed the polymer frame texture to what they refer to as the RTF (Rough Texture Frame). This new texture is designed to enhance grip traction over previous iterations while wet and is present on the included back straps as well. To ensure not to discriminate, the enlarged magazine release is now reversible to accommodate both left and right handed shooters. The last Gen 4 specific enhancement is the dual recoil spring assembly. This new design both increases the life expectancy of the assembly and reduces the felt recoil by the shooter.
Glock 34 Specifications:
- Overall Length: 8.74″
- Sight Radius: 7.55″
- Height: 5.43″
- Width: 1.18″
- Weight Empty: 25.95 oz.
- Weight Loaded: 33.01 oz.
- Barrel Length: 5.31″
- Trigger Pull: 4.5 pounds
- Caliber: 9 mm Luger (9×19)
- Capacity: 17 Rounds
So far I’ve mainly spoken to the merits of this “practical tactical” pistol offering from Glock. If that’s all you’re interested in, read no further.
Glock pistols in general are not going to win any beauty contests or become the pistol everyone at the range is gawking at. It’s a utilitarian machine with a”bar stock” appearing slide that has only been slightly massaged into a working firearm. The rear serrations are not nearly aggressive enough and the lack of front serrations for those shooters like me that press check from the front, sucks! The M&P line has my favorite “fish scale” cocking serrations and several offerings from both FN and Springfield include front cocking serrations. I wish Glock would add these features to at least their competition and tactical firearms. The magazine well is nothing to write home about either. A more flared mag well to help speed up the exchange would be a welcome addition in my opinion.
The plastic sights, although adjustable, are merely taking up space until you install a hardier more functional sight from just about any aftermarket manufacturer. My current favs are the HD night sights from Trijicon that I currently have on my Glock 19. But with no need for night sights on a competition pistol, I may fall back on an old favorite that I still have on my older Glock 35, the Warren Tactical and Savigny Competition Sights.
The pistol grip on the polymer frame, although acceptable to most shooters, has been hotly debated on the internet for years. I can personally take or leave the finger grooves on the front strap but I’ve read a fair number of complains from other users that have sent their pistols out for major reshaping of the grip. I’d also like to see more relief in the trigger guard to allow your strong hand an even higher grip or at least radius the existing one a bit more to prevent that recurring callous on my middle finger. Although this striker fired pistol has a decent trigger, if you plan to compete, there are several much better “drop in” triggers that I’m sure you’ll fall in love with like the Pyramid trigger in my Glock 19.
Although the Glock 34 isn’t as sexy as a custom 1911, the features and specification found on this moderately priced pistol is hard to beat for your entry into 3-Gun competition. But as I’m finding with firearms, there is a healthy aftermarket out there. And knowing myself and how I’ve modified my vehicles over the years, there’s always a possibility of going from Mild-to-Wild. In fact, I just got off the phone with California based Agency Arms discussing what’s possible. In the next article, I will examine the world of Glock tuners and see what additional performance modifications can be made, how they affect the performance and hopefully give you the edge in your next competition. And maybe turn that vanilla Glock into something people WILL want to gawk at while at the range
If you have any questions for me, feel free to leave a comment below. Otherwise, stay tuned for the next 3-Gun pistol article.
Erik Meisner served in Attack Company, 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment for 4+ years as a rifle team leader with deployments to the Middle East, Central America and Asia. I’m a licensed pilot and SCUBA diver and enjoy Alpine skiing, shooting, camping, boating, sea kayaking, traveling and golf. Growing up in military family, I’ve had the pleasure to live and ski all over North America and Europe. I’m now living in beautiful Northern Michigan with my wife and 2 sons enjoying the outdoors as much as possible.
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