By J. Law
I’m of the generation that grew up GLOCK. I’ve fired 1911s, SIGs, H&Ks, Walthers, Steyrs, Smiths, etc., but my “baseline” and original handgun is the GLOCK. GLOCKs don’t point high for me, other handguns point low. The GLOCK does not have a “low” bore axis, other handguns are just too tall. The GLOCK isn’t lightweight, other handguns are heavier than they need to be. You get the idea . . .
Based partially on the advice of my martial arts and combat shooting instructor John Perkins, the first handgun I owned was a GLOCK 23 Gen4 .40 (the “Gen4” part was my own idea). One of the early Gen4 guns, it gave me feeding and ejection problems—which ultimately proved beneficial to me.
The one feature the GLOCK design clearly has above all others in my opinion is simplicity. With no instruction beyond online research, I troubleshot and eventually fixed what ailed my original GLOCK, while also tinkering with it in virtually all ways short of directly modifying the frame, slide and barrel—thoroughly testing every change with rounds downrange. I detail stripped and reassembled that gun so many times (in between shooting the snot out of it) that the pins would pop in and out with little effort (and the trigger pin eventually broke—but the gun still worked).
I experimented with various Recoil Spring Assemblies (RSAs), extractors, ejectors and magazine springs to cure the various malfunctions the gun initially had (no, NOT due to limp wristing). In this case, the ultimate solution consisted of the updated RSA and updated contoured ejector from GLOCK, along with a White Sound Defense High Reliability Extractor Depressor (HRED). Meanwhile, I experimented with 9mm conversion (Storm Lake barrel, GLOCK 19 Gen4 RSA and magazine, and 9mm ejector), .357 SIG conversion, all manner of trigger connectors, trigger bars, overtravel stops and springs, and various iron sights (MGM sight pusher tool paid for itself quickly) and lasers and weapon-mounted lights.
That first GLOCK was followed by a GLOCK 21 Gen4, GLOCK 34 Gen4 and GLOCK 17 Gen4. I eventually figured out that the full-size GLOCK frame actually fits my hand better than the compact GLOCK 19/23 frame, and I prefer the feel of 9mm and .45 ACP recoil to .40 and 357 SIG, so a friend now owns that original GLOCK 23, with fresh pins and mostly stock internals. I put on sights that work well with his eyes and he uses it as a perfectly reliable 9mm primarily. The heavier GLOCK 23 slide and conversion barrel make shooting even hot 9mms a very comfortable experience.
An extended (and expensive) concurrent sojourn into the world of nice double action revolvers taught me that I prefer a smooth, rolling trigger release (like in a good double action revolver) to a hard/crisp wall (like in a single-action duty pistol or factory GLOCK), especially for combative purposes (i.e. fast, intuitive shooting while moving and fighting at close range against moving and fighting targets).
As Bob Nichols wrote in his 1950 book, The Secrets of Double-Action Shooting:
“Double action triggering is a technique of natural motion—which naturally blends and synchronizes with natural and unavoidable body motion, both internal and external—and which also blends and synchronizes with target motion, if any. Result: hitting, whatever the target, whether motionless or in motion—and easier hitting.”
It also taught me that the conventional wisdom that revolvers are inherently more reliable and trouble-free than semiautomatic pistols is NOT always true. But that’s another story.
A subsequent extended (and expensive) trip into the world of milled-slide red-dot-sighted GLOCKs taught me that I may prefer good iron sights on a self-defense handgun. That’s another story as well, but suffice it to say that while my 2 MOA Aimpoint Micro-equipped, slick triggered GLOCK 34 Gen4 enables me to shoot much tighter groups at extended range than with any other handgun, I’ve found that good iron sights are more suitable for what’s typically required from a handgun in self-defense. And that the currently most popular red dot sights (Trijicon RMRs and Aimpoint Micros) may actually detract from that utility, as do lasers and perhaps even weapon-mounted lights.
I was in the final stages of figuring all this out when the GLOCK 41 came to market. Many ho-hummed the new model, questioning the utility of a full-size .45 ACP GLOCK with a longer, thinner, lighter slide than the old, fat, reliable G21. I had personally always liked my 21 Gen4, particularly the grip. My hands have always felt that the GLOCK 9mm size frames are just a tad too slim for optimal grip, even with the Gen4 backstraps or Grip Force Adapters installed.
Even when squeezing hard, I always felt like there were some voids that just a little more grip width could fill for enhanced control and pointing confidence. I don’t like any of the rubber grip sleeves because I feel they detract from quick manipulation and dexterity in suboptimal gripping situations (like might happen during violence), similarly to why Jerry Miculek states that he dislikes rubber revolver grips where fast manipulation and reloads are concerned because they slow him down and prevent him from correcting a botched draw on the fly.
The standard GLOCK 21 frame was too much, but the “short frame” GLOCK 21 Gen4 grip felt just right. It filled all the voids while still allowing sufficient trigger reach and a secure grip in my hand. The only problem was that the GLOCK 21 slide was a thick, heavy beast that required thick holsters and gave the naturally top-heavy GLOCK design an even more top-heavy bias. The greater width of the slide — described by some from the shooter’s perspective as “looking down the deck of an aircraft carrier” — for me detracted from the gun’s liveliness and quick pointability in the hand compared to the GLOCK 34 slide.
Generally, for intuitive shooting, guns with longer and thinner slides (or longer barrels for revolvers) are better, because they give the peripheral vision a more precise “pointer” to subconsciously align during movement. Despite the better grip, my GLOCK 21 Gen4’s thick, heavy slide prevented it from being my runaway favorite.
Enter the GLOCK 41. I knew right away I had to try it out. I wondered whether recoil might be harsher, and whether it really would fit GLOCK 34 holsters as I hoped it would. My fears would prove to be unfounded.
I shot the 41 Gen4 straight out of the box at the gun store’s 23-yard indoor range. During that first 100 or so rounds, I had a few failures to go into battery, with the slide stopping twice just as the round was being picked up and once when almost fully chambered. Feeling the roughness of the slide travel, particularly on the return stroke, I immediately knew from experience what the problem was. My 21 had shown similar problems a few hundred rounds into my ownership of it. The slide return had felt so rough that I had examined whether the locking surfaces might have gotten damaged, but everything looked okay. I finally traced the problem to the RSA.
Trust me on this: the RSA may not be an official lubrication point in the GLOCK manual, but for gosh sakes, please LUBRICATE YOUR Gen4 RSA! With my G21 Gen4, as soon as I hosed down the RSA with Ballistol and wiped off the excess, slide travel was restored to complete smoothness and the feeding problems vanished. Did the same fix work with the GLOCK 41? Yes. Yes it did. No more feeding problems in over two thousand rounds since I lubricated the RSA after that first shooting session. The RSA is a standard light lube point for me in my regular maintenance.
My G41 came with a “minus” connector and GLOCK’s plastic adjustable “target” sights installed. While the “minus” connector is supposed to give a 4.5-pound trigger pull, on mine, the trigger pull was 7 pounds plus when measured from the center of the trigger and 5 pounds plus when measured from the toe. While the trigger wasn’t obscenely heavy, it had a very prominent “wall” following the take-up, where the trigger remains almost motionless while pressure is increased until it lets go with lots of overtravel. Far from ideal for someone who prefers a smooth, constant, rolling trigger pull with minimal overtravel.
While I was able to sight in the adjustable sights at 23 yards and print groups under four inches with Aguila hardball, I had no confidence that the plastic rear sight would hold that zero through rough times. Also, the sight picture was unusable by me for anything beyond very slow shooting. Even on the long slide, there’s not nearly enough light on either side of the front sight, and the front sight dot does not align properly within the rear sight’s “three-sided box” when the top edges of the front and rear sights are properly aligned. On top of that, the elevation mechanism of the rear sight creates outer and inner top edges of the sight at slightly different levels, which is annoying and visually confusing.
In order to properly wring out the GLOCK 41 and decide whether it was for me, I had to make it my own.
The first change was the sights. I replaced the rear sight with AmeriGlo’s GL-121R, a standard profile steel rear sight with 0.150” notch and two yellow tritium dots. I replaced the front sight with AmeriGlo’s new GL-212-165-120, the thinnest tritium dot front sight on the market as far as I’m aware. It has a small green tritium dot surrounded by a thin ring of lime green photoluminescent paint. While I consider tritium sights with surrounding rings essential on a combat handgun for sight visibility in all lighting, target color and contrast situations, I had always been annoyed by the excessive thickness of most tritium front sights.
A thick front sight detracts from precision capability, at least in my eyes. A wider rear sight notch does not correct this shortcoming, it merely makes the front sight easier to acquire and center quickly. The new thin AmeriGlo front sight at the end of that long GLOCK 41 slide, combined with the 0.150” rear notch with the subdued yellow tritium dots (preventing them from overpowering the smaller tritium dot in the front sight), finally give me a sight picture I like. Both precision and quick shooting showed this sight setup’s advantage for me over other setups. As of yet, I cannot match the precision accuracy of my Aimpoint equipped G34 Gen4, but with these sights on the G41 I can come closer than with anything else I’ve tried.
I couldn’t realize the full capability of the new sights and the gun in general, though, while fighting with the glitchy, hard wall stock trigger. Under ideal conditions, a good shooter should be able to shoot well with a bad trigger. That’s how I was able to sight in the adjustable sights of the stock G41 during my first outing with it. As long as you have the time and mental capacity to concentrate on the smooth, straight-back application of pressure to the trigger, with no anticipation of the break nor physical fear of the muzzle blast, you can get good results, particularly in slow shooting.
Combat, however, and even competition, are far from ideal conditions. Your mind will likely be too concerned with other things to concentrate much on the fundamentals of “intellectual” marksmanship. It’s advisable to train good trigger control habits to a level of subconscious competence, but the fact is when forced to shoot dynamically, you won’t always have a perfect grip on your pistol to allow for a repeatable ideal trigger pull, and conditions may force you to hit rather than squeeze the trigger to keep up with the chaos unfurling around you.
Having a “forgiving” trigger pull can make a big difference under such conditions. Even top competitive shooters, who have certainly gained incredibly consistent subconscious trigger control skills through millions of rounds of good practice plus loads of natural talent, set their triggers up to be forgiving of blatant violations of standard marksmanship principles. Rob Leatham, for one, is an outspoken advocate of “slapping” the heck out of the trigger for maximum speed, close range shots. This simply won’t work well with an unforgiving trigger pull.
Fortunately, I’d already worked out my “recipe” for my ideal GLOCK trigger, given my personal preferences, and it worked perfectly on the GLOCK 41:
1) ZEV Tech V4 lightweight steel striker – This durable, well-made striker, with its light weight and slightly extended tip, allows greater striker speed and primer popping energy when used with the
2) Wolff reduced power striker spring – Seriously folks, the biggest determinant of a GLOCK trigger’s pull weight is not the connector type, but the power of the striker spring that you need to compress via trigger motion. Use the reduced power spring with the heavy stock striker and expect light strikes with some ammo. Use the reduced power spring with the above mentioned lightweight striker and you’re back to full reliability with all ammo (at least all that I’ve tried).
3) Ghost Edge 3.5 connector – Remember how I don’t like the “wall” in the standard GLOCK trigger pull? Well, Ghost Inc. makes several products specifically designed to eliminate that wall. The Edge is the version without the built-in overtravel stop that requires fitting. That version is the Evo Elite, which I have in other GLOCKs and works great—after you properly fit the overtravel stop tab. In the GLOCK 41, I chose to use the Edge to avoid the painstaking process of gradually filing down the stop tab. But I still wanted reduced overtravel, so I used the trigger housing with adjustable overtravel stop screw that comes with the
4) glocktriggers.com Edge trigger kit – This kit includes the above-mentioned housing with overtravel adjustment screw, polished trigger bar modified for reduced pretravel, and polished firing pin safety plunger with reduced power spring. It actually comes with a few other things (polished “minus” connector, reduced power striker springs, stock trigger spring), but I didn’t use them. I like the reduced pretravel trigger on the GLOCK 41 not so much because pretravel is bad, but because it brings the trigger’s rest position back to a better place for me to engage it quickly.
While the thicker GLOCK .45 frame fills my hand better than the 9mm frame, with a stock trigger the trigger reach to the starting point is right at the outer edge of acceptable for my hand size and finger length. Bringing that starting point back a bit yields far more positive engagement of the trigger (including the trigger safety) even with suboptimal grip and in “trigger hitting” situations. Once with the GLOCK 41, before I did my trigger modifications, I experienced a hiccup during a very fast, dynamically moving string of fire.
With everything going on, I didn’t hit the reset and my finger came off the trigger between shots. I had gotten a suboptimal grip on the draw and so the recoil of the Hornady +P Critical Duty ammo I was using caused the gun to shift a little in my hand. As I came back onto the trigger for the next shot in the string, the trigger was frozen. I had failed to hit the trigger safety squarely. The delay was only a fraction of a second as I got back on the trigger to complete the string of fire, but it certainly made me hustle to install the Edge trigger bar after that range session!
If you want to install a reduced pretravel trigger on your GLOCK, please ensure that the trigger bar and firing pin safety plunger combination you are using does NOT deactivate the firing pin safety in the trigger’s forward position in your gun! The GLOCK, by design, is not precision fitted in the fire control area, and cutting things close might work in one gun but not another.
Here’s my test: after installing your reduced pretravel trigger bar and any other aftermarket components, dry fire your triple-checked unloaded gun in a safe direction. After it “clicks,” shake it forward and back and listen to the sound the striker makes as it moves freely back and forth in its channel. (If it doesn’t move freely you might want to check your spring cups and channel liner.) Now, WITHOUT manipulating the slide, simply push the trigger itself into its forward position, hold it there, then shake the gun forward and back again.
If you still hear the striker moving freely, DO NOT USE THE GUN IN THIS CONFIGURATION. The parts you installed have deactivated the striker safety. Also ensure that the shortened pretravel does not set the trigger so far back that it overrides the “drop” safety shelf in the trigger housing when the trigger is in the forward position. To check for this, with the slide off, hold the trigger in the forward position and press down on the cruciform. If the cruciform slides down into the trigger housing, i.e. it’s not held up on the shelf, again, DO NOT USE THE GUN IN THIS CONFIGURATION.
The pretravel reduction has set the trigger too far back for safety. Of course, ensure that the trigger safety still functions and engages snappily with every reset. Hopefully the manufacturer of the trigger bar took care of this already, as it’s one factor he has full control over. Oh, and a note about overtravel adjustment in the GLOCK .45 frame: I’ve noticed that the GLOCK .45 frame is more sensitive to overtravel over-reduction than the 9mm frame due to increased flex in the frame due to the larger size. This is one reason why I prefer the adjustable overtravel stop in the trigger housing in .45 GLOCKs vs. the fixed, fitted Ghost connector overtravel stop.
On a .45 GLOCK, I can get the overtravel adjusted perfectly, such that there’s practically no movement after the striker releases, and it will work fine in a “normal” right handed firing grip. However, if I grip the gun hard in my left hand, the trigger may not release the striker or it may release with a hesitation. That’s because in my hands at least, if I grip the gun in my left hand and squeeze hard (as I might do were my life in danger!), the frame flexes in such a way that the trigger housing comes forward a bit relative to the trigger bar, effectively reducing the travel space available to the trigger bar. If the overtravel is adjusted to stop the trigger bar just after the striker is released, squeezing with the left hand effectively reduces the trigger bar’s travel further to inhibit striker release. The effect is lessened with a magazine in the gun, but not eliminated.
Not good! Therefore, I have to adjust my .45 GLOCKs to include a little bit of overtravel to ensure full reliability in any sort of grip. It’s still a big improvement over stock, but not as good as can be achieved in the 9mm frame, which seems to have less flex. On the other hand, the geometry of the .45 frame seems to yield slightly lower pull weight than the 9mm frame given the same parts and adjustments. Also be sure when adjusting overtravel that the striker will release even when downward pressure is applied to the rear sight, to guarantee reliability.
5) Wolff extra power trigger spring: The stronger this spring is, the lighter the pull weight—so long as the strength of the trigger spring does not override the strength of the striker spring and prevent or slow the reset. Ensure that this spring is installed correctly and is not twisted or kinked during reassembly.
The above recipe yields what is — for me — the perfect GLOCK trigger. In my G41, the pull now measures slightly under 4.5 pounds at the center of the trigger face, and slightly under 4 pounds at the toe. More importantly, the trigger is completely smooth with no hitches nor “walls,” it rests in a good place for my hand and finger size (no more “frozen” triggers in dynamic shooting), and has minimal overtravel consistent with reliability. Reset is positive and firm with no hesitation.
All three GLOCK safeties function properly 100% of the time (I check that as part of normal maintenance, to be sure), and the gun has fired 100% reliably with all ammo I’ve tried, including Mexican and Eastern European hardball that typically has harder primers than commercial American ammo. (Freedom Munitions, by the way, is great for cheap, high quality, American made practice ammo!)
Most importantly, the GLOCK 41 has been perfectly reliable with all defensive ammo I’ve tried, including my favorite Federal HST and Hornady Critical Duty. I change out the striker spring fairly often, and can always switch to a heavier spring if I’m ever stuck with ammo with EXTREMELY hard primers.
The components for this trigger modification are not cheap, but fortunately in my case I already had most of them around from previous projects. I’ve tried other components and these are what I like best and have proven most reliable in multiple guns. In my opinion, if you want to shoot your GLOCK to the best of your ability, with no possible “excuses,” the improved trigger action is worth the cost.
Before anyone brings up possible liability concerns connected with trigger modification, I’ll just say it’s a personal decision that depends on your level of training and experience. I agree with Dave Spaulding that your ability to articulate the rationale behind the modification is key. Personally, I want to do everything I can to reduce the possibility of a miss in a defensive situation.
Again, under ideal circumstances, any reasonable trigger will work, but I want one that is more forgiving of compromised technique in less than ideal circumstances. Habitually keeping the trigger finger off the trigger until ready to actually shoot is a matter of training, and if your finger does wander onto the trigger prematurely under stress, well, under full adrenaline your body likely won’t differentiate between a 4-pound and a 7-pound trigger. Even the modified GLOCK trigger has more travel than a typical single-action trigger, and so is theoretically less likely to be pulled all the way through accidentally under stress.
Modifications done (add in a Glockmeister grip plug for less snagging on draws and reloads), the GLOCK 41 now shoots for me better than any other handgun I’ve tried. Unsupported precision groups are not quite as tight as with the Aimpoint equipped G34 Gen4 due to my eyes’ current limitations with iron sights, but with groups consistently under three inches, it has more than enough practical accuracy in my hands.
More importantly, fast, accurate, intuitive shooting while moving dynamically against dynamically moving targets at close to medium range is a breeze. Between the hand-filling yet pointable grip and that long, thin slide, the gun seems to guide itself to the target. While recoil with hot loads feels slightly faster and more snappy than with the GLOCK 21 Gen4 due to the GLOCK 41’s lighter slide, the GLOCK 41 seems to recover itself faster and more consistently in my hands. With standard pressure rounds, it’s a pussycat. I tried shooting it with a Streamlight TLR1HD weapon mounted light attached, thinking that the extra weight might reduce the already minimal muzzle flip, but it actually seemed to track and recover better without the light.
Because the GLOCK 41’s slide is indeed the exact same thickness as the GLOCK 34’s, it fits into many holsters meant for the G34, with some appropriate adjustment of tension mechanisms to accommodate the slightly thicker frame. Not everyone will want to or be able to carry the GLOCK 41, but here’s one recipe for doing so:
1) CCW Breakaways khaki, cargo pants or shorts and “mag socks”: Check them out. In my opinion, an excellent product, enabling safe, comfortable, fully concealed, fully accessible carry of full-sized handguns, spare magazines and accessories. Adjust the pocket shape and size using the included Velcro if necessary to make the gun ride just where you need it to.
2) Safariland P-2 ALS holster with belt attachment removed and Velcro applied: This is the ALS security holster intended for G17s sporting mini red dot sights. Some work with a Dremel and removal of the pivoting hood allows it to fit the G41 perfectly. If you unscrew the belt attachment hardware, you have a perfect “pocket holster” for the GLOCK 41 in the most recent version of the CCW Breakaways pocket. The bulge on the topstrap of the holster to accommodate the mini red dot sight actually perfectly fills the holster pocket to keep the gun stable and secure—and if you want to mount a mini red dot sight (RMR, Docter, etc.—Aimpoint can be accommodated but it requires more Dremel work on the holster), your holster is ready.
In the older style CCW Breakaways with a smaller pocket design (not enough room to accommodate a red dot sight), a Safariland 6378-283 works better. Velcro “hook” material applied to the side of the holster that goes against the leg mates with the “loop” material inside the pocket to help prevent the holster from coming out with the gun when drawn from strange angles. Holster tension can be adjusted such that the holster falls free of the gun as the ALS release lever is hit, offering a failsafe should you ever miss the (very ergonomic and natural) release lever and pull the still holstered gun from the pocket. The holster fully covers the trigger guard and offers the ultimate safety in reholstering: Take the holster in your hand, insert the gun into it until it locks, then put the whole package into the pocket. You never have to fiddle with reholstering a gun with exposed trigger against your body.
With this setup, cold draws to hits at seven yards in under two seconds are easily doable. But the big advantage is your ability to pre-stage your draw. If you anticipate trouble, you can place your hand on your G41 in your pocket without brandishing, cutting your draw-to-hit time to less than a second. This setup is more secure under dynamic conditions than most concealed carry setups, and less vulnerable to casual detection. It can even work with an Aimpoint- and TLR1HL-equipped GLOCK 34 Gen4, using a heavily Dremelled Safariland 6354DO holster.
Personally though, I think the iron sighted, light-less GLOCK 41 is more efficient for self-defense in all but the most outlandish situations. One note about the Safariland ALS holsters: Be aware that if you want to carry a GLOCK with a weapon-mounted light attached, using a compatible ALS holster, coverage of the trigger guard will not be absolute and it will be possible for an object or finger to get to the trigger inside the holster. This has actually happened at least a couple times to law enforcement officers carrying light-equipped GLOCKs in exposed ALS holsters. In at least one case, children with sneaky fingers were involved. This is one reason (not the only reason) why I recommend against the weapon mounted light for self-defense.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned anything about caliber. That’s because it was not a primary consideration in my decision to purchase and work with the GLOCK 41. I suspected, based on experience, that the GLOCK 41 would perform well for me, given a few modifications. And I was right—I can actually shoot it better than a smaller caliber GLOCK by the measures I deem most important for me. I don’t feel the capacity reduction from 17 rounds of 9mm to 13 rounds of .45 is much of an issue. Most self-defense situations are decided with far fewer rounds—although extra magazines are good, just in case.
I don’t exactly buy into the currently trendy terminal ballistics idea that “all handgun service calibers are equally effective in the best loads,” although obviously placement and straight penetration are key and we can never count on anything 100%. Is a 9mm Federal HST that expands to 0.7” and penetrates 12.5” in ballistic gelatin much worse than a .45 HST that expands to 0.9” and penetrates over 13” in ballistic gelatin with more momentum and energy? I dunno, probably not MUCH worse. . . . Although the .45 wound cavity is theoretically over 70% bigger than the 9mm cavity (theoretically—it doesn’t work that simply in the real world). . . . Let’s just leave it as, the .45 HST probably won’t be WORSE than any other service handgun round!
And if I can put them where they need to go in chaotic, violent conditions with the rugged, reliable, simple GLOCK 41 better than I can with any other handgun, then it’s a good thing.
Note: The author of this article is NOT a gunsmith nor a certified GLOCK armorer. All technical information contained in this article is purely the author’s own experience and is shared for entertainment purposes only. Treat all firearms carefully and get professional guidance regarding their use, maintenance and modification.