Ask Josh: GLOCK-Type Pistols…Should I Build Or Buy?

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Ah yes, the GLOCK 40. Or is it GLOCK Nine? Problem solver? Whichever name you pick, Gaston’s Gat needs no introduction. When it comes to the market for semi-automatic pistols today, GLOCK still holds a top spot. And as a result, there’s a huge aftermarket for parts. That aftermarket is so large that you can make a GLOCK without any actual GLOCK-brand-GLOCK parts. You know, non-GLOCK GLOCKs.

Reader Jack asked . . .

I am wanting a G19X, but don’t like the FDE color. If the information I have received is correct, the G45 is same as the 19X, just in black ?

I’m trying to decide if I want to build one or just buy it. The only upside I see to building one is you can get the best parts you can afford and don’t have a box of leftover parts when you’re finished.

Also I’ve read your articles on the ATF’s raid on the P80 factory.

So my questions – what P80 kit do I need for the G45? Is there a kit you prefer? Is there a barrel you prefer? Why? What about the springs, pins, etc.? I’m sure I’ve forgotten to ask several questions.

I will try to keep these in order as much as I can. So yes, the first question Jack asked is about the model features. The G45 (which is not a .45 ACP, just a confusing model number…it’s chambered in 9mm) is basically the same as the G19X in terms of features. It is a 4” upper (G19 size) on a full-size (G17) frame. The 19X comes in FDE and the G45 is in all black.

As far as I understand it, and don’t directly quote me here, GLOCK went with an all-black G45 to appeal to the law enforcement market, the G19X looking a bit too military for many jurisdictions to appreciate, notwithstanding the lack of functional differences. It’s essentially a cosmetic variant with some other minor differences in the grip area.

Now, as for building or buying…that’s the $500 to $700 question. If it was me, and in many cases it is, I would buy one. You’ll be getting a very reliable, decently accurate gun right out of the box and it won’t be a pain to put together.

I know some guys love building out kit guns. It’s fun and they get the features they want. But when it comes to a pistol for self-defense or serious use, I defer to factory guns with the caveat that I will usually install a new set of sights that are high-visibility. I don’t mess with my carry guns’ triggers unless there is a factory replacement or upgrade.

Factory Glock rails are common for many accessories. Many 80% kits have picatinny rails and are not compatible with Glock holsters.

That said, I like to work on handguns and I’ve done a lot of work on 1911’s. I hunt with high-end builds I work on, but I don’t carry them for self-defense if I can help it. If it’s my only handgun and I’m far from home, it will be on my belt, but that’s not my fist choice in most cases.

If you buy a G45, it will be a good gun and it will likely serve you well for decades without an issue. If you build one, I can’t say the same as that has much more to do with your craftsmanship abilities than it does the quality of parts you buy.

I know plenty of novice foodies who buy expensive ingredients and their cooking still tastes like sh!t, however I can go to any McDonald’s in the country and get exactly the same, reliable (but boring) food. I’ve never been disappointed in Ronald’s food, perhaps because the bar is low. Or perhaps it is easier to be disappointed when you pay $50 for a steak at a nice steakhouse that chews like bubblegum.

Polymer80 pistol build kit
Travis Pike for TTAG

To wrap up the last set of questions, I don’t really have a favorite set of parts and I am unfortunately not acquainted enough with the Polymer80 product line to give you an informed opinion on what you should buy.

Polymer80 a good reputation and, if you decide to go that route, you probably won’t be disappointed. Plus there’s a huge selection out there with dozens of options for slides, barrels, triggers and more.

My friends at Brownells have a full inventory of Polymer80 parts as well as everything else you’ll need to get started on a build. They also have a good instructional video series on how to build out your pistol, including choosing slide and barrels.

I’d suggest digging into the forums or talking to someone who has actually built a non-GLOCK GLOCK for specific parts recommendations. I wish I could give a more definitive answer, but I simply can’t make a recommendation on something I have only marginal experience with.



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    • You might as well build your own, seeing as how Glock has not had any meaningful updates to its now highly overrated design (from someone who had never build a firearm before).

      HK was the first, however Glock did make polymer guns a “thing”. However since then, their handguns have been surpassed by a number of manufactures.

      Glock will not update, and their sales are mostly on their reputation from decades ago.

      Building your own will allow you to correct either the inherent flaws (grip angle, unsupported barrels) or the cheap parts (plastic sights, terrible triggers). And because factory glocks are priced at a hefty premium, you can start your build with a nice budget.

  1. My experience is one build. Use Glock OEM internal parts if you are going to build your own. Cost $400 to make but that was two years ago.

  2. Add all the parts up and it’ll be more than a glock price new. But it’ll be the way you want.

    If this is for fun, go for it. If for defense, buy a glock.

    Replace sights with night sites, and trigger with overwatch flat trigger

    • Beat me to it. I was researching and realized it’s cheaper to just buy the weapon than to build it. Also there’s the additional cost of tools for the build. And just one sneeze could turn it into an expensive paper weight.

  3. I’m all for ‘building’ where possible.

    It just sounds to me more like the reader asking about this is less interested in what they like and more interested in what Josh likes.

    We tell guys all the times to NOT buy guns for their wives/girlfriends but THIS is acceptable? It’s the same thing. It’s a recipe for being less than satisfied.

    • Oh I have to disagree there. The best thing about buying guns for your wife is that you get to add a bunch of guns to your collection without them counting against you in the who spent money on what tally. I have a LGS prepared to call me if/when certain things come back in stock because the wife wants them.

        • She’s still not going to be happy with it when she gets it. Then the quest for the next thing begins and I still have the gun she thought she wanted 😉

  4. If you want a stock Glock, you’re going to pay more if you make or buy a frame and get the parts. If you want an aftermarket trigger, barrel, slide, firing pin, recoil rod, etc, it might be cheaper to assemble your own since you aren’t double paying for parts you aren’t going to use. With the current market, you still might come out ahead by getting a factory Glock, getting the custom components, and selling the OEM duplicates on eBay or Gunbroker. I contemplated getting a 43 upper to go with a 48 for more options, but the prices made it about to same as buying a new 43.

  5. If it’s your first or only gun, I’d lean buy.

    If you’re a gunnie with a few and an itch to experiment, build…

    • For your CC gun, I recommend OEM stock GLOCK, so as to avoid any accusations of incompetency from a zealous D.A. trying to pick apart your defense after an event. But go for it and have fun with custom builds for other guns.

      My 2 cents.

      • I don’t trust my finger enough to conceal carry a striker-fired weapon appendix.

        I’m much more comfortable with hammer-fired DA/SA like my little CZ RAMI. The long, heavy first pull I prefer as a safety…

        • “I don’t trust my finger enough”

          You are just reading that from the court filings against you.

    • Yourself of course. I hope you know your own address and phone number. The customer service agent should be very polite to you, and if they have a thick accent it will be yours so you should still be able to understand them.

    • Joking aside, as a C&R/Milsurp guy who spent his youth, in the pre internet days of paper catalogs and mail order, cruising pawn shops in San Antonio for old abused guns to give a loving home to, I have often been my own gunsmith. Companies were out of business or the guns were so old that they hadn’t been supported in half a century. Professional gun smiths, adept at mounting scopes on your Remington 700, were often of little use in reassembling Savage 1910s or Eibars. Numerich is very familiar with me as was SARCO.

      I apply the same rules to home builds that I do to used guns; 500 rounds without an issue before I consider it reliable enough for life support. If you build it and test it you will be very familiar with the parts and workings and repair should not be issue.

      • +1

        I run several mags of FMJ to test function, then a box of JHP to ensure feed reliability. *Only* when it goes through all of it with no hiccups do I consider the new gun to be ready for actual use.

      • “If you build it and test it you will be very familiar with the parts and workings and repair should not be issue.”

        This is why I did my own Polymer80. A couple thoughts:

        1. Lots of good information, and a forum full of enthusiastic pistol builders, at . They are serious about safety and reliability, and recommend going to great lengths to make your pistol OEM quality or better. is another great resource, and I’m sure there are many others.

        2. Which brings up my second thought. If you want OEM quality or better, then why not buy a real Glock and then tinker if that’s what you want? Well, couple reasons. Home builds can be built with no 4473 or other trail back to you (but same with a non-FFL private purchase in many jurisdictions). Home builds can be less expensive if you are patient and willing to watch for sales. However, given the current market conditions, you could be looking at months. Finally, as Crimson Pirate noted above, build it yourself and you’ll know Glocks.

        3. If you home build, or tinker for that matter, be wary of super discounted parts that are claimed to be OEM Glock parts. For example, supplier ABC may offer a Glock frame parts kit but substitute a cheaper trigger bar to shave his cost. There are tons of knockoff Glock parts right now, because of demand. Marine Gun Builder has a page that discusses this, and has photos showing what to look for. Also, there is a Glock store that sells genuine OEM parts but will not tell you until after you have placed your order whether they actually have what you need in stock. Their website does not have a live inventory feature, and there are even reports of phone sales ending up not being immediately available. Right now, Glock is focusing most of its parts production on supplying its own factories, with very little trickling out to the aftermarket.

        4. Marty, below, is correct. There is no question that genuine Glock parts work. Tinkering often leads to more tinkering, and sometimes results in a trip to Marty or one of his brethren.

        I am just finishing a Polymer80 version of a G23 (.40 S&W), and with a couple extra hondo, I’m able to convert it to .357 Sig or 9mm with a simple swap of a couple parts. All said and done, I’ll end up at less than the cost of two full pistols and be able to shoot 3 calibers, but it has taken 6 months overall.

  6. As a Glock certified armorer, stick with the factory Glock. Most after market Glock parts, are not a good idea. Glock is an outstanding firearm. You are probably not going to improve on it by building your own. But, go for it, I need the extra business.

      • And to shoot at the range. But aside from two Lorcin L25’s, 2 Taurus Spectrums and an Eibar copy of a S&W revolver, I would (and have) carry any handgun I own. I regularly rotate through 8 or 10 different functional guns for carry.

        The two Lorcins cannot cycle a full magazine without malfunction. But ring of fire guns are of my interests. The Tauruses are better but just enough so to make malfunctions seem random. The wife wanted them because they come in colors. The Eibar is in .38 Long colt and with all of the ammo issues of the last year I have not had a chance to give it the detailed testing starting with light loads that would be required to confirm it’s safety. It really is more to look at. But it was less than $100 out the door so I don’t feel like I have to shoot it. Though I will at some point.

        Then there is a Colt 1903 I just added to the stable last week. I will carry it, but not until I get enough .32 ACP and .380 ACP though it (it came with extra parts) to confirm reliability.

        All the rest I have carried; P-64, Yugo M57, Stars, Springfield’s, kahrs, of course Glocks, S&Ws, Rugers.

        Back in the day I would drop a Savage 1910 or 1917 in a pocket, or a Colt Mustang, among many others. Alas, pawn shops work both ways and young men often don’t make the best decisions. So those old savages, the mustang, Ruger p89, and p90, a couple of Stars and some Eibars and many others are no longer mine.

        • “Yugo M57” How did you get that ugly little car into a holster? I’m presuming that you open carried it as it does not conceal well under a jacket.

          A local store, Machine Guns Montana, has a pretty good stash of .38 LC on his shelves (at least he did last week). I think it was around $22/bx.

        • “The wife wanted them because they come in colors.”

          I bought a brace of Spectrums for the same reason. One of them would choke on the last round, regardless of ammo or mag. One day at the range, daughter and I started swapping parts around, and I apparently stumbled on the right combination. Now both go bang every time, and, after another couple range packs, I may trust them enough to carry. Probably never trust the 7.62 Tok though, just because. Fun to shoot, but, well, commies and all…

        • Old Guy, the Yugo fits fine in any leather 1911 holster of the appropriate length. I have not tried it in Kydex but I think Kydex is evil unless it is part of a hybrid holster design. It conceals more easily under a t shirt than a same length 1911, being slightly thinner.

          When I got a Kydex holster for the Star BM I did so by taking it (unloaded) to a gun show. At one of the purveyors of Kydex holsters we inserted it into 1911-ish holsters until we found one that it fit. I see no reason why I could not do the same for the Yugo if I wanted to.

          Hawkeye, I may try swapping Spectrum parts when .380 ammo is back in enough quantity at low enough prices to allow proper testing. That is a good suggestion. Thank you.

  7. If you’re carrying for self defense I would buy every time. If you’re competing or plinking then building is a good option if you know what you want…asking for a build list tells me you don’t.

    Also, P80 makes a 100% serialized frame. At least, they did…it’s a good solution if you’re not sure about the milling process. It’s supposed to be pretty straightforward, but I didn’t trust myself with it and wanted the least possible hassle with my project.


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