Polymer Perfection

Glock's Model 22 and 23 Pistols Lead the .40 S&W Surge
By Peter G. Kokalis

Glock's 9mm Parabellum pistol was first introduced to the American public by Soldier of Fortune Magazine almost eight years ago (See "Plastic Perfection," SOF, October '84). Since that time more than 350 U.S. local law enforcement and federal agencies have adopted or authorized the Glock as a duty weapon.

At the present time, more than 42% of all semiautomatic pistols in U.S. law enforcement inventories are Glocks. In addition to Austria, the armed forces of Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands have adopted the Glock.

Law enforcement agencies and military units in Belgium, Burundi, Canada, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Jordan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, Venezuela, West Germany and Zambia issue the Glock as their standard sidearm. Tens of thousands have been sold to the U.S. public, and hundreds of thousands worldwide.

In 1989 the FBI Academy Firearms Training Unit conducted its highly-publicized test and evaluation of handgun ammunition. These tests resulted in the FBI's adoption of a pistol chambered for a down-loaded 10mm Auto cartridge. This, in turn, motivated Smith & Wesson and Olin/Winchester to rapidly and jointly develop a short-cased 10mm Auto round known as the .40 S&W. Glock almost immediately jumped on the bandwagon, and shortly after the 1990 Shot Show announced introduction of the standard-size Model 22 and compact Model 23 in this latter caliber. External dimensions of these two pistols duplicate exactly those of the Model 17 and Model 19, respectively. There are, however, important internal differences which preclude caliber interchangeability.

SOF's test specimen of the production-series Model 22 has an overall length of 7.4 inches, a height (with sights) of 5.16 inches and a width of 1.18 inches. The barrel length is 4.49 inches. The weight, empty and without a magazine, is 22.36 ounces.

Our compact Model 23 has an overall length of 6.97 inches, a height with sights of 4.92 inches and the same width as the Models 22, 19 and 17. The barrel length is 4.02 inches. The weight, empty and without a magazine, is only 20.67 ounces.

With the exception of the slide, frame, barrel, locking block, recoil spring, recoil-spring guide rod and slide lock spring, all other components are interchangeable between the Models 22 and 23. There are only 37 parts in these models, including the magazine. Glock says there are 35, but I count the sights and firing-pin spring cups as two components each. Of little matter, as in either case this is still less than half the number of bits and pieces found in competing designs.

This remarkable history of success in just eight years is matched by Glock's even more remarkable design itself. Glock's only condescension to conventionality is the pistol's method of operation. Short-recoil operated, the barrel is locked to the slide by a single lug, which recesses into the ejection port in the manner of the SIG-Sauer series. During the recoil stroke, the barrel moves rearward approximately 3mm until the bullet leaves the barrel and pressures drop to safe level. At this time the barrel drops downward, separating from the slide and terminating any further motion. The slide's continued rearward movement and counter-recoil cycle are those of the Browning types.

Hammerless and striker-fired, the Glock's trigger and firing pin mechanisms are innovative and mostly unique. There is no manually-operated thumb safety or de-cocking lever. A so-called "Safe Action" trigger system, patterned after that encountered on the Sauer Behorden ("Authority") Model 1930 caliber 7.65mm pocket pistol, constitutes the first failsafe. A wide, serrated outer trigger encompasses a small, spring-loaded inner trigger, both fabricated from polymer. The outer trigger cannot be actuated, such as by contact with a holster, unless the inner trigger is depressed first. Thus the trigger can be pulled only from the center, not the edges.

A spring-loaded firing-pin safety in the slide blocks forward movement of the striker, and is raised and deactivated by a projection on the sheet-metal trigger bar as the trigger is pulled to its final rearward position.

When the trigger is in the forward position, the firing pin's spring remains lightly compressed. As the trigger is pulled 10mm through its first stage (with a pull weight of approximately 2.2 pounds) its full compression is almost complete. Removal of the finger from the trigger at this time will return the firing pin spring to its partially compressed, "relaxed" and completely safe state. Continued pressure at this point will 1) draw the firing pin fully rearward and its spring into complete compression and then 2) draw the T-shaped end of the trigger bar to its final rearward position in the trigger housing's stepped safety notch so that 3) it is free to dropmdownward away from both the "connector" (sear) and a projection at the end of the striker to release the firing pin and fire the round.

The firing pin is rectangular in cross-section with a chisel-shaped tip. Although primers are left with an instantly identifiable indentation, the striker's unorthodox configuration produces less drag on the primer (eliminating the possibility of firing pin breakage) and concentrates its momentum onto a smaller area to insure positive ignition. Fluted firing-pin spring cups, which permit the Glock pistol to be fired underwater, are available to legitimate government agencies only. A stamped sheet-metal ejector, with an odd-looking inward cant on 9mm Glocks (but in line with the barrel's axis on the .40 S&W and 10mm Auto variants) is permanently attached to the polymer trigger housing.

Further explanation of the connector is required. This sheet-metal component also serves as a disconnector. When the slide moves forward in counter-recoil, a hump above the rail on the right side pushes the connector away from the trigger bar to prevent another round from being fired until the trigger is released and the trigger bar moves forward.

The angle between the connector's upper face and its bottom face determines the trigger pull weight of the second stage. An angle of 90 degrees will produce the standard pull weight of 5 pounds. A pull weight of 8 pounds is achieved by increasing the angle to 105 degrees (stamped with a "+"). A pull weight of 3.5 pounds, available only with the Long Slide Target Model 17, is obtained when the angle is reduced to 75 degrees (stamped with a "-"). At the request of the New York State Police, a small polymer and steel component was designed to increase the trigger pull weight. There are now two versions, both of which should be installed only with the 5-pound connector. The original version will produce a trigger pull of 7.5 to 8 pounds. The so-called New York "+" component will provide a pull weight of 10 to 11 pounds. Both are too heavy for me, but one or the other should be ideal for law enforcement agencies in transition from double-action revolvers. If the pistol is to be stored for any length of time, the trigger should remain in the retracted position to remove all tension on the firing pin spring.

This triple-safe trigger mechanism is housed in a high-impact polymer frame. Four steel guide rails (each about 0.4 inches in length) for the the slide have been integrated into the injection-molded frame, in pairs at the rear of the frame and above and in front of the trigger guard. To meet BATF regulations, a steel plate carrying the serial number has been embedded into the frame in front of the trigger guard. The trigger guard has been squared off and stippled, but those who fire from the correct Weaver position will not use this dubious fetish. The grip-to-frame angle of the Models 22 and 23 remain that of the entire Glock series, which is somewhat steeper than competing designs. There is a non-slip, stippled surface on the sides of the grip and both the front and rear straps are grooved and checkered. As there are no separate grip panels, the grip portion of the pistol accommodates normal-sized hands despite its large magazine capacity.

The locking block, which engages a 45-degree camming surface on the barrel's lower lug, appears to be the Glock's only investment casting. It's retained in the frame by the same steel axis pin that holds the trigger and slide stop. There is now an additional reinforcing cross pin through the frame, directly in back of the locking block. Called the "locking block pin," it provides additional support for the locking block and prevents it from driving back and down to damage the polymer frame. The trigger housing is attached to the frame by means of a polymer pin. A spring-loaded, sheet-metal pressing serves as the slide stop, which is protected from accidental manipulation by a raised guard molded into the frame. The slide lock, operated by a single bent flat spring, engages a step on the front of the barrel's locking lug to prevent the slide and framc groups from parting company during the counter-recoil stroke. The magazine catch-release, another polymer component - located where it belongs, on the left side of the frame, directly to the rear of the trigger guard - is held in place by an uncoiled piece of spring steel. Both interior surfaces of the magazine-well's mouth have a beveled contour to assist in the insertion of magazines.

Rectangular in shape, the slide is milled from bar stock using CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machinery. Three hardening processes are employed on both the slide and barrel. The final tenifer finish, 0.04 to 0.05mm in thickness, produces a patented 69 Rockwell Cone hardness (just below a diamond) by means of a nitride bath at 500 degrees Centigrade. Scratches, which are in this instance no more than deposits from the other object, can usually be removed with a cloth and solvent. This matte, non-glare finish is 99% salt-water corrosion resistant and meets or exceeds stainless steel specifications. It's also 80% more corrosion resistant than any hard-chrome finish.

Milled into both the top and right side of the slide, the Glock's large ejection port enhances functional reliability. A large claw extractor, fitted to the slide at the rear of the ejection port on the right side, maintains its tension from a spring-loaded plunger, which together with the firing pin assembly are held in place by a polymer backing plate. Cocking serrations on the Model 22 and 23 slides are cut deeply and provide an excellent purchase when the slide is retracted.

When shipped to the United States, all Glock pistols are equipped with polymer white-outline adjustable rear sights to meet BATF import regulations. They are somewhat fragile and of little use on a defensive handgun. They can, and should be, substituted by the importer, Glock Inc. (Dept. SOF, 6000 Highlands Parkway, Smyrna, GA 30082 - phone: 404-432-1202) for fixed sights at a modest surcharge. Four heights are available: 6.1mm (lower impact), 6.5mm (standard issue), and the higher-impact 6.9mm and 7.3mm. A rear-sight mounting and adjustment device can be obtained by certified Glock armorers. The polymer front sight carries a white dot. Best of all, in my opinion, are either the Trijicon or Meprolight Self Luminous tritium-steel sights, with which all Glock pistols can be fitted directly from Glock Inc. Sight radius of the Model 22 is 6.1 inches. That of the compact Model 23 is 5.7 inches.

Glock's hammer-forged barrels are also innovative. Called "hexagonal," the rifling lies somewhere between conventional land and groove and H&K's "polygonal" bores. The rifling's hexagonal profile (in cross-section a series of six small arcs connected by flat surfaces) provides a better gas seal, more consistent velocities, superior accuracy and ease of maintenance. Glock .40 S&W barrels have a righthand twist of one turn in 15.75 inches. A single-coil recoil spring under the barrel rides on a polymer guide rod, which is hollow to serve as a cooling air pump.

Glock magazines are of the single-position-feed, staggered-column type. Model 22 magazines hold 15 rounds and that of the Model 23, has a capacity of 13 rounds. Model 22 magazines can be employed in the Model 23, although they will extend beyond the heel of the frame. Model 23 magazines cannot be used in the Model 22.

Glock magazine bodies, followers and floorplates are fabricated from polymer. The magazine bodies have steel liners and reinforcement plates with indicator holes starting with round No. 4 up to the capacity of the magazine. Glock magazines do not always drop freely from the magazine-well because, after use, the polymer magazine walls will set with an outward bulge. In my opinion, this is a matter of small consequence. If you haven't solved your problem with 14 or 16 rounds, a pistol was an inappropriate choice for the confrontation.

Each Glock pistol is issued with two magazines, a polymer magazine loader and cleaning rod, and a nylon bristle bore brush. The polymer storage box has been designed for armory stacking and retention with a steel rod or chain. Suggested retail price is $579.95 for either the Model 22 or 23 with fixed polymer sights. Add $105.86 for either Trijicon or Meprolight self luminous sights.

Other accessories include four different holsters and magazine pouches - all fabricated from polymer. Personally, I prefer Bruce Nelson's superb #1 Professional leather holster and single magazine pouch for the entire Glock series (Bruce Nelson Combat Leather, Dept. SOF, P.O. Box 8691 CRB, Tucson, AZ 85738 - catalog, $3). This hand-fitted rig with its double belt-loop system pulls the grip area of the frame into the body, requires no straps for retention and can be worn either strong-side or cross-draw.

While somewhat different from the norm, there is nothing complex about the Glock's disassembly procedures. First, remove the magazine and remove any round in the chamber. Then, and only then, pull the trigger. Wrap the four fingers of the right hand over the slide, from the right side with the thumb wrapped around the rear of the frame, and retract the slide about an 1/8-inch (any more than that and the trigger will move forward to prevent separation of the slide and frame). Pull the slide lock downward with the thumb and index finger of the left hand. While the slide Iock is down, push the slide forward and off the frame. Push the guide rod forward and remove the rod and recoil spring. Push the barrel forward, lift up and pull it back out of the slide. No further disassembly is recommended. (If you are trained and qualified for further disassembly, remember that the new locking block pin must be removed first and re-installed before the slide stop lever, as the slide stop lever spring rests on this cross pin.)

Do not attempt to manipulate the trigger system after the slide has been removed or you may damage the inner trigger's spring. Re-assemble in the reverse order. To disassemble the magazine, merely squeeze the side walls at the base, with a punch depress the projection on the newly added polymer spring-backing-plate and slide off the floorplate.

There can be no question about the Glock's levels of reliability or durability. It has successfully passed tests every bit as rigorous as the XM9 trials, involving hundreds of thousands of rounds. Unfortunately, Glock was pressured into submitting two prototype caliber.40 S&W pistols to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) only for examination and moderate test firing. Inappropriately, the pistols were subjected to the extensive trials designed to provide information for adoption of a new handgun for CHP. The prototypes' magazines had been converted from 9mm Parabellum and failed to hold the slide open. A crack developed on the breech face of the slide. The Glock pistol was not adopted and most certainly they will never again submit unproven prototypes for tests of this type. It goes without saying that series-production caliber .40 S&W Glock pistols have been redesigned to correct these deficiencies.

SOF's test and evaluation of the Models 22 and 23 did no more than confirm impressions already built from tens of thousands of rounds fired through Glock 17 and 19 pistols that look and perform today as well as they did right out of the factory boxes. There were no stoppages attributable to the pistols during the course of the more than 500 rounds fired to date through each of our test specimens. The frame's inherent elasticity dampens felt recoil considerably, although it is slightly greater than that of the 9mm Parabellum variants. As the barrel's axis lies close to the hand, the recoil momentum is is perceived as an almost straight rearward thrust with much less muzzle climb than that of other pistols in this caliber.

Target re-acquisition times between shots are minimal, as the front sight barely leaves the point of aim if a strong Weaver hold is employed. Quite muzzle heavy, the Models 22 and 23 point instinctively and come on target with great speed. With their clean and constant trigger system, the hit probability is high. There is, of course, no hammer bite to distract the shooter. The frame's grip ergonomics are excellent.

The ejection pattern is erratic, and empty cases are sprayed over a 90-degree arc from the right to the rear. Examination of the empty cases revealed an elongate smear on the primers which extended beyond the peculiar indentation usually associated with the Glock firing pin. My friend and highly regarded handgun authority Wiley Clapp has concluded that this is evidence of the rapid pressure peaks and resulting high slide velocities associated with almost all pistols chambered for the .40 S&W cartridge. Apparently the breech starts to open before the firing pin has retracted, producing the wipe mark noted.

What about the accuracy potential? Most engagements with a handgun will take place at 21 feet or less. Firing a pistol from 25 yards off a Ransom Rest will provide information concerning its theoretical accuracy potential, but nothing about its practical accuracy in a stress scenario, as I know of no instance where a Ransom Rest has been employed in a gunfight. We fired the Models 22 and 23 at camouflaged combat targets from 21 feet in the Weaver position. Ammunition manufactured by Federal, Winchester, Hornady, Black Hills and Accurate Ammunition was tested for accuracy. Most of the 180-grain jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) bullets tested consistently impacted five rounds into a ragged half-inch hole at this distance, and that will more than do for gun-fights. Bullets weighing only 155 grains were not as accurate.

Necessary or not (and I don't believe it was), the .40 S&W cartridge and a glut of pistols chambered for it have arrived and will be with us for some time into the foreseeable future. It is superior to the 9mm Parabellum, but falls short of the .45 ACP. SOF evaluated the terminal effects of a wide array of .40 S&W ammunition. Most was effective, and it appears that the ammunition manufacturers are starting to produce handgun bullets of the proper design.

Federal's 180-grain JHP without a post averaged 944 fps (fired from a Glock Model 23 with a 4.02-inch barrel), expanded to .65 caliber and penetrated, without fragmentation, from 12.3 to 12.5 inches of soft tissue. This is acceptable performance. Their 180-grain JHP Hydra-Shok bullet with its goofy post is loaded into an impressive nickeled-case. Its performance is less than impressive. Expanding to .68 caliber, it penetrates only 11.7 to 11.9 inches of soft tissue while traveling at 945 fps. That's marginal and we surely don't need to pay more for less.

Winchester's 180-grain JHP in this caliber also travels downrange at about 940 fps, expands to .65 caliber with only minor fragmentation and penetrates about 12.5 inches of soft tissue.

Hornady's .40 S&W ammunition, when loaded with their 180-grain JHP XTP bullet, turned in the best performance. Velocity ranged from 948 to 972 fps. Expansion was stellate-shaped, with the points averaging .68 caliber and the flats at about .64 caliber. There was no fragmentation, and this bullet will penetrate about 14.2 inches of soft tissue. Black Hills Ammunition also uses the Hornady 180-grain JHP XTP bullet at a velocity that varies from 855 to 890 fps. However, penetration, while an excellent 17 to 18.7 inches, is provided at the expense of expansion, which drops to approximately .54 caliber as only the jacket peels back.

Two 155-grain JHP .40 S&W bullets were tested. Winchester's Silvertip travels at about 930 fps and expands to about .62 caliber, and penetrates 12.4 to 13 inches with no fragmentation. Hornady's bullet in this weight performs more erratically. Velocity varies by more than 100 fps (1,044 to 1,146 fps). Expansion is consistent at .62 caliber, but there is noticeable fragmentation of the lead-alloy core all along the wound track, and penetration varies from 10.3 to 13.4 inches. I believe we would be better served if a 200-grain JHP bullet was developed for the .40 S&W. Until that occurs, 180-grain JHP bullets should be selected, and at present Hornady ammunition provides the best performance in this weight.

We also tested a 170-grain lead-alloy truncated-cone bullet loaded by Accurate Ammunition. The velocity is about 970 fps. Bullets of this configuration are commonly shoulder-stabilized and will not yaw in the target, nor do they deform. As a consequence, they will invariably over-penetrate. This one traveled 39 inches before it exited the tissue simulant. Save bullets of this type for punching paper.

The amount of velocity lost when you opt for the Model 23 is minimal (no more than 4%) as its barrel is less than a half-inch shorter that the Model 22's tube. There is no practical effect whatever on the wound ballistics potential. I prefer the Model 23 as it can be concealed more easily. However, some feel the Model 22 has superior handling characteristics.

There's already a virtual hailstorm of large-capacity .40 S&W pistols out there. Within the next few years this cartridge may almost entirely replace the 9mm Parabellum as the standard U.S. police service round. Dozens of U.S. law enforcement agencies have already adopted Glock pistols chambered for the .40 S&W cartridge. Anyone casting about for a .40 S&W handgun could do no better than selecting any one of the Glock series.

The often neglected bottom line on the Glock series is that they work right out of the box - no customizing, retrofitting, additions or tuning is required before you stuff one in your holster and step out onto the pavement.

Glock 22 Specifications
Caliber .40 S&W
Action Safe Action (constant double action mode)
Overall length (slide) 7.32 in. (186 mm)
Height, including magazine 5.43 in. (138 mm)
Width 1.18 in. (30 mm)
Barrel length 4.49 in. (114 mm)
Sight radius 6.49 in. (165 mm)
Rifling Hexagonal profile with right-hand twist of one turn in 9.84 in. (250 mm)
Weight, without magazine 22.92 oz. (650 g)
Weight, empty magazine 2.76 oz. (78 g)
Weight, full magazine ~11.46 oz. (~325 g)
Magazine capacity 15 rounds
Standard trigger pull ~5.5 lbs. (~2.5 kg)
Trigger pull length 0.5 in. (12.5 mm)
Number of safeties 3

information courtesy of GLOCK