Race Gun on a budget.
Shooting is fun, relaxing, and many consider to be therapy. An added benefit to shooting in increasing a skill that may help save your life. Shooting at a paper target in a square range is excellent for honing the fundamentals but that is only one regimen to consider. It is a great idea to practice, take classes, and even compete in matches. Classes add to your skill tool box, practice helps hone those new skills, and competition adds another layer of practice where you compete against others, that damn shot timer, and yourself. The latter of the three is the most important and that damn shot timer the least important. As you may guess I have a love/hate thing with shot timers.
Anyhow, action pistol matches, three gun, IDPA, and IPSC are all great places to start. It is a solid idea to shoot to train, practice, and compete with your daily carry handgun. The handgun you carry day in and day out is the one you should be very proficient with. To run action pistol matches with your daily carry is sort of like going to the races and putting your grocery getter in pole position. While a sound practice, it is fun to run a hot rod in the races now and then. Though different, if you become proficient with one handgun, that goes a long way to you being proficient with other handguns. Fundamentals such as sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, breath control, and natural point of aim can transfer from one platform to another, mostly.
So, now we have justified running a hot rod gun in some of our classes and matches, lets get to what that consists of. Full on race guns, custom built, tuned up, and often exotic calibers are the Formula 1 of handguns. The draw back is they are expensive, like $4-6K easy. Also, these race guns are a ways a way from your carry gun so you may not be doing yourself as much good as far as becoming proficient with a carry gun as you would like. There are other less expensive semi custom pistols such as the Colt Special Combat Government built off a Government Model in the Colt custom shop that are more of the stock car of handguns. Well built, solid, reliable, and somewhat affordable. A fine series of pistols that are truly worth investigating. Then there is the latter option, what we will talk about now and that is the budget “race gun” that you put together yourself with options that fit your needs. Think of these as the outlaw series of car racing. Still reliable and gets the job done but maybe not as sexy.
Unless you are a competent machinist you will have a bit of trouble building your race gun or race car, unless you choose a great starting point. This article features my Glock 17 Gen 4 chambered in 9×19. The Glock is a reliable, reasonably accurate, and simple platform to work with. Most parts are inexpensive and require little to no fitting to get them working correctly. With minimal gunsmithing knowledge and basic tools you can assemble a dandy match pistol out of a Glock without going broke.
I started with the Gen 4, 17 due to the 9×19 caliber being inexpensive to shoot and reload for, oh and I had one lying around I did not particularity care for. The first thing I had to address was that trigger pull, as mine was a touch under eight pounds out of the box. That is marginal for a carry gun and unacceptable for a match pistol. The harder the trigger pull, the better chance you have to disrupt that good sight alignment and sight picture as you press trigger time after time. In action pistol matches where speed counts almost as much as accuracy, good trigger control can be tough to employ. With a good trigger, you have more forgiveness for such matters.
For the trigger, I wanted to keep the pistol looking as stock as possible so I opted to rebuild the factory trigger. Using a Ghost three and a half pound connector, a four pound firing pin spring, and a six pound trigger spring I was not only able to cut the trigger pull in half but take up and reset was greatly improved.
Stock Glock recoil system on right, and left is the tungsten.
Next, was recoil management, though the 9×19 does not generate a lot of recoil, when time is important it is a good idea to lessen the recoil as much as you can to reacquire your sights as quick as you can. The first part I changed was the recoil spring system. I went with a tungsten guide rod over the factory steel.
The tungsten guide rod is over twice as heavy, adding more weight to the muzzle. The more mass at the muzzle aids in holding the pistol steady and it does help hold the muzzle down during recoil. Some say it is a gimmick or not enough to matter. My theory to making a difference is not just in one big solution but the culmination of several smaller ones. Another good modification to help with recoil is to add a beavertail. You can pick these up aftermarket for about $30 but I have another option. The Gen 4 Glock all come with interchangeable backstraps to customize the fit but the newest Gen 4 Glocks also have backstraps with integrated beavertails.
I did not really want to change the grip size to I sourced one of these new beavertail backstraps for a Glock 19. Now I know the backstraps are not interchangeable but in keeping with the idea of not changing the grip profile I cut the backstrap just below where it pins into the receiver. I cleaned up the cut and adjusted radius a bit to fit the grip. With a little glue and the single pin it has held fast over a dozen or so matches.
I did add a smooth aluminum slide cover plate. Though there is no real difference it is a little lighter than the factory plastic one. I like the look better as my eyes were drawn to the serrations on the factory part.
The next area I addressed was accuracy. Though the factory Glock is plenty accurate as a defensive pistol I wanted to add any little advantage I could, so I ordered a Lone Wolf drop-in stainless steel match grade barrel. I opted for the threaded barrel. Though it does add a little length and weight to the end of the gun, I don’t know if that is enough to matter but I have another AAC silencer on the way for a review so that seemed like a good idea. The Lone Wolf barrel has traditional rifling, which will allow me to safely run lead bullets, cutting the cost down on practice quite a bit. The tighter chamber keeps the brass from expanding as much as the factory chamber. Not working the brass so much during resizing adds more reloads per case, again keeping the cost down. You can read how well accuracy was improved by following this link.
An extended slide stop and magazine catch is a must, in my opinion. I went with the Glock extended magazine catch and an anodized aluminum magazine catch.
I added a small magazine well, though this takes away from the stock appearance it does help a bit with magazine changes when you are in a hurry. The thing to remember is, when you run a mag well, you need to add base pads to your magazine.
The mag well adds length to the grip, so the stock magazine pad will be below the end of the mag well. This won’t work when trying to seat a mag.
Something else I did was to polish the firing pin stop plunger. The theory is to smooth up the sides so it slides easier into the slide while pressing the trigger, and to smooth up the face so as it slides over the trigger bar. Whether that made any difference, truthfully I could not tell either way. Once it was done nothing seemed much different but I can tell you it did not hurt anything.
To date these are all the changes I have made and here is the difference it has made for me.
Now there are plenty more options that can be changed as well on your Glock such as titanium firing pins and complete drop in trigger assemblies, but I decided to go with what I have now and invest that money in propellent and primers as well as training classes.
I have been told that the skeltonized firing pins are subject to break, or with a lighter firing pin spring it can give you light primer strikes.
When I started shooting local matches with my Glock 17, it was factory stock and I did pretty well but as I made upgrades to the pistol, especially the trigger, sights, and Lone Wolf barrel I noticed my times were getting faster and the pistol was more accurate. Now it was not a night and day difference but it was noticeable.
As for sights, well I shot several matches with the factory sights and saw an upgrade was needed. I went with the Tru Glo TFO, which are fiber optic as well as Tritium. I like this setup because the fiber optic picks up light well, even in low light. In really low light the Tritium adds enough to make the sights easy to pick up, especially if you shoot some no or low light matches. There are a large number of options for the Glock platform and they are pretty easy to install.
This is not a night match but the first match I ran with the new sights, and they were noticeably easier to acquire.
So, is what I have a true race gun? Well, not really but it is purposely built to shoot action pistol matches. The draw back is, I would not use this pistol as a carry gun with these modifications. Which is fine as the Glock 17 was never my first choice for a concealed carry sidearm. As far as the local matches though, it does well and I need all the help I can get.
An Advanced Holster light bearing holster, a couple of magazine holders, and a solid belt round out my match rig