On the Glock Talk forum , there was recently some discussion regarding my posts about Handgun design and the Glock 19. I wanted to address some of the issues brought up.

The theme that I have emphasized throughout the posts on equipment selection is that your tactics and skill are the foundation for determining what gear works and what gear does not. If we do not share common skill or tactics then we will likely arrive at different conclusions regarding which gun we think works best. If we do arrive at the same conclusion then it will likely be for different reasons.

In the forum thread, it was stated, “Despite the many virtues of the Glock design I still can not shoot close to the same level of accuracy that I am able with a full size revolver. I just don’t have glock hands. ”

Some guns are inherently more accurate than others. No doubt that a tightly fit 1911 or a 6” S&W 686 is more mechanically accurate than a Glock 19. This is not a subjective feeling based on your body shape. It is a mechanical reality and can be proven by anyone that can properly align the sights and press the trigger straight to the rear at the same time.

In the post, it was argued that the following two statements seemed “contradictory.”

Speaking about handguns in general, I stated: “Often times I hear people say that you should select a gun that ‘feels the best to you. Go to the range and shoot a bunch of guns and buy the one you like.’ This is lousy advice.” And I stated: “Don’t get caught up in the subjective feel of the gun.”

Speaking about the Glock 19, I stated: “It is reasonably ergonomic, but more importantly, it does not interfere with my grip and shooting platform. It is easy to shoot.”

Additionally, one poster felt, “I disagree with the part about gun fit. If the gun does not fit you well you can not master it, you can over come and learn to shoot it well, but you will not do as well as a gun that fits you.”

There is an ergonomic issue to consider when selecting a weapon system. And as I stated previously, hand size is the biggest factor. If you cannot grip the gun correctly and place your finger in the correct spot on the trigger, then perhaps that particular gun is not well suited for you. That being said, your subjective feelings, likes, and dislikes should not play a roll in determining whether or not you think the gun “fits.”

The statement “does not interfere with my grip and shooting platform” is meant to be an objective, measurable statement. However, you first have to have a well-defined shooting platform, grip, and gun handling skills in order to evaluate the gun. A good example of this is the classic Sig line of handguns. The profile of the grip on the left side of the gun and the placement of the slide stop further toward the rear is best suited for a thumbs down “modern technique” type grip. For those of us that shoot with a thumbs up/forward grip, the placement of the slide stop causes many right-handed shooters to ride the thumb on top of the slide stop causing the slide to not lock to the rear after the last round fired in a magazine. Additionally, the profile of the grip makes it difficult to get positive contact with the support hand on the grip of the gun. Obviously this does not mean that a symmetrical shooting platform with a thumbs up/forward grip is incompatible with the classic Sig platform, but it does mean that many shooters have to adjust their grip to fit the gun design, which is suboptimal. In fact, a Sig 229 in .40 S&W is my issued handgun.

Mastery of skill (which I am still in search off) is not dependent on equipment. The operators that I consider masters of their discipline can pick up any gun and shoot it well. Some platforms are optimized and can make one’s job easier, but very rarely is the equipment the true limiting factor.

In my post on handgun designs, I stated. “The result is a high pressure cartridge [(.40 S&W)] being fired out of a gun designed for the lower pressure 9mm.” As pointed out by the GlockTalk thread, I was incorrect in stating that the .40 S&W was a “higher pressure” cartridge than the 9mm. There is some variation depending on the specific load, but for our purposes they are essentially the same both around 35,000 PSI.

Additionally, my statement that “…to accommodate the larger cartridge, the slide, barrel, and chamber mass was reduced…” is not correct. The slides of the .40 variants are slightly heavier than the corresponding 9mm.

While wrong on those data points, the problem with re-engineered guns does still exist. While Glock may have slightly changed the slide weight by fractions of an ounce, they did not change the springs. The Glock 17, 22, and 31 recoil springs all share the same part number (SP01533). While still internet rumor at this point, it appears that Glock recognizes the need for improvement also. Some have testified that there is a redesigned recoil spring (among other changes) in the Generation 4 Glock 22s that are supposed to be released in the coming months.

The well-documented problem with lights attached to the rails is an obvious example of problems with the current Glock 22 that is not shared by the 9mm Glocks. Issues with weapons are often not manifest to the end user because the end user does not actually shoot their gun. This is the case for private citizens and law-enforcement alike. If you only shoot a couple hundred rounds a year and if the life cycle of the gun is only a few thousand rounds, then it does not really matter what caliber you shoot.

But for those of us who shoot and are serious about preparing for a violent confrontation, we prefer a platform that is first and foremost reliable. The weapon should be able to handle thousands of rounds a year and tens of thousands of rounds in its life-cycle with proper maintenance. While there are plenty of .40 S&W guns out there with 20,000 to 40,000 or more rounds on them, it does not change the fact that the same weapon system with 9mm will last longer and be more reliable. A colleague of mine is the lead firearms instructor of a LE agency of about 800 which issues the Glock 22 as their primary handgun. The few that have shot their guns consistently have experienced disappointingly frequent parts breakages and stoppages in .40 S&W. Those officers that recognized the problem switch over to a 9mm variant. In fact, my colleague’s original issued Glock 17 has over 100,000 rounds through it, and it is still going strong. While this is anecdotal, I think it demonstrates my point well. 9mm Glocks with over 50,000 rounds are not that uncommon. However, this is seen less often with the .40 S&W.

In the 90s when the .40 S&W began to gain popularity, many of the Insights Instructors tried Glock 23s. They quickly found out that it was more difficult to shoot (not that they could not shoot it well), less reliable, and they experienced parts breakage more often. The Glock 23s were all sold off and Glock 19s purchased as a replacement.

I stand by my statement that “There are very few handgun weapon systems originally designed around something other than 9mm or .45 ACP cartridges. And even fewer that have seen extended use by large organizations.”

As someone that carries a Sig 229 in .40 S&W professionally, I recognize that this gun was built from the ground up as a .40. The slide width when compared to a 9mm is obviously wider. The M&P is also a gun that was designed from the ground up as a .40. Prior to the new Glock 22 being announced, the M&P 40 would be first on my list if I had to pick a gun in .40 S&W. These are the “few” that I was referring. “Hogging out” a barrel and changing some springs does not make a reliable handgun. But even for the guns that were designed with the .40S&W round in mind, the 9mm versions will likely be as, or more reliable, will almost certainly last significantly longer than the .40 S&W version, and will be easier for many shooters to shoot rapidly and accurately due to less recoil.

I am not interested in getting into a big, long, caliber debate. There is already too much useless noise on that topic for a debate that was settled years ago. The bottom line is that the .40 S&W is a solution in search of a problem. Rather than blaming equipment for failures in gunfights, agencies should have looked to improved tactics and skill. Unfortunately, this costs more money, will hurt the egos of those tied to archaic skills, and does not satisfy the American male’s belief that bigger is always better. In the end, the .40 S&W has likely produced more problems than it has solved, with guns that malfunction more often and don’t last as long and operators who can’t shoot them as well.