Monday, August 20, 2018

Glock 29 SF (Short Frame) Gen 3: Glock Trail Gun Review

This short article and review is about evaluating the Glock 10mm auto sub-compact (Mini-Glock) for trail use. The odds of being attacked by an armed assailant are considered small by many people. I still carry a weapon(s) daily and have done so most of my adult life. We all know that the odds of having a problem with a bear, mountain lion, or boar in the backcountry are also slim. Just the same, I never head into the habitat of wildlife unprepared to survive an encounter. Irritant sprays, edged weapons, and firearms are all tools I consider and carry whether in the city or backcountry.   

Trail guns can mean different things depending on a variety of considerations. To name just a few, they might include, animal species that might be encountered, where this might occur (state parks, national parks, national forests, private property), type of weapon you can reasonably carry (open or concealed), how much weight or weapon bulk are you willing to accept, and are you willing to compromise at all on known effective calibers for weight savings along with portability/concealability.

As an example, when I am in Alaska and hunting, I generally have no problem carrying a .44 Remington Magnum or larger revolver (.454 Casull, .480 Ruger, .500 S&W Magnum). If I am hunting with my .375 H&H or a larger caliber I might lean toward the .44 Magnum handgun. When I am training in the mountains of California, I feel I don’t always want the extra weight of a revolver and spare speed loaders or the associated concealability issues when in certain places. This seems to be a great niche for me to consider a firearm chambered in 10mm to meet those needs.

When considering a 10mm, many would likely pick a longer barrel whenever possible such as a Glock Model 20 instead of the Glock 29. When you consider the minimal difference in fps, and relative difference in foot pounds of energy, many still like the idea of the subcompact 10mm (Glock 29) for weight savings and when concealing the weapon.

Setting aside the desire to wring-out every last drop of effectiveness in a cartridge with regard to barrel length, there are other factors as we previously noted. I have seen plenty of dangerous game hit less than perfectly using highly capable calibers above the .375 H&H level with little effect. This reinforces that shot placement is paramount. As long as the ballistic performance will provide the desired level of penetration, shot placement is what matters most. 

Over the years we have had the privilege to work with and provide input as a consultant-evaluator for manufacturers of firearms and manufacturers of a variety of shooting related products. We were interested in taking a look at the Glock 29 SF Gen 3 to see how or if it might fulfill a role in our trail gun needs along with reliability while feeding it a diet of Underwood Ammunition.

Glock 29 SF Gen 3 with Glock 20 Magazine & X-Grip. Standard Magazines with Pearce Grip Extensions
Our journey started out with a maiden voyage getting used to each other at the range. We shot the Underwood Ammo 200 grain Coated Hard Cast Flat Nose (trail use ammo), Underwood Ammo 200 grain Full Metal Jacket (range ammo), Sig Sauer Elite Performance V-Crown 180 grain JHP (personal defense-heading home ammo), and the Sig Sauer Elite Performance 180 grain Full Metal Jacket (range ammo).

Range Day 1
From a trail use functionality standpoint, we are primarily interested in evaluating the Underwood 200 grain Hi-Tek Coated Hard Cast Flat Nose ammunition in this handgun. We also wanted to shoot some of the Underwood Ammo 200 grain hard cast and full metal jacket along with the Sig Sauer JHP and full metal jacket as matching carry and range ammo combinations.

Heavy Tungsten Guide Rod-Image Courtesy Lenny Magill's Glock Store (GS)
Pearce Grip Extension-Factory 10 Round Magazine
X-Grip on Glock 20 Magazine (available in 10 round reduced & 15 round standard capacity)
Range session one was completed with target ranges one would expect to use a trail gun for defense. All target speed drills were shot at 7, 5, and 3 yards. Round count consisted of 140 rounds total with the factory barrel, heavy tungsten guide rod with 21 lb. spring, and the ammunition combinations previously noted above (Underwood Ammo 200 grain Coated Hard Cast Flat Nose, Underwood Ammo 200 grain Full Metal Jacket, Sig Sauer Elite Performance V-Crown 180 grain JHP, and the Sig Sauer Elite Performance 180 grain Full Metal Jacket).

We made a few modifications to our stock handgun for our first range session that included a Beavertail grip adapter, Glock 20 ten round magazine with the X-Grip, and factory ten round Glock 29 magazines with the Pearce Grip Extension added. No problems were encountered with these modifications.

The Beavertail grip adapter was very comfortable and allowed getting high in the grip without concern of slide biting. The X-grip and Pearce Grip Extension both provided excellent control of the handgun and provided shooting comfort. If your application calls for standard capacity magazines (15 rounds) or if you prefer a longer ten round magazine the X-Grip is an excellent option. If you prefer to use the shorter factory Glock 29 ten round magazines the Pearce Grip is just the ticket.

A Simple Dot Drill for Combat Sight Alignment and Precision Sight Picture

Speed Drills from 7, 5, & 3 Yards. Flyer Courtesy of Me
There were no issues noted with regard to slide timing utilizing the heavier replacement recoil spring. We did not experience any failure to feed (FTF) or failure to eject (FTE) problems. The ammo shot great and the only flyer was induced from improper sight alignment and trigger control by me during a speed drill. No fault of the ammunition.

The Trail Guns Preferred by Many When Size is Not an Issue
Reliable and Simple Bolt Guns-Preferred by Many in the Appropriate Application
There are a variety of weapons that one can carry for trail use in different areas and circumstances. Each have their application and unique benefit. We are primarily interested in seeing if the Glock 29 SF Gen 3 has a role to play for any of our applications along with the ability to reliably feed the hard cast Underwood Ammo.

Tried and True Wheel Guns-Often Favored by Some in Brown Bear and Grizzly Country
Our second range session consisted of adding the standard length KKM Precision barrel and shooting to assure functionality. From the KKM Precision website, KKM barrels are made using certified 416R gun-barrel quality stainless steel bar stock. Barrels are heat treated and vacuum tempered to 42 RC. The barrels are CNC machined to obtain superior dimensional tolerances over stock. Their proprietary button rifling process allows KKM barrels to offer greater accuracy over stock barrels.

Glock uses polygonal type rifling in their barrels. Glock warns/recommends not shooting lead bullets since it could cause a lead buildup with their style of rifling. This is of course creates a safety concern. I do not intend to shoot pure lead bullets but instead hard cast bullets such as Underwood. From what I have read through my research, hard cast bullets that are properly sized and utilize good lube do not generally cause significant fouling. Just the same, I prefer to use an aftermarket barrel that eliminates that concern entirely. Additionally, a match grade replacement barrel can help to increase accuracy as well. The KKM Precision Glock barrels have fully supported SAAMI specification match chambers. This allows shooting factory or reloaded ammunition as well as lead or jacketed bullets. 

The KKM barrel for our Glock is a drop-in fit. When we originally ordered our barrel from KKM, we explained our intended purpose and application. We asked to have the feed ramp modified for over sized loads. KKM was happy to accommodate the request at no additional charge. KKM advised us that this modification would sacrifice approximately 1-1.5% of chamber support but would still be considered as a fully supported chamber.

KKM Precision barrel & heavy tungsten guide rod with 21 lb. spring installed

KKM Precision barrel on the left. Factory Glock barrel on the right

KKM Precision barrel on the left. Factory Glock barrel on the right.

View of the KKM Precision barrel with modified feed ramp in the handgun.
For our second range visit we planned to shoot 100 rounds of ammunition at both a 7 yard quick-draw static target and also a target charging from 12 yards to 3 yards. We decided to use the Alaska State Parks bear target.

Click on images to enlarge. Shaded hit zone ring on targets for reference.
Our charging targets were limited to the speed of retrieval of the indoor target range system so they were not slow but they were not extremely fast either. They did however remind us of the difficulty associated with accurately hitting a moving target even when on a flat range. The need for moving/charging target practice during a range session should not be overlooked on a gun being considered for defensive trail use. 

Static 7 yard quick-draw target.
Charging target from 12 yards to 3 yards.
There were no issues noted on range session two with regard to slide timing utilizing the heavier replacement recoil spring in conjunction with the KKM Precision barrel. We did not experience any failure to feed (FTF) or failure to eject (FTE) problems. 

After my two initial range sessions I decided that an additional modification to our weapon would be beneficial. The factory Glock sights do not fulfill my needs completely. I decided to utilize Trijicon HD Night Sights with the orange front outline (Model GL104O). These sights are also available in a yellow outline front sight model (GL104Y). I have used the Orange outline version on several of my carry guns and have found them to work great for my eyes. Both versions also provide the added benefit of the three dot green tritium inserts for low light or night time shooting. An additional benefit of these metal sights is the front surface of the rear sight is steeply hooked. This allows the handgun slide to be operated in emergency one-handed operation. This is done by hooking the sight on clothing, a belt, the heel of your boot, or against other surfaces to operate the slide. 

Trijicon HD Night Sight Sets-Image Courtesy of Trijicon
I decided to personalize the handgun just a little by having the slide finished in oven cured Cerakote while the sights were being swapped. During our trail use this handgun will be exposed to a lot of sweat. Cerakote serves as a more effective barrier against oxidation and corrosion than bluing. 

Cerakote Slide Finish and Trijicon HD Night Sights Completed
It was time to head back to the range for session three to confirm the changes I had completed would not alter functionality negatively. During session three I fired 65 rounds of  200 grain Hi-Tek Coated Hard Cast Flat Nose ammunition from Underwood Ammunition. This will be the primary ammunition utilized on the trail.  

There were no problems during session three following our sight swap and Cerakote finish application. No negative issues were noted with regard to slide timing and I did not experience any failure to feed (FTF) or failure to eject (FTE) problems. I am very pleased with the sight change and the Cerakote adds additional finish protection and my personality to the handgun. 

Special thanks to Mark Ford, Owner and operator of Valley Cerakote. Mark rushed our slide through and got us squared away quickly! Mark can be reached at Nor Cal Gun Vault in Rocklin, CA. Alternatively, you can give him a call at (209) 993-1519. Be sure to tell Mark that Shawn sent you.

In closing, the Glock 29 SF Gen 3 will be a great addition to my trail gun selection. Since beginning this review I was able to put over 300 miles on the trail during training hikes while carrying this handgun. I also had the opportunity to complete a 3-day 40 mile hike through Hoover Wilderness and into Yosemite National Park backcountry with this handgun. It carried well concealed and I felt comfortable with the smaller size, capacity (16 rounds), and capability of the 10mm auto sub-compact! Perhaps you may want to give it some consideration for your trail gun needs as well.