Glocks are the most popular brand of pistols in the United States. Glock pistols regularly show up on best-selling lists, they equip over 60% of America’s law enforcement, and they are recommended by many professionals in the industry. When a first-time gun buyer asks for handgun recommendations, the typical response is, “get a Glock.” When a firearm platform becomes extremely popular, as it has with the Glock, manufacturers rush to make third-party parts and accessories for that platform. Not surprisingly, the Glock aftermarket’s size rivals that of the 1911 pistol or the AR-15.
History of the Glock
The original Glock pistol, the first-generation Glock 17, was designed in the early 1980s to compete in the Austrian military pistol trials.
The Glock 17 hit the military pistol trial as a high-capacity firearm allowing for 17 rounds in the magazine. It had a lightweight frame, mainly made of polymers, a barrel with polygonal rifling (more accurate and easier to maintain), and very few controls with no manual safety and no decocking mechanism. It featured three internal safeties, including a drop safety and a trigger-mounted safety. It could be disassembled and reassembled quickly and without tools, using only 34 parts.
Glock’s durable and reliable design emerged as the winner of the Austrian military pistol trials. This resulted in its adoption as the P80. Later joint trials by Norway and Sweden revealed the Glock pistol surpassed every single NATO durability standard, resulting in both countries adopting it.
In 1986, Glock opened an office in Smyrna, GA. Glock pistols started being imported the same year and officially hit the market in 1988, gaining the attention of both civilian shooters and law enforcement.
By the 1990s, law enforcement across the United States needed to replace their aging .38 special revolvers with new high-capacity semi-automatic pistols. Glock started an extensive marketing campaign, offering steep discounts and advantageous trade-in programs to get law enforcement agencies to switch to the Glock. The plan was highly successful; to this day, Glock pistols still equip 60% to 65% of all law enforcement agencies in the United States.
In the civilian world, Glocks took nearly every relevant shooting activity by storm. They dethroned the 1911 as the most popular competition platform. Experts often recommend Glocks as ideal for concealed carry and personal defense. Glock had even made handgun models suitable for hunting.
Types of Upgrades For Glocks
Every single part of a Glock pistol has at least one, aftermarket equivalents. The array of Glock compatible products can be challenging to navigate, especially for newcomers.
A shooter looking to upgrade their Glock should ask themselves the following questions:
- Which Glock model and generation do I have?
- What is the purpose of my pistol?
- What are the things I like about my pistol?
- What are the things I dislike about my pistol?
Two of the most common complaints regarding Glock pistols are related to the sights and the trigger. Both the sight and the trigger are critical elements for comfortability and accuracy while shooting.
Other standard Glock upgrades include grip modifications, replacement barrels, magazine extensions, extended magazine wells, extended control sets, replacement slides, and accessories such as lights, lasers, and red dot sights.
Glock Sight Upgrades
Stock Glock sights are polymer. The sighting system is composed of a square U-notch rear sight and a single dot front sight. Although these sights are functional, most shooters do not like the thought of plastic sights.
- If you like the stock sighting system but don’t want polymer sights, Glock also makes steel sights. They are inexpensive and make for a no-nonsense upgrade.
- If you prefer the traditional three-dot sighting system, Glock and several third-party manufacturers make three-dot sights as well.
Night Sights for Glocks
Stock Glock sights are non-illuminated. If you intend to use a handgun for home defense, you may want to opt for night sights instead. Night sights do not require batteries and exist in two forms: tritium illumination and fiber optic.
- Tritium is a radioluminescent material that becomes brightly visible in low-light conditions. It does not require maintenance and will glow even in complete darkness. In contrast, tritium sights are typically more expensive, and the brightness will start dimming after 10-12 years.
- Fiber optic sights are less expensive and exist in a variety of sizes and colors. They employ rods designed to reflect ambient light, providing the shooter with a brightly colored aiming point. However, they do not work in low light or complete darkness, and the fiber optic tubes are relatively fragile.
Red Dot Sights and Slide Replacements for Glocks
If you wish to install a red dot sight (RDS) on your Glock pistol, you will need to modify your existing slide or buy a separate, pre-cut slide. RDS compatible slides feature cuts and screw threads to install a mount and an RDS.
Glock caught up with the civilian market with the Gen 5 MOS models. Still, third-party manufacturers have been making RDS slides for decades. The RDS slides are compatible with the most popular pistol and micro red dot sights, such as the Trijicon RMR or the Leupold DeltaPoint.
Many slides include cuts for compensated or ported barrels, front slide serrations, and lightning cuts. Some models feature highly stylized designs, significantly changing the appearance of your firearm.
Glock Trigger Upgrades
The stock Glock trigger is also best described as functional, providing an adequate pull weight for a handgun. It is not overly heavy, but has a fair amount of take-up and has a noticeable amount of over-travel after the break.
A common complaint is the shape of the stock Glock trigger shoe. Glock triggers are well-known for their trigger-mounted safety levers (affectionately nicknamed the “dingus”), which some shooters may find distracting or uncomfortable. Many aftermarket trigger shoes for the Glock feature different shapes, some with subdued or differently-shaped trigger safety levers.
Another type of trigger upgrade for the Glock is one that changes the trigger pull weight. Stock triggers use a 5.5-lb connector, requiring between 6 and 7 lbs. of force to pull completely. The exact amount varies depending on the model and the age of the pistol. Replacing the connector with a lighter model may reduce that pull weight. Many trigger kits come with their connectors as well.
Glock Barrel Replacements
The stock Glock barrel varies depending on the generation. Generation 1-4 barrels use polygonal rifling; instead of lands and grooves, these barrels use less pronounced “hills and valleys,” imparting a spin on the bullet as it travels.
Generation 5 barrels, known as Glock Marksman Barrels, use a hybrid of polygonal and traditional lands-and-grooves rifling with a match-grade crown, slightly enhancing accuracy at longer distances. Gen 5 barrels are not interchangeable with Gen 1-4 barrels due to differences in external dimensions.
If you want to install muzzle accessories for the Glock such as a suppressor, a muzzle brake, or a compensator, you will need a threaded barrel. Glock threaded barrels are slightly elongated barrels featuring a length of screw threading at the business end, allowing a user to screw on the accessory of their choice.
Specific gun barrels are ported: they feature precision-drilled holes, which vent some of the gases expelled by a fired cartridge upwards. The force generated by these escaping gases pushes the barrel down, combating muzzle flip and helping the shooter stay on target.
Shooting unjacketed lead bullets through stock Glock barrels of any generation is not recommended. According to Glock, doing so may lead to significant fouling, which may cause out-of-battery malfunctions and, potentially, catastrophic failures. Individual aftermarket makers offer barrels with traditional rifling grooves to address these concerns.
Glock Grip Modifications
If you own a Gen 3 or Gen 4 Glock, your pistol’s frame possesses finger grooves. Shooters that do not have large hands find the grooves ill-fitting and uncomfortable, preventing them from getting a secure grip on the handgun. Unfortunately, this often translates into less accuracy.
An inexpensive grip modification is grip tape: an adhesive material with an ergonomic texture designed to wrap around your pistol’s frame, partially filling in the grooves and providing a grippy surface.
More expensive modifications include services that directly modify the pistol frame. Stippling is the process of engraving a grippier which adds a more aggressive texture into the frame, eliminating the need for grip tape. Some gunsmiths offer finger groove elimination services, smoothing and retexturizing the entirety of the grip in the process.
Glock Magazine Extensions
Upgrading Glock magazines with extended baseplates enable you to increase your existing magazine’s capacity. Magazine extensions possess plus ratings (+1, +2, +3, etc.), which indicate the number of extra rounds provided. Some extended baseplates come with upgraded magazine springs, improving reliability.
The stock frame and magazine do not offer enough space for all fingers to grip the firearm on specific compact and subcompact Glock pistol models. Baseplate upgrades are sometimes known as “pinky extensions” because they provide just enough extra material for these fingers to hold onto, resulting in a better grip and, in turn, better accuracy.
Magazine Well Extensions for Glocks
Magazine well extensions are pieces of polymer or aluminum screwed onto the bottom of a pistol’s frame. Their purpose is a magazine well extension is to provide a larger opening for the insertion of the magazine, reducing the chance of “bumping” your magazine against the frame, thus increasing reload speed.
Magazine well extensions are popular with Glock competition shooters in disciplines such as USPSA or IPSC.
Glock Controls Upgrade
The term “controls” refers to the Glock’s magazine release button and the slide release lever. There are two main types of upgraded controls for Glocks: ambidextrous upgrades and enlarged controls.
Enlarged controls are magazine release buttons and slide release levers that are larger than the standard stock option. If you have difficulty reaching the button or lever with your dominant hand, you may want to purchase an enlarged controls kit for your Glock.
Stock Glock pistols are not fully ambidextrous, despite introducing an ambidextrous slide release on the Gen 5 models. If you are a left-handed shooter or frequently use your handgun with your non-dominant hand, you may want to install an ambidextrous magazine release button. If you own a Gen 1-4 pistol, aftermarket parts are the only way to obtain an ambidextrous slide release.
Glock Lights and Glock Lasers
Starting with the 3rd generation, Glocks added the rail feature on the frame’s underside, ahead of the trigger guard. This accessory rail is compatible with laser sights and tactical lights, intended for Weaver or Picatinny rails.
For home defense and personal protection, installing a light on your Glock may be a good option. The ability to illuminate a large area in front of you during the night or in low-light environments lets shooters identify potential threats before pulling the trigger. Some consider it an essential upgrade, as it allows gun owners at night to respect one of the core gun safety rules: “Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it”.
Laser sight additions for Glocks are a popular option to aid shooters with aiming, particularly in close quarters. Some laser sights double as guide rods, projecting a laser beam from under the barrel, eliminating the need to install a laser sight on the frame rail and allowing you to keep your existing holster.
The Last Word
Glocks have been enduringly popular in the United States for over 30 years, having earned their place as a staple for shooters and gun owners of all stripes. Like the 1911, the AR-15, and the AK, there is no shortage of aftermarket parts for Glock pistols, and it is easy to get bitten by the customization bug.
We The People Holsters carries a large selection of 100% US-made Kydex holsters for Glock pistols of all models and generations. We offer both IWB Glock Holsters and OWB Glock holsters in either right- or left-handed configuration. You can order our holsters in different colors, prints, and camo patterns. Looking for a different type of accessory? Check out our 2021 gift guide.