The Best Glock Yet?

by Wiley Clapp

If Glock pistols were not exceptional, they would not be copied. Since the mid-1980s, when Gaston Glock developed his basic semi-automatic pistol system and put it into production, a great many other designers have come up with their versions of the Glock style. I don't mean they're making a semi-automatic pistol with a polymer receiver or a high-tech finish, although that is part of the Glock mystique. The essence of the Glock that draws so much imitation is the operating system. Plainly stated, it is a gun that handles with utter simplicity - pull the trigger and it shoots, period.

The implications of such a system escape some critics, but not the hundreds of thousands of handgunners who have taken the Glock to their bosoms and bonded with it. Such a successful product has created what amounts to a new class of handgun, and that is why I am convinced the Glock pistol is the benchmark handgun of the late 20th century. Objectively, that is a position deserving of our respect.

But I am also a shooter of some experience who has fired the entire Glock line extensively. Subjectively, the guns are not my top choice. The basic shape of the pistol is one that I find difficult to manage decisively. I even attended a Glock-sponsored workshop for police instructors a couple of years ago, enduring three days of intense training under Glock's ace instructor, Frank DiNuzzo. We put a lot of bullets in the butts and brass on the deck that week, and I came away a better Glock gunner than I was before. Still, I just don't have the confidence in my ability to manage the gun as I do with some other semi-automatic pistols. That's a matter of personal prejudice, which I mention only to make a particular point. Glock now offers a new model that is on its way to changing my mind. The pistol is the Model 36, and it just might be the best Glock yet.

Called the G36, which is correct company terminology and which I will therefore use in this article, this Glock starts well ahead of the game because it is a .45 ACP. Unlike all other Glock pistols, the G36 has a single-column magazine holding six rounds of ammunition. Obviously, a single-column magazine requires less space in the butt of the pistol, and the grip section of the gun can therefore be made smaller. This is the major difference between the G36 and all of its stablemates. It is a significantly slimmer little semi-automatic and is well-suited for its primary role of discreet carry.

We are experiencing a resurgence of interest in the .45 ACP as a fight-stopping cartridge. More Americans than ever before are going to the trouble of getting training to manage a defensive handgun with skill and the proper permit to carry a handgun. Lots of effort goes into selecting a handgun with decisive power to go with its concealability and ease of use. The smallish .45 ACP pistol is coming on strong and there are a number of good models available. As a matter of fact, one of the better ones is another Glock, the G30. That one is a compact pistol with a double-column magazine of nine or, optionally, 10 rounds.

Introduced in 1997, the G30 was also a compact.45 ACP pistol. A 26 ½-oz. semi-auto (empty, with magazine) that fits in a 6 ¾" by 4 ¾" box, the G30 is 1.27" thick. it was a popular choice for handgunners and remains so to the present day. The newest Glock is quite similar on paper. A G36 fits the same length and height box, but it is thinner at 1.13" from side to side at the thickest point. Best yet, the G36 weighs 22 ½ ozs. empty. That's four ounces less to carry - roughly a 16 percent reduction in weight. A tenth of an inch less in thickness doesn't sound like a great deal of difference, but combined with a subtle re-contouring of the polymer butt it makes for a different gun. Hold a thicker, heavier double-wide G30 in one hand and a thinner, lighter single-column G36 in the other. The contrast is night and day!

After working with the two models at home and on the range for several days, I have come to respect the profound effect of a little less weight and a little less thickness. In the case of the re-shaping to make the receiver thinner, the designers have made the cross section of the butt more rectangular than square. That means the butt feels more like a 1x3 than a 2x2. It just plain feels better in the hand, and even dedicated Glock shooters who have handled the gun like the new feel. Several have ventured the opinion that another Glock model - a full-sized pistol with a single-column magazine and slim butt - might be well received. How about a single-column, 10+1 .45 with full 5" barrel and slide? Anything is possible.

But for now we have a great new pistol that is superior in its concealed carry role because it is flatter and lighter. It may also turn out to be superior in its more user-friendly ergonomics. The G36 magazine floorplate is just long enough to provide a purchase for the first two digits of the shooter's little finger. At the rear of the grip, there's a pronounced inward curve to the backstrap. It provides a comfortable depression for the web of the hand. At least in my mitt, it seems the positioning of the web of the hand and the trigger finger is better than on any other Glock in the sense of trigger control. I find myself holding the gun in such a way as to be in a better relationship with the trigger, i.e., pulling more nearly straight to the rear. Glock's moving, dynamic trigger pull is great for the double-action-only style of operating system, but it is a little tough to manage for precise shooting. Any help at all is most welcome.

In other ways, the new G36 is like all other Glocks. It has the molded polymer receiver and squared, blocky slide, finished in Glock's proprietary Tenifer process. Breech-locking for this short-recoil operated series of pistols works via a tilting barrel activated by cam surfaces on the bottom of the barrel and a block mounted in the receiver. Sights are the typical Glock plastic type. The rear notch is square, highlighted by a huge white "U" that matches up with a large white dot mounted in the front sight. The sights are quite easy to pick up and align, even in dim light. Operational controls are simple; there's a trigger, slide lock and magazine catch. Interestingly enough, an empty magazine would not always drop completely free on my sample pistol. That was a problem some shooters considered to be a major fault of the Glock design. I don't feel it is a major flaw. I have heard that some shooters have solved the difficulty on Glock magazines of any vintage by smoothing the sides of the magazine with ultra-fine emery cloth, topped with a coat of furniture polish.

We shot the gun liberally in the process of evaluating it. I made a trip up to Lovelock, Nev., where the gun-wise deputies of Pershing County are always willing to try a new gun - particularly when I am supplying the ammo. Several of them fired the G36 in informal shooting exercises. Undersheriff Geoff Keogh sat down at the shooting bench and ran 10 different .45 ACP loads through the little pistol. This accuracy wring-out had the targets placed at 25 yds. and included chronographing with one of Dr. Oehler's 35P chronographs. I cannot truthfully classify the G36 as a particularly accurate pistol, but I concede that it is entirely adequate for the defensive shooting that statistics tell us most commonly happens inside 7 yds.

This is a pistol that requires more than just familiarization shooting in order for a defensive shooter to develop proficiency. The gun is quite light, which is clearly a virtue right up to the time it is deployed. Many writers used to solemnly advise us that the.45 pistol really bucks and snorts, this in a time when almost all .45 pistols weighed 39 ozs. If you are going to launch 230-gr. bullets at speeds more than 800 f.p.s., you are going to experience recoil. If you are going to do it from a 22-oz. pistol, you are going to experience lots of recoil. It's bothersome, but you can learn to deal with it. The learning curve may be a little longer, but a shooter well versed in practical shooting can learn to handle the new Glock and handle it well. To get the multiple hits that proper technique requires, a shooter has to slow down just a little in order to recover from recoil. It can be done.

And it's sure worth the effort if your chosen gun is the Glock 36. Obviously, all of the current crop of ultra-small, ultra-light .45 pistols are going to be difficult guns. The G36 has ergonomic features calculated to make it more carryable and concealable, and they also make it one of the more shootable Glocks ever. I like the new import very much. In my opinion, it is easily the best Glock yet.

first published in the July 2000 edition of American Rifleman

GLOCK 36 Specifications
Caliber .45 ACP
Action Safe Action (constant double action mode)
Overall length (slide) 6.77 in. (172 mm)
Height, including magazine 4.76 in. (121 mm)
Width 1.13 in. (28.5 mm)
Barrel length 3.78 in. (96 mm)
Sight radius 6.18 in. (157 mm)
Rifling Octagonal profile with right-hand
twist of one turn in 15.75 in. (400 mm)
Weight, without magazine 20.11 oz. (570 g)
Weight, empty magazine 2.40 (68 g)
Weight, full magazine ~6.88 oz. (~195 g)
Magazine capacity 6 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