Small Thoughts on Controlling Guns – Does Size Really Matter?
One of the fun parts of my job is that I occasionally get to experiment with firearms. This month I compared a couple of Glocks with nearly-identical weight, but different barrel and slide lengths to measure the age-old question: does size REALLY matter?
I normally carry a Glock 26, but events in my life have pushed me to test whether that’s the best choice. I know I shoot my 26 fairly well. In fact, I’ve shot it in ASI matches more than any other gun. Unfortunately, those experiences are just anecdotes. They don’t answer: “Would I have done better with a larger gun?”
The Glock 19 is the next-larger Glock, and my test gun has a lightened slide, so the weights are almost the same. I’ve got similar experience shooting with each one, and size-wise the 19 is my next-most-logical carry choice.
I took an additional step and added a “sight block” which uses a threaded barrel to move the front sight out onto the barrel with the help of a shroud. The sight doesn’t move as much as a result, and the longer barrel offers multiple benefits.
Even with the extended barrel, my lightened Glock 19 still weighs ½ ounce LESS than my G26. The physics of that lighter slide/longer barrel combo means felt recoil is harsher – but since the 19’s grip is bigger, and the sights are further apart, when it comes to control . . . “it’s complicated.”
I decided to measure two things: 1. the energy produced by the shorter vs. longer barrels, and 2. my ability to control the pistol over multiple shots. The energy part was easy. I tested three barrels – the stock 26 barrel, the stock 19 barrel, and the threaded Glock 19 barrel. Each step up in length adds about 1/2”.
Take a close look at the difference between the top and bottom lines as far as energy goes – the longer gun kicks harder for a reason! It’s generating 16% more energy. Remember, that’s the same ammunition, the only difference is 1” of barrel length.
So how does that affect control? To experience what the real-world difference in control would be, I timed myself shooting strings of eight 8” steel plates on a rack at 15 yards.
For my test, I made sure I had similar experience with both guns, used identical front/rear sights, and rotated between the guns for each string to even out any affects of practice or fatigue. I started each string with the gun on the table, loaded with 10 rounds. Following a random start signal I would pick the gun off the table, and shoot until all eight plates were down.
In the end, the longer sight radius made a huge difference. Five runs yielded the following averages:
- Glock 26: 8.6 seconds/run.
- Custom Glock 19: 6.5 seconds/run.
- Difference: 2.1 seconds (more than .25 seconds/target!)
Despite the increased recoil and energy the bigger gun offered a much better overall sight picture and seemed to recover almost instantly. It offered more light around the front sight, and the sight block reduced the gross movement of the sight in recoil.
What’s the lesson?
First, shorter guns are harder to shoot – but only if everything else is equal. In a recent experience shooting the Walther CCP versus the Springfield XDS, the smaller, awkward-looking XDS came out the winner thanks to a superior trigger and sights. You don’t need to be any kind of “expert” to learn stuff like that – just take the time to test what works. XYZ pistol might be all the rage with the gun magazines, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense for YOU.
Second, if you don’t already have one, get a timer. Qualitative testing is important (as in “that feels better”) but you can fool yourself. In my hands the little Glock 26 “feels” better – the bigger Glock 19 is harsher, and feels blocky — but when you look at my numbers, the less-comfortable 19 is absolutely the way to go. FOR ME it’s a better tool.
ASI carries Pocket Pro timers at a DEEP discount (often priced less than Amazon). We do that as a service to the membership, pricing them just slightly above cost. You’ll find them in the ASI store.