August 2008

Subcompact 45 ACPs: Glock’s G30SF Makes It Look Easy

However, aficionados of the 1911-style handgun will probably like Kimberís SIS Ultra better, while Springfield Armoryís Ultra Compact needs to raise its game, in our estimation.

In this evaluation of 45 ACP subcompacts, weíre going to ask how best to package the big bullet in a small concealable machine. We could say that our three test guns represent two-and-a-half interpretations of the subcompact pistol. Thatís because our first two pistols, Kimberís $1316 SIS Ultra and Springfield Armoryís $1031 Loaded Ultra Compact, are both small single-stack 1911s. But there are differences that set them apart. The third gun feeds from a high-capacity magazine with rounds compressed in a staggered column. Furthermore, ignition is via a striker system, and the frame is polymer, not steel. This is the $687 Glock G30SF. If the price of the G30SF seems steep, that is because we ordered the gun with options such as night sights that added costóbut with the price of the Kimber and Springfield Armory pistols north of $1000, we had room to play around. Ultimately, we had a good representation of each manufacturerís smallest high-end 45.

Testing small guns is generally more challenging than testing full-size models. Big-frame guns may offer more than one suitable hand position. A small gun usually offers one grip position, like it or not. Consider the shorter sight radius. A 3-inch pistol may steer quicker than a 6-inch-barreled revolver, but any twitch of the little gunís front sight likely means the shooter will overcorrect.

Our first measure of accuracy was from sandbag support at 15 yards. With little framework to support these guns, our task was more difficult than mounting 5-inch-barrel Government models with longer dustcovers. Plus, a shorter slide means that its travel from battery to fully open provides less time to evacuate and recharge the chamber. We had to be careful not to let the slide touch any part of our support. This could slow the movement of the slide and cause a malfunction.

Our test ammunition was led by two defense rounds. They were Winchesterís 185-grain Silvertip HP (hollowpoint) rounds and Federalís 165-grain expanding full metal jacket low-recoil ammunition. This round resembled a truncated cone (a triangle with the point cut off). With the price of ammunition soaring, we had intended to handload our practice ammunition. But we found that a 100-count box of quality jacketed bullets cost about the same as a 100-round box of loaded Winchester 230-grain FMJ ammunition purchased from Wal-Mart.

Loading lead bullets would have saved us money, but the polygonal barrel of the Glock, which once leaded greatly effects accuracy and is difficult to clean, repelled us from that option. We used the 230-grain ammunition in our action test, which consisted of standing and shooting a rapidfire string of seven continuous shots. Our target was the 4-inch bull of an 8.5-inch by 11-inch Caldwell paper target mounted 15 yards downrange.

Seven shots was the common denominator in terms of capacity between our three pistols, so we decided to count how many shots out of seven we could land on the notebook sized paper. This test was performed cold, picking up the gun and performing the drill one time only. Reliability, accuracy, ease of operation and concealment were our primary concerns in this test.

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