In an evaluation of 45 ACP subcompacts, Gun Tests magazine asked how best to package the big bullet in a small concealable machine. The $687 Glock G30SF feeds from a high-capacity magazine with rounds compressed in a staggered column. Its ignition is via a striker system, and the frame is polymer, not steel.
If the price of the G30SF seems steep, that is because the gun was ordered with options such as night sights that added cost.
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 gun’s front sight likely means the shooter will overcorrect.
The first measure of accuracy was from sandbag support at 15 yards. With little framework to support these guns, the 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. The testers were careful not to let the slide touch any part of the support. This could slow the movement of the slide and cause a malfunction.
The test ammunition was led by two defense rounds. They were Winchester’s 185-grain Silvertip HP (hollowpoint) rounds and Federal’s 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, the testers had intended to handload practice ammunition. But they 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 money, but the polygonal barrel of the Glock, which once leaded greatly effects accuracy and is difficult to clean, repelled that option. The team used the 230-grain ammunition in its action test, which consisted of standing and shooting a rapid-fire string of seven continuous shots. The target was the 4-inch bull of an 8.5-inch by 11-inch Caldwell paper target mounted 15 yards downrange.
The testers counted how many shots out of seven they 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 the primary concerns in this test.
The magazine tested a Glock Model 30 in January of 2007. The suffix SF indicates just a few changes from the original G30 model. Glock says that there were some internal changes, but only one or two of them will be important to the shooter, depending on whether you have a model G30SF or the larger G21SF fit with the optional ambidextrous magazine release. (The G21SF with ambidextrous release requires a different magazine.)
In the earlier test of the G30 the magazine staff wished it had an extended slide release and night sights. For this test it ordered a pistol with all options in tow, including the aforementioned extended magazine release. Suggested retail price of the basic pistol was $637. Preferences brought the price to $684. This is quite a bargain.
The test G30SF had an extended magazine release on the left side only. So, anyone changing from the standard model to the SF frame can continue to use the original-issue magazines. The most significant difference between the G30 and the G30SF was that each of the SF pistols is fit with what the manufacturer calls a “short” grip. The difference was the way it socked into the hollow of the shooter’s palm. An identical trigger span was measured between the standard model G30 and SF variation. But due to the 0.20-inch reduction in grip circumference measured at the palm swell, shooters had an easier time addressing the trigger. It was easier to hold the gun with a firm grip yet isolate the trigger finger and maintain a free, relaxed stroke.
Field stripping the Glock 30SF required no extra pins or tools, but a little dexterity was required. At the same time you move the slide rearward about one-quarter inch, you have to pull down on the dual latches located on both sides of the frame above the trigger guard. Then press the trigger and pull the slide forward off the frame. It required a little practice.
Underneath was a dual spring-plunger guide-rod assembly. Both springs were captured and the unit was easily removed by compressing it slightly from its rearward edge. During reassembly, make sure the rear of the guide rod assembly is seated all the way down against the barrel lug. The slide locked it self into place automatically when slid on to the frame.
Loaded with the eleven 165-grain Federal ammunition (to produce the lightest payload), the Glock weighed in at 33.3 ounces. This was still lighter than its competitors. Despite its boxy profile, the Glock was also the narrowest of three tested pistols. How is that possible? The reason: How maximum width is measured, which includes the ambidextrous thumb safeties that protrude from the sides of the 1911s. In terms of width that more directly affects concealment, slide width alone was a little more than 1.1 inches wide.
If there is any key benefit to the square profile of the Glock slide, it was apparent in close quarters. Somewhere between pure point-shooting and sighted fire, the profile of the rear of the slide can be used to aim the gun effectively. One additional feature found only on the Glock pistol was the presence of a short accessory rail forward of the trigger guard.
Besides the polymer frame, the biggest difference was the Glock’s striker-fire system. The SafAction trigger provides drop-safe operation and locks out the firing mechanism until the lever on the face of the trigger is compressed. The key to safe operation of the Glock pistol is to leave the index finger outside the trigger guard until you have sights on a verified target. Only those operators with the very largest hands will have difficulty racing their finger past the trigger guard in an emergency, in our view.
One danger shared by every pistol is ignition caused by an obstruction, such as a shirttail, getting pulled inside the trigger guard while holstering. Danger for the 1911 operator can be avoided by activating the thumb safety. The operator of a double action gun can detect the problem by covering the hammer while pushing the gun down into the holster. If the hammer moves you’ve got a problem. Unfortunately, striker-fired pistols offer no such warning.
At the range, testers found the sights to be clear and the gun eager to shoot. It didn’t matter if it was fired offhand or from a rest. No malfunctions of any kind occurred throughout the test of the G30SF. Firing from the sandbags the staff discovered a principle that was related to the hinged trigger. The tendency to relax the hands when shooting from support was naturally offset by the need to maintain a solid grip throughout the process of steering the front sight over the duration of the long trigger pull. This served to prevent any type of malfunction related to a weak grip.
In spite of not knowing whether there was actual danger of jamming the gun, the testers did manage to print five-shot groups that varied in size from 1.1 inches to 2.3 inches across for all shots fired. The Winchester USA 230-grain FMJ rounds showed the least variation in group size, and the 185-grain Winchester Silvertip hollowpoints produced the smallest single group of the test.
Fired standing unsupported from 15 yards, the test shooter landed all seven shots on the 8.5-inch by 11-inch paper target with four shots in the black including two shots in the X-ring.
Our Team Said:If this gun could speak, it might say: “What’s all the fuss?” The G30SF is one of the easiest-to-shoot 45-caliber pistols we’ve found, and considering the presence of night sights and its accessory rail, one of the cheapest too. The extra capacity is there, and so is the type of reliability we demand. Maybe it’s a little wide to fit inside the waistband, and some might prefer the addition of a manual safety. But as a package, this going to be tough to beat.