Massad Ayoob: Are Long-Barreled Handguns More Accurate?
By Massad Ayoob, GUNS Magazine
Back in the ’60’s, when I was a kid-shooting bull’s-eye, I noticed most of the young and prime-of-life shooters used long-barreled pistols. The S&W Model 41 with 7-inch tube, the High Standard Supermatic series with fluted 7.25-inch barrel, and the 6-7/8-inch Ruger Mark I. The older guys, however, were much likelier to “go short” with a 5.5-inch heavy barrel on their Smith, H-S or Ruger. When I asked why, in those days before optical sights on .22 target pistols, I always got the same answer: “When my eyes got older, I could see the front sight better with a shorter sight radius.”
Well, the years went by quick. When baby Glocks came out in the mid-1990’s a lot of folks, including me, discovered we often shot tighter from the bench rest than with their longer-barreled brethren. The same proved true a couple of years later when Glock brought out the subcompact .45 ACP Glock 30. It “benched” a tad tighter than their full-size G21. Proportionally more rigid shorter barrels (some 3.8-inch on the G30, 3.42-inch on the others) were theorized to be the reason. Back then, I managed to win the Stock Service Pistol division at an IDPA match with a little Glock 26, but wrote it off as either luck or a fluke, and went back to the Glock 17 and similar size guns for that sort of thing.
Mas runs his Glock 34 over the GSSF Indoor course
(shot outdoors here), and comes up short on center-X hits.
Mas’ G26 is tracking to the next target, with brass in the air from
his last double tap, at the GSSF Subcompact event in Clearwater,
Fla., earlier this year.
Time Goes On
My friend Danny Ryan, who runs the GSSF (Glock Sport Shooting Foundation), mentioned a couple of years ago master shooters such as Bryan Dover, Grady Whitelaw and Mike Ross won the overall MatchMeister title at some GSSF events—beating the scores fired with full-size Glocks by all comers, including themselves. James Linebarger later joined this elite list. Intrigued, I decided to try the little Glock 26 myself, instead of the 4.5-inch G17 I usually shot in Master Stock.
It turned out my scores with the little Glock were about the same, if not a bit better, than what I did with the full-size gun and the same 9mm ammo. In September 2012, I managed to take second place in Master Stock at the Salt Lake City GSSF shoot, running a G26 against full-size Glocks. (Bryan Dover beat me, but that’s like being beaten by Jerry Miculek at a revolver match or Rob Leatham at the Single Stack Classic: it makes you feel proud of placing second.)
Time marched on. In December 2013, I borrowed my girlfriend’s little Glock 26 for an IDPA match, so I could shoot the backup gun side event and the main match with the same gun, and managed to win First Master in Stock Service Pistol division with it. A month later, at a GSSF match in Clearwater, Fla., it was all I could do to place Top 10 in Master Stock against the service-size Glocks and Top 15 against the long barrel ones. I managed Top 3 in both Subcompact division with the Glock 26 and Major Sub with the .45 ACP Glock 30. The G30 had always been my best gun at GSSF, giving me wins in Major Sub a couple of times in the past. A pattern was emerging.
In January 2014, I went in the other direction, shooting a 5.3-inch barrel Glock 34 at an IDPA match, and absolutely tanked, blowing shots I thought I should have made. I went home and set up the Glock Indoor course of fire, 50 rounds run in 5- and 10-round strings under fixed time, and shot it back-to-back with both the G26 and the G34. Each was set up with similar glowing green fixed sights, Ameri-Glo on the little one and Tritium Fiber Optic on the long one. Trigger pulls were an identical 4.5-pounds in the Glock OEM “sport shooting” configuration. The same ammo was used: Winchester 147-grain 9mm jacketed subsonic. Each turned in 500 out of 500 points on the 12- to 75-foot course, all standing 2-hand—but the G26 had put 42 of those hits in the 4-inch diameter center-X tie-breaker ring, and the G34, only 36.
The curve at the butt of the baby Glock locks into the hollow of
Mas’ palm (arrow) in a way larger pistols can’t. Yes, that’s a
17-round Glock 17 magazine in the G26.
Conventional wisdom says you should shoot better with the Glock 34 (right)
than with the little Glock 26 (left). Mas was surprised after shooting both
with the same 147-grain Winchester 9mm ammo on the same course of fire,
out to 25 yards. The targets don’t lie.
When the term “go figure” comes up, we should probably, well, go figure. Counter-intuitive results generally have explainable causes. Near as I can determine, a couple of things are going on with me. First, the old eyes thing has caught up with me. Closer front sights seem to let me focus on them better at this time in my life. Another factor is grip-shape. The truncated butts of the little Glocks have a curve to them that exactly fits the hollow of my palm at the base of the thumb, between the thenar and the hypothenar, and seem to “lock-in” at that point a little better.
Why something happens is helpful to know, but the fact something happens is even more important. Right now, counterintuitive as it is, this old guy and his old eyes are going to take nothing but subcompact Glocks to the next GSSF match.