Living with Glocks
by Robert H. Boatman
The Enigmatic Glock Trigger
To begin with, a Glock trigger is not one trigger but two. When you press the little trigger in the middle of the big trigger you release the first of Glock’s three internal safety mechanisms so that the big trigger can move. You can tug and squeeze and pound on the big trigger all day long and the gun won’t fire. You have to declare your intent to fire the weapon by placing your finger on the trigger in the firing position so that then you press, the little trigger will disconnect the first safety and allow the big trigger to move. You can think of Glock’s trigger safety as performing the same function as the grip safety on a 1911.
As you continue to press the Glock trigger rearward, the second Glock safety mechanism, the firing pin safety, is disengaged so that the firing pin (striker) has potential access to the cartridge for the first time. Until the firing pin safety is disengaged by pulling the trigger a considerable distance rearward, it is impossible for the firing pin to contact the cartridge even if you drop the gun muzzle-down off an 80-story building. Glock’s firing pin safety is essentially the same design as the firing pin safety on a Series-80 1911. Competition shooters complained about this additional trigger function when Colt first introduced it in 1983 but, after a couple of decades of getting used to the very small change, only the most temperamental of competitors has anything to say about it these days.
Now we get to the good part, the part that bears no resemblance to anything on a 1911 or anything else at all. Where the final action of the trigger press that detonates the cartridge in a traditional pistol can be described as a simple falling block, the same action in a Glock is more like a slingshot. The final stage of the trigger press completes the full draw of the firing pin back against its own spring, disengages the third and final safety mechanism so that the firing pin at last has free and clear sailing and releases it to detonate the cartridge.
A Glock is exactly as safe as the ideal pistol is supposed to be. It will not fire until you pull the trigger with a definite and unmistakable movement. Just as important, if not more so, it will not fail to fire when you pull the trigger because you’ve made a mistake in the operation of other mechanical controls leading up to the final trigger pull. Glock frames and slides are free and clear of extraneous doodads, because the Glock trigger is everything. The smooth Glock slide is itself an important safety feature, as no amount of jostling or rubbing or rough treatment will accidentally disengage any safety device.
The length of the Glock trigger pull from beginning to end is about a half-inch, but the final stage that fires the gun is only 1/8 of an inch. Which means that trigger reset is only 1/8 of an inch. Which means that, if you train yourself to hold the trigger back during firing and then let the trigger out only until you hear or feel the distinctive reset “click” at 1/8-inch before you press the trigger again, you can fire a Glock at speeds approaching submachine gun cyclic rates.
Glock’s seemingly complex, multi-function trigger is at the heart of the gun’s overall simplicity of operation. Even though the trigger performs several tasks, it is so smartly designed that very few moving parts are required and those are of substantial size, made of hardened steel and straightforward in their functions. There is nothing fragile, finicky or likely to break anywhere on a Glock pistol, including the unique Glock trigger mechanism.
The trigger pull weight of stock Glock pistols is about seven or eight pounds, varying slightly from gun to gun, primarily determined by the angled surface of the “connector” which is the crucial part involved in the final release and which requires a nominal effort of 5.5 pounds to activate. This is the way Gaston Glock designed his pistols to function.
But, Wait …
As Glocks began to pervade the market of professional and expert shooters, however, two dissenting voices spoke up. Law enforcement trainers faced with inexperienced recruits wanted a trigger designed to resist the heavy-handed techniques of beginners, and departments still in transition from revolvers to semi-autos wanted a trigger requiring more effort in the beginning stages to mimic the long, hard trigger pulls of their obsolete Smith & Wesson double-action revolvers. Competitive shooters, on the other hand, wanted a trigger with a lighter final stage to mimic the feathery triggers of their customized single-action autos. Glock did its best to accommodate these specialized shooters, compromising the original trigger design with mixed results.
Glock developed two solutions for the police market. For Miami Dade, Glock engineered a heavier 8-lb. (nominal) connector which required some three pounds of additional force during final let-off to fire the gun. For New York, Glock developed the very different “New York” trigger, which left the original 5.5-lb. connector in place but replaced the coiled-steel trigger spring with a polymer leaf-style spring of unique design, altering the entire feel of the trigger, providing more resistance during the initial stage, and adding about three pounds to the overall pull weight. A “New York Plus” spring was also developed which adds about six pounds to the pull weight.
For competitive shooters, Glock developed a connector with a more gentle angle which requires only a nominal 3.5 pounds of effort to activate. The 3.5-lb. connector is, indeed, a couple of pounds lighter. But the trade-off for less resistance in the final stage is a trigger that feels to an experienced 1911 shooter like it has an unfamiliar amount of “creep” in the final let-off.
Glock’s efforts to satisfy a wide range of highly opinionated and hide-bound experts opened a virtual Pandora’s Box. Suddenly, shooters, armorers and tinkerers had a variety of trigger parts to play with that could be combined in any number of different ways, some of which the Glock factory specifically warned against, such as combining the 8-lb. connector with the New York trigger spring.
Besides the original 5.5-lb. connector, there was now an 8-lb. and a 3.5-lb. connector, and besides the original coiled trigger spring there were now two versions of the polymer New York trigger spring. By now, third-party manufacturers had also joined the game, offering their own good and bad versions of most Glock factory parts. The mixing and matching soon reached feeding-frenzy proportions, with a multitude of people claiming to have found the perfect combination for the ideal Glock trigger.
As We Said, Get Used To It
Those who seek to improve the Glock trigger usually travel full circle - I’ve seen this time and time again among professional shooters. In the end, after they’ve stopped trying to make it something it’s not, they appreciate the original out-of-the-box Glock trigger as the most distinguishing and distinguished feature of their weapon and develop a full and abiding affection for it. I’ve made that circumnavigation myself.
Legendary Glock shooter Alan Roy says, “I love the straight-from-the-factory 5.5-pound Glock trigger - the feel and ease of firing and ability to reactivate the trigger so quickly, versus other double-action models like the Smiths and Berettas and Sigs. In my mind, it’s ideal for a combat weapon. When you go to the eight and 12-pound New York triggers, you’re just trying to make the release feel like a revolver. I played with the 3.5-pound trigger for a while and, for me, there was no difference, certainly not in rapid shooting.”
One third-party manufacturer whose efforts seem worthwhile is Lightning Strike Products of Buford, Georgia. Lightning Strike considers the trigger connector and trigger spring to be within the exclusive purview of the Glock factory, but for other crucial parts in the Glock trigger mechanism - the striker (firing pin), safety plunger (activated as part of the trigger pull), and the trigger itself - they offer well-made drop-in replacements manufactured from lightweight titanium and, in the case of the actual trigger, aircraft aluminum.
The Lightning Strike titanium striker is 60 percent lighter than the factory steel part. This reduction in weight increases striker velocity and decreases lock time about 50 percent, offering potential benefits to long-range accuracy. The titanium safety plunger is lighter than the factory part and has a slightly different profile, promising a somewhat smoother feel during the early part of the trigger pull, though I have found the difference perceptible only by those with extremely sensitive trigger fingers.
The Lightning Strike trigger features a wider trigger safety (the little trigger) and contoured edges on the big trigger that many find more comfortable than the factory trigger for shooting all day long. The Lightning Strike trigger does not alter the factory pull weight in any way, but does reduce the overall length of the initial pull by about 50 percent. Because of the wider trigger safety and the shortened pull length, Frank Karic of Lightning Strike tells me that this trigger is recommended for competition only.
The concept of “competition-only” triggers is, of course, an invention of lawyers trying to protect their clients from fellow lawyers suing on behalf of jerks with empty heads and heavy hands who have accidentally stumbled onto the fact that they are unqualified to operate light machinery. The foundation of the concept, however, is solid enough. In the heat of a real gunfight, gross motor movements tend to override more subtle controls, such as fine manipulations of the tip of the trigger finger, and a more muscular participation on the part of your gun in what you are commanding it to do can have a positive effect on your combat marksmanship. Thus the stock Glock trigger.
Another competition trigger mechanism worthy of note is manufactured by Joe Cominolli of Cominolli Quality Custom Handguns of Syracuse, New York. Cominolli actually makes two different triggers for the Glock, both made up primarily of factory Glock parts with a little magic blended in. The Glock Short Reset Trigger, as the name implies, shortens the reset of the Glock trigger even more than the already short reset of the factory trigger. In the hands of an expert, unbelievable speed is the result. The second Cominolli trigger, the Glock Competition Plus Trigger, also lightens the pull by a half-pound or so no matter which connector you have installed.
Joe Cominolli is an exception to a statement I made in an earlier chapter that “master gunsmiths can’t help you” improve your Glock trigger. Cominolli’s quarter-century in law enforcement, his outstanding accomplishments as a member of the prestigious American Pistolsmiths Guild and his auspicious partnership with master machinist Tom Wallace have produced some outstanding products for both Glocks and 1911s. Among them are the two Glock triggers mentioned, a heavy tungsten guide rod for competition Glocks, and even a foolproof Glock manual safety conversion for more squeamish police departments
I have installed both Lightning Strike and Cominolli triggers and trigger parts on my hunting-configured G20 and my competition-configured G23 and I like them. These are minute modifications of the original Glock trigger, however, and their value to any individual shooter is subjective.
The Glock trigger is indeed enigmatic to those accustomed to uncomplicated conventional triggers, but it is not inscrutable. It is easy to learn to operate at a very high level of performance, and worth every effort to do so because of its unique benefits of speed, consistency and safety.
Living with Glocks
by Robert H. Boatman
Copyright 2007 - 2011 Winter Communication, LLC
The trigger is everything in a Glock pistol. Even more than the Polymer 2 frame and the long list of other engineering innovations, the revolutionary Glock trigger mechanism is the most radical functional departure from the past.
In virtually every pre-Glock handgun, the function of the trigger is simply to drop the external or internal hammer off the sear. The hammer then drives the firing pin into the primer of the cartridge. But a Glock has no hammer inside or out and no conventional sear. Pulling the trigger fires the gun, but it also does other things that in traditional guns require additional fingers or thumbs operating separate exterior levers or spring-loaded parts.
Get Used To It
For shooters used to any other gun, the Glock trigger takes some getting used to. A great many of the most sophisticated Glock shooters are former and current 1911 shooters. Among them, it’s a universal first impulse as they start shooting Glocks to want to change the complex Glock trigger to make it feel like a simple 1911 trigger. It sometimes takes them years to realize that this is not only impossible, but a mistake.