Long Slide pistols have long been associated with competition shooting such as; USPSA, IDPA, IPSC, GSSF and other sport shooting organizations.
While I would not carry such a pistol for EDC, I would have no qualms using one for home defense or open carry – with one feature exception that I will mention later in the article.When I think of Long Slide pistols, my memory harkens back to the AMT ‘Hardballer’ made by Arcadia Machine & Tool (AMT) from 1977 to 2002. The Hardballer was the first entirely stainless steel 1911 pattern pistol. Other features included adjustable rear sights and a lengthened grip safety. The AMT Hardballer was in .45 acp flavor and was designed around the 230-grain ball cartridge. The Glock G34, a Long Slide 9mm is extremely popular among competitors and was written up a ‘Gun of the Week’ in November 2013 by Gun Tests (see References). The Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series is also no slouch among Long Slide pistol enthusiast and is available in your favorite calibers – 9mm, .40SW, or .45ACP. The GLOCK 41 Gen4 is a practical/tactical .45 AUTO caliber pistol and would be at home at the range or in the home.
There are; of course, other Long Slide pistols to choose from; CZ 75 CTS LS, FNS-9 Long Slide, and Kimber Aegis II just to name a few.
Obviously, the title of the article gives away the intent of my addressing the issue of using a Long Slide ‘competition’ pistol for home defense. In order to determine if a Long Slide pistol (especially one intended for competition) is to be used for home defense, several features have to be addressed.
Barrel Length vs. Sight Radius:
The longer barrel and slide help to reduce muzzle flip and felt recoil.
The Glock G34 (9mm) offers a 5.31-inch barrel and an impressive 7.55-inch sight radius. By comparison the Glock G41 (.45 acp) offers an identical barrel length but with an additional .01 inches of sight radius and a 8.90-inch overall length.
The Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series offers a 5.25” barrel length with an overall length of 8.33-inches. Sight radius is slightly longer than the Glock G41 and G34 because the rear sight is mounted to the extreme rear of the slide.
A long barrel length equates to an increase in velocity over a ‘non-competition’ barrel by a marginal amount. A long sight radius equates to greater accuracy.
Beretta has been using a slide cutout for years as a weight saving measure. Both Glock and Springfield competition models have slide cutouts for the same reason. In fact, the Long Slide competition models for both of these manufactures weigh no more than their ‘standard’ models. Weight is not an issue with these Long Slide models. Slide cutouts also allow more air to get to the barrel. Keeping a barrel cool is an important factor under rapid fire or prolonged fire that might be experienced during competition and combat.
Besides all that, a slide cutout adds a ‘cool’ factor to a pistol (in my opinion).
Most competition pistols come with a long sight radius and excellent sights. The Glock still utilize the Glock sighting system and the Springfield uses a fiber front sight to augment the two dot rear sight. The Glock sights are fixed; whereas, the Springfield rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation.
Sights, of course, can be changed according to the operator’s whim and whimsy. For home defense use, night sites and laser optics can be mounted to provide an advantage over your ‘competitor(s).’
Trigger Pull Weight and Feel:
Trigger pull weight for the Glock G41 is a 5.5-pounds. Trigger pull weight for the Glock G34 GEN 4 is 4.25-pounds. Springfield has decided not to post the trigger pull weights for the Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series (in any caliber), but further research has found that the Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series trigger pull is 4.5-pounds out-of-the-box. I can live with that for a defensive pistol.
The feel of the trigger pull is important to competition shooters, as it should be for the defensive pistol operators. Having shot a Glock G17 Competition model in the early days (equipped with a 3.5-pound trigger), I can tell you what I don’t like – a light trigger pull with a surprise break. I want to know when the trigger is going to break and prefer a heavier trigger to a light trigger when it comes to a defensive pistol.
Trigger pull is subjective to the operator. Some prefer the Glock trigger over the Springfield trigger and vice versa. I have yet to find the ‘perfect’ trigger but I can work with any trigger given time and practice.
I would not carry or use a competition pistol with a competition trigger for ‘duty’ use. I would; however, carry a competition pistol with a ‘duty’ trigger. That means a trigger pull weight of 4.5-pounds to 5.5-pounds to me.
A Balanced Package:
The weight of the pistol is always a consideration regardless of barrel length. The Glock series competition pistol and the Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series pistols use cutouts on the top of the slide areas to reduce weight. The Glock 34 (9mm) weighs in at 29.92 ounces unloaded; whereas, the Glock 41 weighs 27-ounces when free of 13-rounds of .45 acp ammunition.
The Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series weighs in at a dry 29-ounces for the 9mm version and 32-ounces for .45 acp flavor.
As far as balance, that is up to the operator to decide which feels better in the hand. The Glock G41 felt better in my hands than my Glock G21; perhaps because I expect a longer barrel on a pistol of the Glock’s handhold. I can say the same for the Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series in .45 acp and my Springfield XDm 4.5-inch barreled model. Aside from the longer barrel, the guns felt balanced and more so when loaded to capacity.
The grip area lends a lot to how a gun feels in the hand. The Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series just feels better in the hand. Perhaps it is more like a 1911 grip than the Glock. The Glock grip is; however, comfortable to me. With that said, I place a grip sleeve on the Glock; I do not on the Springfield – even with its highly- textured grip.
If you are used to a Glock or Springfield, you won’t be any stranger to the safeties; none of which have been changed from other models to competition models.
I have no problem with either the Glock or Springfield safety system or any other safety system once I train with them.
It All Comes Down To Length:
Short barreled pistols are more difficult to be accurate with than long barreled pistols. Short barreled pistols are easier to conceal than long barreled pistols.
In most cases, my Springfield XDs 4.0 in 45 acp is on my hip, concealed, as I move about the house or go out in public. At night, I feel more comfortable with a house-gun with more bullets than my EDC and a longer barrel to deliver those bullets when I come out of a dead (no pun intended) sleep to meet an intruder. Carrying a Long Slide competition pistol can be; however, cumbersome to say the least. I would relegate long slide guns to night-stand duty.
I have transitioned through several handguns in deciding the best house gun for me. While I love the Ruger GP141, the ammo capacity made me change my mind. While I love the Beretta 92FS, I wanted something with other than DA/SA for home use. The Glock G21 now resides in the nightstand, but I still feel that the Glock G41 or Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series in .45 acp would serve me better as the house gun. So far, the Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series in .45 acp is winning out. First of all, it fits my hand better than the Glock, and I like the trigger better than the Glock. The Glock G41 is an enticing package, however.
Competition vs. Tactical:
You might ask why I am leaning toward a Long Slide competition pistol. After all, they are ‘competition’ guns. That they are, I agree.
Since I am the ‘first responder’ in my household, my ‘competition’ may well be with a bad guy intent on doing my family harm. That is not a competition that I intend to loose; there will be no second place or blue-ribbon winners. If a Long Slide competition pistol gives me an advantage over the bad guy, it’s hard to argue against that.
Tactically, a long barreled pistol has many advantages over a short barreled pistol. The Glock G21 is an excellent service pistol and would serve nicely as the house gun, as would many others. Pushing a standard barrel-length to the full shooting position is not longer than the barrel of a tactical shotgun when shouldered. A long barreled pistol also has a disadvantage as compared to a short barreled pistol; the length of the handgun itself, which is more susceptible to gun grabs by a bad guy.
A Long Slide competition pistol can be pulled in close to the body and is not as susceptible as crossing body parts as a shorter-barreled pistol.
A Long Slide competition pistol is more accurate and controllable – even at short distances.
While higher bullet velocities may not matter at the range or competition they may just matter in a defensive shooting situation.
The Long and Short of It:
Semantics allow us to play with words and the term ‘Long Slide’ is as misleading as ‘political correctness.’ A ‘Long Slide’ is simply a slide that is longer than normal to accommodate a barrel that is longer than normal. So, what is a ‘normal’ barrel length for a pistol? Past standards for the “Government’ model 1911-based pistol was a 5-inch barrel length, which meant that the pistol was a ‘service’ pistol. However, Springfield has designated the XD with a 4.25-inch barrel as a “service Model” with relative respect to the 4-inch barreled ‘Service’ revolver; of which would be carried during normal LEO duty.
To some of us, the ‘Government’ model 1911-based pistol has become the ‘de facto’ standard by which all defensive pistols are measured; both in form and function. Then, we have ‘Commander’ length barrels of 4-inch to 4.25-inch varieties. ‘Officer’ model barrels were judges to be about 3-inches to 3.5-inches in length. Then, there exists the ‘compact’ and ‘sub-compact’ models of defensive pistols.
While any pistol can be used for competition, ‘real’ competition models ‘normally’ have longer barrels; therefore, longer slides. Barrel porting, barrel compensation, and light competition triggers may also accompany ‘Long Slide’ competition pistols; both of which can be detrimental when the competition pistol is used for defensive purposes.
Glock has pretty much set the standard for polymer-based defensive pistols and production pistols for competition (the Glock 17L, which was the first Glock pistol that I had fired in 1989, had a long slide and competition trigger (3.5-pounds). The trigger was scary light and crisp in this gun). Had the 17L had a 5-pound to 5.5-pound trigger, I would have fell in love with it. As it was, it turned me off from Glock pistols for a very long time. Now, the G17 and G21 are among my favorite pistols.
While I like a 3.5-pound, two-stage trigger on a rifle, it is far too light for me on a pistol intended for self or home defense. I can argue the point that I increased the trigger pull on a defensive firearm, but I find it hard to argue why I would lighten a trigger (for defensive use) unless the trigger was detrimental to controlling the firearm under fire. Today, it seems, that manufactures like to hover around the 4.5-pound to 5.5 trigger pull range with striker-fired pistols; that works well for me.
Short-barreled pistols (and I will include those from barrels length from 4-inches to sub-compact lengths) do have advantages over long-barreled firearms as far as concealability, portability, and quickness-to-action. I will also admit that at UCAP (Up Close and Personal) fighting ranges (based on the 21-foot rule) a short-barreled pistol can be just as effective as a long-barreled pistol in accuracy and power when the operator is trained well and the pistol is stoked with defensive ammunition.
The bottom line is that regardless of the barrel length of the pistol that you chose to defend your self or your castle, the pistol must fill you with the confidence needed to use it effectively. I can give you a 1 1/2-inch group at 21-feet with a Bersa Thunder .380 pistol, but I would not use it as a house gun. I prefer something a bit more substantial for that role.
I have not mentioned the .40 caliber in Long Slide competition pistols, because I am partial to the .45 acp and 9mm rounds; they are primarily what I shoot and I do not feel the need to start a new ammunition (or gun) collection in a different caliber. The .40 caliber; however, would be an exceptional round through these guns in my humble opinion.
While Long Slide competition pistols may not be the best choice for carrying concealed, but as a home defense pistol I can see where they may be a wise choice and worth considering. I am not talking about a ‘race-tuned’ competition pistol. I am talking about a pistol that is highly-accurate, has a good (and consistent) ‘combat’ trigger, and is easy to control.
The Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series in .45 acp with a green laser is hard to argue against not having one as a house gun. Giving a bad guy the best counter-offense I can is important to me.
While there are arguments against using a competition gun as a home defense weapon, the accuracy that can be obtained with competition guns helps to ensure that you hit your intended target.
I have shot the Glock G34 and it is an excellent pistol. I have not fired the Springfield XD(M)® 5.25″ Competition Series in .45 acp, but I have handled one and I liked what I handled. I have also handled the Smith & Wesson competition version, but it did not feel right to me (that does not mean that your experience with it would be the same).
If Ruger would make a Long Slide version of the SR45, I would be interested. In fact, if Ruger made a ‘Commander’ length version of the SR45 I would be interested. That is; however, not relevant to this article.
Whether you decide to go long slide or short, in the end it is the operator that makes things happen.
The Last Note:
Glock has introduced its MOS (Modular Optic System) series of pistols, which includes all Long Slide competition models. Read more about the MOS at http://us.glock.com/mos.
Glock G41 (GEN 4): http://us.glock.com/products/model/g41gen4
Glock G34 (GEN 4): http://us.glock.com/products/model/g34gen4
‘Gun of the Week’ in November 2013 by Gun Tests (http://www.gun-tests.com/gow/handguns/Glock-G34-Gen-4-9mm_4535-1.html#.VPtJMY5GRJ0)
Springfield XDm 5.25 Competition Series: http://www.springfield-armory.com/xdm-series/
HICKOCK45 on the Springfield XDm 5.25: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7tUbLB_6ck#t=791