Small Guns and the Performance Compromise

So, how much are we actually giving up when we use a small gun compared to a standard size service pistol?  Obviously, it depends on the shooter, and it depends on just how small we are talking about going with the gun selection.  I am under no delusions that a Ruger LCP will provide the capability of a Glock 34.  However, how much do we give up when we step down from an industry standard like the Glock 19 to the smaller Glock 26?  For the past several years the Glock 26 has been my primary carry gun.  Before this I carried a Glock 19 primarily for years.  Before that, I carried a full-size Colt 1911.  As you can see, my trend has been towards smaller and lighter.  However, I don’t like single-stack guns and I find the Glock 26 provides what I personally find the best compromise between concealability and capability.  The Glock 26 carries much easier for me, but with the ability to take full-size magazines as a reload, it proves a formidable package.  So, how much do we give up with such a sub-compact?

Today at the range I tried to evaluate this, going head-to-head with my Glock 19.  I must say, for all practical purposes, I find the difference fairly negligible.  The most quantifiable difference is that I can reload the Glock 19 significantly faster, with less possibility of fumble.  No surprise here, as the decreased grip length of the Glock 26 makes reloading more difficult.  Shooting both at 25 yards, I honestly could not find a difference.  I kept all shots with the Glock 26 in the eight inch circle of an IDPA target at this distance in a ten round string.  Ironically, I shot quite high with the Glock 19, as that gun seems to shoot high with the 124 grain ammo I was using, thought the grouping was quite similar.

Shooting for speed at seven yards I was quite pleased that I gave up relatively little to the Glock 19 with the Glock 26, however, that was using the Magpul 12 round magazine which provides a full grip.  When shooting for speed with the flush-fit base plate, I had to slow down considerably so as not to pull shots low.  To be honest, I think the performance with the flush-fit base plate can be increased, but I need to spend more time with it.  My pinky wrapped under the gun did indeed compromise my performance when shooting for fast follow-up shots.  With the extended 12 round mag, however, the performance is close to the 19, though follow-up shots are still slightly faster with the Glock 19 as I can detect a significant decrease in muzzle flip with the slightly larger gun.  The accuracy potential while shooting slow, however, indicates no difference between the flush-fit magazine, the extended magazine, or the Glock 19.

Overall, the Glock 26 is my favorite carry gun that I have ever used and I find that it provides great capability in combination with much better concealability, at least for me.  When I need truly deep concealment I use the flush-fit magazine, and when I can I use the extended 12 round magazine, and as such I am just as confident in the gun as I am with a Glock 19.  Overall, it is a do-it-all carry gun.  Compact sized double-stack autos are where it is at for a balance between concealment and capability, at least in my opinion.  Small, single-stack guns have their place, but I think the small double-stack autos that can take the magazines of the larger guns in the line offer a significant advantage.  Among the single-stack 9mms my favorite is the Smith and Wesson Shield.  It is a great shooting gun for its size and I would not feel unarmed carrying it.  However, for just a little extra thickness a gun like the Smith and Wesson Compact or the Glock 26 provides the ability to take full-size double-stack magazines; a significant advantage for a fighting gun.

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