ZEV Technologies Custom Glock
Article first appeared at NRAmedia.org
NRAmedia – Glock’s tag line is “perfection” and, for an out-of-the-box gun within the budget of most buyers, it comes pretty close. With every firearm design, though, time and experience in the real world reveal room for improvement. The basic Glock design has been with us for more than 30 years now and, although the factory guns have evolved to today’s Gen4 models, there’s still room to get better if cost is less of an object.
Although shooters think nothing of purchasing a high-end 1911 and sending the gun off for extensive custom work before ever firing a shot, that mindset has eluded most Glock, SIG Sauer and Heckler & Kochbuyers. Many would argue that’s because extensive modifications aren’t needed with those designs in order for them to function, and to a great extent that’s true. That said, tweaks and upgrades can be made to just about any design (unless maybe it’s a Colt Python, which is perfect) to improve performance or to better suit the individual user. During the past eight years, ZEV Technologies in Oxnard, CA, has emerged as a leader in custom parts and modifications for Glock handguns. Its services run from simple upgrades like drop-in triggers to full-house custom raceguns that bear only a passing resemblance to their host firearms. While many firms offer parts and services for the Glock, ZEV is one of a select few that really specialize in the Austrian line of handguns. The company’s task is taking one of the greatest designs of all time, and adding that last 5 to 10 percent to make it as good as it can be. America’s famed Special Mission Units, top-rated competitive shooters and ordinary enthusiasts have all benefited from ZEV’s expertise.
So, what’s wrong with a Glock? Not much, really. The pistols almost always function 100 percent of the time in all conditions, they are extremely durable, the controls are simple and well laid-out, accuracy is generally quite good and they are easy to shoot fast and well. There is far more right with a Glock than there is wrong. However, in the “can-be-improved-upon” category, we have an average trigger, a grip made to fit 7 billion hands and sights that, well, suck. The good news is these attributes are simple and not brutally expensive to address. Sights can be replaced in minutes, drop-in triggers can do wonders and the polymer grip is sufficiently malleable to allow end users to adapt it with minimal equipment.
If you like to tinker, you can buy the aftermarket sights and trigger from a company such as ZEV Technologies and do the grip work yourself. ZEV even offers how-to installation videos on its website for many of its products. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to do it yourself, you can box the gun up, send it to California and let the pros handle it. I’m not a big fan of part-time pilots, part-time surgeons or part-time gunsmiths. When it comes to a gun I may rely upon to save my life, I want the work done by someone who does that exact task day-in and day-out. With this in mind, I boxed-up a used, but not abused, Gen3 G19 and shipped it to ZEV. A few weeks later, what had gone west as a “pretty good” handgun came home as a “great” one.
ZEV fit my Glock with a coated stainless steel match barrel, the company’s Professional Fulcrum Ultimate Trigger Kit, a stainless steel guide rod with a 15-pound recoil spring, ZEV’s Professional mag well, an extended mag release, an aluminum backplate and a titanium pin kit. Additionally, ZEV double undercut the trigger guard, reduced the profile of the factory finger grooves on the grip and textured the grip frame. The resulting pistol was tuned for optimal performance without being overly race-gun-like for a carry gun. Let’s walk through these modifications one-by-one, and examine their role in the overall improvement of the handgun.
We’ll start with the barrel. There’s nothing wrong with a factory Glock barrel. It takes a talented shooter to exceed the accuracy capabilities of a factory barrel on the flat range and a superhuman effort to do so in the real world. That said, there’s nothing wrong with adding a match barrel, so long as it maintains the legendary reliability—this one does. The barrel that ZEV used on my gun was made from pre-hardened 416R stainless steel, cut-rifled and coated in a burnt-bronze finish. Not only does the finish give the pistol a distinctive appearance without crossing the line to gaudy, it provides additional corrosion and friction resistance. From a practical standpoint, the most significant difference in the ZEV barrel is the ability to use inexpensive lead bullets for practice, something Glock recommends against due to the factory barrel’s chamber and rifling geometry. ZEV’s barrels do not require fitting and are available as a simple drop-in upgrade.
Trigger control is, in my experience, the single most important attribute of practical handgun accuracy. You can do everything else perfectly and, if you jerk the trigger, you’re going to miss. As a shooter, I can make due with mediocre sights and a grip that doesn’t fit me well, but I simply can’t live with a bad trigger. ZEV’s triggers dramatically improve the heavy, spongy trigger found on factory Glock handguns. ZEV installed its Professional Fulcrum Ultimate Trigger Kit in my Glock, taking the trigger from 5-plus pounds to a shorter, cleaner and lighter 3-pound pull. With the improved trigger, the gun becomes far easier to shoot with precision and speed. Instead of fighting to maintain sight alignment while your brain screams for the trigger to break, you focus on the front sight and make the shot. The trigger still requires plenty of travel and is in no way “unsafe,” it’s just that, unlike most striker-fired triggers one encounters, it’s actually conducive to hitting the target. Once you learn that a trigger is not a finger rest, reasonable pull weight has little relationship to safe operation.
ZEV’s grip modifications are the one service mentioned here for which I strongly recommend sending the gun into the company in lieu of performing oneself. Yes, I know it’s an “easy” do-it-yourself project, but one error effectively ruins the firearm—which seems to be an excessive risk to me unless you’re already on the correct side of the learning curve. Also, if you send a handgun in for grip work, ZEV will install trigger kits and or sights at no charge for the labor. ZEV offers several choices in its grip services relating to the coverage, aggressiveness and shape of the grip and stippling. Besides the reshaping and stippling, my pistol was given the double-undercut trigger guard treatment, which goes a long way in changing the way the gun handles. With this modification, the already low bore axis of the Glock is further improved by allowing the grip to ride lower in the hand. Between the vertical shift in grip and the increased textured surface, I found the grip characteristics of the gun to be dramatically improved. A comfortable grip doesn’t necessarily help you shoot a handgun more accurately, but, due to your ability to better control muzzle rise and improve natural point-of-aim, it helps you shoot the gun with greater speed.
Sights are a major shortcoming of Glocks. The factory polymer sights just aren’t up to the standard of the rest of the firearm. The G19 I sent to ZEV was already equipped with Trijicon night sights, so the company made no changes. If you haven’t already improved your Glock’s sights, ZEV offers several sight models, including its combat sight set with either a red fiber-optic or plain, black-steel front sight. These sights offer a superior sight picture to what passes for sights on factory Glocks and are far more durable. In addition, the company offers several front-sight widths ranging from .205 to .300 inch, depending on shooter preference and on the sight radius of the Glock model in question.
The two most debatable options on this modified Glock from a carry-gun perspective are the extended magazine well and the mag-release lever, both of which traditionally fall under the racegun category. In this case, the mag well allows for faster and more idiot-proof reloads, and does so without adding significantly to the overall dimensions of the handgun—I call that a positive. The oversize, aluminum mag-release button makes missing it just about impossible, but thankfully, due to its design, isn’t prone to accidental activation. The one negative worth mentioning about the mag release is that it makes the handgun more uncomfortable to shoot weak-handed, which is certainly worth consideration. The ability to operate a defensive handgun effectively with both hands is a key attribute, and while it is certainly possible with this modification, it is not as easy as it was prior to the change.
So, between the dimpled, burnt-bronze barrel, red trigger insert and aggressive grip pattern, my Glock looks cool, but how does it shoot? The answer is: really freaking great. Between the trigger and the grip modifications, my split times improved noticeably, as did my accuracy—it was easier to shoot the gun with greater speed and precision after ZEV worked its magic. It is a similar feeling to shooting a tuned, custom 1911 compared to a standard G.I. or factory model. It’s just easier to make fast and consistent hits with the improved trigger, sights and grip. Most importantly, none of ZEV’s modifications had a negative effect on the reliability of my Glock. The slickest racegun on the planet isn’t worth a bag of manure if it’s not reliable, especially when it comes to a pistol carried to protect human life. This is one of the key differences with working with a company like ZEV versus an amateur. ZEV works on Glocks every day and does it well. Best of all, the company’s turnaround time is very short by industry standards. The vast majority of work is turned around in only three to six weeks.
You can’t buy skill, but you can buy the tools that help you maximize your skill. Glocks are fantastic handguns for the price, but they’re not perfect. The triggers, sights and grip are the areas ripest for improvement, and ZEV Tech can improve all three quickly and easily. You can go wild on a wide-open custom gun and spend lots of cash, or you can choose their most economical components and be out the door with all three areas addressed for $375. Add in the cost of a new (or good used) Glock and you’re still below the price of plenty of factory 1911s.