Finally, a modern duty pistol for small cops

The Glock Model 48 slimline 9mm is a state-of-the-art fighting pistol with a small grip frame any cop can master


Five years ago I reviewed the Glock 43, the second pistol in Glock’s “Slimline” series of thin grip pistols. The 43 chambered for the 9x19 cartridge, along with its immediate predecessor the .380 caliber Model 42, were not the first Glock pistols to achieve a smaller grip frame by using a single-stack magazine. The G36, Glock’s smallest pistol, chambered for the venerable .45 ACP, was the company’s first single-stack design.

The history behind Glock’s first single-stack pistol

According to our factory rep at that time, Craig Turner, the Model 36, came about because of a phone call I made in 1999. We had just completed a comprehensive pistol test for the Illinois State Police (ISP), which resulted in the selection of the Glock 22 as the agency’s new sidearm. During that process, I had successfully made the argument that ISP should upgrade the 9mm round they had been using since 1967. Since so many of their shootings involved vehicles on the roadways, I convinced the director that a .40 S&W load would better penetrate auto glass and body metal. Being an old Marine, the director asked why a .45 sidearm wouldn’t do an even better job.

The Glock Model 48 9mm pistol is almost exactly the same size as a 1911 Commander-sized pistol and is even ¼ inch thinner through the grip. (Photo/Dick Fairburn)
The Glock Model 48 9mm pistol is almost exactly the same size as a 1911 Commander-sized pistol and is even ¼ inch thinner through the grip. (Photo/Dick Fairburn)

When I handed him a Glock 21 in .45 ACP he instantly realized our smaller troopers could never handle the big grip frame. So, the director told me to call Glock and tell them we wanted 2,400 single-stack .45 ACP caliber pistols. When I laughed, he told me rather sternly that statement was an order…go make the call.

So, I called Craig Turner with the request for a .45 pistol suitable for all hand sizes. It just so happened Craig was at the Glock plant in Georgia in a meeting with Mr. Glock, himself. Craig came back on the line a few minutes later and said Mr. Glock had no plans to build a single-stack pistol but if we bought the Model 22 and he ever did build a single-stack .45 he would trade us for the new ones straight across. We all chuckled a bit, ISP bought the 22s and still carry them today.

About a year later Craig called and invited me to the upcoming SHOT Show. He said I would see a new Glock pistol I would find interesting. The pistol was Glock’s Model 36, a single stack .45 but a concealed carry-sized pistol, not a duty sidearm. Craig told me my phone call asking for a smaller framed .45 duty pistol had planted the seed that became Glock’s first single stack pistol.

Looking for a duty pistol for small cops

So, when the 42 and 43 pistols hit the market, I thought they were great concealed carry pistols, but I was still searching for a modern pistol small cops could more effectively use as a duty pistol. In fact, Police1 printed the following letter as a sidebar to my Model 43 review in 2015:

Dear Mr. Glock,

I just reviewed your new model 43 Slimline 9x19 pistol for Police1 and loved it (and bought it). As a 37-year veteran police firearms trainer, I have seen my profession move from 99% revolvers to 99.9+% semi-auto pistols. Throughout those years one common denominator has troubled me. Cops with small hands struggle with duty-size handguns. The revolvers often came with big, wood target-style grips and we had to either whittle them down or choose the too-small “magna” style grips. As the semi-auto movement took off, most agencies chose the high-capacity 9mm or .40 caliber models with double-stack magazines and wide grip frames. The .45 semi-auto variations’ grip frames were even bigger. The most common single-stack semi-auto, the 1911 series, had to be carried cocked & locked, which gave uninformed administrators a bad case of the nerves.

Almost anyone can, with enough practice and determination, handle a Glock 9mm or .40 S&W duty pistol. But, for many "small-statured" officers their performance is marginal, and a smaller grip frame would be a Godsend.

PLEASE, oh PLEASE, Mr. Glock, let Santa bring us a single-stack Slimline version of your models 17 and 22 full-size duty pistols (and the 21 too, for that matter). Then we will see officers with below-average size hands improve their marksmanship, gun handling skills and, most important of all, their confidence.

Sincerely,

Dick Fairburn

I won a Glock!

About a year ago Glock added the Model 48 to its lineup, the first slimline pistol of duty sidearm dimensions. I picked one up at the ILEETA conference that year and it felt good, but my duties as a public safety director left me little spare time and then COVID-19 reduced my range time even further. However, about a month ago I won a pistol at the annual Friends of the NRA banquet and it was a 48! A blue label one in all black livery, unlike the silver-slide version of the initial model 48s.

The 48 doesn’t correlate exactly to the duty-size 9mm/.40 pistols. With a barrel length of 4.17 inches, it is just a touch bigger than the Model 19, which features a 15-round magazine. The important measurements show the 10-shot 48 has about 1/8th inch less trigger distance (from the backstrap to the face of the trigger) and about ¼ inch less thickness through the grip than the 15-shot Model 19. Those two reductions in size make the 48 feel much slimmer and the trigger “reach” is significantly shorter in a shooter’s hand. That means smaller hands with shorter fingers can get a normal grip on the pistol and reach the trigger comfortably.

Back when I started, when we all carried cap & ball muzzle-loading revolvers, the range officers would have bluntly informed a trainee that if they weren’t “man enough” to properly grip their sidearm they weren’t “man enough” to be a cop. Go find yourself another line of work.

Even 40 years ago when I first trained female officers, they had problems gripping a .38 or .357 revolver with the big target stocks that often came standard. I had a couple of the female officers try my Colt Lightweight Commander, chambered for the .45 ACP, and quickly learned the problem wasn’t too much recoil, it was too big a grip.

In 1967 the Illinois State Police was the first major US police agency to adopt a semi-auto pistol, the Smith & Wesson Model 39, a single stack 9mm. When the agency first started hiring female officers, the Model 39 fit them and most shot very well. When ISP upgraded to the S&W Model 59, a double-stack pistol with almost double the round count, the female offices (and small-statured male officers as well), started having problems on the range.

I have small hands but can manage a big grip frame when I must. I went through the original three-day Glock transition school firing a Model 20 using full charge 10mm ammunition. Not easy, but I did it. As I enter my last year of active policing, I can carry the pistol that has always fit me the best, an old Colt Lightweight Commander (made in 1956, just a year younger than me). But the heyday of the 1911 design is about gone. Polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols fill almost every police holster now and probably will until we get a Star Trek phaser. Then we can “de-escalate” by using them on the Stun setting.

Testing the Glock 48

Glock should extend the polymer lower frame toward the muzzle, allowing room for a weapon-mounted light. (Photo/Dick Fairburn)
Glock should extend the polymer lower frame toward the muzzle, allowing room for a weapon-mounted light. (Photo/Dick Fairburn)

The 48 is not yet a perfect duty sidearm for officers who struggle with double-stack pistols. It should have a short section of Picatinny rail at the front of the dust cover for mounting a light and a twin chambered for the .40 S&W cartridge. Sorry bullet geeks, despite your claims that a 9mm is “as good” as bigger calibers, look at their performance when encountering glass and body metal. Starting with a bigger bullet delivers more terminal damage on target after passing through light cover. The 48 is already available in the MOS version with the rear of the slide ready for optical sights, something I predict will become increasingly common on duty sidearms.

The machined steel sights are very rugged. The front profile of the blade allows you to hook the sight onto anything solid for one-hand manipulation of the slide. (Photo/Dick Fairburn)
The machined steel sights are very rugged. The front profile of the blade allows you to hook the sight onto anything solid for one-hand manipulation of the slide. (Photo/Dick Fairburn)

The first thing I did with my new Glock 48 was run it over to my old friend Richard Heinie’s shop where he mounted a set of his Ledge Straight-8 night sights. I have Dick’s sights on all of my serious pistols because they are super rugged machined steel (not more fragile plastic), super smooth and snag-free for concealed carry and incorporate Trijicon tritium night inserts.

The "Ledge" variation of his sights was designed for a military unit wanting a large, straight face on the sight blade rugged enough to allow one-hand manipulation of the slide. Unlike most night sights, which use the familiar three-dot pattern of glowing inserts, Heinie puts one tube in the center of the front sight and another single tube centered under the rear sight notch. When you see them at night, they form an “8” shape of one dot above the other. By using a smaller insert in the rear, you can determine if you are seeing the front sight or just one side of the three-dot rear sight under stressful conditions. You will find Heinie sights used by the best custom and semi-custom builders of 1911 pistols and they are available for nearly any duty-grade pistol you may carry.

The Heinie Straight-8 sights give the clearest and fastest sight picture I have found with LOTS of light around the front sight. The two dots are noticeably different in size, avoiding confusion, and are faster to use than three-dot models, in my opinion. (Photo/Dick Fairburn)
The Heinie Straight-8 sights give the clearest and fastest sight picture I have found with LOTS of light around the front sight. The two dots are noticeably different in size, avoiding confusion, and are faster to use than three-dot models, in my opinion. (Photo/Dick Fairburn)

Your holster for a Glock 22 or 19 probably won’t work with the 48’s slightly smaller slide width, so my first range sessions were done from the ready position and I only had the two 10-round magazines that came with the pistol. A few careful rounds on a steel silhouette verified the new Heine sights were dead on and the pistol was plenty accurate when I handled my part of the marksmanship equation. One of my standard drills is to work on a plate rack – 6 shots at 6 plates while walking slowly right and forward, a reload, and then reengage the 6 plates walking backward toward the left. When I’m having a good day, I will switch to my left hand and fire the second string while walking forward to the left. Within a few magazines, the 48 was allowing me to clean the drill at the 10-yard line. I have cleaned the drill once with my tiniest 9mm concealed carry pistol a Kahr CM9, but rarely go clean with a big double-stack pistol like the Glock 22 or even the sweet-shooting Heckler & Koch VP9, the most comfortable double-stack pistol I have.

So, here is my second thank you note to Mr. Glock,

Thank you for the Model 48 slimline 9mm. We now have a state-of-the-art fighting pistol with a small grip frame any cop can master. I would like to see you add a light mounting station ahead of the trigger guard and a twin model chambered for the .40 S&W. And, Mr. Glock, if there truly is a Santa Claus, I’d like to get the first slimline .45 you make suitable for police duty. The 36, your first single-stack design, has a special place in my heart but a modern striker-fired version of my old Colt Lightweight Commander would bring tears to my eyes!

Sincerely,

Dick Fairburn

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