We have all heard the question Is the longer slide really that beneficial? The question applies to several handgun series and could be asked about the Glock, Smith & Wesson M&P Pro, Springfield XD, Sig 320, and the Walther PPQ. Below I will cover my journey, experience, and thoughts about this topic. The answers may surprise you because they did me. My experience was with the Glock series, specifically the standard model 17 and the long slide version called the 34.
Around mid 2012 I decided to get back into the shooting sports after spending 6-7 years away. Having shot IDPA for years before my absence I had an idea of what I was looking for and how to search for the right gear. I made the decision to shoot the Glock platform because it was popular and proven to win matches in the right hands. I had the same question, do I go with a 17 that is more versatile or go with the long slide 34? I researched the topic to death and found mixed reviews at the time. I let money make my decision when a local gun shop was selling the 17 RTF2 version at a really good deal, I bought the 17.
I jumped back into IDPA as a Marksman and shot my Glock 17 for a while, never questioning whether the gun was holding me back. After two years, my 17 was still working well for the sport and I had just made IDPA Expert in SSP. I had the same thoughts again, and wondered if the extra length of the slide would help me? Well back to the internet I inquired and the opinion was still mixed but in favor of the longer slide 34. Some of the reasons favoring the 34 were: it’s more accurate due to the longer barrel, less recoil due to the weight, and longer sight radius creating less human error. I don’t believe everything I read, so I decided to find out for myself.
Since getting my 34 I am now a IDPA Master in SSP and ESP. I can tell you without a doubt that the Glock 34 helped me get here faster. So if your on the fence, buy the longslide version and don’t look back.
Before I just explain the details, let me share my thoughts on why I didn’t believe the other ideas. The longer sight radius seems like a valid reason and plausible that it’s an advantage. However the sight radius just changes the error within the sighting system and the difference of error really isn’t that much. The sights are 1.06 inches longer on the 34 over the 17. You hopefully always look at the sights from behind the gun while shooting, so the perspective difference of size is very little. If anything the 17 would present a front sight that is larger in perspective thus making the space within the rear sight smaller and easier to shoot more accurately. The other main reason was that the longer barrel is more accurate, or perceived that way. With many counter arguments of shooters owning sub-compact glock 26’s being just as accurate or more so then the larger models, it was easy to be non conclusive of the results. But why are most of the top shooters all shooting the longer versions? There must be a tangible reason.
I have always believed that you must be confident in your gear. Having gear you believe in is worth a lot in a match, weather it has tangible advantages or not. The longer slide to me is beneficial for a few reasons. First I think it’s the weight placement, not the raw weight but the moment around the axis of recoil, or moment of inertia. The longer slide weighs 0.71oz heavier then the 17 which isn’t much in terms of raw weight to counter recoil. However that weight is an inch farther away from the recoil axis which makes a big difference in recoil impulse that you feel. The recoil feels more linear and smoother with the longer slide 34. Secondly, this moment of inertia also works in the other direction called yaw, or side to side twist. Pick up a small gun with a short barrel, twist your wrist left to right. Now try a larger gun with a longer barrel, you will find the larger gun resists the twist movement a lot more. This also works when running the gun in a match extended at arm’s-length, because of this I stay on the sights better and find them quicker with the longer slide. Many times with my Glock 17 I was hunting for my sights in my side to side motion, I find the 34 resists this motion and my sights stay in view much better. In my opinion the longer slide versions just feel more stable, especially in movement, which is greatly beneficial in the shooting sports.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter. I know I bored you with all the technical mumbo jumbo in the previous paragraph and if you’re still reading this then you may be confused. I believe that the reasons I explained above are valid. However once you learn to control the gun in these areas then it really doesn’t matter which gun you shoot. Meaning the longslide version helped teach me to become a better shooter, now that I have the skills to shoot a handgun at high speed the length of barrel has little to do with it. I have shot matches recently with my Glock 17 and noticed very little difference between it and my 34. The sights are the same, they look the same and the gun points the same. So even though I think it doesn’t matter how long the barrel or slide is, in the end I strongly believe that the longer gun will help teach you to become a better shooter. It will also help you achieve your shooting goals faster, so buy the longer version and get started training!