I've carried the same mundane Glock 23 for some 18 years now. It is not fancy, or eye-catching or something to impress friends with. Instead it is a simple and reliable compact carry gun which feels good in my hand and hits where I aim.
Over the years, it has endeared itself to me by the yeoman's service it has provided. I know it will work when needed, hit where I point it and shrug off hard use and abuse.
Is it perfect? No, but neither is anything else. As popular as Gaston Glock's family of pistols has become, it's obvious many others feel the same way.
While a Glock 19 or 17 makes for a tough and reliable handgun, is it possible for it to fill the role of a Personal Defense Weapon (PDW)? Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Well, a few years back I began investigating different firearms that could act as a PDW for personal protection. In my case I was looking for a firearm that was:
- Very compact: This was the most important part, it needed to be small enough to easily carry stored inside a small bag. Desired length was less than 15 inches.
- Reliable: The design needed to be well proven, robust and reliable.
- Chambered for a common and effective cartridge: It needed to be chambered for a cartridge that was economical to buy and practice with yet terminally effective.
- High hit probability: It needed to have a higher hit probability than a handgun, which dictated the need for a shoulder stock.
- Capable of mounting modern accessories: A red dot sight, white light and other modern accessories are required, as they can increase survivability.
- Adequate reach: A minimum effective range of 100 yards was needed.
- Well supported: Wanted spare parts and aftermarket support readily available.
- Light weight: A maximum unloaded weight of 4.5 pounds was desired.
- Blue-collar price: The price needed to be within reach of a blue-collar worker.
- High capacity magazines: It needed to have magazines with a capacity of 20+ rounds readily available at an economical price.
Basically, I was looking for a very compact firearm I could carry discreetly in a small bag, in addition to the Glock 23 on my hip. By small, I mean a bag so abbreviated a typical person would not expect it capable of concealing a firearm with a stock.
At the same time, I wanted it able to fire without having to assemble it or unfold a stock. I have takedown 12-gauge pump shotguns and ARs with QD barrels and folding stocks. While these fill their-own niche, I was looking for something even more compact and faster into action.
One solution I tried is Kel-Tec's SUB-2000 in 9x19mm. This is a handy little pistol caliber carbine that folds into a package measuring just 16x7 inches. It can easily be carried in a small, low-profile bag most wouldn't expect to be able to conceal a carbine.
The ability to fold into such a compact package along with its use of standard pistol magazines, in my case Glock pattern, is what makes the SUB-2000 so desirable. Since it entered production in 2001, it has achieved a cult following among a certain segment of shooters.
There are some things I really like about the SUB-2000. It measures just over 16 inches long when folded and weighs only 4 pounds. It's simple to operate, fast into action, reliable and easy to hit with at 100 yards.
The downside is that it's not the most robust piece, and it's difficult to mount accessories to the Gen 1 model. Since I purchased mine, Kel-Tec has brought out a more refined Gen 2 model. This is even better and allows easier mounting of accessories. The SUB-2000 is priced right, with an MSRP of $500.
While I really like my SUB-2000, I frankly was looking for something even smaller. So I explored a semi-automatic MP5K-PDW type clone. This consisted first of a Zenith Z-5P pistol fitted with an SB Tactical side-folding arm brace.
I registered it as a Title II Firearm and lawfully built it into a Short Barrel Rifle (SBR), replacing the brace with a side-folding stock. The result is a very compact piece that measures just 13.7 inches overall. To finish it out, I added a Hi-Lux Optics Micro Max red dot sight, an HKParts.net Front Sight Tower Rail Mount and a white light.
Overall, it accomplishes what I wanted fairly well. It fits neatly into a small laptop bag and is easily carried out of sight. It is easily put into action and can be fired with the stock folded. It has proven reliable and can readily make hits on a man-sized target past 100 yards. It is simple to operate, accurate, handles well and is smooth shooting.
However, it is also quite expensive, retailing at $1,844, plus a $200 tax stamp plus the stock, vertical grip and accessories. Magazines are quite expensive as well. Plus, while compact, it is fairly heavy, coming in at 7 pounds with optic, white light and an unloaded magazine.
Glock With a Stock
Still searching for the Grail, I decided on a more radical approach. Since the Zenith Z-5P is nothing more than a big, heavy 9x19mm pistol, why not start with a conventional pistol like a Glock 19? Switching from a blowback operating system to a tilting barrel design would greatly reduce size and weight. But would the concept have any merit?
Fitting a shoulder stock to a handgun is a very old concept dating back hundreds of years. In recent times though, the concept has fallen out of favor.
Today, stocked pistols are looked upon as novelties or archaic collectibles. Having spent some 30 years shooting Mauser C96 pistols has provided me with a bit of insight.
While fitting a stock to a handgun obviously makes it easier to shoot, there are some basic hurdles to overcome. These include sights, where to place your non-dominant hand, how to attach the stock, mounting accessories and in the case of a Glock, the very real need for a manual safety.
While adding a shoulder stock to a handgun doesn't change the mechanical accuracy, it can make it much easier to shoot accurately, especially at speed and distance.
I registered a Glock 19 frame as a Title II firearm, and when my stamp came back, I began experimenting with different SBR configurations. The first thing I needed, obviously, was a stock. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of suitable options out there, and I ended up purchasing a FAB Defense GLR 17 Tactical Collapsible Stock that that retails for $123.
While the GLR 17 stock is intended for a Glock 17/34, it fit with just some minor modifications. It's made of lightweight polymer, and weighs just 7 ounces. You can adjust pull length to four positions.
Collapsed, the stock is 10.2 inches long, while fully open, it extends to 14.2 inches. Slide it into place in the hollow of the grip, where a spring loaded detent locks it into place. It features a raised cheekrest as well as a sling loop.
I also purchased a FAB Defense Foregrip Safety System that retails for $57.60. This is a folding vertical grip that attaches to the rail on the dust cover.
Folded, it covers the trigger and acts as a manual safety. Why is this important? It comes into play if the SBR is carried slung where gear, equipment or clothing might enter the trigger guard and discharge the piece.
When in the folded position, it can be pushed clear using only the trigger finger. The vertical grip also incorporates an inner spring-loaded piece that can be further extended if so desired.
In the accompanying photos the stock and vertical grip are seen mounted onto a Glock 19 featuring an aftermarket 319K slide assembly with Kompressor compensator from Suarez International.
It's set up along the lines of what is popularly called a Roland Special; it features a Suarez International slide machined from 17-4 stainless steel with forward and rear slide serrations.
Riding inside this is a threaded match barrel. A two-chamber, four-port 17-4 stainless steel compensator helps reduce recoil. Working in conjunction with this is a one-piece guide rod with 12-pound recoil spring.
Up top, you'll find tall suppressor sights and the slide is cut to accept a Trijicon RMR. The whole package is very pleasing to the eye, with the slide machined at the front with the Kompressor compensator in mind. Finish is a durable black Melonite. Price of the entire slide assembly minus red dot is $599.99.
The whole package measures 17.7 inches long assembled and just 10.2 inches disassembled, and weighs just 2.6 pounds with an empty 33-round magazine.
Performance? I found it mixed. On the positive side, it is very light, easy to carry and stow and quick to assemble. The addition of both the stock and the red dot make it very easy to hit with.
Often with a red dot sighted pistol you find yourself hunting for the dot. This goes away simply by adding the stock.
The result is very fast on target and blessed with quick follow-up shots. Recoil is easy to control. I found making rapid multiple hits on a man-sized target surprisingly easy at 50 yards. Scoring hits at 100 yards is not difficult offhand and easy kneeling or prone. Practical performance is quite similar to the MP5K-PDW clone, only it's about 4.5 pounds lighter.
Negatives? There are certainly some. Starting at the front, Glock never designed its polymer frame to handle the torque that can be applied with a vertical grip. If you apply pressure, you can easily move the dust cover in whatever direction you apply force.
It is easy to apply so much pressure you distort the dust cover enough to shut the gun down. So when shooting, I held onto the vertical grip, but did not apply pressure to it. Mounting the vertical grip also means you cannot add a white light.
Next, the stock is flimsy and flexes easily. More importantly, its attachment point is less than ideal.
By attaching some 4.5 inches below the boreline, the pistol has increased leverage against the stock leading to unnecessary muzzle rise. Ideally, the stock would attach as close as possible to the boreline. The design of the stock also makes it either very difficult or impossible for most right-handed shooters to manipulate the magazine and slide release. I resorted to using the thumb of my left hand to manipulate both controls when reloading.
Running the SBR without the vertical grip removed the possibility of an operator-induced malfunction, and allowed the pistol to fit into a holster, something you cannot do with the vertical grip mounted.
In its place, I fitted a SureFire X300 Ultra. Again, the combination showed potential but was still less than ideal. So I began to ponder what would be needed to optimize the concept.
It was about this time that I came across CAA's Micro Roni chassis system for the Glock. CAA was founded in 2004 by Israeli special operations veteran Moshe Oz. Oz went on to use his practical experience gained in special operations and combat to design a host of firearms accessories, including the Micro Roni system.
The Micro Roni is actually named after Oz's daughter, and was designed as an alternative to more expensive PDWs and compact submachine
The Micro Roni is simply a shell to turn a standard Glock 17/22 or 19/23 into a lightweight Personal Defense Weapon with side-folding stock. The pistol can be installed or removed in a matter of seconds.
You can easily fit iron sights or optics, as well as white lights, lasers and slings. Overall length of the unit with stock folded is a very compact 14.5 inches, similar to a MP5K-PDW.
With the stock extended, the piece is a useful 22.6 inches long. The design incorporates a safety to cover the trigger guard, an easy-to-reach slide-release and ambidextrous charging handle. A vertical grip can hold a spare magazine.
I had my first range time with the Micro Roni at a training event put on by Lt. Col. Mikey Hartman (Ret.) of the Israeli Defense Force. Hartman was in charge of the IDF's Marksmanship School until his retirement and provided an excellent opportunity to train with the Micro Roni under Israeli instructors. I liked what I saw training with it and decided to further evaluate the system.
The size and weight of the system caught my attention. Dropping my Glock 23 into the chassis gives an overall weight of 4 pounds. That includes a white light and Aimpoint T1 in a LaRue mount.
Size is almost identical to my MP5K-PDW clone, and the Micro Roni feels light and nimble. The forward vertical grip is comfortable and allows easy activation of the white light mounted at 6 o'clock. The white light is available as part of an accessory kit: a single CR123 battery generates 500 lumens.
Also included in the kit are a set of folding polymer sights, single-point sling with QD swivel and a pair of side rail thumb rests.
I found operating the Micro Roni to be very straightforward. The controls are well placed and easy to manipulate, even with gloves. The stock is easy to fold or extend, and it locks securely into place.
The top rail allows easy mounting of iron and optical sights, while 1913 rails located at 3 and 9 o'clock make it easy to fit accessories. Once you've done it once or twice, installing or removing the pistol from the chassis takes just four or five seconds.
To reduce the width, I stripped the side 1913 rails off. I found the standard Glock magazine release a bit of a reach, so tried a slightly extended Vickers Tactical unit that solved my problem. Practical accuracy proved to be very good, allowing rapid hits at 50 and 100 yards.
Accuracy, of course, varies by gun. Using my stock Glock 23 slide assembly, the Micro Roni shot groups similar to a Kalashnikov at 100 yards. I found that to be quite acceptable for a .40 S&W pistol.
I ran the MP5K-PDW clone, Glock with FAB Defense stock and vertical grip along with the Micro Roni chassis through a variety of drills from 7 to 100 yards. This included a couple night fires using white light. Many drills started with deploying from concealment.
Both the MP5K-PDW clone and Micro Roni were shot both with the stock folded and extended, and sometimes both.
The Glock fitted with the Suarez International 319K slide assembly with Kompressor and FAB Defense stock performed well. While the stock did provide an advantage over a regular pistol, especially at longer distances, the FAB unit has some previously mentioned shortcomings, and I think it is grossly overpriced.
The Suarez slide assembly on the other hand is an eye-catching piece. Suarez International has been building Glock slide assemblies cut for red dots since 2011. I have an early example that has proven to be both very accurate and reliable. They offer a wide array of models, options and finishes.
The Kompressor compensator helped to cut recoil and muzzle rise while giving it a distinctive visual appeal. Just remember, it is common to have to tinker with recoil spring weights to get compensated guns to run reliably, especially with lighter loads.
CAA's Micro Roni impressed me the most. It is very well thought out, makes for an extremely small package and works. I was a bit chagrined to find I preferred it over my much more expensive MP5K-PDW clone.
Sure, the MP5K-PDW has a certain style, but for me, the Micro Roni makes more sense. Glock mags are cheap, I can swap between 9mm Parabellum, .357 SIG and .40 S&W, spare parts are readily available and cheap and it works.
Of course the downside to all of these options is their lack of range, penetration and terminal performance due to their firing handgun ammunition. If you prefer not to go the NFA route, there are options. Both Zenith and CAA offers models with shoulder braces rather than stocks. If you are looking for a compact PDW-type firearm, the Micro Roni system might be one to consider.