April 15, 2023
The DR920L is Shadow Systems’ latest model of Glock-pattern pistols. The 920L is meant to mimic the Glock 34 “Practical/Tactical” model in size while offering all of the same Shadow Systems enhancements over the basic Glock design. And on that note—while picking this pistol up from my FFL, Double Action Indoor Range and Gun Shop in Madison Heights, MI, one of the clerks, unfamiliar with Shadow Systems, asked me what the “deal” was with them.
I told him, “Shadow Systems builds Glock clones with all the improvements Glock should be doing to their guns by now but aren’t, and sells them at a reasonable price, unlike some of these Glock-clone companies who price their guns like they’re custom 1911s.” Which should explain why Shadow Systems is seeing such rapid expansion in the marketplace. The Shadow Systems Corp (SSC, because I don’t want to have to type that out every time) 9mm DR920L combines a full-size frame (for full 17+1 capacity with flush magazines) with a longer slide and 5.31-inch barrel. SSC states it is a 5.3-inch barrel, but my calipers put it at 5.31 inches, the same length as my G34 carry gun.
And a brief discussion of that, before I lose you people because the DR920L isn’t a “carry gun.” Empty, with the provided magazine in place, this pistol weighs 24.12 ounces. According to Glock, a Glock 19 (the carry gun against which all others were judged for the better part of 30 years) weighs 23.63 ounces with an empty mag inserted. That half ounce difference won’t even be noticed, and once you add the weight of loaded ammunition is irrelevant. So, the 920L isn’t too heavy to carry. Do you believe it’s too big to carry? I carry a gun every day, and 95% of the time that’s a Glock 34. I carry it in an OWB holster, which is the hardest type of belt holster to conceal, and admittedly have to dress around the gun (concealing it with sweatshirts in the winter and stylish Hawaiian shirts in the summer) but I can still do it. If I followed the latest trend and carried AIWB (appendix inside the waistband) this pistol would disappear—so don’t tell me it’s too big to carry, or to conceal. You just have to commit to it. Most people aren’t willing to do that. It is also ideal for competition, or home defense.
Concealed Carrying Large Handguns
Why would you want to carry a bigger gun like this instead of something the size of a G19? The full-length grip provides you more capacity, and control, but the advantage of the longer barrel and slide is two-fold. The longer barrel maximizes the velocity of your ammunition, and the longer slide gives you a longer sight radius, which improves your practical accuracy when using iron sights. This is why longslide guns are so popular in competition.
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There are a number of police departments whose issued duty guns have been G34s and G35s (the identical gun but chambered in .40 S&W). When talking duty guns, concealability isn’t an issue, so why not go with the bigger gun that is easier to shoot? The G34 is designed to weigh the same as the shorter G17, so there’s no weight increase. Shadow Systems has seen some success selling their models to police departments, and there’s a lot to recommend this model as a duty gun. SSC has stated they designed this pistol as much for cops on tactical teams (SWAT, etc.) as they did competitive shooters.
Glock 34s have a cutout in the top of the slide, not to look cool but to keep the top end of the gun the same weight as that of the shorter (4.4" barrel) G17. This was (I believe) wholly done so they could use the same recoil system as the G17, but the end result helped keep recoil down. In a pistol, you want to reduce the amount of reciprocating weight (the slide), as that keeps felt recoil down—this is why longslide competition 1911s have all those slide cutouts.
I compared the weight of the DR920L to my USPSA Production Division-legal (before USPSA lost its mind and basically threw out all the rules for Production Division) TTI custom G34, which has been slightly upgraded from factory with the addition of good sights, a trigger job, stippling, and a stainless steel guide rod (like that found on the SSC gun). My G34 weighed 1.8 ounces more than the DR920L, and all that weight was in the top end. Meaning (theoretically) that the DR920L, even though it is lighter, should have no more and maybe even less muzzle rise.
I was surprised there was that much of a difference in weight, but Shadow Systems is smart—for all of their style, the external dimensions of their slides are never larger than that of the Glock models they’re derived from, so they fit into the same holsters. And the cuts to the sides and top of the DR920L are numerous. Combine that with the angled front and rear of the slide, and even though the DR920L slide doesn’t have the big top cutout seen on the Glock G34 it is still lighter. Okay, how ‘bout I stop yapping about everything else and get to reviewing the gun?
As with most of their models, the DR920L can be found in standard or Elite models. The Elite, as seen here, sports angled cuts on the top of the slide forward of the ejection port, and window cuts on either side just below. If you wrap your hand around the front of the slide to rack it, you’ll find those angled cuts on the top are very functional, better than just forward serrations on the side. The window cuts (of course) look very cool, especially if you’re running a barrel that’s a different color than the slide. Functionally, they also slightly reduce the weight a little, as mentioned above, helping keep recoil down. I’ve heard some people decry cuts like these, saying that the openings will let in dirt and make the pistol more likely to jam. And they’re not wrong, enough dirt will jam any pistol, and more holes let in more dirt. I would not recommend a pistol with slide cutouts as a duty weapon for the military, where you might have to navigate jungle, sandstorms, or mud (never mind the fact that the entire top of a Beretta 92’s slide is one big cutout). But on a carry piece for cops or private citizens, where the worst the pistol is likely to suffer is lint and dust? I don’t see a problem. Take the pistol out of the holster at the end of every day/shift and blow the lint out. You should be doing that anyway.
The slide is machined from 17-4 stainless steel with a black nitride finish. This is about the best steel you’ll find in a pistol slide, and between the stainless steel and the corrosion resistant finish it will handle a ridiculous amount of abuse. All of Shadow Systems’ pistols are optics ready, and I’ll get to their patented mounting system in a bit. The barrel is 416R stainless with a spiral fluting on the outside that reduces weight a bit but, far more importantly, looks cool. One of the main reasons for buying a “non-Glock Glock” is getting a gun that has some style and soul, and the DR920L has just that. Even more stylish is the optional bronze TiCN (titanium carbonitride) coating available for the barrel. As seen here, the barrel just has the standard black nitride finish—again, nitride over stainless will last forever, and is exactly what you want on a carry gun. The barrels all have traditional lands and grooves so they’re safe to shoot lead and/or coated bullets through, unlike the Glock factory polygonally-rifled barrels (and that includes their “Marksman” barrels).
The front sight is a steel day/night sight made by Night Fision. It combines a tritium insert with a high-visibility green ring. Tritium is a (safe) radioactive isotope that glows green in the dark, so even if you’ve got no light, you can see your front sight. The rear sight is steel, plain black and serrated. This pistol is “optics ready.” It comes delivered with an aluminum cover plate in place on the slide. Remove that, and you’ll see the slide is ready for direct mounting of most optics. Provided with the pistol are three polymer optic spacers and three sets of screws. The spacers go behind or in front of your optic (depending), but the optic itself is directly attached to the slide with the provided screws. This is as secure as it gets. The pistol is built to accommodate optics using the Trijicon RMR, Leupold DeltaPoint Pro, and Vortex Viper/Docter footprints. With some optics, you’ll be able to see the iron sights in the lower third of the window.
Glock added a second pin to their locking block with their third-generation pistols, as those chambered in .40 S&W had a tendency to break pins. Glock has gone back to the single pin for their Gen 5 pistols, the vast majority of which are chambered in 9mm. For those Gen 5 guns chambered in .40, they feel their beefier recoil system and slightly stronger frame will prevent those historical problems. But the two-pin design isn’t a bad idea, as it provides increased strength, and that’s what you’ll see with the SSC guns, which use mostly Glock Gen 3-pattern internals.
In the past few years, almost everybody has moved away from hand stippling, in part because most of the companies producing Glock-pattern pistols are now producing their own injection-molded frames, and those who aren’t, or who are doing work on customer-provided frames, are using lasers to do the stippling. Shadow Systems has been producing their own frames for a few years, and they sport several improvements over the basic Glock factory frames. In photos, and even in person, the texturing on the frame looks unremarkable. It’s only when you put your hand on the gun that you discover that it is at least two-thirds as aggressive as the best hand stippling, with a fine texture that won’t chew through any covering garments. The trigger guard is thinned and squared off, and the front of it is textured if you wrap a finger around the front. Above the front of the trigger guard on either side you’ll find another textured area, with a ledge at the bottom. Shadow Systems calls this a “recoil control ledge,” and it’s where you should be placing the thumb of your support hand while shooting. At the front of the frame is the standard Glock-pattern accessory rail with its single slot.
At the rear of the frame is a beavertail big enough to keep even those guys with massive mitts from getting slide bite, while not being obnoxious. I really like the way it is slightly curved up, just like a beavertail grip safety on a 1911. Just one more style improvement over the soul-crushingly boring factory Glock look. The magazine release button is polymer, with angled vertical serrations, and is reversible. The pistol sports an interchangeable backstrap, and three sizes are supplied with the gun. The size medium (Neutral) is installed on the pistol at the factory, and it provides a backstrap and grip angle at or slightly below that of a factory Glock. The small/low backstrap (a grip angle close to that of a 1911/S&W M&P) is not as angled as the large/high backstrap, which is similar if not larger/more angled than the Glock factory grip profile.
To swap out the backstrap, you only need remove the roll pin at the bottom of the backstrap, and Shadow Systems provides a push pin for doing just that. They also provide a magazine well which attaches to the frame via that roll pin. It is modestly sized, intended more for carry than competition. It adds no length to the gun, as the magazine protrudes further than the magazine well, and adds less than a quarter inch in width, while providing a substantively larger target for the magazine. It does add some width, which may print more, depending on how/where you’re carrying the pistol. Whether you use it or not, it’s a nice extra.
Glock only added a small internal magazine well to some of their pistols after the FBI demanded it, but that’s pretty much how Glock rolls—they only change something on their guns when not doing it will cost them money. They have shown themselves to be universally tone deaf when it comes to the commercial market’s requests for changes and upgrades. Why do you think there are so many highly successful companies making Glock-pattern guns? They are giving the consumer what they want. While Glock is showing some slight improvement, for decades they only seemed to care what military and law enforcement customers wanted, and treated the commercial market as an afterthought, never mind the fact that the U.S. commercial market, with its hundreds of millions of potential consumers, is the largest single market in the world.
Provided with the pistol are two 17-round Magpul magazines. These work perfectly when new, but in my experience do not have the longevity of Glock factory magazines with their metal liners. SSC uses them because they don’t want to use any Glock-made parts in their guns, but you don’t have the same constraints. Magazines are inexpensive, and invaluable. Buy extras. Except for the sights and the magazines SSC makes all their own parts, and they’re located (of course) in Texas.
The trigger itself is aluminum, with a safety lever in the front and a flat face and a nearly straight profile, designed to break at 90 degrees, which theoretically helps keep your sights from bouncing off the target. Shadow Systems lists a trigger pull of 4.5–5.0 pounds on their pistols, but a quick note—I’ve got a lot of experience behind Glocks. You can have two otherwise identical guns, and because of the geometry of the trigger system, the pull can vary widely, easily over a pound, and unlike with some other handgun designs there’s no way to predict what you’re going to get. The trigger pull on the DR920L was crisp (for a Glock), but a bit heavy at 5.5-lbs.
The 1911 has the trigger pull against which all others are judged (at least for carry guns). Jeff Cooper once described the perfect trigger pull on a 1911 as breaking like a glass rod. The best you can do with a Glock is having the trigger break like a thick plastic straw bending. 1911 triggers go click. Glock triggers go “sproink.” People love Glocks in spite of their trigger pulls, not because of them. Glock’s latest model is the G47, which was designed in 2019 for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol but just now released to the consumer market (see what I mean about them caring more about LE sales than you?). It is externally identical to the G48. The difference is internal—the frame rails and locking block of the G47 mimic those of the shorter G19, as opposed to the longer G17. This will allow Glock owners who have more than one model to more easily swap out frames and slides. And, once again, Glock is behind the curve. Shadow Systems guns all use G19 frame rails and barrel locking blocks, so you can mix and match frames, barrels, and slides to your heart’s content.
The “enhancements” that I mentioned, that Shadow Systems guns provide over basic Glock models—they are both functional and aesthetic (visual). I love Glocks for their performance. I love them in spite of their appearance, not because of it. Factory Glocks are ugly, utilitarian tools. Shadow Systems’ guns aren’t as flashy and exquisite as, say, the TTI Grand Master G34 John Wick used in the second movie, but unlike that pistol they are reasonably priced—affordable, for the average consumer. The DR920L fit perfectly into my daily carry holster for my G34, which is an OWB from Blade Tech. I had a compressed schedule when reviewing the DR920L, but seeing as this pistol is basically identical in size to my carry gun it was easy to swap it out in the holster and practice my draws when I went to the range.
Brief note—somebody who had only ever seen me on TV ran into me at Double Action gun store last year when I was testing a gun, and was surprised, and laughing, to see that I was in fact wearing a Hawaiian shirt. That it wasn’t some schtick for TV or magazine articles. I know this industry is full of BSers, but ask anyone who knows me personally—I’ve been wearing Hawaiian shirts since at least 1992, and not only do I always carry a gun, except for rare exceptions I’m always carrying full-size handguns, and have been since I could legally do so. My daily carry gun is always a full-size auto—1911, Browning Hi-Power, LTT Beretta 92, SIG P226, or, far more likely these past 15 years, a Glock 34. With at least one spare magazine. I made Grand Master in USPSA’s Production Division with a Glock 34, and that was my daily carry gun as well. I’ve probably got close to 100,000 rounds through G34s, and somewhere between 1–2 million dryfires (as that was the majority of my practice), so when I tell you I know this design, believe me. If this was my personal carry/competition gun, I’d reduce the trigger pull and put in a reduced power recoil spring (this tends to reduce muzzle bounce for quicker follow up shots), but that’s it.
Any holster meant for the G17 or G19, which has an open bottom, will work for this pistol, and many holster companies make holsters for the G34/35. Joe Allen, who works at Double Action, daily carries a mid-size Shadow Systems pistol with a Suarez Street Comp and red dot in a Galco Paragon AIWB holster, and found this pistol fit in his holster perfectly. Shadow Systems guns are a bit tighter than factory Glocks, so I’ve found that occasionally you have to put a box or two of ammunition through them before they smooth out. Other than that, they’re exactly what you’d hope for and expect from a Glock-pattern pistol. On my first trip to the range, I practiced my single shot draws, going from my Blade Tech holster to an IDPA target at seven yards. The goal was to go as fast as possible while still keeping the shot inside the center zone of the target. It was the dead of winter, and I was a bit out of practice, and was using this as an opportunity to blow a bit of the rust off, as they say. My draws averaged 1.2 seconds, with some down closer to 1.0, which (yes, I know) is a bit slow, but out of a 50-round box of ammo I only pulled one round significantly outside of the center zone, and that was me jerking the hell out of the trigger. This gun is a shooter, and begs for a lighter trigger pull—or maybe that’s just me, as I’m spoiled and picky.
After a subsequent range trip, I measured the trigger pull again and was unsurprised it had dropped by a quarter pound and smoothed out a tiny bit. This usually happens. I experienced no malfunctions shooting the pistol, and really enjoyed my time with it. I first heard of Shadow Systems in 2018. They continue to produce impressive pistols. Over the years they’ve changed the models and the features they sport, while continuing to expand and improve. The DR920L continues that tradition.
Shadow Systems DR920L Longslide Specs
- Type: Striker-fired, semiautomatic
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 17 rds.
- Barrel: 5.31 in. spiral fluted stainless steel with black nitride finish, bronze TiCN available
- Length: 7.25 in.
- Height: 5.6 in. (w/mag)
- Width: 1.1 in.
- Weight: 24.1 oz. (w/uloaded mag)
- Slide: 17-4 stainless steel
- Finish: Black nitride
- Grip/Frame: Polymer with 3 interchangeable backstraps
- Sights: Night Fision tritium green front, plain black rear, optics ready
- Safety: triger lever, striker drop safety
- MSRP: $1,175
- Accessories: Two 17-round magazines, 3 backstraps, optic adapters, soft case
- Manufacturer: Shadow Systems
About the Author
James Tarr is a longtime contributor to Firearms News and other firearms publications. A former police officer he is a USPSA Production Division Grand Master. He is also the author of several books, including CARNIVORE, which was featured on The O’Reilly Factor. His current best-selling novel, Dogsoldiers, is available now through Amazon.
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