Modifying the Glock – Part 1

In a class with Ken Hackathorn some years ago, he described the Glock from the box as a pistol starter kit…a functional weapon that benefitted greatly from a couple of intelligent alterations from the stock form to enhance usability. The ubiquity of the Glock family of pistols and the relative simplicity of the design has led to a bewildering number of aftermarket parts that often finds the new owner asking themselves: What should I do to my Glock?

Good question. I recently purchased a new 4th Generation Glock 34 and in the next couple of weeks I’ll take you through what I do to my Glocks in hopes that it gives you some ideas on what you can do to your combat Tupperware make it easier to use and easier to live with. I view any Glock I own as a potential carry gun and so I tend to set them up with parts/modifications that make the pistol more useable in that role…so if you’re looking for a step-by-step guide for turning your Glock into a space-age blaster that would make Han Solo jealous, you’ll just have to Google the details on one of Costa’s customized Glocks.

Modification Number One: SIGHTS!!

The very first thing I would advise anyone to do with a new Glock is to install some decent sights. The factory Glock sights are truly deplorable pieces of garbage. I discovered this many moons ago in my first firearms training when performing one-handed reloads. I watched a fellow student catch the rear sight of his Glock 17 on his duty holster during a one handed reload and with the application of only moderate vigor he ripped the rear sight right off. He brought the pistol up to fire on the plate rack and missed because it turns out hitting an 8” plate at 25 yards with just the front sight isn’t exactly easy. At the time the front sights were even worse than the rears, basically held into the hole of the slide with two spreading tabs in an arrangement you’d expect to find holding together what passed for the trim of a first generation Hyundai Excel. I have to admit that I took some delight in goading overly-confident Glock owners into performing one handed manipulations and seeing the look of sheer horror on their face as they watched their sights leave the weapon at high speed. Lately Glock has improved at least the front sights by using a screw that runs the full depth of the front sight so you can no longer remove it from the slide just by flicking the front sight with your thumb.

The sight picture offered by the stock sights is also, in my opinion anyway, terrible. Preferences differ, but I’ve always found it difficult to use stock Glock sights with any precision because they typically allow no light around the front sight. This makes it hard to judge the exact orientation of the front post in the rear notch, which in turn makes it difficult to shoot with precision at longer ranges or extreme precision at even short range. (Like hitting a 1” square at 7 yards)

Lots of people seem to agree with me about the deficiencies of the stock Glock sights, as the aftermarket options are legion. Whatever application you can imagine from a pure competition gun to a suppressor host, there’s a sight setup for it.

For a Glock meant primarily for serious social purposes, I prefer the Warren Tactical 3 dot sights. I first encountered the Warren sights on an M&P Todd Green was torture testing some years ago and I greatly preferred it to the stock night sights on the M&P I was using at the time.

The Warren Tactical 3 dot rear sight uses smaller, dimmer tritium vials and no potentially distracting white outline.
The Warren Tactical 3 dot rear sight uses smaller, dimmer tritium vials and no potentially distracting white outline.

I often refer to the unusual shape of the Warren rear sight as the “Batman cut” because it kind of looks like something Batman would have on his gun…if he wasn’t such a gun hating hippie. It allows a good sight picture without obscuring too much of the target downrange, which is helpful when it comes to judging a shot. I can typically see the edges of the bullseye a bit better with the Warrens where I can’t with other sights. It doesn’t make a radical difference in my shooting, but it’s nice to have.

The Warren front sight, as thin as a tritium-equipped sight can be.
The Warren front sight, as thin as a tritium-equipped sight can be.

The notch on the Warren is nice and wide while the front sight is as narrow as it can be while still securely fitting a tritium lamp in the post. This combination results in a sight picture that’s easy to pick up at speed. Using a wide rear notch and a narrow front post takes some getting used to if you’re accustomed to making fast shots on larger targets with the front sight somewhere in the rear notch. If you are used to using a more conventional sighting arrangement you have to relearn how much slop you can have in the sight picture and still make the acceptable hit. If you don’t understand what in the devil “slop” in the sight picture means, let me know in the comments section and I’ll try to do a write-up explaining it.

My absolute favorite thing about the Warren sights, though, is the low light sight picture. The rear sights have two small, subdued tritium vials and a larger standard sized vial in the front. The benefit of this is seen in this close-up view of the sights in low light.

The low-light view of the Warren 3 dot sights...note the bigger, brighter front sight in the middle.
The low-light view of the Warren 3 dot sights…note the bigger, brighter front sight in the middle.

The front sight appears bigger and brighter than the rear sights, naturally drawing your eye. Typical 3 dot arrangements use the same size vial for all three “dots”, which results in the two rear “dots” appearing bigger and brighter than the front dot since they are closer to your eye. The front dot can actually be hard to find in setups where the “dots” all use the same sized tritium vials. The Warren arrangement is exactly the opposite, making the front sight easy to find while the smaller, dimmer rear dots provide a very quick windage and elevation check. Using a target-focus it’s very easy to simply superimpose the low light picture of the Warren sights on the target and make excellent hits. In low light shooting I actually tend to shoot a little bit better as I find it’s easier to follow the glowing ball than to use the standard iron sight picture in even ideal lighting conditions.

I’ve used a number of different types of sights, but so far I haven’t found anything I like better than the Warrens for all-purpose use. Fiber-optic sights might be great for competition guns, but personally I’ve not found the ones I’ve tried to be durable enough to trust on a carry gun. They’re also not terribly useful in low light. For iron sights, tritium is the way to go if you want a reliable low light sighting reference.

Warren also produces a two-dot arrangement (one on top of the other) and while the two-dot arrangement is certainly useable, I find that I tend to misjudge the size of the gap between the two dots and get vertical stringing, typically pushing shots high. It’s by no means the end of the world, but it’s enough that at 25 yards I would miss a standard NRA bullseye’s 8 ring. The three-dot arrangement eliminates the problem as I find it much easier to put the big dot in the center of the gap left by the two small ones.

We all see the world uniquely, and that makes sighting preferences intensely personal. What works for me may not be ideal for you…another reason why there are so many different sights on the market. That being said, I think most folks with normal vision would find the Warren sights a very worthwhile addition to their Glock.


    1. See “Batman And Guns” (August 15, 2005) at

      It’s long, but very detailed about the evolution of Batman’s attitude toward and use of firearms.

      One of the more famous elements of Batman’s mystique has always been his refusal to use guns. Of course, those of us familiar with the early stories know that this was not always the case, and over the years the writers, artists and editors have frequently forgotten this key aspect of the character.

      First up is Detective #32. This story is basically a take-off of the movie “Dracula”. Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, Julie Madison, is under the spell of a vampire. Batman trails the vampire and its female assistant to their castle and shoots them each with a silver bullet:

  1. Love my Glock 21…HATE the cheap awful plastic excuse for sights that sat on
    top of it when I bought it. I always add the cost of this absolutely necessary
    fix when I buy a Glock now. I do not understand why even just making the
    “factory” irons out of metal could not at least be done by Glock. Yes… Mr.
    Hackathorn is not exaggerating even remotely…they ARE awful.

  2. Hate my Glocks, but sure love the Trijicon sights it came with (police trade in). Of course, having a cheap .40 Glock is keeping me from wasting money on a gun I like better in a caliber I hardly ever shoot. 🙂 I’m keeping it for limited USPSA competition.

  3. I love the responses to batman being a gun hating hippie. For some reason I imagine the responses like what comic book guy on the Simpsons would say

  4. Who makes the rear sights with the front cut specifically designed for grabbing your belt/pants for one-hand reloads? I’ve seen them for M&P and Glock, I believe. Anyone?

    1. Specifically? No one off the top of my head. On a Glock almost any replacement sight will work for grabbing the pants/belt/holster to rack the slide one handed. Warren will do the job on either the Glock or M&P. Trijicon HD will also work for both. Novak or Novak-style sights are the ones to avoid if you want to be able to do one handed manipulations.


      1. Agreed. I’ve tried several different sight arrangements and everything short of the Novak style sights work just fine for one hand manipulations. S&W recently revised their Novak-style sights to add a prominent ledge that can be used effectively with one hand techniques. A sight purpose built for one hand manipulations gets the cart a bit before the horse. It needs to be a good set of sights first and foremost. Personally I’m not fond of the short height chunky sights many make for the Glock. I prefer the taller sights like the Warrens, Heinie’s, or 10-8, etc.

  5. I really like the Heine slant 8’s on my Glock and find them extremely fast, and I think it’s harder to lose the front sight.

  6. I like the fact that Glock supplies their guns with cheap sights. I replaced the sights on almost every gun I own because I don’t like the dot sights supplied on most current guns.

    On a Glock I can replace the sights with the ones I like and don’t pay much for sights that end up in the trash can.

  7. Of course you need sights with a plastic fantastic. 9mm you have to aim. With a 1911-series, you just get within an inch of center mass and you’re golden.

    1. The .45 doesn’t just kill a bad guy…it goes back in time and will actually wipe out his ancestors, blotting him entirely from the face of human history.

  8. What makes the stock Glock sights so terrible? I understand if the problem is durability as they are plastic. But they are just as usable as any other sight. Place the front sight in the rear notch for sight picture and pull the trigger keeping both eyes open. I have seen people win competitions (GSSF, IDPA,) with stock sights. (USPSA shooters change everything on their pistols.) I know people that shoot the center out of a target at 25yds with stock sights.

    So it’s just a matter of personal preference rather than usability. Again, I understand the argument of durability.

    1. I think the sight picture sucks. I don’t doubt that there are some people who have managed to use them despite their poor construction and the generally poor sight picture they offer…or that there are some people who actually like them. There are also people who think okra and Brussels sprouts taste good. I’m afraid I’ll never agree. Regardless of how one feels about the sight picture itself, the sights on a sidearm really shouldn’t be something you can rip off the pistol with minimal effort.

      1. if you’re from the South, Fried Okra is the shiznit. Pickled is okay, as pickled anything just tastes like pickled, well, anything. Any other way, however, is a waste of Okra, as it should have been fried.

  9. “What makes the stock Glock sights so terrible?”

    Not to post twice but…durability, durability durability….! The
    soft black plastic just isn’t up to anything but the most careful
    handling. Not on fire about the shape of them either but the
    constant worry about bashing off the corners or losing the
    whole sight is too irritating to tolerate long.

  10. Sights appear to be great, the Warren website on the other hand, sucks. Can’t even find the sights you reference in this article on the website. No details on blade width or height is given that I can find. Can you give us more details on what exactly you are using. Thanks

      1. I’m glad you managed to find a retailer. SKD Tactical is good people. I bought my sites from MLE Shooting Sports, as they carry the full Warren line as well. I didn’t know SKD Tactical sold the Warren sights! Their page is easier to understand than MLE’s Warren page to boot.

        In any case, glad you found the article helpful!

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