by Sandy Keathley
This is a sticky issue, and sometimes controversial. Over the last couple of decades, there has been increasing use by gun manufacturers of polymer grips and frames, or aluminum frames with polymer grips, all with the intent of making guns lighter. This has been exacerbated by the increasing market share of concealed carry guns. Glock was one of the early forces behind this move, and others have followed suit.
Of course, the barrel and other high-stress components are still made of steel, so this should not be seen as a safety issue. However, some makers are using a process called Metal Injection Molding (MIM) (similar to metal filings mixed with epoxy) for firing pins and other small parts, and those have had, in my view, an unacceptable failure rate.
An added benefit is that it makes it cheaper to build guns this way, but from the consumer’s standpoint, the lessened weight is a big plus, especially for police and security forces, who have to carry a gun for 8 hours a day.
But is it really a plus? The force required to send the bullet downrange hasn’t changed. The weight of a gun has a dampening effect on recoil, so the downside of these lighter guns is considerably more muzzle flip, with an attending loss of accuracy.
So, a lighter gun is less accurate? No, but a lighter gun leads to more recoil, and the user’s anticipation of that recoil can lead to less accuracy. That is less of an issue for an expert shooter, but most people are not experts.
Do a side-by-side comparison of two like-sized semi-autos, one polymer-framed, and one all steel, and see the difference. One is more fun to shoot, and one is more accurate. They are probably the same.
Not convinced? Shoot a S&W 686 revolver with at least a 4 inch barrel, alongside one of those plastic snub-nosed .38s that is the size of a smart phone. Just to make it interesting, use a +P round in both. The defense rests.
I like the feel of a heavier gun, but the real point here, is that when a gun is harder to control, or hurts to shoot, a person won’t practice with it. They won’t. So if you carry a tiny concealed handgun daily, but haven’t shot it in 6 months because it is not fun to shoot, what happens if you ever have to use it? Hmmm?