New York State Police Choice Of Glock .45 GAP Inspires Test
by R.K. Campbell
Contributing Editor


Over the years those of us who favor the 1911-type semi-automatic pistol have been accused of being mesmerized by the pistol. At the same time we stress that the 1911 is not for everyone. The Glock is much the same, not for everyone, and a pistol that does not suffer poor handling. Those who go through life asleep need not apply for either handgun.

The Glock features a relatively low bore axis and a trigger compression that is controllable with practice. The Glock in all models is an example of reliability. And even this 1911 fan is surprised by the speed with which Glock reacts to the needs of the buying public. Among the best examples of the rapid movement of Glock to meet a real need is the Glock Model 37.

The Glock 37 has been around for a few years but its recent adoption by the New York State Police bears attention. When a handgun fails in the line of duty we attempt to isolate the reason. Human failure must be eliminated because, after all, if the bullet doesn’t strike its mark that is a human issue. Malfunctions unfortunately are also a human issue in many instances. But when an officer delivers his shots and the pistol does not take effect, we blame the caliber. We shed the .38 caliber revolver for many reasons, including a lack of wound potential, sometimes called “stopping power.” Another reason was for an increased reserve of ammunition sometimes referred to as “firepower.” Some handguns, such as the .357 Magnum, had proven capable of stopping a felon with a minimum of well placed shots but others have not proven as capable.

Events Inspire Change
There have been events that have caused police and military to take a hard look at their firearms. The failure of the .38 caliber revolver in combat caused the US military to reissue .45 caliber revolvers and to eventually develop and issue a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. When the FBI met with ammunition failure regarding smallbore pistols during the tragic Miami gun battle, they replaced these handguns with more capable sidearms. When the Ohio State Police suffered a number of malfunctions during critical incidents, they conducted an extensive test program to isolate the problem which resulted in a test program of some 228,000 rounds of ammunition. Recently, the New York State Police (NYSP) were confronted with a bad situation that resulted in a change in the service sidearm.

On Mar. 1 2006 armed felons robbed the Chemung Canal Trust Company in Big Flats, NY. Those involved were Anthony Horton, 33, and Brian Adams, 45. These robbers fled the bank in a vehicle along with the sum of $1,900. Approximately an hour after the robbery Trooper Andrew Sperr stopped their vehicle for what appeared to be a minor traffic violation. The felons engaged Sperr in a gun battle. Sperr was struck and killed by gunfire. However, he had been able to hit each of the robbers, wounding one four times.

Sperr was found on the side of the road by citizens, while the robbers eventually were arrested, one after making his way to a hospital. Each recovered from his wounds.

This shooting came days after the death of a New Hartford officer while pursuing a robbery suspect.

The Glock 17 9mm pistol used by Sperr has a reputation as a reliable handgun. The pistol is simple to use and maintain and has proven reliable in service. But the caliber has been controversial. The 9mm is often referred to as enough “given good shot placement,” but the reality is that the 9mm has given mixed results, and some of the results are very poor. The 9mm relies upon an expanding bullet for effect. When the felon is wearing clothing such as heavy down that impedes the expansion of a hollowpoint bullet poor results are predictable. The NYSP moved to adopt a more powerful handgun, but were willing to do so only if a pistol of equal accuracy could be adopted.

Good Combat Accuracy
NYSP spokesman Sgt. Kern Swoboda said that the new pistol was chosen in part to increase “immediate incapacitation” and “maximize safety.” Swoboda noted the agency did not wish to compromise accuracy. Those familiar with the Glock 17 9mm pistol recognize it as a reliable handgun that is easy to use well. The grip fits most hands and while the lack of a manual safety is sometimes debated, the pistol is a simple one to use. Combat accuracy is good.

The agency wished to maintain these advantages while going to a larger caliber. A few years ago, the .40 caliber Smith & Wesson would have been the obvious first choice but today there are other choices. The .45 caliber Glock Model 21 has been adopted by some agencies, but usually the agency also authorizes a smaller handgun such as the Model 22 .40 caliber for those whose hand size is not compatible with the Glock Model 21. The Model 21 is reliable and among the most accurate Glock pistols, and it recoils less than most .45 caliber pistols. But the pistol is quite large and challenges many hand sizes. For several years, Glock had listened to police agencies that wished to adopt a .45 caliber pistol but found the Glock 21 did not offer the best hand fit. As a result, Glock and Speer Ammunition developed the .45 Glock Automatic Pistol (.45 GAP) cartridge.

The .45 GAP is similar to the .45 ACP but uses a shorter case. This short case allows the cartridge to be chambered in compact handguns of basically 9mm size. While the slide is heavier, the Glock Model 37 .45 GAP is barely larger than the Glock 17 pistol in 9mm. This is possible due to the special short case and the low pressure of the .45 GAP cartri dge. Like the .45 ACP, the .45 GAP works at modest pressure. The .45 ACP operates at about 21,000 psi while the .40 and the 9mm may operate at well over 30,000 psi. The .45 GAP is rated at 23,000 psi or about the same pounds-per-square inch pressure as a .45 ACP +P loading. The .45 GAP uses a special extractor groove considerably different from that of the .45 ACP and also a small pistol primer rather than the large primer used in the .45 ACP. The .45 GAP is similar to the .45 ACP but the cartridge is also unique.

NYSP Superintendent Wayne E. Bennett announced on Nov. 9, 2006, that the agency would purchase 5,400 Glock Model 37 pistols in .45 GAP caliber. I have fired and examined the pistol and have to agree with the agency’s findings. The Model 37 full size and Model 38 compact pistols fit most hand sizes well, whether large or small hands are involved. The pistol does not overly challenge a novice nor limit an expert. The effective ballistics of the .45 GAP involve a 185-grain or 200-grain bullet at about 1,000 feet-per-second (fps). Actual performance is better than has been related to me by correspondents. My personal test pistol exhibited a velocity of 1,050 fps with the 185-grain Gold Dot load and 1,010 fps with the 200-grain load. I mentioned hand fit compared to the Model 21 .45 and this needs to be demonstrated. Here are the figures:

M21 M37
Magazine thickness 1.15” 0.904”
Grip circumference 7.75” 7.375”
Grip thickness 1.292” 1.182”
Grip front to back 2.155” 2.08”
Trigger reach 2.938” 2.793”
Barrel length 4.6” 4.59”

The slide of the Model 37 is the same thickness as the Model 21 at 1.13 inches versus the width of 1.01 inch for the Glock Model 22 .40, meaning that at present Glock 21 holsters must be used for the Glock 37. I am certain major makers will pony up and produce proper holsters.

The difference in feel of the pistols is very noticeable, with the Model 37 presenting a better balance than the Model 21. Let me make this point: if you have large hands and can handle the Model 21 the Model 37 offers no advantage. The .45 ACP is available in more diverse loadings and offers more power than the .45 GAP in the +P loadings. The .45 ACP is more efficient with bullet weights over 200 grains including the standard 230-grain loadings. But a person with large hands will probably control the Model 37 even better and those with smaller hands simply cannot stretch their digits to accommodate the girth of the Model 21 Glock. The low pressure .45 caliber cartridges solves the problem of wound potential and weapons wear. You will still have to shoot straight but the wound potential of the .45 GAP, with its wider frontal diameter, is obvious.

Excellent Handgun
Overall I find the NYSP service pistol an excellent handgun. The NYSP responded to a real failure with an intelligent choice. The Model 37 is a result of thinking outside of the box. While the pistol is based upon the proven Glock design, the Model 37 incorporates changes that make it suitable for a special short case .45 caliber cartridge. Modern powder and brass technology made the cartridge possible. The Model 37 may prove to be a serious contender in the future. While the .40 and .45 caliber pistols will remain popular, the .45 GAP is an option that cannot be ignored.

Also, the ammunition companies have really raised the bar on ammunition and produced a number of loads that have excellent potential. Winchester has introduced a 230-grain SXT loading. There are some who felt that the 230-grain bullet weight would not be successful in the .45 GAP. Winchester has proven them wrong with the proven SXT bullet at 850 fps. This is squarely in .45 ACP standard pressure territory. Winchester also produces a very good practice loading, the Winchester USA white box 230-grain loading. I have made extensive use of this load with good results.

I have also made use of Cor-Bon’s entry. Civilians like high velocity and probably do not need the same level of penetration as peace officers. The Cor-Bon load I like the best is the DPX, a 160-grain all brass hollow point at a solid 1,070 fps. This is a good personal defense load that seems to exhibit a good balance of expansion and penetration. Another choice is Cor-Bon’s 230-grain ball loading. The Performance Match line has proven very accurate in every pistol I have tested in 9mm and .45 caliber and the new .45 GAP loading is no exception. This is a good choice for pistol matches and informal targets.

Since the pistol is polymer I went Kydex with one holster. The Bear Claw paddle has given excellent results, with good retention and real speed. This is a holster with many good features. While the paddle was first designed for peace officers, the paddle has much appeal to many citizens as the pistol may be taken off quickly and stored with the holster without much difficulty in placing the holster back on.

Another good choice is the Blocker cross draw. I have been a fan of Blocker holsters for almost 20 years. The Blocker cross draw is a quality leather holster with good features. The stitching is excellent and the holster mouth is reinforced for retention and security. The belt loop is in the proper position for a crossdraw and this comment comes only from much experience. When seated or when driving a vehicle, there is no draw handier or more comfortable than the cross draw holster.

Author’s Bare Gelatin Results
Caliber
Load
Penetration
Expansion
.45 GAP 185-grain Gold Dot 10.7 inches .79
.45 GAP 200-grain Gold Dot 12.0 inches .75
.45 GAP 230-grain SXT 13.2 inches .72
.45 ACP 230-grain Gold Dot 14.0 inches .70
.45 ACP Winchester 230-gr. SXT 13.0 inches .80
.45 ACP 200-grain Gold Dot +P 12.4 inches .78
.45 ACP 185-grain Gold Dot 10.9 inches .78
As you can see the .45 GAP and the .45 ACP are comparable. Only with heavier bullets is the .45 ACP superior. The wound ballistics offered by the .45 GAP are certainly acceptable. As for accuracy, the pistol offers comparable accuracy to the Glock Model 21, which is widely regarded as the most accurate Glock pistol.

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