Polymer80 First Take – How I Got Excited About Glock Compatible Pistols

Folks, I am not a huge Glock fan as a shooter. I appreciate all the engineering that went into it and it is a genuinely brilliant design but I don’t like the looks or the feel of the grip angle. With those words said, have probably pissed off at least half of you and let me explain.

Gaston Glock designed his pistols with functional reliability and safety in mind. When I look at a Glock, I can see a lot of similar design concepts to the Kalashnikov – good enough accuract, relatively loose tolerances and a polymer receiver that holds all the parts in alignment but doesn’t need a ton of strength itself. I’m sorry, but to me, the OEM Glocks are bland looking utilitarian workhorses – blocky, blackish things.

Over the past year, I have become aware of the exploding aftermarkets part market for Glock pistols. You can replace every part now it seems with flashy slides, triggers, brakes and more. There are even groups making receivers that use Glock parts but with their own twists.

This brings me to the one reason I have never personally owned a Glock even though I have shot friends’ pistols a number of times – they feel wrong in my hand. Gaston designed his pistols with a grip angle of 22 degrees relative to the centerline of the bore. He had really good reasons to do this and it works for many shooters but not me.

Scott Igert gave me some wise advice years ago – pick a pistol that feels right when you hold it – that when you bring your hand up the aim is natural and comfortable. This is sage advice because there is no magical perfect grip angle that works for everyone – I known this after making AK rifle grips with differing angles for years!

So what pistol do I tend to like in terms of feel? I like 1911s and doublestack 1911s the most. John Browning designed his pistol with an 18 degree grip handle based on his analysis of the hand and shooters at the time. Both these guys did their homework but the 1911 just feels better to me. Thus, while I have shot Glock 17s a number of times, I’ve never wanted one but I do like my 1911s.

This bring us to the part of the story I really want to convey. I’d seen ads from Midway USA and others about Polymer80’s 80% receivers (frames) that can use Glock parts. I never really was interested due to my dislike of Glocks plus the resulting costs of the builds weren’t competitive with commercial pistols.

As it turns out, I was lacking some important information that when I found them out, caused me to move ahead with building two Polymer80-based pistols.

  1. The grip angle is 18 degrees and since it is a doublestack design, it feels really good to me.
  2. The trigger guard is sculpted to allow the remaining fingers to fit under the trigger guard in a more natural manner.
  3. It has an integral Picatinny rail under the barrel.
  4. The Polymer80 frames have a great reputation for quality
  5. The Glock aftermarket parts scene was several orders of magnitued bigger than I could ever have imagined. You can pretty much create a custom pistol that looks substantially different from its Austrian ancestor.

Polymer80 makes a number of frames including ones for the G19-style compacts. My challenge is that I wear XL-sized gloves and my pinky finger does not fit onto a G19 comfortably plus I had a bunch of G17 magazines from a project I did some years back. I decided to build a full size pistol. [Click here for a list of Polymer80’s pistol frames]

So, figured it was time to give it a shot. It was Winter, I had time and I figured why not? It also helped that Midway USA was having a sale and I bought two of the PF940v2 full size frames for $110/ea to get the ball rolling. To be honest, I bought two figuring I might well trash one of the two. In other words,I had a spare just in case 🙂

I ordered a grey frame and an olive drab colored frame. I’m bored with all black weapons and I have to admit, I really like the olive drab. I do plan on doing another and may do it in black but the cool thing is that you have options.


Legal Note: In case you are wondering about the legality of building this type of pistol in your area, you will need to do some research. In the case of Michigan where I live, you need to go to your local Sheriff and get a pistol purchase permit and then fill it out with the maker as “Self-Assembled”, model as “NONE” and serial number as “NONE”. My local Sheriff’s department was very helpful and recommended that I wait until I was done with the build because the purchase permit was only valid for 30 days. I confirmed this with the Michigan State Police Firearms Records division and they too were very helpful. (Their number is 517-241-1917 so you can confirm the details . To be safe, I would urge someone from Michigan to do their homework and confirm my findings so you can legally enjoy your resulting pistols. I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice – just me trying to pass along what I learned so double-check.) I believe it is even easier for CPL holders in Michigan but can’t speak to that process.


What was in the box?

Just a few days after I ordered the two frames from Midway, they arrived. Each was packed in a stylish black box from Polymer80 and when you opened it, the basic parts are there:

  • The two halves of the red drilling jig
  • The receiver frame itself that you will need to complete
  • A 3mm drill bit for drilling the locking block pin holes
  • Two 3mmx25mm steel pins to hold the locking block
  • The front locking block, which is a substantial machined part
  • The rear locking block, that looks like a stamping
  • A 4mm drill bit for drilling out the trigger pin holes
  • A 9mm end mill for cleaning out the barrel block area
Here’s the unfinished frame sitting in the one-time use plastic jig.

Here’s the PF940v2 frame with the two halves of the jig. It is a very nicely engineered kit. You can do this!

Guys, being a 1911 fan immediately liked the feel of the grip angle and the girth due to it being a 9mm doublestack. I went from cautious to excited in a split second.

So what do you need once you have the frames?

Okay, I jumped the gun a bit when I bought the frames as I knew I needed other parts but really hadn’t sorted out the details. That’s all that was there – you still need the other parts for the lower receiver and slide – the trigger, magazine release, slide catch, slide, barrel and so forth. There was a lot easier route I could have taken but buying the frames.

The Polymer80 pistols are genuinely fun and easy builds to do. The key is just not to rush. My first one took a lot more time as I tried to verify my understanding of every step before I did it. I’ve made a ton of costly mistakes over the years so I now try to be a bit more cautious.

As I wrap up this post, let me leave you with three big tips I have learned and want to pass on to you.

  • A must-do is to read the instructions on Polymer80’s How-to page and also watch their assembly video. They step you through pretty much everything you need to know. While researching, I did a couple of blog posts about videos I liked that give you additional perspectives – click here or here.
  • I would recommend either printing out the Polymer80 instructions so you ca follow them or if you want a second printed reference to follow albeit with slightly different steps, there is a good book that you can either buy the printed or Kindly copy of “Build Your Own Semi-Auto Handgun” by X-Ring Precision. I had both during the first build and just the Polymer80 printed guide out for the second build.
  • Lastly, I found out about 80P Builder after I bought the Polymer80 units from Midway USA. They sell parts as well as entire kits that can make this both easier and more affordable. I bought completion kits from 80P Builder. I ordered a Glock 34 slide, threaded match barrel and an upgraded internals kit that included a billet extractor. Because I didn’t know my way around a Glock at all, I paid them $25 to assemble the slide and they did a great job. Once I saw how easy the slide goes together, I assembled the second unit myself once I saw the quality of the parts in the first order but I am jumping ahead. Bottom line, I’d recommend 80PBuilder.com’s kits and parts. They are nicely machined and finished plus their pricing is very good and they ship quickly.

I’ll do one more post with tips and tricks. There is some great build guidance out there (see above). The Polymer80 frames are good-to-go. They are meant to create pistols that will see real use and there are tons of posts showing guys’ pistols still going strong after thousands of rounds.

I’d recommend a Polymer80 build to anyone who wants to build a “Not-A-Glock” pistol to their own specs. Sure you can build a bargain basement Glock 17-style pistol for under $500 but where’s the fun in that. When I tell Scott that I am going to buy something and leave it alone or build something basic, he just rolls his eyes and smirks. Yeah, I can’t do that 🙂


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