Ever since the first Glock 17 left the boat to take our shores by storm back in the mid-1980s, Gaston Glock’s design team has kept a watchful eye on how his pistol has held up and how market trends have affected purchase choices. Building on the success of the original 17, other frame sizes and additional calibers followed and there have been both internal small parts upgrades to increase longevity, and external frame modifications to address user preferences in grips and versatility.
While you don’t see much of what’s on the inside, the three “generations” of Glock polymer frames are instantly identifiable on the outside, beginning with the first generation pebbled grip without finger grooves, the second generation grip with molded checkering sans finger grooves and ending with the current third generation grip with both checkering and finger grooves. Current full-sized Glocks also come with an integral accessory rail out front.
And now, with the original Glock patents having run out and the field being wide open for other interpretations of one of the world’s most popular pistol designs, Robbie Barrkman’s Robar Companies, Inc is beginning full production of his Alloy Xtreme models. A very interesting approach, these pistols are entirely stock Glocks with the exception of their frame, barrel, slide and sights. Glocks in design, general appearance and operation, but with one or two parts upgrades here and there. Sound intriguing?
Available in either the Professional, a standard length barrel/slide version labeled, or the Competitor, a longer slide/barrel configuration termed, these are very high quality pistols offer the end buyer a choice of stainless steel or aluminum alloy frame in 9mm, .40 and .357SIG calibers.
Just to get your blood going, I’ll mention the pricing early on. The sample we’re looking at retails for $1449. Now, the obvious question arises: Why on earth would anybody want to spend $1400 on an Arizonan pseudo Glock when they can buy a genuine Austrian Glock that does the same thing for $500? Well, the answer to that question lies in the details of the Alloy Xtreme, and the fact that a stock Glock and the Alloy Xtreme do not do the same thing. Not exactly; the operation is the same but not the performance.
We’ll start at the bottom and work our way up. You may have heard a mention of metal frames for Glocks in the recent past. I did and immediately thought, “Why bother?” and paid no more attention. I should have and so should you. CCF Raceframes offers both of the material choices listed above, and Robar uses them as the core in building the Alloy Xtremes.
When Glock was initially developing what became the G17, the materials used were selected for their ability to perform at certain required specifications. They were not selected because they were the best available, but because they could handle the design stresses with sufficient strength and durability to meet the demands imposed on that design by its development team at a certain price point.
This is not to say there’s anything inherently wrong with either those materials or the stock Glock package, as hundreds of thousands of satisfied owners can cheerfully report. But, it does mean the particular polymer formulation used in the factory frame is subject to certain limitations, and in some areas on the pistol, modifications or deviations from the original specs can weaken the frame or affect its performance, thereby potentially affecting the pistol’s operation.
Polymer is a perfectly viable material for use in firearm frames, but it doesn’t have exactly the same strength or rigidity that steel or aluminum does (in identically sized parts), and the design of a polymer-based pistol has to take that into account. Glocks do, and they function quite well.
However, the polymer frames flex, and this flex has been linked to limp-wristing malfunctions, slide peening from the locking block in .40 caliber models (which stops after a certain point on its own), trigger pull variations, and reliability issues with light mounts in some recent .40 caliber Glocks.
Another issue with stock Glocks is the grip angle, and I fall right in amongst those who have no problem with the way a Glock pistol functions in the field, but do have a problem with the way it feels in the hand. Robar has made a tidy little sideline business of grip reductions on Glocks (including three of mine) over the years, but they take that to a much higher level in using the CCF Raceframe, and here’s why.
First off, a metal frame, either alloy or steel, reduces the flex inherent to a polymer frame. Steel removes it entirely while aluminum still flexes slightly, but markedly less than polymer. This provides three primary functional benefits: less sensitivity to a less-than-ideal firing grip, greater rigidity for accessory mounts on the Picatinny rail and a more consistent trigger pull. Secondary benefits include eliminating the .40 caliber slide peening, adding additional weight for recoil control and the ability to improve overall ergonomics without affecting either strength or function.
Anytime you reduce Murphy’s ability to step in and induce a malfunction caused by hurriedly gripping your Glock out of a holster under stress, you’re ahead of the game. Law enforcement customers are using lights and lasers in increasing numbers on company guns, and while those recent harmonics issues noted above don’t seem to occur with Glock-branded lights on the affected Glock pistols, other brand options are always good and the CCF frames provide them.
Glock’s Safe Action trigger is noted for being a trifle on the spongy side, and in comparing Robar’s Alloy Xtreme, both were sent for testing with a new standard G17; both unfired, the difference in the triggers was quite apparent. The Robar trigger is crisper with a cleaner break. Does this make a real difference in performance? It certainly does.
The slide peening common to some of the .40 caliber Glocks doesn’t affect overall function or the service life of the slide, but it’s caused by the locking block impacting the bottom of the slide just forward of the breechface, and it does cause additional stresses to the frame. This is why the original G17 had one locking block frame pin above the trigger (all that caliber really needed), and subsequently, with the introduction of the .40 caliber to the line, Glock pistols in that same frame size now have two pins, regardless of caliber. The CCF frame’s greater rigidity, along with a locking block permanently bonded to the frame, doesn’t allow enough flex for peening to develop.
Looking further at the CCF frame, in the aluminum version tested the Alloy Xtreme weighed 27 ounces minus magazine on my postal scale, compared to a stock G22’s listed weight at 22.92 ounces. A steel frame adds roughly anther 13 ounces. This gives a potential buyer the choice between the greater weight and recoil control of the stainless frame for competition, or the lighter weight alloy frame for daily defensive carry.
Early reports from the competition circuit indicate that the near lack of muzzle rise in a steel-framed 9mm Alloy Xtreme, coupled with a slightly shorter trigger reset engineered by Robar, shaves some serious time, and competitors understand that time can mean a match won or a match lost. For defensive use, speed and accuracy is even more important.
Looking beyond the issue of rigidity, the CCF frame also offers some beneficial features in the hand including a checkered front strap, a rounded and roomier triggerguard, elongated finger and thumb recesses, extended beavertail tang to eliminate slide bite for large-handed shooters, scalloped magazine release access, beveled mag well, Picatinny accessory rail, frame rails five times longer than those on Glock pistols for smoother slide travel, and my personal favorite, interchangeable arched or straight backstrap inserts.
This grip actually fits my hand with the straight grip insert, and between the checkering front and rear it stays put. It also enhances retention if somebody’s foolish enough to try to remove the pistol from your hand. And, if the factory Glock backstrap contour fits you better than it does me, the arched insert closely duplicates it. The metal frames also allow a higher backstrap arch to sit the pistol deeper in the hand, which affects both comfort and recoil.
Up above, the through-hardened 4140 chrome-moly ordnance steel slide is also produced by CCF, and while it does retain the Glock-like blockish contours, there are differences. The two most notable are the angled cocking serrations fore and aft, and the Robar beveled nose, which gives the squarish slide a much more streamlined look. On top, the very fine-line striations running end-to-end are another touch that leads the eye into an impression of a narrower width, and on the .40 caliber Professional Model Robar sent for evaluation, Robar’s subdued silvery NP3 finish adds an interesting contrast to the dark gray Type III Mil-Spec hard anodized surface on the frame. Sights used are XS fixed wide blued-steel Express-style rear and Big Dot front, both designed for quick access under stress with tritium inserts.
Internal dimensions are fabricated to Glock factory specs, which leaves the CCF slide totally compatible with all Glock factory parts, including frames. Why pick a carbon steel slide instead of a stainless one? The 4140 steel is stronger than stainless formulas typically used in firearms, and it also avoids any potential galling problems between a stainless slide and a stainless frame. CCF is quite proud of their slides and Robar seems to agree. These slides are also a drop-in proposition, with no fitting needed between them and the CCF frames.
Inside, the CCF Match barrel is CNC machined from 416 stainless steel bar stock, heat-treated in house, and vacuum tempered to 42 to 45 RC hardness. CCF rifles their barrels using a titanium nitride-coated carbide button pulled through the bore under pressure, and says the button rifling process produces a smoother internal surface with a more uniform twist rate and surface hardness than other methods.
Since the button method produces a more conventional style of rifling than the Glock polygonal rifling, these barrels are more lead-friendly than a standard Glock barrel, and they also provide a chamber with increased case head support. If you’re a handloader, you know the risks of using less expensive lead bullet reloads in Glock barrels, and the risks of re-using brass stressed from multiple firings in the lesser-supported Glock chambers with high-pressure rounds like the 9mm and .40. You can recoup some of that initial $1400 buy-in on the pistol later on down the road in practice ammo savings if you roll your own.
Otherwise, the rest of the internals are Glock factory parts except for the recoil buffer at the forward end of the captive recoil spring assembly. Any successful pistol is a careful mating of design and materials with the chosen material’s properties frequently dictating certain elements of that design. The Glock frame’s polymer flex can absorb recoil forces as the slide retracts during a firing cycle and requires no buffer to prevent frame battering.
Aluminum alloy provides minor flex, steel none. So, in either of the metal frames the separate buffer is needed. Buffer life depends on the loads used, and the frame used with the buffer lasting 3 to 4 times longer on the alloy frame than the steel frame. When it does finally compress beyond effectiveness, it’s a cheap throwaway part that replaces in less than a minute.
Using eight different commercial .40 loads running from 135 grains through 155 and 180 grains, the usual five-shot strings off the bench at 25 yards produced accuracy averages that at first glance don’t look very impressive. But, this is entirely a function of the sight combo, and no failing of the match barrel. The XS Big Dot was never intended for target work; ditto for the rear shallow express V. Trying to maintain the same precise sight picture relative to a black bull’s-eye is hard to do with these sights from shot-to-shot, and the results on paper do not give a real world view of the Alloy Xtreme’s accuracy potential.
What those sights were designed for is quick acquisition in actual field use, and that’s exactly what they provide. It’s extremely easy to “dot the i” by putting that large tritium vial on top of the vertical tritium bar, even in low-light situations. For target use, a more conventional post and notch arrangement would shrink groups substantially.
The crisper Robar trigger was a marked improvement over the Glock factory trigger, and although the overall weight difference is only 4 ounces between the Glock polymer pistol and the Robar aluminum pistol, the often snappy recoil of the .40 was quite easy to control in the Alloy Xtreme between the slight weight increase, the superior ergonomics, and the low bore axis. Eighteen rounds of rapid double taps at 10 feet produced average two-hole spreads of close to 8 inches without using the sights. It’s fast, and it doesn’t fight the user.
Reliability was not quite perfect with three extraction failures spread out over three different brands, and intermittent failures to lock the slide open on the last round fired. There were two misfires with the Speer Lawman load resulting from the trigger not fully resetting on the recoil from the shots fired immediately preceding them about halfway through the session, which I’ve never encountered before in a Glock design and it did not repeat during the rest of the session. The pistol was fired straight out of the box, using what appeared to be a lithium-based white grease in appropriate spots on the slide and frame rails.
In checking back with Robar, I was told the test sample had been used during a Gunsite course with no malfunctions prior to being forwarded to me, and it had been refinished along the way. The suggestion was made to return the pistol for analysis and a re-shoot, but time didn’t allow. In examining the gun, extractor tension was a bit on the weak side, which combined with the tighter match chamber could have produced the extraction failures. This could be rectified with a stronger spring, and the magazine had an out of spec follower that wasn’t always fully engaging the slide lock lever.
Still no explanation of the dual trigger reset malfunctions without tearing the pistol down completely. Since the Alloy Xtremes are just now going out the door, and my sample was an early production version sent for testing, I’d assume that any similar glitches would be missing from regular new production pistols. Robar’s usually pretty good about such things.
All in all, the Alloy Xtreme performed as it was built to do. For either competition or carry, if you’re a fan of the basic Glock envelope, Robar’s new pistol pushes that envelope substantially, and in a positive direction. Far from knocking Glock’s original product, and very much like the multitude of current variations on the classic 1911 theme, the Alloy Xtremes are a viable evolutionary step forward in options on a very successful design.
Worth the money? For certain applications and certain users, yes. If you think it might be for you, talk to the folks at Robar. It’s an interesting pistol; I think they’ll be selling quite well.
For more information contact: The Robar Companies, Inc., 21438 North 7th Aveune, Suite B, Dept CH, Phoenix, AZ 85027; 623-581-2648; www.robarguns.com.
Ever since the first Glock 17 left the boat to take our shores by…
by Massad Ayoob / Feb 2, 2009