February 14, 2013
A few months ago, I got a note from Glock asking if I was interested in reviewing the 10mm Model 29 SF. The firm's PR rep asked if I'd take a look at it from a hunting angle since the 10mm is my favorite cartridge for handgun hunting. I thought it was an odd request because the G29 is a stubby, little auto pistol with fixed sights and a 3.78-inch barrel. But after shooting it several times over the last few months, I have to say the pocket-sized G29 SF definitely has a place in the field.
SF Means Short Frame
The Model 29 SF's "SF" designation stands for short frame. Glock's .45 ACP Model 21 and the full-sized Model 20 10mm have notoriously large grips. The SF variants reduce the circumference of the grip by reducing the length of the grip between the backstrap and the trigger. The result is a smaller grip that makes Glock's most powerful auto pistols more appealing to shooters with average-sized hands. Please note the word "average." If you have small mitts, even the SF variant is probably still too big for you.
Like all Glocks, the G29 is a polymer-framed pistol. The frame has thumbrests molded into both sides of the grip and two finger grooves in the frontstrap with checkering in between the grooves to help maintain a secure grip under the little blaster's significant recoil. The front of the frame has an integral accessory rail that accepts lights and lasers, and a reversible magazine release is located on the grip just aft of the trigger guard. The pistol comes with two 10-round, polymer magazines, and it also accepts the G20's 15-round mag.
My sample gun's trigger breaks at 5 pounds, 6 ounces. The striker-fired pistol uses Glock's classic "Safe Action" trigger system, which is made up of three independent, automatic safeties. The proven safeties will not allow the pistol to fire no matter how hard it strikes the ground. Moving the trigger completely to the rear deactivates all three safeties simultaneously. They engage again when the trigger begins its forward movement. It is a safe design, but remember that the only release is on the trigger face. Always carry any Glock in a holster that completely covers the trigger for safety's sake.
The SF has a hammer-forged, 3.7-inch barrel with hexagonal rifling. The machined steel slide is, understandably, a bit beefier than the slide of 9mm Glocks. The G29 slide wears Glock's almost indestructible finish and is fitted with fixed sights. The front sight has a white dot, and the rear has a white outline. A robust external extractor is fitted into the slide, just aft of the ejection port.
The G29 SF, like its siblings, is all business. In fact, there is nothing pretty at all about the polymer pistol. But in my experience, Glocks usually make up for their lackluster looks with unfailing reliability- a must-have quality in a defensive pistol.
The author thinks the fixed rear sight limits the G29's usefulness as a true hunting handgun, but he says the pistol is a great backcountry defender.
The G29 SF is a real handful and has a great deal of muzzle flip with full-power hunting loads.
The G29 utilizes twin captive recoil springs to help tame the powerful 10mm Auto round.
At first glance, I appreciated my G29's compact size and expected reliability, but it seemed like a pistol without a purpose. After all, its stubby barrel and fixed sights are hardly ideal for hunting, and based on my experience with my 10mm 1911s, I thought the heavy-recoiling 10mm cartridge would be too much for most shooters to handle from such a compact pistol. However, the promise of bear-stopping power in a lightweight, compact package appealed to me, so I packed up my chronograph and a good supply of 10mm Auto ammunition and headed to the range.
I started with some 7-yard work to see where the sights hit and to get used to the trigger. The G29 hit where I looked and pounded my first few magazines into a nice, fist-sized group. But as I upped the ante with hotter hunting loads, the pistol started to jump around in my hands, opening up my groups. High heat and sweaty hands didn't help, but subsequent sessions in cooler weather proved that I'm just not man enough to keep the G29 in check if I don't readjust my grip every few rounds. The recoil isn't brutal, but it's certainly noticeable, and the short grip doesn't provide enough of a purchase for even my small hands. Friends with larger hands had similar problems holding onto the G29 SF.
From the bench, the pistol showed a bit more promise, averaging around 2 inches at 15 yards and producing best groups in the 1.5-inch range with two loads. I also had no trouble ringing MGM's BC-C Zone target at 100 yards with it. The little pistol displayed impressive accuracy, to be sure, but its fixed sights and short sight radius make it less than ideal for hunting. I also think the short barrel gives up too much velocity to justify the increased recoil.
For example, Double Tap's 180-grain Nosler JHP averaged 1,162 fps from the 3.7-inch-barreled G29 SF. The same load averages 1,310 from my 5-inch Colt. That 1,162 fps average still beats a 180-grain projectile from the .40 S&W by about 100 fps, but that extra bit of performance comes at a price: 10mm Auto ammo is harder to find, and the Double Tap loads buck around in the hand a lot more than .40 S&W loadings.
It may sound like I'm a bit down on the G29 SF, but the truth is it's a reliable pistol that shoots great. I would prefer 9mm or .45 ACP for self-defense in urban environments, and I'd opt for its big brother, the G20, for hunting. But the Lilliputian 10mm is ideal for outdoorsmen looking for more power and reach in a concealable package.
Bigger is usually better in bear country. With the right loads, the G29 SF offers that increased power in a package that is small and light enough to carry on extended backcountry excursions. And you can bet that no matter how wet or muddy or dirty it gets, this little big Glock will go bang every time you squeeze the trigger. What's not to like about that?