Back in 2000, we celebrated the arrival of a new century, George W. Bush was on his way to the White House and the world heaved a collective sigh of relief when the Y2K Bug failed to bring modern life to a screeching halt. It was also the year Glock chose to release a pistol that remains, to this day, a one-of-a-kind offering in its catalog—the G36 Slimline.
At the time, I was finishing up a college degree and working in the gun department of a local sporting goods store. Glock semi-autos were a staple of the defensive handgun section and they sold well. The other “Counter-Top Cowboys” and I always enjoyed looking over and discussing the new merchandise, so we all took a good look at the unusual G36 when it arrived.
Glock ‘s goal was to create a sub-compact pistol in .45 ACP with a thinner profile and a lighter carry weight than the G30 double-stack model. The frame width was trimmed down to just 1.13 inches, making the G36 the slimmest of all the Glocks and skinnier than most of its competitors. The standard 10-round magazine was replaced with a non-interchangeable six-round magazine. Along with the frame, the slide's internal and external dimensions were modified to reduce the pistol's weight.
The result was a .45 ACP with an unloaded weight that was 4 ounces lighter than the G30 with a more slender grip. To the staff of the store, the G36 looked like a pistol bound to be a real success, perhaps even a model for future single-stack Glocks. I didn't have the chance to see how the pistol sold because, soon after it arrived, I was done with school and left the store to pursue other job opportunities.
Fast-forward to the year 2007. After trying out various five-shot snub nose revolvers and sub-compact 9 mm pistols for concealed carry, I was looking for something new. I wanted a handgun with the punch of a big-bore revolver, but with the slim profile and quick reloading of a semi-auto. At the same time, it needed to be light, easy to conceal and reliable. Low and behold, an as-new G36 appeared in the used gun case of my local dealer at a price I could not refuse. I had the staff swap out the stock fixed sights for a set of Trijicon night sights and took it home.
Shooting the G36
On the range, the G36 demonstrates a more manageable level of felt recoil than might be expected of a lightweight pistol. The .45 ACP rounds produce a solid thump into the shooting hand but it's not as snappy to the wrist as a Glock chambered in .40 S&W. The narrow single-stack grip feels great in smaller hands like mine, and the smooth, 5.5-pound factory trigger is easy to master. Being a Glock, it’s tough enough to handle hot +P .45 ACP loads.
This review seemed like a good opportunity to wring out some defensive loads I haven’t fired from the G36 before. The pistol has always shown excellent defensive accuracy, but it's interesting to see what a handgun can do from the bench using five-shot groups fired at 25 yards. The best single group of 2.75 inches, as well as the best five-group average of 2.9 inches, was produced using Hornady Critical Defense 185-grain FTX loads. Cor-Bon 200-grain +P jacketed hollow points averaged 3.05 inches, closely followed by HPR 230-grain jacketed hollow points at 3.10 inches.
The G36 successfully digested everything from premium hollow points to dirty, steel-cased practice fodder without any malfunctions that could be attributed to the gun. I have six factory magazines for the pistol. Some have the factory base plates installed and others are fitted with the Pearce PG-36 +1 grip extension to add a half inch to the grip length and increase the magazine capacity by one round. Both magazine configurations have worked well without any failures to feed or other magazine related issues.
Packing the G36
Defensive sub-compact pistols like the G36 strike a balance between the ease of carry provided by small-caliber pocket pistols and the shootability of full-size, large-caliber pistols. The key to daily carry comfort, especially inside-the-waistband carry, is a good holster. For example, the plentiful and inexpensive soft fabric inside-the-waistband holsters are rarely the best carry solution for this class of defensive handgun. By the end of the day, a cheap holster gives the uncomfortable impression that the pistol is trying to dig a winter burrow into the soft tissues of the hip. In the course of carrying the G36, I used several holsters with varying degrees of success. Here are two carry systems I've recently tested that stand out for comfort and practical all-day carry with sub-compact pistols.
The CrossBreed Super Tuck Deluxe holster provides a large premium leather backing to protect the body and support the pistol while the rivet-attached molded Kydex scabbard firmly locks the pistol in place. The removable belt clips can be moved to change the pistol's cant, and they allow a shirt or blouse to be tucked into the pants around the gun for concealment. The result of this blend of materials is not pretty to look at, but the Super Tuck is exceptionally comfortable to wear.
Springtac Holsters took the 2012 SHOT Show by storm with its innovative holster designed for pistols with lights or lasers attached. For example, the G36 can be fitted with the Crimson Trace LG-436 red laser sight. But once the laser is in place, it’s difficult to find a holster that fits. Springtac uses an innovative internal-spring-supported clam shell design capable of accommodating a variety of trigger guard or tactical rail accessories. Worn inside the waist band, the curved shell of the holster holds the pistol in place, works to hide the outline of the pistol and shields the body from being rubbed by the pistol.
The Glock G36 is a concealed-carry pistol that remains a marketing mystery. Glock seems to be selling enough of them to keep them in production but this pistol rarely receives the kind of coverage other models attract. By all accounts, the G36 should be much more popular than it is. It's a Glock, with all of the quality, reliability and ease of use the name implies. The G36 is the thinnest pistol in Glock‘s catalog, and it’s chambered for the potent and popular .45 ACP. The felt recoil generated by this pistol is stout, but no more so than any other compact big-bore pistol. So why does it remain a shooting sleeper?
My best guess is that the answer lies with the G36's ammunition capacity. Fans of striker-fired pistols tend to prefer magazines that hold 10 or more rounds. They may view the 6+1 shot capacity of the G36 as a limitation. Those shooters who feel comfortable with seven shots of .45 ACP at their hips may be giving their holster space to 1911 platforms instead. At the time of this review, companies are busily working to one-up the recent success of .380 ACP and 9 mm pocket pistols by producing the next generation of .45 ACP pocket rockets. It will be interesting to see if these new semi-autos will demonstrate the shootability and reliability Glock’s G36 has provided for over a decade.
Manufacturer: Glock; Glock.com
Action: Safe Action
Caliber: .45 ACP
Slide Finish: Black Tenifer
Frame: Black Polymer
Sights: Fixed, Factory Night Sights Available
Barrel Length: 3.78”
Overall Length: 6.77”
Weight: 20.11 ozs.
Capacity: 6+1 Rounds
Trigger Pull: 5.5 lbs.
Twist: 1:15.75” RH
Suggested Retail Price: $554