Review: Lone Wolf's Alphawolf Caliber-Conversion Slides 

Quickly and easily convert a retired basic .40 S&W into a ported, optics-ready 9 mm pistol.

by
posted on April 25, 2024
Lonewolf Slide Horman
Images courtesy of author.

Today's polymer-frame pistol fans are looking for 9 mm compacts sporting optics-ready slides, and so .40 S&W duty-size pistols with iron sights only are out of fashion. And if what I saw at this year's SHOT Show is a fair indicator, external and incorporated compensators are coming into fashion for 9 mm pistols in order to mitigate recoil for even more precise follow-up shots. For those who already have a sturdy and reliable Glock G22, is it time to sell it off? Fortunately, the answer is no, not yet.

Lone Wolf Arms has been in the business of providing Glock pistol enthusiasts with quality components and upgrades since 1998. Tucked into this company's expansive catalog is the AlphaWolf LR01C Upper, a factory-complete 9 mm caliber-conversion slide assembly configured to fit Gen3 Glock G22 frames. I wanted to see for myself if it was possible to teach an old G22 pistol new tricks, so I paired one with an AlphaWolf slide assembly. Here’s how the project panned out.

LEO Base Gun: Glock Gen3 G22
In the past, I've turned to AIM Surplus when looking for retired LE firearms and been quite pleased with the results. This time, the company kindly sent out a bonafide LEO (law enforcement officer) trade-in Glock 22 Gen3 .40 S&W handgun (F1GLK22G3) for me to tinker with. It was priced at $299.95 when it shipped. 

Glock Gen3 G22 left-side on logThis Glock Gen3 G22 LEO trade from AIM Surplus arrived in great shape.

AIM does a good job of sorting surplus items and pricing them accordingly. But sights, features and wear vary from gun to gun. In this case, the G22 arrived in great shape with little in the way of holster wear or grip damage. There was some grip 'polishing' along the backstrap, and the frame had that slick and greasy feel common to used polymer guns. But after a quick rub down of the grip with a rag and some household degreasing cleaner (do not saturate the pistol), the grip's texture felt right again.

This particular G22 has low-profile metallic night sights with white outline lamps that have winked out. But they work just fine as three-dot iron sights. The recoil assembly looks and feels okay. If this gun were going to be used as-is (and it may in the future), it's only $8 for a Gen3, OEM recoil assembly. So it's worth replacing up front and sparing the gun unnecessary wear. 

Glock G22 pistol slide disassembledJust remove the magazine and slide assembly to prepare the frame for the caliber conversion.

The trigger on this pistol proved to be an upgrade. Whoever owned previously adjusted the somewhat mushy factory 5-lb., 8-oz. trigger pull to a much smoother 4-lb. trigger pull. It proved to be noticeably more pleasant to use without being too light for defensive applications. This pistol passed all bench checks with flying colors.

Lone Wolf's Alphawolf Slide Assembly
American-made Alphawolf slide assemblies arrive ready to use right out of the box. The 17-4 stainless steel LR01C slide shown here is internally sized for a .40 S&W barrel but ships with a 416 stainless steel 40-9 conversion barrel installed. Externally it's been beveled and grooved to give it a sleek, modern profile. Sporting front and rear cocking serrations, it has been treated with a durable matte black nitride finish.

LR01C slide assembly with barrel and recoil spring on logThe LR01C slide assembly arrives ready to use with a ported barrel and a stainless steel recoil assembly. A 9 mm magazine is not included.

The top of the slide features a six-sided port near the muzzle, which aligns with a similarly sized port cut into the barrel. This type of integral compensator redirects some of the escaping high pressure gasses generated by the cartridge. This, in turn, works effectively to reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise. The trade off is the potential for the gun's report to be noticeably louder and the muzzle flash to be brighter. But in this case, the noise and flash were not noticeably greater with the ammunition tested.

Lone Wolf slide compensator barrel muzzle portThe six-sided port works to reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise.

The 4.49" black nitride-treated barrel features traditional lands-and-grooves rifling. It’s supported by a stainless-steel guide rod with a single captured flat wire recoil spring. The other internal slide components include an LCI 9 mm extractor, a mid-weight firing pin spring and a marine firing pin spring cup. 

Lone Wolf LR01C slide rear in handEven the rear of the LR01C slide is stylishly beveled.

Unlike some companies, Lone Wolf chooses to port the barrel and make the slide optics-ready without sacrificing a set of polymer sights. The white dot front sight has been moved back about 0.75" to make room for the port and the RMR-size optics cut is set forward just far enough for the dovetailed white-outline rear sight to remain in place when an optic is installed. This particular assembly (AW-SLIDE22-G3-LR01C-BUILT) lists for $499.95, but I have seen it on sale for less.

Custom glock pistol left-side view black gunHere is the hybrid pistol fully assembled and ready to use with a 9 mm Glock G17 magazine installed in the grip.

Optic & Holsters

For this evaluation, the Alphawolf slide was topped off with a recently released Swampfox Liberty II optic. Although daily carry optics keep getting smaller, this flexible RMR footprint sight has been intentionally fitted with a generous 24 mm window for improved visibility. It's a great fit for a full-size pistol, and it was compatible with the holsters tested. Features include a choice of a 3-m.o.a. green dot, which was the option used here, 3-m.o.a. red dot or a red multi-reticle option. Other features include a tough 7075-T6 aluminum housing, 10 brightness settings, Shake N’ Wake automatic on and off functionality and up to 50,000 hours of run time using a single CR1632 size button-cell battery. The Liberty II series has a suggested retail price of $289.   

Swampfox red-dot optic on custom glock gun pistolThe Liberty II optic is light weight and sturdily built.

Finding daily carry holsters for full-size pistols can be a chore, since comfort is as high of a priority as quick access. For this evaluation, I checked in with the good folks over at Mission First Tactical (MFT). They sent three holsters to test drive with this mixed-components pistol, two of which are hybrid designs. Holster makers have been mixing leather and synthetic components for years, but MFT has taken a more unique approach with its Leather Hybrid series. Rather than riveting a Kydex shell to a leather backing, these are complete Kydex holsters which have been wrapped in black or brown American full-grain leather.

Mission First Tactical holsters and guns two pistols on log leaves outdoorsMission First Tactical offers a variety of holsters for Glock pistols.

With the dedicated inside-the-waistband holster, I was surprised at how much more comfortable the leather wrap makes it to wear. It softens the feel of the Kydex edges and breathes better than unwrapped polymer. For the outside-the-waistband models (right) the leather wrap is an eye-pleasing option that is a nice change from black or printed plastics. Both are shaped to accommodate pistols fitted with micro red-dot optics.

For those who want as little holster as possible, or who practice appendix carry, the Minimalist Kydex holster (center) is a flexible option. It fits every Glock I tried, including subcompact, compact and standard frames with and without optics. It proved to be comfortable to wear and easier to reholster than expected for a skeletal rig. It's handy to have one holster option that fits so many Glock models. Prices for these holsters range from $39.99 to $79.99.

At the Range
Mixing and matching components, especially old and new, can be as much of an art as a science. Luckily the parts selected worked together well for the most part. The LR01C slide assembly and Swampfox optic both exceeded expectations. In fact, during this same range session, I spent time wringing out a compact 9 mm and a full size 5.7x28 mm pistol. I was impressed with the effectiveness of the LR01C's integrated compensator port, which made the hybrid 9 mm pistol's levels of felt recoil and muzzle flip more like that of the 5.7x28 mm than the compact!

Custom Glock pistol in rest on bench at shooting rangeThe integral compensator successfully tamed the pistol’s recoil and muzzle rise.

The G22 frame also put its best foot forward. The tuned trigger was just as enjoyable to work with as I thought it would be. All of the ammunition tested has proved to be reliable in the past including Hornady Critical Defense, Sig Sauer Elite Performance and Sovereign Ammo used for formal accuracy testing. 

So when I ran into feeding issues early on in the range test, it seemed likely that the G17 magazine might be the issue. The six test magazines included a mix of Glock Gen3 and Gen5 units with a Magpul PMAG thrown in to keep things interesting. When I pulled two of the Clinton-era Gen3 Glock magazines from the rotation, the feeding issues were resolved. 

Ammunition boxes can ammoTest ammunition included practice and premium-grade loads.

Have those two magazines become faulty in some way, or, do they just not get along with the dimensions of this particular build? More testing is needed to verify which problem it may be. But this was a useful reminder that any combination of pistol, optic, magazines and ammo should be thoroughly tested before being staged or carried for personal protection. The following range results include bullet velocities measured with a Garmin Xero C1 Pro chronograph:

Lone Wolf Alphawolf Slide Conversion accuracy table testing ballistics

Parting Shots
Perhaps the best features of Gen3 Glocks are their modularity and their popularity. There are quite a few Gen3 guns out there and plenty of parts to upgrade or modify them. So even though some older gun's features out-of-date, they do not have to be out of the fight. For those who are not enamored with this particular project of setting a custom slide assembly on to a retired frame, Lone Wolf provides other options.

If a more affordable caliber conversion is your priority, the company offers G22-compatible 9 mm barrels starting at $99.95. The barrel, an $8 recoil assembly (if needed) and a G17 magazine will convert a G22 from .40 S&W to 9 mm for less than $150. And for those who do not have a G22 to use as a base gun, Lone Wolf offers a selection of thoroughly modern Timberwolf pistol frames. Shown here is the TWF Full/Full Textured Frame (LWD-TWF1-BUILT-GRAY) gray frame for $149.95 which ships built, meaning, all the small parts and trigger group are installed at the factory. I traded out the magazine release, backstrap and magazine well for black components to complement the two-tone look.

Custom Glock pistol on log

Whether you want the least expensive 9 mm conversion, to split the difference as I did for this review, or to assemble a completely new pistol, you’re covered. But here's the important thing to note: if you start off with a G17-type slide assembly, the finished pistol can only ever shoot 9 mm. If, however, you start off with a G22-type slide assembly converted to 9 mm, then if you ever do want to shoot .40 S&W, a barrel and magazine swap will do the trick. 

Lone Wolf slide assembly with magazine on log

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