By Aaron Brudenel
For many years, Lone Wolf Distributors (LWD) of Oldtown, Idaho has built a reputation providing high quality parts and accessories for Glock handguns at reasonable prices. Most notably is their diverse catalogue of aftermarket barrels that include a number of conventionally rifled alternatives for all Glock models. These can be had in stock lengths, extended lengths to satisfy Canadian legal requirements or handgun hunters, extended threaded versions for sound suppressor owners, and conversion barrels that permit the firing of alternate ammunition (such as 9mm in a .40 pistol). They have also built a quiet reputation of innovation that has included their own versions of popular Glock items and those not available from the original manufacturer such as extended slides for certain models.
LWD unveiled their latest innovation at the 2010 SHOT show in Las Vegas, NV; a replacement polymer frame with modular interchangeable grip back straps to accommodate shooters with smaller grip preferences. This new frame is called the Timberwolf, and like an original Glock frame, is a serial numbered part that must be transferred like any other firearm. The first of these were produced as prototypes and distributed in the summer of 2010 to customers willing to give them an immediate 1,000 round test drive. The Timberwolf is intended as a replacement for the original frame while making use of all original slide and internal components from the host gun. The one tested for this article was assembled with a LWD slide and barrel in .40 S&W, and further tested with an original slide and barrel from a Glock counterpart (Model 22).
Some of the Timberwolf features include:
- Oversized magazine release button (previously available from LWD as a user modification for existing Glock models)
- 3 channel accessory rail that fits most existing Glock compatible lights and mounts
- Extended beavertail
- Two grip back strap panels (one straight, one curved)
- Textured grip sides and front strap finger grooves with trigger guard undercut
- Tapered frame to match beveled face of LWD slides
When assembling the Timberwolf, the only specialized parts required are a trigger/ejector housing from a slim frame model and a late generation locking block, which are available from LWD if the host Glock is of an earlier vintage. Otherwise, it accepts all original parts and most qualified Glock armorers should be able to assemble the finished product easily. The Timberwolf looks well designed cosmetically and internally. The seams and fit of the back strap panels are snug and there are locking block cutouts absent from earlier Glock models where tiny frame cracks were known to develop.
The grip texture on the front is excellent allowing for good retention but not so sharp as to be uncomfortable. The rear of the grip is significantly smoother and could be improved if retextured to match the front. The back strap panels are removed by pressing the hook internally within the magazine well and pushing downward. The early versions could also be removed with a sharp impact to the bottom of a seated magazine while firmly gripped by overcoming the hook tension with direct force. The downside of this fact was that a sharp magazine seating motion could dislodge the back of the grip. This was more likely with the smaller of the two grip panels initially tested but not a problem with the larger one for some reason and subsequent versions seem to work flawlessly. The larger panel was meant to feel similar to a SIG Sauer grip shape and the smaller panel is simply the smallest grip you can find for a Glock handgun: no grip reduction could ever do better.
Test firing the Timberwolf was accomplished with both a Glock slide and barrel and a LWD slide and barrel. Accuracy was good for each but slightly better with the original Glock parts. Reliability was excellent with either slide when using the original Glock barrel; however, most reloaded ammunition and a few varieties of factory ammunition had feeding problems using the LWD barrel. This includes reloaded ammunition specifically tested by hand chambering the cartridges in the barrel in lieu of a chamber gauge prior to their use. LWD barrels are known to have tight chambers that fully support the case and this makes them less forgiving when it comes to feeding and chambering reliability. For customers with problems shooting reloads, LWD offers a number of suggestions and remedies including chamber modifications they'll do to customer specifications.
Most factory ammunition functioned reliably with the occasional stoppage just short of achieving a full lock up in battery and one failure to fully eject a fired case in 700 rounds. This should not be a problem once the parts are sufficiently broken in and/or appropriate lubrication is applied. This pistol was assembled dry and thoroughly tested without lubrication for the first 1,000 rounds. No other cycling problems were identified, although ejected cartridge cases tended to have a diverse distribution and a number went to the left (a few even struck the shooter in the forehead). When the ejector was replaced with one intended for a .40 S&W Glock pistol, the ejection pattern normalized.
When reloading the pistol, the magazine seated and was locked adequately by the release button, although there appeared to be some up and down slop in the final seat position when locked into place, but no reliability consequences of this were identified. The magazine fit in the well is snug to the point of not allowing the loaded or unloaded magazine to drop free unless generation 4 magazines are used; however, LWD has assured the author that this issue was rectified for the final production models. A cutout on the lower front area of the grip gives access to the magazine to grip and remove it but no such cutout exists in the back so this task requires more dexterity than one would like. Because the thickness of the grip sides is greater than the width of the stock magazine floor plate, gripping the magazine from the side is not easy unless an extended floor plate is installed.
Both the LWD slide and barrel are stainless steel with a black oxide coating that matches the frame nicely. LWD barrels are conventionally rifled with 6 sharp lands/grooves and a left hand twist. For unknown reasons, this particular barrel would come to rest in battery in one of two positions: normal (fully parallel with the top of the slide) or slightly below. In the normal position, direct pressure to the top of the barrel would snap it into the lower position but not unlock the action in any way. This occurred with either slide and the only noticeable effect from this condition is a slightly off center firing pin impact that never caused a misfire.
The LWD slide has fine sharp serrations both front and back and a tapered forward contour that matches the Timberwolf frame and is similar to the subcompact Glock pistols. The loaded chamber indicator extractor functioned perfectly and the slide shape conforms to the most current ejection port profile with the 15 degree rear angle. The only exterior markings are a small Lone Wolf logo on the right rear portion of the slide; internally the slide is marked "LONE WOLF" with the designated caliber. Front sight cutout and rear dovetail match standard Glock sight dimensions.
As with any new product, some improvements are likely in the near future and Lone Wolf's beta-test marketing strategy should help this process considerably. After 2/3 of the first 1,000 rounds, a small crack developed on one side of the frame by the left rear corner of the locking block. A similar problem was common in 1st and early 2nd generation Glock pistols and like those early Glocks, this presented no problem with functionality and did not appear to worsen. Because this was the first of that kind, LWD requested a return of the frame for immediate replacement and study. It was later discovered by LWD staff that the cause was the installation of an older locking block by the author - in other words, operator error. The subsequent replacement frame with correct locking block showed no such faults in subsequent use.
My list of desired changes is short and includes a looser magazine well for drop-free reloading with early magazines, improved grip back strap texture, and some kind of rear magazine well cutout so that the magazine can be pinched between two fingers and removed if stuck. Regarding the LWD barrel and slide, chamber modifications to improve feeding reliability and wider slide serrations that are not quite as sharp would round out the list. The barrel modifications were already completed for this particular barrel and the results are enhanced reliability.
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