Custom Glock 19X Division Style: the “Primary Secondary”

The Glock 19X was formally revealed at the January 2018 SHOT Show. Glock’s first so-called “crossover” pistol, it was a full-size G17 frame with a G19 slide and the Glock Marksman Barrel (GMB). Based on Glock’s submission to the U.S. Army Modular Handgun System (MHS) trials, the G19X’s design seemed counter-intuitive for EDC or concealed carry purposes. Of course, that’s because it wasn’t specifically intended for concealed use, but not everyone seemed to grasp that. Discussion/debate/derision about the weapon began pretty much as soon as rumors of its pending release began hitting in late 2017. That continues to this day. Discussion, frequently heated, about the Glock 19X remains normal today.

This Glock 19X, however, is far from normal.

Glock 19X - Frank Woods' version of theRoland Special.
Note to answer some questions that have come up: the modifications to this weapon were done to a finished/complete pistol; it was not built from an 80% Glock.

House Plissken Glock 19X Project Gun: some backstory

By the time the Glock 19X was released at SHOT 2018, virtually everyone and their mother had already heard of the “Roland Special” and/or had come up with their own version of it. At the height of its popularity, the Roland Special was the subject of much discussion on social media. Initially devised by Chuck Pressburg of Presscheck Consulting and named after the online pseudonym he used while still active duty, (“Roland Deschaintull”), it was the cool guy symbol of its time — the church crucifix around which Chuck’s fans and apostles congregated.

A configuration of the Glock 19 that used several key aftermarket components, the Roland Special was characterized by three primary additions:

  • the Trijicon RMR,
  • the Surefire X-300U-A, and
  • the KKM compensator.

One particularly funny (and often misunderstood) part about the design is that the compensator’s purpose was to divert gunpowder away from the Surefire weapon light so it wouldn’t cover the lens. The muzzle flip reduction facilitated by the compensator was actually a bonus.

Roland Special Basics

Be it a carry piece or a full-on secondary sidearm in a duty holster, the Roland Special was a go-fast gun that married gamer speed and precision with tacticool — and everybody had to have one. Within three years of its inception, variations of the Roland Special were all over the place: Glock 19s with alternative optics, lights, and compensators; Glock 17s with the same recipe of parts; or the .40S&W Glock 22 and 23; or different pistol designs entirely like SIG and HK offerings — with the same modifications.

However, despite the variations between them, they all had the same three things:

  • a rail-mounted light.
  • a square-shaped compensator.
  • an open emitter MRDS optic mounted to the slide.

Building My Own

Well, the shit got boring after all that time and everybody applying the same recipe and spins to a variety of guns. Everybody’s pistol on the gram looked the same: a boxy compensator with a Mini Red Dot Sight (MRDS) and Weapon-Mounted Light (WML).

Even though I, myself, hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon with the Roland Special or “RS” configuration, I hadn’t dismissed the idea entirely. I saw the utility and capability it brought to a skilled shooter to help them squeeze more performance out of their tool. I knew a comped pistol with a light and an MRDS would be in my future, but I wanted to wait a bit before I jumped into that pool for a couple of reasons. First, and mainly, I had my suspicions that Aimpoint was hip to the pistol MRDS craze and had an MRDS of their own in the works.

The first pioneers into the Roland Special concept demonstrated that shoe-horning a back-up rifle optic into a role it wasn’t originally designed for wasn’t optimal. Later redesigns resulted in more robust versions of the open emitter type MRDS optics that could handle the G-force of the reciprocating slide. Since Aimpoint is the king of the red dot sights arena, I was interested to see their take from the get-go on a dedicated, built-from-the-ground-up version of a pistol red dot sight. So that was one thing I stood by for.

The Aimpoint Nano was the closest thing in 2016. However, it was only available on the B&T Universal Service Weapon and it didn’t look like it was going to be available as a stand-alone purchase that could be mounted to a pistol slide directly (and it still isn’t as of this writing). The WML was a no brainer, as the Surefire X-300U-A still rules the roost in that area. Having already owned a few it was the obvious choice, based on experience. So that was easy.

The part I wasn’t immediately sure about what the compensator. I knew the KKM and TBRC and PMM style comps were out there in circulation and all getting positive feedback from a wide cross-section of end-users. But as I said earlier, the “look” was played out to me. I’m a pain in the ass and I wanted my take on this to stand out. I wanted to do something different, with the same effect on performance but unique in appearance.

A 2015 Photo Of The Day article by Nicholas Chen at The Firearm Blog featured an interesting photo submitted by Alan Normandy of Battlecomp Enterprises. The image was that of a Glock 17 with a threaded barrel, to which was affixed a 5.56 Battlecomp bored out to 9mm.  I thought it looked cool as hell, but using it for my own comped pistol wasn’t an idea that occurred to me — yet.

BattleComp pistol. Image source: The Firearm Blog.
Image source: The Firearm Blog.

Idea Sources

As it turned out, I already had an idea thanks to Mr. Normandy, and an accident on the part of the Ubisoft studio Massive Entertainment in their video game, The Division.

When The Division came out, it included a feature that allowed you to modify the in-game firearms with a variety of attachments. Whoever developed and coded the game must not have known that you can’t just put a rifle muzzle device on a pistol. As a result, you could put ANY rifle type muzzle device on any pistol in the game that could accommodate a muzzle modification. So, you can rock a Battlecomp on your pistol.

In The Division, any muzzle device will fit on any pistol.
The weapon customization feature in Ubisoft/Massive’s games The Division & The Division 2 erroneously allows the player to install rifle class muzzle devices on pistols. This feature helped me visualize the build concept more clearly.

This is still true the game’s current iteration, The Division 2. Seeing it in 3D in the game further reminded me of the earlier article, and reinforced the idea of using a Battlecomp for this project. By this point I knew that the company was developing 9mm versions of their star product for both pistols and pistol caliber carbines, so it became a matter of waiting for it — not unlike the dedicated pistol Aimpoint.

Choosing the Platform

When I first dreamed up this project, I thought of doing it with a Glock 19. That was the obvious choice for a Glock guy. It seemed like the natural way to go, having carried a Glock 19 at work for almost ten years, at the time, and later acquiring a Gen 5 version of the same around the same period.

But then… the Glock 19X came along. The moment I saw it in its commercial retail configuration, I knew. I said, “That’s the one.” That would be the perfect platform for MY take on the comped RDS Glock with a WML. Allow me to step back for a moment to clarify something: I say “commercial retail configuration” because the first time we saw the “Glock 19X” wasn’t actually the first time we saw it. Previously, the pistol had been revealed to the world as the “Glock MHS,” developed for the Army’s XM17 MHS contract that SIG would later win with its now-famous version of their P320 pistol. The only thing different between the 19X and MHS versions was that the latter was equipped with a manual thumb safety, as dictated by the Army’s contract criteria.

So we knew Glock had developed an all-tan pistol with a G19 length slide and dust cover, paired with a G17-length grip for the Army. What we in the audience didn’t expect was that Glock would turn around and make a commercial offering of it branded “19X”. The X stands for “Crossover” to reflect the aforementioned combination of two different frame size dimensions (Full and Compact, in this case — I’ll get into the specifics in a separate article). Altogether, it caught us by surprise, although one pleasantly received by many, despite a bunch of people without a clue who bitched and complained about it for stupid reasons. Later, Glock catered to the Law Enforcement demand for a black 19X in the form of the Glock 45 (chambered in 9mm, don’t think about it) that, despite a few minor frame and slide differences, was basically exactly what Law Enforcement asked for.

Glock 19X

So why was the Glock 19X the way to go for my project gun? Given its form factor, it provided the best of both worlds. The Glock 19 is considered the gold standard in 9mm because its large enough to use as a duty piece and small enough to conceal for every day carry. The 19X shares the same slide and dust cover dimensions, making it compatible with any aftermarket product designed for use with the Gen 5 G19 upper half. This includes being able to swap slides with it at will since the 19X’s slide is just a tan PVD coated Gen 5 G19 slide with a “19X” rollmark instead, and the same barrel. So on that end, it has the logistics going for it.

On the other hand, since the 19X (as the MHS) was originally designed for sidearm use out of a duty holster by the Army — not with concealment in mind — it was given the G17’s grip length. The longer grip provided a greater surface area for a more stabilizing grip on the gun which allows better recoil control during multiple shot strings. This also benefits guys with larger hands who want the shorter G19 slide for concealed carry but who can’t fit all their fingers on the shorter grip. So in essence, with the 19X you end up with a Glock 19 that you can get a much more solid grip on because there is more room for your hand on the grip. Also, the factory magazines hold 2-4 more rounds than the Glock 19’s standard 15-count.

Accessory Decisions


At the 2018 SHOT Show, Aimpoint came through and revealed the P-1 ACRO. It was their first take on a red dot sight designed from the ground up as a pistol optic. Not unlike its bigger brothers (especially the T1 and T2 Micros, which were also used on Glock slides via the likes of the Raven Concealment Systems Balor mount and the Unity ATOM slide), the ACRO is a closed emitter optic. So, the LED that projects the dot onto the screen is fully encapsulated inside the optic. It is protected from the elements and no dirt, mud, or debris can get into the optic and obscure the emitter — a risk taken with the open emitter MRDS options out there. Now that the optic I had been waiting for was a real thing, I just had to get one and wait for the industry aftermarket to figure out how to mill a slide for the ACRO’s footprint.

Aimpoint P-1 Acro on Glock 19X.

BattleComp 2.1

Later in 2018, Surefire finally released the 1000 lumen version of its X-300U-A WML, bringing another vital component of the recipe into the real. So with the optic and the light actually tangible, the only remaining piece to the puzzle was the compensator. After losing patience (unfortunately, the 9mm Battlecomps STILL haven’t released), I took matters into my own hands and followed Alan Normandy’s earlier example. I ordered a 5.56 sized Battlecomp 2.1 and sent it to Douglas Holloway over at ATEi to be bored out to 9mm, with two additional wrench flats cut in to allow for guide rod clearance in cycling — something I’m glad I caught when I first test fit everything together. The whole piece was refinished in nitride for a uniform black appearance. Following the advice of a friend, I sent my 19X slide to JagerWerks to be milled for the ACRO while also retaining the factory rear sight dovetail, and refinished in Burnt Bronze cerakote.

End-view of the BattleComp attached to the Glock 19X, holstered.
End-view of the BattleComp attached to the Glock 19X, holstered.

To install the compensator I used a crush washer since I couldn’t figure out the combination of factory shims to get the comp to properly index at 1200. This involved threading it onto the barrel (a new, factory Glock, threaded Gen 5 Marksman Barrel with 1/2×28 TPI) with the crush washer, getting the slide into a vice, and carefully cranking the wrench to get the proper index position on the Battlecomp while making sure not to warp the slide. I got it on there right, it sure as hell isn’t going anywhere. The only trade-off is that I can’t remove the barrel from the slide, as it stays captured within between the crush washer and comp on one end, and the chamber block on the other. To clean it, I just drop a bore snake down the chamber and then pull it out through the muzzle a few times.

BattleComp compensator on Glock 19X - live fire.

Switch Sight

As it turns out, there was yet one last thing that debuted at SHOT 2018 that I knew had to be incorporated in this project gun for it to really be in a class of its own. (I didn’t realize how much 2018 had to offer for this thing altogether!) Although I missed it when I was at the expo, Gary Hughes (still working for Dead Air at the time) brought a product to my attention that they’d collaborated with KNS Precision to bring to life — a set of Glock irons called the “Switch Sight.”

Using the standard three-dot (non-night) sight alignment method, these are to a Glock what flip-up iron sights are to a rifle. The idea behind the Switch Sight is to allow the end-user to switch back and forth between standard and suppressor height depending on whether their suppressor is attached or not. This avoids having to use suppressor height sights to accommodate a suppressor and not have obscured standard height irons, as well as being stuck with tall irons when not using a suppressor.

I was particularly interested in the Switch Sight since most people doing the Roland Special thing were using suppressor height irons as backups in the event their MRDS malfunctioned or was otherwise out of service in the middle of it being used. The tradeoff is you’d never have a clear sight picture through the optic, not unlike using an Aimpoint or EOtech on an AR that utilized an A2 front sight gas block, regardless of whether or not your rear sight was fixed or folding. So when I saw the Switch Sight, I thought, “Oh this is perfect. I can leave the irons folded and have an unobscured sight picture through the ACRO, and flip them up real quick (time and cover allowing of course) if the ACRO malfunctioned or its batteries died while it was actively being used.” The only worry I had was whether or not they’d be too tall, but with a height of just under .5” when deployed upright, they’re at absolute co-wtiness height when looking through the optic. In other words, for what I bought them for, they’re perfect.

Glock 19X Switch Sight

Testing My Glock 19X Custom

So once I finally got all of these pieces together, it was time to go to the range to perform a function check and, if successful, zero the ACRO. Since this was the first time I’d ever shot a comped Glock, I wanted a 1:1 comparison between the compensated and uncompensated weapon to feel the difference. I brought my Gen 5 G19, swapped the slide onto the 19X frame and fired a few strings of five rounds at varying speeds to get a feel for the “control” fresh in my mind. Then I switched back to the 19X slide + Battlecomp and did the same. You can definitely feel a difference between the compensator being there and not at all.

I did run into a problem where after a few rounds with the compensator the gun would choke and have a stovepipe, across a variety of ammo. After a split second of panic, I remembered all the Roland Special guys talking about experimenting with different spring weights to accommodate the compensator and different varieties of ammo. We’re in June 2019 at this point in the story, so I knew this information was documented far and wide among those in the know on the internet. A quick trial and error convo with a friend of mine from Glock R&D determined that a 13 lbs guide rod spring kit from NDZ Performance and the Grand Master spring kit from TTI was what the gun needed to get right.

The 13 lbs guide rod spring kit from NDZ Performance.

After dropping those parts in (and ending up with a very light, almost 1911-like trigger pull weight) and oiling the gun up, I can say as of this writing (March 2020) that my 19X will eat any ammo I drop into it without it choking or my having to change any springs out. I have fired hundreds of rounds through it at this point. After zeroing the ACRO with Speer Gold Dot 124gr +P ammo, it puts the rounds where I need them to go precisely.

Glock 19X with Aimpoint Acro, Speer Gold Dot 124 gr P+ ammo.

All in all, it shoots aces and is arguably one of the baddest blasters I’ve got. The only other modifications I made to the base pistol was to replace the factory ambi slide catch with the extended version that the Gen 5 G34 has, along with taking a hacksaw to that small part of the front strap that hangs down below the magwell, and taking a file to the interior perimeter of the mag well so that I could install a Magpul Gen 4 G17 magwell. After that, I added a Talon Grip sleeve to the grip and finger/thumb index points since I didn’t feel like sending the frame off to be stippled.

Glock 19X Review - Roland Special.


In this completed form, my 19X is just slightly longer than a Glock 34, by maybe about half an inch. When holstered in the G34 + X-300U-A sized Safariland 6305RDS I bought for it, the Battlecomp stops right where the holster ends, after removing the barrel plug from the end of the holster. This holster is the only type I could get in Ranger Green. It was immediately removed from the drop leg platform it came with and mounted to my S&S GRT Hanger so I could practice drawing and dryfire — as my roughed up Glock knuckle will testify.

Glock 19X holstered in Green Safariland holster.

Glock 19x holstered in Safariland 6305RDS holster.


Between the holster dimensions and the depth of the JagerWerks ACRO cut, the Glock 19X fits into the holster perfectly and the optic cover closes fully. Not really a huge bonus since the ACRO is closed emitter, but it’s nice having that extra protection for the glass while it’s stowed. Thus explains the name, “the Primary Secondary”: It was always built to ride in a duty holster. In a situation where I’m grabbing my personal kit and carbine, it’s the first choice of secondary weapon I’m grabbing to put in that holster over all the other options I have. In daylight, darkness or under night vision, it’s ready to rock.

Frank Woods is a ten year veteran of Gotham City PD1 and a devoted scholar of Hoplology.  In addition to the experience gained during his tenure, he has amassed a considerable amount of training time beyond what his agency provides to its rank and file. This is as much a reflection of his enthusiasm for learning and honing techniques and mindset as it is a desire to enhance his ability to serve and protect. If you're on Facebook much, check out his discussion group, Tactics & Applications. 1 His agency's policy and procedures (and a desire for PERSEC) prevent the use of the real agency and name. GMW has vetted him, however.

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