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Guide Rods: Steel vs Stock (plastic)

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing' started by Evela, Jul 18, 2009.

  1. Evela


    Apr 11, 2009
    To begin, thanks in advance for your help and observations.

    Background: I bought a G-34 for range & self defense, soon to be followed by a G-26 (carry). I truly love these two pistols. I've left the G-34 as is except for a light polish on the trigger, etc. I added only a captive SS guide rod with the stock spring. I now envision this pistol for the range, maybe some IDPA to improve and maintain my defensive skills. The G-26: 3.5 lb Glock connector, NY#1 spring, with a Glock's extended slide release and extended mag release. And Wolff hardened steel, non-captured guide rods/tubes, again using stock springs.

    My main concerns are my use of the steel guide rod(s) in these pistols. My goal was strength, smoothness and reliability first, and improved accuracy & reduced muzzle flip second. I do know that the plastic rods have been known to wear, chip and break.

    First question: will the steel rods serve these goals? Are there any negatives to using them?

    Next, I have read two interesting claims: first, that the stock plastic guide rods are designed to flex, and it is claimed that this flex serves to promote harmonic balance. It was claimed that a steel rod has the opposite effect, ie to cause harmonic imbalance and perhaps damage the slide in some way, say pounding for example.

    Second, I also saw one report that the hole in the stock plastic rod is purposeful, and somehow acts as a cool air pump! If true, I'm not clear what effect a steel rod would have. My own sense is that these two rare claims have little validity, except for the fact that both were made by seemingly competent resources (Remtek and Robar guns).

    So in sum:

    1. Will the steel guide rods add reliability and strength?

    2. Will they aid accuracy?

    3. Will they reduce muzzle flip?

    4. Are there any reasons to avoid steel, eg damage to the gun?

    5. Are the claims re the stock plastic rods adding flex and harmonic balance, or cooling air valid?

    Again, my sincere thanks. These matters are of concern to many ordinary shooters. BTW, I really don't want to hear that the Glock is perfect and reliable, don't mess with it - as much as I believe the Glock is a fantastic design, it certainly can be upgraded with care.
  2. There are Glock pistols in original factory stock condition that have gone beyond 100,000 rounds.

    There are several armies across the globe that issue Glock pistols to their personnel in factory stock condition.

    Steel guide rods are a gimmick.

    I have an all original 1st generation G17. It still has the uncaptured polymer guide rod from the factory. It has never jammed. It has never malfunctioned.

    The picture below is my G17 I am writing about.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 18, 2009

  3. RMolina628

    RMolina628 got a job!

    May 28, 2009
    Northern MI
  4. Jack23

    Jack23 I. B. Glockin'

    Feb 10, 2005
    Deer Park, Texas
    +1! If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times. It is not likely that you will build a better pistol than Gaston. Forget the trigger stuff, forget the ss guide rod. Just take it out of the box and let 'er rip. It comes ready to go. Really. 99% of the time people have problem with their Glocks you will find that they have been tinkering. If you want a gun that has to be reinvented before it's any good get you a Kimber or some such.

  5. Evela


    Apr 11, 2009
    If I may be so bold as to quote myself...

    OK, now that we have hopefully survived the invasion of "Glock is perfect" gang - which I'd hoped to avoid, silly me - I'd respectfully invite the non-koolaid drinkers to come forth and kindly address my questions and concerns. I know there are lots of you out there in Glockland who have traded in your plastic guide rods for your own good reasons.

  6. VN350X10


    Apr 13, 2001
    McHenry, IL
    I shoot USPSA in various classes.
    My production gun is a G34 with some trigger mods right around 2 3/4 lb pull & to prevent flex, the STOCK guide rod is fitted with a pc. of stainless steel welding rod. The hole in the stock rod is perfect, the SS insert prevents flex.
    If you use an aftermarket metal rod, it needs lube. Lube attracts dirt. bad juju !
    The less lube, the less chance of dirt buildup & better reliability.
    I've also done this on my G20 for the same reason, except I spent the 15 bucks for the tungsten rod from Alchemy.
    Only wallet was lighter !

    uncle albert
  7. VN350X10


    Apr 13, 2001
    McHenry, IL
    have to add, I bought the tungsten rod first, then I analyzed what & why I did it.
    Should have thought first, prior to spending.

    uncle albert
  8. dne752

    dne752 Mad Catter

    Jan 11, 2009

    Would the tungsten rod need to be lubed?
  9. VN350X10


    Apr 13, 2001
    McHenry, IL
    I should have been more clear in my explanation. The tungsten is an INSERT that fits inside of the stock plastic rod to prevent flex.
    just like my piece of free stainless welding rod.

    uncle albert
  10. GRR


    Dec 29, 2004
    Bessemer, AL
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
  11. Evela


    Apr 11, 2009
    Thanks once again for those of you who addressed the question seriously, and shared your views.

    I'd like to offer a couple more observations. Dave Sevigny is well known to most all of us, and is known for shooting minimally modified Glocks in all the competitive classes, from IDPA to unlimited and open. As (now) a rep for Glock he does believe that the stock Glock is pretty wonderful right out of the box. In fact, he doesn't cherry pick the Glocks he uses, as he feels that Glock's QC is that good "that it wouldn't make a difference", as he puts it.

    Still, one of the minor mods he does to all his Glocks - from Production to Open - is to replace the plastic guide rods. Inasmuch as top competitors demand it all - reliability, predictability, smoothness and accuracy - I have got to believe that these factors weighed heavily on his decision to use (mostly) SS rods.

    Second observation: earlier on, the ONLY mod I made to my stock G-34 was to lightly polish the trigger/striker. This was successful. However, I also noticed that the Glock slide, among other features, is designed loose. And this absolutely affects accuracy - a trade off, a bit of accuracy for a lot of reliability. Even so the accuracy is reasonable and exceeds the abilities of most shooters.

    As a result of this looseness, many of us may have noticed that when you pull the trigger, the slide drops slightly when the trigger bar hits the connector. You can sometimes feel, but will surely see the slide moving up and down a bit as the trigger bar descends! This movement has been estimated at around 20 thousands on all but the subcompacts - enough to affect fine aiming. Many competitors have the slide "tightened" for this reason. I didn't and wouldn't. Too much trouble, and it's more than possible to overtighten the slide, lose reliability or even to ruin the slide.

    No way.

    As a result of this thread, I decided to recheck the play on my relatively new G-34 slide (which used to be notably obvious). With an Arotek captured SS rod installed, the play is gone - or is so small as to be invisible, and I was looking close. SS rod - less play - more consistency and (slightly) improved accuracy. At least that's how I see it.

    Bottom line:

    I believe that Sevigny and others exchange the plastic out for good reasons. My guess is that the SS works to improve function, smoothness and reliable consistency insofar as better controlling what is a loose slide by design.

    Although infrequent, there are many, many reports of chipped, worn and failed plastic rods - failures which have led those owners, and inspired others, to install steel. Even though the plastic is designed as a hollow tube (no doubt to increase stiffness), they still flex.

    When they bend - and they do, however slightly - it would be impossible to predict in what direction, or what effect that has on the loose slides alignment before, during and after the shot.


    Aside: as to "aftermarket (ie metal) guide rods need lube", not so fast.

    The G-26's (and other subcompacts) two spring rods are metal (outer), and plastic (inner). The Glock manual does not recommend lubing any of their guide rods, metal or not. Further, take a good look at your plastic rods - doesn't take a whole lot of rounds before they start to look pretty nasty, scraped and scratched by contact with the spring(s). Either they need lubing (they don't) or it doesn't matter (it doesn't).
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
    F14Scott and CaptainXL like this.
  12. Jack23

    Jack23 I. B. Glockin'

    Feb 10, 2005
    Deer Park, Texas
    WOW! That was a most intelligent and thoughtful post. I believe that I can agree with you point for point. I still choose not to do any mods to my Glocks because the way/level I shoot does not require it. I do understand that there are those that have the experience, knowledge, and skill to make mods themselves and may actually get the results they seek by doing so.

    In my previous post in this thread I was thinking about the people, like me, that love to shoot and do it often and are not without some skills in target shooting but never compete or persue what I call "bullseye" shooting. I do that with my .22s only. With my Glocks I shoot only silhouette targets and I can pretty much always get that one ragged hole COM, head, thoracic area at distances of up to 35 feet or so. My patterns tend to spread a bit at 50 feet but not that much.

    I was also refering to most of the people that get into trouble when they "tinker" because they don't know what they are doing. And wind up causing themselves more problems than they are solving.

    I know it's cool to come on GT and brag about all the goodies you put on your Glock and you did it yourself but in my opinion most of us don't really need it or get any benifit from doing it.

    After reading your last post I can see that you do not fall into that category. You obviously have the experience and ability and shoot at the level that calls for a little tweaking. I know there are more shooters like you in here and it was never my intention to be negative of to offend any of you.

  13. Blackjack33


    Mar 15, 2006
    I wouldn't be surprised to find that Dave Sevigny changes to SS for the added weight at the muzzle to aid in getting back on target as quickly as possible, more so than reliability. Having said that, I have experienced guide rod breakage in a G22, that probably would not have occurred with a metal rod.
  14. kymarkh


    Jun 8, 2004
    I have the Wolff gunsprings steel recoil rod and recoil spring in my G34 and like it. My intention was to add a little weight 'out front' and it does that. It also allows you to experiment with different strength recoil springs which is important to the folks who handload. It was cheaper than the tungsten ones but still much heavier than the stock setup.

    It does change the way the pistol recoils between quick repeated shots somewhat, but the difference is not something the casual shooter (less than 250 rounds per week on a regular basis with the same pistol??? - I'm guessing) would notice. It's not like bolting on a comp or anything.

    This may sound odd, but the first time I went to the range and changed from stock to the steel unit I found it harder to 'track' the front sight on recoil. It took me several trips to the range to get used to the difference in the direction(s) the sight went on recoil. Now that I'm used to it I much prefer the steel rod to the stock setup.

    I look at it this way - if you really are at the fine-tuning stage and want to try a tungsten guide rod then have at it. It's not going to break your G34 - I've put over 5000 rounds on the wolff rod and other than the finish it's held up just fine.

    Nowdays with 3 kids under 5 I don't get out to the range enough to notice the small things like I used to but I still think the weight out front makes it easier to shoot the 34 fast.
  15. fastbolt


    Jun 9, 2002
    CA Central Coast
    Sorry, but I don't buy the "Ram Air induction/cooling theory" for guide rods. :rofl:

    On a more serious note, I do suspect that the use of plastic guide rods is due more to cost of manufacturing than anything else. It will generally work well enough for its intended role and is inexpensive to mass produce. It can also be replaced rather inexpensively, too.

    I wouldn't be surprised but that if firearms manufacturers could find a way to make a plastic recoil spring that they would start using those, too. ;)

    It's not all surprising to find that a solid (metal) recoil guide rod can influence slide travel during the recoil cycle and even how the pistol feels under recoil. There are still folks who enjoy debating the relative merits & disadvantages of full length guide rods in 1911's versus the original short guide, after all ...

    I think the perceptions of the buying public has made the commercial sale of metal guide rods for some polymer pistols a profitable business nowadays.

    When S&W was finally starting with a blank sheet of paper to R&D their own polymer pistol design they decided to use the more expensive metal guide rod, although they opted for a captured design which is intended to be replaced as entire assembly and not just the spring. They also kept the cost reasonable with the metal guide rod & recoil spring assembly costing only about $10, too. We were told during an armorer class that the selection of the metal guide rod was for made for reasons of enhanced durability. Maybe so ...
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2009
  16. BuckyP

    BuckyP Lifetime Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    I've many rounds through both types and neither has effected function. One advantage to a thick steel, non captured guide rod is that it is easier to swap out springs and a thicker guide rod works better with round coil springs like Wolff. I haven't been able to find a thick non captured guide rod in polymer.

    One thing to consider, as far as I know a steel guide rod is not allowed in a GLOCK for IDPA Stock Service Pistol.
  17. Jager1147


    Nov 17, 2002
    Ronkonkoma, NY
    1. Will the steel guide rods add reliability and strength? Nope.

    2. Will they aid accuracy? Nope.

    3. Will they reduce muzzle flip? No, but sights will return faster to target with lighter springs. An aftermarket guide rod will allow you to change springs easily. See second link below.

    4. Are there any reasons to avoid steel, eg damage to the gun? Nope.

    5. Are the claims re the stock plastic rods adding flex and harmonic balance, or cooling air valid? Nope. Post # 81 (so I don't simply re-type a previous post) Post # 24, and ecmills post # 2 is on the money.

    You can usually depend on the R & D of USPSA competitive shooters to sort out what mods are worthwhile and which ones are not.

  18. Evela


    Apr 11, 2009
    I like Jaeger' style. Nope, nope, nope, nope and nope. Any real explanation? Nope. Bit too brief? Yup. BTW, I'm one of those guys who actually read the links, well, just to see.

    And in one link, he also said:

    Pardon me for pointing out the elephant on the range, but what accrues from the admitted additional smoothness and added weight? There isn't a competitor alive who doesn't have one and the same ultimate and immutable goal:

    Reliable fast accuracy.

    If the SS/tungsten metal rods didn't work toward that ultimate goal, if plastic was better, then plastic would be all you'd see. And the notion that it's all about changing springs is not true. In IDPA-SSP (where you can't use metal) Dave Sevigny simply knocks the cap off his stock Glock plastic and uses it as an uncaptured stock plastic rod. He can change his springs to his heart's content on a stock rod. But in every other competition, any other class, it's almost always SS, and occasionally tungsten.

    For good reason. It works for reliable fast accuracy. It works to win. In the end, for carry or competition we share that goal.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2009
  19. Evela


    Apr 11, 2009
    I said:

    And I would have bet my first born on this. I was wrong, at least so far as Dave Sevigny is involved. And I quote:

    I wouldn't feel right without straightening my own butt out. Jaeger - and Sevigny - agree that the accuracy is NOT the primary reason for going to SS. Most do it, it may just be that ease in spring changes is the motivator. I also had a chance to talk with Glock. Of course they gave the standard "we don't recommend aftermarket parts" talk; but they added that the plastic rod flex is intentional and considered an important part of their design/goals.

    Reality bites, and I got bit. I do everything 110% and screwing up is no exception. I'll likely go back to stock plastic. But it's been a fun thread, and I sincerely thank all who both agreed and disagreed with me.

    To your health!

    Last edited: Jul 21, 2009