What is a Long Slide?

amt hardballer long slide
May 8, 2024  
Categories: Guns

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, I’ll note that the answer is in the question. A long slide is simply a longer version of an existing pistol. Plain and simple. The slide is long. “But why?” you ask. I hear you. Why would anyone want a longer slide on a gun? The reasons may vary wildly, but there are some practical aspects of the design that are worth discussing.

Long Slides are Thought to be More Accurate

Long slides almost always cover longer barrels. Even the ones that don’t—those with built in compensators (like some versions of the P365 Macro)—have longer sight radii. A longer sight radius is easier on the eye and allows for more accurate shot placement when shooting with iron sights (when everything else is equal).

Better for Follow-up Shots

While we’re on the topic of accuracy, I’d add that repeat accuracy can be improved by a long slide gun. The extra weight of the extended barrel and slide will produce less muzzle flip and can dampen a bit of recoil, both of which are key to getting that second shot off fast and on target.

The Origins of the Long Slide Craze

I’d argue that we need to include pistols and revolvers in this debate. Long slide pistols come well after long versions of muskets. But if we were to keep it in the 19th Century, I’d point to some early cinematic powerhouses, like the Buntline Special—except there’s no recorded production of this guns until 1956! Damn you Sergio Leone and all of your anachronistic masterpieces.

Those early Colts, though—especially the Dragoon, Navy and Army percussion revolvers—had really long barrels. The Dragoons have 7.5” barrels. The Walker is 9”. And Colt would carry the tradition into the guns that would evolve into the 1911. Some of the 1902 Colts had 6” barrels and slides.

And Then There’s the Luger

The Luger doesn’t have a slide. But the concept remains the same. There’s no real point in having a long slide if the barrel under it is a standard length—is there? (Maybe there is!) But Lugers…. These jokers are like Ruger’s rimfires. The action remains consistent, while the barrel length varies wildly.

An ad for the AMT Hardballer. [AMT]

The Long Slide Colt 1911

True long-slide 1911s may have begun as pieced together parts guns in the 1960s. While the legends may be bunk, forum entries talk of a smith named Jim Clark piecing together parts from scrapped government 1911s to form a new kind of 1911—and one that caught on.

AMT, a company that made some fascinating guns, began commercial production in the late 1960s. The trend caught on in the high-end makers, and now many of them produce 6” 1911s.

nighthawk custom long slide
A long slide Nighthawk Custom in 10mm Auto. [Nighthawk]

But, as we’re all aware, the 1911 was fading from popularity and a new class of guns was coming on the scene. Many of these new pistols emphasized a utilitarian efficiency. While there were guns built for duty use, those typically stayed at or under the 5” mark—and more gravitated toward the compact, subcompact, and then micro-compact sizes.

Long Slide Efficiency

Longer barrels (to a point, of course) allow for more efficient powder burn. This means more power behind the bullet. A 6” .357 will sling lead at much faster speeds than a 3” .357.

Because of the increased sight radius and increased power, long-slide guns have a devoted cult following in handgun hunters. 10mms, especially, like the GLOCK 40, with its 6.02” barrel, are a staple for hog hunters and hunters who might face large predators alike.

The Long Slide Concealed Carry Gun

Now—at the time of writing—there’s a new trend. While guns kept shrinking for much of the last decade, that’s behind us. The G42 led to the G43 and to the G48. The P365 now has several Macro versions. The Hellcat has the Hellcat Pro. Taurus’s GX4 line is getting longer, too.

These are all, arguably, concealed carry guns. What makes a pistol difficult to conceal isn’t the length of its barrel. The grip—and the way it sticks out from the body—is typically what prints and gives away the element of surprise.

But for EDC or any kind of concealed carry, a solid gun has benefits. Longer slides offer more control surfaces. We’ve already discussed the improved aiming (which isn’t as consequential on a concealed carry gun), improved ballistic performance, and improved recoil management.

This extra bit of slide, though, allows for more rail, too. And that’s of equal importance in this EDC scenario.

A Deviation: Long Slide with a Short Barrel

One interesting twist creeping in now is the long slide that extends beyond the end of the barrel it houses. This allows for the compensator cuts to be milled directly into the slide without the need of an add-on. You can see it in the Sig P365 Macro Comp.

The hitch here is that the barrel still has to tip up. While fixed barrel guns and rotary barrels won’t need the clearance, the long slide still has to have enough space at the muzzle for the barrel to tip up during ejection.

long slide pistol collection
Most major manufacturers make some sort of long slide pistol.

Long Slides for Duty

I’m not affiliated with any department or agency. I do, however, work for a major duty holster manufacturer. One thing I know from experience is that the long-slide guns have a distinct disadvantage: their size.

While we’re not adding much, here, to the end of any of these guns, any added length adds complexity to the job of the holster maker. These can get a bit unwieldy.

Adding length, too, means you’ll not be as fast from the holster. For duty use, this has obvious implications. No one wakes up and says, “how can I reduce my time-to-target.”

Still, there are some who are looking to the classic duty lengths—like the GLOCK 17 and GLOCK 47 (both at 4.49”) as the optimal duty size. Even though a GLOCK 45 offers the same capacity in a smaller OAL, it isn’t as popular. Can we call a G17 a long slide?

The GLOCK 17L is. At 6.02”, the barrel on the 17L feels almost absurd. Yet this one and the G34 (5.31”) have become staples for competitive shooters.

The 2011 Trend

While many of us again hipsters will have a soft spot for a long slide 1911, all the cool kids are investing their futures in 2011s. Like the rest of these models, the 2011 makers tend to push the boundaries.

Staccato’s XL has a 5.4” barrel. While I’m hardly a 2011 devotee, the Staccato is an exceptionally smooth gun. It is very easy to shoot thanks, in no small part, to its size and weight.

The PCC—Metaphorically a Long Slide?

While there’s an obvious difference between the long-slide pistol and the pistol caliber carbine, I’d argue that the PCC is the ultimate realization of the long-slide aspiration. Look at the Thompson—nothing milks more power and accuracy from the .45 ACP than a solid sub-gun.

Power, accuracy, control, full-auto devastation, long sight radii, two-handed designs…. The PCC is where it’s at.

And that’s where the long-slide discussion inevitably leads: accuracy, control, and power. You can see it in the long-slide 1911s, the long-slide GLOCKs, the trend toward longer 10mms, long-barreled revolvers, and even the long-barreled rimfires.

David Higginbotham

David Higginbotham

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