So, you've decided to carry a gun because you realized the world is a dangerous place, crazy people do heinous crap, and you couldn't bear the thought of something happening to your loved ones because you were not prepared to stop it. Great! After that decision, you did all the research, watched 1,000 guys on YouTube with 1,500 different opinions tell you which gun is the best for concealed carry, and you finally landed on a Glock. Marvelous choice! Now, because you're a frugal man (or woman), you picked up a Gen 3 Glock 19 because - let's face it - that's been a tried and true daily carry weapon for eons now, and you can snag one much cheaper now that Glock is all the way up to Gen 5. The Gen 3 is still a great gun, is pathologically reliable, has tons of aftermarket support, and you still have some money left for holsters, spare mags, and practice ammo...man, you're a friggin' genius!!!
So, you take all your new fancy gun paraphernalia down to the range to start training, and you are loving it! The gun performs flawlessly, it's nice and accurate, your groups are tightening up with every magazine downrange..."man, this is the best decision I have ever made," you think to yourself. And then, once you feel you've broken things in and you're ready to start training beyond slow, methodical shots trying to tear a single ragged hole in the paper downrange, you decide it's time to practice some emergency reloads. And that's when the first negative thought about your new favorite gun appears in your mind: "Could this mag release button be any smaller/hard to reach/impossible to find under pressure?!?!" You realize that if you're fumbling around with your thumb, adjusting your grip on the gun six ways 'til Sunday just to release the spent mag while at the range, there is little chance you're going to find it in the middle of a life or death situation when your adrenaline spikes and your fine motor skills take an inconvenient vacation. You're gonna need to remedy that small flaw in an otherwise "perfect" weapon.
If this is you, I've been there! I started my concealed carry lifestyle with a Smith & Wesson SHIELD, which is a wonderful gun that I still carry on a regular basis. As I sought training and continued to practice for real life scenarios, I never had a problem with reloads. The gun was small, my hands were big, and the mag release felt huge on the side of that sub-compact frame. I cannot remember a single moment when I struggled to find the release button. As I re-evaluated my carry needs over the years, I decided to make the Gen 3 Glock 19 my carry weapon of choice, because it doubled my ammo capacity while adding surprisingly minimal bulk to my waistline. I have loved almost everything about my Glock, but as I continued to train with it, that microscopic mag release continued to drive me crazy! Even with my fairly large hands, I had to awkwardly shift my grip to reach it, many times I would miss it all together and be fumbling around with my thumb...I knew that in a real crisis, that would be completely unacceptable.
Fortunately for Glock aficionados, there is no end to the aftermarket support available to modify our guns. Now, as a rule I try to stay fairly stock with any pistol I'm going to carry (except for night sights...ALWAYS carry a gun with night sights), but I knew that I'd rather modify my weapon slightly then die while trying to find a button the size of a pencil tip under pressure. However, when I started looking for extended mag releases, I had to sift through dozens of options, all with mixed reviews that seemed to contradict each other. And though I (like every other concealed carry veteran) have a box full of holsters I acquired while I figured out what worked and what didn't, I didn't want to add to that a box of mag releases that didn't suit my needs.
Here are the two things I knew I wanted:
1) Larger surface area! I wanted a nice, big button so that there was almost a gravitational pull between the mag release and the side of my thumb.
2) It couldn't stick out too much! I carry in an IWB hybrid holster, and many of the reviews for standard extended mag releases cited instances of accidental magazine ejections. Essentially, if I leaned up against something the wrong way, it could depress the mag release within the holster, and then if I needed to draw my weapon to save my life, the mag would drop to the floor...and then I'm dead.
After pouring over all the options from most of the companies out there, it seemed that the option that claimed to meet those two demands the best was the Ghost Inc. Lo-Pro Extended Mag Release. It was more expensive than a lot of the other options ($15 vs. $4), but I never cut corners when it comes to something I may rely on to save my life (if I was going skydiving, I wouldn't snag the cheapest parachute I could find on Amazon...just sayin'). The only trepidation I had was that I could not find a lot of reviews or guys actually using the Ghost Inc. Lo-Pro release. There were piles of reviews on their standard extended mag release, but either the Lo-Pro version was too new or no one was using it for reasons I was about to discover. Oh well...let's roll the dice!
Installation was quite simple (after I finally went to the Ghost Inc. website and looked at the instructions...you need vice grips to attach the button after installing the main piece). Turns out that never bothering with instructions is fine for video games and toys when you're growing up, but not necessarily firearm components (who knew?). Upon initial installation, it appeared to stick out further than I thought a "Lo-Pro" mag release would, and I worried about my 2nd priority and if this would, in fact, eject my magazine when I didn't want it to (more on that later). However, what was clear from the beginning was that it is twice the size of the stock Glock mag release! My thumb drops right down on it with no change of grip, and it ejects the magazine flawlessly when depressed. I didn't have to machine anything, didn't have to take a Dremel to my frame (like a lot of guys do to make the stock release easier to access), I just had to pop out a spring with a small screw driver, replace the release, and pop the spring back in...simple!
As for whether it would cause accidental ejections by sticking out too far, that proved to be a non-issue. I holstered the weapon in my usual 4-5:00 position behind my hip, and did everything I could to force that magazine to eject within the holster. I sat in my car and jammed my gun back between the seat and my hip, a pressed it up against a tire, I jammed down on it with my elbow...at one point I pressed the gun into my hip with one hand as hard as I could while trying to pull the magazine out of the bottom with my other hand. It. NEVER. Budged. I was convinced that if I couldn't get it to eject under those circumstances, I have zero reasons to worry that it will pop out under normal "walking around" conditions.
Yes, it's more comfortable to use, and yes, it seems safe and reliable, but does it actually make a life or death difference? Is this just another way to customize our guns just because we think they're cool (the same way the AR has been called a "Barbie doll for boys" with it's endless customizable options)? Well, I wanted concrete, measurable proof of whether or not replacing the magazine release would result in faster reloads. So, before I installed it, I ran a reload drill with the stock mag release and took an average of my three attempts. Then, I replaced it with the Ghost Inc. release and ran the same drill three more times. Turns out...drum roll please...it absolutely increased the speed of my mag changes!!! If you don't believe me, the video below will show you the whole process and the drills that I went through.
All that to say, if you are the smart and capable owner of a Gen 3 Glock and you have been taking your training seriously and realize that the stock mag release is less than ideal, I don't think you can go wrong with the Ghost Inc. Lo-Pro Mag Release. Yes, it costs a bit more than some of the others out there, but you also get more for your money. Many of the others take the same small button and just make it stick out farther...not super helpful! If you carry a Glock and are disciplined to also carry a reload (which is a whole other conversation for a different day), then I would put this mag release upgrade in the NEED column. Grab one here, and enjoy falling in love with your gun all over again!