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The GLOCK 48 and Shield Arms Magazines: A Handgun Combination I Can’t Live Without

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By Austin Knudsen

Years ago, I wrote an article here about the five handguns I couldn’t live without. The list included a Smith & Wesson model 17 .22LR, a Smith & Wesson Model 686 .357 magnum, a S&W 1911SC .45 ACP lightweight bobtail commander, a Ruger Blackhawk .45 Colt, and a GLOCK 19 9mm. 

Several of the reader comments on that article expressed shock that this obvious revolver-and-1911 Fudd (I’m in my early 40s) included the GLOCK 19 on my list. I may be a traditionalist, but I’m also down with some combat Tupperware. 

As the guy who is in charge of the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, I spend as much time on the firing range with cadets — and their various agencies’ issued firearms — as I can. And GLOCK is by far the most-issued sidearm by Montana law enforcement agencies.  There is a reason for that: GLOCKs work.  

Things change over time, and now I need to update my list. So I have to admit: I haven’t carried or shot my GLOCK 19 for almost four years now. My once happily monogamous relationship with my dependable, albeit somewhat chunky, don’t-leave-home-without-it G19 has been wrecked by a younger, skinnier, sexier model: the GLOCK 48. 

Introduced in 2019, the GLOCK 48 and the G43x were GLOCK’s “Slimline” models produced to compete with other manufacturers’ sub- or micro-compact 9mms like SIG’s red-hot P365, Smith & Wesson’s Shield line, and the Springfield Armory Hellcat. 

The Glock 48 has nearly the same height, slide length and barrel length as the G19. The 48 and the 43x (they have the exact same frame) are 0.16” thinner than the GLOCK 19.  That doesn’t sound like much, but the difference in feel is like night and day. 

When introduced, many of us handled the 48/43x and agreed…they felt great in the hand and were going to be a dream to carry, especially compared to the relatively chunkier G19.  There was just one problem with Glock’s new Slimline guns…they only held 10 rounds in a single stack magazine. WTAF, GLOCK? 

SIG’s P365 set the 2018 SHOT Show on fire because it was a genuine subcompact sized 9mm pistol that held 12+1 rounds. Remember, this was at a time when 6+1 or 7+1 single stack 9mm subcompacts were all the rage. 

So a year later, GLOCK rolls out the 48 and 43x, both clearly aimed as direct competition with the 12+1 round SIG P365…but holding two fewer rounds. That left a lot of us GLOCK guys scratching our collective heads and resigning ourselves to still carrying our G19s.  

But necessity is the mother of invention, and along came Seth Berglee and Brandon Zieder, two Montana boys with a bright idea. What if you eliminated GLOCK’s proprietary plastic outer sheathing from the 48/43x magazine body and make a steel magazine body with those some outside dimensions? How many 9mm rounds could you cram into a magazine like magazine? 

After lots of engineering, trial, and error, their answer was 15 rounds…in a magazine with the same footprint as the factory mag. Thus, Shield Arms and the S15 magazines were born. With Shield Arms’ S15 magazine, your GLOCK 48 or 43x is now a 15+1, slim, trim, compact carry pistol. Back in 2019, Seth convinced me buy a GLOCK 48 and some of their early S15s and field test them.  

Full disclosure: I’m openly biased toward Shield Arms and their products. I have no ownership interest in the company at all, but I’ve been close friends with co-owner Seth Berglee for more than a decade, and even served in the Montana House of Representatives with him. Seth introduced me to his business partner Brandon Zieder, and we quickly hit it off and have since become a good friends. 

I did some initial pro bono legal work for them and even helped them incorporate Shield Arms back when it was just the two of them working out of Brandon’s barn.

Fast forward to today. Shield Arms has long outgrown my meager legal abilities and at the time of this writing, is about to completely move their 42 employees into their new state-of-the-art, 30,000 square foot manufacturing and retail space outside of Bigfork, Montana, nestled in northwest Montana’s beautiful Swan Valley.  

Most of Shield Arms’ meteoric success can be attributed to the S15 magazine. I recall SHOT Show 2020, when the S15 had just gone into production. Shield Arms’ first magazine body manufacturer was big-timing them, and wouldn’t dedicate large scale production to such a small, new company, particularly one owned by a couple of Montana bumpkins. 

While frustrating at the time, the result was actually great for Shield Arms. Demand was high, but supply was low. Everybody wanted S15 magazines, but no one could get them.  During my first 10 minutes on the 2020 SHOT Show floor, I witnessed two guys stealthily conducting what looked like a drug deal. I stopped to watch and realized they were negotiating over a new-in-the-package S15 mag. That’s when I first realized that Shield Arms had a hit on their hands. 

After struggling through COVID supply chain problems (as everyone did), some manufacturing hiccups, and a few design tweaks here and there, the S15 drought is over and these great magazines are readily available.  

The result: the GLOCK 48 or 43x, when paired with Shield’s S15, is now the best concealed carry pistol option out there. Period. You now have what’s essentially a skinnier, lighter, easier-to-carry GLOCK 19. Even better, Shield Arms offers a +5 magazine extension for the S15. That gives you 20 rounds of rock ‘n roll for your spare magazine, if you are so inclined. [Note: Shield’s +5 magazine extensions are also available for full-size GLOCK, CZ P10, and soon-to-be other makes and models.]  

I’ve used Shield’s +5 extensions not only on my S15s, but also on factory GLOCK 17 magazines. I’ve used +5 mag extensions from other manufacturers over the years, and after much use and abuse, I’m convinced that Shield Arms’ design is the best on the market.  

A note: Shield Arms highly recommends replacing your GLOCK 48/43x factory magazine catch with Shield’s replacement steel magazine catch, as the S15’s steel body will eventually wear out the factory plastic mag catch and cause magazine seating malfunctions. 

I’ve also added Shield’s Premium magazine well to my Glock 48.  Shield has offered for some time a smaller, less obtrusive magazine well for the 48/43x, but recently added the larger “Premium” magwell.  

Seth with Shield asked me to beta test it for him about a year ago, and I’ve been using it ever since. I was initially reluctant. The Premium is larger than their standard magwell, and I was concerned adding it to the butt of my G48 would make the pistol print more under a jacket or concealment garment. And I must confess, it does. 

However, the G48 is a smaller pistol, and I’ve found that the Premium magwell’s larger front pinky “sweep” locks the gun in my hand better during recoil and gives me better follow-up control, especially during rapid strings of fire. So, to me the juice is worth the squeeze. Your mileage may vary. 

Nut Cuttin’

I’ve been carrying and shooting the hell out of my GLOCK 48 for nearly four years now.  It’s been my almost everyday carry gun, except when I occasionally get to feeling sorry for my commander 1911.But even the lightweight commander can’t hold a candle to how beautifully the G48 carries.

I’ve shot a number of combat pistol classes with my G48, and even one SWAT pistol class, right alongside law enforcement professionals who running full size guns. I ran my G48 hard in those classes. 

I figure at this point, I’ve easily put 5,000 rounds (likely more) through my 48 and my assorted generations 1, 2, and 3 S15s, including a couple generation 1 S15s with Shield’s +5 extensions. In all of that shooting, the only malfunction I experienced was at a class where one bum reloaded 9mm round jammed in the chamber due to a bulged case.  Otherwise, my S15s run like champs and keep my GLOCK 48 going and going. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never actually sat down at a bench and accuracy tested loads through my 48 on paper, but it has gobbled up every type of assorted ammo I’ve thrown at it, and I can easily clear a plate rack with it at 25 yards.    

Shield Arms of Bigfork, Montana has hit a home run with their 15+1 9mm S15 magazines for the GLOCK 48/43x. I own nearly a dozen of them, in Gens 1, 2 and 3. I run them in my G48 and my wife runs them in her G43x. They just keep working. 

They turn a ho-hum pistol model that some say GLOCK fumbled, into what many professionals consider THE best concealed carry pistol option on the market today. Word is that the 48/43x is now GLOCK’s most popular line, and the company recently had to add a third production line at the factory to meet demand. To a large extent, they have Shield Arms to thank for that.  

Most people don’t know that Shield Arms doesn’t just make magazines. This little company keeps expanding and doing really cool things.  They recently unveiled the Z9 magazine, a 9-round steel magazine for the G43 (normally a 6+1 single-stack subcompact). Shield also offers the SA-15, a wicked cool AR line featuring Shield’s proprietary integral folding stock (as in it’s not an additional folding stock adapter part), and even offer a stripped folding lower receiver for your own AR build. 

Shield sells all kinds of small parts, from mag wells to mag extensions to barrels and slides. They recently expanded into the knife market as Shield Knife and Tool (formerly Norden Knives) and currently offer two models: 1) the Ascent, a svelte little drop point fixed blade with G10 handles and a kydex horizontal carry belt sheath; and the Nimrod, a longer thinner boning-style fixed blade. 

I’ve been using and carrying the Ascent in the field (and even EDC sometimes- it’s not too big) for a few seasons now, and I love it. Additional knife models are coming from Shield Knife and Tool; stay tuned…I’ve seen some badass prototypes.    

Shield Arms also recently expanded into the soft goods market, and is offering their Mountain Partisan rifle slings, a man-satchel called the Bang Bag, and one of my favorites, their ratchet-buckle Apogee belt, made of a shape-retaining rubberish synthetic material for carrying a gun every day. I’ve been using this belt daily almost three years now, carrying a pistol and spare magazine on it with everything from jeans to a full suit, and I LOVE this belt.  

As I stated above, I’m openly biased toward Shield Arms. Brandon Zieder and Seth Berglee are dear friends who are passionate about the Second Amendment, freedom, and this country. They also take amazing care of their employees, and have a number of innovative retention/incentive programs to keep their employees coming to work with a smile. 

By the time you read this, Shield Arms will be very close to completing its move into its new, state-of-the-art manufacturing and retail space, along Montana Highway 83 just east of Bigfork. The new retail space will even have a fancy coffee shop, so you can enjoy a cup of Shield Arms’ signature roasted joe whilst you peruse the firearm and accessory shop.  Look out, Disney.  This might be the new happiest place on Earth, at least for gun nerds like me.  

 

Austin Knudsen is the Attorney General of Montana.

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