Building the ultimate backcountry pistol – Part 1

Once the pistol shooting bug bites you, or you recognize a specific need to own a pistol; you realize that there isn’t any one “do all” configuration for every scenario or application. Some are content with just a “stock” pistol for any chore the gun is needed for. Some have spent an amount of time and money in an attempt to put together the “perfect” setup to cover their needs. But regardless of the level of “blissful ignorance” one may possess, at one time or another, EVERYONE has thoughts of how certain aspects or details of their pistol could be better for one particular application, or another. The “backcountry gun” is a perfect case in point.

The last version of my favorite backcountry setup included a Battlecam Green finish on both the frame and slide…before the release of the stellar Timberwolf Larger frames, that is. It looks like now I’ll be paying for some more Cerakote work to match up my new Timberwolf frame!

I grew up in a small town and was born into a logging family that was very outdoors-minded. So rifles and pistols have always been a part of my life. It really wasn’t until I started bowhunting in my early 20’s, that I found a consistent need to pack a pistol while in the woods. Experience quickly taught me that it’s not always so much the four-legged critters that you need to worry about…but the goofy two-legged ones have to be worried about as well. Besides close encounters with mountain lions, bears, wolves and sometimes an over-aggressive moose; discovering backcountry marijuana grow ops and hillbilly meth labs are a very real concern.

Tools for backcountry adventure. My G20 longslide wearing a coat of Tungsten Cerakote and a Topo map engraving on the slide. The Leupold Deltapoint Pro RDS ranks high as one of my most-favorite upgrades.

At some point I realized that I didn’t enjoy carrying my prized .44 Magnum over hill and dale, as much as I did certain lesser-powered automatics that were in my collection. And then I discovered the 10MM cartridge and the Glock 20. I figured that 15 rounds of a caliber that was very close to .41 Magnum in power factor and that was in a much lighter and easier to shoot package, just made sense. It wasn’t until after my employment with Lone Wolf Distributors (2009) that I realized that things could be even “better” and that there was a large, exciting world of upgrades within reach.

This particular setup may look “ridiculous” to some; but is one heck of a long distance tack driver! But is this “the best” configuration for every backcountry scenario?

I started off by modifying the stock gun as much as my imagination and bank account would allow. But soon, Lone Wolf started producing full long slides designed around a 6″ barrel. This configuration has many benefits, including a longer sight radius and of course a longer barrel that generates more horsepower than the stock 4.60″ barrel does. Initially, the extra slide length intimidated me and seemed to create just too large of an overall package. I compromised and ended up running one of our “Tactical length” slides (designed around a 5.15″ barrel) and appreciated the increase in stability and “shootability” that the extra half-inch of slide length provided. Within about a month’s time; I decided that I needed the additional ballistics of a 6″ barrel, because I was starting to enjoy shooting at 100+ yard targets. Once reality set in that I might as well use the slide length that matched my barrel length…I was in deep with a full-length long slide and loving it.

I had a blast experimenting with the 9″ G20-10MM barrels when they were first released. I was astonished at the 8″ POI difference between a 6″ and 9″ barrel. *At 100 yards.

Besides my experimentation with slide and barrel lengths; I quickly found that the quality of the trigger pull and sight system were the most crucial aspect of accuracy and for enhancing your shooting experience. The stock sights that came with my Glock 20SF were almost immediately identified as “garbage”, but with my wallet being on the light side…I wasn’t sure what to do about it. A knowledgeable friend of mine had suggested painting over the white “U” notch of the stock Glock rear sight, and then trying a bright-colored front sight. Since then, I’ve gravitated towards aftermarket sights that feature a plain-black rear sight, with a wider aperture and a front sight featuring either a fiber optic bead, or Tritium vial (my current favorite is Ameriglo’s Pro Glo front sight). This follows suit with the K.I.S.S. mantra and makes things easier when an instructor is shouting “FRONT SIGHT! FRONT SIGHT! FRONT SIGHT!” in your ear.

For the trigger; I’ve always used a 3.5# connector paired up with a 6# trigger spring. It creates almost a push-pull effect that seems to shorten the trigger reset and adds a noticeable crispness to the trigger cycle. Eventually, I found that by adding either a lightweight steel, or titanium firing pin into the mix, it seems to shave another pound off the felt trigger pull (I don’t get hung up on numbers on paper; but pay attention to what each trigger mod does for the feel of the trigger pull). Now with adjustable trigger shoes being available, like the Ultimate Adjustable Trigger; you can have your cake and eat it too, by shortening the pre-travel and tuning the over-travel in one fell swoop.

How my G20 “long slide” looked about five years back, sporting some Digi-Cam engraving and an original Deltapoint RDS from Leupold. *The original Leupold Deltapoint RDS has since been replaced by the vastly improved Deltapoint Pro RDS.

I’ve spent some time dabbling with threaded barrels and compensators over the years. While running a compensator is a good time on the range and does allow for faster follow-up shots; I’ve never entertained the prospect of ever using one while in the woods. I have found that by running a Tungsten guide rod and an ISMI 22# recoil spring (*if you have a GEN4 Glock, you’ll need to add a GEN4-GEN3 adaptor), it does a great job of slowing down the slide speed to reliably handle the heavier loads most commonly used for hunting, or backcountry defense. This also has a positive effect on the felt recoil and softens up the shot as an added bonus. But you’ll find that anyone who has ever been in a “pistol engagement”, whether it be a defensive shooting, or in a hunting situation, never comments on the recoil or muzzle rise. Once adrenaline kicks in, you fall into gross motor skills and any training that you’ve had takes over. That’s one of the reasons why I say that I’ve never considered running a compensator for backcountry use. And of course, above all else, shooting your pistol periodically, or at  the very least, regular dry-fire practice, is so crucial for you and your pistol to perform when the chips are down.

I was fortunate enough to blunder into a 20 yard shot opportunity on this 6′ black bear and harvest him with my Glock 20, a handful of years back.

We’ve just covered quite a bit of information regarding setting up a backcountry pistol. The fundamentals have been addressed…but there is so much more to consider! I’ll talk about my affinity for the use of Red Dot Sight systems, the outstanding Timberwolf Large frame and slide lengths to consider for a general backcountry defense/backpacking gun versus a dedicated hunting setup, in Part II. Until then…shoot straight and watch your back trail.

Circa 2012, back when Lone Wolf offered a film dipping service. The first time I went out in the woods after having my G20 film dipped…I sat it down on a stump and dang near lost it!


  1. Awesome. I picked up the frame of my future 10mm today. It is my 40th birthday present, so I want it set up with a 6″ Glock 40-style slide. Where can I find one?

    1. J, we should have them available again very soon. Likely within the next few weeks; both in OEM “G40” profile and as blanks that can be machined into any of our Signature Series patterns, or Grey Man Gun profile.

  2. Nice write up & concept. I’ve always appreciated the virtues of a long slide.
    I really like the idea of a long slide semi auto in a powerful caliber for backwoods safety.
    It is very similar to an idea I’ve been wanting to put together for some years now.
    My ideal version of this is a 3rd Gen G21 (I actually like the finger grooves), converted to a .460 Rowland, in a long slide with a 6 1/2″ threaded barrel.

    Keep up the good work Luke & LWD!

  3. 1) I can’t find “Timberwolf Frames” for OTHER than the G20/21 any longer on your web site???

    2) Do you still sell “Comminoli brand safeties” ???

    3) Can I have ya’ll at Lonewolf install a Comminoli Safety on your NEW Timberwolf G20/21 Frame???

    1. Victor, We do no longer offer the Cominolli Custom Safety. But if you can find a GEN4 specific model from another distributor, it may be possible for us to install it for you. Please check with James Griffin in Customer Service: Thank you!

    2. Victor, on the Timberwolf frames: we’ve revamped the design and we’ll be releasing new 9mm/.40 models shortly after SHOT Show this year!

      1. OK, but do you still sell “Comminoli” (Brand) Safeties, and can Lone Wolf install it on the NEW Timberwolf LARGE Frame, and for that matter, on the others being released after SHOT 19 ??? THANKS!

  4. Can you post the various weights of your timber wolf frames and corresponding slides? In building my own backwoods pistol, I am very concerned about the ounces… and would like to compare with OEM options.

    I guess the basic question would be… does a timber wolf frame weigh the same, more, or less (and by how much) than a stock glock frame?

    What would be your lightest G41 slide?

    Also, would you offer any modifications to the large frame to shorten the grip, and allow the use of the G29 or G30 10rd mags instead of the longer grip of the G20/21?


    1. Hey Jake,
      We will most certainly pass this request on and post the data as soon as it’s available. But in the long run, the Timberwolf frames will be very close in weight to their Glock counterparts.

      We will be offering G41 slides in the near future, which can be machined with any of our custom slide patterns. But we have in stock now, both G20 (10mm) and G21 (45ACP) slides in stock that also can be machined with any of our slide patterns…which would all shave weight off the overall package.

      We actually have a version of the Timberwolf Large frame that’s designed to accept G29/G30 magazines, so there’d be no need to modify an existing frame. It’s called the Timberwolf Large-S:

      Check out this photo on our Instagram page, it’s the type of setup you are talking about:

      1. Yes, I actually recently purchased one of lone wolf’s timber wolf frames with the shortened grip.

        Will there ever be an option for a glock 17/22/31 sized frame with a G26/27/33 length grip?

        Also, do you currently have slide cut options for the G27/33 to shave weight? Anything available that one could just purchase a completed slide with the cuts already made?

        Thanks for the info


        1. To answer the first part of your question, Jake: YES! All of the new 9mm/.40 Timberwolf variations will be available later this year, including both Full size (G17) and Compact (G19) size frames that feature Sub Compact grip lengths.

          For the second part of your question: we have several custom machine patterns to choose from. We have G26 slide blanks and G26 OEM profiled slides available; with G27/33 slides to be added back into the mix as demand increases. So you could send in your G27/G33 slide in for the custom work, or start with one of our stainless AlphaWolf G26 slides and have us perform the slide machining.

          Shoot James Griffin an email if you have further questions or need assistance with an order:

          Thanks for your support!

    1. HA! It’s a long story as to why we started producing the 9″ barrels in the first place, but a shorter story as to why we discontinued them. Long story short: back around four years ago, when we cut ties with all overseas manufacturing and brought everything into our US facilities, we started over from scratch, with the most popular barrel SKU’s. We have been adding things back in as we go along, according to demand. We are getting closer to adding those 9″ barrel SKU’s back into the mix!

  5. I’m currently waiting to p/u a Gen3 G20 SF… and am researching the mods I want to do for a backcountry-type pistol as you speak of. Forgive my ignorance, but I’ve never used the 10mm round before, and am curious as to why you would choose the titanium rod over a stainless steel one? Wouldn’t the heavier rod help with recoil on shooting such heavy loads (such as 200-200+ grain hard cast ammo)?

    Also, I have a Trijicon RMR Type 2 Adj LED 3.25 mounted on my Glock 34. How do you feel that optic might work on a handgun for these purposes in bear country verses other options?

    Loved your article, thanks!

    – Ken

    1. Thanks for the support, Ken!
      On the titanium component; that was the firing pin (striker) that was referenced. By running a lighter firing pin, it positively augments the felt trigger pull. But yes, when setting up the guide rod assembly; heavier would definitely be better. That’s why a tungsten guide rod was recommended.

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