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Lone Wolf Timberwolf: imitator, or worthy adversary to the status quo?
Firearms News. 70.8 (Mar. 10, 2016): p20+.
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Glock's self-described motto is "Perfection." While it's a very tall claim that borders on boasting, some consider the dock 17 as the pistol that settled the reliability debate between revolvers and automatics. This lends the claim some legitimacy. For many shooters, dock's handguns are perfect; they combine excellent magazine capacity with exceptional reliability.

However, one area of the gun's design that occasionally receives criticism is the ergonomics. Some, especially those with smaller hands, consider the controls on a dock a bit tricky to actuate. Many 1911 fans who enjoy the ergonomics of Browning's pistol refer to the dock's grip as a plastic two by four, poking fun at its girth.

Other issues with the dock series of pistols include the plastic sights, which are less durable than steel ones, as well as the initial lack of factory threaded barrels. In response, Lone Wolf Distributors began manufacturing aftermarket parts for docks, initially entering the market with their suppressor-friendly threaded barrels.

This market later expanded into caliber change kits that allowed shooters with a dock chambered in .40 S&W or .357 SIG to convert their handguns to 9mm Parabellum. To do so, Lone Wolf needed to create not only a new barrel, but also a different slide and recoil spring. Soon, the only replacement part of a dock pistol not manufactured by Lone Wolf was the frame. At least that was the case, until the recent release of Lone Wolf's newest addition to their product lineup, the Timberwolf.

Available in an overwhelming number of custom finishes and colors, the Lone Wolf Timberwolf is a polymer framed pistol chambered in 9mm parabellum, and any calibers that utilize the same size frame, including .40 S&W and .357 SIG. Like the dock it emulates, the Timberwolf is a short recoil, locked breech, tilting barrel design heavily influenced by the works of John Moses Browning. It feeds from standard dock magazines that range in capacity from 10 to 100 rounds, with flush-fitting examples being of the 17+1 variety.

The sights are standard three-dot, but on the test gun are special frame-blended, low profile night sights. Lone Wolf offers dozens of different sight options on the pistol, and if none of them strike a shooter's fancy, they can install any dock sights to the frame they desire. This effectively opens the Timberwolf to the largest selection of aftermarket pistol sights on the planet.

This lies at the heart of the Timberwolf's greatest strength: modularity.

Every single part inside the Timberwolf is 100 percent compatible with a genuine Glock of the same caliber. In some cases, certain models can safely share parts across different calibers, but in an abundance of caution, I won't recommend it on the off chance a shooter attempts to run an extra weak spring or wrong caliber barrel. This is huge.

For pragmatists like myself, purchasing a new design can be harrowing. Shooters who invest heavily in a new proprietary design have to deal with limited holsters, spare magazines and aftermarket support for months, years or possibly forever if the design never takes off.

With the Timberwolf, shooters forego most of the early adopter risks by having an inexhaustible supply of both aftermarket and replacement parts. So if by some terrible calamity, a sinkhole opens beneath both the Glock plant in Smyrna, Ga., and under the Lone Wolf company, the supply of parts will diminish, but given that Glocks are the most prolific sidearm on Earth, replacements will still be around.

Proving not only the engineers at Lone Wolf know their stuff, so do the business folks. Though the Timberwolf is more than simply a sound business decision, it's a user-friendly upgrade to a product that keeps what works, and polishes the rougher areas.

Since the Glock's grip and ergonomics are often the source of the majority of complaints, we'll begin with the differences between the Timberwolf and the Glock 17's frame. The front strap of both pistols feature molded finger grooves for better weapon control and retention. However, the Timberwolf uses a different approach to adding texture to the front strap.

Both third and fourth generation Glock pistols have a molded checkering pattern they refer to as. "Rough Textured Frame" (RTF). This RTF pattern consists of a number of perpendicular vertical and horizontal cuts that look more like raised cubes protruding from the frame. The Timberwolf uses a similar pattern, except the middle five rows of the bottom two finger grooves are serrated horizontally instead of checkered. Also, the top finger groove only features horizontal cuts.

The side of the grips on the Lone Wolf also deviate from the standard Glock. Instead of the RTF pattern covering the majority of the grip panels, the Timberwolf has a small embossed section of the grip that features raised squares stacked alternatingly like bricks. Conceivably, this is to give the grip more unidirectional friction against the shooter's hands, providing a more positive grip.

In testing, this grip proved immensely effective. Shooters who found third generation Glock grips too slippery and fourth gen ones too aggressive found a happy medium with the Lone Wolf frame. Also, the smooth section beneath the thumb indentation allows shooters to more easily reach the magazine release and slide catch without shifting their shooting grip.

The frame also features an extended beavertail tang that prevents shooters from being bitten by the slide should their grip be too high. Personally, the only guns I've been regularly bitten by are PPKs, their clones and a crudely made Norinco 9mm TT-33 pistol. Shooters with extra meaty mitts will certainly appreciate the addition.

As expected, the Timberwolf never bit my hand. However, I did notice an unanticipated boon of the extended grip tang. It provided counter leverage against muzzle rise caused by the recoil impulse. Normally my extra-high grip prevents me from being able to tell a 90-grain frangible from a 147-grain wadcutter. When I ran some 135-grain Homady FlexLock 9mm +P the recoil was tangibly less on the Timberwolf than on my factory Glock. Presumably the difference would be more substantial on the snappier .40 S&W or the blasty .357 SIG chamberings.

Though a bigger contributor to this is the Timberwolf's interchangeable backstraps. Each pistol or frame includes two backstraps; a flat version that closely mimics the grip angle and width of a 1911, and a swelled one that feels similar to an XD or a polymer-framed SIG pistol like the P320. Both are quite comfortable, and are secured by a single roll pin. This same roll pin is used to secure a magazine well funnel for competition or so-called race-guns.

Forward of the back strap, the controls on the frame function like those on a Glock, but feature a few improvements. For example, the magazine release is extended, which when combined with the Timberwolf's slim frame makes for effortless mag changes. Additionally, the slimmer frame makes reaching the trigger much easier, so shooters who found the original Glock too large for their hands can finally try their hand at the Austrian plastic fantastic.

The trigger is still of the Safe-Action variety found on all Glock handguns, but uses a polished transfer bar to reduce the trigger pull weight. Beneath it, the frame blends into the trigger guard and like modern Glocks is scalloped to permit a higher grip. Unlike the Glock, the Timberwolf further blends the triggerguard by chamfering the edges of the scalloped section to prevent undue wear on a shooter's middle finger.

Another aspect of the trigger guard that differs is the front. Unlike the squared-off ones Glock employed years ago in response to shooters using that section for extra purchase on the frame, the Lone Wolf uses a rounded trigger guard allowing it to use the same holsters as a Glock. This opens it up to a tremendous selection of options. Furthering its modularity, the dust cover features an M1913 accessory rail compatible with the widest selection of lights, lasers mini bayonets and anything else a shooters wants to hang on their pistol.

This brings me to the slide, arguably the most modular portion of the pistol.

The sheer volume of options available from Lone Wolf means shooters looking to build a race gun, a reflex sight plinker, suppressor host or serious home defense gun will encounter no shortage of options. Thankfully, if a new shooter feels overwhelmed by the number of choices available, they can either purchase a standard configuration model, or call Lone Wolf's customer service center who can help advise the shooter on the best pistol for their needs or desires.

Previously Lone Wolf slides were only available in one finish and one configuration, stainless steel standard slide. Now, the parts maker-turned gunmaker offers their slides in dozens of finishes and nearly as many configurations. While the pistol evaluated has a standard smooth slide, one that features aggressive forward and rear serrations, Lone Wolf offers these with RMR mounts and even Picatinny rails. Not just that, their custom shop can engrave a texture or pattern across the entire slide to the customer's specifications.

Slides aren't the only modular component. Lone Wolf offers a wide variety of barrels as well. None of their barrels use the polygonal rifling found on Glock pistols, so use of lead ammo is perfectly fine. Also, many shooters including myself found the barrels on the Timberwolf outshot factory Glock examples.

The included, unthreaded, drop-in Lone Wolf barrel produced groups measuring just a hair over two inches at 25 yards with quality ammo. The barrel showed a preference for 115- and 147-grain ammo with point of impact shifting about three inches at 25 yards between the two. Making a proper zero with one good enough for combat accuracy from the other. Shooters looking to run their Timberwolf in competition should zero the pistol with whichever ammo they intend to run in the match.

To better test frame-to-slide fit, I installed a factory Glock 17 barrel into the Lone Wolf, as well as a threaded SilencerCo and Lone Wolf Alpha Wolf barrel. All three barrels dropped in as advertised, and ran without issue. The SilencerCo barrel produced slightly worse groups than the Alpha Wolf barrel, and both outperformed the regular-length, threaded Lone Wolf barrel. The standard Glock barrel produced the largest group, but only by a half inch at 25 yards, well within the realm of testing error. With all barrels, the Lone Wolf Timberwolf proved more than capable of combat accuracy at 25 yards.

So far, the Timberwolf is keeping up with the Austrian automatic, but what about reliability? Glocks have the reputation for being the AK-47 of handguns--easy to use and impossibly reliable. For a competing handgun to challenge Gaston Glock's crowning achievement for market supremacy, it must be flawless in operation. I wanted to evaluate the real-world reliability of the pistol, not simply a very small, high volume test. As such, I took the Timberwolf with me two several three-gun and IPSC matches since August of 2015. The gun was fed a steady diet of whatever ammo I had on hand, the bulk of which was 115-grain FMJ. Based on my shooting journal, the pistol has fired about 1,100 rounds through it thus far. During this time, the gun has experienced very few malfunctions, less than I could count on two hands.

Six of these malfunctions were steel-cased ammo ran through an Osprey 45 suppressor with a Streamlight TLR2 attached. After clearing these hiccups, I identified the culprit--the TLR-2 tactical light. On its own, the TLR-2 runs great on the Lone Wolf pistol and doesn't affect its performance. The same can also be said for the Osprey.

However, when the two are combined, the over-sized Osprey makes slight contact with the TLR-2, during the unlocking stage of the action's cycle. With full-powered ammo, the slide has enough energy to overcome this sudden increase is friction. But with the underpowered steel-cased ammo, the slide would grab the ejecting case as it attempted to leave the chamber.

This makes sense, as Russian ammo like this often has a difficult time cycling the action on both my Glock 17 and the Timberwolf; unenthusiastically limping out of the chamber, past the ejection port. When reviewing footage of me shooting the ammo, rounds could be seen exiting horizontally with no vertical trajectory whatsoever. Indicating just how underpowered the ammo is.

In any case, the problem resolved itself when either accessory was removed. I further cemented my hypothesis that it wasn't firearm-related by installing the same suppressor and laser/light combination on a factory stock third generation dock 17. Predictably, the dock encountered the same issues.

To eliminate any additional variables, I swapped the barrels on the two firearms and still encountered the same issues. This was with both a SilencerCo AC864 threaded dock 17 barrel, and the fluted Lone Wolf Alpha Wolf threaded barrel. Both feature 1/2x28 threads, so the Osprey 45 used for testing could be freely swapped between them.

The remaining malfunctions the Timberwolf had were ammo and user-specific issues. Two rounds had faulty primers that failed to detonate despite proper firing pin impact. And in one instance, the slide caught on my sweatshirt during a contact-distance, hip-shooting drill.

One thing I noticed after dozens of reloads is that unlike my dock 17, where during longer shooting strings I occasionally need to readjust my grip, the Timberwolf held my shooting hand exactly where I initially placed it. As far as why, I suspect the aggressive grip texture combined with a slimmer grip gives shooters like myself a more solid, consistent shooting grip.

Though I did find one fault with the frame. Lone Wolf makes their frames out of a more rigid polymer than dock. For shooters like me who subscribe to the school of "hold your handgun like you're trying to crush it," the lack of flexibility can be a little uncomfortable after about 150 rounds. Still, proper technique dictates that doing so is poor form, so I suspect few people will have an issue with this.

I also had concerns about aftermarket magazine support. Though Lone Wolf claims full compatibility, I wanted to test a few other magazines to ensure this. The Timberwolf was first fed a fully loaded OEM, current generation dock magazine and functioned flawlessly. Next I dug up some first generation dock mags, which despite not being drop-free in actual docks, did so easily in the Timberwolf. I believe this has to do with the different polymer used, and different coefficient of friction on the two frames.

Satisfied that the gun runs fine with factory dock magazines from any era, I ran a few KCI, Korean-made magazines through it without issue. I then ran some regur lar capacity and extended capacity SGM magazines also without issue. Lastly, I fed a few hundred rounds through Magpul's new GL9 offerings without so much as a hiccup.

The Timberwolf runs great, has full parts compatibility and is even more accurate than the pistol it emulates. Making it a no-brainer, right? Based on testing the Lone Wolf is demonstrably superior to the original dock, but is it truly?

Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, it's difficult for me to personally decide. On one hand, it seems like the Lone Wolf pistol would be a much better handgun for a new shooter or one with smaller hands. Both my petite wife and my short statured self found slimmer Timberwolf better facilitates a proper shooting grip.

However, as someone who has fired well over 20,000 rounds through a dock, the muscle memory is so ingrained that the Lone Wolf feels a little awkward initially. However, the same could be said of any other handgun after extensive experience with a difference design.

Ultimately, the Lone Wolf Timberwolf is a solid design, based on a tried and true product renown for its reliability and simplicity. Because both pistols are combat accurate, and reliable to a fault, it's a tough decision, and one that should be made on an individual basis.

But maybe that's the point.

Lone Wolf products were never meant to completely replace original dock parts. They're designed for outliers: People who either don't like the ergonomics, aesthetics or controls of the Austrian polymer pistol. As a shooter who likes smaller grips and customizing firearms, Lone Wolf's Timberwolf directly appeals to me; it fits my smaller hands and can be tailored to whatever need I have. Shooters fully content with their dock may struggle to find a reason to add the Lone Wolf to their safe.

But for both those who love the dock but wish it fit them better, and those looking for a dead-reliable pistol with an exhaustive, ever-growing aftermarket parts business, the Lone Wolf Timberwolf fulfills all these needs and then some.

BARREL OPTIONS

Glock semiautomatic handguns are among the easiest pistols to suppress. Drop-in threaded barrels are abundant, and most silencer/suppressor forums are littered with posts about people adding a can to the ubiquitous Austrian-made polymer pistol.

As sound suppressors become more prolific, this becomes even more the case. Accordingly, several manufacturers have begun offering prethreaded barrels for use with both sound suppressors and compensators.

Two that I have extensive experience with are the SilencerCo Glock 17 barrel, and the Lone Wolf Alpha Wolf M/17 9mm barrel. For the sake of fairness, both barrels were tested in the same two firearms to check for universal fit and accuracy.

On the outside the biggest difference between the two barrels is the Alpha Wolfs shallow fluting. While I initially believed the purpose of these cuts was to reduce overall weight and possibly speed up the action cycle, Lone Wolf informed me that the flutes are designed to allow for rapid heat dissipation and for debris/carbon to more easily escape the action. Given the amount of blowback a suppressor generates, and all the excess carbon and gunk that accumulates in a pistol that sees frequent suppressor use, this seems like a good idea.

I say seems because after 300 rounds of ammo fired through both barrels, they each looked similarly filthy. To maximize the testing period, I used the gnarliest ammo I had available--Russian and other Eastern European steelcased 9mm. Some of the rounds even lacked a head stamp!

Unsurprisingly, this ammo is underpowered and incredibly dirty. After the first 100 rounds a thick layer of carbon was present on the two test barrels. It wasn't enough to slow either gun down, but enough to make the handguns smell like burnt rubber every other magazine change.

The flutes didn't seem to help the Lone Wolf clear itself of fouling, but also didn't seem to negatively affect it. After 200 rounds, all guns began to struggle when cycling the action with a suppressor attached. This initially started as simply failing to fully enter battery, but eventually resulted in numerous stovepipes.

One both pistols were sufficiently filthy, two full 17 round magazines of fullpowered Winchester NATOspec +P 124-grain ammo were fed to both firearms. In both cases the extra power of these hot rounds seemed to cycle them fine. Both blasted away a good amount of previously stubborn carbon fouling stuck to the inside of the slide and frame. In terms of reliability, I'd have to say they're on par with one another.

Next I tested accuracy with one barrels. Each showed a tremendous preference for lighter, faster 115-grain FMJ ammunition over heavier, less common loadings. Even still, the four inch metal swinger on my Action Target PT Hostage target was easy pickings even out to 50 yards with either barrel using virtually any common 9mm loading.

Also, the threads on both barrels are exceptionally precise. Attaching a suppressor to them is effortless, and is so smooth that it feels like slipping on a silk glove. The threads seem to differ only in total length. The eccentric Osprey 45 provided by Silencer Shop I used for testing indexed differently on both barrels. Thankfully, the Osprey is designed around this and allows shooters to index it however they want by simply throwing a tension lever and rotating the suppressor body around the mounting piston.

Overall the preference between the two barrels is cosmetic. Both seem to run great and drop in without issue. I personally like the aesthetics of the Lone Wolf's fluting, but that's just visual preference. Shooters who love SilencerCo's suppressors and image won't be disappointed with the new threaded barrels they offer--they work as advertised. Shooters who want something a little different can buy one of Lone Wolf's various products. Even if they want a stainless steel one, or one with engravings around the crown.

The biggest deciding factor for these two barrels for most will be price. The Lone Wolf offerings are around $80 cheaper than those from SilencerCo. However, because neither costs much over $200, shooters should simply pick whichever one pleases their eye and their wallet.

NO RELOAD NECESSARY?

Ammunition is like money and good looks--you can never have too much. This is especially the case when talking about magazine capacity. Why reload if you don't have to?

One of my favorite high capacity magazines is the 33-round 9mm polymer Glock magazine. Originally intended for use with the Glock model 18 PDW, the extended mag is nearly double the standard capacity magazine's length. Interestingly enough, the Glock 18 takes a whopping 1.65 seconds to blaze through all 33 of those rounds.

While not a terribly impressive amount of time when used in a semi-automatic pistol, that duration significantly increases. Thankfully, these magazines don't just fit the Glock 18, but any double stack 9mm Glock pistol. Yes, even the sub compact. Unfortunately these capacious magazines are expensive and only available in 9mm Parabellum.

Third party companies attempted to make their own in the past with limited success. A combination of lackluster quality control and sub standard materials resulted in affordable, but unreliable options. Even more frustrating is the fact that some of these super inexpensive magazines ran without an issue, while others would have their floor plates crack and fail. As someone who's had one fail like that, nothing is more frustrating than slamming a magazine into a pistol, only to have all the individual bullets pour out of the magazine well immediately after.

Magazine maker SGM Tactical has recently begun production of these leggy beauties. A sister company of Surefire, creators of darkness-shattering, iris-searing flashlights, SGM Tactical has been producing high quality magazines and firearm accessories for a few years now.

Admittedly I didn't give them a second glance until I had a chance to run their quad-stack 7.62x54R VEPR magazines. That's when I began flipping through the digital pages of the SGM catalog.

What I found wasn't just great extended magazines, but affordable ones. In the past, some SGM magazines were considered prohibitively expensive. This is certainly not the case with the new extended Glock magazines, which run about $20 each--a big departure from the $50-$60 Glock OEM examples.

Certainly some readers are scratching their heads over my enthusiasm for a huge Glock magazine. This is fair enough. It's likely these same individuals don't have either a 9mm AR-15 that utilizes Glock magazines or don't own a Kel-Tec Sub 2000 that does the same.

The logistical benefit of running a carbine and a pistol that not share ammunition and magazines is a substantial one. Shooters who want a bug out carbine or survival rifle/pistol carbine need extended magazines to maximize the effectiveness of their pistol-caliber carbine. If a shooter is already sacrificing terminal ballistics by switching from a rifle caliber to a pistol one, more ammo helps cut the difference.

For testing, I met up with the representative from KRISS USA at the Big 3 East event in Florida. There he allowed me some trigger time with a selective fire version of the new KRISS Vector 9mm. All available SGM Tactical 33-round magazines were loaded to capacity, and set within arm's reach.

How did the magazines fair?

I managed to stop the Vector by overheating it. This occurred long before the magazines encountered a single malfunction. Given, this was a pre-production Vector that hadn't been cleaned in over 3,000 rounds, but SGM's magazines kept on chugging along tor roughly 600 rounds fired at nearly 800 rounds per minute.

This brings me to another crucial need the new SGM magazines fulfill.

Owners of the .45ACP-caliber KRISS Vector have had to rely on magazines made by KRISS in the past. These are more expensive and occasionally suffer from availability issues. With SGM, their manufacturing prowess and capacity to churn out thousands of mags means Vector owners can buy cheap and stack deep:

SGM Tactical is also offering these extended magazines in .45 ACP chamberings. Due to the round's larger size over the 9mm cartridge, the magazines hold fewer rounds--23 instead of the 9mm version's 33. When paired with a Glock 21 and a good tactical light, this makes a particularly effective home defense weapon.

Though I understand that not everyone wants or needs an extended magazine for their pistols. So does SGM Tactical. This is why they unveiled their new standard capacity 9mm magazines at the 2016 SHOT Show in Las Vegas.

With identical dimensions and capacity to the real deal, these new magazines are both lighter and more affordable than factory OEM offerings. Also, unlike the recently announced Magpul polymer Glock magazines, they don't lack metal reinforcements. In fact, the SGM Tactical magazine are made to Glock specs, so buyers aren't sacrificing quality for affordability.

The metal frame underneath is very prominent and features a nearly mirrored finish, it's most visible at the top of the magazine, where the reinforced feed lips protrude out from the polymer housing. However, the brightly polished steel is also visible along the witness holes along the back of the magazine. Unlike some of the earlier non-OEM Glock magazines that were imported from Korea a few years back, these witness holes line up perfectly with the polymer ones.

It's actually difficult to differentiate these magazines from Austrian or American made examples. The only real tell is the glossy metal, and the reflective black section at the bottom of the magazine with a contrasting matte dull, "SGM Tactical" logo embossed on it.

For some people, buying factory OEM parts and accessories for anything is the only way to go. These folks are either willfully ignorant, or simply wealthy enough to not concern themselves with cost For the rest of us, the addition of affordable standard and extended capacity magazines from SGM Tactical is a godsend.


TIMBER WOLF 9MM CHRONO

Manufacturer               Avg. Vel.   Avg. Grp.

Hornady 135gr FlexLock     1110 fps     2.31 in
Blazer Brass 115gr FMJ     1123 fps     2.6 in
Win 147gr FMJ wadcutters   1038 fps     2.95 in
Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)
Grant, Jim. "Lone Wolf Timberwolf: imitator, or worthy adversary to the status quo?" Firearms News, 10 Mar. 2016, p. 20+. General OneFile, http%3A%2F%2Flink.galegroup.com%2Fapps%2Fdoc%2FA446734708%2FITOF%3Fu%3Dspl_main%26sid%3DITOF%26xid%3Dd633d91e. Accessed 21 Oct. 2018.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A446734708