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Review: The Folding Full Conceal Glock

This article originally appeared in CONCEALMENT Issue 12

Photos by Dave Merrill and Tamara Keel 

ORIGAMI GLOCK

What is it for? Why, to sell, of course!” is what writer and firearms trainer Jeff Cooper would famously snort whenever encountering a firearm whose purpose he didn’t understand or approve of.
This is probably unfairly cynical. After all, all firearms are made to sell. Manufacturers don’t churn the things out without the expectation of being paid.

What’s in a Design?
However, it does cause one to think about the actual design purpose of particular guns. Take, for example, the Glock 17. It’s a fairly popular concealed carry gun in some circles, but it certainly wasn’t designed for concealed carry. It was designed to win the Austrian service pistol contract and get carried around on web belts by officers, MPs, and the like.

There are even hard-core types who conceal the Glock 34 every day, although it was designed for practically the opposite of concealment — to be as big as it can be and still fit in the box that allows it to compete in a gun game.

The first Glock designed with true concealed carry in mind was the Glock 26, and it achieves its concealability by chopping the grip down to two-fingers worth and giving up more than 40-percent of its magazine capacity. More recent concealable models from Glock, the G42 and G43, are even more concealable by virtue of thinness, at the cost of another 40-percent capacity loss from the already reduced G26.

m3s glock 43

Conception
It was the difficulty of shooting these little concealment guns well that was one of the first things that came to mind when inventor Mike Full read the news of the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater massacre back in 2012. Full started out carrying a Glock 19, the gun that’s pretty much the standard industry answer to “What gun should I carry?” but he found it difficult to conceal when carried outside the waistband and uncomfortable to carry inside the waistband.

He transitioned to a Glock 26 in a pocket and concealed its outline by stowing it in a pouch with a spare magazine ahead of the trigger guard, giving the whole package a bricklike silhouette reminiscent of a PDA or cell phone. But when the bulk of the pouch was added to the chubby little Glock, the whole package wasn’t concealable enough for Full, and that resulted in him carrying a Kahr PM9 in the same fashion.

Being not only a gun fan, but a movie buff who likes to go to the theater with his family, Full read the news of the Aurora mass shooting and imagined what could only be called a nightmare scenario. Trying to engage a body armor-clad, rifle-bearing shooter from halfway across a darkened movie theater is hard enough. But doing it with a six-shot, 9mm subcompact is a scenario that even the best-trained shooter would find somewhere on the scale between daunting and next-to-impossible, he reasoned. That was the genesis of what became the Full Conceal M3D.

fold down glock

Execution
The patented M3D is, in essence, a Gen4 Glock 19 with a hinge in the front strap and a spring-loaded latch in the back strap. Press the latch and the entire grip folds forward to lie against the dust cover, parallel to the bore axis. Perhaps uncoincidentally, the folded package is more than a little reminiscent of the G26-plus-spare-magazine package that Full carried before the Kahr.

In order to accomplish this feat of origami, the trigger guard is replaced with a hinged assembly that collapses flat between the grip and dust cover. While the standard factory Glock trigger bar is retained, the trigger shoe, with its tabbed drop safety, is replaced with a trigger that is a flat metal tab. It truly is flat, and the sear breaks with the trigger just slightly past the 90-degree point in the arc of travel.

Trigger feel is still Glock-like, which, depending on your point of view, may be good or bad. Due to the contours of the folding trigger guard, my finger got a little pinched between the trigger and the bottom of the trigger guard during overtravel. This will likely vary from person to person, but people with average-to-large fingers will almost certainly find it miserable in a 500-round class.
One side effect of the folding trigger and trigger guard is that when the gun is in its folded position, the trigger bar is locked in place, and the trigger shoe is folded up and completely covered.

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Theoretically, this makes a folded Full Conceal M3D even safer to carry with a chambered round than a regular Glock 19. Whether that knowledge is enough to overcome the fact that muzzle-up carry in a cargo pocket has the muzzle pointed in some scary directions is entirely up to your taste for such things.

The M3D ships with a single magazine, a lone Magpul 21-rounder. When the magazine is locked into the well, the floorplate protrudes some length past the muzzle of the gun while folded, but by depressing the mag release and over-inserting the magazine, the whole package becomes a rectangle about the length and width of a large smartphone. (But much thicker, obviously.)

Regardless of which of the two positions the magazine is retained in the folded gun, holding the folded M3D by the grip and flicking the wrist as though inertia-opening a folding knife will cause the magazine to auto-index in the top part of the well. Even if the latch somehow failed to catch, firing the gun from a position where it’s open enough to fire (which is pretty much all the way) will cause the latch to catch under recoil.

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Other than the folding parts, the functional portion of the gun is straight-up Glock. RECOIL was sent two test guns, and M3D and the newer M3S, which is a Glock 43 with the Full Conceal treatment applied. Neither weapon had any issues with function at the range, pretty unsurprising since both the 19 and 43 are well-known for being pretty solid in the reliability department.

The M3S, which ships with an ETS eight-round magazine (included was also a prototype 10-rounder), is almost the exact length and height when folded as the regular Glock 43 with the flush six-rounder aboard, and the M3D has about the footprint of a 19 with the grip chopped to 26 length, which is a not-unheard-of modification. So, this raises the question why?

Wait, But Why?
During our phone conversation, Full said he wanted the Full Conceal pistol to meet five particular benchmarks he considered important.

The first was concealability. There’s little doubt this mark was met. Although plenty of people successfully conceal a 19 or a 43 in their unaltered configuration, it’s true the Full Conceals can be carried in fashions where they do not create an obvious gun-shaped bulge. Full points (no pun intended) on concealability, then.

The second point was comfort/convenience. Among the comfort and convenience points argued by Full was that the M3D is more comfortable to carry in a pocket while seated in a car than a conventional Glock in an inside-the-waistband holster. Also, he pointed out, it could be transferred from pants pocket to car door pocket or vice versa when entering or exiting a vehicle without passersby immediately sussing out that the object in hand was a firearm.

Fitting into a cargo pocket? No problem. Any other pockets? You’re going to have some issues, especially if you’re a woman.

Fitting into a cargo pocket? No problem. Any other pockets? You’re going to have some issues, especially if you’re a woman.

In a phone interview with FullConceal’s Factory Liaison, Trey Gingles, he stressed that one of the major goals of the project was to give “the American shooting public an effective carry pistol that’s comfortable to conceal without giving up size and capacity.”

Specifically, Gingles mentioned its utility for what he termed the “casual concealed carry” market. The example he gave was the guy sitting at home, watching the ballgame, when he has to run to the store for a loaf of bread and some eggs. With the M3D, goes this idea, the guy wouldn’t have to worry about belts or holsters or spare mag carriers. Instead he could tuck the folded M3D in his back pocket and pull his shirttail over it and have 22 rounds of 9mm on hand.

While the Glock 43-based M3S is, indeed, pretty pocket-friendly, the bigger M3D requires capacious pockets. I’m not going to bring up “male pocket privilege” here, but the only pockets I could get the M3D into completely were of the cargo variety on tactical trousers. Although it would go into a purse nicely while folded, and that brings up CEO Mike Full’s third benchmark: safety.

Full wanted a gun that was safe to carry without a holster, and safer than a regular Glock in daily carry. In its folded configuration it does seem that he has achieved this goal. The Glock factory drop safety and firing pin block safety are both intact and functioning. Further, as mentioned earlier in this review, the trigger bar is pinned in place by the folded trigger assembly. And when the gun is folded, there’s no trigger to pull even accidentally. It seems pretty inert.

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When the gun is unfolded, it still has the same safety devices as a regular Glock as well as Full Conceal’s two-piece trigger that takes the place of the tabbed trigger on the factory Glock part. While not able to perform a SAAMI-spec drop test on the Full Conceal test guns, they did receive several vigorous love taps on the rear of the slide from a heavy rubber mallet, and the trigger didn’t release the striker at any time.

Mike Full also touted the folded M3D’s safety in a variety of less typical situations. For instance, going to the theater with his family, if he wanted to, he could transfer the pistol out of his pocket and hand it to his wife to put in her purse without worry of a fumbled pass. This would be another scenario where the less obviously gun-like shape of the folded M3D would come in handy, he asserted.

The fourth benchmark Full insisted on was firepower. This is the reason the gun ships with the Magpul 21-round magazine. More than once in our conversation, Mike referenced an FBI statistic (which I could not find) that trained police officers supposedly only hit their target with one round in five. While larger departments that make available detailed data like NYPD and LAPD may have numbers that vary between 19 and 33 percent, these reports tend to include all discharges of officers’ firearms, including the classic, “I was taking my Glock apart for cleaning and it went off” ones. So far as I know, there’s no authoritative data for average police hit rate, nationally.

That said, nobody has ever found themselves in a legitimate defensive gun usage and thought, “You know, I have entirely too much ammunition in this gun,” so the fourth benchmark is a laudable one and a 21-plus-1 capacity definitely fills the firepower bill.
The fifth and final benchmark was deployment, as in “ease and speed of.”

Full made several good points in our conversation about using situational awareness and the fact that a surreptitious draw begun with a hand already on the gun … even if the gun is a folded Full Conceal M3D … beats an Instagram-hero speed rock.

This doesn’t change the fact that the M3D still has to be deployed, rather than simply drawn. Anyone who’s taken Craig Douglas’s Shivworks ECQC class and experienced the final evolution of a gunfight in the front seat of a car is probably shaking their head in disbelief right now at the thought of trying to deploy this gun. That’s an environment where even Emerson Wave-equipped folding knives are frowned upon as being too fumble-prone.

The spring loaded take-down latch is unobtrusive and well designed.

The spring loaded take-down latch is unobtrusive and well designed.

This leaves us in an awkward position. The Full Conceal guns are well made and reliable, and I’m eating a lot of crow on that point. They do what they claim to do and don’t fall apart when doing it, and that’s sadly a rarer trait among new products in the gun industry than it should be. It helps that the M3D and M3S are built on a sound and well-established platform like the Glock, but credit has to go to Mike Full and his manufacturing partners too, for modifying the guns as far as they did without hampering their underlying reliability.

The disconnect stems from the fact that the pistols seem to be optimized for an edge scenario, a worst possible case of “How do we get as shootable a gun with the most ammo on board into the pocket of the casual carrier so they can effectively engage a rifle-armed spree shooter?” At the expense of speed and surety of deployment in the other worst-case scenario, the entangled gunfight.

Loose Rounds
That said, there are likely niches where this gun will find a happy home. Not the least of them is the very one previously stated, the casual concealed carrier. The guy who wants to carry as much gun as possible without accumulating a drawer of belts and holsters rejected through years of trial and error may well welcome a solution he can purchase and fit in his cargo pocket.

full conceal glock 43
The issue here is that you have a pistol that costs more than a Langdon Beretta, but it’s made for the casual Kel-Tec market.

Novelty buyers will likely seek them out too. The gun is mechanically cool and will likely wind up sitting on shelves in safes next to Kriss Vectors, Matebas, and Mossberg Shockwaves.

One last demographic might be people who need to surreptitiously get a lot of gun past suspicious eyes. Unlike the single-shot derringer that unfolds to look like a pen, or the mockup Magpul SMG that resembled a boom box when folded, this is a Glock that folds to look like, well, a folded Glock. Still, when stuffed into a shaving kit or some other equally non-gun-shaped package, this might be the thing to get your James Bond on.

While this isn’t a test gun that I felt the immediate need to buy, I do have to give full points (and the last word) to Full Conceal’s Trey Gingle. In pointing out the various unconventional scenarios where the gun’s abilities could be useful, he reiterated that all they were trying to do was provide options for the concealed carrier. “It’s not Obamacare,” said Gingle, “I’m not making you buy it.”

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Visit https://www.fullconceal.com/


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