Ever since H&K pioneered the use of polymer materials in pistol frames, through the VP70, gun enthusiasts have debated over whether or not they are better than traditional all-metal frames. Polymer is essentially a type of hard plastic that can be shaped and molded to form any type of gun frame. So, is polymer really better than metal when it comes to pistol frames?
Rust and Corrosion
Among the most notable benefits of polymer-framed pistols is their resistant to rust and corrosion. All-metal frames – even those made with “stainless steel” – may rust when exposed to moisture. Moisture triggers oxidation in certain types of metal, which in turn causes rust to form. Even if you don't leave your pistol outside in the rain, moisture from the air may still cause this chemical reaction to occur. Thankfully, this isn't a problem with polymer frames, as they are immune to rust and corrosion.
In terms of weight, polymer-framed pistols are significantly lighter than their all-metal counterpart. The newest generation Glock 17, for instance weighs just 25 ounces unloaded. In case you are bad with conversions, that's less than two pounds! This doesn't necessarily mean that polymer-framed pistols are better, but most CCW license holders will agree that they are easier and more comfortable to carry.
Because all-metal framed pistols are heavier, they typically produce less muzzle rise, resulting in greater accuracy. Lighter polymer-framed pistols tend to kick upwards when fired, which alters the bullet's trajectory. When the muzzle kicks up, the bullet follows this path by traveling upwards instead of straight out. This problem can be avoided by holding the pistol with a strong, firm grip, yet it's still easier to accomplish with an all-metal pistol.
Limp wristing is a phenomenon that occurs when you fire a semi-automatic pistol without holding it firm enough, causing spent cartridges to remain stuck inside the chamber and new cartridges failing to cycle. Both polymer-framed and all-metal pistols are susceptible to this phenomenon. However, it's far more common in polymer due to their lightweight characteristics. The increased weight of an all-metal pistol makes it easier to hold and keep in place, which in turn reduces the risk of limp wristing.
While there are always exceptions to this rule, you'll generally find polymer-framed pistols to cost less than all-metal pistols (HKs tend to cost more). Polymer is readily available and easy to use, making it the preferred choice among many gunmakers. In turn, this results in cost-savings to the consumer, with polymer-framed pistols costing less than their all-metal counterpart.
So, should you choose a polymer-frame or all-metal pistol? There are pros and cons associated with each frame type. All-metal pistols are less susceptible to muzzle rise and limp wristing, but polymer-framed pistols are lighter, easier to conceal, and typically cost less.