Glock 23

Glock 23: The Compact .40 S&W

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Deer-legal in my state. Huh? The Glock 23 is deer-legal in my state. The .40 S&W shot through a minimum-4-inch barrel is considered deer medicine where I live. Add in the ability to shoot the .40 from a carbine, and the joy increases with each additional foot-pound of energy you gain with that longer barrel.

Why mention that you can waylay deer with the .40 S&W around these parts? Because it is a potent round in its own right. Its peak law enforcement usage might have been a few years ago, but that doesn’t take the shine off the pumpkin.

It is still a good man stopper and (according to my state’s deer regulations) a good deer-stopper as well. Many law enforcement agencies used (or used) the .40 S&W, most notably the FBI, for a while before they went back to the 9mm. It has lost popularity, but the .40 S&W is still very effective. Let’s take a quick look at the cartridge, then examine the gun.

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The .40 S&W: A Little History

Where did it come from? The .40 S&W originated when the FBI (who had adopted the 10mm cartridge) asked Smith & Wesson to download the 10mm a bit. The full-bore 10mm was a real handful and so they wanted something that more agents could shoot effectively. S&W created the .40 that bears its name by shortening the 10mm case and downloading it a bit, and the FBI adopted it. For a more complete backstory on the .40, read my handgun cartridge comparison.

It is rather interesting, especially if you’re a forty-fan. To be honest, I have never owned a .40 pistol or carbine. I have nothing against the round — it’s just that I shoot, cast bullets for, and reload the 9mm and .45 ACP. I’ve not seen the need to go with a .40 since I own the “bookends” surrounding it on the caliber shelf. I have often thought of getting a .40 and may do so in the future. If I do, reloading dies, and a bullet mold would be next on the list.

Capacity, Or Lack Thereof

Toting a gun that dispenses right at 400 (or more) foot-pounds of energy would tend to give one confidence. This is true, especially if that gun was not large, was easy to carry and held a dozen or more rounds in its magazine. I think part of the downfall of the .40 is that 9mm cartridge’s ballistic development has really taken off. Also, there are some pretty spiffy 9mm loads out there now that deliver foot-pounds of energy like Hostess Twinkies deliver calories.

Given that you can carry more 9mm ammo in a defined space than you can .40 ammo, that makes a difference. Look at the 9mm compact pistol market leader that most others are compared with — Glock’s best-selling model 19. This is a gun that is basically the same size as our model 23 but can carry two more rounds in its standard magazine than the 23, 15 rounds to 13.

Here, we see the same discrepancy when we look at the full-size Glocks in 9mm and 40, the models 17 and 22 respectively. Model 17 holds 17 rounds in its standard magazine vs. 15 .40 rounds in model 22.

This is not exactly earth-shaking, but to some folks it makes a difference. Some folks carry 5-shot J-frame revolvers — they seem to not be worried about capacity. If you know where to place your shots, that can make up for lower cartridge capacities.

Going the other way, though, reveals that the .40 S&W magazine you have in your pistol will hold one or more rounds than a .45 ACP gun of similar size. Using the same magazine comparison as above, the full-size Glock model 22 in .40 holds two more rounds in its standard magazine than the full-size Glock model 21 in .45 ACP holds, 15 to 13.

Being a .45 fan, this is not exactly comforting news, but (as the saying goes), it is what it is. What it comes down to for me is that It is amazing that you can have even 13 .45 ACP rounds available in your carry gun, not counting extra magazines and the one in the chamber. Capacity plays a big part in caliber selection. But the .40 is still a good choice. It’s right in the middle between the 9mm and the .45 ACP and, as Goldilocks found out, the middle can be the best place to be.

Caliber Compatibility

One thing that you may not think of right off the bat where the 23 is concerned is caliber compatibility. If you buy a .357 Sig barrel for your model 23, you now have a gun in that caliber. Your .40 caliber magazines should work, since the .357 Sig is based on the .40 case.

Worst case, the follower configuration might cause a feeding issue, so you’d need to pick up a model 32 magazine. Another caliber that the 23 is easily converted to is 9mm. Buy a conversion barrel for a hundred bucks or so and a couple of model 19 magazines and you’re now in the 9mm business with what essentially becomes a model 19 that says “23” on the slide. So, you could conceivably have three guns for the price of one initial gun purchase and some after-market parts.

If the ease of changing calibers isn’t enough to make the 23 attractive, I don’t know what will. That’s a pretty interesting capability though — one gun, three calibers.

Glock 23 Recoil & The 10mm’s Influence

The .40 will let you know you’re not shooting a 22. Its recoil is usually described as snappy, especially in a lighter pistol. If we remember that the .40 is the descendant of the 10mm, its snappiness is explainable. When you push a 180-grain bullet to velocities just south of 1000 fps, then you will get some pushback with regards to recoil.

You’re talking right at 400 ft/ lbs of energy, like some lower-end .357 Magnum loads. I mentioned above how this round is deer-legal in my state, and I guess I can see why. The 10mm will do all things better than the .40 when it comes to hunting, but in terms of concealed carry and personal defense (read more about self-defense insurance), I can see where the .40 has the advantage over the 10mm.

The 10mm truly has some snappy recoil (at least the ones I’ve shot have) which makes it harder to recover from on time. It tends to make follow-up shots harder to execute in any kind of fast, timer-stopping way. I know that there are some of you out there who routinely shoot the 10mm and are perfectly fine with its recoil, but for the majority of us shooters, it’s a handful.

Now we see the connection between the 10mm and the .40 S&W in recoil. The 10 will have more, but the .40 in a light gun will also get your attention.

The Glock 23 and the .40

The .40 S&W out of the 23 can be a bit of handful in its own right. I shot just one load, a 180-grain FMJ truncated cone bullet at right at 990 fps from SIG Sauer. This is a decent training load, one that will help you acclimate yourself to the way the .40 feels when you fire it. True defense ammo is going to be even more energetic. And your shooting hand will learn the difference really quickly.

If you carry a .40, you owe it to yourself to train diligently with different loads that are self-defense oriented. And, don’t shoot one magazine full and then head home. The .40 needs a little extra work in the practice department due to its greater recoil over the 9mm. But if you devote the time, you will have accomplished something that not a whole of shooters do — tame the .40 enough to carry it.

Now, please don’t get the impression that I think the .40 is overkill. It’s just that it takes a little more time to be proficient with it when you shoot it out of a smaller-type pistol, such as the Glock 23. It is well worth the effort to master the gun, though.

This 23 seemed accurate, given the tiny amount of shooting that I did with it. I’ve said it before — Glocks tend to be better-than-average-accurate.

The Glock 23

The 23 is just a bit smaller than the 22, with a minus-two capacity in its magazine compared to the 22. So, it can be a good choice for a concealed carry gun. Its standard capacity of 13 rounds makes it more than plenty for most situations, and its small design strikes a solid balance between full-size and subcompact pistols. You have a smaller gun than the full-size if you do carry it, but you can always use the full-size magazines if you choose — they just might stick out a bit. Still, it’s a simple yet dependable and accurate .40 small pistol option.

The model 23 we have here is a Gen 3. If you are not familiar with the different Glock generations, please go to my Glock 9mm pistol comparison article where I explained the differences.

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Glock 23 Specs

Let’s look at the specs of the Glock 23. The gun we’re looking at is a Gen 3 model. The Gen 4 model typically goes for the same price and is generally available. Although availability during these crazy no-guns, no-ammo times is by no means certain.

Caliber:.40 Smith & Wesson
Action:Semi-automatic, Glock Safe Action
Trigger Pull:5 lbs, 6 oz. (my measurement)
Barrel length:4.02"
Slide finish:Tenifer
Frame:Black polymer with duty finish
Sights:Fixed, plastic
Rifling:RH, hexagonal, 1 in 10" twist
Overall length:7.36"
Height (including mag):5.04"
Weight:empty, 20.4 oz.; with full magazine, 29.8 oz. (my measurements)
Real-World Price:$500 (price accurate at the time of writing)

Photos of the Glock 23 Pistol

Now, let’s look at a few photos. I didn’t take nearly as many photos of this gun as I have for past Glock reviews because (excepting generational differences) if you’ve seen one Glock, you’ve pretty much seen them all.

Glock 23 field stripped
Glock 23 frame
Glock 23 frame top
Glock 23 grip frontstrap
Grip, front- and back-strap and magazine well. This gen 3 gun displays its finger grooves prominently.
Glock 23 grip backstrap
Glock 23 mag well
The magazine well is relieved to aid in quick magazine insertion.
Glock 23 sight picture
Sight picture.

Cup-and-saucer, football-and-goalpost — whatever you call the sights, some folks love them while others — not so much.

Glock 23 slide engraving
If this were a Gen 4 gun, it would have that designation etched on the slide.
Glock 23 slide underneath
Glock simplicity. They just work, like them or not.
Glock 23 barrel
Browning tilt-barrel design, linkless. As above, it just works.
Glock 23 barrel feed ramp
Nicely polished feed ramp.

And, lastly, the magazines. In case you forget what caliber you’re shooting, just look at the mag.

Glock 23 mags

Glock 23 Performance

Shooting the Glock 23

This ammo shortage is really starting to hit home. I’m a reloader, but as I said above I do not load .40 S&W. I happened to have one partial box of 180-grain FMJ loads from SIG Sauer, so I shot exactly five of those. Here’s the target.

target and Glock 23

As you can see, the rounds landed pretty much where I wanted them to, if not in a tight little group (the squares on my target are one inch). This was shot from my bench at around 20 yards. At least they’re in the black square. I used a center combat hold. As with every target I present in my reviews, I remind readers that I am not exactly Camp Perry material when it comes to shooting.

I can get the job done as I’ve taken more than a few deer with handguns, some pretty far out there. Sometimes I shoot better than others. At any rate, this is a Glock — they tend to be accurate, repeatedly. We are reinventing the wheel here. I’m not proving anything or offering anything new. I was just having a bit of fun shooting a gun that produces a good, hearty BANG when you press the trigger, even if I only did it five times.

Glock 23 Fit and Feel

The grip is as blocky as the grips on most other Glocks, making it uncomfortable to hold for long periods. Those who are younger and more accustomed to shooting with polymer-framed, double-stack handguns will find the grip comfortable. The rectangular shape of the grip makes it difficult to reach the trigger, especially for those with larger hands.

The magazine release cannot be switched around unless you have a Gen 5 model. For some, that’s a dealbreaker. Another problem is that the sliding release is only on the left side. The good news is that Glock fixed both of these problems with the Gen 5 models and added a second backstrap to make the gun even more comfortable to hold.

Who is the Glock 23 For?

Since the .40 is commonly used by law enforcement, we can safely assume that self-defense is its primary civilian function. One of the most common platforms for that caliber and purpose is the Glock 23.

Because of its adaptability, the G23 may be Glock’s most popular .40 caliber handgun among civilians, just like the G19 is the company’s best-selling 9mm.  Because it is a Glock, shooters know it is a high-quality pistol with a proven track record of accuracy.

Wrap Up

So, we reach the end of our little stroll down Glock Lane. I could see carrying the model 23 in an IWB holster. Given 13 rounds of .40 S&W (plus another 13 in an extra mag), I would feel protected. My only suggestion to those who want to carry one is to practice — a lot. Practice with the same bullet weight as that your carry ammo uses. That way, the impact point between both loads should be very close.

The .40 can be snappy (the current buzzword used to describe .40 S&W recoil), so practice is essential. If you own one, please chime in below. Let us hear from you. As always, keep them in the black and stay safe.

Other readings you might also enjoy:

  1. I own a 23. It is a very good shooting pistol. It is definitely heavier to carry than my 48 but I do like its concealability. I did not know until now that I could fit other caliber barrels in it. That makes me like it even more.

    1. John, that’s one of the neat things about some pistols – you can use other caliber barrels without having to buy the whole gun. Glad to help-thanks for writing!

  2. Great article! I have 2 Steyr 40’s and quite a bit of ammo- takin them both out next weekend again cause it’s been years since I’ve shot them. I got them when the 40 craze was on- over 10 years ago now but it seems to be the forgotten caliber as it was one of the last off the local gun store shelved as of late; it and 10m to be honest. Very fun article- thank you! .

    1. Mark, glad you liked it. I hope you have (or had) fun shooting your Steyrs – those are nice guns, to be sure! Thanks for writing.

  3. Great article Mike! I purchased my 1st Glock 23 in 2013 when I traded in a Beretta 9000s (.40) towards it. I’ve since purchased & gifted a Glock 23 to my dad & my sister. The best gun around…in my opinion!

  4. Thanks again Mike for a great article. I’m in the process of upgrading a police trade-in Glock 22 Gen 2 after sending the slide in for some work. Lone Wolf Distributors did a slide melt, installed a Vortex Venom and Suppressor Height sights. Waiting on a 9mm barrel, extractor, and some magazines from Gun Mag Warehouse and I’m in the dual caliber game. With my deteoriating eye sight this was the easiest and most cost effective way. BTW LWD did a Great Job on my slide and Cerakote.

    1. Honu, yeah, I like Lone Wolf- I’ve only had one of their barrels but it worked very well. I appreciate your comments!

  5. I have a Glock 32c chambered in 357Sig, it is the same size as a 23. It will shoot 40, 357SIG and 9mm. I love it!

  6. Nice article Mike. I enjoy reading your comments about different ‘guns’. I own a gen 2 23, bought it new after reading about the FBI ambush and subsequent 10mm story. That sold me, I sold my Ruger security six .357 and bought the Glock. That was some 20 years ago and I never looked back.
    Funny story – back that 20 years, my buddy said that I should have bought a 9mm 19, something about NATO and the only 9mm at the time that could handle UZI rounds, whatever. We were shooting an old 20# freon bottle from about 20 feet. The 9mm would not penetrate the other side, the .40 blew clean through. Needless to say, he was surprised.
    Kinda wish I still had my Super Blackhawk and the Stainless Security Six, but the wife and all………..oh well. Thanks for reading my ramble.

    1. Sean, I enjoyed your ramble. I’m always glad to hear from fellow shooters. I’m also glad you like your 23 so much. The .40 is no slouch, no matter what some people say. I hope you have continued good luck with it. And, like you, I’m sorry I got rid of my Super Blackhawk – never had a Security-Six but I liked the Blackhawk. Thanks for writing!

  7. As always Mike you did a GREAT job on this review also. I have an M&P .40 that was a Police trade- in at Buds, and I like it a lot but I was interested in a smaller frame. I have the G19 (awesome) and I carry the G26. I believe the 23 is the same size as the 26 ? Thanks for ALL your writing Mike !!

    1. Bill, yeah, I think the 26 and 23 are the same size. It would make sense to get a 23 since you have the M&P already (nice gun, that). I appreciate your kind words – thanks for writing!

  8. Mike, superb article! I bought a 23 in gen 2 when it came out and it’s still going strong. I like Glocks and all pistols and see some great things that each manufacturer has brought to the table. We are truly in a golden age. Keep up the great work!

    I think a previous poster asked about the Glock size on a 23 and 26. The 23 is the same size as the 19. Thanks.

    1. Mark, glad you’ve had such good experiences with your Glocks and I agree about the golden age – hopefully manufacturers can catch up and cover up dealer’s bare shelves. Also, good point about the 23 being similar to the 19 in size. It is larger than the 26. Thanks for writing!

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