Those of us who know and love Glocks know that the line is all about innovation. This is part of the reason we must compare the Glock 26 Gen 3 vs Gen 4. Starting with the Glock 17, this unique handgun was created to fit the needs of the Austrian military. The designer of the firearm had no history in manufacturing firearms. However, he was a curtain rod manufacturer. Makes perfect sense right?
Actually, it did. Gaston Glock had intimate knowledge of synthetic polymers. The goal of the Austrian military was to have a strong, lightweight handgun that they could rely upon. It needed to have a good magazine capacity and needed to be accurate with minimal recoil. Thus the Glock 17 was created. The contract was won and history was made.
Since its introduction, the Glock accounts for 65% of the handguns used by military and police in the United States. These firearms are used by the armed forces and governments of over 48 countries worldwide. It has undoubtedly become the most prolific handgun of the modern era. Of the different Glock models available, the Glock 26 has become the most sought after conceal and carry handgun on the planet.
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In Glock’s infinite wisdom, they noticed opportunities to make improvements on the original designs of some of these firearms. They started offering small modifications in what they called Generation 3 and Generation 4 models. For a small additional cost, you can purchase the same gun with some noticeable advantages. This has allowed Glock to continue to dominate the market in every sized handgun they produce.
In this article we will break down the debate between the Glock 26 Gen 3 vs Gen 4. This will show you all the little differences that can help you make the right decision between these two handguns. I can tell you that just keeping track of the differences in the different Glock models can be a challenge. Leave it to us to tell you all about the Gen 3 and Gen 4.
Why a G26?
The Glock 26 was introduced in 1995 primarily for the civilian market as a conceal-and-carry weapon. The Glock 19 was functional for conceal and carry, but was a bit bulky. The G26 offered a shorter handle with a two finger grip. It has a smaller frame with a shorter barrel and slide. This makes it the ideal everyday carry weapon.
The gun packs a full 10 rounds in the standard magazine and 12 rounds in an extended magazine. It also can take the magazines from just about any other Glock you might have allowing up to a 33 round capacity. This weapon is still plenty powerful for self-defense, but fits perfectly in an interior waistband holster for concealment. There is very little printing, so most people will not know you are carrying. This brings us to the Glock 26 Gen 4 vs Gen 3.
To give you a point of reference for your comparison of the Glock 26 Gen 3 versus Gen 4, I will detail what you get with the first rounds of Glock 26 produced. The initial model came with a rounded dust cover and a grip that was barely roughened and wrapped all the way around the handle. The magazine was built out of plastic with an interior metal frame, and the barrel profile was much narrower.
The side panels of the handle were slightly raised for a wider rear profile. The front and back straps are straight and have a rough, checkered texture. A third cross pin was added to the assembly to help the polymer frame handle the force created by the locking block. The trigger mechanism was the 15 degree slanted version that is still in use today.
Generation 3 Improvements
In 1998 Glock started making modifications to what they called Gen 3 models. These modifications were mainly for versatility purposes. In my opinion, the most functional change was the addition of the accessory rail to the frame. Glock calls this their Universal Glock Rail, and it is ideal for mounting laser sights or tactical lights to your firearm. For home defense purposes, these are two of the most popular modifications you can make to a Glock. My father is a rookie handgun owner and already has a tactical light on his firearm.
Many Gen 3 models included a new modified extractor that serves as a loaded chamber indicator. This is a nice additional safety and convenience feature. Modifications were made to the locking block including enlarging the block itself and adding an additional cross pin to help distribute force produced by the block. Additional colors were now available for the frame including black, flat, earth, or olive. Also, bright colored frames started being used for dummy or simulation pistols. This is just an additional safety feature for trainers using these tools. The Gen 3 added thumb rests and finger grooves on both sides of the gun to help guide your hand into a correct shooting position. This list of features should give you a baseline for the comparison of the Glock 26 Gen 3 vs Gen 4.
Generation 4 Improvements
The Gen 4 models were rolled out at the 2010 SHOT Show. The improvements focused on reversible features and on ergonomics. Various backstraps of different sizes were now available and a punch was provided to remove the factory trigger housing pin. This allows users to insert the longer cross pin needed for the medium and large backstraps. The modification increased the trigger distance by 2mm.
The standard grip size for the Gen 4 is smaller than the Gen 3. However, with the medium backstrap inserted the grips are identical in size. In addition, checkering was added to the grip texture and the frame was given a rough texture as well. The magazine release catch was made larger and became reversible for left-handed users. Two additional notches were added to the other side of the magazine to allow users to reverse the catch.
All Glock 26 models came factory fitted with a dual recoil spring assembly that increases service life and reduces the feel of recoil. In other Glock models this feature was only added to Gen 4 versions. The front portion of the polymer frame is internally enlarged and widened and the barrel shelf and slide were resized to accommodate the spring assembly. Unique to the Glock 26 Gen 4 was a modified trigger mechanism housing to fit the smaller sized grip space. Now you have the list of modifications to compare the Glock 26 Gen 3 versus Gen 4.
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Which Is Better?
Newer is not always better. One would think that a modified version of a handgun would add features and make the firearm a better option. However, more features does not always equate to a better product. For example, the ambidextrous magazine release on the Gen 4 model was initially prone to malfunction and is still not compatible with previous magazines. One of the best-selling features of the Glock 26 was that magazines from other Glocks can be used with it to increase the magazine capacity. This new improvement eliminates that selling point. However, the issue with malfunction has since been corrected.
Another example is the rougher checkered texture added to the grip of the first Gen 4 models known as RTF2 (Rough Textured frame 2). While it does help maintain a stable grip when firing, it is quite hard on your hand decreasing the comfort of the handle. The Gen 4 models were quickly modified to a RTF3 texture that was less aggressive but still provided additional stability for the user. If you buy a new Gen 4 today, it comes with the RTF3 texture.
Another potential downside of the Gen 4 model is that the changes made to the gun make it incompatible with previous generation models. For most gun owners this is not a big deal, but for the gun collector that may need to interchange parts this can be a very big deal.
The interchangeable backstraps, on the other hand, are quite a nice adjustment. When dealing with shooters that have especially large hands, this can make a huge difference in their comfort when pulling the trigger. This kind of versatility gives the firearm an edge you cannot get with most other guns.
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Fact of the matter is that almost all of the negative aspects of the Gen 4 model have been corrected. The primary reason both generations are still produced is because of contract and certification requirement. It is a technicality more so than anything. Sure there are users that bought early Gen 4 models with problems and have gone back to the Gen 3 because of a bad experience, but they are few and far between.
The choice of a handgun is largely a personal choice, and the feel of the gun at the range might be the best way to decide. If you are left handed, the choice is easy. You have several reasons to pick the Gen 4. For other shooters I feel that the benefits of the Gen 4 outweigh the current deficiencies. In the debate of the Glock 26 Gen 3 versus Gen 4, I give the win to the Gen 4 but by a very small margin. Both firearms could be an excellent choice depending on the person.