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For those of us who are into handguns and have not been living under a rock for the past 3 decades or so, the name Glock has come to be a household word in the shooting universe. People who may have never held a gun (let alone a Glock) recognize the name. It’s a brand that has grown to be very successful. It is estimated that sixty-five percent of U.S. police agencies use some form of Glock or another.
Another fact: the U.S. is one of 48 countries around the world that uses Glock pistols. Considering that the gun was designed by a man who knew next to nothing about pistol design, the story is even more remarkable. Gaston Glock sold curtain rods and knives to the Austrian military, and was familiar with injection-molded parts. His team designed the Model 17 pistol to help the Austrian military who needed to adopt a new sidearm, and a firearms legend was born. (The “17” represents the 17th patent that the Glock corporation was issued – that’s where the different models get their numbers). The gun has gained an enviable market share around the world.
Love ‘Em Or Hate ‘Em
Shooters tend to either be Glock fans or detractors – not much middle ground there. I am one of those rare birds who is in the middle with my opinion of Gaston’s wunderkind. I owned a Model 30 .45 ACP for a good while and had an aftermarket barrel for it so I could shoot my cast bullet handloads. It performed well without being overly showy. Gun eye candy it wasn’t. I called Glocks in another article I’d written the Chevy Impala of the pistol industry. The Impala is a good, mid-price car that is a popular choice among car buyers – reliable and well-designed without being overly showy. The Glock suffices for its intended purpose without costing an arm and a leg. It will get the job done in an utilitarian manner, just like the Impala. They are not glamorous, if such a term could be used to describe a lethal weapon. As stated above – they suffice for their intended purpose and tend to be very reliable. All those police agencies buying into the Glock system is a pretty good endorsement.
The Police Connection
So, we have a rather plain, polymer pistol that is very reliable being used by the majority of police departments in the U.S. What does that mean for the civilian shooter? You know, the average guy or gal who shoots recreationally on the weekends. Or those who compete in various pistol matches. Or those shooters who carry a gun for protection or have one in their vehicle or nightstand. How important is that sixty-five percent? A lot of shooters tend to gravitate towards guns used by the military or police.
Think back: how popular did the 1911 get to be with civilian shooters after being used in two world wars plus numerous other “police actions” and battles? It gained a loyal following over many decades. Over a century after its introduction, it still has its share of shooters who would not compete, carry, practice, etc. with any other type of gun. It was THE semiautomatic pistol for big-bore bullseye competitions for years. Another example of its popularity and continued longevity was Jeff Cooper’s ringing endorsement. That didn’t hurt anything in the action shooting or concealed-carry worlds, to be sure. The 1911 is only one example. What other military-adopted guns boast a loyal following? Let’s just concentrate on handguns – we know how well the AR-15 platform has done in the civilian world, not to mention many other long guns. In terms of pistols, how about the newly-adopted (by the Army, at this point) Sig Sauer P320? This gun is now known in military-speak as the M17 (full size) and the M18 (compact).
The Sig P320 is the newest example of a military-issue gun becoming popular with civilian shooters. I asked two different gun store’s employees what they sold more of…the recently-adapted Sig P320 (civilian version) or Brand X? (I won’t mention the specific brand I asked about). Both gentlemen told me that, all things being equal between those two guns, the Sig was winning in sales because of that military connection. A lot of shooters, it seems, take the military adoption of a firearm as a seal of approval that they can buy into. So, it does matter that Glocks are popular with police departments and military units in terms of civilian adoption and use…I’m sure that helps boost their sales numbers.
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Let’s Get Specific
Narrowing it down a bit, let’s look at Glock’s best sellers. In terms of caliber, the 9mm rules the roost for Glock. And, of over fifty pistol models Glock sells, their very-best-seller is the 9mm Model 19. This compact pistol packs 15+ 1 rounds in a smallish package. I know of many people who carry this model, as it seems to hit the optimal middle ground between conceable size and capacity. Glock makes twenty different 9mm model pistols. I put together a chart comparing specifications for the most popular models as well as an extended version comparing all twenty, for all you detail-oriented shooters. To be sure, some of these models are pretty scarce in gun shops as they tend to fulfill a very specific purpose (example: long-range competition, which the Model 34 excels at). So, before we crunch all the chart’s numbers, let’s look at the most popular Glock 9mms in some detail.
In general, here is a quick, condensed listing of most of Glock’s models and Glock’s MSRP prices. Real-world pricing will be somewhat lower.
That’s the condensed list. Are you a numbers guy? Here is the extended version of all the 9mm Glocks available and you can click on the header to sort them (Table is best viewed on PC or Tablet):
Some Definitions, Please
Before we look at individual models, a little explanation is needed. If you glance at the table below, you will see “MOS” and “FS” listed after some models. MOS stands for Modular Optic System. On these guns, the frame has been modified by milling a slot in front of the rear sight to accept a red dot or other sight’s mounting plate; it is covered with a filler when not being used. FS means the guns includes Front (slide) Serrations. Those pistols marked FS have serrations on the front part of the slide to aid in manipulating the slide, in addition to the standard rear serrations. (An interesting side note…many shooters had asked Glock to include front serrations on all their newer guns, but it was only applied to those guns that are marked FS).
Gen What? What’s The Difference?
An explanation of Glock’s “Gen”(generation) is in order, if we are to keep this article as helpful as possible for those of you considering the purchase of a Glock. A “Generation” in Glock terminology equates to other companies coming out with “Mod 2”, “2.0”, etc. It basically designates a major overhaul of features on their guns. The feature changes (usually referred to as upgrades) could be several smaller ones, a few “big” important ones, or a combination of both in order to qualify to become the next generation. The idea is that, with so many upgrades made, a new designation is required to separate the newer guns from the older ones. So, here we go, from the original Glock (now called Gen1) through the newest generation as of this writing, the Gen5.
Gen1 – Introduced in 1982
The original, bare-bones Glock Model 17. This gun is identified by its relative lack of stippling or texturing on the frame and no finger grooves. This is the Glock that originally equipped the Austrian military. They placed an order for 25,000 pistols in 1983. Here’s an interesting note: In addition to the Model 17 pistols sold to the military were Model 18s – a Model 17 with selective-fire capability that fired between 1100-1300 RPM. A compensated version of this gun was offered, as well (Model 18C). This was technically a machine pistol and as such, was subject to the regulations and fees imposed on the ownership of machine guns as those individuals found out who attempted to buy one.
Gen2 – Introduced in 1988
- Added stippling to the front and back straps and trigger guard;
- A steel plate with the gun’s serial number was embedded in front of the trigger guard to satisfy the BATF;
- An integrated recoil spring assembly replaced the original two-piece spring and tube;
- The magazine’s floor plate and follower were modified.
Gen3 – Introduced in 1998
- An accessory rail (“Universal Glock Rail”) was added to the frame;
- Thumb rests on both sides were added to the frame;
- Finger grooves were added to the front of the grip strap;
- Later 3rd Gen models used a modified extractor that served as a loaded chamber indicator;
- The locking block was enlarged and reinforced by an extra pin;
- Frames came in colors: black, olive or FDE;
In 2009, the Model 22 RTF2 (.40 S&W) was given a rough, textured finish and fish-gill-shaped slide serrations and new checkering around the grip. Other models to be made available with the RTF2 treatment included the 31, 32, 23, 21, and 19, although not all had the fish-gill-shaped serrations.
Gen4 – Introduced at the SHOT Show, 2010
- Originally two models (17 and 22) were given updates on ergonomics and the recoil spring assembly;
- These pistols also had a rougher-textured frame, grip checkering and interchangeable backstraps;
- The grip frame (trigger reach) was shortened, but could be changed to that of the Gen3 guns with the replacement of the trigger housing pin and the backstrap (different sizes included). The medium backstrap matches the Gen 3 grip;
- The magazine release was made larger and reversible for left-handed shooters;
- All Gen4 guns now use a dual recoil spring assembly, (heretofore only used on compacts) with corresponding slide and frame modifications to allow for the larger spring assembly;
- Magazines were modified with cuts on both sides to accommodate the reversible magazine release – Gen4 magazines will work in older models;
- “Gen 4” is rollmarked on the slide
Gen5 – Introduced in August, 2017
- Originally only the models 17 and 19 were released in Gen5 versions;
- Finger grooves on the frame were eliminated;
- Ergonomic and reliability enhancements were added (many parts are not interchangeable between Gen5 and earlier-model guns);
- The slide stop lever became ambidextrous, appearing on both sides of the gun;
- A new finish, nDLC (nitride diamond-like coating) was implemented;
- The “Marksman” barrel was incorporated – a match-grade barrel with new polygonal rifling;
- A deeper barrel crown was introduced;
- A half-moon cut in the front of the bottom of the grip frame was implemented in order to facilitate extraction of stuck magazines;
- The magazine well was flared;
- The larger, reversible magazine release button was retained as was the ability to change backstraps that the Gen4 models introduced;
- The locking block pin above the trigger pin that was added to Gen3 guns was omitted;
- Magazines were modified, i.e. the floor plated was lengthened to ease grasping the magazine, and the follower was colored orange;
- Several interior action parts have been upgraded;
- “Gen 5” is rollmarked on the slide
OK…Got it? Now let’s look at some of the more common, readily-available models…
Starting with the Model 17, we see a full-size frame and a longer barrel than the smaller models. This gun was the first Glock to go mainstream, as it was adopted by the Austrian military and some police units starting in 1982. I remember when the gun came out – the first “plastic pistol” to go worldwide (the H&K VP70 technically was the first polymer pistol, introduced in 1970 for the German market). The anti-gunners were all worked up that this “plastic gun” would be invisible to airport metal detectors, and some in the shooting community thought the gun would fail because of concerns they had as to the durability of the gun’s frame. Neither concern amounted to anything – they simply did not happen. Instead, the pistol’s reliability and innovative design endeared it to not only military and police units but to civilians as well. The gun has, on average, only 35 parts…talk about simplicity! My brother has a Gen 4 Model 17 that he really likes. I have shot it and was impressed. The 17 is not really made for concealed carry, but instead is more at home in a police officer’s Level 3 Retention holster or in a tactical rig on the leg of a military SOE operative due to its size.
The Model 17 comes in Gen 3, 4 and 5 versions. If you like finger grooves (or not), you are in luck – just buy the generation that has what you want. Need a competition gun? Pick up a Gen4 or Gen5 MOS and mount a red-dot sight on it. Want a plain-jane all-around shooter? Get a Gen3 and save some money (if you can still find one). The Model 17, as stated above, started it all.
OK…now let’s look at a compact 9mm. Being the best-selling Glock made, the Model 19 has its share of enthusiastic users out there. Also, let’s not forget the after-market parts industry. The Model 19 probably has more third-party parts available than any other Glock. That said, the Model 19 is just about perfect for IWB- or OWB-concealed carry with its 4-inch barrel, slim inch-and-a-quarter width and 15 rounds in the magazine. I wrote before about how this pistol is the mirror that other compact 9mms are held up in front of to see how they measure up.
I know several people who carry a Model 19 and love it. It is no coincidence that Glock chose to release the Model 17 and the Model 19 first in their Gen5 configuration. They evidently reasoned that the 17, with its law enforcement following was a natural to get out to the public. The Model 19, being the best-selling Glock, was another sure bet in Gen5.
The only complaint I’ve heard about the Gen5 Model 19 concerns the cutout at the front bottom of the frame – some shooters say it hurts their hand, as it lies at the point where their hand’s heel and palm meet the frame. The sharp edge is the culprit, they say. This doesn’t seem to be an issue with the Model 17 due to its longer grip frame. This issue was addressed in the new Model 45 (below). Other than this issue, the Gen5 Model 19 has been well received.
Just as with the Model 17, there are several variations available for the Model 19. Depending upon your need, there is a configuration that should work for you. For competitors needing a red dot sight, the MOS models are indicated. You get the added benefit of forward slide serrations with those models, as well.
In addition to the availability of Gen3, 4 and 5 Model 19s, the fairly-new 19X is available now as well. That’s a Model 17 frame mated with a Model 19 slide and barrel. For the first time, a slide color other than black is used – the 19X has what Glock calls a “coyote” (tan) colored slide and frame. Other differences include an nPVD (physical vapor deposition) finish to prevent corrosion and the Gen5 Marksman barrel. These models incorporated some of the Gen5 updates in order to be submitted for military trials. The Army adopted the Sig P320 instead of the Glock as we know, but Glock kept the gun for commercial sales and called it the 19X. The 19X was billed as a “crossover” pistol for using a full-size frame and a compact slide/barrel. So, if you want a longer grip frame to hang on to but still want the compact Model 19-length barrel and slide, the 19X is for you. You can read my full Glock 19X review here.
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Here we have Glock’s double-stack subcompact 9mm. The Model 26 is a favorite backup gun among law enforcement officers and a prime candidate for purchase by civilian concealed carriers. At only a little over four inches high, this gun disappears in an IWB holster. When you carry a gun concealed, especially inside your waistband, the height of the gun is important. The higher (or taller) the gun is, the harder it is to hide the grip frame as it tends to stick out and print under your garment. That’s why compact and subcompact guns usually come with a flush-fit magazine and sometimes an extended one as well. Most folks carry the flush-fit magazine in the gun with the longer one as a spare. The shorter the height of the gun, the easier it is to conceal, generally speaking. That’s why the Model 26 is so popular, being only a shade over four inches in height.
It is still made in Gen3, along with Gen4 and Gen5. This model is also able to use the greatest number of Glock 9mm magazines, eight. This gun’s standard capacity is ten rounds, but it can use all the Glock magazines up to thirty-three rounds. That’s versatility! Many people will buy a Model 26 in order to get the concealability it offers, and they also realize that they have the ability to use up to a thirty-three-round magazine. This is the best of both worlds for them.
The long-range specialist…the Model 34 was designed to be accurate “way out there.” It uses the longest barrel that Glock puts in a 9mm pistol, a 5.3 inch tube. This gun is a mainstay at competitions that require longer-range shooting. It is also a favorite of SWAT teams. What makes it so accurate? The longer barrel? The barrel length helps by ensuring that velocity is kept up. The main factor that aids accuracy is the approximate 7.5 inches between the front and rear sights. The further apart the sights are, the greater the chances of increased practical accuracy. Sights are about 5.3 inches apart on a Model 26 – that’s a pretty big difference. The guns, obviously, serve two different purposes but I use the shorter-barreled gun as an example to point out just how long the barrel on the Model 34 is and how much different the sight radius is. Generalizations are difficult to make, but all else being equal, most shooters would be more accurate from 50-100 yards with the Model 34 than any shorter-barreled, shorter-sight-radius gun. The fact that Glock sells a goodly amount of these pistols testifies to the fact that it works. Now…if we talk about intrinsic accuracy (the ability of the gun by itself to shoot accurately without human intervention), a lot of Glock 9mms would show they could be accurate at distance. Put a Model 19, say, in a Ransom Rest and see what it does at 50 yards. As for practical accuracy (a shooter holding the gun and shooting the best that he/she can), that’s where the longer sight radius comes in. Generally speaking, as stated above, the further apart the sights are, the better the gun’s practical accuracy.
The Model 34 is not made as a Gen3 gun, only a Gen4 and Gen5. With either of those, however, you can get the MOS version that really brings out the tack-driving accuracy these guns are capable of. Put a good optic on the gun and you’re good, as I said earlier, “way out there!” Such is the Model 34.
Now we come to the only single-stack 9mm that Glock makes. Here we have a gun that will just about fit in your pocket yet has the ability to put 6 + 1 rounds on a target very quickly and accurately. With a loaded magazine aboard, the gun only weighs about 21 ounces. This is a gun you can carry all day and forget that it’s there. I have a friend on a local police force who traded a Beretta to acquire a Model 43. He told me he’s had a little trigger work done on the gun, but that’s the extent of his mods. He carries it daily. I’ve had the chance to shoot with him and his partner at my backyard range and … well, let’s just say that I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of his Model 43’s muzzle. He is good with it, to put it mildly, because he practices with it a lot.
If you are looking for either a primary concealed carry weapon or a backup, the Model 43 is a good choice. It only comes in one flavor right now – you can’t get a Gen5 version – but the one is good enough. A Model 43 and a couple of extra mags will make you good to go. I mentioned carrying this gun in your pocket. This is feasible, and a viable way to pack the 43. This is the only 9mm Glock that I know of that will fit in a pocket. The Model 42 .380 will ride in your pocket, but it’s not a 9mm.
My police officer friend Austin tells me he loves the little gun, as do many police officers who carry them in pockets, on their ankles, inside their waistbands, or anywhere else. It’s the de facto designated go-to backup gun for law enforcement personnel and that is recommendation enough for others to carry it as their main CCW.
Here is the latest gun that Glock has released, as of this writing. Utilizing the 19X’s long frame and shorter slide and barrel, this brand-new gun has at least one design feature that shooters are applauding – Glock did away with the cut-out at the bottom front of the grip frame. Glock took its 19X (that already was partially modified with some Gen5 upgrades) and produced it in black. There isn’t a whole of information out there right now about the Model 45, but what is available is positive. For those of you who want a black Model-17-frame coupled with a black Model-19-slide/barrel, this is for you. I have a feeling that Glock will sell a lot of these. Read my full Glock 45 review here.
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With twenty different 9mm models to choose from, the Glock pistol buyer today has a lot of homework to do. How are you going to use your new gun? Concealed carry? Target/Range? Competition? Law Enforcement? The answer to that question alone should guide you in your selection. But, what if you will use it for more than one purpose? No problem – Glock has you covered. Glock does not make rifles or shotguns, and only make one type of pistol but they have been doing it for over 35 years and seem to have the process down. You can spend more (or less) on a pistol, but, like with the Chevy Impala, you pretty much know what you’re going to get when you plunk down your hard-earned dollars. Consistency and reliability are what you pay for and consistency and reliability are what you get. After all, all those law enforcement agencies, including the F.B.I., know what they want and Glock delivers for them. We might take a lesson from that. So, if you are in the market for a 9mm Glock, check the following table out and maybe it will help you narrow down your prospective choices. Have fun shooting and be safe!