Ask virtually any handgun enthusiast to describe a Glock pistol and you’ll invariably hear words such as simple, reliable, and rugged. With the company's insatiable quest for perfection, the Glock Gen4 redesign achieved an improvement on that legendary perfection.
Since 72 percent of the nation’s law enforcement officers carry Glocks and since Glock enjoyed a 73 percent increase in sales over the past year, you might also hear terms like popular and pervasive. Glock pistols regularly appear in movies and television shows and stoke such brand loyalty that furious rivalries and humorous anecdotes abound. Here’s a good one: A 1911 is what you show your friends. A Glock is what you show your enemies. A Glock Gen4.
As for the reliability of Glocks: They just work … Pull the trigger and they go bang—every time. You could describe Glocks as boring—in all the right ways.
As for Glock’s advertising slogan, “Perfection” must be something for which the company continually strives. So, Glock’s latest rendition of its revolutionary design, the Generation 4 series, must be more perfect than the previous generations. Is it?
Glock started designing pistols in 1980 and the Austrian army approved the Glock 17 (so named because it was the company’s 17th patent) for use in 1982. The Glock 17 was obviously a first-generation pistol and visually identified by its smooth, rounded “pebble grip.” Second generation Glocks changed to a “grenade-style” checkering on the grips. Third generation Glocks added finger grooves on the grips as well as an accessory rail on the front dustcover. Some Glocks are described as a “Generation 2.5”—a transition model when Glock added finger grooves but no accessory rail. Enter Glock’s Generation 4 pistols, or as they are stamped on the slides of these new guns, “Gen4.”
Gen4 versions of the Glock 17 and Glock 22 are shipping now. Gen4 versions of the Glock 19 and Glock 23 pistols will ship in June, 2010. After that, Gen 4 versions of the Glock 26 and Glock 27 will ship. Glock National Sales Manager Craig Dutton says this schedule demonstrates Glock’s commitment to law enforcement.
GLOCK GEN4 ADVANTAGES
According to Dutton, the 2010 Glock Gen4 guns “are a major external and internal re-design of what Glock has offered in the past” and he says the Gen4 pistols offer several major advantages: less recoil due to slower slide velocity; better fit for smaller-handed shooters thanks to the smallest circumference short-grip frame Glock has ever offered and the shortest trigger reach Glock has ever offered; better fit for larger-handed shooters thanks to the two additional “snap-on” full-length backstraps that come with every Glock pistol; easier magazine release manipulation from a new magazine catch that is both three times larger and reversible; great accuracy thanks to a tighter lock-up; and easier-to-grip Gen4 RTF4 frame with pointed “pyramids” instead of checkering.
As important as what’s new with the Gen4 is what isn’t: It’s still the rugged, reliably feeding pistol it’s always been. Field stripping is the same as with previous generations. Gen4 pistols will fit Gen3 holsters. Moreover, for law enforcement budget watchers, Dutton says Glock will keep law enforcement pricing the same as it has been since 2000.
The most significant visual differences in the Glock Gen4 pistols and the ones most likely to garner the interest of both law enforcement and the general shooting public are the interchangeable backstraps and the magazine release.
GLOCK GEN4 BACKSTRAPS
Gen4 Glocks ship with two extra backstraps, each of which fit over the “short frame” or standard grip. The distance from the standard backstrap—the “short frame”—to the trigger is 70mm. The medium and large backstraps increase the distance to 72mm and 74mm, respectively. I tried all three. The short frame felt the best, the medium was tolerable, and the large reminded me of the grip feel of a Glock 21—simply too big. All the grip options had that familiar Glock feel but for me the option of the smaller short frame grip made holding the Glock even more comfortable.
Practically, if you’ve had to choose a Glock 23 in order to avoid the longer trigger reach of a Glock 22, the Gen4 pistols eliminate that problem.
Backstrap interchangeability on the Glock Gen4 pistols do not affect any of the pistol’s moving parts, but the large backstrap requires a longer trigger mechanism pin, which is included with each pistol, along with a plastic punch tool to remove and install the trigger mechanism pin. Changing the backstraps requires a few steps, all outlined in the included instruction sheet: remove the trigger mechanism pin with the punch tool, snap the larger backstrap in place, and re-insert the trigger mechanism pin. In changing the backstraps, the larger ones proved difficult to seat correctly and the punch tool a bit feeble to the task but once installed they straps stayed in place.
Related to the interchangeable backstraps, the other significant visual change was the “pointed pyramids” texture on the frame/grips that replaces the more traditional Glock checkering. The Gen4 RTF4 frame, as it’s called, is not as aggressive feeling as the RTF2 military grip, says Dutton. It is, however, a different feel—the pointed pyramids could be described as sharp—but they improved my grip on the Glock when shooting it.
While the availability of interchangeable backstraps allows individual shooters the ability to customize a Glock pistol to fit their hands, the new magazine release on the Gen4 pistols may be just as significant a change.
Glock Gen4 magazine releases are three times larger than those in previous generations. Combined with my preferred short frame grip, I found it to be significantly easier to engage the magazine release during magazine changes. Although you can reverse the magazine release and install it on the other side of the grip (a 30-second operation, according to Glock), I left it in the traditional location. The new magazine release works on a pivot as opposed to the previous generation’s straight-in plunge. No surprise, the Gen4 release provided very positive engagement and little concern of accidental engagement.
Previous generation magazines will work in the Gen4 pistols provided the magazine release stays on the left side; Gen4 magazines will work in previous generation Glocks.
While Dutton says that field stripping, cleaning and safety instructions remain the same across Glock lines, some Glock Gen4 parts will not interchange with previous generation parts. These include the frame, slide, trigger bar, magazine catch, recoil spring assembly, back-strap assemblies, trigger mechanism housing, and trigger mechanism housing pin. Gen4 pistols have a new stainless-steel, double-wound, two-stage, recoil spring assembly that Dutton says offers twice the recoil-spring rated service life as previous Glocks—5,000-plus rounds for Gen4 G22 springs versus 2,500 rounds for Gen3 G22 springs.
SHOOTING FOR PERFECTION
Shooting previous generation Glocks was and still is great but shooting the Glock Gen4 was a joy. The reduced recoil combined with the short frame (no larger backstrap added) grip yielded faster and more accurate shooting. Every round fed perfectly—reliable—and fired to point of aim—accurate. Magazine changes were easier and therefore more efficient—simple. Was it “perfection”? No. According to Dutton, however, that term accurately describes what Glock is striving to do: make the most dependable pistol on earth.
This article appeared in the May 10, 2010 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.