When someone says ‘polymer handgun’ the first thing that pops into the minds of many shooters is Gaston Glock’s Safe Action pistol. Developed by a firearms newbie (old Gaston made curtain rods and knives in his garage workshop long before he designed a pistol), the Glock 17 was revolutionary for its time. Built around the Austrian Army’s criteria for a new replacement for worn out Steyr pistols, the Glock had only 33 parts, a polymer frame and held an amazing 17-rounds in each polymer magazine. Today, in their fourth generation of evolution, the full sized Glock handgun comes in versions chambered for 9x19mm (Model 17), .45ACP (Model 21), .40S&W (Model 22), .357SIG (Model 31), and the unique .45GAP (Model 37). The 10mm auto caliber Model 20 hasn’t made the jump over to the 4th Generation as of yet, and with the decline in popularity of that round, may never.
Ergonomics and Recoil
Gaston Glock designed the canted grip of the gun to about 110-degrees, which is about the same as a Ruger MkII rimfire pistol or a 1900s era Luger P08. This is a little sharper than most other pistol manufacturers and takes a little getting used to by those who are familiar with a ‘straighter’ grip such as that found on the 100-degree Colt 1911. Early 1980s and ‘90s Glocks have very rough, blocky grips whereas the new Gen 4 designs have a new system of finger grooves in the front, stippling on the grip sides and come with three detachable modular backstraps to semi-customize to the shooter’s hand. The 17/22/31 model is also a winner in the overall thinness category, which earns points in the concealed carry community. Recoil on various models is acceptable but the beefy Model 21, with its double stack of .45ACP rounds, is notoriously hard on the hands of small statured shooters.
The new models have a reversible and enlarged magazine catch that comes standard in right-handed operation, but can be swapped over for southpaws. The slide release, however, is right side only. Striker-fired, there is no hammer or decock to get in the way which streamlines training while eliminating potential appendages for clothing to snag on.
Trigger and Accuracy
The Glock trigger has a ‘trigger within a trigger’ pivoting system that helps eliminate the possibility of the pistol firing unintentionally due to inertia or impact. Trigger pull with this design is right at 5.5-pounds, which is firmly in the realm of a single-action gun, however the trigger travels just a hair under a half-inch which kind of creeps to some extent when compared to other pistols in the class.
Accuracy of the pistol is rather impressive, with a long and workable (6.5-inch) sight radius across a smooth plain of monolithic slide top. Polygonal, right-hand rifling with a 1: 9.84-inch length of twist (in 9mm) contributes to the pistol ‘doing its part’.
Reloading and Disassembly
Glock magazines have a polymer shell enclosing a metal liner, which can be seen around the feed lips. These mags on the Gen 4 guns are some of the strongest in the industry and have an extremely stout spring. We here at TGR are no ‘girly men’ (did we mention the Glock comes from Austria?) but still could not load the final rounds in test G17/22/21 mags without the aid of the enclosed mag loader that ships with the pistol. However, once left loaded for a couple weeks the mags became ‘broke in.’
Field stripping a full sized Glock is not a problem with a cleared weapon. Simply remove the magazine, check the chamber for brass and ammo, work the trigger and push the slide back slide back slightly, and then depress the take down buttons to release and ease off.
Reliability and Durability
The Glock is one of the most durable pistols ever made. For decades, there have been legions of field testers that have abused the pistol with everything from cement mix, potting soil, and vanilla pudding, encased it in ice, Jell-O, and other oddball media, buried it, thrown it from airplanes and dropped thousands of rounds through it. There are early model 9mm Glocks with more than 300,000 rounds through them that are still ticking.
While Glock’s standard warranty is just one year, most report and find that if you do have issue even decades later, the factory is there to assist gratis –so long as it’s not full of pudding when you send it to them. With millions of these pistols out there and the company holding armorer classes every day, odds are there is someone close to you that can affect any repair.
The Glock is something of the people’s champion. Through its Blue Label program and liberal deals made to agencies of all size, Glock has long cornered the law enforcement market. This has led to the gun being wide spread in all levels of society. However, the design, while revamped every few years, seems a little dated when compared to the newer HK and S&W products that offer better ergonomics. Still, at a price point in the $400 range and its near universal acceptance, it’s hard to beat.