Pistol Project Plan: Rock the Glock

I’m a Glock guy. The first handgun I ever got, after getting a stupidly-hard to get NY State pistol permit was a Glock 19 Gen4. And I love it. Since then, I’ve gotten a bunch of other Glocks. I’ve got a Glock 17 Gen4, and I wanted to make this my latest project gun. First, let’s talk a little Glock history, and why I like them so much.

Gaston Glock designed his pistol to meet the needs of the Austrian Army for a new service handgun to replace the Walther P38. Gaston brought in a number of pistol experts to help him with his design; he was not a pistolsmith by training but brought extensive experience in advanced synthetic polymers, which would go into the construction of the pistol. The fancy glass-reinforced plastics used in the frame of the Glock pistol helped drive costs down, and since there are only four small points of metal-on-metal contact between the slide and the frame, Glocks don’t require much lube. Gaston also introduced ferritic nitrocarburizing as an anticorrosion treatment. The result was a pistol whose reliability and durability would become legend. The Glock 17 (so called because it was the seventeenth design), beat out the HK P7M8, HK P7M13, HK P9S, SiG-Sauer P220, SiG-Sauer P226, Beretta 92SF-B, an updated FN Hi-Power, and the Steyr GB. The Glock 17 was also accepted into Norwegian and Sweedish service shortly after winning the Austrian competition. The US DoD was even interested in trialing the pistol in their competition, but the DoD requirements would have meant retooling production in a short timeframe, so Glock declined.

So that’s why everyone loves the Berreta 92, right? The US Army called that gun the M9, and it became the most popular 9mm semiautomatic in Ameri–oh, wait. No, it didn’t. How did Glock do it? Once they had a whole bunch of NATO member military contracts in the bag, they went after the American law enforcement market with gusto. And their timing couldn’t be better. See, it was the 80s, and it was starting to dawn on the police forces of America that six rounds of .38 in a wheelgun and another six in a speedloader in your pocket wasn’t quite enough firepower1. Officers were looking to trade up, and Glock was ready with a super reliable pistol that was tolerant of neglect and could be made way cheaper than the steel-framed competition. Plus, Glock (possibly to overcome the language barrier or something), set up a pretty savvy marketing department, sending plenty of friendly reps to departments. Many of their reps were former police officers, and they brought tons of new pistols to try out on the range, along with plenty of swag. They offered low cost guns and top dollar for trades to appease the accountants, and were easy to get in touch with. So they captured market share in a big way. Currently, something like 65% of US Law Enforcement uses Glocks, including the FBI. Glock pistols are also super popular among the competitive shooter crowd, being the most popular brand by far at USPSA matches.

Glock currently makes pistols in about any reasonable pistol caliber you could want, and a couple oddball ones like 10mm Auto, and they’ve updated their pistols to bring new features to the consumer. Their current models are the Gen4 line, and it brings a bunch of notable improvements. Let’s take a look, and I’ll compare the Glocks to my M&Ps where appropriate. The Gen4s have backstraps now, with two different sizes (medium and large, “small” is accomplished sans backstrap), and they also have two backstraps with a beavertail, in case you get slidebite. Or you may just find those suit you better. Some people (including Fishbreath) aren’t really a fan of Glock’s grip angle. I personally don’t really care, though I’ve actually found myself getting back on target faster with Glocks when compared to other polymer framed handguns, so maybe it helps me keep muscle tension or something. In any case, you can change it now. The backstraps aren’t quite as good at changing the gun size as the M&P ones are, as they do nothing about the girth of the grip. This is not a problem for me, as I have large hands (I use the ‘large’ size backstraps). Others may find this an issue.

The Gen4 Glocks also have introduced a new texture on the grip. It’s much more aggressive than the old texture, or than the texture on the M&P grip, and I find this a significant win for the Glock. I like grippy, aggressively textured guns, and Glocks currently oblige me. If I wanted, I could have the grip stippled, but the current Gen4 texture serves me fine. It’s also not so aggressive that it will tear your hands apart after a long day of shooting.

Glock sights are, frankly, awful. They’re the white-dot-in-a-U design, which I guess is popular in Europe. I do not like them. They are cheap, and are bad enough to make some kind of sight replacement almost a requirement. This might almost be a service to the consumer, as there are many far better sight options out there. In this case, I’ll be getting my slide milled for an RMR, because red dots are awesome, and my M&P proved how good the setup was. If I wanted something else, I could get it for a Glock.

Ubiquity is something that’s great about Glocks. Anything you want for them, you can get for them. Holsters and sights and other accessories come to Glock first, because they’re so common. And Glock magazines, being made of metal-lined plastic, are stupid cheap, and easy to find on sale. More mags is always good, because magazines are a disposable commodity item. Mags wear out. Stock up.

While Glock beats out the M&P in terms of ubiquity, the M&P still takes second place, and is by no means bad (Seriously, compare prices of M&P40 mags with those for, say, a PX4). However, the Glock soundly beats the M&P on the stock trigger front. The M&P stock trigger, as I’ve mentioned, is a mushy mess. The Glock trigger is perfectly reasonable, especially considering that it has to be safe. There’s takeup, which is decently smooth. There’s some mush here, but it’s not altogether bad. Break is somewhere between the crisp and rolling variety. Finally, the reset is crisp and offers both audible and tactile feedback. The Glock trigger is not as good as a 1911 trigger, full stop. On the other hand, it doesn’t have a manual safety like a 1911, and it’s a lot cheaper than any actually worthwhile 1911. Technically, it’s a very light double action only trigger, that’s about two-thirds of the way precocked. Some trigger weight and resistance comes from the fact that you’re still doing a little bit of the cocking work on the striker with your trigger pull. Despite the downsides, the Glock trigger is firmly in the ‘good enough’ camp, and is more or less the standard for comparison.

There are a ton of fancy light competition triggers out there, as well as some parts to make the pull heavier if you want it to feel like an old school double-action only revolver (like the NYPD). I don’t much like making my triggers worse, and I shoot the stock one fine. Since I like to carry most of my Glocks, I won’t switch to a lighter trigger. The stock one is safe. I may try one of the fancy competition kits on my Glock 34 though.

On the M&P, I ended up swapping out the mag release for an extended one. The Glock Gen4 comes with an extended magazine release which is about perfect. It’s long enough to be easily pushed without switching your grip, but short enough that you won’t accidentally trip it when it’s in the holster. It’s a good compromise between a giant competition button and the tiny things that usually come on handguns. I see no reason to change it.

The Glock slide stop is a touch smaller than the one on the M&P. It is not ambidextrous, which isn’t as nice. Not shooting lefty most of the time, I don’t care. And I can always trip it with my trigger finger or slingshot the slide if I’m shooting weak-side. I will say that despite the minor-looking change on the factory “extended” slide stop that comes on the Glock 34 (really, it’s more of a reshaping than anything else), it’s actually a big improvement over the stock one for manipulations. I’ll probably get that upgrade for the rest of my Glocks.

Okay, I know you’re dying to know: which do I like more? That’s tough, but I think the Glock wins out overall. The stock trigger is better, even after applying the upgrade kit to the M&P. There are a lot more possible trigger upgrades for the Glocks, even though that’s not really my thing. Plus, I like the grippier frame better.

1. See: the 1980 Norco shootout and the 1986 Miami shootout, which I’ll probably do a write-up of someday.

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