Every year, Detroit, Tokyo and Berlin roll out the window dressing for the new models. The new vehicles might have different grills or taillights and perhaps new paint schemes or rally stripes. Though cosmetic alterations are commonplace, meaningful changes in proven models are rare.
In the firearms community, new models of proven guns are much the same. The pistols might have new finishes, new sights or perhaps special grips, but a genuine change comes along but occasionally. Glock’s long-awaited Generation 5 pistol is very much a Glock 17 and maintains the reliability and basic manual-of-arms that have made Gaston’s company successful, but handling and function enhancements make for a genuinely improved gun.
By any standard, the Glock 17 remains a reliable service pistol well worth its cost, and the new model is a genuine improvement without downside. On the other hand, if I had a long-serving Glock that worked for me, I would not rush out to trade it in for the Gen 5. All of that said, the improvements are such that I would recommend a new buyer purchase the new Gen 5 over any other Glock.
How New Is New?
The Glock 17 Gen 5 closely resembles previous pistols, but something tells you the new handgun is different. The slide is beveled near the muzzle as an aid in holstering the handgun in tightly fitted holsters. The front sight is taller than previous types and the rear sight is cut with a wider sighting notch. The barrel is considerably different than earlier versions for several reasons, but one rises above the rest: The barrel in the Gen 5 is cut with conventional rifling. The previous polygonal rifling has advantages, but it isn’t well-suited to launching lead bullets. Polygonal rifling has a smooth profile without deep grooves in the barrel; there is nowhere for lead deposits to build up. As such, lead will coat the barrel and eventually lead to pressure spikes (though this can vary depending on whether true hard-cast bullets are used). This new “Marksman” barrel is well-suited to use with any type of ammunition.
The grip frame itself features a flared magazine well. The flare is modest but provides a significant advantage in rapidly replenishing the ammunition supply.
Beyond the new rifling, the Gen 5 barrel employs a lockup more similar to the Glock 19s than the previous 17s and thus isn’t interchangeable with said 17s. It also features a recessed barrel crown, which is a nice touch.
Accuracy potential should be high. The grip frame is reasonably textured and offers good hand fit for most shooters. The finger grooves found on most Glocks are gone, and four back strap panels ship with the pistol from the factory. These grip panels accommodate the largest of hand sizes; I used the thinnest grip that added a nice beavertail to the top of the frame.
The grip frame itself features a flared magazine well. The flare is modest but provides a significant advantage in rapidly replenishing the ammunition supply. Using the proper technique — angling the magazine in and then slamming it home — this improvement makes for sure handling. During practice, I slam the magazine home and then grasp the slide by the rear and release. The ambi slide lock is a moot improvement for me, but it makes for easier administrative handling.
The magazines now have orange followers and the base pads are thicker, almost qualifying as bumper pads. The Glock 17 ships with three magazines, and in a day when some makers (and not just those in the bargain-basement crowd) deliver handguns with a single magazine, this is noteworthy.
I’ve fired the pistol extensively — nearing the 1,100-round mark — and I cannot detect an advantage or disadvantage in the new trigger.
The strengthening pin applied to the action is omitted, but since there isn’t a .40 S&W model planned for the Gen 5 platform, this doesn’t really matter. There are incremental improvements that make for a better handgun, but the improvements are not obvious in firing. For example, a coil spring rather than a flat spring now tensions the takedown lever. The safety plunger is cut at a different angle, and the striker is thicker than in previous generations.
The firing pin channel is teardrop-shaped in profile. I’ve examined many handguns with dirt, debris, unburned powder and brass shavings in their channels, and this new design seems a step forward for reliability. Glock tells us the lockwork doesn’t interchange with older handguns, so current aftermarket parts will not fit the Gen 5.
Trigger compression broke exactly at the standard 5.5-pound mark. I’ve fired the pistol extensively — nearing the 1,100-round mark — and I cannot detect an advantage or disadvantage in the new trigger. It feels the same as my other Glock handguns. Reset might be sharper, but then this might not be true, as this is a new gun and my other Glocks are more than well-used. Do not expect a different trigger action with the Gen 5, as there is no difference in the feel or compression. While doing this evaluation, I found that the new grip without finger grooves worked better for me than the previous iterations, but your mileage might vary.
‘Range Is Hot!’
For this evaluation, I completely cleaned the pistol and lubricated the single spot that the owner’s manual deemed in need of lubrication. Next, I loaded the magazines with a standard handload comprised of the Oregon Trail 125-grain lead round-nose over enough WW231 powder to yield 1,080 feet per second. At this point, there have been no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject in 1,000 rounds, but light loads such as this one, intended for economical, low-recoil practice, do not always function well in all autos. The Gen 5 never failed to feed this load and, firing from the retention position — a sure test of function — and at man-sized targets at 7 and 10 yards, the Glock turned in a fine performance.
Clearly, the Glock Gen 5 is accurate enough for personal defense, though the 9mm Luger demands careful attention to load selection.
Next load up was the Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain jacketed hollow-point, one of my standards for excellent accuracy in a number of 9mm handguns. Clocking 1,100 feet per second from most 9mm pistols, this pairing offers a good balance of expansion and penetration coupled with excellent control. I followed with a heavyweight bullet: the Speer Gold Dot 147-grain at 980 feet per second. Even with a heavier diet, the Glock remained docile to fire and accurate on paper. Last on the line was a +P loading: Winchester’s 124-grain PDX at 1,203 feet per second. Recoil increased, but the pistol remained controllable.
I fired the pistol for accuracy from two firing positions. First, I sent a five-round group at 25 yards with each of the service loads from a standing barricade rest. Groups were 2.6 to 4 inches — excellent results for a service pistol from such a position. Next, I used a Brownells Bullshooter rest to test the pistol for absolute accuracy. Firing carefully and taking every advantage, groups were more consistent — 2.5 to 3 inches.
Clearly, the Glock Gen 5 is accurate enough for personal defense, though the 9mm Luger demands careful attention to load selection. A balance of penetration and expansion is imperative, though shot placement — and hitting what you’re shooting at in the first place — remains more important than any other factor.
New Dog, New Tricks
The Glock Gen 5 features improvements that are incremental rather than sweeping. Depending on your needs, one upgrade might be more important than the other. The ambidextrous slide lock would likely be most important to left-handed shooters, and handloaders will appreciate the “Marksman” barrel more than most. Glock improved an already reliable and effective handgun, and, with logical upgrades, the Glock Gen 5 is well worth your time to investigate.