Firearms of any given type only get one shot (pun intended) at being revolutionary. Take John M. Browning’s 1911 .45 ACP pistol, which is still extremely popular — even 106 years after its introduction. The 9mm Glock 17, introduced in 1982, was also revolutionary.
The 911 was revolutionary for three basic reasons. First, it’s extremely reliable — reliable enough to serve as our primary military sidearm for 74 years and as a law enforcement sidearm for even longer. Second, it’s an extremely accurate handgun, even in its pure military guise. Third, it’s chambered for a cartridge that became renowned for its stopping power against human targets. Like all revolutionary designs, it was — and still is to some extent — controversial.
There have been many modifications to the original 1911 over the years, with the first official updates added to it in the form of the A1 version adopted by the military in 1924. Since then, modifications to the 1911A1 have been developed at an almost non-stop rate. Changes were made in metals used for construction, finishes, calibers, sighting systems and operational controls. All evolutionary, but none revolutionary. There was nothing that was done to the original design that changed the profile or basic operational system save for a few models that used a double-action trigger system (such as the short-lived Colt Double Eagle).
Now the Revolutionary Glock 17
The Glock 17 introduced the first commercially successful semi-automatic combat pistol that used a polymer rather than a steel or aluminum frame. It also introduced the “Safe Action” trigger system that eliminated the need for a manual safety, while providing a lightweight, 5.5-pound trigger pull.
Just like the 1911, the Glock has been a controversial handgun. It was reputed at first to be undetectable by X-ray machines and metal detectors at airports. It was also said to be fragile due to the polymer frame, which everyone “knew” would melt if left in sunlight too long. Once those claims and beliefs were proven to be bogus, the Glock pistol line took off. Today, Glock is still the top choice of law enforcement for duty and off-duty pistols.
The Glock line has undergone several evolutionary modifications in the last 25 years and is currently in its fourth generation (Gen4). There have been new calibers in addition to the 9mm, changes in the grip frame (such as built-in finger grooves), and the addition of Picatinny frame railing for mounting lights and lasers. There is a modular backstrap system that allows Glock to be better tailored to the individual shooter’s hand and an MOS version that allows the mounting of a reflex-type optical sight at the rear of the slide.
I recently tested a Gen5 Glock 19 at the Vance Outdoors indoor range in Columbus, Ohio. I like the Glock 19, as it fits perfectly between the full-sized Glock 17 and the mini Glock 26, blending the best attributes of each. If I could only own one 9mm, the G19 would probably be it.
Currently, only two Glock models have received the Gen5 upgrade — the G17 and G19. Other models are sure to follow. I was suitably impressed and feel the Gen5s are likely the best Glocks yet. Glock states that there are 20 total upgrades to the Gen5s, but I am only going to cover the five major ones that you are actually likely to notice. Here are those five evolutionary upgrades with some commentary.
A new proprietary nDLC finish on all the metal parts.
Since Glock quietly dropped its outstanding Tenifer finish a few years ago, the replacement for it was less than satisfactory. Through 20 years of working with Glocks as a police firearms instructor, I never saw a speck of rust on the barrels or slides of the Tenifer-finished guns. The department Glocks were exposed to extremes of weather and care given by the deputies, but the Tenifer kept the metal in perfect shape. Rust only showed on the aftermarket steel tritium sights of poorly maintained pistols.
A few years ago, I obtained a Glock 21 .45 ACP with the new replacement finish. I only shot and carried it in decent weather. It eventually developed a speck of surface rust between the slide grasping grooves while in my safe! No other guns in the safe showed any rust. I was shocked. This finish upgrade is much needed. I only hope it holds up as well as Tenifer did.
A new Glock Marksman Barrel (GMB) — featuring a new type of rifling and a muzzle crown — to enhance accuracy.
In my test-fire of the Gen5 G19, done from a two-handed standing position at 21 feet, I can’t say that I noticed any practical difference in accuracy between the Gen5 G19 and the previous generation G19s I’ve fired in the past. However, if I had access to a bench and Ransom rest, along with an earlier G19 for comparison, I could likely prove that the GMB is more accurate.
In a throwback to the original Gen1 and Gen2 Glocks, the Gen5 G19 and G17 no longer have finger grooves in the frame.
While I’ve used and owned various finger-groove Glocks, the frame that feels best to me is the groove-free frame on my Gen2 G17. It fits my hand about as well as a 1911, which is saying a lot. The reason that Glock went to the finger grooves is that a lot of consumers, especially law enforcement officers, wanted them and often added Hogue grip sleeves to their smooth-gripped Glocks to get them. I really liked the “new” retro feel of the Gen5. Interchangeable back straps are still included in Gen5 pistols to tailor the grip to the shooter, and Hogue grip sleeves are still available to add a finger-groove feel back to the Gen5s.
A flared magazine well to improve reloads
I actually didn’t notice this feature right away, as the flaring is very subtle. I never felt there was a problem with the previous Glock magazine well, as you were already sliding a large double-stack mag into a fairly large opening in the butt of the gun. However, the flared mag well certainly doesn’t make things worse.
An ambidextrous slide stop
Always a good addition, the ambidextrous slide stop now makes the Gen5 G19 and G17 totally left-handed-shooter-friendly, since the Gen4s included a reversible magazine release button.
Like I said earlier, solid evolutionary changes … but not revolutionary. In fact, Glock might have just reached the pinnacle with their Gen5s, as these changes have been what the general public and law enforcement community have been clamoring for.
If you already have a Gen4 G17 or G19 and are happy with it, I wouldn’t necessarily trade it in for a new Gen5. If you are shopping for a G17 or G19, then the Gen5 is the way to go. Hopefully at this year’s SHOT Show, Glock will be unveiling more Glock models that will be receiving the Gen5 treatment.