I purchased my first Glock pistol — a 9mm Glock 19 (or “G19,” to use Glock’s official terminology) — around 1991 or ‘92 to carry off-duty. Because I was so impressed with its ease of operation and reliability, I selected the G19 as the official training pistol at our police academy — where it serves to this day. I also inherited a G17 with full-capacity magazines my parents had purchased in advance of the Clinton Assault Weapons ban. It is one of the most highly prized guns in my collection.

In 2002, I was certified as a Glock factory armorer and learned more about the Glock operating system. I’ve purchased and reviewed several Glocks over the span of my writing career. So I guess you could say I’m familiar. Because of this, I was tasked with answering some of the internet’s most frequently asked Glock questions. Let’s dive in.

What Are the Differences Between the Glock 17 and the Glock 19?

The 9mm G17 was the very first Glock pistol, coming to our shores in 1983. It was so named because the patent was the 17th for the Glock company. All subsequent models are numbered sequentially from that point.

The G17 is a full-sized police duty and military sidearm. It was designed to be carried by uniformed personnel in a belt holster. It is absolutely outstanding for its intended purpose but a bit large for comfortable concealed carry unless you are a large individual.

Introduced in 1988, the compact G19 was the next logical evolution of Glock’s design. It is slightly reduced in both size and magazine capacity from the G17. Barrel length was reduced from approximately 4.5 inches to 4 inches, and magazine capacity was reduced from 17 rounds to 15 to accommodate a shorter grip frame. Overall weight was reduced by 2 ounces.

The G19 immediately found favor among plainclothes police officers and later by the ever-increasing number of concealed carry permit holders. While it is more easily carried than the G17, it can’t compete for comfort and concealability with the newer subcompact and micro Glock models. But it is certainly more practical for concealment than a G17 and gives up little tactical advantage.

What Are the Differences in Glock Generations?

The various Glock generations represent a gradual evolution in product improvement. The generational changes really only apply to the full-sized, compact and subcompact “original” models. (The newer micro Glocks don’t have any generational changes … yet.)

Gen1: The original G17. Its distinguishing features are a pebble grain stippling covering the entire grip surface. The G17 also featured a rather delicate polymer adjustable rear sight that was replaced by a more rugged fixed rear sight.

Gen2: While the side panels of Gen2 pistols remained stippled, the frontstrap and backstrap were given a checkered surface.

Gen3: Molded-in finger grooves were added to the frontstrap — a feature that was very popular at the time. A molded-in accessory rail was added to the front of the frame on full- and compact-sized pistols. An additional locking block pin was added to the 9mm frames.

Gen4: Checkering replaced stippling on the side of the frame, and a system of replaceable backstraps was added to tailor-fit the gun to the user. An MOS system allowing easy addition of red-dot sights also became available. The magazine release button was enlarged and made reversible. A dual recoil spring system reduced recoil.

Gen5: Currently applied only to 9mm Glocks. The frontstrap finger grooves were removed, giving, in my opinion, a much better “like the original” feel. The locking block pin was removed. The magazine well was slightly flared to speed reloads. The slide stop lever was made ambidextrous. The rifling and crown of the barrel were modified for increased precision.

If you already have an older generation Glock and it works for you, there is really no reason to trade up to a later generation — unless of course you simply want a new one!

Which Is the “Best” Glock?

Determining the “best” Glock is entirely up to the user. The Glock operating system is always exactly the same. The only differences between various models are size, magazine capacity and caliber. What works best for an individual depends upon the mission the pistol will fulfill — home defense, concealed carry, deep concealed carry, competition, informal target shooting or defense on the trail. Current calibers are .380, 9mm, .40, .357, .45 ACP, .45 GAP and 10mm.

It may take some experimentation (and a few purchases) to find the one which works best for you. And don’t discount purchasing used Glocks. They are among the guns least likely to be traded due to mechanical problems.

Which Is the Most Powerful Glock?

This one is pretty easy to answer. There are two calibers that rank as the absolute powerhouses of the Glock lineup. They are the .357 SIG G31, G32 and G33 and the 10mm G20, G29 and G40. The .357 SIG matches the power of the legendary .357 Magnum in similar bullet weights. The .357 SIG delivers devastating power above that possible from the 9mm, .40 or even .45.

The 10mm is the most powerful conventional pistol cartridge available bar none. When firing full-power loads from the long-slide G40, the 10mm rivals the power of the .41 Magnum. Glock realized the 10mm’s potential years ago and never gave up on the round, sometimes being the only handgun maker with 10s in production. If I needed big bear country backup that was easy to carry, the compact G29 would likely be my choice.

Any cartridge’s power is reduced as the barrel length is shortened. However, the power output of the .357 and 10mm will still exceed that of other calibers in the Glock lineup given equal barrel length. The only downside of the .357 and 10mm rounds is the cost of ammunition and, especially in the case of the .357, availability.

In Conclusion…

Hopefully this has unraveled the “mysteries” surrounding Glock and answered questions many of those exploring Glocks as self-defense options have. Did we miss your question? Rest assured that the editors and writers at USCCA will always work to provide the answers you need. Drop it in the comments below or over in the USCCA Community.

About Scott W. Wagner

After working undercover in narcotics and liquor investigations, Scott W. Wagner settled down to be a criminal justice professor and police academy commander. He was also a SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader before his current position as patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. Scott is a police firearms instructor certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.