Fact: Glock firearms are without a doubt, the most popular and bestselling handguns of our time. Whether you consider yourself a 1911 guy, diehard SIG shooter or Colt collector, the numbers don’t lie. Over 80% of all Law Enforcement agencies in the nation carry some model variation of the Glock pistol. Despite it’s’ Austrian origins, Glock has become America’s handgun of choice due to its relatively affordable cost, ultra-simplistic design, impressive accuracy and ridiculous level of high reliability. This has been the case since the mid-1980s when Gaston Glock’s first pistols arrived on US soil. Until recently however, there have only been three major design changes or “generations” since the original, straight grip, two pin frame hit the market. Given their success with so few changes, this would elude to the conclusion that Glock pretty much got it right on the first try.
This past August, Glock surprised a lot of people with the introduction of what they officially title the Gen 5 series pistols consisting of new versions of the Glock Gen 5 Model 17 and Glock Gen 5 Model 19 chambered in 9mm. This came on the heels of Glock landing major new Federal Law Enforcement and Military contracts over the winter and spring months for both the model 17 and 19 alike. These contract guns were announced to have a few small variations to fit specific contract requirements without going into very much detail. While these may have translated to the civilian Gen 5 series, I do think overall shooter input had a factor in each of the design changes as well.
As with any Glock changes, this came with a huge wave of fanfare and large sales despite most buyers not being able to properly articulate what was so different and special about the new series. Folks, when you can gain sales that way, you have accomplished more power in the market that a manufacturer can ever dream! Only Colt Manufacturing has ever really seen such success in their endeavors.
Within days, tons of online “experts” either praised or criticized the Gen 5, mostly based on nothing more than slight noticeable cosmetics. This would not sit right in my opinion and felt it gave a great disservice for both manufacturer and shooters equally. While both models of the Gen 5 pistols were in our possession for testing immediately after release, it was decided to do a long term look at them to provide a better opinion for our readers.
To start off, I have been shooting Glocks since the early 90’s. I have been a certified Glock Armorer since 2002 and carried a Glock for personal protection. I have served as a former SWAT operator and I have been a certified NRA Firearms Instructor since 1997. To say I am familiar with the Glock platform is an understatement, so I feel confident in being qualified giving my opinion on the subject matter. With that being said, let’s look at what’s been said already and what may have been missed in those “flash” reports on the new Glocks. First, let’s talk about the obvious – the lack of finger grooves, reminiscent of the Gen 1 Glocks. This would be a great sign of how the shooting industry dictates design. One of the biggest trends in the market when the original Glock models came to the United States was adding aftermarket grips such as Pachmayr grips to their handguns to provide finger grooves on their guns. The Gen 3 and 4 Glocks as well as MOS series would all see integrated molded finger grooves. As the years went by, the market would slowly shift to having gunsmiths and garage Dremel tool artist grinding the same grooves off in favor of the freedom to better grip the gun depending on hand size. Glock seems to have took the hint and decided to leave these grooves off the Gen 5 series.
The next are two obvious items, there is a cut out in the front strap and a slightly flared magazine well, again bringing “experts” that haven’t had a lot of time with shooting combat drills to criticize. Those with bigger hands have complained their pinky finger fell into the cut out. Last time I checked, my pinky was far from the primary digit I used to manipulate and grip the pistol, so this wasn’t a major concern in my book. What I specifically liked about this cut out feature is in the redesign of the magazine floor plates. While any Glock mags will work, the Gen 5 mags have a slight forward lip that extends through the front strap cut out. During one-handed magazine changes, this makes for a much faster ability to hook the mag baseplate to the edge of a boot or belt to strip out of the gun quickly. The flared mag well, although slightly angled, does improve magazine insertion. Coming from a Law Enforcement back ground, these features are a very welcome change for survival in a gunfight.
A quickly pointed out “issue” with both the Gen 5 model 17 and 19 by most armchair gun “experts” is the frame is not contoured to the front of the slide. There is a slight frame overhang. This does nothing to performance, it just drives the OCD crowd nuts. These are mostly the same ones that will have the entire frame stippled and retextured any way so problem solved right? If not, a hot iron will correct this issue in 2 seconds. What many don’t realize is by not focusing on redesigning the frame shape, it allows for all existing Glock holsters to work with the Gen 5 models as well. The great folks at Galco Holsters were kind enough to provided two of their beautiful leather holsters, the Fletch and Avenger models for our range testing.
The added ambidextrous slide stop levers found on the left and right of the frame are actually a “U” shaped one-piece design that just brings an extra bonus to devout Glock shooters. Despite finding myself wishing Glock had extended the shelf on each side of the lever to that similar of popular aftermarket options, I did not have any issues with manipulating the lever from either side. This slide stop is held in place by Glocks “new” two pin frame system. As I pointed out earlier, Glock’s original design featured a two pin system, but once platform moved away from its initial 9mm chambering to include more powerful calibers, a third pin was needed for frame integrity. According to Glock, the Gen 5 was only meant to be in 9mm, so a 3rd pin was not necessary in the new guns.
Finally, the slide and barrel coating itself has often been pointed out as a major change with the Gen 5 Glocks. Departing from the traditional Tinifer finish, Glock has opted for a new nDLC finish. This finish is supposed to last longer and provide a smoother metal to metal interaction between barrel and slide. With over 10,000 rounds cycled through my Gen 4 Glocks with Tinifer finishes, I really have not seen any wear issues with the status quo, but I have never been one to be against possible improvement either. Time will tell if the new nDLC coating does prove to be a better fit for the Glock platform.
Aside from the commonly noted changes to the Gen 5 series’ exterior, a few notable changes were made internally as well. The most important change comes in the form of how the barrels are now cut. Traditionally, Glock offered a very non-traditional polygonal rifling to ensure reliability while providing better than average accuracy. This fielded a wide array of aftermarket barrel companies providing what they claimed to be more accurate spiral cut barrels in a number of configurations. Gen 5 Glocks now include what is labeled by the company as a “marksman” barrel featuring a slight change up in how the company cuts the barrel’s lands and grooves. Glock now boasts for these new barrels to be more accurate while still being just as reliable as the Glock standard. According to Glock spokespeople, the 50-yard accuracy has been cut in half to hold an acceptable 4” group. For those who push themselves and their equipment, this is a great improvement, but for the 80% who don’t, this will be a relatively unnoticed change.
A deeper look inside the new Glock model’s frame revealed subtle changes such as the leaf spring for the take down lever replaced with a coil spring, and the absence of a downward tail on the trigger bar’s crucifix section. In addition, the angled drop safety and the trigger return spring has been replaced and moved inside the mechanism housing. Additionally, a further look into the slide revealed a new tear shaped firing pin hole departing from the traditional round one. This is listed as a way of to clear more dirt and debris away from the firing pin in order to cut down on light primer strikes. How this mix up of internals would play into the Gen 5 models’ performance would be evident once we got into the lengthy range testing.
Gen 5 Specs
- Caliber: 9×19 mm
- Overall Length: 7.95”
- Height: 5.47”
- Width: 1.34”
- Barrel: 4.49”
- Trigger Pull: 5.5 lbs.
- Capacity: 17 Rounds
- Caliber: 9×19 mm
- Overall Length: 7.28”
- Height: 5.04”
- Width: 1.34”
- Barrel: 4.02”
- Trigger Pull: 5.5 lbs.
- Capacity: 15 Rounds
On the Range
With the wide range of information and some misinformation flooding in from social media, emails and comments sent, I made sure to take my time and focus only on the facts of what was noted during testing. To get an extra set of eyes and educated opinions on the Gen 5 pistols, I invited fellow gun writer, Craig Reinolds and noted gun blogger and owner of UW Gear, John Ammons to the range with me during various testing dates. With several trips to both the indoor range as well as our private training grounds affectionately known as “The Swamp,” over 2500 rounds were expended on the review in total.
The first noticed feature of the new model Glock was the trigger. Traditionally with factory Glock triggers, the take up has almost no felt resistance until your reach the “wall” which is the trigger’s 5.5lb break point. The Gen 5 offers a much more consistent resistance during the trigger pull and through its break point. Although listed at 5.5lbs, the redesign of the trigger did feel slightly heavier due to the consistent weight throughout the process. What the Gen 5 does offer as an advantage with this type trigger is a smoother pull to the reduced urge to jerk on the trigger at the last second when reaching its break point and sending the round off course.
All shooters involved in the test process noted a smoother, more comfortable design despite such a small magazine well flare. The spent magazines seem to drop smoother and faster from more extreme angles as well from on the move. Only John Ammons pointed out any issue with the front strap cut out being under his pinky finger, which was to be expected since he was physically the largest of us. His comment was however, only regarding shooting the smaller of the two models, the G19, in which John said he would still carry over the larger pistol due to its size in relation to concealed carry.
Finally, to answer the burning question everyone has had about the new Glock pistols: “How does it shoot?” The simple answer is like a Glock. For close up work out of both Galco holsters, the Glock is able to be presented quickly and snag free due to its sleek design. Any changes in accuracy due to the new barrel design were not noticeable until the targets were set further back to 20 yards. The 5 shot and 10 shot groupings at this distance appeared to be a good inch smaller with both the G17 and G19 than with my personal Gen 4 G17 and Gen 19 that I shoot all the time. While still far from giving a STI 2011 Steel Challenge gun a run for its money, the Gen 5 pistols offer excellent combat accuracy with far more reliability than finicky race guns.
After Market Options
As with any new product, it is only a matter of time before the aftermarket items come flooding the market. I have been on record many times for NOT liking the standard factory U-shaped white outline rear sight and white dot front sight. Nothing has changed there, but Glock does offer 3-dot AmeriGlo night sights as an excellent option that come standard in their blue label guns. With the model 19, all three dots are green while the duty sized model 17 comes with green rear sights and a very visible orange front sight. Both sight sets work so well, it was hard to pick a favorite.
Another fast handling, easy to acquire sight set on the market for the Gen 5 series comes from XS Sights with their DXW Night Sights. These sights offer a slightly different take on the rear sight with a V-shape that lines a center dot up with the front sight. This new design is great for a very fast acquisition when shooting from the draw or on the move. What I like about these sights over the Glock offerings is the lack of confusion with green rear and front sights as well as a wider field of view when shooting. I will say, while these are great combat sights, they wouldn’t be my first choice for shooting bullseye matches, but then again, neither would be the Glock.
Along with sights, the world of triggers is a huge market. The first to adapt to the Gen 5 and offer a drop-in trigger replacement has been Apex Tactical Specialties. This trigger includes the flat-face profile that shooters have loved so much in their Gen 3 and 4 Glocks over the past years. Initially, I was concerned about the trigger when I dropped it into the Gen 5 model 19. I could not feel any considerable difference in the pull weight until the pistol ran through roughly 300 rounds. Afterwards, the trigger was much smoother and comfortable to shoot than the stock trigger. What I did notice from the start was the reduced overall trigger pull and angle change in which pressure from my finger was applied. The Apex trigger gave me the feeling I had more control over the pistol’s break point as well as reset. This scored huge points in my book to change the overall feeling of the gun in my hands. Included in the package sent over by Apex was a new disconnector and enhanced extractor / extractor spring which keep the gun running reliably over the 1200 round test period.
Over a period of several weeks testing the new series pistols, I concluded the Gen 5 model 17 and model 19 were indeed Glocks that live up to the reputation. There may be a few small changes here and there, but overall, the Gen 5 models are what they have always been, tough and accurate. Most importantly, they simply work as they supposed to, when they are supposed to regardless of the Hell surrounding them.
Retailing for $600 MSRP, the Gen 5 Glocks are not meant to be the death of the Gen 4 series, but simply a natural evolution in the company’s product line to give shooters more of what they have requested while also filling government contracts. Although the Gen 5 are priced higher than the Gen 4 series, for some shooters like me, the new series redesign may mean saving hundreds of dollars in the long run on having the frames recontoured and refinished. This is money that can be better spent on new sights and flat faced triggers!
Even if you are a “shoot it stock out of the box” type person, I recommend the Gen 5 series. I think some of the improvements Glock has made will carry over into future designs for other calibers and models as well with good cause. One such item, not mentioned yet, would be the orange followers in the Gen 5 magazines. These could be visually confirmed as empty from across the range even while inserted into a pistol with the slide locked back which enhances safety for everyone.
Just as important as changes made by Glock, I highly recommend an excellent quality holster such as Galco models available for testing. Not only does this provide a secure way to carry your pistol, it is also a much safer platform to work from than flimsy nylon or cheap, ill-fitting do-it-yourself Kydex. To find the best Glock and holster combination for you, I suggest checking out the wide variety available at 1800GunsAndAmmo.com. Until next week, Train Hard, Continue the Fight!