September 19, 2017
By James Tarr
Tarr is a well-known Glock apologist, and he makes no apology for his longtime advocacy of the Glock 19 as a carry pistol. But he also has a soft spot for the big Glock 17L.
Glock manufactures more models of pistols than most people might suspect. While they have made pistols in seven different calibers through the years, by far their highest-selling and most popular pistols, both in the United States and internationally, have been those chambered in 9mm. For this article, I wanted to examine their two "biggest" 9mm pistols—the Glock 19 and the Glock 17L.
The Glock 19 has been Glock's biggest-selling pistol in the United States almost since its introduction, and the 17L is, physically, the biggest 9mm pistol that Glock makes. Let's start with the Glock 19, but to get there we'll have to mention the pistol that brought us all to the party.
The flagship of the Glock line is the Glock 17. Introduced in 1982, the Glock 17 was neither the first polymer-framed pistol nor the first striker-fired handgun, but its combination of great ergonomics, shootability, capacity, and reliability soon made it hugely popular.
The Glock 17 is chambered in 9mm and features a 17-round magazine, and is a full-size, "duty sized" handgun. It offered a 4.48-inch barrel and overall was 7.32 inches long by 5.43 inches tall (with a magazine in place).
With its polymer frame, it weighed only 22 ounces unloaded. That's a fine size handgun for an exposed belt holster, but many people wanted a smaller version.
Enter the Glock 19.
Introduced in 1988, the Glock 19 is basically just a cut down Glock 17. Chambered in 9mm, it offers a 4.01-inch barrel. The frame has been shortened so that the overall height of the pistol is 4.99 inches, with a reduction in magazine capacity from 17 to 15. Width of the pistol remained the same at 1.18 inches, and it is approximately an ounce lighter than the Glock 17.
I have on more than one occasion written that the Glock 19 is the carry gun against which all others should be judged. For concealed carry it is the Goldilocks gun, not too big and not too small—just right.
It is small enough to conceal under minimal clothing and light enough that it is not a burden to carry all day. It is also large enough that 99 percent of people will be able to get the entire hand on the grip. And because of the low bore axis, it is nearly as comfortable to shoot as the full-size 17, which means it has less felt recoil and muzzle rise than many competing full-size pistols.
Combine that with a 15-round magazine capacity and you have the poster child for the concealed carry gun of choice for millions of people. The Glock 19 is popular with both law enforcement and military personnel around the world, not to mention the U.S. commercial market for its combination of size, capacity, and shootability.
Glock is currently making several versions of the Glock 19, and I wanted to cover two of them in this article.
Davidson's Exclusive Gen 4 Glock 19
First off, I have to point out that I have a lot of strong opinions about Glocks. Gen 4 Glocks don't "suck" as I like to say, however I am irritated that with their 4th Generation guns Glock didn't fix any of the things I felt needed fixing (plastic sights, too-heavy trigger pulls, etc.) while "fixing" stuff that wasn't broken. But still I would carry a box-stock Gen 4 Glock 19 over most other carry guns on the market.
When it comes to Glocks—a Glock is a Glock is a Glock. They all look the same, and they're ugly and boring to look at. Their beauty is in their performance. But whether it's cars or guns, Americans like to customize their stuff. So anything that can personalize the pistol or make it not so ugly and boring, is of great interest to many shooters.
However, many gun owners are hesitant to customize their own guns, especially if they are meant to be carry guns. To make matters worse, Glock seldom offers custom variants, and those rarely to the consumer market.
Into this vacuum have jumped distributors, which offer a number of exclusive models. The colored Glock 19 you see in the accompanying photos is just such a gun, a distributor's exclusive from Davidson's, available through Gallery of Guns.
This is a Gen 4 Glock in two-tone matte Cerakote finish. The slide is done in FDE (flat dark earth), and the frame is finished in Bazooka Green Cerakote. And no, I'm not making that name up. While the name makes me roll my eyes, in person I actually like both the Bazooka Green color and the overall two-tone look of this pistol. Everyone at my FFL felt the same way.
Remember, Cerakote is a finish applied to the exterior of the pistol. Here are a few words of wisdom: don't stipple a Cerakoted frame, or you'll find that the color is only skin deep. I know someone who learned that the hard way.
What surprised me most about this pistol was the marking on the right side of the frame: MADE IN USA, GLOCK INC., SMYRNA, GA. I knew Glock was making the subcompact G42 and G43s in this country, but I wasn't aware any other models were being built here.
So now you can buy a Glock 19—and buy American! Gallery of Guns makes it very clear on their listings which of their Glocks are made here, they put it right in the model description. For this pistol, it was "Gen 4 19 USA (Davidson's Special Edition)".
Because this is a Gen 4 Glock, it comes with four replaceable backstraps. They easily slide into place on the back of the frame, or you can shoot the pistol without any of them in place. Without any backstraps installed, the frame of a Gen 4 is smaller than a Gen 3 Glock, but the difference is so small your hands won't know the difference.
Trigger pull on this pistol, as measured in the center of the pivoting trigger, was 7 pounds even. The Cerakote is not quite as slick under the fingers as the bare Glock polymer, and when you combine that with the aggressive texturing on the Gen 4 frame, the pistol does not move in the hand during shooting.
MSRP on this pistol is $729, which is a bit higher than a plain black Glock 19, but you get what you pay for - a U.S.-made Glock that doesn't look like every other Glock, while being just as reliable.
As I write this, Gallery of Guns has a lot of distributor exclusive Glocks for sale in various colors. Most of these colors are the result of Cerakote applied to the firearm, as opposed to the color being integral to the polymer. There is a darn good reason for this:
The dirty secret about polymer is that if you introduce anything new to the polymer, even just dyes to change the color, it can change the strength of the polymer. And the only way to know for sure if the strength of the polymer has been altered by that dye is to put the pistol through all the same strength/endurance/heat/torture tests. For every new and different color. Which can be very expensive.
Never mind the fact that the U.S. commercial market is larger than all the gun-carrying government agencies in Europe put together. Glock seems to live for military and law enforcement contracts, and those customers care about frame strength.
Generally, the only guns you'll find from Glock with frames that are not black are those that were requested as part of a big government contract. And they'll probably feature military colors. For instance, Gallery of Guns is selling a few G19s that come from the factory with OD (olive drab) frames.
Gen 3 Glock 19
First, a gunwriter true confession:
It was not until late last year, when I was 48 years old, that I actually owned a Glock 19. I have written for years about the superiority of the Glock 19 as a carry piece without ever owning one.
Don't get me wrong, I've shot them numerous times, and even carried several test/sample Glock 19s (both factory stock guns and customized versions), even carried a borrowed friend's gun out of state for a week (where legal, check your local listings), but I'd never owned one of my own.
Every time I had the money and inclination to buy a new Glock, I'd end up buying another Glock 34, the extended slide Practical/Tactical model I shoot competitively and which is my preferred carry gun. My last Glock 34 (No. 4? I guess if I've got so many I don't know how many I own I might have enough) went straight to Taran Tactical Innovations for their Combat Master/John Wick treatment as detailed in an article earlier this year (Issue 6).
Anyway, I was at the Big 3 East Media Event last fall outside Daytona Beach, and several Glock reps came out with a lot of shootin' samples of their new and most popular products, including a full-auto Glock 18. To be honest, the only people they let shoot the G18 were those they trusted not to put rounds above the berm. That little buzz saw has some wicked muzzle rise.
Before they left they gave away several certificates good for the Glock of your choice, and I won one. Seeing a golden opportunity actually to get the Glock 19 I'd been thinking of for two decades instead of yet another G34, I put in a request for a Gen 3 Glock 19, and that is the black G19 you see in these pictures.
During the Great Panic post-Sandy Hook, when my brother-in-law wanted to buy a carry gun before they were all banned, I recommended a Gen 3 Glock 19 to him and he followed my advice and is very happy with it. Why not the newer Gen 4? Check out the accompanying sidebar, which should be entitled, "Why Gen 4 Glocks pretty much suck".
As an inveterate competition shooter, it is a rare pistol that I don't think I can customize or personalize so that I am better able to shoot it fast and accurately. My new Glock 19 was no different. First off, the plastic factory sights had to go.
I think the best combat sights on the market are the Trijicon HDs, and perhaps even better are the new Trijicon HD XRs. These are day/night sights. The rear sight features a wide U-shaped notch with tritium inserts to either side.
The front sight has a tritium insert as well, and around that insert is either a big yellow or orange circle. The brightly colored circle is made with photo-luminescent paint so it stays bright for a while if you move indoors after being in bright sunlight. I prefer orange to yellow.
With the XR sights, the front sight is narrower so there is more daylight around it when looking through the notch. This provides more precision to my way of thinking, and the big orange pumpkin on the front sight is still pretty darn big.
The Glock factory sights work well at defensive distances, although they are far from ideal. While the factory trigger pull at 7 pounds is heavier than I like or prefer, it works just fine for defensive use at realistic pistol distances.
And no, just because Glock says the trigger pulls on their pistols are "~5.5 lbs" doesn't make it so. All of their pistols except for their competition models use 5.5-lb trigger connectors, but those connectors produce a trigger pull consistently north of 6.5 pounds, and anyone who says differently is ignorant or lying.
Taran Tactical Innovations had just come out with a new one-piece anodized aluminum carry magwell for the G19, so I thought I'd try it out. It does enlarge the magazine well opening a bit without causing the pistol to print more, and factory-length magazines seat easily in it, so I'd call that a win-win.
Also new from TTI was a +5 FirePower aluminum basepad for the G19 magazine (sold with an extended magazine spring). When I first heard about this, I scratched my head about its utility. After all, if I wanted more capacity in my G19, I could just insert a 17-round G17 magazine. Then I tried it out.
The TTI basepad eliminates the angle at the bottom of the Glock factory magazine. A G19 magazine with the +5 TTI basepad (giving you a total of 20 rounds) is three-quarters of an inch longer than a G19 magazine, and only a quarter-inch longer than a factory G17 17-round magazine. A quarter-inch, that's it! So the TTI-basepad equipped 20-round mag is the spare I keep on my belt when I'm carrying the G19.
The factory magazine release is a bit too short for me. I'm not alone in this, and it's not just the competition shooter in me, a lot of the "tactical" guys feel the same way. On my list to buy is the Vickers Tactical extended mag release. It adds a little length to the magazine release, and in length is about halfway between the short factory release found on the G19 and the extended factory release found on the G34.
Next up - a better trigger pull. From the factory, the trigger pull on my pistol with its 5.5-pound connector measured 7 pounds, which is pretty average. Swapping out the 5.5 for a 3.5-lb connector usually drops the trigger pull weight about 1.5 pounds without affecting anything else.
I'm a big fan of the Ghost Inc., Rocket connector (www.ghostinc.com). This is a 3.5-lb connector with a "TCT" (trigger control tab). This is an overtravel stop you have to file down to fit your particular pistol, which can take a few minutes, however at the time I was feeling both impatient and lazy.
Instead, I installed a 3.5-pound connector from Taran Tactical. Officially it is a 3.5, and has the angles of a 3.5-pound connector, but the finish they use provides such a slick surface for the trigger that it should be called a 3.25. The new connector dropped the trigger pull to a hair over 5 pounds, which was still heavier than I wanted.
One sure way to cut about 2 pounds off your trigger pull is to swap out the factory striker spring for a reduced power one. However, I have never had a reduced power striker spring not fail me (causing light hits on primers), and this G19 was going to be a carry gun, so instead I did my usual trick of cutting three coils off the factory striker spring.
I am sure some of you out there are having heart attacks, not just because I've done a trigger job on my carry gun but that I'm cutting coils off springs. In my experience cutting three coils off a Glock factory striker spring will take about a pound off the trigger pull without affecting reliability.
As for longevity, the cut striker spring on my first Glock 34 went 30,000 rounds and 100,000 dry fires over the course of five years without ever giving a light primer strike. It is still going strong. I have never had a cut factory striker spring fail me.
If you would like to try this (and I don't recommend it, don't try it at home, consult your doctor before trying any new medication, professional driver on a closed course, these aren't the droids you're looking for, etc.), just remember when reassembling the parts to put the non-cut end of the striker spring against the spring cups so it properly retains them. And if you don't know what striker spring cups are, you shouldn't be doing a trigger job on your Glock.
The 17L physically is the largest 9mm handgun that Glock makes. The "L" in the name stands for long.
The frame of the 17L is the same as on the 17. However, when it comes to the top end, the barrel has been stretched from the 17's 4.48 to 6.02 inches.
The slide has been stretched to match, but there is a big cutout in the top of the slide to keep the weight approximately the same as a G17 slide. Not only does this help keep recoil down (more reciprocating weight=more recoil), but Glock is then able to use a standard G17 recoil spring system with the G17L.
The barrel is not ported. Overall, the pistol is only an ounce and a half or so heavier than a G17 while offering a much longer sight radius (8.25 inches).
The 17L comes with extended magazine and slide releases and an adjustable rear sight, although the sights are still plastic. The connector in the pistol is Glock's lighter 3.5-pound model.
The 17L is intended to be a competition pistol, however with the advent of the IPSC box (pistols for several divisions must fit into a box with specific dimensions, and the 17L is too long), use of the 17L in competition has dried up.
So if the 17L is no longer a good fit for any practical shooting division, why buy it? First off, this is America, where we don't need a rational reason to buy any handgun. Many well-known guns have absolutely no practical purpose. Your honor, I present as proof of this Exhibit A, the Desert Eagle.
It's too big for any sort of concealed carry, but that doesn't mean a pistol this size doesn't have tactical value. Your honor, for proof of this, I present Exhibit B, Dave Fortier's personal Gen 2 Glock 17L.
Dave's 17L was bought for him as a gift by Firearms News' own Gus Norcross. It was a used gun, and I refer to it as Dave's South American death squad gun because I can never remember its actual provenance.
Dave's 17L was in a small batch of used guns traded in by the Romanian antiterrorist brigade, and the slide has stampings from that unit. I'm guessing they carried them in thigh rigs, as the pistol is just too long to carry anywhere else on the body.
A rare model Glock used by an elite anti-terrorist unit, that might have actually been used to shoot terrorists in the face? That just about pegs the cool meter for a gun. Dave has installed Dawson sights on the gun, but otherwise it is unchanged.
The 17L was actually the third handgun produced by Glock after the G17 and G19. I have read that this pistol has been discontinued, but reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.
The 17L, along with the G24 (basically a 17L chambered in .40 S&W) are produced in limited quantities. That doesn't mean they only make (X) a week, it means that they only make them for a short period every year (or three), as it takes time to swap out the tooling for what is essentially a niche model.
From the time I decided I wanted one to test I had to wait 18 months for Glock to put the 17L back into production. But for those of you who are interested, it is currently in production. Both the 17L and the 24 are on Glock's "Summer Special" list of handguns available starting in June.
The 17L in my photos is a new Gen 3, as I do not believe they are making Gen 4 17Ls at this time. It provided a 5.5-pound trigger pull with its 3.5-pound connector and came with three magazines. Because I had to wait so long for the test pistol to come in, I decided to buy the gun rather than send it back. I have yet to customize it, but knowing me, I will.
Chronographing it beside the G19 showed me that the 17Ls extra 2 inches of barrel (unsurprisingly) gave me faster velocities. I got 80-120 fps more out of the 17L than the G19, depending on the ammo brand/bullet weight (check the accompanying data box).
I'll give you a detailed rundown on a load near and dear to my right hip: my personal carry ammo is the Hornady Critical Duty 9mm 135-grain +P load, not just because in every gel test I've seen it's done well in bare gel and through auto glass and sheet metal, but because it is the softest-shooting +P load I've ever tested.
That round is advertised as providing 1110 fps. Out of the G19's 4.01-inch barrel, it provided 1093 fps. Out of the 5.31-inch barrel of my preferred carry gun, the G34, I know it will do 1151 fps. Out of the 6.02-inch barrel of the G17L, it gave me 1189 fps.
The 17L is one of the rarer Glock models, and I think it's a very cool-looking pistol. Even though it is big, it is not heavy, which means it is just as shootable as any other full-size Glock, while having a lighter trigger pull.
The pistol has a rail to mount a light, so it would work very nicely as a home defense weapon, where its length would not be a hindrance. Throw in a higher capacity magazine (I've got a few 17-rounders wearing TTI +6 FirePower basepads for 23+1 capacity) and that is one formidable home defense handgun.