Review: Glock Model 17 Gen 4

I can't say that when the Glock Model 17 hit the market way back in the mid-eighties that I was immediately a fan. In fact, I remember saying things about it being so ugly and it being shaped like a block. I remember the jokes about it and how much it was criticized for not having any external manual safeties. I also remember hearing about how simple it was to shoot. "Just like a revolver" was a term often used. Just load it, aim it and pull the trigger. It doesn't get much simpler, right?

Reality steadily settled in and most of the folks I knew in the firearms / training industry came to speak of the Glock's design with some level of respect. Then two things happened that started me on a path of not having any negative feelings toward Glocks.

  1. I had opportunity to shoot several at the range when people brought them to qualify with, and
  2. I took the Glock Armorer training program.


While shooting the pistols showed me that they were easy to handle and easy to shoot, the armorer training gave me the necessary insight into the design to appreciate the simplicity of it. In all fairness, comparing Glocks to revolvers is like comparing apples and oranges... no, scratch that. It's like comparing apples and radios. Not only are the Glocks different because they are semi-automatics but also because the design is just as simple as it can get. That simplicity, in my mind, translates into greater reliability. The less there is to break or go wrong the more reliable the weapon is.

Since the introduction of the original Glock Model 17 9mm, Glock has made several design improvements. As they celebrated the 25th anniversary of that weapon last year they also introduced the fourth generation of it. Of course, there is a price to pay for the design changes though: the complete interchangability of parts that existed in the first generation is now gone. Now you have to pay attention to what generation of weapon you're dealing with and make sure you have the appropriate parts. To me that's a small price to pay for having a reliable weapon that rarely needs cleaning and doesn't fail unless you really work at it.

The changes between the first generation and second generation were almost all internal. Looking at them it's not immediately obvious which is which. However, from second to third generation they made changes in the frame that were immediately obvious. With the addition of finger grooves to the front of the grip and accessory rails on the dust-cover of the frame, a third generation gun was easy to recognize. From the third generation to the fourth generation the changes are a little more visually subtle, but functionally important.

Probably the biggest change is the the adjustable back strap system Glock incorporated in this generation. The pistol's integral frame is the smallest grip available for this size weapon in the Glock line (Models 17, 22, 31 and 37). The trigger reach is 2mm less than the standard for previous versions of the Glock 17 (and other applicable models). There are two additional backstraps that you can add on - the medium and large - that make the grip bigger if need be to fit your hand more comfortably. The medium back strap returns the weapon to "normal" reach for a Glock 17. The large back strap adds an additional 2mm to the trigger reach. Between these three options you should be able to find one that is comfortable for your hand size. Directions for how to change them are included inside the pistol's box.

Another external aesthetic change Glock made was to change the texture on the frame. Called the Rough Textured Frame (RTF) by Glock, the best way I can describe this (if you're familiar with the Generation 3 guns) is that they took the checkering out of the finger grooves and extended it around on the grip sides and the back strap. I can feel the difference in my hand but I didn't notice any difference in security of hold while shooting. This is a change I could take or leave but certainly have no complaint about.

In functional changes there are two. Most noticeable is the enlarged magazine release that can be easily reversed for left handed shooters. To switch it only requires a small flat head screwdriver to manipulate the magazine release spring in and out of the necessary notch. Any Glock armorer should be able to do this in a minute or less. From a personal perspective, I really like this enlarged magazine release. It is much easier to manipulate in my opinion - especially with gloves on.

The second functional change was the replacement of the recoil spring assembly with a new dual recoil spring assembly. Both springs are captured so that there's little to no danger of the spring shooting across the room during disassembly (unless the plastic cap breaks off the front end). Having a dual recoil spring assembly does reduce felt recoil somewhat. You may not notice unless you take a Gen. 4 gun out with a Gen. 3 (or earlier version) gun and shoot them side by side using the same ammo.

What else is there to know? The Gen. 4 gun fits in every Glock holster I have. None of their changes affected external measurements except right where the backstrap is - and that has nothing to do with holster fit. Accuracy is as it has always been. From the 15 yard line, free hand, I was able to consecutively shoot 2" 5-shot groups. Many of the groups I fired were actually 1.5" or less. It was one of those times I wished I owned a Ransom Rest so I could machine fire it and measure the groups. I'm certain the gun is capable of greater accuracy than I am.

So, if you're a Glock afficianado, you'll be pleased with the changes Glock made with the Gen. 4 guns. If you're not an existing Glock fan, I'd recomend you try one out and see what you think. All jokes and odd nicknames for the weapons aside, they functional as they should. Load it, aim it, pull the trigger. It'll go bang every time unless you work hard to make it do otherwise.