Publisher’s Note: Andy was kind enough to start this series on the fighting pistol for ZeroGov. I have owned and carried Glocks since 1991 and I have been sold on them.There is nothing close to the interoperability among models and the ability to downsize cheaper (now) .40 S&W models to 9mm [G23 > G19 and G22 > G17]. Like the AR platform, controls tend to be platform agnostic and the same training curve is available across the Glock spectrum for novice and expert shooters. Like the Toyota Landcruiser, their aesthetics come from the form following function in such a simple and elegant platform.
“Eighteen years and 250,000 rounds later, after immersion in both fresh and salt water dozens of times; being tossed into the sand, dust, snow, mud and grit; being presented from a holster and fired constantly in temperatures ranging from sub-zero to over 100 degrees; and even being left on the bottom of the ocean for six months, my conclusion is that the test Glock 17 is without a doubt a heck of a pistol.”
My time with a 1911 when I was on a Pacific Regional Navy Rifle and Pistol team cured me of any ambition to ever own a 1911. We will not solve that fight here nor do I care to. If you have a reliable 1911 and that is your fighting sidearm, there are legions of blogs and books that will assuage and entertain that confirmation bias.
Skip, our Village Armorer, has also been rocking the Glock nearly as long as me and has built several of the 80% Glock lower builds with terrific results.
For the past handful of years, I’ve been training with my Glock pistols several days every week, firing up to 40,000 rounds a year through Glock pistols alone. Almost all of that has been with my carry gun, a Gen 4 Glock 19. Today I own several G19s and a couple of other Glock models. These constitute the entirety of my pistol collection; save for a couple of curiosities I’ve picked up over the years. All other pistols I sold because they held no purpose for me.
I did not start out owning and shooting Glocks, but I soon learned and amended the error of my ways. I’m not blind to other popular pistol models, however, as I have also spent the past few years putting a different pistol model through its paces every month in my capacity of writing firearms reviews for my local indoor gun range’s blog. In doing so, I’ve put hundreds and even thousands of rounds each through Walthers, Sig Sauers, Caniks, Tauruses, Kimbers, Rugers, Springfields, Smith & Wessons, CZs, FNs, Colts, Brownings, Sphinxes, Hudsons, H&Ks, Remingtons, and likely others; in most cases, several models from each of these manufacturers.
All of that is to say that I’ve not lived my shooting life in a unidimensional Glock box. I’ve spent copious time with other models, often in extended use and always with careful examination and deliberate or unconscious comparison. With few exceptions, Glock pistols are superior in many discrete, substantive measures and always superior in the overall comparison of substantive measures.
Note, however, that this evaluation is firmly couched in the context of a fighting gun. I do not care about a target gun or a competition gun or a range gun. I evaluate every feature and overall package exclusively in the context of a fighting tool that one carries all day every day in the course of normal, everyday activities in public and private. I have almost no regard for specialized pistols made for something other than the job of assuredly stopping violent people or animals so that I and those I love can escape their violent intent.
My G19 is the pistol I carry in public and private, the one I use in at-least-thrice-weekly training, the one I used in target competition, and the one I use in run-and-gun competition. It is the only pistol to which I entrust my life.
A little objectivity, please.
Now, many intelligent and discriminating folks won’t simply rely on someone’s experience and hard-won insights and take them at face value. I’m a stranger with a stranger’s opinion. Fair enough. Luckily, there are a great many others in the world who extol the virtues of Glock pistols and there are several objective measures that qualify a Glock pistol’s quality and explain its widespread popularity among responsible folks and experienced warriors who get to choose their own tools.
The primary reason that Glocks are the most popular choice among trained individuals whose lives depend on their guns is Glock’s incomparable reliability. There are no pistols on the planet that have taken as much abuse and grime and time between cleaning and lubing and still functioned perfectly as Glock pistols. In fact, they’re deliberately engineered to stay in the fight despite imperfect or even awful conditions.
I’ve seen top-tier instructors who have deliberately not cleaned or lubed their Glocks for many thousands of rounds just to see where the failure point would be. The lowest round count I’ve seen documented was 7000 rounds without cleaning or lube for a Glock 19, by instructor Kyle Defoor. He said that at near 7000 rounds it began to cycle a bit more slowly and get the occasional stovepipe (tried and failed to find that Instagram post from a few years back).
In my own near-170,000 rounds through Glock pistols, I have experienced zero—not one—malfunction in a G19, G17, G30, G30s, or G43 that was not due to a faulty aftermarket component or a part that I should have replaced thousands of rounds beforehand. The full extent of my Glocks’ malfunctions includes four instances:
- two occasions of a stovepipe due to 1) an aftermarket recoil spring that quickly broke (only ever use Glock stock components) and 2) where my G19 recoil spring was long past its useful life and should have been replaced 2-3k rounds before,
- a new, poorly cerakoted slide that had cerakote in the slide-rail channels, which occasionally prevented the proper loading of the first round of a magazine – until after about 400 rounds had been cycled,
- a broken magazine-catch spring that I should have replaced about 10k rounds before.
That’s it. Not a single one of those had to do with a responsibly maintained Glock pistol failing to work—in ~170,000 rounds and none of them were the Glock’s fault.
Talk to any experienced professional firearms instructor and they’ll tell you that the pistol that seldom or never malfunctions in their classes is a Glock pistol. All others have a habit of regularly failing to function in some way. It all boils down to the components, the simplicity, and the engineering. Glocks work longer and when others won’t.
A Glock’s simplicity pays several dividends, both consequentially and aesthetically. As a man who requires my pistol to be a dead-reliable fighting tool, I don’t really care what it looks like. However, as a design professional, I like my tools to be elegant and minimalist. The aesthetics of both the architectural lines and the external-controls complement of the Glock pistol are indeed both elegant and minimalist. A Glock has everything that is needed and nothing that is not (like an external “safety” lever). I’ve always appreciated these characteristics that are particular to Glock and to no other model on the planet. Every other similar model (e.g. the CZ P-10C, the M&P 9MM Compact, etc.) all try much too hard to stylize the frame and the slide, and their external-controls complement is almost always far more obtrusive than that of a Glock pistol.
That beautiful simplicity is more substantive when you look inside. Glocks are very simple and easy to field strip, to fully disassemble, and to replace parts. Glock offers armorer classes to GSSF members, and while I highly recommend you take at least one, learning to perform maintenance and parts replacements on your Glock is quite easy with only a bit of practice and a few short minutes. And unlike virtually every other pistol model on earth, all Glock replacement components are very widely available and comparatively inexpensive. Simplicity is beautiful in all sorts of ways.
Regarding functional practicality, Glock pistols, especially G19s, possess among the best bore-axis to size to weight to capacity ratios of any pistol. Virtually every mid-sized pistol model made after the advent of the Glock 19 has tried to match or surpass this pistol on these measures and every one of them has failed to even match. Only recently have any of them approached the Glock 19 in these fundamental practical measures. Yet even these come up short as, for instance, the CZ P10C is larger and less concealable than the G19 and the REX Delta is fraught with reliability issues. Others simply can’t match the low bore axis or have less capacity and little to no aftermarket support.
Like any machinery, a pistol must be cared for and regularly maintained in order to continue to function properly. While Glock endures neglect better than any pistol on the planet, it behooves the owner to clean and replace all parts on an advisable schedule. Glock pistols are, not surprisingly, easier to care for and maintain than any other pistol. Stock OEM parts are, as mentioned before, widely available and inexpensively priced. As for ease of replacement, a single Glock Tool (or a simple punch) is all that is required to completely disassemble and reassemble the pistol, which can be done in seconds.
One aside about replacement parts: Only use Glock OEM parts. Never use another manufacturer’s parts as internal components in your Glock. I make this recommendation not because of some legal liability fallacy or purist fetish, but because every other manufacturer’s parts will either never function properly or will fail often and far sooner than a stock Glock part. Having tried dozens of options in my guns early on, not a single component managed to function for more than 2,000 rounds. Glock parts last, at the minimum, 5000 rounds (slide-stop spring and recoil spring) and most other parts last tens of thousands of rounds.
I keep a tacklebox that is for my Glock parts stocked with at least 3 of every Glock pistol part. When I use one, I order more. I keep 3 of each component not because they need replacing all the time (though I shoot a lot and replacement time comes due for me much faster than for most others), but because a) I don’t want to worry about not having what I need at any given moment, and b) because these parts are inexpensive enough that if a buddy or acquaintance at the range needs a quick replacement part, I can just give them what they need. Seriously, many of the components are $5 or less and the more expensive components are generally under $15 (not counting barrels and trigger sets). Getting parts and effecting replacement is easy day.
For those who like to accessorize their pistols, Glocks are the LEGOs of the pistol world. Most of the gun world’s manufactures offer accessories to change up or enhance what Glock provided. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not fan of a pistol that’s setup to do anything other than be carried all day and reliably put holes in bad people. And while the Glock does this as well as can be done, there are some folks who like to visually or functionally enhance their pistols. For them, aftermarket producers provide Glock owners more options than those of any other pistol on the planet.
When it comes to the vital accessories, e.g. holsters, lights, etc.… no other pistol has as much market support as a Glock. Every holster maker makes Glock-model holsters and Glock models are always the soonest-to-market holsters when a new pistol is released that doesn’t fit an existing holster. Same goes for lights, iron sights (which is the one component that is a must-replace on any Glock), lasers and the like. The market takes care of Glock owners like no other owner group.
Despite the overwhelming and consequential benefits, Glock pistols do have some annoying shortcomings that must be addressed after purchase (sights!). So, there are lots of folks who have one or more complaints that explain why they don’t own or carry a Glock pistol. Very few of these complaints has even the slightest validity, as they almost always boil down to “out-of-the-box convenience.” There’s something to be said for out-of-the-box convenience. It makes some sense to purchase a pistol that has a smoother trigger, better-quality sights, fits your hand better, and has no finger grooves (if you care about that) out of the box as compared to a Glock. In the end, however, what you’re stuck with is a pistol that has these nicer qualities and is failure prone, insufficiently durable, and for which you cannot find parts or even disassemble the gun to get to what needs to be replaced without paying a professional armorer.
With a Glock, you may have to make those changes yourself to get the pistol you want. Sights are easy to replace, and I have yet to find any stock pistol of any model that has the sights I prefer on my EDC gun. So, in my opinion, every pistol out of the box will require augmentation and parts replacement.
The Glock trigger is just fine and the stock trigger can be greatly improved in 3 minutes by trading out the stock 5lb connector with a 3.5lb connector. Easy day.
The Gen 5 Glocks have no finger grooves. I love the finger grooves of the Gen 4, as they fit my hands perfectly. But if you can’t get a Gen 5, it takes only a few minutes to Dremmel off those finger grooves. If you’re worried about marring the grip of your new pistol, don’t. You’re going to want to stipple and, likely, contour the grip anyway, so do what’s right. Note that I’ll get into the details of modifications in the next article.
“Feels good in my hand” is not the measure of a pistol. Anyone who holds that as a valid criterion is missing the point and perhaps bargaining away their life. But there’s a difference between the grip being less than ergonomic and the grip being too large for proper trigger engagement. Those with smaller hands who want a double-stack pistol might have to choose another pistol brand simply because they can’t competently run a Glock. Fair enough. But I’d recommend going with a single-stack Glock rather than trading down to a potential brick in a time of need. But that’s me. I don’t compromise on my life.
So why Glock? That’s why. Yes, I’m biased—I’m biased because my Glocks have never let me down and I’m reasonably assured that they never will. In the event I must defend my life or the life of a loved one with my Glock, I am 100% confident in its ability to do its job. I train several days every week to ensure I’m as reliable as my pistol, should that horrible eventuality come to pass.
In my practical training each week; I draw and re-holster from/to concealment 100-300 times a session; drop it from chest height onto the ground/gravel dozens of times a session; throw it across the bay onto the ground on occasion; step on it while it’s on the ground; roll around the ground on it in my holster; and pound the living crap out of it with hundreds of tap-racks and reloads each session.
In that dynamic weekly training over the past few years I have failed many times. My Glock never has. I carry a Glock all day, every day. I won’t carry anything else.