Gun Review: Glock Gen4 Comparison (G17, G19, G26)

I’ve joined the dark side. I’ve ditched my 1911 for a Glock 19. Since then, I’ve developed a disdain for anything that deviates from that level of perfection, from pasta to pistols. Don’t judge me; I’m going to meetings for it. It’s so bad that I’ve been scornfully wondering why Gaston Glock’s handgun makers would venture into a different frame size or caliber. Then I remembered that we live in a world of customer demand and profit margins. Still . . . There was only way I saw could appreciate (or not) line-extended perfection from a home defense/everyday carry perspective: a head-to-head comparison of multiple Glocks. In this case, the G17, G19 and G26.

All three of these pistols have the better-than-excellent Glock trigger, featuring phenomenal reset and a smoothness that would make silk sheets fold themselves with envy. All three Glocks have the same finish (stippled RTF or Rough Texture Frame) and the new, recoil-reducing recoil spring assembly. While the internet was abuzz with firing issues surrounding the initial run of G4s, problems related to the aforementioned spring assembly (which led to a redesign and replacement), I’m going to say it: all three Glocks offer the brand’s legendary reliability.

With the factory-issued standard sized magazine, the G17 holds 17 rounds of 9mm. The smaller G19 hold two less rounds (15) and sacrifices a little length between the sights. The G26 is shorter still, with a Massachusetts and Hawaii-friendly 10-round magazine. The key question: do the full-size (G17) and sub-compact versions (G26) of the Gen 4 9mm Glock pistols provide any distinct advantage over the “just right” G19? [click on image to expand]

Once I got to the range, I loaded-up magazines and started getting to know the G19’s big and little brothers. No matter what I did I could not get the sub-compact G26 to feel comfortable in my hands. I tried every back strap, moving my hands to unnatural shooting positions and even some quick voodoo magic, but nothing worked. So I went with the largest grip—which made me feel like I was at least holding onto something substantive, even if my pinky was still hanging out in space.

Unfortunately the large grip came with a price: slide bite. During my test, I sacrificed about half-an-inch of my flesh. I soldiered through the pain to put the gun through a 50-round qualification, ending with a battered thumb and 39 rounds on paper with 32 in the scoring area for a tally of 160.

The G26’s recoil was sharp, but manageable. The trigger action was crisp and predictable, as I’ve come to expect from Gen4 Glocks. There’s nothing wrong with the G26’s ability to put rounds on target at a distance of anywhere from three to 25 yards. Concealing the G26 is easy; with the right holster you could make it disappear into a Speedo. [ED: image deleted] While the G26 may extract its pound (or less) of flesh from small to medium-handed shooters, carrying the G26 sub-compact 9mm would not leave you under-gunned.

Now we move on to the Andre the Giant version of the Mini Me G26: the legendary G17. It’s a big handgun. From the moment you wrap your paws around it, there’s no doubt you’ve gained size in the barrel and grip areas. While the G17’s longer grip retains the G19’s comfort-ability factor, the G17’s a winter-concealable weapon. Unless you’re a big guy who can wear a jacket at all times, the G17 is too big for your britches.

Shooting the Glock G17 I noticed two advantages over its more petite spawn. The extra barrel length made a slight, yet noticeable, difference in my ability to rapidly acquire a sight picture. My follow-up shots were quicker than they were with the G19 or G26. While the larger size didn’t really make much difference in the force of the recoil, the G17’s motions after pulling the trigger felt more fluid and smooth compared to the G19 or G26.

After blazing through the qualifier I put up a semi-respectable score of 180, with 42 rounds on paper and 36 of those in the scoring area. The G17 had proven to be yet another uber reliable, comfortable piece of equipment. It’s a lot more than merely adequate for bedside self-defense. Strapping that full-sized frame on your body risks printing like The New York Daily News.

For the sake of objectivity, I decided not to re-shoot the G19. I’ve been shooting the snot out of the gun—now my gun—since my review of the Gen4 G19. So I used the score I attained “out of the box”: 47 rounds on paper with 40 in the scoring area, for a final tally of 200. For those of you keeping score at home, here’s how the results stack up.

YMMV. But I figure that the numbers don’t lie; the G19 is the clear winner in every category from the shooting test. Taking a look at the ratings section (score is out of five) we see that the Glock G19 once again comes out on top of this trio.

So there you have it. In the land of 9mm Glock pistols, the compact version reigns supreme, with the full size and sub-compact both tied for second. After my test, I look at it this way:

The Glock G17 is the best bedside, duty or combat weapon. The G26 is a carry piece for owners who need (or prefer) relatively deep concealment. The G19 is the utility infielder. It’s not too big to conceal, nor too small for comfort at the range. It’s the just-right self-defense carry gun you can trust with your life. And so I do.