Gun Review: Glock 19 Gen4 9X19mm

When Gaston Glock introduced his Austrian duty pistol into the U.S. market, American gun-buying habits were transformed. Despite (or because of) the furore surrounding Glock’s “plastic” pistol—supposedly invisible to airport metal detectors—consumers and police departments were fascinated by the “wonder nine.” When they shot a Glock the resulting revelation spurred sales to unimaginable heights. The original G17 was lighter than all-metal pistols of comparable size, held more ammo and proved to be as trusty as a canine companion. As Gen4 enters circulation, the question looms: has time been kind to the Black Labrador of pistols?

Glock introduced the Gen4 Glock 19 in the middle of 2010. As befits the gunmaker’s evolutionary approach, the move from G19 3.0 to 4.0 was about as radical as a member of the John Birch Society. I received my Gen4 G19 in the usual black lunch box emblazoned with an XXL Glock logo. As someone who believes discretion is the better part of avoiding a Terry Stop, I would have preferred something more subtle. That locks.

Kudos to Glock for packaging the G19 with three fifteen-round magazines (accounting for part of the $50 up-charge from Gen3). In states that have enacted profoundly ignorant “anti-spree killer” high-capacity magazine laws, a buyer receives two emasculated ten-rounders. In Massachusetts, where new Glocks can’t lawfully be sold by any MA dealers to any MA consumers, buyers will receive nothing but the box, empty.

The kit includes the minimalist Glock speedloader, cleaning tools and a manual in 47 languages (including Sanskrit). There’s also a gun safety booklet tucked into the box, in case a buyer thinks The Four Rules of Gun Safety are a Tolkein thing.

I always found Glock pistols to be unnecessarily ugly, and as ungainly looking as broom-handled Mausers. Certainly, I’m aware that they’re fighting guns and not objets d’art, but still, there’s no reason for Glocks to look like they were designed by the local plumbing contractor.

The G19 Gen4 is not a bad-looking gun. I know. Crazy, huh? Those who like the “all handle, no slide” look of the G17 need only to add a palm swell to restore the iconic ugly look. With no palm-swell installed, the G19 is a well-proportioned piece. The sandpaper finish adds a touch of je ne sais quoi (that’s French for WTF), and the gun looks put-together, not thrown together. I’d still be embarrassed to display this pistol next to a Kimber Solo Carry STS, but the G19 has come a long way, baby.

The Gen4 design sports the same the finger-grooved handle of the Gen3. Owners who thought that the grooves were groovy on the Gen3 will find them no more or less groovy on the Gen4, since they’re the same groovy grooves. Those, like me, who hated the grooves will continue to hate them with great passion and conviction.

To improve the G19’s grip-ability in moist conditions, the semi’s handle now sports a highly textured finish, bringing all of us one step closer to the elusive goal of shower carry. Since all things Glockian must have a snappy name or a number, Glock’s hard-charging marketing mavens call it their “Rough Texture Frame (RTF)” technology. Not to rain on other guns’ parades, but RTF is GTG (Good to Go); it makes an appreciable difference in humid or precipitous precipitate situations.

The obvious big deal here: Glock’s Smith & Wesson M&P and Springfield XD-chasing “Modular Back Strap System.” As it sits in the box, the G19’s handle is more slender than the Gen3, decreasing the distance-to trigger by .08”. The pistol can be used as it comes; the handle is completely finished with the aforesaid RTF.

Should the G19’s handle prove too small, the owner can add either a medium or a large palm-swell. The medium attachment adds .08” to the present handle, bringing it back to Gen3 dimensions. The large back strap adds an additional .08” to the handle, making it suitable for the hands of a mountain gorilla.

I experimented with the palm-swells to determine my best setup. By way of comparison, I shoot my S&W M&P 40c with the medium back strap installed, so I first tried the G19 with no back strap. Hooray and hallelujah, the handle geometry was as comfortable as a cashmere sweater on a chilly day. Finally, I had found a Glock that didn’t feel like a block. That’s the good part. The bad part was that the trigger now seemed too close.

I installed the medium back strap to lengthen the distance twixt palm and trigger. This resulted in a trigger length that was perfect, but made the stock too thick for my hands. Just for giggles, I tried the large back strap. It made the gun very clumsy and brought back unfond memories of the Desert Eagle that I recently tested. I settled on no back strap as the best compromise for me.

Changing backstraps is easy, but, like any gun club you care to mention, not tool-free. Glock provides a small and a large pin to hold the selected back strap in place, and a little T-shaped punch tool to push the pin in or out of its hidey-hole. The process starts with knocking out the small pin, which is already installed in the pistol.

Thumb pressure it all that’s required to push out the pin. The owner mat then snap an extra back strap into position. Push the correct-sized pin into the hole to hold the whole shooting match together, and that’s that. Installing the medium or large back strap with the proper pin takes just a minute and presto chango, the pistol is re-sized.

The hexagonal rifling of the G19s barrel carries on Glock’s tradition of polygonal rifling—as opposed to conventional lands and grooves—across its pistol line. Glock claims its rifling creates a tighter seal of bullet to barrel and reduced barrel fouling. While the data remains in-house, gunmakers have been using polygonal rifling since the 16th century. So we’ll call it good.

The Glock 19’s new dual recoil springs have been the G4’s headline attraction—and not in a good way.

According to Glock, the new dual-nested springs were included to soften recoil and lengthen the spring’s lifespan. Similar springs have been used in handguns for a long time. Yes but—how do you improve on perfection? More to the point, Glocks have been good, reliable and strong firearms, springs included. Why fix what ain’t broke?

Reduced recoil? 9mm Glocks have never recoiled harshly. Perhaps they were flippier than some and less flippy than others, but nobody thinks of flippiness or harsh recoil as Glock characteristics. Increased lifespan? That didn’t work out so well. The new springs—called the “Recoil Spring Assembly (RSA)” in Glock spiel—was troublesome. At best. Owners reported Failure to Feed (FTF) and Failure to Eject (FTE) problems as soon as the first Gen4 G17s hit the market.

Users cured these FTF and FTE problems by installing a set of Gen3 springs with a little adapter. Glock moved quickly to head off a PR nightmare and offered replacement RSAs to its customers. In Glock-speak, this was called an “upgrade,” not a recall.

The replacements seem to be doing their job. Today’s buyers may plunk down their hard-earned cash without fear that their springs will fall by summer, leaving them with a winter of discontent. Moreover, the middle-school rumor mill that we call “the gun culture” is all quiet on the Glock front, reaffirming that the new springs are working as they should across the Glock pistol line.

Glock polymer sights, with their single dot front and funky, squared-off U insert in the rear, have never been a favorite of mine. The sights on my G19 tester were worse than I remembered. Not enough light passes along the sides of the front sight, so shooting with “equal light” is difficult. The problem isn’t that the front blade is too wide, it’s that the 6” sight radius is too short. Were the sight radius longer, the front blade would block less of the rear and all would be fine with the world. Alas, the sight radius won’t change, but the problem can be rectified by installing better sights.

The G19 weighs under 21 ounces and seems even lighter. While the gun does seem a tad top-heavy, it still balances like a ballerina and points well, too. The gun’s geometry remains unchanged from Gen1, so Glock fans will be comfortable with the Gen4. Down to business . . .

I first loaded five rounds of crappy range ammo into a 15 round mag. I used a traditional 6 o’clock hold to get a good feel for the pistol’s true point of impact. At five yards, I was an inch and a half low-left. I noticed that I was depressing the trigger with my fingertip, not the pad. I never shoot with my fingertip, but with the small backstrap on the gun, my fingertip just went to the trigger automatically. I had to really concentrate on using the pad of my trigger finger with this pistol.

My next two shots, using the pad, rectified the low part of my marksmanship and hit in the same hole. After tiny adjustment of my sight picture, I was on target with two in the red.

The trigger was a revelation. I found it just a little bit mushy, but very light for one that’s rated at 5.5 lbs. The reset was not as “clicky” or crisp as other Glock’s that I’ve shot, but all things considered, it’s a damn good trigger. After running through several boxes with two hands and gaining tremendous confidence in the pistol, I decided to try one-handed shooting.

I was surprised that my first shot was a flyer, but then I realized that I had used my fingertip yet again. Making the proper adjustment, I then rapidly drained four into a group the size of a quarter.

I admit that math was never my best subject, but I quickly calculated that if five rounds of 9mm was fun, loading up 15 rounds of rock and roll might be three times the fun. Unfortunately, loading the 15-round “assault clips” was a problem. Without using a mallet, I couldn’t fill the mags with more than 14 rounds.

That’s not an unusual problem. I have several magazines that function perfectly except they can’t be filled to their advertised capacity. I did another quick calculation and figured that 14 rounds of whoop-ass was 2.8 times the fun of 5, so I was content. I stayed content until I fired the first round. After the shot, the slide locked open and the pistol refused to feed. I racked the slide and the round chambered properly. I fired and, once again, the slide locked open and the next round wouldn’t feed.

I dropped the mag and struck it against my palm, reseated it and chambered a round. The rest of those 9 mills went down range properly. I figured that the mag just needed a little smack to set the cartridges, so I reloaded it with another fourteen, smacked it and went to work. Guess what? After the first shot, there was no joy in Glocksville. No matter what I did, neither the 13th nor the 12th rounds would chamber on its own.

I went back to shooting trouble-free five-round groups until I ran out of targets. At the end, I used the backing from a Shoot-N-C with one of the red plasters stuck into the center in lieu of a real target. I put six rounds into that little dot and damn quickly at that. I then amused myself by effortlessly punching four red and black plasters at the corners of the backing. Shooting dime-sized groups at five yards was a breeze.

Two weeks later, I walked over to my local range with a whole lot of ammo and targets, and proceeded to drill the crap out of the latter with the former. This time, I used a borrowed 10-round magazine since 15-round “assault clips” are illegal in Massachusetts. I had absolutely zero feeding problems and a whole lot of fun, with the G19 showing great accuracy at distances to 15 yards. With the graveyard lighting of the indoor range, offhand 25-yard shooting was difficult, but I was still able to keep everything on paper.

I’d like to be able to tear down the 15-round mags and try to figure out why they didn’t work right, but alas, that would make me a criminal in Massachusetts. While I do feel a certain obligation to produce a factual and complete gun test for y’all, I believe my obligation ends where a year in the Graybar Hotel begins.

The negatives concerning this pistol were annoying, but few in number. I still don’t like the sights very much, and the handle geometry is still a bit of a problem for me. The worst feature of the pistol is the finger grooves carried over from the Gen3’s. My fingers always ended up on the high points of the grooves instead of between them. It wasn’t exactly torture, but it wasn’t comfy and cushy either.

The positives of the G19 Gen4 overwhelmed the negatives. The pistol is a bit longer and taller than, say, an M&P compact, but the G19 remains concealable. It’s very accurate, the trigger is very good. With functional magazines, the pistol performs flawlessly.

Anyone considering the purchase of a compact 9mm without test-driving the G19 Gen4 is either foolish or lives in Massachusetts. It’s about as far from “Perfection” as Austria is from Peoria, but the Glock 19 Gen4 is still a very good pistol in a moderately sized package, and for not a lot of cash. This dog will hunt. Still.

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Model: Glock 19 Gen4
Caliber: 9mm
Magazine capacity: 15 or 10 rounds
Materials: Reinforced polymer frame, steel barrel and slide
Weight empty: 20.99 ounces
Barrel Length: 4.02″
Overall length: 7.28″
Sights: Polymer, windage adjustable
Action: Striker fired, “Safe Action”
Finish: Parkerized Tennifer with RTF
Price: Around $500 “street price”

RATINGS (out of five stars)

Style * * * *
The proportions finally look right. As a fighting gun, it looks balanced and purposeful. The rough texture is a nice styling touch and makes the gun look very butch.

Ergonomics (carry) * * * * 1/2
The G19 in about ½” larger fore-and-aft than the “Baby Glock,” and perhaps 1/4” longer and taller than an M&P compact. The extra size is a reasonable tradeoff for the all-finger grip. The gun is nicely concealable and, at 21 oz., it won’t pants anyone.

Ergonomics (firing) * * * 1/2
The damn handle still didn’t fit me the way I wanted it too. I had to choose a backstrap that made the stock too stocky or one that made the trigger was too close. I despised the finger grooves which were very awkward and uncomfortable. Still, the handle is a major improvement over the older models and none of these perceived deficiencies seemed to have a profound effect on accuracy.

Reliability * * * *
I could never top off the 15-round mags. Even with only 14 rounds in the magazines, I suffered several failures to feed. Maybe the mags will break in over time, and maybe they won’t. Maybe they needed cleaning, and maybe they didn’t. Shooting with less than the full complement of cartridges, or with a 10-round mag topped off, I had zero issues.

Customize This * * * * *
It has a rail for Glock lights and lasers, and the sights can be changed. There is a huge aftermarket for Glock add-ons of every kind and description, but really, why bother?

I’m still not a Glock fanboy, but you might become one if you try this gun.