Gun Review: Glock 17 Gen 4

Glock is the single most popular manufacturer of handguns in the United States. Thanks to a marketing department that could sell bayonets to millionaires and billionaires, Glock’s brick-like semi-automatic pistols are universally recognized, glamorized and immortalized. Just ask 2Pac. Oh wait. I’ve avoided Glocks due to their association (in my mind) with Tupperware. After resisting Glock’s plastic fantastic siren song for more than a decade I finally decided to see if Glocks are all that and a bag of chips. So I asked, and I received and I shot the ever-loving crap out of Glock’s standard duty model: the venerable Glock 17.

This is the handgun that launched the style [that should have come to be known as] Glockhaus. The gun’s bare bones ballistic minimalism offers no frills, no extraneous machining. Just the things you need and nothing you don’t. It’s the firearms equivalent of Dragnet – just the facts, ma’am.

In that sense, the Glock 17 stands in stark contrast to the sexy, stylized look of the Smith & Wesson M&P. Or the Springfield XDm. Or any 1911 on planet Earth. Let’s face it: the Glock 17 is ugly. I mean, if the M&P is to guns what Sarai Givaty is to a white tank top, the Glock is what Bee Arthur is to the string bikini these days, if you can imagine that. OK, maybe you shouldn’t.

If Glock’s detractors could bring themselves to stare at Gorgon’s gun for more than thirty seconds, they’d see that Gaston’s mob have incorporated a ton of well-hidden, well-placed features within the Glockhausian aesthetic. The best of these: the loaded chamber indicator.

On other guns of this type, the loaded chamber indicator is blatantly obvious. The Springfield XD’s sticks up the top of the slide and looks rather jagged. For the Smith & Wesson, it’s an obviously drilled hole in the top of the chamber. Glock has smartly hidden its loaded chamber indicator on the extractor, adding a little metal job that’s flush with the slide when empty and angles out when loaded. It’s perfectly placed for a quick trigger finger check, exploiting a pre-existing feature instead of adding a purpose-built part.

Other little things stick out (so to speak) too, indicating intelligent engineering. For example, the chamber in the barrel fits flush and snug to the cutout in the slide, making for a smooth and continuous surface along the top of the gun. While it doesn’t improve accuracy or combat effectiveness, the design feature shows some careful thinking which, one hopes, carries through to the gun’s internal parts.

Glock takes a lot of heat for that Perfection motto. It reminds me of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi’s take on the subject: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Judging from the Glock 17 G4, the chase is still on.

The G17’s safety action trigger provides a small amount of predictable, uniform slack up to a wall-like breaking point. The break itself is a little mushy. Never mind. The reset’s the thing.

After ignition, the G17’s trigger resets close to the breaking point with a SNICK that can be heard clear across a crowded gun range, ear pro or no. Well almost. But you sure can feel it in your finger and that’s a good thing, allowing rapid, positive and purposeful follow-up shots.

Compared to similar polymer framed pistols, the Glock’s go pedal isn’t the worst on offer. It’s not the best, but it certainly isn’t the worst. The 17’s trigger was designed for the masses, balancing safety with accuracy — tilting dramatically towards safety. More advanced shooters can choose from a wide variety of aftermarket trigger parts that will reduce and smooth-out the 17’s 5.5 lbs. trigger pull.

Number two on the list of gripes: grip texture. I get that it’s a duty gun; Glock prioritized firearm retention. But the average shooter will find it a tad uncomfortable. Shooters with massive paws (e.g., me) have other issues: the ridges on the front strap of the grip don’t line up with my digits. In Glockland, it’s adapt or die.

Gripe number three: plastic magazines. They’ve proven to be tough as nails and stand up to abuse just as well as any other magazine, but they’re considerably bulkier than their metallic brethren and, historically, their light weight and slightly rougher exterior has kept them from dropping free from the gun when you hit the mag release.

OK, their latest incarnations do drop free. But I’ve seen older mags sticking around where they’re not wanted (the magazine well of your gun) enough to color my opinion.

It’s easy to see why the masses migrate to Gaston’s gizmo. Thanks to the 17’s thick grip, the gun’s relatively low bore axis, its 4.49″ barrel and the fact that the pistol fires the most manageable of “serious” calibers, the 17’s recoil is not an issue. Newbies would find it downright comfortable, even. More experienced shooters will not be surprised to learn I was keeping about a 1 inch group at 15 yards, with one flier out of 5 rounds.

The Glock’s positive trigger reset makes it possible to “ride” the trigger and unleash lead at a furious clip. The Glock’s much (and I’d say unfairly) maligned factory sights — a “U and dot” style setup — make getting on target and accurately putting rounds downrange as easy as finding a Glock hater at a 1911 convention. FTFs? FTEs? As John McEnroe said, are you serious? Whatever else you can say about the G17, whatever was said about early spring issue-related failures, this gun just worked.

But not for me, exactly. I’m not saying the Glock 17 is uncomfortable, it’s just not perfectly sized to fit my hand. I’m sure there are people (millions, apparently) for whom a Glock is the gun they feel comfortable having and holding in good times and in bad. Anyway, there’s no denying that the Glock 17 is a solid shooter that gets the job done in terms of putting rounds downrange where you want ’em.

Despite my gripes, the Glock 17 is a downright solid handgun. It’s reliable, built like a friggin’ tank, and has some pretty darn attractive features. It handles well, has tons of aftermarket mods and a booming accessories market to keep new Glock owners well stocked with various and sundry add-ons. It works, and for the money it’s a pretty good buy.

Caliber:              9mm Parabellum
Barrel:                4.4″
Overall:              7.7″
Weight:              22.04 oz. empty
Capacity:           17 (factory) / 19 (flush aftermarket) / 33 (lolwut)
Price:                 $500 (Buds)

Ratings (out of five stars):
All ratings are relative to other similar guns, and the final score IS NOT calculated from the constituent scores.

Accuracy: * * * *
Somewhere slightly south of Wilson Combat territory, and nowhere near Hi Point land.

Ergonomics (Handling): * * * *
For the most part its pretty good, but the grip just doesn’t do it for me. There are inserts available to change the size of the grip for larger hands. Unfortunately no interchangeable front straps for those finger grooves.

Ergonomics (Firing): * * * * 
A bit of mush in the trigger, but overall very enjoyable.

Reliability: * * * * *
There has been video after video of these guns being abused, and lasting throughout the entire ordeal in perfect working order. Glock wasn’t about to let me do anything drastic with my loaner, but I take the word of the dozens (hundreds?) of people who have tried to break theirs.

Customization: * * * * *
I’m pretty sure there’s a rail mountable candelabra somewhere designed to work with a Glock.

Overall Rating: * * * *
Good? Definitely. Possibly even great. Just not perfect.