Gun Review: GLOCK 26 Gen 4

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When conversation turns to the subject of Gaston’s creations, it seems that most people fall into one of two categories. The first are those who think that Jesus Christ (or your personal religious deity of choice) himself/herself/itself came down from heaven/paradise/whatever and bestowed the GLOCK design upon Gaston himself the way Moses received the ten commandments at Mt. Sinai. It’s handgun perfection. The best gun for every person in every situation and it’s disciples wonder why anyone would want anything else. The second category of people acknowledge that the GLOCK is a good gun, but won’t ever buy one because of all the assclowns in category one. I always fell firmly in the latter group . . .

All kidding aside, you GLOCK guys can take a joke, right? Right? Anyway, GLOCK has its share of pretty passionate fans and more than once I’ve had someone try to give me the hard sell like a Jehovah’s Witness who needs to make their conversion quota for the month. I’ve never seen that level of enthusiasm from any other brand loyalist, although I have to admit the 1911 crowd gives them a run for their money.

case

 

Partially because of this, I have studiously avoided buying a GLOCK-brand GLOCK despite the fact that I have bought GLOCK-inspired designs such as the Springfield XDm and the Smith & Wesson M&P. I’d always been quite comfortable with my decision to steer clear of actual GLOCKs. That is, until I made another attempt to find concealed carry nirvana.

Now, we all know that the perfect concealed carry gun is high capacity, chambered in a man-stopping caliber, weighs only a few ounces, is small enough to tuck into your bellybutton, but still has a large enough grip to enable a firm hold. Oh, and it has to have no recoil. If anyone ever finds a gun that meets all of these criteria, please let me know. Until then, I guess we have to live in a world of compromises. And one of the compromises I decided to make was to reconsider my opinion on GLOCKs.

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Concealed carry guns are always a series of tradeoffs. Capacity is usually an issue which is why the majority of guns designed for concealed carry skew in the direction of smaller calibers such as 9mm and .380. Recoil’s another problem as these guns tend to be small and light, having less mass to soak up the force of the shot. Triggers are often the bane of many CCW designs.  It would seem that Double action only (DAO) triggers with long pulls tend to rule the day.  One particularly egregious example of this is the trigger found on my Sig Sauer P290.  From the start of the pull to the point where the hammer releases, the trigger has to move almost a full inch.  That may not sound like much, but when you compare it to, say, the trigger on my single action only (SAO) P938, which only needs to move ¼ of an inch, it feels like a football field.

While short and clean, the problem with the SAO trigger is that it requires an external safety in order for it to be safely carried “cocked and locked.”  Some folks eschew the idea of external safeties on carry guns as simply one more thing you have to remember to disengage if you are in a gunfight when milliseconds count.  The DAO trigger found on many small frame carry guns is arguably “safer” as the trigger needs to move a lot further to discharge the gun (and the pull weight is correspondingly higher), but there’s a reason that DAO guns are largely absent from IDPA and IPSC matches – it’s more difficult to shoot quickly and accurately with them than with other types of triggers.  The Glock Safe Action trigger splits the difference – it’s not as sensitive as a SAO trigger, but sensitive enough that accurate and fast shots can be made with it (which is one reason it is the most popular gun on the IDPA circuit)

Appearance

Let’s face it, a GLOCK is the flea-bitten mongrel that shows up to the AKC National Championship – it’s uglier than most of the others, but in a fight, it can kick the pretty-boys’ asses. GLOCKs are built to work while not costing a lot. Unfortunately, they end up being fairly unattractive guns. Then again, do I really care if people think my Dewalt drill is nice looking or not?  No, the important thing is getting the job done. That said, there’s a certain elegance in the minimalist approach that GLOCK applies to their guns but I do wish they could do something about the boxy look.

Ergonomics

GLOCK has had more than three decades to refine the ergonomics of their offerings and they have pretty much got it dialed in. If you’re used to shooting any of the bigger GLOCKs, you’re going to feel right at home with the G26. The only nit I have to pick is that the short grip of the 26 leaves my pinkie twisting in the wind. For some people, this isn’t an issue. For others (like me), it feels unnatural. Fortunately, he problem has a simple and relatively low cost solution: Pearce grip extensions.

mag

This $10 part replaces the stock baseplate on the magazine and gives you some extra real estate on which to rest your pinkie.  I just wish GLOCK included them as an optional baseplate in the box the way Ruger does with its SR-22. Hey – if Ruger can do it with a cheap .22, why can’t GLOCK?

grip

Grip texture is fairly aggressive. The G26 benefits from the texturing improvements that’s a feature of all of the Gen 4 guns.  With the Gen 4 line, GLOCK has finally followed the example of other polymer gun manufacturers and acknowledged that not every hand is exactly the same. Included with my G26 were several alternative backstraps (with and without beavertail extensions) that let me tailor my GLOCK to to fit my hand.

backstraps

The magazine release button has been enlarged on the Gen 4 G26 and is easily reversible for left-handed shooters. I found the button to be easy to hit, but not so easy that I was accidentally ejecting mags. It represents a pretty decent improvement over the magazine release in the Gen 3 and earlier models.

I would be remiss in an article about any GLOCK if I did not address the issue of grip angle. If you’ve spent much time talking to gun people or surfing message boards, you’ve probably seen grip angle mentioned as a negative when considering GLOCKS. I’ve heard the same thing. Recently though, I came across a great article that goes into this topic in detail, explains why there’s a difference between the GLOCK grip angle and those of other guns such as the 1911 and what to do about. It’s worth a read.

The 26′s trigger is just about right. As I noted above, one of the reasons I bought a GLOCK 26 for my carry gun was that I wanted that nice, clean trigger that GLOCKs are famous for. The 26 doesn’t disappoint. There’s a bit of take-up initially, but it’s very easy to feel exactly where the trigger is going to break. It’s not as clean a break as a SAO gun, but damn close. The reset is both audible and tactile and once you pass the reset point, you can press it again for another shot with no take-up.

I’m not wild about the stock black combat sights. I get that GLOCK likes the minimalist look and wants to keep their various pistol lines in sync with each other feature-wise. The 26 is intended to be a defensive handgun that you carry with you and might have a need to employ in all kinds of conditions. It seems to me that night sights would be a good option. I get that tritium adds to the cost, but given this gun’s primary mission, I’d argue that it would be worth it as standard equipment.  Procuring them yourself will set you back about $90 plus installation if you need a gunsmith to do the work for you. I went with a Trijicon HD Yellow Night Sight.

sight

Finally, let’s get to size and weight. At 21.7 oz. unloaded and 28.1 oz. loaded, the G26 is plenty light. My S&W 642 clocks in at 15 oz. empty, but holds only half as many rounds as the G26 and is less pleasant to shoot, even with standard .38 rounds. On the other hand, the G26 is fairly chunky. This isn’t truly a pocket pistol unless you have the pockets of a clown or a hobo.  Sure, they make a pocket holster for it (I have one), but the pistol is a bit too large to be comfortably carried that way. This is a gun that’s going to mostly be worn in some sort of waistband holster, OWB or IWB. To give you an idea, here’s a comparison to the Sig Sauer P290 (a single stack rig).

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Shooting the G26 is a pleasure. I originally considered getting it’s .40 brother, the G27, but several people (who are serious GLOCK lovers) warned me away from the gun. The G26 is a very soft shooter with 9mm. The G27 is decidedly not. The fact that the gun store had three used G27s in the case seems to attest to that. On the flip side, if you buy a G27, you can get a drop-in 9mm barrel and have a dual-purpose gun. Unfortunately, you can’t go the other way with the G26.

Accuracy

If you search the internet, claims about the G26’s accuracy are all over the map. Some people say they can shoot the G26 better than their bigger GLOCKs and suggest the shorter barrel means less error induced by barrel vibration. Others claim that the G26 is pretty accurate, but not in the same league as its bigger brothers. I fall into the latter camp. I can shoot the G26 accurately enough to get the job done, but I’ll not be taking this gun to any competitions. Following standard TTAG review practices, I give you the standard seven yard target with 10 rounds of cheap FMJ:

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I also took the opportunity to try the gun at 60′. Normally, I’d shoot the more standard 25 yards, but the range I was shooting on this time was limited to 20 yards. Once again, ten rounds of cheap FMJ:

target 60

I’m not proud of this one. Three rounds missed the target completely and I was only able to put six of the ten into a ten-inch circle. Now, I know that there are very few cases where a DGU at 60′ would be considered a clean (read: legal) shoot. That said, an active shooter situation comes to mind. Granted, the likelihood of finding myself in such a situation is statistically very very small. Then again, the likelihood of being in a DGU at all is incredibly small given where I live and the places I would likely find myself. If I can’t put ten rounds out of ten in a ten-inch circle at 25 yards, then I either need to practice more (duh) or find a gun that I can shoot more accurately. I can actually shoot better than this.  Just not with this gun it seems.

Field Stripping

The GLOCK does a lot of things right. That does not mean it’s without its share of warts. One of the most egregious blemishes is the method by which you field strip the pistol. In the interest of full disclosure, the first two semi-automatic pistols that I owned were a Beretta 92 and a Springfield Armory XD(M). In both cases, field stripping is brain-dead simple – lock the slide back, flip a lever, release the slide and take it right off.  Many of my SIG SAUER pistols work the same way and I love this method.

The GLOCK on the other hand is relatively simple, but has a key difference. To strip a GLOCK, you pull the slide back, then press on the release tabs as the slide moves forward. Finally, you pull the trigger and the slide comes off. Simple? Yes. Safe?  Not so much.

Over the years there have been a number of incidents in which someone accidentally discharged their GLOCK while field stripping it. Now, I’ll admit, there’s no excuse for this. If you follow proper cleaning procedures, you drop the magazine, rack the slide back, check clear, turn your head away, then turn back and check clear a second time. Follow this procedure and you’ll never have a problem. Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, people clean their guns while watching TV, drinking, or just doing something else that distracts them from task at hand. Next thing you know, someone is leaking all over the carpet.

While some people might be quick to dismiss this issue, just check out the advertising of SIG SAUER’s new P320 pistol. One thing they make a great effort to say more than once is how the P320 doesn’t require the trigger to be pulled to strip the gun.  Since this gun is being heavily marketed to the LEO community, many of whom know a thing or two about guns, something tells me that there is some dissatisfaction out there concerning GLOCK’s manual of arms.

When the GLOCK pistol first hit the market back in 1982, there weren’t a lot of alternatives to compare it to. The market for polymer guns was pretty small. H&K had the VP70 (which actually takes the title of the world’s first polymer framed handgun, beating Gaston to the market by 12 years), but other than that, the GLOCK was it. GLOCK’s take down method, while maybe not the safest in the world, was fairly simple and it worked.

The problem is that much has changed in the 34 years since the G17 first appeared. It would seem to me that as part of one of the generational revisions, GLOCK could alter the take down procedure to remove the necessity of a trigger pull. If they don’t, sooner or later, they will lose a lawsuit. Some bright attorney will demonstrate the more “modern” ways for polymer handguns to be field stripped and GLOCK will get slammed for keeping the older “unsafe” method. For those who doubt this, I submit that you look at the history of court action against cigarette manufacturers. While they were able to forestall a loss for many years, eventually, they lost a court case and then all hell broke loose.

That said, if you can manage to keep your head in the game, the GLOCK field strips very easily and quickly.

breakdown

Value

The out the door price for a Gen 4 G26 is about $525, give or take. Add night sights (a necessity for a CCW, if you ask me) and you’re at about $600. Not an exceptionally low price, nor is it exceptionally high. You’re getting what you paid for, plain and simple. On the plus side, GLOCK ships the G26 with three magazines and a mag loader. This latter addition is pretty handy as the springs in GLOCK mags are very firm. So aside from a holster, you pretty much have everything you need.  GLOCK also still offers the Gen 3 G26. You save $50, but give up the larger mag release, interchangeable back straps, the more aggressive grip texture and one magazine. Whether these things are worth it to you or not is a personal decision.

Accessories

After the 1911, GLOCKs is probably the guns with the most aftermarket options. You can change or modify just about any part of the pistol to your heart’s content. One of the strengths of the GLOCK is the ease with which you can accomplish a nearly full disassembly. Unlike other handguns, you don’t have to sit through a two day armorer’s class to learn how to detail strip and rebuild your gun. If you want to get really ridiculous, pair the G26 with one of Glock’s 33-round mags or, even better, a 50-round drum.

Summary

I have to admit it, the G26 has grown on me. If not for the field strip issue, I’d consider one of its big brothers to be a perfect gun for new shooters. As it currently stands, I think I’d still steer people either to the Springfield Armory XD/XD(M) or the Smith & Wesson M&P. GLOCKs are the Ford (or Chevy, if you swing that way) of the gun world. Out-of-the-box they come with enough to get you up and running at a fair price, even if many users will want to add options that will increase the cost.

Specifications:

Caliber:                 9mm (also .40 auto and .357 Sig)
Action:                   Semi-auto
Overall length:    6.49 inches
Overall width:     1.18 inches
Overall height:     5 inches
Weight:                  21.7 oz. unloaded
Sights:                    Fixed front sight dot, rear sight channel
Finish:                    Black or FDE
Capacity:               10 rounds, up to 33 rounds with extended mags
Price:                     $525 street

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style: * * * 
It’s the story of the puppy so ugly, it’s almost cute. In 1989, GLOCK probably had a cutting-edge appearance. By 2014, it’s become rather drab, particularly when you compare it to some of the blinged out guns sold by some manufacturers. If you consider your gun to be a fashion statement, the G26 is probably not for you.

Ergonomics: * * *  (* * * * 1/2 with Pearce grip extension and replacement sights)
For someone like me with mid-to large-sized hands, the short grip on the 26 may be an issue. The addition of the grip extension changes the whole dynamic and makes this an easy gun to shoot. I just wish the extensions were included. The black combat sights scream for replacement on a gun intended for CCW use. The alternate backstraps make customizing the grip fairly simple.

Reliability: * * * * *
Not a single failure to fire, feed, or eject no matter what sort of crap ammo I fed it. It’s a GLOCK and like my black Lab, it will pretty much eat everything that you throw at it. I get the feeling that I could drive my F150 over the damn thing and it would barely scratch it.

Customize This: * * * * *
Again, it’s a GLOCK. What else needs to be said?

Overall: * * * 
Depending on your preferences, you will likely find the G26 to be a competent concealed carry pistol. Unfortunately, the market is full of competent concealed carry pistols that miss the mark in one or more areas. The G26′s capacity is nice, but I would be willing to trade some of that for a thinner profile. A 26 in a single stack with grip extensions, proper sights, and a better take down method would be damn close to the perfect CCW gun. Out of the box, it is about a four star gun, but I knocked one off because you have to pull the trigger to take the gun down. The fact that GLOCK seems to be the only major manufacturer that still has this design suggests that it may be time for a change.