No firearms collection is complete without at least one handgun. Easily concealable, they allow a person to travel with an effective means of self defense without advertising that fact to the world. Of course as everyone knows, a pistol is just what you use to fight your way back to your rifle. In the event of an all-out gunfight, a pistol can be handy but it will always lose out to a long gun.
When choosing a handgun, the first step is to choose between a revolver or a pistol. For a variety of reasons, most people decide to choose a pistol. For a survival situation, a pistol makes more sense. Not only is it easier to conceal, it will also offer you more firepower than a revolver and is easier to reload.
One of the most popular pistols in the world is the Glock family of pistols. First produced in 1982 for the Austrian armed forces, the Glock 17 took the shooting world by storm. With a frame made out of polymer, the Glock was far lighter than existing metal-framed pistols. Its striker-fired system, lack of external safeties, and double-stack 17-round magazine capacity helped to make it both a military and commercial success. The success of the Glock 17 spawned a whole family of pistols in multiple different calibers.
The Glock family of pistols are available in many different sizes which fit into the following general categories: Standard, Compact, Subcompact, Slimline, Competition, and Long Slide. The standard size pistols such as the Glock 17 all use the same frame size, with the exception of the Glock 20 (10mm) and Glock 21 (.45 ACP) which use a slightly larger frame. The compact pistols are smaller than the standard size pistols and generally hold 2 fewer rounds in their magazine. The subcompact are smaller still, and may be difficult to hold for those who have large hands. All of the subcompact and compact pistols are able to accept magazines from their larger brethren. For instance, you can use the 17-round magazine of the Glock 17 in a Glock 19 and Glock 26, or the 15-round magazine of a Glock 19 in a Glock 26. The slimline pistols feature a single-stack magazine and are intended for maximum concealment.
Here’s a list of the most common Glock models you may encounter.
- Glock 17 – Standard 9mm
- Glock 18 – Fully automatic standard 9mm, very rare in the US
- Glock 19 – Compact 9mm
- Glock 20 – Standard 10mm
- Glock 21 – Standard .45 ACP
- Glock 22 – Standard .40 S&W
- Glock 23 – Compact .40 S&W
- Glock 24 – Long slide .40 S&W
- Glock 25 – Compact .380 ACP, not available in US
- Glock 26 – Subcompact 9mm
- Glock 27 – Subcompact .40 S&W
- Glock 28 – Subcompact .380 ACP, not available in US
- Glock 29 – Subcompact 10mm
- Glock 30 – Subcompact .45 ACP
- Glock 31 – Standard .357 SIG
- Glock 32 – Compact .357 SIG
- Glock 33 – Subcompact .357 SIG
- Glock 34 – Competition 9mm
- Glock 35 – Competition .40 S&W
- Glock 36 – Slimline .45 ACP
- Glock 37 – Standard .45 GAP
- Glock 38 – Compact .45 GAP
- Glock 39 – Subcompact .45 GAP
- Glock 40 – Long slide 10mm
- Glock 41 – Competition .45 ACP
- Glock 42 – Slimline .380 ACP
- Glock 43 – Slimline 9mm
There are numerous variations of these pistols too, such as the -L suffix long slide pistols or the -C suffix pistols with compensated barrels and slide cutouts to match. It should be pointed out that because of the popularity of Glock pistols there is a huge aftermarket of firms offering supplies for them. You can purchase barrels in different calibers for just about every pistol Glock makes, even in relatively obscure calibers. For instance, in addition to the standard 10mm barrel of a Glock 20 you can purchase barrels in .40 S&W, .357 SIG, or 9×25 Dillon.
Glocks have also gone through a number of different generational changes through their production run, and not all parts will interchange across all generations.
The first generation of Glock pistols featured a two-piece recoil rod and spring assembly and had no checkering on the front strap and back strap of the grip.
The second generation added serrations to the front strap and back strap of the grip. Eventually the second generation came with a one-piece recoil rod and spring assembly which was easier to remove and install than the original two-piece assembly.
The third generation of Glock pistols added an accessory rail on the forward part of the frame under the barrel to allow for the mounting of pistol lights, lasers, and other accessories. The grip featured finger grooves and thumb rests. Later third generation pistols featured a larger locking block and an additional cross pin to help distribute recoil forces. The third generation Glocks are the standard for which many aftermarket parts are designed.
The fourth generation Glocks were introduced in 2010 and feature a new dual recoil spring assembly, interchangeable back straps, and a slightly smaller grip with a different texture. The magazine release is interchangeable from left to right to allow left-handed shooters to manipulate the magazine release with their strong hand. Because of this, magazines made for Gen4 pistols feature a magazine release cutout on both sides of the magazine. Gen4 magazines can be used in all previous generations of Glocks, but magazines made for the first through third generations cannot be used in Gen4 and later Glocks when the magazine release is set up for left-handed shooters.
The Gen5 Glocks were released in mid-2017 and feature a number of new features as well as redesigned parts. Many of the parts can now no longer be interchanged with previous Glock generations. Gen5 Glocks also feature an ambidextrous slide stop release, a flared magazine well, and no longer have finger grooves on the grip.
Advantages of Glock Pistols
1. Low Cost
Glocks ushered in the era of cheap, reliable, high-capacity pistols. Consistently priced below the cost of competing metal-framed pistols such as the Beretta 92, SIG P220/226, and Heckler & Koch USP, Glock easily found acceptance among both the shooting public and law enforcement agencies. The price of a new Glock still is only just over $500, while used guns and police trade-in guns can often be found in the low $300s.
Designed initially as a service pistol, Glocks have a reputation for reliably feeding any ammunition they are fed. Aftermarket barrels are available for those who want to shoot lead bullets (which should not be fired in factory Glock barrels) or who want tighter chamber tolerances, but those barrels may affect reliability.
3. Availability of Parts
The number of aftermarket parts available for Glocks is mind-boggling. From different strengths of recoil spring to varying triggers to fancy slides and caliber conversion barrels, you can modify a Glock to make it just the way you want it to be.
Disadvantages of Glock Pistols
1. Unknown Longevity
While Glocks have been around for decades, their ultimate long-term lifespan is unknown. All polymers break down over time, particularly when exposed to sunlight, so it’s only a matter of time before a Glock frame will crack or break. There are many gun owners who still shoot rifles with steel receivers that were produced from the 1860s to the 1890s. Will Glock frames still be shootable 120-150 years from now? The jury is still out on that.
2. Glock “Smiles”
Part of the Glock’s ability to digest all sorts of ammunition is the design of its feed ramp and chamber. But by easing feeding, many Glock factory barrels leave the underside of the case head unsupported, leading to the infamous “Glock smile” on fired brass. While that’s not normally a concern for new ammunition, for those who reload their brass it could result in weakening of brass near the case head and possible case ruptures on subsequent firings, which could destroy the gun and cause serious injury to the shooter.
The Glock has taken a lot of grief from shooters over the years because of the strange angle of its grip and bulky back strap. Differing significantly from most other pistols such as the 1911 with which most shooters are familiar, firing a Glock requires a slightly different grip on the pistol that takes some getting used to and can require some work to acquire the sights. While it isn’t a problem for most shooters, the ability from Gen4 onwards to customize the backstrap can eliminate that problem.