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Handgun Reviews

Glock’s New Generation 4 Pistol

by Dave Spaulding   |  October 21st, 2010 0

The new Gen4 addresses the design’s gun-fit issues…


As anyone reading this article knows, the most difficult shooting skill to master is trigger control. Having the ability to separate the index finger from the rest of the hand and press the trigger straight to the rear without interrupting muzzle alignment is a tall order, and the limited grip surface of a handgun only makes this problem worse.

The longer the trigger, the more difficult it is to make this finger separation, which is why the 1911 has long been the pistol of choice for competitive shooters. It is also the reason that the Glock quickly became the law enforcement pistol of choice when the autoloader transition began in the mid to late 1980s.

While other manufacturers focused on traditional double-action/single-action designs that hearken back to the Walther PP of the late 1920s, Glock was introducing a new pistol that used a unique striker-fired system combined with a polymer frame that produced a gun that was both light and simple to operate.

But what really caught everyone’s attention was the short, easy-to-manipulate trigger that made shooting the gun a more enjoyable experience than the traditional DA/SA. While many were put off by the Glock’s blocky appearance, once they shot it they wanted one.

What American shooters and law enforcement agencies have also come to understand is the better a pistol fits the shooter’s hand, the better he or she will shoot the gun. While a shooter with a small hand can shoot a larger gun well with practice, they will never shoot it as well as they would with a gun that fits properly.


The Gen4 pistols come with backstraps that allow the grip size to be changed. The smallest is integral with the frame; backstraps are added by driving out a pin and stacking additional backstraps on top.

Maximum effectiveness is achieved when the pistol extends from the hand along the plane of the forearm and the index finger rests upon the trigger face at the optimal position.

What is this position? Curl your shooting hand so that it simulates a grip on a pistol. The trigger finger should extend out from the rest of the fingers as if resting on the trigger face. Where the pad of the index finger is in direct opposition to the web of the hand (thus the forearm), this is the optimal location for trigger finger placement–allowing you to press the trigger straight to the rear without moving the gun’s muzzle.

The short trigger and deep grip tang of the Glock design help many shooters achieve this position, which is why so many people shoot the gun well. The downside to the grip configuration is the extreme, Luger-like cant to the backstrap. While those with large hands like the angle, others with smaller hands (like me) have to resort to aftermarket grip modifications in order to obtain an optimal fit.

For years, Glock customers have been telling the company they want a gun that would allow them to modify the grip without utilizing the services of a gunsmith. The company has finally done just that.

Glock’s new Generation 4 pistol–currently available in the models 22 (.40 S&W) and 17 (9mm)–offers a multiple backstrap system that allows the end user to change the circumference of the grip to fit his or her hand.

The grip has three options–small, medium and large–that are easily changed and secured with a single pin. The grips do not really “interchange” as they do on other pistol designs but actually stack one on top of another.


Accuracy Results | Glock 17 Gen4
9mm Luger Bullet Weight (gr.) Muzzle Velocity (fps) Standard Deviation Average Group (in.)
Hornady Critical Defense 115 1,132 5 1.75
Corbon DPX 115 1,275 12 2.50
Speer Gold Dot +P 124 1,217 8 2.50
Federal HST +P 124 1,255 15 1.75
Winchester SXT 127 +P+ 127 1,325 19 3.00
Federal HST +P 147 1,087 17 2.50
WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors, Inc. assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data.
NOTES: Accuracy results are averages of five five-shot groups at 25 yards off a Giles bag rest. Velocities are averages of five shots measured with a Shooting Chrony chronograph set 15 feet from the muzzle.


The new dual-spring design makes the gun softer to shoot and should eliminate any possibility of the frame cracking. It may also reduce malfunctions caused by limp-wristing, a problem some shooters experience with the .40.

The smallest grip is the actual frame itself. To make it larger, remove the pin that holds the sear housing in place and push the desired backstrap into place. Replace the pin and the new backstrap is solidly anchored. A longer pin is supplied for the largest backstrap.

Another new feature found on the Gen4 guns is a reversible magazine release button, which is also enlarged so short thumbs can reliably reach it. This reversible button can be switched to the right or left side with no additional parts, which I believe is a real plus–especially for law enforcement agencies that must issue a gun to fit a wide range of hand sizes as well as right- and left-handed shooters.

The Glock has a very large magazine well that makes it easy to reload the gun quickly. Few guns are faster to reload than a Glock, and this new button just enhances that capability.

Additional upgrades to the Gen4 include the replacement of the original recoil spring with a dual recoil spring assembly. This new assembly noticeably reduces the recoil of the light, polymer-framed gun while simultaneously increasing the lifespan of the pistol. While frame cracks on a Glock are rare, they have happened, and this new recoil spring should eliminate this entirely.

Small-statured shooters also have had problems with the .40 Glocks in the past due to the low bore axis and increased recoil. I’ve seen a number of female police cadets attempt to qualify with a .40 Glock, only to have the gun malfunction over and over again.


The Gen4 features a new, larger magazine release that can be switched to either side. It also has the new Rough Textured Frame grip finish.

The problems go away when I have them use a 9mm Glock, so I can only assume it is the harsher recoil of the .40 combined with limp-wristing to be the culprit–something the “whip” of the .40 does not help. I would not be surprised to see this new recoil spring design help solve this problem. What may also help is the Gen4 Rough Textured Frame surface designed to enhance grip traction.

Glock took the Gen4 pistols to the SWAT Round Up International Competition in Florida and gave several police agencies a chance to work with the new pistols, and they received many positive comments about the design changes. But of course I had to see for myself, so I ordered a test sample.

I received a Gen4 17 9mm, which I prefer because, among other things, I buy my own test ammo, and 9mm is far less expensive than .40. The sample naturally featured all the things that has made Glock pistols famous: the Safe Action trigger; durable black exterior Tenifer finish, which makes it about as rustproof as a gun can be; and a cold-hammer-forged barrel with polygonal rifling.

I tested the Gen4 17 for accuracy by shooting it off the new Giles bags from The Wilderness (TheWilderness.com). These easy-to-transport bags come in various shapes and sizes, making them easy to store in a range bag. Results of my accuracy test with the bag are shown in the accompanying chart.


The Gen4 ran without a hitch, as one expects with a Glock, and was accurate with all the ammo tested.

The legendary Winchester 127-grain +P+ turns the 9mm into almost a .38 Super, which is why the round has performed so well in the street. The superior SXT hollowpoint stays together, expands dramatically and penetrates enough to make this bullet the most proven 9mm round in history. It’s followed closely by the Speer Gold Dot and the Federal HST loads, both of which have shown promising results in actual police action shootings. The Corbon DPX has all of the goods needed to be an excellent choice as well.

When measured in the middle of the trigger face, the stock Safe Action trigger broke right at six pounds with a half-inch length of travel and a short, easy to discern reset.


Glock G17 Gen4
Type: striker-fired semiauto centerfire
Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 17
Weight: 22 oz.
Barrel: 4.49 in w/polygonal rifling
Overall Length: 7.32 in.
Height: 5.43 in.
Width: 1.18 in.
Slide/Frame: Tenifer-finished steel/polymer
Sights: polymer white dot front with white outline rear; tritium optional
Trigger: Safe Action, 5.5 lb. pull, 1/2 in. travel (as tested)
Safety: internal plunger and trigger face engagement
Grips: Rough Textured Frame
Price: $649
Manufacturer: Glock, 770-432-1202

Not surprisingly, the Gen4 Glock shot all of the hollowpoint and full metal jacket ammo I had on hand (400 rounds) without a single hiccup. After all, the design has been around a while and has proven to be ultra-reliable. The enhancements made to the design have done nothing more than improve its shootability.

Using the Comp-Tac paddle holster that I regularly use with my G19, the Gen4 17 drew quickly and pointed well, allowing me to get 20-foot hits on an eight-inch square in 1.07 seconds and shot-to-shot reloads in 1.5 seconds.

The gun just plain runs well and would be an excellent choice for personal security, law enforcement or military applications. After I finished testing the Gen4 G17, my son used it to qualify for his CCW permit, which added another 250 rounds without cleaning. Again, no problems were encountered.

Did I have any druthers? Sure, I would want high visibility metal sights (I’m partial to Ameriglo). I would also like the grip frame to start out a bit trimmer than it currently is, but I am the first to admit that I have very small hands. The vast majority of the shooting public is going to happy with the Gen4 Glock just the way it is.

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