When first introduced thirty year ago, the polymer-framed Glock safety action pistol was one of the most innovative handguns of the 20th Century. Now, well into the 21st, the Glock has evolved over four full generations (and several partial ones) to keep up with the times and give the public what they want. With that in mind, which is your favorite?
Glock Model 19s of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations from left to right. Photo via Instagram
The First Gen
Ah, the guns that started it all. These are the granddaddy of the line that first hit the U.S. market in 1982. As such, this version, with its slab-sided blocky "orange peel" grip without any finger grooves or ridges, no accessory rail (who had accessories on pistols in the 80s?) .and early model recoil spring are downright collectable these days. Some have even seen an impressive service life over the past three decades, racking up several thousand rounds without significant repair.
Several late models, such as the Glock 26, 29, 34 and 35, were never made in this style, but there are a number of these old 1st Gen G17s that continue to pop up at a price that is now starting to increase past their original MSRP. As these were all-Austrian made, you will typically see the serial number on the slide, frame (stamped into the polymer), and barrel.
The Second Gen
Introduced in 1988 dawned, this next installment in the line was deemed the Gen 2. Quickly recognized by shooters as a much closer grip to today's Glock, these guns came standard with checkering on the front and serrations on the back. Further, internals included a change in the recoil spring (to an encapsulated type) a slightly heavier trigger pull, and a different magazine. Further, to make the boys at the ATF happy (its plastic gun was the complaint after all!) the serial number plate was embedded to the frame of the gun.
Many Glock purists contend that the Gen II was really all that was needed to make the line complete. These guns run well, have few issues, and, while not collectable in the same sense as the 1st Gen models, are solid purchases on the used market, often available for as little as $300.
I have a fellow law enforcement instructor who bought his 2nd Gen G19 in the early 1990s and has carried it with numerous departments, sending well over 40,000 rounds through it over the past two decades (and that's a conservative estimate). He still carries it as his EDC piece now that he is retired.
Just replace the springs as needed and you should be good to go.
The Third Gen
Ah, here is the bone of contention and the point to where I may drift into personal opinion just a little. The 3rd Gen Glocks rolled out in 1997 and had a bevy of slight improvements over the earlier guns after drawing from a solid 15-years of feedback and field use. These guns featured an under-barrel accessory rail; loaded chamber indicator (hello CA compliance!), heavier breech-locking block, and most importantly, finger grooves and thumb rests were added to the grip.
In 2009, Glock came out with an updated version of these gun that featured better ergonomics named the "Rough Texture Finish, Version 2," or commonly just called RTF2. Along the slide, a set of scalloped cutouts replaced the strait up and down slide serrations that had been a facet of the Glock since its introduction in the 1980s. These cutouts were shaped like thumbnails and were instantly but incorrectly dubbed 'fish gills' by those who encountered them. (True Glock fish gills are a whole 'nother story)
Besides the slide, the entire lower frame grip surface area was stippled in fine lines. These lines worked like non-skid and gave the gun an almost instant tackiness when picked up. While some complained that the new grip was too abrasive to their sensitive hands, many shooters took immediately to the RTF2. The Gen 3 pistols were the pinnacle of the designs to that point, incorporating lessons learned from twenty years of making the polymer guns. That, coupled with the radical new grip offered by the RTF2 seemed a winning combination.
It's my personal favorite (hey, at least I'm honest).
This G22 has a documented 11,700 rounds through it with no issues other than a cracked magazine baseplate (that was my fault) and, while I have a set of replacement springs on hand, the gun still functions fine with the factory originals.
Likewise seems like it just will not die anytime soon. Last November Larry Vickers and Lipseys announced that they would release a limited run of 5000 new RTF2 Gen 3s in FDE (is that enough abbreviations for you, or do you want more?) split between G17 and G19 models which shows at least that these guns are still in some form of production even after being "replaced" five years ago.
The Fourth Gen
Just a year after the RTF2 Gen 3s came out; Glock dropped the Gen 4 bomb in the form of a more or less total redesign from the frame standpoint. This included a larger and reversible magazine release, three different-sized back straps for the back of the grip, and a toned-down rough textured finish (RTF3) for a more positive gripping surface for those who though t the RTF2 was too "aggressive,'" and dual recoil springs. On the bright side, this gen offered a more enlightened approach to a polymer-framed gun and addressed similar offerings from Beretta (PX4), Smith and Wesson (M&P) and others who were doing the same.
4th Gen Glocks support replaceable rear grips to include aftermarket extended beavertails, which finally gives Glock shooters the chance to change up their palm swell without having to get a whole new frame.
Now, with the new MOS designation promised at the upcoming SHOT Show this month, it looks like there is an update to the Gen. 4s.
No matter what generation your past, present, or future Glock is, all have a well-deserved reputation for rugged durability, accuracy, and reliability. And you can be sure that the Gen 5 guns are on the way.
With all that being said, what's your favorite Generation of Glock? Drop it in the comments below.