Why the Glock 23 Should be Your New Carry Gun

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms

I have been surprised at the popularity of the Glock 19 9mm versus that of the Glock 23 .40S&W among civilian shooters.

I do not know anyone that carries the Glock 23 on their own time and their own dime. Practically everyone in my circle of friends and associates owns at least one Glock 19. The handguns are identical in size and shape and fit the same holsters. My yardstick, tape measure and calipers show that each is 7.35 inches long, about 5.0 inches high and 1.18 inch thick. They weigh but 23.6 ounces unloaded and pump up to about 32 ounces loaded. Neither Glock features a manual safety. The firing pin block and safety lever in the trigger are the whole show. True safety is between the ears.

Glock 23 left angled

The Glock 23 is a great all-around handgun that represents a good balance of power and weight.

The real difference is in magazine capacity. The Glock 19 9mm features a 15-round magazine while the Glock 23 .40 caliber pistol carries 13 rounds in the magazine. Clearly, either holds enough cartridges on tap for any foreseeable difficulty.

The Glock 23 features the typical Glock double-action-only trigger. There is only one trigger action to learn. In my example, the action is fast and light enough at 6 pounds. Trigger reset is rapid. The Glock 23 is snag free, fast into action, and simply feels good in the hands. The sights are adequate for the task at hand—especially with the night sight option. The Glock is easily field stripped and maintained. Overall, the Glock 23 is not only a good concealed carry handgun, but an acceptable service pistol as well.

15-yard accuracy, Glock 23, from a solid benchrest
Hornady 155-grain XTP 1.8 inches
Winchester 155-grain Silvertip 2. 0 inches
Remington 180-grain Golden Saber 2.25 inches

This brings us to the obvious comparison. The Glock Model 23 is chambered for the .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge. The .40 is a result of many studies into problems that have dogged police side arms for over 100 years. The Smith & Wesson .38 Special handled well and was mild to fire. The problem was that it did not do the job it was intended to do. The original 158-grain RNL .38 load was often called a ‘widowmaker’ because it failed the officers carrying it.

Glock 23 and Glock 19

The author’s personal Glock 23 compared to the Glock 19. These are similar handguns, but firing characteristics differ due to greater recoil of the .40 caliber cartridge.

Eventually, the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge was chambered in a relatively compact revolver. The Smith & Wesson Model 19, and the later Model 13, were great service revolvers. Problem was, they were difficult to control without extensive training. The magnum cartridge was also hard on the gun. They did not crack or blow, but magnum recoil was hard on small parts. The .40 was shoehorned into the 9mm frame in much the same manner and much the same problems surfaced.

The .40 S&W is more difficult to control than the 9mm and weapon wear is regarded as greater, although this differs from brand to brand. Will we ever learn? Yet, a study by the Feds some years ago confirmed what many harness cops already knew. A handgun over 35 ounces becomes a burden by the end of the day. The 9mm size handgun is ideal for carry and for hand fit. A .45 caliber pistol such as the excellent Glock 21 is a stretch for most hand sizes. A general consensus was reached—supported by well-documented cases and by research—that the 9mm wasn’t enough for police work.

Water test results Velocity Penetration Expansion
Hornady Critical Defense 115-grain FTX 1140 fps 14.0 .56
Cor Bon 115-grain DPX +P 1235 fps 11.0 .63
Winchester Ranger 147-grain SXT 940 fps 15.0 .54
Hornady 155-grain XTP 1090 fps 17.5 .72
Cor Bon 135-grain JHP 1290 fps 12.0 .70
Remington 180-grain Golden Saber 980 fps 14.5 .65

We could debate the 9mm from here to Ragnorak, but the fact remains the 9mm’s wound potential isn’t up to the .45 ACP—but the .45 is too heavy to carry. I am certain a .45 can be made as light as a 9mm, but the .900-inch long cartridge case demands a long grip frame. The same goes for the 10mm. The .40 had been kicking around for a while in the form of the centimeter round—.41 Action Express and others. The .40 S&W was a success story. There were a few cracks in the canvas, however. One Federal agency rushed to adopt the Glock 32 and went back to the 9mm because the officers were not qualifying to the previous high standard with the Glock 23.

The 9mm Luger and .40 caliber Smith & Wesson cartridges compared. The .40 kicks and hits harder.

The 9mm Luger and .40 caliber Smith & Wesson cartridges compared. The .40 kicks and hits harder.

This is understandable. Recoil is greater. The first runs of .40 caliber ammunition did not display a high degree of accuracy. Some were loaded perhaps too hot. Various loads demonstrate excellent wound potential. I have added a few results garnered from experimentation with water from 21st Century Stopping Power, Paladin Press. The author is a military intelligence officer and the results are verifiable and repeatable. As you can see the results with the .40 caliber across the spectrum of light and heavy bullets and various velocity gives better wound potential than the 9mm. But this isn’t the whole story.

Power Factor

9mm Power .40 S&W Power .45 ACP Power
115 grains 1140 fps 13 155 grains 1090 fps 17 230 grains 868 fps 19.9
115 grains 1235 fps 14 135 grains 1290 fps 17 185 grains 920 fps 17
147 grains 940 fps 14 180 grains 980 fps 17.5

Shot placement means a great deal. The Glock 19 9mm is easier to shoot well than the .40 caliber pistol. While recoil energy may be calculated, the easiest way is to calculate power factor. This is bullet weight times velocity divided by 1,000. It is generally regarded that a power factor of 20 or above is too much for control by most shooters in a personal defense gun.

Glock 23 in Blackhawk IWB holster

The author often carries his Glock 23 in this Blackhawk! inside the waistband holster.

9mm defense loads rate 13 to 14, the .40 runs to 17 and over. The 230-grain .45 is at 20; the .45 ACP 185-grain standard load is at about 17. (The PF isn’t the whole picture—the full size Glock 21 .45 is among the easiest kicking handguns in the Glock line due to size and weight.) So we have a pistol that hits harder, but kicks harder. Gee, Einstein was right! Many shooters find themselves choosing the 9mm if they want a lot of shots and the .45 if they want knockdown power. Nothing wrong with that, but they ignore the .40.

As for myself, I like the Glock 23. I have been impressed by results I have carefully researched and cataloged. For those willing to practice and accept lower times between shots, greater recoil, and perhaps slightly less absolute accuracy, the Model 23 offers excellent real world ballistics. The Glock 23 is as accurate to a fast first shot as the Glock 19. For those considering a compact pistol and moving from the .45, the Glock 23 offers the best of both worlds. The Glock 23 isn’t for everyone, but which handgun is? It is a well-balanced and reliable handgun, and it is all Glock.

Glock 23
Action Type Semi-automatic/Safe Action
Barrel Length 4.02 inches
Caliber .40 S&W
Overall Height 4.99inches
Overall Length 7.36 inches
Overall Width 1.18 inches
Weight Unloaded 21.16 ounces
Sights Fixed
Capacity 13
Magazines 2
Frame Polymer

9mm or .40 S&W? Do you carry the Glock 23 or Glock 19? Share you experiences with the Glock 23, 19 or your preferred Glock in the comment section.

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Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (153)

  • Mark C


    We could debate which has better stopping power all day. Me personally, I carry a 9mm. With all the new ammo on the market it’s really hard to say which has more stopping power. I personally keep mine loaded with either the civic duty or R.I.P. rounds from G2 Research and quite frankly, certainly would doubt that after the first hit, the attacker would keep coming. That is if they didn’t drop dead first!


  • Jim


    I have the best of both worlds, I bought the KKM
    conversion barrel for my Glock 23


    • Anthony James Roberts Jr.


      I use two glock22 for home defense and I carry two glick19′ on me all the time . From sun rise to sun set.


  • The 4 Best Glock 23 Night Sights


    […] self defender knows they need a high quality set of night sights for their firearm and even a great handgun such as the Glock 23 can be improved with such. If you own said gun or any Gen 3 and 4 models, it […]


  • John


    I own four Glocks–the 19, 26, 36 and, most recently, the 23 Gen 3. I must say that the 23 quickly became my favorite. I can shoot all four pretty much equally well, but the 23 is a cut above in terms of accuracy and of course power.

    The 36 and 23 now alternate as my carry weapons, depending on the situation.


  • Grubbs David



    The recoil isn’t that much different… ESSPECIALLY for the increased energy you get!!! The good thing about the 23 is that for a $100 barrel you can have a 9mm if you don’t like it, but not the other way around. Also if you are remotely concerned about SHTF or Ammo supplies, you have a gun that can shoot .40 or 9mm with about a 15 second barrel change. But when it comes down to it, proper grip, stance, and positioning will make it barely noticable. I shoot 9mm out of mine sometimes and I don’t really even notice a difference recoil wise… but I can see a big difference in how much my steel targets move!!!

    Anyway, I’m a 23 fan…. I have 3 and bought my first one as a graduation gift for myself from paramedic school back in 1996. That is still my main carry gun and I have about 10,000 rounds through it. I polished the friction areas, put a 3lb connector on it, and XS big dot sights. Other than a single pistol class back in 2014 I’m a self taught shooter, and I can EASILY draw, fire 3 rds, and hit center mass of my IDPA target with all 3 in less than 3 seconds from 10 yds. The recoil is all about practice and training. To be honest I’m about 7-8 out of 10 hitting that target from 50 yds with my 23…. So for a defense weapon I think it’s a great choice!!!

    Hope that helps.


  • C


    I own a Gen 4 Glock 23. I choose it for my carry gun because of Glock’s reputation for reliability. My final deciding factor after renting multiple handguns at the range was the versatility that it offers. The barrels can be changed out to shoot 9mm, and 357 SIG, in addition to the 40 barrel that comes with it.. It has a compact frame, but is still has a double stack mag which was another important feature. I felt that a single stack handgun did not offer me enough protection for some situations where I might be out numbered. I do have a couple sub compact single stacks that I carry when my attire will not allow me to carry the G 23. Occasionally I will carry one of them as a backup in addition to my G 23. If there is ever another ammo shortage, or a SHTF situation my G 23 with the additional barrels I have purchased for around $100 each will give me a better chance of securing ammo.


  • deadarmadillo


    Momentum is velocity times mass. Using that calculation a well rolled bowling ball wins over a .45. Would you rather be hit by a .45 ACP or the bowling ball?


  • Christopher Dublynn


    I don’t want shot with either. As I always say to ppl who doubt a .380 or any other round… stand in front of me and let me shoot you with it… no takers?? K then.


    • merv


      “Hurr durr, volunteer to stand in front of it” is the most cliched, tired comment out there.

      No one would volunteer to stand in front of a rubber band being shot at their face, nor a pebble thrown at their head. By your logic, those would be acceptable carry weapons.

      .380 can not reliably do the job for which it would be needed, regardless of whether anyone would voluntarily stand in front of it.


  • Robert Monday


    As I always say when someone comes up with new math that “proves” the effectiveness of their favorite round. Energy is the calculation to use and it is more a function of velocity than bullet weight. Or if that is too difficult to understand, would you rather be shot by a .45 ACP or a .270 Winchester?


    • Jared


      What about the calculation of momentum? Doesn’t the 45 win there? (Against the other handgun calibers of course not a rifle round)


  • Tim


    I’ve had my G23 for 20 years and friends with Walters and wheel guns are jealous. In thousands of rounds through it never a single jam (sorry Walter). It was always described as having penetrating power, as compared to the knock down power of a .45. It definitely is an unusually powerful mid size frame. I know state police and other officers who prefer it over a 9, even a Sigg 9.


    • Joel


      Considering a 23 over a 19 for my first Glock. Shot a lot of them, but never a 23. All I ever read online is the recoil is too “snappy.” Owning one for years, you obviously either got used to it or don’t notice it I assume? So which is it? Not bad and everyone is making a big deal of nothing, or is it something that you had to adjust to? I’ve shot .40’s before and of course they have more recoil than most 9 mm, but it wasn’t a huge issue. Thanks!


    • Lazarus


      I’ve been carrying a 23 for a couple of years now. Also use it as my handgun of choice in training.

      I have a 9 mm conversion barrel as well. I shoot it in 9mm more often than not but found I am more accurate with it in .40. Perceived recoil is not much different for me between the 2. Get the 23 and a conversion barrel. Other than the barrel and opening on the slide, they are identical from what I can tell.


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