Throwback Thursday: Glock17 Gen 4 Review

Glock 17 Gen 4 barrel pointed down and to the right on a white background.

The Glock pistol is now over 30 years old. Those that grew up in the past few decades may not realize how sensational the Glock pistol was when it was first introduced. With groundbreaking polymer construction and a safe action trigger, the Glock 17 was a revolutionary handgun. While there had been polymer frame handguns before, none were as affordable or widely available as the Glock 17. The pistol also offered 17 rounds of potent 9mm Luger ammunition.

Glock has introduced many variants in larger calibers since. The Glock has been redesigned into the Mini Glock and other versions, but none of these variations is as easy to shoot well as the original. The Glock 17 is still a sensational handgun.

Unique Features

Let’s look at a few of the features that make the Glock unique:

  • Strong, lightweight frame
  • Impervious to most solvents, oil and water
  • Trigger action does not require extensive training—press, fire, release to allow reset and fire again
  • Minimal maintenance

Many modern handguns are a triumph of the technical over the tactical: the Glock remains tactical. As an example, the action is simple and offers excellent combat accuracy. When the slide is racked, the firing pin or striker is prepped against the firing pin spring. In other words, the pistol is partially cocked. When the trigger is pressed, the striker is forced to the rear. Finally, the sear breaks and allows the striker to run forward, firing the pistol. After the shot breaks, the slide recoils; the spent case is extracted and ejected, and a fresh cartridge is chambered as the slide runs forward—orthodox operation in an unorthodox handgun. There are no locking lugs as the barrel locks by butting the barrel hood into the ejection port. The barrel features angled camming surfaces to effect unlocking and tilting the barrel during recoil.

The primary advantage of the Glock in training is there is only one trigger action to master, compared to a double-action, first-shot pistol, and the action is reliable and repeatable. With sufficient time and effort, you can learn the Glock trigger action and shoot it well.

New Design Makes This a Great Pistol

The pistol features a good reserve of ammunition. If you are caught in a situation in which you are outnumbered, much may be said for a fast handling pistol with light recoil that allows a trained shooter to make multiple hits quickly. The advantages of the Glock became apparent in law enforcement and the pistol was adopted by many agencies.

The drawbacks are few. The Glock demands a locked wrist when firing, or the pistol will short cycle, but this is common with many self-loading handguns. Simply grip the pistol properly and it will feed and function. But nothing is perfect and over the years there have been a number of improvements on the original handgun. Added to the pistol are serrations and finger grooves to improve adhesion. Interchangeable grip panels on new production pistols allow the individual shooter to obtain a near perfect blend of firearm and hand fit.

The pistol features a newly designed recoil rod that helps control recoil and limit wear on the handgun. Among the first features you notice on the Glock 17 Gen 4 is the slightly extended magazine release. It works as advertised, affording a speed advantage during magazine changes. The RTF or rough texture frame is welcome.

There is a raised bridge around the slide lock that helps protect the it from being inadvertently engaged. This is a good addition as the thumb sometimes locks the slide open when firing the pistol, especially when firing +P or +P+ ammunition. Overall, the G17 Gen 4 is an improved pistol with good features. The grip inserts allow a degree of custom fit; the grip allows better adhesion than ever before, and the detail changes result in a better handgun.

The Glock 17 is supplied with three magazines. With a 16-round capacity, this gives you 48 rounds on tap. Even better, a magazine is in the gun and another on the belt and the third resting. Rotating magazines in service this way results in long magazine spring life, however, Glock magazines are famously long-lived.

When firing the pistol to slide lock, the slide always locks back on the supplied magazines. For the purposes of this evaluation, the pistol was broken out and lightly lubricated. While the Glock needs little, to no, lubrication, a drop on the trigger bar is indicated. The pistol was loaded with Black Hills 115-grain FMJ for the initial evaluation.

Drawing from a Blackhawk holster and getting on target quickly at 7 yards, the handgun and the shooter performed well—

  1. Draw
  2. Get the front sight on target
  3. Press the trigger—you have a hit

The low bore axis of the 9mm Glock and the rapid trigger reset are a great aid in rapid-fire combat work. The pistol’s front sight simply hangs on target.

Moving to the Black Hills 124-grain JHP +P, we rediscovered one of the advantages of the 9mm. There is little difference in the recoil between standard loads and +P loads, at least not in a full-size pistol such as the Glock 17. Results with this load were excellent. In fact, I was shooting tighter groups, perhaps because I was subconsciously tightening the grip in order to control the +P loading.

In any case, this is a lot of horsepower in the form of a sizzling fast, 124-grain +P. Likewise, the recoil seemed light and the pistol was very easy to control and use well. Carry a shorter and lighter gun if you must, but the Glock 17 is a great house gun or carry gun when it can be concealed.

Moving to 15 yards, the pistol gave good hits as long as attention to the sights was maintained and the trigger properly pressed. The pistol is impressive on the range and would make a great choice for IDPA competition. Firing the pistol for accuracy from the benchrest produced interesting results. The Glock isn’t generally tagged as a target grade pistol, and it isn’t, and the Glock 17 is more accurate than many realize.

The Glock does better with one load than another—like most pistols—2.5 inches at 25 yards is the norm. This performance isn’t bad at all for a polymer-frame service pistol.

To put the accuracy of the pistol into context: at the generally accepted, most common gunfight range of 21 feet, the Glock 17  groups practically any type of ammunition into a single, ragged hole time after time.

The Glock 17 is a great combat pistol. It is fast into action and easy to handle. If you’re an occasional shooter who, like many of us, simply cannot get in the practice needed, the 9mm handgun makes a lot of sense. With modern high-performance ammunition it is difficult to be appreciably better armed without spending a great deal of time and effort in mastering a heavier caliber.

Accuracy Results

  • 5-shot groups
  •  25 yards
Manufacturer Bullet Weight Type Grouping
Black Hills 115-grain FMJ Remanufactured 3.5 inches
Black Hills 115-grain EXP 2.0 inches
Black Hills  124-grian JHP +P 2.5 inches
CCI Blazer 124-Grain FMJ 3.25 inches
Speer 115-grain Gold Dot 2.5 inches
Federal 124-grain HydraShok 2.4 inches
PMC Bronze 115-grain 4.5 inches
Wolf 124-grain FMJ 4.0 inches

The Glock is simple to operate and reliable. This means that instead of spending valuable time learning to manipulate the piece or to correct malfunctions, you can focus on marksmanship and tactics. That means a lot.

Glock 17 Gen 4
Action Semiautomatic
Barrel Length 4.49 inches
Caliber 9mm
Overall Height 5.43 inches
Overall Length 7.32 inches
Overall Width 1.18 inches
Weight Loaded 31.91 pounds
Sights Fixed
Grip Interchangeable backstraps
Magazine 17 rounds
Frame Rough Textured Frame

Did you get one of the early Glocks? What did you think of it? Have you checked out the Gen 4s? Share your experience with us in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (23)

  1. Is that a typo regarding the “16-round capacity” for the magazines? Glock 17s have always had 17-round magazines, and according to the Glock website, they still do. So that gives you 51 rounds plus one in the chamber, for a total of 52 rounds available in a fully loaded Glock 17 with two additional spare mags.

  2. I started with a gen 4 19 for semi auto and I love it. Manageable recoil very accurate and smaller frame than g17 for concealment

  3. I asked a trusted source what would be a good pistol for a rookie? He did not hesitate and said, Gen 4 Glock 17. BTW, he is a Navy Seal. I just passed my CCL and shot well with the 19. It is phenomenal. By no means a sharpshooter, and despite nerve-addled shaky hands, the 17 “allowed” me to cluster well. With a lesser gun and the ‘shakes” I am sure I would have been lucky to pass.

  4. Great article. My first Glock 17 has a born date of April 1990 making it a G2. My second Glock 17 has a born date of October 2015 making it a G4. In many ways they are the same gun but in an equal number of ways they are different. Btw, I love them both. In the 26 years I’ve had my original G17, it has never misfired and it has always been extremely accurate. I wouldn’t even begin to guess how many rounds I’ve cycled through it. My new G17 is equally accurate. I’ve run approximately 400 rounds through it. The adjustable back strap is really nice. Of course I’m a bit biased, but I would highly recommend the Glock 17 G4 to anyone looking for a large frame pistol.

  5. While virtually a novice sidearm user; CHL 7 yrs;
    Yep, got my first Glock from a local dealor(used 27), and have since purchased another 27 used, former peace off.! I did get an aftermarket ext. & 15 rd mag. Now I consider these beauties adequate combat weapons! Am able to get within 3″ patterns most times. Me being a 71 YOA cripple, sort of figure my playing field has been more or less reduced down to size! Thanks!

    1. I own 2 gen 4 Glocks….a compensated 31 that I sent out for porting and a 19 and I love the features of the Gen 4 pistols. Only been a Glock owner for 3 years so I can speak for the early gen models but would highly reccomend gen 4.

  6. The pistol seems fairly heavy at 31.91 POUNDS!!! I know, I know, I know, don’t bother to correct me. Just joking people.

  7. Years ago, around 2001, my dream gun was a Glock 21. I got it, and it has never disappointed me. My EDC is usually an XD .45, but to be honest, other than the very slightly slimmer profile, and the added grip safety, it doesn’t compare to my Glock in accuracy or reliability.

    I loved my Glock when I bought it, and I never stopped loving it.,

  8. I guess I am still in love with my Glock 17′ that I bought new in th 70s
    Still like new andhaveshot it several 100 times , never had any problem .

  9. My glock 34 is the sweetest comp gun I own. Way outperforming my 1911s once you get used to the trigger.
    Still if I could only own one handgun it would be a glock 19.

  10. I still have my G20 and G32. I enjoy shooting them and bet my life on the G32(steel guide rod with Wolf main spring.) I also have a Gen 3 G17L which is one of my fun guns. Overall, the Glocks are good guns. The only guns I feel that are better come form HK(I have two of those as well.)

  11. If you have “different ” needs from your firearms . As I do, it’s nice to know that after market parts such as threaded barrels are available for purchase. Also flash and noise suppressors. Just look them up on the Internet

  12. I am the PROUD owner of a model 34 , which is the relative of a 17 . Now having adjustable sights and having a 3.5 pound trigger pull kit installed it is ONE HELL OF A GREAT SHOOTER ! ! ! Since I am left handed having the magazine release on the “right” side is a blessing . I wish that could be done with all my side arms INCLUDING MY THREE 1911 IN 45 …………………

  13. Sooooo, pretty much a catch-up model to compete with the Springfield XD an XDm series of poly handguns. I’ll stick with my Springfields . . . Both the XD’s and 1911’s I think. When Glock comes out with a change for the better in the ergonomics and design geomerety of thier products maybe ill considers adding another to my collection. Until then the several I do have will remain in the safe for those guest shooters that like them. It’s not that I think that Glock is an inferior firearm of platform, indeed that’s far from the facts. My personal expierance is that they do not fit my hand and that there is more hipe to thier name than their product deserves. How about instead of sounding like a factory rep pushing a new product, why don’t you provide us with some side by side, real world, range facts and information? Say this new Glock offering, an XDM, a 1911 ( Rock Island maybe?) and run them thru their paces. What you have written and provided here is informative but lacks depth, unless, I suppose, your only ever no matter what going to buy Glock!

    1. Such a head-to-head comparison might actually not be all that interesting. The striker-fired polymer pistol offerings from Glock, Smith and Wesson, Springfield, etc are all reliable, durable, and sufficiently accurate for their intended purpose. The deciding factor in which to purchase will come down to things like ergonomics that will depend on the individual shooter.

    2. I have both a Glock Gen 3 Model 21 and an XD.45. They both work great, and i like the added confidence of the XD’s grip safety for my EDC.

      But, having said all that, my experience over several years of shooting both of them is that my Glock is more accurate than my XD. Notice I said “my” before each. Other people may have different experience, but in my case, the Glock is noticeably more accurate.

  14. Meh, only reason I would ever get a glock is to play with the roni system which is not high on my list. I’ll take my Kimber 45 which can make closer groupings. Sure, it doesn’t have as many rounds, but round count vs accuracy will forever be a big debate. I’m more so confused how the article says its got a 16 round capacity on the mags then writes 10 round mags for the specs. I got an XD45 and was personally told by a certified gunsmith that they are toned to tighter tolerances but maybe that’s just to spite my father who has a gen1 glock

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