The Compact Glock 19 Pistol

By Chuck Hawks

G 19
Illustration courtesy of Glock, Inc.

Gaston Glock shook-up the handgun world with his polymer framed Model 17 pistol. The G17 proved to be extremely durable, reliable, weather resistant (even more than a stainless steel gun), and pleasant to shoot. It has a very high designed magazine capacity of 17 cartridges, and a 4.49" barrel. The same basic design has been morphed into an entire line of pistols, including full size, compact, and sub compact models in calibers 9x19, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto, and .45 ACP. It is the compact Model G19 that concerns us here.

All Glock pistols have polymer receivers with molded-in steel slide rails. The slide is machined (not stamped) from solid steel, and most of the internal parts are also steel.

The slide, barrel (inside and out), and most other major steel parts are Tenifer coated, a process which gives them an incredibly hard surface (almost as hard as an industrial diamond) and is more rust resistant than stainless steel. Tenifer meets or exceeds all stainless steel specifications. Some of the small steel parts are Parkerized, and the slide rails are chrome steel. Glock pistols, due to their polymer plastic receiver and Tenifer-coated steel parts, are more resistant to corrosion than any other pistol. This makes them ideal for daily carry, especially in harsh environments.

The essence of the Glock pistol design is simplicity and ease of operation. Glocks are hammerless, striker-fired, short recoil operated, autoloading pistols with a unique "Safe Action" mechanism.

The ATF classifies the Glock Safe Action mechanism as "double action only" (DAO), but that is not technically correct. On a Glock, the slide must first be racked to partially compress the striker (or firing pin) spring and set the trigger before the pistol can be fired. (The slide of any semi-auto pistol is normally "racked," or pulled all the way back and allowed to snap forward, after a loaded magazine has been inserted in order to carry a cartridge into the chamber.) After the slide has been racked and the trigger set, the Glock trigger pull feels somewhat like a two stage, single action military trigger.

The trigger's rather long rearward travel disconnects the automatic safeties and completes the compression of the already partially cocked striker spring. Near the end of the trigger's rearward stroke the end of the trigger bar contacts the downward angled slope of the trigger connector. This angled surface forces the trigger bar down as it continues rearward and it carries with it the cruciform sear, which slips off of the striker (firing pin) tang, allowing the striker to be carried forward by the powerful striker spring, discharging the pistol.

Unlike a real double action pistol, if a cartridge does not fire and the slide is not cycled or manually racked, a second pull on the trigger accomplishes nothing, not even a "click." Unlike a DAO trigger, the Glock trigger does not reset itself. In this it is like a single action trigger. Also unlike a DAO pistol, when the slide is at battery (fully forward) and the trigger has not been pulled, the striker spring is not relaxed; indeed, it is mostly (but not entirely) compressed. The Glock Safe Action is neither double action or single action, it is a new type of mechanism.

The Glock Safe Action incorporates three separate safety mechanisms, all of which are automatically activated when the slide is at battery. There is a trigger block safety, a small blade protruding from the front surface of the trigger, which prevents the rearward movement of the trigger unless it is depressed. There is an internal firing pin safety (similar to a Colt Series 80 pistol) that blocks the forward movement of the firing pin until the trigger is pulled all the way to the rear. And there is an internal drop safety that locks the sear and prevents release of the striker until the trigger is pulled fully to the rear.

Glock pistols are among the safest ever designed, and no user action is required to render them safe. All that is required is that most basic of proper gun handling procedures: keep your finger off the trigger until you intend to shoot the gun!

Glock pistols are available with five different trigger pull weights. In the standard Glock trigger mechanism, it is the angle of the ramp on the trigger connector that primarily determines the trigger pull weight. The greater the angle, the greater the pull weight. Glock trigger connectors are manufactured with three different angles, and all three connectors fit the Glock 19 (or any other Glock) pistol.

The G17L, Glock's competition pistol, comes with a "target" trigger connector that is supposed to require 3.5 pounds of force to actuate. This "3.5 pound" trigger connector actually provides about a 5 pound trigger pull in the pistols that I have measured. This is the best stock Glock trigger, and the target connector can be substituted for the standard connector in other Glock models. (Glock refuses, purely as a matter of company policy, to sell target connectors separately, so this is one part that must be purchased from the after market.)

The standard Glock trigger is supposed to have a "5 pound" trigger connector. This connector has a ramp set at a 90 degree angle. These actually result in about a 7 pound trigger pull in the pistols I have measured, and are the connector usually (but not always) found in civilian G19, G23 and G32 pistols.

Initially at the request of Florida's Miami PD, but subsequently adopted for most police service triggers, is the 8 pound connector. This trigger connector has a 105 degree ramp. It is hard to hold a relatively lightweight pistol like a Glock steady against such a heavy trigger pull.

And then there is the infamous "New York" trigger, developed at the request of the New York State Police, which is supposed to emulate the heavy trigger pull of a double action revolver. These use extra heavy trigger springs in conjunction with a standard "5 pound" trigger connector. There are actually two different springs for New York triggers. One is supposed to add about 3 pounds to the pull weight, and the other adds about 5 pounds to the pull weight. When combined with the standard trigger connector these wretched New York triggers have a pull of about 10 to 12 pounds, or more. New York triggers should be avoided like the plague.

Glock barrels are hammer forged and use hexagonal rifling. In other words, the inside of a finished barrel is hexagonal in shape with a right hand twist. If you look inside of a fired Glock barrel the pattern in the powder residue looks much like that in a Marlin Micro-Groove barrel, with 12 longitudinal rub streaks inside of the barrel.

Glock magazines are made of steel lined polymer, with steel feed lips and steel springs. There are two vertical rows of little numbered holes in the back panel of each Glock double stack magazine through which one can see how many cartridges remain. Single stack magazines have a single row of holes. The polymer magazine follower trips the slide stop after the last round is fired, locking back the slide for convenient reloading.

Glock pistols have only two controls, besides the trigger, and those are conventionally located. There is no hammer and no manual safety to worry about; there is only a magazine release and a slide release. The magazine release is a rectangular plastic button on the left side of the pistol grip behind the lower loop of the trigger guard. The slide release is also on the left side of the pistol, a flat metal lever directly below the slide and above the left hand grip panel. The uninitiated might mistake it for a frame mounted safety. That is it, Glock pistols have no other controls that must be manipulated. And, by design, nothing sticks out of a Glock pistol to catch on clothing.

The extractor, located on the right side of the slide immediately behind the ejection port, also serves as a loaded chamber indicator. The shooter needs only to touch the right side of the slide to know whether the chamber is loaded, even in total darkness. If there is a cartridge in the chamber, the extractor is elevated slightly above its recess and can be felt. If the chamber is empty, the extractor sits flush in its grove, and the side of the slide behind the ejection port feels smooth.

Standard Glock sights are of the patridge type. The large, square faced front blade has a big white dot on its face. A white line outlines the square notch rear sight, which is mounted in a dovetail notch at the rear of the frame. There is also an optional version of the rear sight that is adjustable for windage and elevation. These are highly visible, low profile combat sights, not target sights. Glock pistols are also available with tritium night sights.

Glock pistols have several fundamental design advantages over most other pistols. For one, the grip angle is ergonomic, similar to that of the classic Luger pistol that was famous for its good pointing qualities.

The Glock's polymer frame tends to minimize the effect of recoil by flexing slightly with each shot; Glock pistols are known as "soft" shooters. Another advantage is the Glock's low bore axis. This minimizes muzzle flip and speeds recovery after a shot has been fired; it also tends to minimize perceived recoil. Glocks also have very well balanced slides. When a pistol is fired the slide must have enough rearward momentum for proper function even with light loads. The trick is to keep it from slamming back so hard with maximum loads that it adds unnecessarily to the effect of recoil. Glock has achieved an unusually good balance in this area.

The Glock Safe Action trigger mechanism makes it possible to take full advantage of the inherent low recoil and muzzle flip of the Glock pistols. After the initial long (approximately 2/5") trigger stroke has been completed and the end of the trigger bar has contacted the trigger connector's angled ramp, the Glock trigger requires only about 1/8" additional rearward movement to fire the pistol. And, the trigger only needs about 1/8" of forward travel to reset for the next shot. Once a Glock shooter has learned proper trigger control, double taps can be achieved faster than with almost any other pistol.

The result of these design subtleties is that the Glock Model 19 pistol has very good practical accuracy. Good practical accuracy means that they are easy to shoot accurately. This is particularly important when shooting from unsupported positions, as when standing, or when the shooter is under pressure.

Glock pistols have become famous for surviving outrageous endurance and torture tests. They have survived many tests with "proof" loads. Glock pistols have been buried in mud, frozen in blocks of ice, submerged for extended periods in salt water, thrown from speeding cars, fired underwater, and dropped from helicopters, to emerge functioning perfectly. They have shot thousands of rapid fire test rounds without cleaning or any sort of maintenance, as fast as fresh magazines could be slammed home. Sometimes the pistols became too hot to hold and had to be tossed into a bucket of water to cool; then firing was continued almost without interruption. If there were some sort of prize for the foolish tests to which pistols have been subjected and survived, Glock would surely be the winner.

The Glock Model G19 is simply a somewhat shortened version (both barrel and grip) of the basic Glock 17 service pistol. The G19 is chambered for the 9x19 (9mm Luger) cartridge.

The Glock 19 is a compact (not sub-compact) pistol. It relates to the full size G17 in the way that the Colt Commander relates to the full size 1911 Government Model pistol.

For example, an empty G19 is about 4% lighter than an empty G17. It is also about a half inch shorter in length and a quarter of an inch lower in height. Of the 35 parts in a G17, only 8 are not interchangeable with a G19. The longer G17 magazines will work fine in a G19 (so will the extended 33 round magazine for the G18 select-fire pistol), but if the shorter G19 magazine is inserted into a G17's longer grip it will not reach the top of the magazine well.

The compact Glock 19 has a barrel 4.02 inches long. The overall length is 6.85 inches, height is 5.0 inches, and width is 1.18 inches. The sight radius is 5.98 inches. The double stack magazine capacity is fifteen 9x19 cartridges. This two round reduction in maximum magazine capacity compared to the full size Glock 17 allows a slightly shorter, but still hand filling, grip. Without a magazine the G19 weighs 20.99 ounces.

Many Glock shooters, but certainly not all, find that the compact Glock pistols feel and balance better in the hand than the full size Glocks. Police Detectives and civilians alike will find the compact Glock 19 slightly easier to conceal than the full size Glock 17 service pistol. Most shooters also find the compact Glock 19 much easier to shoot accurately than the sub compact Glock 26 9mm pistol, which has a 3.46 inch barrel and a short two finger grip frame.

A small cottage industry has grown up around the Glock pistols in the U.S., manufacturing and selling replacement parts to "improve" one aspect of the pistol or another. Most of these are a waste of money, or worse. Glocks are high quality pistols as shipped from the factory, and they are among the most reliable pistols ever developed. With very few exceptions, there is nowhere to go but down when substituting after market parts for Glock parts. My suggestion is to stick with genuine Glock parts, including magazines, in any Glock pistol.

The results of test firing two Glock 19's are reviewed below. Both were unmodified except for the substitution of a "target" trigger connector in one pistol. The actual trigger pull weight of the G19 with the target connector, as measured on an RCBS deluxe trigger pull gauge, is 5 pounds--exactly what a stock Glock trigger is supposed to be. The trigger pull of a G19 with the standard (supposedly 5 pound) trigger connector measured about 7 pounds.

One of our test G19's had the optional adjustable rear sight, always a pious idea, while the other G19 wore the standard height fixed rear sight. Replacement non-adjustable rear sights are available from Glock, as are glow in the dark night sights. There is a lower rear sight, and two higher rear sights. The adjustable rear sight was zeroed for a distance of 25 yards.

Several kinds of factory loaded ammunition were fired, including Cor-Bon 115 grain JHP (+P), Fiocchi 123 grain FMJ (allegedly NATO spec.), Glaser Blue 80 grain pre-fragmented, Norinco 124 grain FMJ, and Winchester/USA "White Box" 115 grain FMJ. All of these loads functioned correctly in both guns, but there were definite differences in accuracy.

Guns and Shooting Online Chief Technical Advisor Jim Fleck, an experienced handgunner, and I did the shooting over several sessions at the range. We shot over sandbags from a shooting bench at a distance of 25 yards at NRA Slow Fire Pistol Targets.

The Fiocchi ammunition proved the least accurate in the test G-19's. 5 shot groups from both shooters averaged about 4.8 inches center to center at 25 yards.

The Winchester/USA 115 grain FMJ load averaged 3.88 inches in the G19 with the standard trigger connector, while the Norinco 124 grain load averaged 3.0 inches and the Cor-Bon 115 grain +P load averaged 2.88 inches in the same gun. The best single group from this pistol was shot with the Winchester/USA load, and measured 2.25 inches. The Glaser Blue ammunition was not tested in this gun due to its high cost.

In the G19 with the target trigger connector, the average group sizes with the Cor-Bon, Norinco, and Fiocchi ammunition stayed about the same, but they were easier to achieve. A single 6 shot group with Glaser Blue 80 grain loads measured 3 5/8 inches.

Results with the Winchester/USA ammo showed the most improvement in the G19 with the target trigger, probably because the gun preferred that load. The average 5 shot group with the inexpensive Winchester ammo measured about 3 inches and the best 5 shot group went into 2 inches. Two 10 shot groups with Winchester ammo averaged 3 7/16 inches.

The only group not fired from a bench rest was when I emptied the magazine of one G19 into a target from a two-handed standing position (Weaver stance) at 25 yards. All 15 Winchester FMJ bullets went into a 4 5/8 inch group at the point of aim. This proves nothing about the intrinsic accuracy of the G19 pistol, of course, but it did reaffirm for me the gun's excellent practical accuracy.

We also took the opportunity to chronograph some of this ammunition. The instrumental velocity was measured 10 feet from the muzzle. Test strings were five shots. The Cor-Bon 115 grain +P ammo averaged 1321 fps. The Fiocchi 123 grain load averaged 1173 fps. The Winchester/USA "White Box" 115 grain load averaged 1161 fps in the G19.

For comparison, we also chronographed the same ammunition in a full size G17 pistol (4.49" barrel). The average difference in instrumental velocity with these three loads proved to be 29.33 fps in favor of the G17. Ironically, that was slightly less than the average extreme spread of the loads we chronographed.

Jim and I were not surprised that there were no malfunctions during our testing. Malfunctions with Glock pistols are very rare.

The most common type of Glock malfunction is a "stovepipe" jam (failure to completely eject the fired case). This is usually caused by the shooter "limp wristing" the gun (not holding it rigidly against the force of recoil). This is an operator error rather than a pistol malfunction per se.

Because the slide of Glock pistols is so well balanced, they will sometimes fail to fully eject or fail to feed if the shooter lets the gun "fly up" on recoil. Failure to provide enough resistance to recoil can allow the recoil spring to overcome the (reduced) momentum imparted to the rearward traveling slide and cause it to return forward prematurely. The slide may then fail to pick up a new cartridge from the magazine, or trap the empty case before it can completely clear the ejection port. If the shooter maintains a reasonably tight grip there will be no problem. Glock pistols have earned an enviable reputation for near flawless reliability.

The G19, G23 and G32 are very good pistols. They are a wise investment for the civilian shooter who wants a top quality compact autoloader. I know of no better semi-automatic pistols for home defense or personal protection. In addition, they are fun to shoot!

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Copyright 2003, 2009 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.