The Glock 17 9x19mm Pistol, Another View

By David Tong

G 17
Illustration courtesy of Glock, Inc.

First and foremost, I greatly admire the G17 as a technical instrument. There, now I've said it.

Simplicity is nearly always a good thing in mechanisms and the abbreviated parts count when compared to any hammer-fired pistol means there are simply less things to go wrong. Simplicity is also listed as a primary advantage by owners and users of these pistols. The manual of arms, the method and ease of disassembly for cleaning and its ease of use are also quite good.

While the G17 was not the first polymer-framed or striker fired pistol, its success surely paved the way for competitors to jump on the bandwagon and virtually every major handgun manufacturer has. Where I may differ from the true Glock aficionado revolve around ergonomics, the trigger pull, the use of plastic for the standard sights and the nature of its recoil management.

Ergonomics are a very personal thing. A human being can adapt to nearly anything, including fat butt sections with the consequent thickness in the web area and various grip angles. I have always favored the 1911 pistol grip angle. In the past, I have been able to shoot a Luger P-08 (a pistol with a grip angle similar to the G17) fairly well, as it has a true single-action trigger, which I favor. While I can also shoot a Glock pistol reasonably well, many years of muscle memory and training practice suggest that it still doesn't feel quite right, due to my 1911 grip angle bias and the Glock Safe Action trigger pull. Of course, I could always re-program myself.

The Glock trigger pull feels something like an older two-stage military rifle, in which the striker is slightly cammed backward during take-up and then released during sear drop. Since I have lots of experience with this sort of rifle, I didn't find the Glock trigger to be particularly difficult, although it is still harder to shoot precisely than a lighter and cleaner single-action trigger pull.

One great feature of the Glock is that it, as well as various 1911 pistols, are the only two designs extant that have "open architecture." This means that a plentiful factory and aftermarket parts supply exists and the parts are relatively inexpensive, which was an excellent move by the Austrians. In addition, the G17 is very easily detail stripped for cleaning.

I think that the standard plastic sights are the first thing to go for many owners, as they are not particularly good in terms of wear resistance. Many owners and agencies will likely opt for steel tritium night sights, available as a popular "out of the box" option on Glock pistols or from the aftermarket. In any case, the sights on Glock pistols are designed to be quickly and easily replaced.

Much ink (and electronic fonts) have been expended discussing the soft recoil pulse of Glock pistols and many insist this is partly due to its polymer frame. The notion that flex in the frame's grip area significantly diminishes felt recoil seem to me, at best, tenuous. Try pressing a Glock's frame sides together with your thumb and forefinger. The thin sides of the magazine well do flex, but not significantly enough in the fore and aft plane to soften the recoil pulse.

It seems to me that the Glock's lower bore axis, compared to any hammer-fired pistol, helps to mitigate muzzle rise and probably subjective recoil. (Reduced muzzle flip is also an aid to fast and combat-accurate shots.) Perhaps most important, the relatively wide grip frame and rear strap that contacts the web of your hand spreads the forces of recoil out over a larger surface area, mitigating discomfort. All of these factors combine to affect the shooter's subjective impression of how much a handgun kicks.

Frame flex is visible under ultra-high-speed cinematography, no more so than when viewing the dust cover area with a flashlight mounted. You can see the frame flexing in those views and this caused the Company to slightly stiffen this area for police agencies who use lighting systems on duty pistols, so as not to interfere with the slide's motion.

The G17's polymer frame reduces its weight, compared to similar steel or even aluminum framed pistols. Light weight is indeed an advantage. However, one thing that is hardly ever mentioned is the plastic's neutral temperature feel in both extreme cold and heat. (This is, of course, not unique to the Glock 17.) Avoiding the use of gloves in the cold as long as possible makes the fine tactile skills of trigger control easier.

The G17, while not particularly heavy, is fairly long in butt length to accommodate its 17 round capacity and it has a 4.5 inch barrel. Some Glock users prefer the slightly smaller G19 (15 round capacity, four inch barrel) for concealment reasons, even if it means giving up a minor amount of muzzle velocity and sight radius.

I once had a conversation with a deputy sheriff who told me that when he was at the Oregon state police academy, two cadets had their G17 strikers fracture on the firing line during practice. Of course, parts and an armorer were both present and they were easily and quickly replaced. That said, one anecdotal report should not be construed as a general fact or even a rhetorical flourish. I only mention it here in passing.

The 9mm Glocks are statistically less likely to experience explosive destruction, also known colloquially as a "Ka-BOOM" event, due to their greater barrel sectional thickness compared to the .40 S&W models and being proportionally thicker around the chamber than the .45 ACP Glocks. None of these events are common. Nevertheless, it behooves the user of a Glock pistol to closely examine the condition of the ammunition used, watching out for bullet set-back due to multiple feed strokes from the magazine into the barrel's feed ramp. Avoid lead bullet reloads in a Glock or any semi-automatic pistol, because they will leave lead residue in the rifling and increase back pressure on subsequent firings.

Finally, ensure that one's carry mode and re-holstering technique does not inadvertently result in depressing the trigger. Whether done intentionally or by accident, pulling the trigger all the way back disables all three of the G17's automatic safeties and fires the pistol. (A trigger block blade is the only external G17 safety.) In a worst case scenario, a holster strap, debris, or an errant trigger finger can cause an inadvertent Glock discharge.

In conclusion, I am categorically NOT trying to dissuade anyone from owning and using a G17 or its brethren. They are good pistols for the owner willing to take the time to understand the system.

Note: Complete reviews of several Glock pistols, including the G17, can be found on the Product Reviews page.

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Copyright 2014, 2016 by David Tong and/or All rights reserved.