This purposeful looking handgun is the weapon that started it all: the Glock 17. This particular weapon is a Generation 4 Glock, which has a number of interesting improvements. It shares with all Glocks a smooth right side, devoid of controls.
A cursory glance at the 17 round standard magazine might lead one to think it entirely made of plastic, but it isn’t. More on that momentarily. “Magazine,” by the way, is the proper term. With only a single contemporary exception, “clips” are merely small pieces of metal that hold cartridges–usually military specification cartridges–in a group (usually 10), to allow them to be more quickly loaded into magazines. The exception is the en bloc clip for the M1 Garand battle rifle which is itself inserted into the rifle holding eight rounds and ejected when those rounds have been fired.
This left side view of the handgun illustrates the only two controls: the slide release and the magazine release, which is enlarged in the Gen4 models. Interestingly, the painted slide release is the only part of the Glock that tends to show any real wear after years of use. Readers familiar with the Glock will notice the trigger has been pulled, but the slide has not been cycled, resetting the trigger. Sharp-eyed readers will also notice another interesting feature of the Gen4 version of the G17: replaceable back straps. This allows some adjustability to accommodate varying hand sizes.
The metal inner magazine liner is also visible. The first Glocks imported circa 1984–before Glock established a domestic factory–did not have such liners, and as a result, magazines would not drop freely from the magazine well. The Glock was, after all, initially designed as a military pistol (for more complete historical and developmental information, see my article on the Glock 26).
In that application, magazines can’t be dropped and easily retrieved later as is possible in civilian or police applications. Dropping an all-black magazine on a nighttime battlefield illustrates the problem. American shooters also expect their magazines to drop freely, so circa 1985, all Glocks have incorporated internal liners.
Glock magazines also incorporate windows on the back so shooters can see at a glance how much ammunition remains. The Glock 17 is not named for its ammunition capacity–the Glock 19, for example, holds only 15 rounds–but was Glock’s 17th patent (Glock’s first firearm patent). The Glock 18 is the fully automatic version of the G17, and the G19 was patented next. Glock magazines normally cost around $25.00, but when they can be found these days, are likely substantially more. Fortunately, the G17 comes with a total of three magazines.
One of the delicious ironies of the current gun control hysteria is that a great many American law enforcement agencies, including many in New York State, carry Glocks, including the G17. Its standard 17 round magazine is now illegal in New York, because in its haste to pass anti-gun laws, the legislature did not write an exemption for police officers. Every police officer with a G17 with standard–not “large capacity”–magazines, is breaking the law. An excellent case can also be made that police officers should be subject to the same laws they enforce on non-police officers.
In this comparison of the 4th Generation G17–Glock’s full-sized handgun–and the 3rd Generation G26–Glock’s smallest handgun, also known as the “baby Glock”–several important external differences are apparent. The G4 handgun has a larger magazine release, a molded in accessory rail forward of the trigger guard, and the grip surface is different, with more and more aggressive stippling. G26 magazines hold 10 9mm rounds. The G17 magazine will seat and function in the G26 magazine well, but not vice versa (it’s too short to engage the magazine release latch).
NOTE: Glocks do not have magazine safeties. With no magazine in the weapon, if a round is chambered, it will fire if the trigger is pulled.
It should also be noted that the G26 depicted has an aftermarket magazine base plate/finger rest, and an aftermarket rear sight laser. Take the link to the aforementioned G26 article for information on those accessories.
The sole accessory attached to this handgun is a Streamlight TLR-4 flashlight/laser combination. The TLR-4 weighs only 2.81 ounces and is a LED (light emitting diode) flashlight with an output of 110 lumens, and a run time of 1.5 hours with the light or the light and laser. Operating only the laser, 11 hours can be expected. The controls are ambidextrous, and have momentary and constant on modes.
This left side view reveals the single attachment screw, which is quick and easy to use. The unit mounts solidly to the handgun, and a large number of “keys”–small plastic adapters–are included to fit most popular handguns. Also visible are the windage and elevation (bottom of the unit) ports. The included allen wrench is larger than most, which makes the sighting in process equally easy. Sighting adjustments are positive and do not move once set.
This right side view illustrates the on/off switch. Press down and hold it for the momentary on feature. When pressure is released, the switch springs back upward, extinguishing the light. Press down all the way past the detent–which is easily felt and is positive in operation–and the light remains on until the switch is pushed upward past the detent. The small toggle switch selects the three available functions: left-laser only; center-light only; right-laser and light. By its positioning under the trigger guard and the molded plastic flange surrounding it, the switch is somewhat protected from accidental manipulation, but it is possible to inadvertently change its setting. Prior to using the light, it’s a good idea to function check it, but this is a good general rule for any firearm and firearm accessory.
Many small contemporary flashlights are now featuring LEDs with output as high as 500 lumens, but at common handgun ranges, the TLR-4 is still quite bright, particularly indoors or in the dark. And those 500 lumen lights are substantially larger, do not currently attach to handguns, and cost many times the price of the TLR-4.
The unit uses a single 3V CR2 lithium battery, which is quickly changed by unscrewing the reflector housing. Battery changes do not change the zero of the laser or require removal of the unit from the handgun.
One of the advantages of this kind of light/laser unit is it does not interfere with the sights or proper manipulation of the slide or other handgun controls. It does require specialized holsters, but those are widely available. Any handgun configured this way would make a fine home defense weapon. Pick it up, and a flashlight is attached. But what if the laser battery dies? Use the standard sights.
Laser function is on a par with virtually any other red laser on the market. The dot is bright and larger than some. Unlike some lasers, this does not have a “pulse” mode, which may help some people to see the laser dot better in bright conditions. However, even in daylight, the laser dot is clearly visible out to at least 15 yards and more. Indoors or in low light conditions, it is clearly visible at much greater distances.
The TLR-4 currently sells for around $120.00. Cheaper Than Dirt stocks it, as do most of the other more famous Internet retailers.
I’ve fired full, compact, and baby sized Glocks in every caliber Glock currently produces. The Glock 17 is among the lightest recoiling, which is no doubt a function of its size, weight (lighter than many weapons not made primarily of polymer) and configuration. The added weight of the TLR4 near the muzzle no doubt helps in this regard. Recoil reduction is also aided by the low bore axis relative to the shooter’s hand, and the fact that the polymer frame actually helps to absorb some of the recoil that would otherwise be imparted to the shooter. The G17 is very comfortable to shoot, though I can’t say with certainty that its more aggressive grip surfaces help in this. I’ve not found any Glock difficult to hold or to control in recoil, but I have relatively large hands with long fingers. Shooters with smaller hands might have different impressions.
Glocks are not target pistols, but their accuracy is more than adequate for the purposes for which they are designed and routinely employed. They are generally easy to shoot well, and the G17 is no exception to this general rule. All Glock triggers feel alike; this is one of the strengths of the design. Some shooters don’t like them because they don’t feel like trigger mechanisms that rely almost entirely on steel on steel surfaces, but after carrying Glocks continually since 1985, I can attest they work very well.
When a police agency with which I served transitioned to the Glock 22 (.40 S&W) from .357 revolvers, qualification scores rose dramatically. Officers who could barely qualify with their revolvers could suddenly qualify with ease. Those few officers that routinely shot 100% still fired 100%, but with far less effort. One hundred percent shooters are one hundred percent shooters for a reason. Most police officers are not gun guys and girls, and as a result, aren’t particularly good shots. Results matter.
One interesting factor in shooting this particular Glock is the fact that the lens of the flashlight protrudes slightly beyond the muzzle. As a result, some unburned powder does accumulate on the lens and the reflector housing. However, even after firing more than 100 rounds, this powder accumulation does not significantly diminish light output, and is easily wiped clean. The lens is tempered glass–not plastic–and is therefore less prone to scratching.
Glocks work right out of the box. No one should carry any handgun without firing it for familiarization and sighting it in, but it is entirely possible to take a Glock from its box and expect it to fire completely reliably with virtually any kind of ammunition. That has been my experience with every Glock I’ve owned and every Glock I’ve fired, including the fully automatic Glock 18. I have yet to find one with any ammunition sensitivity.
My Glock 26 does recoil more than the G17, but even that baby Glock is very controllable and pleasant to shoot. Glocks work very well for most women.
Safeties: One of the advantages of the Glock design is its lack of external safety levers. In that way, it is very much like a revolver. Pull the trigger and it will fire. As I’ve addressed this issue and its safety implications in detail in the G26 article, I’ll not repeat it here. Keep in mind that negligent discharges are a substantial issue for law enforcement agencies, and Glocks have an excellent safety record in law enforcement.
Cleaning: Glocks are extremely easy to clean and break down in seconds into only four parts/ groups of parts: The frame (which is amazingly light); the mainspring; the barrel, and the slide. No further disassembly is required for normal cleaning. The design uses not a single screw, and the actual process of cleaning and oiling the weapon is equally quick and easy. No tools are required for disassembly or reassembly.
One of the internal changes in the Generation 4 design is the mainspring, which incorporates a substantial metal guide/stiffener apart from the central rod on which both springs ride. I assume Glock made this change to enhance the longevity and reliability of an already exceedingly reliable handgun.
The G17 came in a high quality polymer case with room not only for the handgun and its two spare magazines and a manual, but a magazine loading tool, with some space to spare. Older generations came in plastic containers that resembled food containers. The newer cases are more like aftermarket handgun cases.
Some manufacturers make a product that forever defines the market, a product that others emulate, but never quite equal. The Glock 17 and its many offshoots are such products. Expect to spend in the neighborhood of $550.00 for a Gen4 G17 or most other Glocks. Despite the dearth of ammunition and AR-15 type handguns, I’ve generally found Glocks to be still available, though not in the great numbers before the latest round of gun control hysteria. Magazines, however, may be a different matter.