Glock updated its legendary handguns with 21st-century features sure to please fanboys and even convert some haters.
During Glock’s incredibly successful first quarter-century of existence, I paid relatively little attention to the pistols. This had nothing to do with a lack of respect; from day one I have quietly acknowledged this polymer handgun has redefined the basic service pistol. Lightweight, simple and totally reliable with a capacity of 17 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, the Glock G17 has all the characteristics one could want in a defensive handgun.
My lack of attention was more a matter of shopping for an item and not finding one in a size that fit me. For example, if I purchase a hat that’s a little too large, I can put some paper in the hatband until the inside diameter fits my pinhead. If a pistol’s basic frame size is too large for my hand, the solution isn’t quite that simple. Enter the new Gen4 Glock G17 and G22 with three interchangeable backstraps of different sizes. Voila! Mr. Pinhands becomes Glock’s newest, devoted fan.
About a year ago, I went through a Gunsite 250 Defensive Pistol class with Glock’s then-new Gen4 G19—a compact version of the G17, holding 15 rounds instead of 17. Like all the Gen4 Glocks, the test gun was delivered with a smaller backstrap installed than on earlier models, and it fit my hands perfectly. However, there were no alternate backstraps available to increase grip size. The new Gen4 G17 (and G22) full-size pistols are shipped with a small backstrap installed, but they also come with medium- and large-size backstraps in case you have gorilla-size paws. As with the earlier G19, I liked the feel of the factory-installed, smaller backstrap.
Gen4 models have two other features different from older-model Glocks. First, they’re equipped with a pair of nested recoil springs, which should prove more survivable (and hence more reliable) than a single-spring system. Given Glock pistols’ great reputation for reliability and the no more than 2,000 or so rounds I’ve fired through them, however, I’m not in a position to comment on that theory. In addition, the nested-spring assembly should soften felt recoil, making follow-up shots faster.
I couldn’t feel a difference with the mild-recoiling 9 mm pistols, and having no experience on Gen3 pistols chambered in .40 S&W, I put the G22 in the hands of three different instructors who have carried that model both on and off duty. When they really concentrated, all three agreed they could feel a small difference in felt recoil and recovery time with the Gen4 G22s. Whether or not you’re able to feel a worthwhile improvement, my test subjects verified there is a slight difference.
The second change is on the external extractor. In addition to the extractor lip that grasps the rim of the fired case, the front, outer edge of the extractor also has a lip. At first glance, it makes you think the extractor is symmetrical and could be installed with either edge facing toward the chamber. Although it’s not and it can’t, the design does have a purpose. When a round is chambered, the lip on the outer edge of the extractor extends slightly and is no longer flush with the surface of the slide.
Theoretically, the extended surface can be seen in good lighting by those with better than 20/20 vision and felt by those with the sensitive touch of a professional safecracker. This provides a “visual and tactile indication of a loaded chamber” according to the Massachusetts Attorney General, and the feature is required on guns sold in the Bay State.