Gun Review: Consider the .40-caliber Glock 23 (VIDEO)

For more than two years now, I’ve been working out a Glock 19.  It isn’t mine.  Many of the holsters and gear we get in here at Guns.com is made for Glocks, or can be, and the 19 (which belongs to my tactical guru, Jacob) became the benchmark gun we used for comparisons.

And I grew to respect the gun, immensely.  It is large enough to handle well, and small enough to conceal.  Even with the double-stack grip, it fits well in my hand.  It shoots accurately enough for fast defensive work, and can be dialed in with just a bit of careful concentration for truly accurate shot placement.  It will take any kind of abuse and keep kicking.

The Glock 23.  Compact, without being small.  (Photo by David Higginbotham)

The Glock 23. Compact, without being small. (Photo by David Higginbotham)

So when I was offered the chance to test drive a Glock 23, I thought I knew what I was getting into.  I had plenty of gear for the gun and lots of trigger time behind the 9mm Glock 19.  As the 23 and the 19 are almost identical in every way (except for the caliber of the gun), I felt instantly comfortable with the 23.  But there’s a difference.

Specs

The Glock 23 is a shorter then the full-sized Glock 22.  The 23 is identical in size to the 19, 7.36 inches long.  The widest part of the gun is only  1.18 inches.

Sight radius between on the 23 is 6.02 inches.  With a 13 round magazine, the gun is only 4.99 inches tall.  The barrel is 4.01 inches long.

The heaviest part of any Glock, it seems, is the slide.  Unloaded, the Glock 23 weighs in at only 23.65 ounces.  The polymer frame and steel slide give the gun a unique balance that takes new Glock shooters a while to get accustomed to.  The feeling is more pronounced when the gun is empty, as the plastic shell of the frame is really light.

The extractor on the Glock is amazing.  (Photo by David Higginbotham)

The extractor on the Glock is amazing. (Photo by David Higginbotham)

The trigger on a Glock is usually very usable right out of the box.  This one has about half an inch of travel before a nice clean break.  The trigger pull is only 5 1/2 pounds, making this a gun that should only be carried in a holster.  There is no external safety besides the trigger safety, which must be engaged to pull the trigger.  Even so, a good holster will protect the trigger even more.

Like most Glock barrels, the 23 makes use of polygonal rifling (For more details on that, check out the recent work of Ballistics by the Inch).  Right hand rifling with a 9.84 inch twist rate.

The 13 round magazines are typical to the Glock line, by which I mean superb.  The polymer bodies have stainless liners.  They are easy to clean, durable, easy to find, easy to load, slick sided (which makes dropping an empty from the gun as easy as slipping a full mag from a holster), and not terribly expensive.  If you want more rounds (either for carry or for practice), any longer Glock .40-caliber magazine will fit.  They will stick out a bit, but not so much that they are obtrusive.

Handling

If you have shot a Glock 19, you will have a reference for what I consider to be manageable 9mm recoil.  I can hold down the 19 easily and empty a magazine on a 12-inch plate with no hesitation.

The .40, though, has a bit more kick.  The Glock 23 is snappy.  It has a significant muzzle flip.  The result is, for me, slower split times (or an occasional high flow-up shot).  It rocks the wrist back, noticeably.

What’s strange about the action/reaction of the recoil happens after the flip.  The weight of the slide driving back into place brings the gun down.  It isn’t as simple as a flip that stays pointed up, like with some revolvers.  The slide pops it back down, which means you have to control two motions.  It is easy to over-correct.

The takedown lever.  (Photo by David Higginbotham)

The takedown lever. (Photo by David Higginbotham)

Accuracy with the .40-caliber Glock 23 is on par with that of the 19.  It feels less capable to me because I can’t shoot it as quickly and maintain the accuracy I’ve gotten accustomed to from the 19.

For those of you who have been truly out of touch for the last 20 years, I’ll mention that the Glock has a lot of plastic

Why .40 S&W?

Now we get down to the crucial question for anyone considering a pistol and anyone considering a Glock.  If you are in law enforcement, and you are issued a .40, that’s reason enough.  But what about those of us who get to choose?  Why would you want one chambered for .40 S&W?

The .40 S&W is a compromise.  It is bigger than the 9mm (if only slightly).  It is heavier (usually).  It can be faster (sometimes).

It isn’t as big as the .45 ACP, which translates into more rounds on tap.  Yet the increase in size over the 9mm reduces capacity (the Glock 19 mags hold 15 rounds).  It is faster than the .45 ACP, which some see as a real benefit — while others argue that it is an insignificant measurement.

Functional sights make for fast shots. (Photo by David Higginbotham)

Functional sights make for fast shots. (Photo by David Higginbotham)

The .40 is actually a sized down version of the 10mm.  That round is hot.  It is really fast and does for the .40-caliber bullet what the .357 magnum round does for the .38.  While I’d prefer a 10mm Glock in any genuine defensive shooting scenario, The Glock 20 isn’t as easy (or inexpensive) to practice with.  It is significantly larger, making it much harder to conceal.

And that should be mentioned, too.  While the .40 S&W isn’t a cheap practice round, it is available.  During the past year, when there was no 9mm anywhere, when the shelves of Walmart were almost empty, there was always one lonely box of .40 collecting dust.

Why would you rather have a .40 than a 9mm?  It is a difficult question. Federal makes a 135 grain Hydra-Shok in .40 S&W.  The also make a 135 grain Hydra-Shok in 9mm.  The difference?  Practical testing from a 4-inch barrel puts the .40 at 1,155 fps.  The 9mm runs at 1,039.

Holsters

I can’t think of another gun, besides the 1911, that has as many holster options as the Glock 19 and 23.  Everyone makes one.  Most make more than one.  Almost any time a new holster design is launched, it is launched for the Glock.  There are a ton of these guns out there, and most are seeing active use, so the holsters makers keep pace.  I have two from Multi-Holsters that I use regularly. One is an IWB, the other attaches via MOLLE clips to a belt or bag.  I have an OWB from Safariland with their ALS system retention that I wear when I’m at the range, or carrying open.  Crye Precision makes a great Glock clip holster.

Multi Holster for the 23. (Photo by David Higginbotham)

Multi Holster for the 23. (Photo by David Higginbotham)

There is no shortage of available gear for the Glocks.  The one I’m testing out in the video is an IWB from StealthGear USA (more on that to follow).

When it comes down to it…

If I had a choice between a Glock 19 and a Glock 23, I’d likely choose the 19.  I have nothing against the 9mm.  I think it is a more practical round than most .40s.  There’s an exception, though.  Right now, I’m loading 180 grain Winchester rounds for practice.  These flat nosed bullets provide a reasonable approximation of the 180 grain Federal Hydra-Shoks I carry in the Glock 23.  And as much as I like the various 9mm rounds, the 180 grain Hydra-Shok is a serious defensive round.  I’ve yet to find a 9mm that can really compare.

The Glock 23 is a kick-ass gun.  No two ways about it.  Since this one came in for evaluation, I’ve had it on my hip most of the time.  When I’m at the range, shooting video and testing other guns, this is the pistol I keep ready, at my right side, just in case.  I only take it off if I’m putting a test gun in its place.  That’s how much I respect the Glock.

Here’s how I’ve come to see it.  The Glock 23 has no external safety that has to be disengaged for it to fire.  I like that.  When you pull the trigger, it fires (assuming it is ready to rock).  There’s nothing on the outside (like a hammer) to catch on anything.  The compact length makes it useful for concealed carry.  The uncompromising double-stack magazine means the gun has a sufficient capacity.  I’ve yet to find a round it won’t fire, or a situation in which it will fail.

The grip on the polymer frame.  (Photo by David Higginbotham)

The grip on the polymer frame. (Photo by David Higginbotham)

The price for a new Glock 23 runs somewhere in the neighborhood of six bills.  Clean used guns are selling for $500 or so.  They are abundant.  They are worth it.  And they run incredibly well.

An after thought

When we picked up the Glock 23 for review, we took it to the range with a slew of other handguns.  We had 9mms, a .45 or two, and the .40.  At one point, wires got crossed.  Someone who should have known better loaded 9mm into the .40 magazines. Someone else who should have known better ended up with that magazine in the Glock 23.

There’s a lesson to be learned here.  I’m not sure what it is yet, as I’m resistant to such instructional methodologies. The good news is I still have all of my fingers and toes and eyeballs and such.  The 9mm worked surprisingly well in the Glock 23.  Accuracy wasn’t stupendous, but the bullets left the barrel with gusto.  It doesn’t sound quite right, and it feels a bit off, but the gun shoots, and the brass ejects.  There were no adverse effects to the gun, though there was a good bit of case bulge on the 9mm brass.

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