The venerable Glock is synonymous with reliability and ruggedness, proving itself over the years as a worthy contender in the self-defense and personal protection realms. With five total iterations to its name, Gaston Glock’s creations each come with their own quirks and attributes making them unique in their own right.
I snagged three generations of Glock 19 pistols from the Guns.com warehouse – the Gen 3, Gen 4 and Gen 5 – to evaluate the similarities and differences among these series.
Glock rolled out the Gen 3 in 1998, an upgrade to its second generation of pistols. The first generation to see a designation, the Gen 3 elevated Gaston’s features in the hopes of providing a more ergonomic feel. Serving up a new grip area, complete with finger grooves, the Gen 3 also brought with it thumb rests on each side of the pistol for a more comfortable and natural grip.
The Gen 3 continued its upgrades with a universal accessory rail for mounting lights and laser accessories. Making the gun more customer friendly, the Gen 3 revised its extractor, allowing it stick out a tad further than previous designs so as to act as a loaded chamber indicator. Now gun owners no longer needed to press check or guess whether a round was in the chamber, they had a visual representation alerting them to such.
The Gen 4, launched in 2010, further improving on the Glock design. The Gen 4 continued the finger grooves trend but upgraded the texture on the grip itself. Offering a more stippled approach, Glock looked to help shooters maintain a more solid grasp on the gun while shooting. The Gen 4 also delivered more ambi features for left-handed shooters including the addition of an ambidextrous magazine release.
The Gen 4’s crowning achievement is likely its smooth shooting. The Gen 3 is clunky and heavy, recoiling with more force than modern Glock shooters are accustomed to. The Gen 4, by comparison, provides a smoother experience with minimal recoil on the 9mm platform. It doesn’t hurt that Glock saw an opportunity to offer a more comfortable shooting experience through the use of interchangeable backstraps. These backstraps aimed to allow more shooters to find a better fit from their Glock grips.
The Gen 5 offered a full circle moment for Glock fans, updating the internals while also throwing back the design to the pre-Gen 3 era. Updated in 2017, the Gen 5 ditched the finger grooves much to the delight (or dismay depending on how you see it) of small-handed shooters. The grip texture remained the same, but the design benefits from an ambi slide stop – again, catering to left-handed shooters.
Additionally, Glock gutted the internals, replacing its insides with a new trigger system, extractor, firing pin safety and Glock Marksmanship Barrel. Does the barrel improve performance? Marginally, at best. It’s not a wow factor and in fact most shooters will likely not notice a difference in shootability between the Gen 4 and Gen 5 platforms. The Gen 5 finished its design off with a flared magwell, aiding shooters with tactical reloads and the like.
Which One Is Right for Me?
We’d be remiss if we didn’t start by saying you can’t go wrong with Glock. Regardless of generation, each Glock is a solid build delivering accuracy and reliability. That being said, each features their own unique attributes that may speak to gun owners more so than the other.
The Gen 3 is a classic, a vintage throwback to the late 1990s. If you’re partial to nostalgia, the Gen 3 is for you. Sure to turn heads at the range with a look that sets it apart from newer generations, the Gen 3 earns a spot in any Glock fans collection. An evolutionary reminder of Glock’s past, the Gen 3 is perfect for collectors or those that wish to cling to the past. A word of warning though. The Glock Gen 3 series features a single recoil spring, as opposed to the double spring of the Gen 4 and Gen 5 series. This means that the Glock 19 Gen 3 is a snappier model than its later versions. Heavier and with a clunkier feel while shooting, the Gen 3 can be a surprise for shooters accustomed to later model Glocks.
The Gen 4 brought about a more modern era to the Glock design. Including more ambi features and a new and improved grip texture, the Gen 4 delivers an updated take on the classic design. A great middle man between the past and the present, the Gen 4 is a great mesh between the Gen 3 and Gen 5. However, if you hate your fingers being forced into a set position, the Gen 4 might be more of a headache. For those with bigger hands or smaller ones, the finger grooves prove to be annoying to work around. On the range, the Glock Gen 4 is a smooth shooter, thanks to its double recoil spring. Easily manageable, the Gen 4 produces great results and groupings.
Rounding out the Glock 19 generations, the Gen 5 is the newest of the new. Perfect for that gun owner who has to have the latest and greatest, the Gen 5 saw the return of a straight grip, no finger grooves, in addition to kicking up some internal features that smooth out the overall operation. The Gen 5’s flat grip is a blessing for those of us not partial to the grooves, elevating ergonomics. The Gen 5, though, does come with a new DLC coating that looks nice but accumulates finger prints. If you’re particular about the way your guns look, you’ll spend quite a bit of time wiping down that Gen 5 slide to get it looking just right. Other than that, the Gen 5 is a winner. Shooting smoothly and with little recoil, again thanks for that double recoil spring design, the Gen 5 can plink all day at that range.
At the end of the day, all three Glocks make great additions to any pistol collection and all three reliably serve as concealed carry options. While I prefer the mechanics and looks of the Glock Gen 5 series, you can’t go wrong with any generation.