Written by: Tyson McDonald
April, 24 2021
The Glock 17 fourth generation is the fourth iteration of a product that was criticized in the beginning, but refused to die, and is now a staple in the firearms industry.
We’ve all heard about Glock’s reliability, ergonomics, and durability, but what makes the Gen 4 so special?
A lot has changed since Gen 3 and it’s different from Gen 5.
Lucky for you I am here to answer that so sit down, relax and imagine we are surrounding a campfire in the middle of summer and you just got paid on Friday.
So what fancy new features come with this generation?
When you first pick up a fourth-generation Glock 17 your first thought is probably going to be something like “wow, this feels different than the last one”.
You would be 100% correct.
The grip panel on a Gen 4 Glock 17 is modular, with interchangeable backstraps. A common complaint about the previous generations has been the fixed backstrap, molded to fit one specific hand size.
The new, interchangeable system means that whether your hands haven’t grown since the 6th grade, or you have fingers equivalent to polish sausages, this gun can be customized to fit you.
Not only that but the grip texture has been changed to be more aggressive for the new release, making it easier to maintain your grasp on the gun.
Left-handed shooters rejoice!
The Gen 4 Glock 17 features a magazine release that can be swapped out of either the left or right side. On top of that, the size of the release has been greatly increased making reloads a breeze.
With a new release comes a new magazine. These new Gen 4 magazines have a cut out for the release to lock into on both sides, meaning the older Glock mags you have sitting around at home are still going to work in the newer model.
The last difference between old and new is the recoil spring.
This bad boy has been upgraded to a double recoil spring to help absorb recoil with those spicy calibers that we all brag about being able to shoot well.
This change is much appreciated by competitive shooters, who put a ton of lead downrange in a short amount of time.
The slide is cut out slightly larger near the muzzle to accommodate this upgrade but you probably wouldn’t even notice if you weren’t just told about it.
Since the new changes to the grip were very popular on the fourth generation, Glock took the most logical move conceivable and changed them again.
Ever felt like complaining about finger grooves?
Not anymore, because now they’re completely gone.
It’s been a long-standing firearms joke that the Glocks have the ergonomics of a 2x4, so for this generation, Glock decided to prove the naysayers wrong by rounding out the slide.
This is very noticeable when looking at the slide near the front sight.
Many internal parts of the Gen 5 have also been changed.
Although these upgrades are more reliable by simplifying and refining their approach, cross-compatibility becomes an issue with then if you have older Glock parts kits that you might want to use on the gen 5.
Since the Glock aftermarket scene is second only to the AR-15, people may hold off on getting the newer model until their favorite accessories become available.
A couple of other features that you may or may not find on the Gen 5 depending on their manufacture date are the half-moon cut out on the frame to help get a stubborn magazine out, and front serrations on the slide.
There are arguments for and against both of these features so it comes down to personal preference as to if they will work for you.
Side by side comparison
Gen 4 is pretty much the middle child in terms of what can be found on the market today although this middle child isn’t angry from being excluded.
In fact, a Gen 4 is a great option for its price point, since it boasts modern features and a plethora of customization options since it’s been on the market since 2010.
It’s no secret that the Glock 17 Gen 4 is one of the most reliable pistols on the market today. It easily keeps up with other guns much newer than itself.
When it comes to taking your gun apart and putting it back together it doesn’t get much easier than Glock. Maintenance is a breeze with all their products.
It can be argued that a gun is only as accurate as the person using it, but from my experience Glocks tend to be accurate pistols.
Glock and durability go hand in hand. These guns can be thrown in dirt and mud, sand, water, and everywhere in between, and still, come back for more.
If words like hammer forging and polygonal rifling get you excited then you will be happy to know that these Glock barrels include both of these features.
The most notable upgrade in this generation is the frame. The grip texture and the addition of changeable backstraps really set this generation apart from Glocks of old.
The polymer keeps the weight down so you can carry it all day without the extra poundage of a full steel gun.
The frame can be further customized with stippling, giving it a rough, sandpaper-like texture.
It was a toss-up on where to put the trigger, but it’s decent out of the box.
Yes, it has some creep and overtravel, but it’s also consistent.
Sure there is room for improvement but you can easily find an aftermarket trigger to remedy this and there are plenty of factory triggers much worse than this.
Although many believe that Glocks do not have safeties this is misinformation.
The Glock safety is built right into the trigger with a tab that sticks out from the rest of the trigger. In order for the gun to fire the tab must be depressed, in other words, you gotta pull the trigger properly.
This way you don’t have anything else to think about when using the pistol in a defensive situation.
If I had a nickel for every time I saw someone drop one of their Glock mags on the floor, I’d probably have enough money to buy myself a few.
What I didn’t see was any of the magazines break, which is a real testament to their durability.
It has a generous capacity of 17 rounds and, once you get the hang of it, they’re easy to take apart and clean.
When it comes to the (literal) bang for your buck, the Gen 4 Glock 17 is a fantastic deal. The price point is highly competitive with other, similar offerings on the market.
I’m just gonna come out and say it: I hate the factory sights.
Although I have never personally had a problem with them, polymer sights are fragile and prone to breaking, so the idea of having them, especially on a carry gun, doesn’t sit well with me.
Glock sights are very easy to change out, and there are a lot of upgrade options on the market, so this would be the first thing I change every time.
The ergonomics are still just mediocre to me. Although I like the new frame, the slide is still very blocky.
Although this is something that you can change to fit your personal preference, some of the upgrades can get a little pricy.
The Glock 17 is the all-grown-up model of the 9mm lineup without the extra sass of the 34.
With this being a full-sized model you’ll be able to get your whole hand in on the action.
The Glock 17 is slightly larger, both in the frame and in length than the compact Glock 19.
The size difference becomes much more pronounced when compared to subcompact offerings like the Glock 23.
The 17 feels much chunkier than the single stack offerings like the Glock 48 and 43.
Does the idea of a full-size frame and a compact barrel appeal to you? Well, Glock has you covered with some Frankenstein creations that I am personally very fond of.
The Glock 19x is the perfect amalgamation.
Not only does it pair the frame of the Glock 17 with the slide and barrel of the Glock 19, but it also is a hybrid of two generations, (gen 4 and gen 5).
I’m a big fan of tan color schemes on my guns, so the 19x gets instant style points for being the only offering from Glock that comes in tan, right from the factory.
This is also the only Glock to offer a lanyard loop, so you can be the coolest guy (or gal) on the range when you whip out that Hello Kitty lanyard that you have been so desperately searching for a way to use.
If the 19x was the teenage years, where the Glock was trying to find itself, and be different from the rest, the Glock 45 is when they finally graduated college and got a full-time job.
This is a newer model and only offered in Gen 5, so it gets the latest features.
Much like the 19x, however, we still get the Glock 17 frame topped off with the Glock 19 slide and barrel.
What better place to start than the gun that was selected as the U.S. Army’s new service pistol in January of 2017: the Sig Sauer P320.
This gun features similar characteristics to the Glock 17 including a polymer frame, trigger safety, and is striker-fired.
The H&K VP9 takes the Gen 4 backstrap idea one step further by also allowing the side panels to be changed out.
This pistol is fully ambidextrous and has a fantastic trigger, but you will pay a premium for these extra bells and whistles.
If the absolute best trigger pull, directly from the factory is what you need, then the Walther PPQ M2 is for you.
For this price point, it definitely takes the cake for the best trigger.
I’m a big CZ fanboy so you know I’ve got to mention the P10F here too. It has the same form factor as the Glock 17, with a lower bore axis.
This gun checks all the other boxes, but magazines that fit can be harder to find than for other pistols.
It would be an extremely long list to compile, but you can rest easy on knowing that many military, law enforcement, government, and private agencies, from around the world, use the Glock 17.
You may be wondering what the heck is this striker fire system and how does it work?
Well, we start off by removing the hammer and the mainspring from the frame.
From there the mainspring is put inside the slide and the firing pin instead of being transferred from the hammer does the striking itself.
So it has simply been renamed the striker.
With fewer moving parts you end up with a gun that is much more reliable than a traditional hammer system.
I love a classic 1911, but if I am being honest I have seen more failures with them than I’d like to admit.
|Magazine:||Standard 17 Optional 19, 24, 31, 33|
|Barrel Length:||114 mm | 4.49 inch|
|Weight (without magazine):||625 g | 22.05 oz|
|Weight (with empty magazine):||705 g | 24.87 oz|
|Weight (with loaded magazine):||915 g | 32.28 oz|
|Length (Overall):||202 mm | 7.95 inch|
|Slide Length:||186 mm | 7.32 inch|
|Width (Overall):||32 mm | 1.26 inch|
|Slide Width:||25,5 mm | 1.0 inch|
|Height (incl magazine):||139 mm | 5.47 inch|
|Line of Sight:|
Glocks come in two different flavors. You can find them made in Austria and the land of peaches, Georgia, U.S.A.
All gen 4 Glocks come with a nitride finish from the factory.
The nitride has a dull appearance and is easier to get a positive grip compared to the older Tennifer finish.
So you wanna turn your Glock into a competition champ?
Luckily there is a ton of aftermarket support, so you are only limited by your creativity (and how much money you feel like throwing at it of course).
The trigger is a great first upgrade.
Look for something in the pull weight you want (some are adjustable) and you will notice a lot less creep and over-travel, and a cleaner break compared to the stock trigger.
A set of new sights will go a long way.
Something made of steel, with fiber optics or tritium, will maximize your effectiveness, especially in lower lighting conditions.
Time for an upgrade that doesn’t need to cost you a penny, customizing the frame.
Stippling the frame will add a lot of texture and you can slightly change the grip angle to something more ergonomic. If this seems too complicated, there are also prefabricated grips available.
Across the board, 115 and 124-grain bullets will perform great out of a Glock 17 but here are my recommendation for playtime and game time.
CCI Brass Blazer is a fantastic option for cheap fun at the range.
It can be found in both 115 and 124-grain and is more available than other rounds on the market. I use it a lot and rarely have any issues.
I can be a bit dirty but hey, we’re talking about Glocks here and they can be taken apart blindfolded.
Another type of ammunition that I have been using a lot lately is PMC Bronze.
I tend to see it much more in the 115-grain weight but 124 does exist.
It’s good for the range and the boxes are very compact so you can squeeze more into your ammo can when you buy in bulk.
As soon as I saw penetration testing from Federal HST in person I was a big fan.
I would trust these in a defensive situation any time.
They are offered in grain weights up to 147 but I would recommend staying with 124 grain if that is what you usually practice with at the range.
A holster is an excellent accessory for any handgun you own.
Depending on if you plan on using it for competition or defensive purposes will change what type you will need but it doesn’t hurt to own multiple.
If you are in the market for extra magazines Magpul has great products available.
They are as reliable as the factory mags while weighing less.
You can also get the 21 round capacity mags that don’t require a mag extender to use. If you live in a restrictive state they also have 10 round options to conform to local law.
At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with a Gen 4 Glock 17.
They have been on the market for years now and have an active following.
This is a gun that will go bang every time and is forgiving with first-time shooters.
The more acquainted you become the ergonomics won’t be as much of an issue and you will be putting effective shots on targets quickly.
Final Rating: 4.5/5
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