Written by Phillip Chambers

Glock 17 Gen 3 Review

Releasing all the way back in 1998 the Gen 3 Glock 17 has been around for a long time. It still has a cult following by many and there are people who still prefer this generation over the newer offerings by Glock.

The Glock 17 is a full-sized, short recoil, striker-fired polymer-framed pistol, but I’m sure that 90 percent of readers already know that.

We're gonna check out some features this generation offers to see if the lasting hype is worthy of praise.


Caliber: 9x19
System: Safe Action
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
Trigger Pull: 5.5lbs
Length (Overall): 204 mm | 8.03 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

Why the Glock 17 Gen 3 is a Good Choice

Gen 3 introduced the ever-controversial finger grooves to the frame putting hate into the hearts of many small-handed folks. The grip also featured stippled side panels, checkered front and back-straps, and a lanyard hole.

Unlike the gen 4 and newer the back-straps on gen 3 Glocks are fixed on the frame.

Oh no, not finger grooves!

Magazines for the Glock 17 gen 3 are steel reinforced polymer and have a 17 round capacity with factory 19, 24, 31, and 33 round factory magazines also available.

Sights on gen 3 Glocks are fixed and created using the same polymer as the frame. Unfortunately, they can only be adjusted with a special tool made by the company.

The barrel is almost 4.5 inches long and uses polygonal rifling. The rifling works really well but I won’t recommend shooting unjacketed lead bullets through the firearm as it can fill in the rifling and turn it into a smoothbore over time.

With the regular factory sights, the pistol has a sight radius of 6.5 inches, which is very long. This helps a lot with accuracy since it minimizes sight deflection allowing you to hit targets are longer distances without as much difficulty.

Still has the traditional Glock sight picture

An accessory rail was added to the frame in the gen 3 models to equip a laser or light to the gun.

Anyone looking for the classic Glock look or is into collecting surplus firearms will enjoy the gen 3 17 but it does have some quirks.

Being an older firearm it does lack some common features that can be found with newer generations and other competitors.

How Does it Compare to Other Glock Models?

Speaking specifically about the gen 3 offerings, the Glock 17 is the full-sized 9x19 handgun.

It is the same size as the 40S&W Glock 22 and larger than the compact Glock 19.

There is also a subcompact Glock 26 which is much smaller than the Glock 17.

Glock 17 Gen 3 Competitors

A direct competitor for the law enforcement market is the Smith and Wesson M&P9.

The M&P 9 has the same magazine capacity as the Glock 17 with a few improvements: Steel sights and 3 interchangeable palm swells to change the size of the grip.

The biggest fault of the M&P is the trigger.

I know I said that the Glock 17 trigger wasn’t anything to write home about but the M&P trigger makes it look match grade.

The CZ P09 takes a page from the hammer-fired book. This pistol gets an impressive 19 round magazine capacity. The frame does not have finger grooves and comes with interchangeable back-straps to further change the fit of the grip. One of the bigger differences between it and the Glock is that the CZ has a decocker.

I am not a big fan of decockers but with a little work, this can be turned into manual safety.

The P09 is a traditional take on a polymer pistol using a hammer instead of a striker.

Being manufactured nearly at the same time as the gen 3 Glocks the Walther P99 is a great competitor to talk about. The P99 went through a few production changes over its lifetime.

The 9mm models can be found with 15 round magazines. In 2004 the trigger was modified to eliminate the “ski hump” feel of the older P99s a very welcome change that made the trigger pull seem more natural.

Early models had left side slide locks whereas the newer offerings had the option for ambidextrous slide locks.

Who Uses the Glock 17?

The Glock 17 is the most popular service pistol in the world. It was originally designed as the new sidearm of the

Austrian military and many militaries and law enforcement agencies have adopted it for their own use.

How Does the Striker Fire System Work?

You may be wondering: “what is this ‘striker fire system’, and how does it work?” Pistols are either striker fire or hammer fire.

The hammer fire system is what tends to be used in those dramatic TV and movie moments, where the character pulls back the metal hammer on the back of the gun to arm it, telegraphing their intent to shoot.

When the trigger is pulled, the hammer slams forward, hitting the firing pin, which in turn hits the primer in the bullet casing, and ignites the gunpowder, firing the bullet.

Glock popularized the striker fire system, which operates without this hammer. Racking the slide instead cocks an internal spring, which is released when the trigger is pulled, to shoot forward and strike the primer.

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...

I’m sorry, I still love you!

Where are Gen 3 Glocks made?

Glocks come in two different flavors. You can find them made in Austria and the land of peaches, Georgia, U.S.A.

Both can be found in the U.S.

What Finish is Used on the Gen 3 Glocks?

Older gen 3s can be found with the frying pan-like tennifer finish but new-gen 3s switched over to the nitride finish that is found on all gen 4 Glocks.

For a lot of people, the older finish is more desirable because it matches the frame much better and is more scratch-resistant.

Customization for the Glock 17 Gen 3

As I said previously, I would change the factory sights for something aftermarket as one of the first upgrades for this pistol. They will give you a much cleaner sight picture and metal sights are much stronger against breaking.

A trigger upgrade would be a great idea if you want to get the most out of the gun. You can get lighter, crisper triggers without the take up of the factory offering.

This will help a lot with accuracy and allow you to squeeze a little more consistency and confidence out of the firearm.

If the frame is an issue for you there are aftermarket options available.

This can include different textures as well as finger grooveless alternatives.

Best Ammo to Use in the Glock 17 Gen 3

I’d recommend sticking to a 115 or 124-grain bullet in your Glock 17.

They feed reliably and are effective.

I have personally seen people use up to 147gr but finding heavier weights can be a challenge and it’s always best to keep things consistent.

Range Ammo:

CCI Brass Blazer is my go-to round of range work. They are cheap and reliable.

115 and 124-grain options are found commonly making it easy to get consistent shooting practice in.

Another great option is PMC Bronze.

You will find these mostly in the 115-grain weight but 124 grain does also exist.

They function very well and are sold in very compact packaging making it easy to squeeze a few extra rounds in your ammo can that would otherwise be taken up by larger boxes other brands come with.


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.

Federal HST is my go to choice for defense rounds.

Best Accessories for Your Glock 17 Gen 3

It never hurts to have some extra magazines. Since the gen 3 Glocks only come with 2 mags as opposed to the 3 that later generations come with I would say that this is an even easier purchase to justify.

You can use the later generation magazines in your gen 3 Glock without issues or go the aftermarket route.

Magpul also makes a solid magazine offering for Glocks.

A quality holster will allow you to practice your draw with the Glock.

They are a great pick-up for anyone who may eventually want to carry or try to compete.

There are a lot of different holster variants on the market and don’t feel like you are limited to trying out only one style, see what works best for you.



Simplicity is the name of the game for gen 3. The only moving parts are the slide, trigger, magazine release, slide release, and takedown lever.


Since the gen 3 Glocks have been on the market for many years, you can bet that there is a ton of aftermarket parts available for them. Some “nice to haves” that come straight from the factory are an extended magazine release and slide lock.

The sky really is the limit on what you can do with these guns, and you can really tailor it to your personal needs.

There really isn’t much to the gun's super simple design that takes well to upgrades.


Reliability is the name of the game for Glocks, in general.

It is something that the company has always prided itself in and that reputation continues today.


The 4.5-inch barrel with a long sight radius lends to very accurate shooting. The range I frequent goes out to 100 feet and I can confidently engage targets up to that distance with a Glock 17.


Glock magazines have a great capacity and are durable.

Even though the mags are made out of polymer they can take a lot of punishment. You get two magazines in the box with all Glock 17 gen 3s and they are cheap and easy to find extra of if you need more.


Maintenance is very easy with having such a simple pistol.

To field strip, you just need to pull the trigger then move the slide back about an inch and depress the takedown tabs.

Further disassembly can be done using just a simple punch.

Very easy gun to take apart, notice the single recoil spring as opposed to the double spring of later generations.


The factory barrel is all you will realistically need for most shooting applications outside of competition.

The barrel included out-of-the-box even outperforms some aftermarket options so don’t be fooled into thinking you need to upgrade in order to be accurate.


Although the trigger isn’t going to win any awards it is a consistent 5.5lb. pull. Yes, there is some creep and over-travel but you can be confident that it will function as it should.

And hey if you think you need something a bit better there are hundreds of aftermarket options available to tickle your fancy.


These are very safe pistols that are easy to use.

The safe action trigger will only fire if the middle blade on the trigger is depressed, making it extremely difficult to shoot unintentionally.

There is no manual safety that needs to be manipulated before being ready to use, just point and click.

It should be no surprise that these guns come in at great prices being a couple of generations behind the current new offerings.

For the money you save buying a gen 3 you will have enough money to buy accessories and modifications before you hit the price you would spend on a new gen 5.

Because saving money is awesome.



Ergonomics is where the gen 3 Glock 17 really shows its age.

You can basically look at it as being the same feelings a rounded 1x4 in your hand.

The finger grooves do not lend well to smaller hands and this generation did not have interchangeable back-straps like the newer models.

Dated Design

Being an older design you cannot expect the gen 3 Glock 17 to carry over the standard features of the firearms we see released in 2021.


There is no ambidextrous support on the gen 3 Glocks. They work as intended for right-handed shooters but leave a lot to be desired for southpaws.


I am really not a fan of the standard fixed sights that come with the Glock 17.

They need a special tool to be adjusted and in general, I do not like the thought of having polymer sights on a carry gun.

Yes, they are easy enough to change out and one of the first recommendations I would have towards customization but some competitors have straight-up better options out of the box.

Glock 17 Gen 3 Overall Review

Overall I think that the gen 3 Glock 17 still has a lot to offer.

Sure it doesn’t have all the latest features that modern handguns will have out of the box but do you really need all that to make the gun work for you? I know I don’t.

I think the gen 3 was fantastic for the time it was released but features like the finger grooves and fixed polymer sights don’t sit well with some.

Yes, these things can be changed afterward and the price point is fantastic but since there are a lot of other pistols on the market today I feel that I do need to be fair with how it measures up on the grand scale of things.

Official Rating: 3.5/5

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