The Gen 4 (Glock 35 Gen 4 bottom, next to Gen 3 Glock 35, above) has added a new twist to the Glock pistol line. Notice the duller look of the newer finish for Glock pistols on the Gen 4 pistol.
The new grip texture of the Gen 4 (bottom) compared to the Gen 3 (top). You can also see the larger mag release on the Gen 4.
The Gen 4 grip with the medium back strap attached has the same grip profile as the Gen 3 standard grip.
Gen 3 Magazine (left) compared to the Gen 4 Mag (right). The Gen 4 magazine has cuts on both sides of the magazine body for the magazine release to be reversed for left handed shooters.
The Glock Gen 4…
Is it Really an Improved Version of “Glock Perfection”?
Well, we’ve all seen the commotion about Glock’s new “Gen 4” version of their line of pistols. Some like it, some, well let’s just say aren’t jumping for joy. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Whenever a tried and true model gets an update, everyone wants to know how you improve on something that already works pretty well as is.
If you have an earlier model, we need to ask ourselves, “In today’s economy, is this really worth putting my hard earned money into?”
The Gen 4:
About a year ago, Glock launched what has now been dubbed the “Gen 4” version of their pistols. It started in the full-size 9mm and .40 S&W pistols (Model 17 and 22), and has since progressed into the compact (19 and 23), the subcompact (G26 and 27) and now into the “Practical Tactical” models (35 & 34).
This new version of the Glock line has been both lauded by some, or “poo-poo’ed” by others, based on their viewpoints, and the early performance of the pistols. The new Gen 4 pistols have a plethora of new goodies, such as new grip texturing, multiple back straps to adapt to different hand sizes, a new recoil system, and an enlarged / reversible magazine release for left handed shooters.
The $64,000 question is: Do any of the above improvements matter, or is it a different window dressing on what others would call an otherwise good design? I tried to answer the question by looking at two different Generations of the same pistol. I have a Gen 3 Glock 35 in .40 S&W, and recently purchased a Gen 4 G35 for my duty rig. I’ve also had the pleasure of shooting the Gen 3 Glock 22 (I carried one on duty for over 10 years) and Gen 4 of the same gun.
Did I waste my money on my new G35? Let’s find out…
The Gripping Texture
The newer texture of the Gen 4 is made up of “Polymids” as Glock calls them. They are small 4-sided pyramid-like shapes with a flat top. These do increase how it sticks to your hands, but is not nearly as aggressive as the early RTF-2 frames of a few years back. I have had some of my friends complain about the older RTF-2 texture as it would tear up clothing during concealed carry, and some did not like the aggressive feel.
However, that being said, I never really had a problem with the original Gen 3 design. I did know people who would put skateboard tape on their grips for added traction, but I never saw the need for it. I work in a bay-marine environment, and have spent many nights out in snotty weather; in that time I never lost hold of my Glock…
However, if you want something with a little more “traction”, then the Gen 4 frame is an improvement, no doubt.
The one incorporation that I thought really indicated Glock was adapting to a changing landscape in the handgun market, was the MBS – Multiple Back Strap system. Manufacturers such as Walther and HK have already used a system that had multiple back straps to adapt a gun to better fit your hand. Then along came the Smith and Wesson M&P with whole grip panels. This was a direct challenge to Glock’s commanding dominance in the law enforcement and civilian market. I was hearing a lot of chatter from agencies looking at guns like the M&P to replace their “one size fits all” Glocks, and civilians who weren’t already locked into the Glock were flocking to look at the M&P.
Sure enough, Glock responded to this with the MBS. Unlike many of the current back strap systems out there, the Glock is a hollow plate that snaps over the rear of the grip. The un-altered grip is a tad slimmer than the original Glock grip, then the “medium” back strap insert is the equivalent of your standard Glock 17/22. The large gives those with bigger mitts a more natural amount to grip, so you don’t feel like you’re holding your kids squirtgun.
The only fault I see with this system is that the back strap inserts seem hollow, and frankly, a little flimsy. That being said, I’ve carried the Gen 4 G35 with the medium MBS in, and it hasn’t failed me yet, so I may very well be wrong.
If the one-size-fits-all Glock grip doesn’t work for you, then the MBS is a vast improvement. If you like the Gen 3 grip size already, then it’s pretty ho-hum.
OK, if you see anything about this new Generation 4 that is a dramatic change, it’s the new recoil system. In the Gen 1 – Gen 3 models, Glock used the same recoil spring / guide rod for 9mm, .40 S&W, and the .357 Sig guns. While Glock .40’s lasted, far longer than I expected with that system, it made for a very snappy recoil. So much so that even I started feeling it after a full day of shooting. It was also rough on the guns.
There was a related problem with guns with lights mounted. We found we had to re-spring the entire gun and rebuild all the magazines to get the system to work reliably. In addition we were advised by Glock personnel to replace recoil springs at the 1500-2000 round mark.
I personally believe the Gen 4 guns were looked at from the ground up to deal with the higher pressure .40 S&W, the meat and potatoes of the Law Enforcement market. The new recoil system uses a multi-spring assembly similar to what we see used on the mini-Glocks, the G26 and G27. What it looks like, however, is far less important than what it does.
The new system effectively tamed the snappiness of the .40 S&W. It isn’t necessarily less recoil; it just feels different. Instead of the snap up you’re used to, the recoil feels much more like it’s directed straight back with far, far less muzzle rise. This was not as pronounced in the long-slide G35’s, but was very evident in the Glock 22 Gen 4 I tried. I was able to make easy “triple taps” with the Gen 4 G22, whereas this was far from easy to do accurately in my old issue Gen 3.
This translates into much easier follow up shots, and a gun that is much more fun to shoot. It also makes for a gun that isn’t nearly as battered from recoil, and thus should have a longer service life. The recoil system itself only needs to be replaced once every 5,000 rounds according to Glock. That’s less parts you have to buy and keep on hand. Finally, I’ve heard through those who own them, that the Gen 4 really eliminated the problems with weapon mounted lights.
You can argue that some of the earlier changes were purely cosmetic, but the new recoil system is a true game changer in my humble opinion, and represents a true improvement in the design. Unfortunately, this new spring system is big enough that it will not work in the Gen 3 guns because areas on both the frame and the slide needed to be re-designed to allow for the new recoil assembly. Now, if I were an enterprising engineer, I’d come up with a retrofit kit for the Gen 3…
The other down side is that while this system was made for the .40 S&W and .357 Sig guns, the 9mm needed a little tweaking. The 9mm has less momentum in recoil, and the same springs didn’t work for both the hotter calibers and the easier 9mm. Glock has corrected this with springs specific to the 9mm guns.
One argument I hear from people on the Glock is that it isn’t friendly for lefties. I can argue the slide lock is not really necessary as the proper way to chamber a round is by racking the slide fully to the rear and letting it go forward under the full weight of the spring. I can’t argue that there was nothing to be done with the magazine release as lefties were stuck with using their trigger finger, or some other such adaptation that is less than ideal.
No more. The Gen 4’s magazine release is much larger, and fully reversible to adapt to you lefties out there. The button itself is probably 2-3 times larger in surface area, and pushes in easily. The only hitch is that only newly manufactured magazines with the ambi-cut will work in the new Gen 4’s if the gun has been switched to work for left-handed shooters. So if you’re a left-handed shooter who’s stockpiled a bunch of older magazines, you’re out of luck.
The Final Word.
So is one better than the other? The answer is pretty much: That depends on you. If you never liked the snappy recoil of the .40, needed to adapt the gun to fit your hand because it just wasn’t quite right, or were a lefty who hated using the standard Glock mag release, then this gun can address your concerns solidly. If, however, the Gen 3 always worked for you; then maybe it’s just not a big deal. Personally, I like the feel and function of the Gen 4 just a bit more than the Gen 3 with my Glock 35. I also like the dull finish of the newer Glocks, it just looks more business like.
The good news is that Glock will continue to build the Gen 3 guns for people who live in states like California, where new gun designs are so restricted that only earlier versions will make it to dealer shelves, or who are happy with the Gen 3.
I would also argue that 9mm was the caliber the Glock 17 was made for. The first through 3rd generation have worked very well in 9mm, and lasted close to forever. I would almost prefer the 9mm in that proven platform. That’s just my personal preference, and I may be proven wrong over time as the Gen 4 guns in 9mm gain experience.
Regardless, Glock seems to have answered it’s critics with the Gen 4. It adapts to different shooters, tames the .40 S&W, and is an evolutionary development of the proven Glock platform