After much reading, both in print and online about the new Glock gen 4s, I decided I had to have one. I checked around, located one and took off with intent to buy it. When I got to the store, I looked at a G17 gen 4 side by side a G17 gen 3. So Iím thinkiní this side by side comparison will be the best way to see the gen 4 advantages. It didnít work out that way and I walked away with little interest in purchasing a gen 4 for nearly $100 more than a gen 3 would cost. But let me not leave this with you thinking this was a money decision Ė it was not; I had the cash; I had the intent to buy; it was the features or better put, the lack of features of the highly hyped and touted gen 4 that closed the deal, not the money.
To fully realize the hype surrounding the gen 4, one has to be aware of historic claims made about Glocks. Letís start with the grip size. I canít remember how many times Iíve read that the Glock system has a size to fit all hands, i.e. the full size for big hands, the mid size for smaller hands, etc. Guess what? There is no difference in grip size other than the length! The girth is the same at all points up and down the grip. One could, and some have, cut down the grip of a full size and it becomes a mid-size grip. The trigger reach is still the same, the girth is still the same; itís just shorter Ė how does that fit smaller hands better? Now, no doubt some will have a preference for one over the other, but thatís a different thing.
Now letís move forward to the gen 4 with the back straps to fit all hands. Guess what? The gun without any back straps is the same size as a gen 3 grip! When I was handling the guns in the store, I carefully noted the feel and the reach to the trigger Ė theyíre exactly the same, if not exactly, they are so close that if I were blindfolded with thin leather gloves on (so I couldnít feel differences in grip texture), you could hand me 10 different Glocks and I would not be able to pick out the gen 4s from the gen 3s. So what do the back straps do? They accommodate larger hands, not smaller hands! But we read that these back straps solve the one-size-fits-all problem Ė it does not! Those that have smaller hands will have the same problem with a gen 4 they have with the gen 3. For example, in the Glock Magazine 2011 issue, they list the specs for the gen 4 trigger reach. The trigger reach for a G17 gen 4 WITHOUT a back strap is 2.76 inches. Measuring the trigger reach on my G17 gen 3 with my digital calipers gives 2.79 inches or 0.03Ē difference which is, of course, insignificant. The trigger reach on a gen 4 with the medium back strap is 2.83 inches or right at an 1/8 inch longer. So the reach for small hands has not been addressed at all by the gen 4 and its back straps.
Letís now move to the softer recoil claim. Iím just gonna say Iím veeeery skeptical about this claim. I will have to shoot a gen 3 and gen 4 side by side in a blindfold test to believe this. This same claim has been made in the past about Glockís recoil. It is claimed that because a Glock sits very low in the grip, that more of the recoil is rearward and hence less muzzle flip is generated. Also, the flex of the polymer frame supposedly softens the recoil. So this is not the first time weíve heard about softer recoil with a Glock.
The problem is, regardless of the springing system, be it one or two springs, the slide has to move and stop in the same distance. To me, that results in the absorption of the same recoil momentum and energy. It may be possible by modifying slide velocity that a softer felt recoil results Ė I seriously doubt that, but itís possible. The slide velocity could be slow or fast at the start, and the opposite at the end, but either way an impulse effect would be generated. It may be that a human being would perceive an impulse as softer than linearly decreasing the slide velocity. But again, I will have to shoot a gen 3 and gen 4 side by side in a blindfold test to believe this.
How about the ambi mag release? Well, it isnít ambi Ė itís switchable. This is the one thing that I find attractive about gen 4s at this point. I really prefer the mag release on the right side of the gun, and in fact, I have switched the mag releases on my Sig Classics to the right side. For me, the right side is much more accessible and positive with the trigger finger than the thumb. So, I find the switchable mag release a significant asset.
However, the right side activation on the gen 4, for me, has not been proven yet. I have the true ambi mag release on my G21 SF (and picitinny rails) and it doesnít work well. I suspect the gen 4s are better. My initial assessment is that it appears the right side mag release may not be as advantageous as the Sig due to its position. It just Ďfeelsí like the release is further to the rear than the Sigs, making it a bit less assessable.
However, I do like the gen 4 mag release button Ė I think itís a significant improvement. It reaches back a bit further than the pre-gen 4 releases, doesnít appear to protrude quite as much, and should be more thumb accessible, but I didnít find a significant difference in my initial look.
A real down side to the gen 4 switchable mag release is that pre-gen 4 mags wonít work in a gen 4. Thatís not true of the Sig mag system. Letís say you have a G17 gen 3 and six mags for it and you buy a G17 gen 4. None of those gen 3 mags will work in it! Thatís not good! If you need/want six mags, youíre gonna have to buy four more Ė thatís about $100 worth of mags.
So, what is the major assets of the gen 4s? Itís certainly not a smaller grip. I seriously question that it has significantly reduced recoil, but Iím open minded about that until I can test it myself. Is it the switchable mag release? Is it the grip texture? Iíll give it a plus on the grip texture, but I like my G17 RTF2 thatís even more aggressive than the gen 4, but I could settle for the gen 4 texture. I guess the bottom line is, just what is it we get for nearly a $100 more for a gen 4?
Letís say the switchable mag release isnít an issue for you and you can take or leave the grip texture. What does that leave? The only thing I know of is you can make the grip bigger. Iíve always thought the problem with the Glock grip is it was already too big???