Okay, I can hear the big collective groan and see the big collective facepalm from our readers already. “Jeez-Louise, Chris Orr is writing yet another article about Glock pistols?? What can he say about them now that he hasn’t said already?!?!” Yes, I’ve already written ad nauseum about the Glock 17 going 10,000 jam-free rounds without a cleaning, and how the gun has survived being dropped from a helicopter at an altitude of 400 feet, and so on.
Fair enough. But believe it or not, dear readers, there is an aspect I haven’t covered yet: how the very first Glock pistol, the full-size Glock 17, compares head-to-head with its most immediate follow-on design, the compact Glock 19.
Glock: Origins and Specifications
As a quick review, the Glock 17 was invented by Austrian engineer Herr Gaston Glock in 1982. Long story short, the pistol was soon adopted as standard issue by the Austrian Army, then made its way to American shores, whereupon it survived a vicious smear campaign by media and political pundits – who falsely claimed that the gun was a “terrorist pistol” designed to defeat airport X-ray machines, thanks to a references in the movie Die Hard 2. However, Glock became an extremely popular pistol with private citizen gun owners and police departments alike, among them the New York State Police and Miami (Florida) PD.
Glock 17 History
As per the manufacturer’s official info page, the G17 has a barrel length of 4.49 inches, an overall length of 8.03 inches, an empty weight of 22.05 ounces, and a weight of 32.28 ounces with a fully charged 17-round magazine. (NOTE: That 17-round standard magazine capacity is merely coincidental to the G17’s alphanumeric designation, which actually stems from the fact that it was Herr Glock’s 17th patent.) A major selling point is that a fully loaded Glock 17 weighs less than most traditional all-steel – or steel & aluminum alloy combo – full-sized pistols do empty.
Like many full-sized combat pistols, the G17 spawned a more compact and concealment-friendly offshoot (no pun intended). In the case of the M1911 .45 ACP, it begat the Colt Lightweight Commander. Meanwhile, from the Beretta 92FS/M9 sprang forth the Beretta 92 Compact. And in 1988, the Glock 17 gave birth (so to speak) to the Glock 19 in the same 9mm caliber.
Glock 19 History
The Glock 19 would soon meet and perhaps exceed its parent gun in popularity, and its reputation was quickly bolstered when NYPD approved the gun for some of their detective units in circa 1990 (although the department would not phase out the .38 caliber double-action revolver for uniformed patrolman use until 2018); that same year, renowned antiterrorism expert Leroy Thompson dubbed the G19 as the ideal combat sidearm in an article for Combat Handguns Magazine. Ironically, that same year, the FBI dumped the 9mm cartridge for the 10mm Auto and then the .40 S&W cartridge, and for several years thereafter stubbornly refused to authorize Glocks even after the manufacturer produced pistol models in those larger calibers. But fast-forward to 2016…and whaddya know, the FBI adopted the Glock 19 – specifically the Glock 19M – in that formerly aligned 9mm caliber.
What goes around, comes around, eh?
The Glock 19 sports a barrel length of 4.02 inches, an overall length of 7.36 inches, an empty weight of 21.16 ounces, and a weight of 30.16 ounces with a full 15-round magazine. That’s correct, the G19 gives you those length and weight savings over the G17 whilst sacrificing only two rounds of capacity…and the 15-round remainder still equals that of full-size 9mm autopistols such as the Beretta M9 and SIG Sauer P226!
Personal Shooting Impressions: Glock 17 vs. Glock 19
The Glock 17 is easily one of my favorite pistols, as one can gather from my previous articles. In 19 years and 20,000 rounds, my G17 has served me well, not just in slow-fire static range environments but also in up-tempo competitive matches where speed and time were of the essence in addition to accuracy; my G17 helped me win multiple medals at the Nevada Police & Fire Games (NPAF).
Believe it or not, as much as I love the Glock brand, I have comparatively little shooting experience with the G19; I currently own a G17, a “baby Glock” Model 26, and G21SF in .45 ACP, whilst in the past I’ve owned a Glock 36 .45 ACP and a Glock 38 .45 GAP. Yet the G19, for all of its attributes, has not yet made its way into my so-called “Orr-senal of Democracy;” I simply have not had a strong sense of urgency to buy one. But my trigger time with the G19 has still most assuredly been a positive experience.
So Then, Which Glock Is Better?
Well, that depends on how you define “better.”
One size does not fit all after all. If you’re more partial to full-sized pistols on account of their superior practical accuracy – that stems from their longer sight radius and the recoil-dampening effects of the extra length and weight – and are not as concerned about maximum concealability, you’ll probably be better served with the Glock 17.
What’s more, I can vouch from personal experience that the G17 conceals surprisingly easily for a full-sized pistol, though admittedly you may have to wear looser-fitting, baggier shirts in warmer climates.
On the other hand, if you are more concerned about maximizing your concealment without sacrificing too much in firepower, the Glock 19 is just the ticket. As mentioned before, even with its compactness, it still matches the ammo capacity of many full-sized pistols, and the grip size will still give a more grasping surface for medium-to-large-sized hands than, say, the stubby 10-round Glock 26. And if you’re afflicted with nearsightedness, the shorter sight radius from that half-inch worth of barrel length savings will be a boon rather than a hindrance to practical accuracy.
It’s up to the individual shooter to determine what best meets his/her needs. From there, “You pays your money and you takes your choice.”
Bonus: Photo Gallery of the Mighty Glock
Gun Expertise of this Author: Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports.