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Glock 19: The Best Semiautomatic Gun on Planet Earth?

Back in 1990, renowned antiterrorism and special operations expert Leroy Thompson made the case in a cover story for Combat Handguns Magazine – published back then by Harris Publications, nowadays by Athlon Outdoors – that the Glock 19 was indeed the ultimate combat handgun

Glock 19. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Glock 19. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

I can hear the collective groan from all the Glock haters on my Facebook Friends List and LinkedIn Connections already. “Oh good Lord, Glock fanboy Chris Orr wrote yet another piece on that Austrian hunk of plastic junk!”  

Glock 19

Image: Creative Commons.

Well, haters gonna hate. Anyway, earlier this week, our Editor, Mrs. J. Beth Gorton, asked me to address the following question: “Some say the Glock 17 is the best overall semiauto in the world today. Do you agree or disagree? And why?” To address those questions, I wrote the article titled “Meet The Glock 17: The Best Semiauto Gun On The Planet?”

“But wait, there’s more!” as the old Ginsu knife commercial from the 1980s used to say. Beth also assigned me to address that same question regarding the Glock 19. As opposed to the nuanced “Yes and No” short answer I gave for the G17, my short answer for the G19 is that it’s an awfully darn good gat, but not necessarily “the best.” Now for my reasoning…

Glock 19: The Case For

Back in 1990, renowned antiterrorism and special operations expert Leroy Thompson made the case in a cover story for Combat Handguns Magazine – published back then by Harris Publications, nowadays by Athlon Outdoors – that the Glock 19 was indeed the ultimate combat handgun. As a side note about Mr. Thompson, he’s one of the first two gun writers I became a fan of – along with Massad F. Ayoob – after reading his excellent book “The Rescuers: The World’s Top Anti-Terrorist Units” back in 1988 when I was in the 8th grade.  

Glock 19 Gen 4

Glock 19 Gen 4. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Anyway, Leroy’s case back then for the G19 was that it was delightfully compact and lightweight (the lightweight factor being thanks to the polymer frame, of course), yet held the same amount of firepower – a standard magazine capacity of 15+1 rounds – as heavier, full-sized all-steel or steel & alloy “Wonder Nine” (double-stack capacity 9mm autopistols. That is) such as the Beretta 92FSIG Sauer P226, and CZ-75. Its compact barrel and frame sacrificed only two rounds of mag capacity compared with its G17 parent gun. Leroy also praised the accuracy, reliability, and robustness of the G19.

Glock 19: The Case Against

Well, my aforementioned brotherly love and respect for Leroy Thompson notwithstanding, that was then, this is now. 

As I mentioned in that most recent article on the Glock 17, the long-term reliability and durability of that original model of Glock pistol is simply unsurpassed. I once again turn to the late great Chuck Taylor, former Army Special Forces officer in Vietnam turned firearms instructor and gun writer extraordinaire. As Chuck wrote in 2018, “no other pistol I knew of would have gone anywhere near 10,000 rounds [without a cleaning] and still work.” That includes the Glock 19; as superbly reliable as it is, I’ve yet to hear or read of a 19 enduring that intense of a torture test, nor am I aware of instances of that particular model’s matching Chuck’s G17 that fired  a whopping 325,000 rounds before finally experiencing a breakage, that being an easily replaced trigger spring.

If any of our dear readers out there know of a G19 meeting or exceeding these sort of jam-free and breakage-free round counts please let us know in the Comments section!

It’s also no longer king of the hill in terms of the compactness-to-firepower ratio amongst the Wonder Nines. First of all, there’s the “baby Glock” G26, which, though it only holds 10+1 in factory standard mag capacity, will easily accommodate G17 and G19 mags as well as the 33-round so-called “happy sticks” (no Dr. Joyce Brothers jokes, please). Outside of the Glock realm, you have the incredibly compact SIG Sauer P365, which has a barrel length of 3.1 inches and a weight of 21 ounces – compared with the 4.02” bbl. and 21.16 ounces of the G19 – yet astonishingly packs the same 17+1 round capacity as the full-size G17, along with a slimmer and less “clunky” (for lack of the more technical term) grip frame than the G19; no wonder the SIG P365 was the bestselling handgun of 2018 and 2019

Glock 19

Glock 19. Image: Creative Commons.

And whilst the G19 is more than sufficiently accurate for combat and competition, it’s not tops in that department either. My .45 ACP Glock 21SF is an absolute tack-driver and totally leaves the ’19 in the dust, and my G26 also gives the G19 a run for its money.  

In fairness, one strength the G19 shares with the G17 and all other Glocks is its Tenifer finish (aka Tufftride and Melonite, scientific name Ferritic nitrocarburizing [FNC]) , which is more rust-resistant than stainless steel, giving it an absolutely unbeatable resistance to wear and corrosion, even after an extensive immersion in saltwater.

Bottom Line? 

Is the Glock 19 an excellent combat pistol? Yes. Is it “the best?” Yeah, not so much.        

About the Author 

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 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. 

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).