Difference between Glock Gen1, Glock Gen2, Glock Gen3, Glock Gen4

Generation 1 Glock 17

Generation 1 Glock 17 will have varied rail lengths identified by pebble stone grip. Often coupled with a Hogue aftermarket slip-on.

The latest buzz words around the Glock word is “Gen”. All of the sudden everyone is a “Gen Expert” as just saying Gen 3 , Gen 4 makes it appear you know detailed differences on the long term development of the wondrous gun that is the Glock. While I don’t believe that movies and games make people go out and buy guns I do believe that Media and social pressures influence buying habits (what you decide to buy not if you buy).

Glock has a very tight long term marketing strategy that is multipronged and it leads to lots of conversations about how great a Glock pistol is. The Glock falls into that category of “Show it more than you really shoot it” for 99% of its owners. I wrote an article on Glock after the great Upgrade of 1992 in 1999 where I was fairly harsh on anyone using Glock as a daily carry gun because of my concerns about the true safe nature of the Glock pistol. I stated “The Glock is a true race gun and will dominate in a competition that needs speed accuracy and has standards governing quality of loads the shooters use, but this gun should be nowhere near the person who wants readily available self-defense, worst gun ever for the front seat of the pickup.” Well since then the Gen 3 and Gen 4 Glock’s have come out and it’s time for a historical reflection of the Engineering differences between the 4 (Four) generations of Glock’s to prevent the continuation of them being spoken of as “Cosmetic” changes.

The Glock Company was originally a Knife company that made other small parts for the military like training grenades and machinegun belt links. The closest they come to military these days is the Glock Camoflage line In 1980 someone in the Austrian Army thought it would be a good idea to give a knife company a large grant to make a gun. Let me say that again a company that made knives and fake plastic grenades was asked to make a gun, the question that will be never answered is why let just say shady is as shady does.

One year later in 1981 the Generation 1 Glock was born with the unique “Safe action System” and polymer frame. The Same year the Glock knife was upgraded to include a saw. The following year 1982 Glock was awarded its first military contract to the Austrian military. With the first of the 30,000 unit order being delivered in 1983. So the first Gluck’s are truly a 1983 in Austria and the product line was not introduced into the United States until 1985 as an import.

This is the Glock 17 Generation 1 and it expanded in 1988 to include the Glock 17L (competition pistol) and the Glock G19 compact. The Glock G22 & Glock G23 Glock’s followed in 1990 The Glock G20 (10mm) & the Glock G21(.45 auto) in 1991.

Glock Upgraded Parts

When looking at a Gen 1 or Gen 2 Glock have a mental note if that gun has been upgraded already.

This was the end of the Generation one with the introduction of the Glock “upgrade kit”. The upgrade kit included 6 parts.

  • Extractor
  • Spring-loaded bearing
  • Firing pin safety and spring
  • Firing Pin
  • Striker
  • Trigger Bar

This was billed by Glock as an “upgrade” to their perfect gun. In fact the Glock had been deemed so unsafe by a DEA test known as the “Frisbee Test” it risked losing all of its government contracts. It was the first “recall” on a firearm of this scale effecting somewhere between 385,000 to 500,000 Glock Handguns, no knives were recalled. The recall number reflects 100% of the guns made until that point and it took until 1998 to have even Glock itself declare that they got them all. I do not believe this for a second so take the time to familiarize yourself with the parts difference so you can tell if your handling an unmodified Glock.

The “Frisbee Test” was ordered preceding an article in American Handgunner dubbed and incident as “The AD (accidental discharge) heard ’round the world”. A Suffolk County New York Police officer was preparing for his late duty ship, when alone in his home he removed his issued Glock 19, inserted a magazine and racked the slide. IT DISCHARGED. In his alarm to this he actually contacts his range officer to inform him that his gun malfunctioned. It was immediately concluded that the officer had to have his finger on the trigger when he racked the slide and that caused the Accidental Discharge. The officer refused this explanation and demanded his gun be “checked”. The Range officer walked outside the building (NOT TO THE RANGE) to educate the officer on how to keep his finger off the trigger. Loaded a magazine, racked the slide and put a hole in the ground. This of course vindicated the officer’s statement. The problem is bureaucracy demanded he account for all rounds discharged and had he injured himself or someone else he would have been fired, reprimanded in other ways or even been charged criminally based on the assumption that the Glock was “Perfect”.
After the range officer accidental discharged they moved to the range and repeated the “slam-fire” 2 more times confirming the malfunction. A 3rd slam fire sent the gun into a three-shot burst. Auto fire is always fun but best planned for is the common opinion on a gun range.

Glock had a nightmare on their hands in the form of litigation and feared that public knowledge of this failure would result in “claimed” AD’s for the purpose of lawsuits.

§L.16.1.b.(2)(c) of the agency’s solicitation, Abuse Testing, required that submitted “weapons, with magazine inserted, will be thrown six times, three times in such a way as to land on the right side and three times in such a way as to land on the left side. The throw will be for a distance of approximately fifteen feet, not to exceed a height of approximately four feet, to land on a floor of quarry tile or concrete.” From the FOIA request documents it was learned that beneath the Consensus Report heading of “Weaknesses” the evaluation committee stated:

Throw test: Frame 479 (with) slide 318, 1st throw left side the slide came off both rear rails. Frame 474 (with) slide 479, 1st throw right side slide came off right rear rails, rear pistol grip under landyard{sic} loop hole cracked and broke the grip after throw test, pulled the trigger would not fire. Tap, Rack, Bang would result in function of the weapon. Frame 477 (with) slide 305, slide came off right side rear rails on the first throw. Frame 318 (with) slide 474, 1st drop rear of pistol grip broken by the landyard{sic} loop hole. Based on the failure of the slides coming off the rear rails it was concluded that the weapons would not be further tested. Therefore no firing of the weapons took place after the throw test….

The conclusion of the testing was that the Slide rails were “too short” and the frame was lengthen without fan fair or the declaration of a “new model”. So there are 3 versions of Frame rails in a Generation 1 handgun Short(gun falls apart and tends to AD a lot), medium (Just right) and Long(shock stable but too much slide resistance and had a tendency to short stroke when not using police +p ammo) with the Medium length being the just right version. What this means in that the “parts upgrade” to an original short frame Glock was a patch and not a sufficient one to fix the problems with the engineering on the Glock.

Glock 17 Generation 2

Glock 17 Generation 2 has Checkering on Front and Rear of grip in addition to pebble stone, first effort to reduce sweaty slip problems. In addition to 6 part upgrade system.

The Generation 2 guns incorporated most of these fixes and slowly varied the frame over the years trying to find the sweet spot. The Generation 2 gun is fairly easily identified Cosmetically by the Pebble grip with Checker on the front and back strap. Where the Generation 1 gun is purely a pebbled grip. This modification was due to complaint that sweating hands could “launch” the gun when performing a rapid draw under duress. There were still AD problems until the Gen 4 came out although the Gen 3’s are much less likely to have this problem unless you’re hot loading your Glock. I will remind the reader that Gluck’s do not like lead as it causes “pressure problems”. This is also another way of saying that someone who doesn’t clean their gun properly is going to see these failures as well. Glock’s Polygonal rifling squeezes a bullet to increase velocity to give it a better score on government testing for acceptance. Which is fine for an agency who has an on-staff armorer to clean and take care of guns. This is not true in average American home.

Glock 17 Generation 3

The Glock 17 Generation 3 can be identified by the checkered back grip and finger-groove front grip which led to a love it or hate it feel on finger placement.

The Gen 3 guns further fixed the hand slip problem of the AD’s (this Glock still contending their guns have NEVER had an AD problem) by adding finger groves to the polymer frame of the Glock. Making the Gen 3’s easy to spot from Glock Gen 2’s and 1’s. Since the AD rate for law enforcement did not drop (NOTE: Departments who issue Glock’s had an Accidental discharge rate 5x (500%) higher than departments with ANY other weapon).

Glock 17 Generation 4

The Generation 4 addresses a few minor safety issues and the major sale-ability of the gun with adjustable palm grips to customize grip feel. Gen 4 is stamped on the slide next to model number

Further improvements to the Glock was made in the Generation 4 Glock and it was billed as a “Recoil improvement”. The Generation 4 gun is visually similar to that of a Generation 3 with the exception of Gen 4 actually being written on the slide. The gun has not been on the market long enough to allow for any true AD rate analysis of the weapon. Glock has a few decades of expertise on how to hide the fact that it has even been an engineering issue.

So what should the reader take from an article like this? Do I hate Glock, no, it serves a purpose. I still think 15 years later it’s a great Race gun, all be it we dump every Glock part out of the Glock and build a gun on their frame so it is not really a Glock we shoot in competition. The company is stuck in a stocking dealer platform that requires paper shuffling and puts the dealers at arm’s length from the manufacture.

Lenny McGill's 2015 Custom Glock $2300 GlockStore.com

Lenny McGill’s 2015 Custom Glock $2300 GlockStore.com

There is an entire world out there of aftermarket parts and upgrades. One of the first was the creator of the outdoor channel Johnny Roland who created the 450 Roland cartridge and had to redesign the glock due to the extreme pressure of the hot 45 cartridge. Lenny Magill owner of GlockStore.com has some Glock’s that are sheer artwork like the 2015 Blue Titanium Cerakote bringing over $2300 to own on these bad boys. It’s the Facebook, YouTube generation hoping to get enough hits someone will buy an ad from them. Fact is when you’re as honest and open about a product as we like to be Glock will send us a legal notice before an Ad check. (ReduceRecoil doesn’t accept advertising from manufactures anyway).

Gen 3 Glock Customized

This is a Gen 3 Glock that I customized over a year ago going with a Red and a Skull inlay. Paint done by Donny Lairson

As an avid gun owner of weapons that are sometimes 100’s of years old and I still shoot them. I just want the Glock owner to own the product with their eyes open. Don’t get offended when someone “lowballs” your gen 1 or 2 on trade. Properly holster and carry a Glock, don’t leave them loose in a moving vehicle. Point the gun in a completely safe direction (including behind walls) when chambering your round. For god’s sake keep your finger off the trigger.