Uh oh. I hope I didn’t give this article a controversial title!
Elsewhere on the blog (here, for example), both John and I have expressed our affinity for the Glock platform in general, and the Glock 19 in particular. However, I thought it worthwhile to write an article specifically about the Glock 19. Now, let me be clear. I am NOT saying that the Glock 19 is the greatest pistol ever made; nor is it even necessarily the greatest pistol available right now. It is up to each individual to determine his or her needs when it comes to handguns, and then purchase accordingly. Let me also stress here that our focus in this article—and most of the blog—is self-defense against two-legged predators.
What makes the Glock 19 such a good self-defense pistol is that it has an amazing combination of characteristics. In no particular order, it is simple, reliable/durable, of a “perfect” size, light in weight, accurate, reasonably priced, and backed by excellent customer service. It also carries a high-capacity magazine (in “free” states), has a ton of accessories available for it, and can be easily modified by the end user. Some of these characteristics relate to the Glock platform in general (as opposed to the 19 in particular), but we will examine them each in turn.
There is no arguing that the design of the Glock is genius in its simplicity. The pistol can easily be field-stripped for basic cleaning and maintenance, and the entire pistol can be detail stripped with nothing more than the Glock disassembly tool (which is little more than a punch). The simple design is also quite safe, although some would argue that pulling the trigger as part of the disassembly process is a less-than-perfect design.
There is seemingly no limit to the number of professional and amateur torture tests Glocks have been subjected to over the years, many available on YouTube. Glocks have been frozen, submerged in water, dunked in mud, run over with trucks, dropped from great heights, and endured other tests I cannot even recall right now. Just recently, I saw a case where a police officer’s Glock 22 was knocked away by a suspect and then run over by an assisting officer’s cruiser. Other than some cosmetic damage, the pistol still functioned perfectly afterwards. It should also be noted that the Glock platform—including the Glock 19—has been in use by various U.S. Special Operations Forces, and was recently adopted by Naval Special Warfare as their standard sidearm.
John has mentioned elsewhere on the blog and has quoted Paul Howe as saying that the Glock 19 (and it’s “compact” sized brethren, the Glock 23 in .40 caliber and Glock 32 in .357Sig) are the perfect size. They are small enough to be comfortably carried concealed (though shaped differently, it is basically the size of a 2 inch barreled Colt Detective Special), but are large enough to serve in the duty role (again, witness the above-mentioned decision by NSW, and also the fact that the Glock 19 is by far the most popular duty choice of the officers of NYPD). The third and fourth generations of these models include an accessory rail for the mounting of lights and lasers.
One of the virtues of the Glock handguns is their light weight, and it is one of the many reasons that so many police departments were quick to adopt it. In comparison with a large double-action revolver or common semi-automatics from the time period during which the Glock first appeared (third generation Smith and Wesson semi-automatics, Sig Sauer P226, Beretta 92, for example), the Glock 19 is significantly lighter. Weighing in at only 30 ounces fully loaded with 16 rounds, the Glock 19 is comfortable to carry all day.
This is always a bit subjective, but the Glock 19 is certainly quite capable in the accuracy department. Anyone who follows Kyle Defoor on Facebook regularly sees the groups he puts up from his mostly stock Generation 4 Glock 19, which invariably are all in the black on a B-8 from 25 yards, and I’ve done the same myself (though not as consistently as someone like Defoor). Realistically, it’s as accurate as any similar pistol.
Though it varies by region a bit, a brand new Glock 19 can usually be found for around $500, and that cost has remained relatively steady for the last ten years. Considering all that the Glock 19 has going for it, this is, in my opinion, a reasonable price. In addition, magazines for Glocks tend to hover in the $20-$25 range, and with new options like the Magpul and Elite Tactical Systems magazines coming on the market, cheaper options are now available to the consumer (John and I have been reviewing the ETS offering here and here).
Despite their reputation for durability and reliability, Glocks are not immune from “issues”. Indeed, due to their popularity, any issues that come up tend to end up very well “publicized” on the web. Having said that, these issues tend to be rare, and I know of even fewer issues that were not rectified in short order by the Glock people in Smyrna, Georgia.
Keeping in mind the size and weight outlined above, the Glock 19 carries a healthy 15+1 rounds with its standard capacity magazine. This makes for a very good size/weight/capacity ratio. Certainly there are pistols that hold more (including the older, bigger brother of the 19, the Glock 17), but again, 15+1 is basically a “standard” for duty use and is excellent for concealed carry.
As a top seller to civilians and law enforcement (largely because of the virtues extolled in this very article), there are an ENORMOUS amount of accessories available for Glocks. New triggers, new slide-stops, aftermarket sights (the major gripe of Glock buyers is that the stock sights are TERRIBLE), holsters, etc. I will also note here that replacement parts for the Glock, such as pins and springs, are generally easy to find and inexpensive.
Partly due to its simplicity, the Glock is easy to modify. These modifications can take the form of grip stippling, the addition of optics, trigger work (or wholesale trigger replacement), etc. For the most part, these modifications can be carried out by the owner without the need of expensive gunsmithing (though we have all seen the results of some poor home-done stippling jobs!).
Now that I have outlined many of the positives of the Glock platform in general, and the Glock 19 in particular, I am sure that there are readers out there who are thinking that their M&P, Heckler & Koch, Sig, Walther, Ruger, FN, Beretta, 1911, Hi Power, etc., is better. Glocks have their detractors who bemoan the grip angle, striker system (not unique to Glock), bad stock sights, finger grooves, aesthetics, disassembly procedures, etc. Glocks are surely not for everyone. Luckily, for the civilian, no one is forcing you to buy or use a Glock. There are many options available to us that we might shoot more accurately, fit our hands better, have safety features we prefer, etc.
Nevertheless, the Glock 19 IS the pistol against which all others are compared. A man who loves his Heckler and Koch VP9, for example, and who lauds its accuracy and how “high-tech” it is, will have to admit that the Glock 19 is cheaper (with cheaper factory magazines), has more accessories available for it, is more easily modified/customized in one’s basement, and is certainly backed by better customer service. In gun parlance, the Glock 19 is to pistols what the Colt 6920 AR-15 is to the AR world. There are, no doubt, “better” ARs out there, but the 6920 sets the standard for others to beat. Or, you can look at the Glock 19 as the modern day Smith and Wesson K Frame, as Dr. Sherman A. House, DDS, discusses in his blog post here.
Another analogy some favor is that the Glock 19 is like a Toyota Camry. It may not be the best car, and it may not fit the needs of everyone. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of advertisements for other cars comparing price, size, horsepower, legroom, etc., to the Camry. Like it or not, the fact is the Camry would probably fit the passenger car needs of most people.
It is for all of these reasons that when a potential first time pistol-buyer asks me what he should get for his first pistol, I always ask, “Have you looked at a Glock 19 yet?”