The GLOCK is the most popular police service pistol brand in the United States, to the tune of approximately 65% market dominance. In the commercial sector, many gun dealers around the country have told me that GLOCK is not only their best-selling handgun, but their best-selling firearm.

There are several reasons for this, including excellent aftermarket customer service, but the reasons for this popularity mainly boil down to a couple of key factors. One is the user-friendliness of the GLOCK platform. Another is the broad array of sizes and calibers available.

Fitting the Shooter’s Needs

With an easy trigger pull that’s consistent from first shot to last, and freedom from sharp edges that bite the hand, GLOCK pistols are easy to shoot. There is no simpler pistol to learn to shoot well. Insert magazine, cycle slide to chamber a round, squeeze the trigger to fire, repeat as necessary. Elements of the handgun manual of arms such as on-safe/off-safe, double-action/single-action, and decocking are all absent from the GLOCK handling protocol. Every trigger pull, from first to last, is exactly the same. If training time is limited, a simple design such as the GLOCK comes into its own.

GLOCKs come in different sizes to fit different needs. If maximum concealability is a key parameter, there is the subcompact “Baby” GLOCK with a 3.43-inch barrel, which is roughly the size of a snub-nose .38 revolver but squarer, holding far more ammunition and much easier to shoot. These include the GLOCK 26 in 9×19, the G27 .40-caliber, the G33 in .357, and the G39 chambered for the .45 G.A.P.

For a full-size service pistol, one can choose the GLOCK 17 (9×19), G22 (.40), G31 (.357) or G37 (.45 G.A.P.). Between those two paradigms in size there is the Compact series: the GLOCK 19 9×19, the G23 .40-caliber, the G32 in .357, and the G38 .45 G.A.P.

Intended originally for target and recreational use are the “long-slide” GLOCKs. First came the G17L (the “L” stands for “Long”) with a 6-inch barrel and commensurate-length slide in 9×19. The GLOCK 24, a .40-caliber pistol in the same format, followed. These are now produced only occasionally, having given way in popularity to the regularly produced GLOCK “Tactical/Practical” series. These pistols have 5.31-inch barrels with proportional slides, the GLOCK 34 in 9×19, and the GLOCK 35 in .40.

The G17L, G24, G34 and G35 come with a 4.5-pound trigger pull, intended to make it a little easier for target shooters to achieve extreme accuracy. When ordered by police, GLOCK furnishes these guns with standard 5.5-pound duty trigger pulls. The company recommends the 4.5-pound connector only for recreational shooting, unless it is mated with an NY-1 trigger spring module, which brings the total trigger pull up into approximately the 6-pound range.

Larger-frame guns are available for longer cartridges. In .45 Auto, the company offers the full-size 13+1 shot G21 with 4.5-inch barrel, and the 10+1 shot, subcompact GLOCK 30 in the same caliber. In 10mm Auto, the full-size GLOCK is the G20 and the subcompact is the G29.

Fitting the Shooter’s Hands

Gaston Glock took great pains to shape his original pistol to fit the hand of the typical soldier, an average-size adult male. Going on the assumption that the barrel should be straight in line with the long bones of the forearm and the pad of the distal joint of the trigger finger should be centered on the trigger, he absolutely achieved that hand fit parameter. As GLOCK pistols became more popular, the company worked on different approaches to fit a wider range of hand sizes and finger lengths.

The earliest approach was the introduction of the G36. By taking the compact G30 of the late 1990s and replacing its double-stack magazine with a narrower one that held just six .45 Auto rounds, GLOCK created its first slim-gripped pistol. The width of the slide was also reduced, making it an all-around “slim-line” gun. The reach from the back strap of the grip to the trigger was the shortest of any GLOCK. This was a boon to not only short-fingered shooters, but also those “old school” gunnies who preferred to contact the trigger with the distal joint of their index finger instead of the pad.

Next, in the large-frame guns, came the SF (Short Frame) series. Shorter in front-to-back grip measurement than the originals, the G21 SF, G30 SF, G20 SF, and G29 SF allowed the user of these powerful guns to grasp proportionally more of the grip frame, and get their index fingers deeper into the trigger guard.

In 2010, GLOCK introduced its Gen4 series. The first generation GLOCKS had relatively smooth gripping surface. To improve hand traction, in the 1980s, the company went to a second-generation approach, with checkering. Both generations had flat frontstraps on their grip frames. The third generation added finger grooves on the frontstrap.

Gen4 differs from its predecessors in two important respects. The most obvious is that the dimension between the center of the trigger and the point on the backstrap where the web of the hand rests has been reduced. The pistol is provided with two easily attached backstrap inserts. One of the inserts brings the feel to roughly that of a previous-generation GLOCK of the same model. The other extends further, adapting the gun to very large hands and resembling a GLOCK 21 or G20 in feel and trigger reach.

Cartridge Choice

The 9×19 was the very first GLOCK chambering. It remains the most popular internationally and among private handgun purchasers in the United States. Its mild recoil makes it an ideal choice for a new GLOCK shooter, and 9×19 is the lowest-priced centerfire handgun ammunition available in the U.S., making it very cost-effective for skill-building practice.

Which model? The G34 is the single most popular handgun at the IDPA National Championships. In 2010, it was the winning gun in the Stock Service Pistol Division and it also captured the Women’s Championship in the capable hands of Randi Rogers. However, its 5.3-inch barrel is a bit long for all-around concealed carry. The service-size GLOCK 17 is the most popular pistol in use at GLOCK Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) matches.

The GLOCK 19 is an excellent all-around choice. In New York City, it is by far the most popular police pistol—large enough to serve as a uniform holster weapon, compact enough for easy, discreet carry by plainclothes officers and off-duty personnel. It is also surprisingly competitive in action shooting matches. David “Super Dave” Harrington has won many IDPA matches with his G19, and ace GSSF shooter, Mike Ross, uses a G19 in that type of competition by choice, finding that its shorter slide seems to track straighter upon recoil between shots. Designed for 15+1 cartridge capacity, the G19 is only two rounds short of the longer-framed G17, G34, and G17L pistols firing the same 9×19 round.

The little GLOCK 26 is hugely popular as a concealed carry pistol and police backup gun. Remarkably accurate despite its small size, it tends to be the most popular pistol at BUG (Back-Up Gun) matches. At GSSF shoots, the G26 dominates the subcompact category, and it is not uncommon to see shooters score higher with their G26 than with their G17.

In American policing, .40 caliber is the most popular. More than 20 years ago, police realized that the debate over the typical 16-shot 9×19 versus the then-standard eight- or nine-shot .45 Auto could be very easily rendered moot by a 15+1 shot GLOCK 22 chambered in .40.

The GLOCK 23 compact is a hugely popular concealed carry pistol, and some police departments (Boston, Massachusetts, for example) issue it as standard for both uniform and detective divisions. It’s also the standard issue pistol for the FBI, though the Bureau gives agents the option of the larger GLOCK 22. With 15+1 .40-caliber rounds on board, the G23 represents an excellent balance of size and power.

The subcompact GLOCK 27 holds nine .40 rounds in its standard magazine and a tenth in the firing chamber. Because—like all small GLOCKs—it can use the longer magazines of its larger siblings in the same caliber, it is one of the nation’s most popular off-duty backup guns, and is in extremely wide use among the concealed carry population.

At the other end of the GLOCK .40 size spectrum, the G35 is extremely popular in USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) competition, because its cartridge “makes major” in terms of power factor, essentially giving the shooter bonus points for hits outside the center scoring ring.

The bottlenecked .357 pistol cartridge is not the most popular, but it certainly has an enthusiastic and growing following. Spitting a 125-grain bullet at 1,350 FPS (feet per second) in its most popular loading, this round hits with authority and has a very flat trajectory over long range. The standard-size GLOCK 31 is the most popular model among police, while the compact GLOCK 32 seems to be more popular among armed citizens lawfully carrying concealed. The subcompact GLOCK 33 is a little 9+1 shot powerhouse that carries the payload of two 5-shot .357 Magnum revolvers at once, but with distinctly less recoil and muzzle blast. The G33 is a popular backup gun for officers who carry the larger .357, and it also makes an excellent concealed carry pistol.

In 10mm Auto, the GLOCK 20 has been perhaps the most durable pistol of its caliber since 1990, and probably the most popular. Holding 15+1 rounds of hot loads, such as the 135-grain bullet at 1,450 FPS, the late Chuck Karwan—a highly respected small arms authority, and veteran of heavy combat in Vietnam—considered the GLOCK 20 to have more power per standard load than any other readily “carryable” handgun. Its compact version is the GLOCK 29, a virtual twin to the .45 Auto GLOCK 30.

The 10mm Auto GLOCKs have an enthusiastic following in dangerous game country among outdoor folk who want to have more than six shots if charged by a large, ferocious bear. With heavy, full metal jacket bullets, the 10mm Auto gives more penetration than other standard-caliber autopistols.

An American favorite for more than a century, the .45 AUTO cartridge is found in no fewer than three GLOCK formats. These are the service-size G21 (13+1 rounds), the subcompact GLOCK 30 (10+1 rounds) and the subcompact, Slimline® GLOCK 36 (6+1 rounds). Due to their design, the GLOCKs in .45 Auto are famous for their relatively soft recoil compared with some older-style pistols chambered for the same cartridge.

Finally, there is GLOCK’s own cartridge, the .45 G.A.P. (GLOCK AUTO Pistol). Duplicating the ballistics of the traditional standard pressure .45 AUTO (and occasionally slightly exceeding them), G.A.P. ammunition can be had in bullet weights of 185, 200, and 230 grains. Designed to be shorter overall than a .45 AUTO or 10mm AUTO cartridge, the .45 G.A.P. can fit into the smaller frame of the standard GLOCK line. This gives the shooter a .45 that better fits smaller hands, and, according to testing recently by Florida Highway Patrol, it allows shooters with larger hands to control recoil better with a .45 G.A.P. than with a larger-framed pistol firing equivalent .45 Auto loads. The .45 G.A.P. GLOCKs are the G37 in full-size format (10+1 rounds capacity when fully loaded); the compact G38 (8+1 rounds); and the subcompact “Baby” GLOCK, the G39 .45 G.A.P., which holds a total of 6+1 cartridges.

Additional Versatility

Many GLOCKs are available in “C” models, which compensate for recoil with ports that go through both barrel and slide near the muzzle. These direct burning, expanding gases upward when the shot is fired, forcing the front end of the pistol down to compensate for muzzle rise.

Simple, versatile, and built by a company determined to make a pistol to fit virtually every adult hand, it’s easy to see why GLOCK pistols are so popular in both the civilian market and the police sector.

Up Next

Glock’s Girl Gala

The GLOCK is the most popular police service pistol brand in the United States,…