I have a Glock 19 Gen 3 and a Gen 4. I’ve broken both of them. I’m a Marine, I can break anything. Give me a brick and some time, I’ll break that, too. So that I broke both of them wasn’t that big of a surprise to anyone. First of all, the Gen 3 broke around 20,000 rounds or so and more dry fire then I can count (probably at least 10:1 dry to live). I broke the trigger (story here), more wore it out, I think. The trigger pull got harder and harder until I almost needed 2 fingers to make the gun go off. My Gen 4 broke after exactly 500 rounds. I fired 100 rounds to break it in, and then 400 at a class. It never failed to go bang, but lost the slide stop so the top of the Glock went further forward than it should. I wasn’t sure if it was safe or not, so I took it off the line. I got a new part and spring free from Glock. Now I have about 1500 rounds through it. No more problems since.
The differences are few. The grip is a little different. The texturing is different and gives a little different feel. But mainly the grip is different because it is a little shorter and then you can add back straps to make it bigger. The medium back strap makes the grip the same size as the Gen 3. Glock has also started adding a set of beaver tail equipped back straps. A medium and large one are now in each box.
Glock started including 3 magazines instead of the 2 that came with the previous generations. It’s a nice touch since most companies are now including only 1 or 2.
One of the subtle changes is the magazine release. A lot of people that customize the Gen 3 put an extended magazine release on their guns, so Glock just did it for them. The release doesn’t stick out further or just bigger around, it extends towards the back so it makes the push a shorter reach for your thumb.
Internally they changed a couple things. The pins that hold the ejector, return spring and disconnect got changed a little so that the back straps can be accepted. It also feels like they changed the trigger somewhere in there. It feels smoother and lighter to me. Glock also re-engineered the recoil spring and put a dual spring in the new gun. Therein lies some of the problems that the Gen 4 9mms had. Glock tried to use the same spring in the 9mm and .40. It didn’t work as well as they wanted it to and Glock sent “upgrades” to fix the problem. Now the guns are running well.
The one really odd thing I found was the thinner frame. The Gen 4 is 0.17 oz lighter than the Gen 3 (according to Glock’s web site). I figured out the frame was thinner when I was working on Massad Ayoob’s crush grip. I’m not the strongest person, but not a wimp either, but I can actually squeeze hard enough to make the grip flex on the Gen 4. I went back to my Gen 3 to make sure it wasn’t something I missed. Nope. The Gen 3 will flex if I push in the thinnest part but not by just gripping the gun. The Gen 4 I can just squeeze the entire grip with a shooting grip and feel it flex.
Why You Should Care:
The extra magazine is the obvious nice touch by Glock. I think everyone should be putting 3 mags with a new gun, it’s just a courteous thing to do. The different back straps should only matter if the Gen 3 doesn’t fit you hand. If the grip is too small you must have the biggest hands in the world. The Gen 3 fits my hand (mostly) and I have huge paws. I do get slide bite from any Glock without a beaver tail (I use a Grip Force adaptor on mine). It is nice to have choices.
The magazine release is one of the things that may matter to you. Because the release is bigger and further back makes it a shorter reach. So with a shorter thumb you would no longer have to move the gun in your hand to reach the release.
The rear pins don’t matter a whole lot to us as shooters. It’s just a different way to put the gun together. If you are going to strip the gun all the way to the frame it’s going to be a little different than the Gen 3.
The recoil spring doesn’t really feel any different when shooting and I’m not sure it will help at all. In fact, with the problems the guns had in the past, I’d even say the new spring is one of the weak points in the gun. I actually changed the one in my carry gun out for an EFK Dragon spring.
To me the trigger feels better. It’s a little lighter and a little smoother. To me the new trigger feels like a trigger on a well worn Gen 3. So I expect the Gen 4 to get even better with use.
The frame that gives a little really reinforces the “plastic gun” thing. It’s a little unnerving, but time will tell if that is a problem or not.
My Personal Choice:
I carry my Gen 4 daily. The number one reason is the better trigger. I’ve never liked, or gotten used to, a Glock trigger. I was spoiled for too many years with great 1911 triggers. So I set up my Gen 4 for use by changing the sights, recoil spring, and adding the Grip Force adaptor. I bought my Gen 4 before Glock offered the beaver tail. The other reason is that I am sure there is a wear out point for a Glock and my Gen 3 has to be pushing it. I just didn’t want to rebuild the entire thing, but will sooner or later. Now it’s my back up gun.
Does it Really Matter?
Should you buy a Gen 3 or a Gen 4? The answer, like most gun questions, is that it depends. It depends on what you want. If you have very small hands you’ll definitely like the Gen 4 better. It will be easier to operate and hold. Most people say the Gen 4 feels better in the hand. If you get a Gen 3, you can generally find them for cheaper (make sure it’s more then the price of the extra magazine).
For accessories right now there is more stuff for the Gen 3. While all the magazines and holsters will fit either gun, some of the internal parts are different so slides, barrels, and trigger parts aren’t all interchangeable. As all the companies gear up that will change. But there will always be parts for the Gen 3 and I think the guns will be made for a long time. The Gen 4s are not legal in all 50 states. I know that California is not currently allowing the “import” of Gen 4s but will allow the Gen 3s in. So until laws change, I think Glock will continue to produce them. Right now they are still on Glock’s web site.
I broke my Gen 4 faster than I broke my Gen 3. So whichever one you buy, make sure you test it first. It’s either going to break right away or last for a very long time. But with my experience I have more confidence in the Gen 3s straight out of the box.
In the end, it’s a personal choice. If you want a Glock, just buy one. Either one will work the same. It’s going to come down to personal choice and what you can find. I’ve sold both in the past and sometimes the price wins out and sometimes people just want the newer improved version. That’s why I bought the Gen 4 as my second Glock. So buy the one you want and enjoy it.