Glock G19X, G26 and G34 Reviewed

posted on April 2, 2018

It is tempting to let the hackles rise a bit with the arrival of new Gen5 Glocks, but such ingratitude would garner, we expect, very little empathy: The fact that we’re still distracted with the first two Gen5s is clearly our own fault. If that registers even lower on your empathy scale, we altogether understand. We’ll repent by sharing, therefore, within the limits of the medium.

Announced shortly before the 2018 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, two of the newest arrivals substantially round out the spectrum for Glock double-stack 9 mms: A sub-compact G26 and a competition-suitable G34. Like other Gen5s (see November 2017), they have a new ignition architecture adapted from the highly successful single-stack G42 and G43, Marksman barrels with improved polygonal rifling and target crowns, ambidextrous or swappable controls, “NDLC finish,” and—cue the cheering of many longtime Gen1 and 2 purists—no finger grooves on the frontstrap.

The third pistol is rather more of an outlier, and it’s attracting plenty of extra attention because of that. The coyote-hued 19X arrives not only as Glock’s first pistol with a factory-colored slide, but also as the civilian version of the pistol submitted to the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System competition. It is also the first “crossover” Glock. Not pure Gen5, in other words—the most notable omission is the flared magwell of the G17, 19 and 34—but usefully teaming a G17-scaled grip/frame topped with a rugged NPVD-finished, G19-length slide.

Naturally enough, three simultaneous arrivals put an urgent priority on range work. Despite commonalities—especially the obvious improvement in accuracy due to the Marksman barrels—subtleties and differences emerged.

The G26, for instance, kept astonishing pace in terms of accuracy, despite its considerably shorter barrel and sight radius (by nearly a third, compared to the G34). The low bore axis native to the Glock design and the improved handling in the Gen5 iteration (see “Nuts And Bolts” below) mean that anyone expecting to easily topple the G26 as the king of hideout double-stacks might have another—disconcerting—think coming. If that sounds like “shoot one before choosing the latest/greatest something else,” you’re right.

Full-sized gripping surfaces on the G19X kept it within hundredths of a second in speed work compared to a Gen5 G17 (and slightly ahead of a G19), even measuring up well against tuned-up exemplars from earlier generations. That’s a telling comment, we would argue, on the inherently excellent dynamics of the X’s grip height vs. slide length. It was also interesting to note how the lanyard loop and forward-angled lip did most of the work of the absent flared mag well.

The G34 remains utterly sublime: Competition lockwork (the “-” [minus] connector), shorter Gen5 trigger reset and the long sight radius are brought to an impressive peak in a factory gun by the Marksman barrel. Misses of any sort were rare and quite plainly on us. Red-dotting will prove enticing too, no matter the state of your eyesight. Essentially, you have two outstanding pistols in one.

The additions to Glock’s stable could hardly be better in our view. Much as we admired the original two gen5s, they couldn’t serve all applications—not a flaw, exactly, but now unquestionably mended. With the G26 on the discreet end, and G34 on the larger or competition scale, only one question remains: What sort of harbinger is the splendid 19X—not the last of the (fabulous) crossover pistols, we hope.

Nuts And Bolts

One potential hiccup: 19X won’t accept longer-lipped Gen5 basepads. But they’re easy to swap, and the “old” style works in everything.

It’s doubtful we’ll be original in invoking a 1911 comparison when it comes to the 19X: Like the Commander versions of John Browning’s venerated design, the slide is shortened, with the grip remaining full length. The G19X shares the same appeal as those sought-after, all-metal single actions: Length and weight fall—the latter modestly, it’s true—but rock-solid control of the pistol is uncompromised.

Eight hundred rounds of range work later, we’re at a loss to explain how this MHS cousin (the actual MHS version did have differences—most notably a thumb safety) didn’t get selected. With Gen5 improvements and traditional Glock reliability/ruggedness in full flower, the “feel” improvement in the additional 11 mm of grip length is unmistakable. Our comically willing “adjunct testers” uniformly concurred with an enthusiasm bordering on mania, even in head-to-head shooting against their own G19s.

Full or empty, Glock magazines remain an industry standard for reliable durability. Gen5 versions advance that enviable accolade.

The visible changes to Glock’s smallest double-stack 9 mm are easily the subtlest of the three pistols, but paradoxically may be the most striking on the range. Designed-in, recoil-attenuating frame flex—a Glock attribute from the beginning—and dual spring recoil assemblies tame muzzle rise to an impressive extent.   

Still, the same abbreviated stature that made predecessor generations so desirable for discreet carry also meant that grip surface area was reduced. The “dangling” strong-side pinky finger could be usefully curled under a flat-bottomed standard magazine, but this was a mediocre substitute for its normal and more effective role of driving the backstrap against the fleshy base of the hand. So-called pinky rests or magazine extensions solved the problem to some extent, but increased the overall size and print of the pistol when carried.

Gen5 brings a subtle but meaningful improvement to the G26. The slightly forward-curving lip of the magwell—present on earlier gens—is more effective with the removal of the finger grooves. Gen4 micro-pyramid texture brought useful corrugation on the front strap, but now makes the lip more effective in keeping the ring finger in position and strong-hand grip sound. The improvement in grip quality is certainly more than we expected—with accuracy, speed and comfort following suit.

G34 with the top down, courtesy of the MOS slide. Ready for racing with a red-dot optic from a host of manufacturers.

With interest in competitive pistolcraft expanding, release of a G34 early in the Gen5 era is no surprise. The longer sight radius alone qualifies as an intoxicant to some, and with the loss of the so-called “balancing cut” comes a slightly more nose-heavy feel that can help with recoil management. Other Gen5 attributes—flared magwell, Marksman barrel and ambidextrous or swappable controls—accordingly fall into the same category, competitive advantages without after-acquisition costs.

Arguably best is a so-far unique “two-fer” in the Gen5 universe—the Modular Optics System in addition to all the other improvements. MOS slides can be used in the normal fashion, and all conventional sights (notch-and-post, fiber optic, tritium/low light, etc.) that are regulated and cut for any Glock 34 will work. But removing a plate on the upper rear of the slide reveals a machined slot into which one of four mounting plates can be attached. In turn, red-dot style optics from nearly every manufacturer can be secured using one of those supplied plates. It’s a direct solution to an otherwise thorny problem—and a great way to see if red-dot or “reflex” sight technology helps you shoot better without $100 or more spent on irreversible (and warranty-busting) slide machining.



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