Key Point: The Glock 20 maintains a sizable following.
In a catalog saturated with popular 9mm offerings, the 10mm Glock 20 Gen4 stands apart as the Austrian gun manufacturer’s most powerful semi-automatic pistol. The Glock 20 is also the oldest 10mm in continuous production, successfully blending Glock’s legendary reliability with a newfound focus on stopping power.
Glock made its initial splash in the U.S. handgun market with the Glock 17, which fast became a bestseller in the early 1980’s for its lightweight, modular, and ergonomically friendly design. Market trends sharply changed, however, with the infamous Miami shootout 1986. It took eight FBI agents armed with 9mm guns a total of 18 gunshot wounds to incapacitate only two suspects, armed with a 12-gauge pump shotgun and semi-automatic rifle respectively; two agents were killed, and five more wounded in the protracted firefight. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies concluded that .38 special and 9mm guns lack the penetration necessary to reliably incapacitate targets. 10mm cartridge-based weapons quickly emerged as a leading alternative; traveling at supersonic speeds and hitting with a muzzle energy of up to 750 pounds, the 10mm round destroys soft tissue and disrupts the nervous system far more efficiently than its 9mm counterpart.
Seeking to maintain their foothold in the U.S. market, Glock rushed to release the Glock 20 in 1991 shortly after the FBI’s official adoption of the 10mm caliber. The FBI quickly went on to reverse their decision over recoil concerns, opting instead for a halfway compromise between power and handling in the form of the new .40 Smith and Wesson caliber; still, the Glock 20 has not only endured but thrived as a leading consumer 10mm pistol.
Built with Glock’s Gen4 guidelines, the Glock 20 is easily distinguished from its 9mm counterparts by its prodigious size. At an overall length of 8.07 inches, there is no way around the fact that the Glock 20 is a large handgun that cannot be comfortably concealed. Those looking for a high-powered everyday carry (EDC) solution would be more tempted by the Glock 20’s more compact Glock 29 cousin.
But what the Glock 20 sacrifices in size, it makes up for with raw performance. The Glock 20 combines the impressive stopping power of the 10mm caliber with a 15-round capacity magazine that’s capable of accommodating a wide range of ammunition, all within the reliable and ergonomically friendly frame that is a trademark of the Glock brand.
Excessive recoil has always been the Achilles' heel of 10mm handguns, and the Glock 20 is not entirely an exception. There is, however, some good news: a customizable backstrap system and new Rough Textured Frame (RTF) can help to mitigate the intense recoil generated from firing high-caliber ammunition. More importantly, subsequent Glock 20 testing has demonstrated that the gun’s recoil heavily depends on the specific type of 10mm round that is being used. With some practice and the correct choice of ammunition, the Glock 20 shouldn’t generate an unbearable degree of recoil as compared with similarly-situated .40 caliber weapons.
Where does all this leave the Glock 20 today, just under 30 years after its introduction? While not an ideal solution in tactical and urban scenarios, the Glock 20 has earned a sizable following as a reliable hunting and survival handgun; notably, Denmark’s Sirius Sled Patrol continues to use the Glock 20 as a defensive weapon against polar bears. For everyone else, the Glock 20 is a well-rounded 10mm handgun that offers serious firepower at little compromise.
Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. This article first appeared in 2019 and is reprinted here due to reader interest. Image: Reuters
Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. This article first appeared in 2019 and is reprinted here due to reader interest.