Key point: There is no doubt the Glock 19 made a big impact when it was first released. But it has been upgraded and modernized several times since then.
The Glock 19 took the firearms world by storm when it was first introduced for law enforcement markets in 1988, revolutionizing the compact 9mm handgun category with its winning blend of concealability, handling, and magazine capacity.
But that was over three decades ago; and yet, the Glock 19 remains one of the most popular handguns in the world despite recurrent attempts to dethrone it. So, what accounts for the Glock 19’s continued success? Here are the factors at play.
The gun that first propelled Austrian firearms manufacturer Glock to international fame was the Glock 17, a striker-fired, polymer frame semi-automatic pistol that fast became a bestseller for its friendly ergonomics and low-recoil handling. Nevertheless, a sizable segment of the commercial and law enforcement market sought a “compact” version of the Glock 17 for easier concealed carry; thus, the Glock 19 was born.
On paper, the differences between the two Glocks are quite subtle; the Glock 19 boasts a slightly smaller frame at a length/height ratio of 7.36/4.99 inches versus the 8.03/5.43 inches of the Glock 17, while being just a hair lighter at a loaded weight of around 1.89 lbs versus the 2 lbs of its predecessor. The Glock 19 comes with a standard 15 round magazine, as compared with the 17-capacity magazine of the Glock 17-- to be sure, it’s exceedingly difficult to conjure up a realistic scenario where the two-round difference would be meaningful.
In practice, however, the Glock 19’s dimensions made it a significantly better everyday concealed carry (EDC) choice. That weight difference of around two ounces, insignificant as it seems at first glance, adds up over the course of carrying the Glock 19 on one’s hip for an entire day. Meanwhile, the Glock 19’s slightly reduced length and height can easily make the difference between the gun printing-- that is, protruding through your clothing in a way that makes it its presence obvious to those around you-- or not.
Notably, the Glock 19 achieved its reduced dimensions without sacrificing the performance and ease of use that made the Glock 17 so popular in the first place. Still, Glock is far from the only game in town when it comes to compact pistols. In explaining how the Glock 19 has managed to stay relevant for 30 years, it’s crucial to note that the pistol has undergone several major revisions to stay competitive in the handgun market. The “Gen4” version of the Glock 19, released in 2010, boasted an updated magazine release mechanism, a new Rough Textured Frame (RTF) grip, modular backstrap system, and larger dual-recoil spring. The Gen5 line, introduced in 2017, boasts nDLC coating, flared mag-well, and Glock’s new Marksman Barrel.
The other, no less important ingredient to Glock 19’s enduring popularity is the glut of aftermarket support; from slides to firing pin springs, there are few Glock 19 components that can’t be customized. Though aftermarket modding is scarcely necessary for the basic EDC role in which the Glock 19 excels, those looking for better performance in low-light situations would do well to swap the stock white dot sights for one of many, more specialized options.
Small enough for EDC but functional enough to be as a full-fledged service and self-defense pistol, the Glock 19 is the quintessential “goldilocks gun”-- a versatile, compact, and highly moddable firearm made to appeal to almost any consumer and a wide range of law enforcement customers.
Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as a research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. This article first appeared earlier this year. Image: Reuters.
Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as a research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. This article first appeared earlier this year.