Which is Best: Glock 17 or 19?

That Glock 9mm handguns are both popular and used worldwide is not even a question but firearm forums frequently field queries on which is the better choice between the G17 and 19.  Folks faithful to one or the other usually respond by singing the praises of their particular favorite. The G17 is described by the company as being standard size and the G19, a compact. (For those interested, the G26 is designated a subcompact.)

Glock17vs19 003.JPG

Both the Glock 17 (top) and Glock 19 shown above are “Generation 3” pistols and are easily recognized by their front grip straps’ finger grooves and accessory rails.  Both of these have been fitted with Arotek aftermarket fixed sights as well as a Jentra plug in the void behind the magazine well.  Everything else is factory standard.

(For more on the sights, look here:


If interested in the pros and cons of the plugs, click on the link below:

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/plugging_the_glock.htm )

But which is best? Using the search function on most firearm forums may yield an avalanche of discussion on the topic, most of which is subjective, i.e.; the writer’s opinion. When the writer declares it as fact instead, fireworks eventually begin!  This article will try and offer factual data for people perhaps considering this very choice but must also contain some subjective observations as well…but they will not be declared “facts” and maybe this approach will result in an article that is “balanced”, interesting and (hopefully) useful.

A logical place to start might be with actual dimensional information on each pistol from Glock’s site, which is presented in the following table.

Glock 17 vs. 19 Comparisons:





Sight Radius:


Empty Wt.:

Glock 17





17 +1

22.04 oz.

Glock 19

6.85 (-0.47”)

5.00 (-0.43”)

1.18 (0)

6.02 (-0.47”)

15 +1 (-2)

20.99 (-1.05 oz.)


Both models can be had with fixed, adjustable or tritium sights from the factory.  Trigger-pulls for each are advertised at 5.5-lbs and measuring an example of each shows that to be accurate. Though I do not understand why, the Glock 17 has a smooth trigger face while the 19’s is grooved. Generation 3 recoil spring strengths are 17-lbs for the G17 and a pound more for the G19 with its slightly lighter slide. Both are “captive” on plastic guide rods.  (I am not sure what the actual factory standard is for the 4th Generation guns hitting the market now in early 2010, but it is a dual-spring affair greater than 17-lbs and is reported to be causing malfunctions with some standard pressure loads that work fine in earlier generation Glocks.)

Glock17vs19 004.JPG

On the left is the 17-round standard capacity magazine for the Glock 17.  On the right is the 15-round magazine for the Glock 19. Both offer more than ample “firepower” in my estimation.  The Glock 17 magazine can be used in either pistol but will extend slightly below the grip on the Glock 19. Some concealed-carry users suggest using the standard 15-round magazine in the hidden Glock 19 but carrying Glock 17 magazines to reload with. (Either will work with Glock’s 33-shot extended 9mm magazine as well.)

Personal Observations: While subjective at least to some degree, most are based on long-term observations and use both as a certified police firearm instructor (before retiring) as well as private trainer. They also relate to what I observed as a state-certified concealed handgun license instructor.  I will try to be objective, but sometimes a bit of personal preference is just going to pop up.

Reliability: In my observation, year after year after year, both the G17 and 19 are reliable as can be. (This does not include Gen4 Glocks; at this time I’ve neither shot any nor seen any shot with my own eyes.) Over the years as a police firearm instructor I saw lots Glocks on many firing lines over many years. If the ammunition is even half-way decent, the things usually work.  Unless “limp-wristing”, both the 17 and 19 run slickly as the proverbial gut.  Yes, I have seen a few fail to work but it was due to either very sorry ammunition or operator error.  (I have come to believe that no matter how hard you try to train them otherwise, there will always be someone who simply cannot or will not hold the firearm correctly and can make it fail.  I have seen this with practically all major makes of semiautomatics, including Glocks, but my main point is that I do not find either the 17 or 19 more reliable than the other. For folks interested in induced failures by limp wristing, here’s a link for more on that topic:


 Durability: Small parts breakages were not common and usually were either trigger-return or slide-stop springs.  The single catastrophic failure I have personally witnessed was on a brand new Glock 19 on its first trip to the firing range.  The breech face displayed a circular crack approximately the same diameter as a 9mm case.  This had to be a manufacturing defect and the slide was replaced by Glock without incident.

In my opinion, the Glock is almost always one tough sidearm and will take a phenomenal amount of shooting.  To me, it is a non-issue; Glocks just last.

Accuracy: I find no measureable differences in either pistol’s mechanical accuracy, i.e.; the accuracy built into the pistol.  Neither is going to drop one shot right on top of the previous one at 50 yards like a hand-fitted match grade target pistol, but that was never the design’s intended role. It is a service pistol, pure and simple.  After finally spending time learning the Glock trigger, I can normally get 25-yard groups in the 3” range or slightly less with ammunition that particular pistol “likes”.  That said, it has been my experience that these pistols are fairly consistent with most rounds.  I primarily have shot them with hotter 9mm ammunition using bullets in the 124 to 127-gr. range but these guns both function and group nicely with 147-gr. ammunition as well.

Which model has the best practical accuracy will probably depend upon which the individual shooter finds most comfortable to hold.  I find no difference in felt-recoil between the two and at least for me, the Glock 17’s slightly greater sight-radius does not translate to noticeably tighter groups.  In other words, these guns group and handle about the same for me.

Either length barrel normally yields average velocities slightly faster than conventionally-rifled counterparts.  In my experience, Glock’s “hype” about its barrels’ polygonal rifling is true.  Either the G17 or 19 will usually produce velocities toward the high-end of the envelope for a given 9mm load.   Concerns over low-velocity/limited bullet-expansion are unwarranted with either pistol.

Aftermarket match barrels can be fitted for folks trying to reduce group size or preferring conventional rifling for use with lead bullet handloads, but in factory trim I have yet to find a Glock 17 or 19 that won’t group more than satisfactorily for self-defense, informal target or practical type drills. At the distances many of us shoot, our individual abilities are a bigger factor in group size than the gun’s mechanical accuracy. For most of us, either is capable of grouping tighter than we are! 

Glock17vs19hand 002.JPG

Above is the Glock 17.  Note that its butt extends nearly to the bottom of my hand.

Glock17vs19hand 005.JPG

The Glock 19’s butt does not extend as low and its different grip profile feels quite different than the Glock 17 to me. To me, the primary difference between the Glock 17 and 19 is “feel”. Between these two, there is going to be very little difference in either mechanical or practical accuracy.

Felt-Recoil: Despite the Glock 17 being slightly heavier and larger, I personally find no difference in felt-recoil between it and the G19, and I wager that a vast majority do not find any minute differences to be an issue. In rapid-fire drills, an electronic timer shows no differences in split-times between the 17 and 19.

Ammunition Capacity: Using the standard size magazines that come with the guns, the G17’s “wins” by two rounds.  In my opinion, this category is a “wash”; either 15 or 17 shots are more than plenty. 

Concealability: In my opinion, the Glock 19’s slightly reduced dimensions results in a gun that is both small enough to easily conceal though large enough to handle like a full-size service sidearm. Between it and the G17, the tiny weight difference doesn’t mean much in my opinion, but the G19’s slightly shorter grip does make concealment easier, more so than the “paper numbers” indicate.  For concealment purposes, particularly if the covering garment is light such as a shirt or thin windbreaker, the pistol’s butt is frequently a greater problem than the length of the slide and barrel; Glock wisely reduced it along with the slide/barrel assembly in my opinion. Some shooters have said that this is the “perfect” 9mm Glock.

If using an IWB holster, the Glock 19’s slightly shorter slide might result in a more comfortable concealed carry handgun than the Glock 17, though where the pistol is carried inside the waistband can play a major role.  So-called “appendix carry” (off-center and on the front of the torso at about the 11 or 1 o’clock positions) is usually more comfortable with shorter length handguns.  On the side (3 or 9 o’ clock positions) usually makes no difference while some folks find shorter side arms better for IWB carry behind the hip at about the 4:30 or 7:30 positions.  Individual body shapes combined with garment choices make this aspect of choosing between these pistols about as subjective as it gets!

Glock17andCorbonXTP 011.JPG

The longer butt on the Glock 17 just doesn’t conceal as easily as the shorter one on the Glock 19.  That does not mean that the G17 cannot be readily concealed for it can, but overall, I find the Glock 19 to do so a bit easier.  The Blade-Tech IWB holster shown is actually for a Glock 19 but works just fine with the G17.  If concealed carry is a factor in your decision between the G17 and 19, I think that the 19 “wins” and that this is one reason for its extreme popularity.  (At the same time, I reiterate that if you prefer the G17, it can be concealed without much more bother than the G19.)

As stated earlier, the most noticeable difference between these two Glocks is “feel”, but if ease of concealability with essentially a duty-size weapon is a major factor in your decision, go with the Glock 19 unless it is uncomfortable to you.

Customization Potential: In my estimation, the ability to “personalize” either model is high and in many cases, easily done at home, but disagreements over customizing Glocks can rage with near religious fervor! In any event, I have not found it necessary to do anything other than changing the sights. I prefer metallic ones to plastic and do not like the wider Glock front sight. While I do use the Jentra plug on my guns, it is not a necessity; I just prefer the more “finished” look it yields…at least to my eye.

Either model can be altered more to its owner’s liking using either Glock OEM or aftermarket parts. Because the Glock is not as internally complicated as some make autoloaders, it has been very well-received by folks not having convenient access to a gunsmith or who simply prefer to rely on themselves.

Conclusion: My personal preference is the Glock 17.  It feels better to me than the Glock 19 and other than snub revolvers; my preference usually just runs toward “longer” handguns if there is a choice. My normal “carry gun” is not a Glock so the 19’s great ease of concealability isn’t a major determinant in my own personal “concealed carry equation”.  That said, I do on occasion carry a Glock as my primary concealed handgun, backing it up with my “24/7 gun”, a well-worn, S&W Model 642.  Whether the Glock is my G17 or 19 is frequently decided by which is closer to hand, but were I going to carry a Glock concealed every day, I’d go with the 19.  That I find the 17 more comfortable does not mean that the 19 is uncomfortable…at least not to me.  For a “house gun”, either should work nicely. If range use is going to be the pistol’s main use, go with whichever you personally find most comfortable. I think that accuracy potential is equivalent and that the minor differences in sight radii will mean little in the real world and at the distances most folks shoot from.  Skilled pistoleros will be able to shoot either well.

To me it appears that a greater number of Glock users favor the Model 19 over the 17, though both continue to have very strong support within the shooting community.  In the end, I believe that the Glock 19 is the more versatile of the two despite my preference for the Model 17…so I own both! This just is not an option for everyone, but it will be hard to go too far “astray” whichever choice is made.


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