The Gen 4 also introduces a new and redesigned ambidextrous magazine release system, that is now extremely reliable; of course, backwards compatibility is also lost, and although Gen 4 magazines can be used in previous generation pistols, the opposite is impossible.
Most of the smaller parts remain unchanged: only for the Compact models (G19, 23 and 32), both the locking block and the spring loading the disassembly lever have been updated.
Notice that the slide and barrel finish are different, the Tenifer surface treatment has been replaced by a similar process that is faster and safer to apply and is reportedly much friendlier to the environment. The color of the metal surfaces of the Gen 4 are also different, being a lighter and somewhat duller grey.
Glock Gen4 - The reasons
The ambidextrous magazine release and the interchangeable back straps are obviously a response to the competition, especially to the M&P handgun line by Smith & Wesson, that can also boast the classical quote “Designed and built in the USA”.
We must remember that Glock’s main market are still the United States, where, especially in Law Enforcement, the most popular caliber is the .40 Smith & Wesson, a cartridge that gave a lot of troubles to many Glock models.
A close examination of the latest Gen 3 pistols shipped and all of the Gen 4 production reveals that a very through optimization of the design has been specifically carried out for this caliber.
With the new Dual Recoil Spring assembly, Glock managed to solve, or at least mitigate, a problem that affects all its .40 Smith & Wesson chambered handguns: early frame failure due to strong recoil and the pressure spike peculiar to this caliber.
Matter of fact, the previous models G17 e G23 were essentially the same gun, but with a different barrel and slight modifications to the breech face of the slide to accommodate the larger cartridge.
The recoil spring was the same, correctly dimensioned for 9mm energies and not for the much different .40 Smith & Wesson ammunition, yielding higher slide speeds with harsh impacts at the end of its travel against the frame. These translated into high residual energies transferred to the polymer frame, and an uncomfortable shooting experience.
The new Dual Recoil Spring assembly absorbs better the harsh initial spike and generally higher energies of the .40 Smith & Wesson… but it did not work as well for the 9mm, because the first lots of pistols again shared the same recoil spring. The idea to use the same spring for both calibers (9mm and .40) once again caused problems: if a .40 caliber pistol recoils too much with a 9mm spring, a 9mm pistol with a .40 caliber spring may have reliability issues. And, that is exactly what happened, casting a doubt over the reliability of the new handguns, at least until Glock made the decision to introduce a specific recoil spring dimensioned for the 9mm caliber and offering a free replacement program for all the current owners of 9mm Gen 4 pistols.
Even with this new recoil spring, the 9mm pistols could exhibit a softer and somewhat slower spent case extraction compared with the previous generation guns, and it was not uncommon to hear complaints in regards to ejection problems, such as stovepipes, cases not clearing the ejection port, and so on.
The cause appears to have been located in the new shapes and measurements of the Extractor, Ejector and the profile of the ejection window, all with subtle changes that added together have resulted in these problems.
Again, most of these problems were promptly solved adopting a new Ejector, shorter and with a more slanted profile, that is included in every new Gen 4 pistol and that seems to have brought back the Glock pistol to the almost legendary levels of reliability that were at the base of the gun’s success. The new part carries the Part no. 30274 and it seems that it performs miracles even on the most recent Gen 3 models, which feature the same slide design and build.
We mentioned that Glock manufactures and sells both Generation 3 and 4 handguns. Why keep both lines commercially available? We can only speculate on the reasons.
First of all, Glock has many tenders, contracts and commercial agreements with Government Agencies that maybe even purchased large stocks of spare parts and may not accept a different and incompatible model as replacement.
Second, there is the problem with specific States, such as California, that allow only handguns that have been certified for sale by an official authority - in California’s case, by the Department of Justice - and certification takes quite a long time: as of summer of 2014, no Gen 4 Glock handguns have been approved for sale in California. If Glock manufactured only Gen 4 pistols, it would lose all sales in those States overnight.
Third, and last, regards the public, like me and you: Gen 4 pistols, undeniably did not start on the right foot, and still today there are many customers feeling uncomfortable choosing the unknown path, therefore preferring a Gen 3 pistol… not realizing that the newest Gen 3 production is very similar to the Gen 4 guns.
So, what do we choose?
We cannot give an unbiased answer, but there are at least two types of shooters who would benefit from the Gen4 new features: left-handers and die-hard fans of the .40 Smith & Wesson caliber. For all the others, it’s just a matter of taste and feeling with the old or the new gun.
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