Sortin' Out The Glocks

Generational Differences

The slide and barrel of the Model 48 are longer than that of the Model 43X.

Life used to be so simple. When I started seriously shooting, sixguns had names like Outdoorsman, Combat Magnum, Heavy Duty, Triple-Lock and on and on. Colt had just started the 2nd Generation of Single Action Army sixguns. In 1957 the numbers started and the names were lost. Then it really got complicated when the GLOCKs arrived. If I recall correctly the first GLOCK was number 17 and now we are at number 48; perhaps even higher by the time you read this. It took nearly 150 years for Colt Single Actions to go through three generations. Now GLOCK is in its fifth generation in a little over three decades.

My friend Denis has been using GLOCKs ever since the first model arrived in the mid-1980s. He’s a retired engineer, however he still looks at everything through an engineer’s eyes and he says he appreciates the GLOCKs for their simplicity, reliability and the fact they are also relatively inexpensive. It’s pretty hard to argue with any of those. He’s also done much research to come up with all the characteristics of the different generations.

Models 45 and 17 Gen 5. A lack of finger grips on the frame set them off.

The Differences

First I asked him to simplify the differences between the generations and then I further simplified it and here’s what we came up with.

First Generation GLOCKs have a pebble-grained grip frame with no finger grooves; Second Generation GLOCKs have this pebble grain finish replaced by a coarse rectangular pattern; Third Generation GLOCKs went to finger grooves and a rail for mounting optics. With the Fourth Generation the changes were mostly internal with a compound recoil spring. And now with the arrival of the Fifth Generation, we’re back to the beginning with no finger grooves in the grip frame. The grip is rough-textured with a pattern somewhat like very small cubes. This of course is a highly simplified description.

I’ve been shooting GLOCKs for several decades and currently have the full-sized .45 ACP and 10 mm along with a compact 9mm and the .45 GAP. I’ve always viewed these as exceptionally high quality tools. In fact several years ago (decades?) I was invited to take part in a GLOCK Seminar normally reserved for LEOs only. Over the course of three days I learned to service and shoot the .45 GLOCK. During the shooting portion I ran through 1,000 rounds of Black Hills .45 ACP 230-Hardball loads with never a failure to feed eject or fire except when malfunctions were caused deliberately to be able to learn how to take care of them.

I definitely appreciated the 100-percent performance of the GLOCK .45, however it just did not stir my soul. Appreciated? Yes. Liked? Not really, but it’s always been handy to reach and ready to go if needed.

The Model 19X caught John’s eye due to the distinctive Coyote Tan color and grip/slide combination.


One of the latest GLOCKs offered, and one of the most popular, goes back to the beginning somewhat with both the numbering system and configuration. This is the tan-colored 19X, mating a Model 17 grip frame with a Model 19 slide. It was originally aimed at possible military acceptance. It’s basically the same 9mm pistol GLOCK submitted to military testing with the only noticeable difference being the lack of a thumb safety on the commercial model, as provided on the military model.

The 19X was the first GLOCK I really liked. Two things caught my eye immediately. First was the color, as instead of the traditional black this GLOCK is a tan color with a somewhat mottled finish on the slide. The second feature that realistically is more important to me is the fact there are no finger grooves in the front strap. Finger grooves are okay if your fingers happen to fit and mine rarely did. This particular GLOCK has been so well accepted, law enforcement has asked for a black version for their use and the result is the Model 45, which is not a .45 but actually a 9mm.

The 9mm GLOCK 45 has a few minor differences from other Generation Five GLOCKs. There are forward cocking serrations on the slide and this slide is not marked with “Gen 5” roll marks. Instead of the crescent shaped cutout found on the bottom of the front strap the GLOCK 45 has a small ridge blending smoothly into the flare on each side of the grip frame, adding a 1/8″ bevel to the front of the magazine well.

I figured the GLOCK 19X would be the last GLOCK in a long time that would really appeal to me. Walking into Buckhorn Gun Shop in the closing days of January of 2019 I was greeted by my friend Cactus saying, “Here is a gun I think you will want to see.” With those words he pulled out a two-toned semi-auto turning out to be the latest GLOCK, the Model 48. Once I had it in my hands I thought, “I think I want this one.”

This Fifth Generation GLOCK is in 9mm and from the side looks much like a GLOCK 19, however the width has been greatly reduced making this compact pistol much easier to conceal. It also looks very attractive with its typical black frame set off by a silver colored PVD coated slide. It immediately appealed to my eyes and felt exceptionally good in my hands. Barrel length is 4.17″ and the magazine is a single stack with a capacity of 10 rounds, also adding to the ease of concealability. GLOCK 45 magazines will not fit in the 19X though.

John found the 9mm Model 48, like all GLOCKs, was a real shooter.


I found myself liking the Model 48 even more than the 19X, mainly because of its ease of concealability. I thought this would be my last GLOCK in a long time, however the next trip to Buckhorn found the new GLOCK 43X. I couldn’t resist! This is basically a Model 48 with a shorter barrel by about 3/4″ making it even easier to conceal in a pocket. The magazines are interchangeable and by now my early appreciation had become real liking for these GLOCKs. In warm weather I wear a holstered pistol covered by my shirttail.

However, in the cooler weather of spring and fall I have a very special “holster.” I have tried several so-called tactical vests, however, I found them all lacking in one way or the other. I turned to King Size for an extra tall denim vest. It has two pockets tapered toward the front and with this set up I can carry both a Model 48 and a Model 43X, one in each pocket. The natural shape of the pockets keeps the guns in the proper place without shifting and when I sit down both of these pockets set on top of my legs making either gun easily accessible. This is especially appreciated when driving as the seatbelt is not in the way of accessibility.

5th Gens compared: Coyote Tan 19X and black Model 45. Note forward cocking serrations on the M45.


Is the Fifth Generation GLOCK really an improvement over previous generations? Here are some of the changes found with the new GLOCKs courtesy of extensive study and research by my friend Denis. Coming up with this list is way above my pay grade, however it’s a natural for his engineer’s mind and heart. He came up with a long list of improvements going from the Gen 4 to the Gen 5 by, as he says, “A rigorous inspection of Gen 3, Gen 4 and Gen 5 GLOCKs along with literature from GLOCK.”

He came up with 21 differences and then four minor changes to arrive at the Model 45, and 10 minor changes going from the Gen 5 to the Gen 5 Model 19X. Our limited space here only allows some of the differences to be covered.

The traditional Tenifer finish has been replaced by a tougher and more attractive finish known as DLC or Diamond Like Coating. The front ends of the slide and the rails have been beveled for easier holstering; the finger grooves are gone and replaced by a RTF, or Rough Textured Frame that definitely makes the grip more comfortable. All GLOCKs now come with three magazines (as all semi-autos should) and all are now fitted with orange followers. All Gen 5 GLOCKs now have ambidextrous slide stop levers. So far, at least as this is written, all Gen 5 GLOCKs are chambered in 9mm. Barrels are now known as Marksman Barrels with a more aggressive rifling and a recessed crown, and Gen 5 GLOCKs are now available with factory installed tritium night sights.

I have shot my three latest GLOCKs extensively and like the way all of them handle and shoot. They will never replace the part of my heart reserved for Colt Single Actions and Smith & Wesson .44 Specials — but at least they now have their own space.

For more info:

Read More Sixgunner Articles

Subscribe To American Handgunner

Purchase A PDF Download Of The American Handgunner March/April 2020 Issue Now!