By: Jay Chambers
Is the Glock 17 vs Glock 19 debate a dead horse? Yes and no.
Yes, because the topic has been beaten to death.
No, because many debates focus mostly on dimensions and specs, with little or no regard for shooting context and other factors like financial restrictions.
So, we’re going to approach this question with an eye for context and see if we can unearth a couple new insights in this conversation.
Let’s start with defining some shooting contexts and why they’re important:
Ignoring caliber and speaking only about the physical size of a handgun, you should choose the size of your handgun based on how you will be using it.
In the civilian realm, there are three very broad shooting contexts: competition and recreation, concealed carry, and home defense.
When it comes to shooting performance, a full-size handgun—like a Glock 17—outperforms a small handgun in every way. A larger gun delivers higher muzzle velocity, better accuracy and sight radius, more magazine capacity, and less felt recoil.
The only area where a compact handgun outperforms a full-size gun is concealability.
Since only one of our shooting contexts requires concealment, it would seem that comparing the Glock 17 to the Glock 19 would clearly shake out like this:
Competition and recreation: Glock 17 wins.
Home defense: Glock 17 wins.
Concealed carry: Glock 19 wins.
That analysis is oversimplified, however.
We also have to consider that people rarely get guns free. Furthermore, the Glock 19 is more of a mid-size handgun than a compact gun. We’d have to do a triple head-to-head with the Glock 26, Glock 19, and Glock 17 to really hash out the compact vs full-size situation.
So, what about those other things we must consider when evaluating a gun?
First, the wild thing about the Glock 17 and Glock 19 is that they cost the same. Not sure if that means you’re getting a great deal on the Glock 17 or a bad deal on the Glock 19. Either way, price is no factor in the comparison.
The mid-size frame on the Glock 19 is a big factor, though. And, here’s why:
If you had the money to buy a Glock 17 AND a Glock 19, you probably wouldn’t be concerned with a comparison of the two. Assuming you’re getting just one of these guns, the Glock 19 is a better value (if you plan on concealed carrying), because it’s more versatile.
The Glock 19 is large enough that most people can get a four-finger grip, and it holds 15 rounds in the magazine. This stat line is enough that the Glock 19 is a good home defense gun. Not a perfect house gun. But it will certainly get the job done.
And, even though these guns are similar in size—the grip and muzzle on the Glock 17 are about half an inch longer—the Glock 19 beats the Glock 17 in concealability by a surprising margin.
My Glock 19 conceals easily in summer clothing. I very rarely need to downsize to my Glock 26. If I put a Glock 17 in the holster, however, I get a ton of concealment issues and comfort becomes a problem.
Larger people might not have an issue concealing a Glock 17. But most people will find the Glock 19 to be far more convenient for concealed carry. And it only comes at the cost of two rounds and less than half an inch of barrel length.
Which brings us to the competition and recreation context, where the Glock 17 is definitely favored (though not as beloved by serious competitors as the Glock 34). Better accuracy and more magazine capacity usually translate to better scores and more fun during range days.
But, just like the home defense context, the Glock 19 is good enough for competition and recreation, even if it’s not the perfect gun in these contexts.
We’re getting close. But this analysis isn’t quite conclusive. Let’s look at one final data point and wrap this up:
The Winner Is…
This might be an unpopular conclusion, but the Glock 17 is the winner here.
That might seem odd after we just talked about how the Glock 19 is more versatile than the Glock 17. But, let’s make one more dissecting cut.
The Glock 17 is better for home defense, competition, and recreation. Really, it’s the better gun for everything except concealed carry. So, let’s look at some numbers:
One-third of Americans say they own a gun. That makes for about 107 million gun owners in the United States. Then, there are 17.25 million concealed carry permits issued in the United States.
That means the majority of gun owners only use their handgun for home defense, competition, or recreation. If you happen to be one of the 17.25 million concealed carry permit holders, the Glock 19 is a better one-gun solution for you.
But, for the majority of gun owners, the Glock 17 is the best gun. Feel free to argue in the comments.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, By Sprenger – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=725937
Jay Chambers is writer living in Texas. Contact him at Minute Man Review.