Glock manufactures a full line of pistols in every major caliber. They do an outstanding job of covering all the bases in terms of shooting needs. But, say you could only purchase one Glock (this would be tragic, but hypothetically), which one would be the top one to get?
OUR BEST CHOICE
That’s a tricky question because the answer is subjective. If you’re in a hurry, and you just want to know the answer, go with the Glock 19. You’ll be happy with it.
If you’re looking for some analysis and justification, read on. The ultimate Glock is a subjective thing because it depends on what you plan to do with it.
Context is king, and there’s a perfect Glock for every context. But how do we know which Glock is king of our particular context?
The answer comes down to one basic factor: size. It’s not about the size of the round, it’s the size of the frame that we’re talking about here.
The frame is the lower part of the gun, where you grip the gun when you shoot it. This is what usually determines how long the slide is and how many rounds a standard magazine holds. The good news here is that Glock has very systematically built their product line to fill every niche.
Here’s how Glock pistols line up from largest to smallest:
Our Top Choices
- Full Size
- sub compact
- SINGLE STACK
Competition models are the largest in the Glock family.
They built the competition models for accuracy and performance. So they have an extra long barrel and slide, and come standard with upgraded parts like an extended magazine release, an enhanced trigger, and adjustable sights.
Competition models are intended for competition, but the size and magazine capacity is also good for defensive uses. However, competition models are too big to conceal comfortably.
The full-size Glocks are built for defensive use, recreation, and light competition shooting. The slide and barrel are a bit shorter than the competition models. They’re also fitted with standard Glock parts rather than the competition upgrades.
Full-size Glocks are excellent for defensive usage. However, they’re perfectly adequate for competitive hobbyists. Full-size Glocks are a challenge to conceal, but not impossible. So they could be a defensive option and concealed carry crossover gun for some people.
The compact sizes are the most versatile Glock pistols. Glock was the only manufacturer to make a pistol in this size for a long time. But other manufacturers have gotten on board with this size profile in the last decade or so.
However, Glock compact pistols remain some of the most popular compact handguns. The thing that made compact Glocks so popular is that they’re big enough to be capable defense guns, but small enough that most people can conceal them fairly easily.
They even make decent competition guns.
The only real downside to compact Glocks is that they’re not great in any single context. So if you only use your handgun for just one type of shooting, you’d be better served by a more specialized frame size.
Subcompact Glocks are designed to be concealable guns that don’t sacrifice too much performance for concealability.
The subcompact frame size is just the next step down from the compact size. Subcompact Glocks are still double stack guns and sport decent ammo capacity for concealed carry handguns.
However, they still have short barrels and hold fewer bullets than their larger counterparts. So subcompact Glocks are primarily used as concealed carry guns.
In a pinch, you can use a subcompact Glock as a house gun. This should be the exception, not the rule, though.
Subcompact Glocks can be used competitively if you use competition as part of your defensive training regimen.
Single stack Glocks are a somewhat new addition to the Glock family. The single stack models are built exclusively for concealed carry.
Single stack Glocks give up barrel length, magazine capacity, and recoil management for the sake of concealability. These models are perfect for people who need a gun for concealed carry, but find it difficult to conceal a subcompact Glock.
If you plan to use your gun for more than concealed carry at all, you’d be happier with a larger handgun.
So, these are the size profiles. Any Glock you get will fall into one of these categories, regardless of the caliber.
Glock produces some specialized models that have certain upgrades and features. There are competition, optics ready, and ported variants. However, they’re all built on one of these frame sizes.
Keep in mind that, in a perfect world, you’d have at least two guns, which is enough to give you specialized performance in most shooting contexts.
However, even in a perfect world, you’d still want the right handgun for whatever types of shooting you do.
With this in mind, here are some reviews that will help you find the perfect one for your shooting context (or contexts):
Going back to our original question, if you could only buy one Glock, which one would it be? The Glock 19 is the perfect option if you’re going to buy just one Glock handgun.
This model falls into the compact size profile, which is sort of the jack-of-all-trades size. The Glock 19 is definitely a jack-of-all-trades handgun.
It sports a 15 round magazine and a 4 inch barrel, which is a solid stat line for a defensive use handgun.
Additionally, the grip is long enough that the vast majority of shooters will be able to get a full four-finger grip on the gun. This means it is nearly as controllable as a full-size pistol.
Where it really shows it’s jack-of-all-trades colors is in the concealed carry and competition arenas.
The unit is compact enough to conceal with the right clothing and carry position. However, it’s not universally concealable.
On the competition front, it’s adequate, pretty good even. But it gets edged out by its larger relatives in terms of ammo capacity and barrel length. Competitive hobbyists will get along fine with one, but serious competitive shooters will probably want to size up.
But, the versatility is what makes it the top Glock. It performs well in all shooting contexts. It’s just not great for any certain type of shooting.
So, even though this model is capable enough to be crowned as the best Glock, it’s right for shooters who want one gun that will work for all their shooting contexts and don’t have excessive concealment or performance requirements.
This category seems to be a bit overkill, right? The hallmark feature of these handguns is reliability. They pretty much just work. However, the enhanced reliability of the Glock 32 comes from the .357 Sig round.
.357 Sig was designed by Sig Sauer in the 1990’s in an effort to produce a more accurate and more powerful round, without sacrificing too much magazine capacity.
To achieve this, Sig used a 10mm case and necked it down to .357 caliber. The bonus of using a necked casing for more performance was that it also improves reliability since the necked case smooths the feeding process and reduces feed-related malfunctions.
So, not only is the Glock 32 a powerful handgun, it’s also more reliable than a Glock!
On top of that, it’s designed around the versatile compact form factor. It’s capable enough for home defense, and concealable enough to be a concealed carry gun for most shooters.
There are a couple reasons why it didn’t quite top the Glock 19, though.
First, it only has a 13 round magazine.
Additionally, the .357 Sig round has a snappier recoil than the 9mm. So it’s a bit harder to shoot than the Glock 19. It’s a poor option for new shooters.
.357 Sig ammunition is also rather expensive and can be tricky to find.
Overall, it delivers excellent performance and reliability. However, it’s perfect for experienced shooters who most value reliability and ballistic performance.
For Home Defense
The full-sized category is perfect for home defense and decent for competition. But these larger handguns are poor concealed carry guns.
The Glock 17 is definitely the king of the defensive options. It sports a 17 round magazine and a 4.49 inch barrel.
The benefit of a 17 round magazine is self-evident: more bullets than a smaller framed gun. But, the longer barrel provides some less obvious benefits:
Higher muzzle velocity. This is especially important for defensive use. Higher velocity helps hollow point ammunition expand and perform as intended.
Longer Sight Radius. The longer slide provides a greater distance between the front and rear sights, which improves accuracy during sighted fire. The longer barrel also slightly reduces the cone of deviation, which can help tighten your shot groups.
But remember that a longer barrel won’t make up for poor shooting technique.
The Glock 17 is also one of the easiest to shoot. The full-size frame provides the ultimate recoil mitigation and control. Only the competition models offer better control.
The tradeoff with the larger frame is concealability. For most people, it will be extremely challenging to conceal comfortably.
So this model works excellently as a house gun. It is also a good option for serious competition shooters who plan on adding a lot of aftermarket customization, since it’s less expensive than a competition model.
But for those looking for a dedicated home defense handgun, the Glock 17 is the go-to Glock.
For Concealed Carry
The Glock 26 is a subcompact model that provides a great balance between concealability and performance. The thing that makes a handgun difficult to conceal is actually the length of the grip, not the length of the barrel.
It has a short grip that minimizes printing, so you can conceal this Glock under almost any type of clothing. But, there are tradeoffs.
It only holds 10 rounds in the magazine. For concealed carry, this is very nice. For defensive use, 10 rounds is a bit on the low side.
The short grip also means that it’s more difficult to shoot. Many shooters can only get three fingers on the grip, which means less recoil mitigation.
Additionally, this model has a 3.26 inch barrel. This is primarily to make the gun more comfortable to carry concealed. This is good for cccarry. But it shortens the sight radius and reduces muzzle velocity.
This is the price of concealability.
It’s adequate as a defensive gun. So it’s an option for those who want one gun for concealment and defensive uses. Using it as a house gun is really only for those who are more interested in using the gun for concealed carry than using it defensively.
However, it makes an outstanding secondary defensive gun.
Overall, the Glock 26 is the right option for shooters who want a capable concealed carry gun, but don’t need super deep concealment.
Top Single Stack Handgun
These guns are built specifically for those who need deep concealment. There are quite a few single stack guns on the market now, and the Glock 43 is one of Glock’s contributions to the single stack pot.
It doesn’t have the top stats in terms of single stack guns, but it’s a Glock. So the primary selling points are reliability and simplicity.
First, it comes with a 6 round magazine. This is fewer rounds than some of the other alternative options. But it’s sufficient for an ultra-concealable gun.
It also has a 3.39 inch barrel. Again, this is a tad shorter than other single stack pistols.
Clearly, it specializes in concealability.
An additional benefit of this design is the slim grip, which is nice for shooters with small hands. However, it’s so small that it’s not ideal for new shooters. The short grip and small frame require solid shooting technique to manage the recoil.
Overall, it’s really specialized for concealed carry in deep concealment situations.
It’s not ideal as a defensive gun option.
It’s not a strong competition gun.
The Glock 43 is for shooters who need concealability above all else.
For Tactical Shooting
The Glock 19X is the result of their bid to build a handgun to replace the Beretta 92 as the U.S. military sidearm.
In short, it is a Glock 19 slide mounted on a Glock 17 frame. However, there are some nuances.
The basic stats are a combination of Glock 17 and Glock 19:
- 4 inch barrel.
- 17 round magazine.
So, what’s the benefit of the long grip and short slide?
First, the shorter barrel makes the gun easier to draw and run in confined spaces.
This mostly applies to CQB operations and tactical competitions, since there’s a lot of moving with the gun and possibly some drawing and reholstering in a hurry.
The short barrel isn’t such a big deal for standard defensive use. Next, the longer grip provides better control during rapid fire.
To complement the specialized specs, Glock also added some enhancements to the internals and controls.
The barrel is a crowned barrel with enhanced rifling which helps improve the native accuracy of the 19X. This is nice, but only very advanced shooters will see any difference without mounting the gun in a vice.
Then, they claims the trigger is better than a stock trigger. It’s smoother on the uptake, however the break isn’t as clean as some of the older Glock generations.
Again, only really experienced shooters will really notice this. The manufacturer also put steel night sights on the 19X, which are a huge upgrade over the standard plastic Glock sights. This is a meaningful upgrade for any shooter.
It also comes with a lanyard eyelet and a flat dark earth finish. The lanyard is most useful to military and law enforcement shooters who use their gun in contexts where they can actually attach a lanyard to their gear.
The flat dark earth finish is mostly an aesthetic thing. The manufacturer claims that the finish on the 19X is more durable than their standard finish. Supposedly this gives the 19X a longer service life. But it is fairly new, so this remains to be proven.
One thing to know is that this model won’t accept standard Gen 5 Glock magazines. There is no magazine extraction cut out, so standard Gen 5 magazines don’t seat all the way in it.
Gen 4 Glock magazines fit, though. So, you’ll still be able to take advantage of the interchangeable Glock magazines unless all you have is Gen 5 magazines.
In the end, it was designed for military and law enforcement use. For civilians, the right contexts for it are home defense and tactical pistol competitions.
However, if you don’t shoot in tactical contexts, you’d probably be better off with a Glock 19 or Glock 17.
The Glock 34 is primarily a competition gun. But it functions well as a crossover handgun if you’re looking for a good defensive gun.
The primary difference between the Glock 17 and the Glock 34 is the slide length and the barrel length. It has a 5.31 inch barrel, which Glock has deemed long enough for the precision competition shooters demand.
It delivers the longest sight radius and highest muzzle velocities in the entire Glock collection.
This is why it is also a solid defensive gun. It’s more than accurate enough for defensive shooting and delivers enough muzzle velocity for defensive ammunition to function well.
The full-size frame also holds a 17 round magazine. This is great for defensive use and competition shooting. It also comes standard with some enhancements to improve competitive performance.
There’s an extended slide release which is handy for shooters with small hands. The trigger pull is also lighter than a standard Glock trigger, to minimize muzzle movement during the trigger squeeze.
Lastly, the slide features a cutout for mounting optics. This is actually a nice feature, since mounting optics without this cutout requires milling the slide. Milling the slide can be expensive and it can ruin your gun if it’s done wrong.
Overall, it’s a great gun for competition shooters who want a stock pistol that enables them to be competitive at most levels. It’s also a really solid handgun for people who want to use their defensive gun in competition.
You may have noticed that almost all the Glocks in this article are 9mm pistols. That’s because 9mm is the perfect round for almost any type of handgun shooting.
The good news is that for every one of the 9mm Glocks we talked about, there are equivalent models in the other major handgun calibers. So, there’s a Glock for you, no matter what round you’re into.
Remember: it’s the size of the frame, not the round, that makes it ideal for your context.
So just get the size profile that works for the type of shooting you do in whatever caliber you like. The only catch is that if you use a larger round, you’ll have fewer rounds in the magazine and will feel more recoil.
But, unless you’re really attached to a different caliber, the Glock 19 is the top Glock for almost every context.
The combination of magazine capacity, recoil control, and concealability is nearly impossible to beat.
And one final note: the stock Glock sights are plastic. They’re terrible. No matter what you use your gun for, you’ll be happier and more accurate with some decent sights.
There’s a Glock for every situation, and now you know which ones they are. So get the right Glock for you and head to the range!