By Todd Burgreen
After exploding on the scene in the early 1980s with the Glock 17, Glock pistols quickly evolved into the benchmark for personal defense handguns. Many detractors would have you believe that Glock has grown complacent by not introducing any new designs after the G17's arrival. Yes, there has been four generations of Glocks, but each is reflective of design tweaks to the original conception. Glock handguns are ultra reliable, accurate, tough, and simple to operate; All at a competitive market price.
It is best to think of the Glock line-up of handguns as a "system" stretching from the mini Glock 26 through the Glock 21SF, with the Glock 18 and Glock 36 thrown in for good measure. Every Glock shares a lineage back to the first Glock - the G17. The Glock "secret" to success is minimal operating controls, high cartridge capacity to size ratio and relentless reliability. While the grip size may change between the Glock 26 and Glock 21, the position of the slide and magazine releases will instantly be familiar. A better illustration of the Glock system would be the similar same trigger pull and weight found on both the G26 and G21. Simplicity should not be confused as lack of refinement. As experience and knowledge expands, Glock reliability and solid performance has become more entrenched as the standard.
What if a de facto "custom" Glock available directly from the Glock factory was introduced? The reader was probably not aware of this, but one already is: the 17L. Let's define custom. For our purposes here, custom means unique features not ordinarily found on Glock production firearms. Limited availability is another needed condition for the custom designation. This is caused by the increased time and resources needed to assemble these unique custom features on the firearm. Higher cost is also associated with any custom firearm. As it relates to Glock, the Glock 17L chambered in 9x19 is the custom firearm. Now, before you start calling Smyrna, Georgia, please read further.
The "custom" status bestowed on the Glock 17L evolved out of the introduction of the Glock 34. The Glock 34 was born from the need to shorten the slide of the Glock 17L. The slide was shortened to fit size constraint rules imposed by certain competitive shooting sanctioning bodies. The dimensions used mysteriously follow the classic 1911 pistol. Glock's reasoning, as efficient as their handguns, was that there was no need to continue importing the Glock 17Ls in the same quantity, with the Glock 34's introduction. Concisely stated, market conditions in the U.S. turned the Glock 17L into a "custom" Glock for U.S. shooters. The Glock 17L is a favorite handgun of anyone who find themselves lucky enough to run across one. Inevitably, users of the 17L re-evaluate the 9x19 cartridge.
Let's review what sets the Glock 17L apart dimensionally and internally from other Glock handguns. The G17L's 6.02 inch barrel is the most obvious departure from other Glocks giving the G17L an overall slide length of 8.85 inches. This is an instance where size does matter. The longer barrel generates more velocity for the 9x19, especially with +P or +P+ loads. Glock's legendary ruggedness enables the use of the higher pressured 9x19 rounds without causing pause for the durability of the weapon. Glock's hexagonal rifling provides a better seal when the bullet obdurates when fired, further boosting velocity figures over land and groove rifling methods.
The +P+ 9x19 cartridge when fired from the G17L's 6-inch barrel begins to rival the .40 in terms of velocity and ft./lbs of energy generated. Most factory listed velocities are derived from 4 inch barrels. Black Hills Ammunition 124gr JHP +P and Hornady 124gr TAP +P 9x19 ammunition were chronographed from another manufacturer's handgun with a 4 inch barrel and then the Glock 17L's 6 inch barrel. Black Hills Ammunition and Hornady are renowned for consistent velocity, reliability, and terminal performance. The 4 inch barrel generated average velocity figures of 1,255 fps and 1,137 fps, respectively, for the Black Hills and Hornady loads. These figures are quite close to factory listed values. The Glock 17L produced average velocities of 1,301 fps and 1,196 fps respectively. Without going into minutia, remember the muzzle energy ft/lbs calculation emphasizes velocity - fps is squared multiplied by bullet weight divided by 450,400. Muzzle energy figures are increased nearly 5% with the Glock 17L. Let's be clear, this is an attempt to quantify the Glock 17L's advantages, not validate the use of ft/lbs as the ultimate calculator of cartridge effectiveness. The 9x19 +P loads from the Glock 17L equal the muzzle energy of .40 155gr loads fired from 4 inch handguns.
The longer barrel/slide of the G17L provides a sight radius of 8.07 inches. (For comparison, a full size 1911 has a sight radius of 6.8 inches.) This enables more precise aiming. It is possible to accurately engage targets at 50 yards, and cover had better be sought by any intended targets out to 100 yards. The longer slide/barrel combination contributes more mass, aiding in increased muzzle control for double taps or longer strings of fire. Glock ergonomics combined with the slide's long track during recoil, mass, and manageable 9x19 muzzle signature allows for a very stable sight picture no matter how many or how rapid rounds are fired. It is not hard to fathom why select elite special operation units choose the Glock 17L. The G17L equipped with a Glock GTL 21 Tactical Laser/Light on its forward rail is a lethal CQB weapon in trained hands.
It is impossible to convey how many shooters at the range covet a Glock 17L after using it, especially if multiple targets are engaged. Test and evaluation of the G17L was conducted at a private range where many of the local law enforcement tactical team members train. Every time one of them gets to handle and shoot a Glock 17L, a convert is created. Their duty weapons span the gamut, but all appreciate what the Glock 17L offers in terms of accuracy, reliability, handling, and lethality. Each is wished luck finding a 17L, with a nod given to the Glock 34's similarities. After all, the G34 is nearly the same except for a .7 inch shorter barrel/slide.
There are other features offered on the G17L that make it a top tier handgun. Glock equips it with a 4.5 lb. trigger connector giving the G17L a 4.5 pound trigger pull with only .5 inch travel. Other Glocks come with a 5.5 pound trigger pull. The lighter trigger aids in rapid target engagement. The logic being the Glock 17L is more often found in the hands of better trained personnel. The G17L is also equipped with an extended slide release and raised magazine release button. These are all features that aid in increasing manipulation speeds during reloads.
The Glock 17L comes standard with 17-round magazines. However, one feature or benefit of choosing a Glock chambered in 9x19 is the availability of 33-round magazines. Glock magazines are an often overlooked key component of Glock's legendary reputation for functioning in any imaginable environment. A Glock 17L is not a concealable weapon and finds itself more at home carried in a hip holster, tac-vest, or tactical thigh holster with 33-round magazine handy for a reload. The G17L takes on a much more serious demeanor when a 33-round magazine is seated. The firepower rivals a submachine gun in an even more compact platform.
A day at the range with a Glock 17L easily translates into more proficiency with any other Glock. Whether it is a Glock 26 tucked inside a belt or a Glock 21 in a tactical thigh rig, it does not require a new manual of arms, only different magazines. The advantage of this is really appreciated when training spans several years and thousands of rounds fired. Intimate familiarization achieved by numerous draw strokes and pressing out to engage the target can not be over emphasized. The staging and prepping of the Glock Safe Action trigger with its short reset can be honed to maximum effectiveness across the many different Glock models. When under stress this is a valued trait. It is difficult to come up with any similar handgun models on the market offering the same advantage across a similar range of dimensions and calibers.
The G17L is natural to shoot accurately with double taps or longer strings of fire easy to keep on target. There is no doubt 17L shooters have called Glock urging a Glock .45 Auto "long slide" along the same lines as the Glock17L. All are treated with a courteous, "We will take it under consideration." A person can still run across a random Glock 17L for sale and it you do, purchase it immediately. The Glock 17L is not even shown of the Glock website. Take note, a used G17L is rarely encountered. A testament both to the loyalty and satisfaction of its owners and the awareness of what special, rare, custom handgun a Glock 17L is. A Glock 34 offers many of the same features, but that unique 6 inch barreled G17L leaves many still desiring the original long barreled long slide Glock: the Glock 17L.
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