So here’s the question. How do you take a gun that has become one of the benchmarks of 20th century firearms design, a semi-auto pistol that has earned a higher approval rating over the last quarter century than many heads of state, and make it better? Glock began in 2009 with three letters, RTF. The acronym stands for Rough Textured Frame, and the rough part, as Glock describes it, is comprised of “polymer gripping spikes shaped like small pyramids.” Glock calls them “polymids,” small spikes that cover the surface of the grip panels, front strap between the finger grooves, and along the backstrap. What they do in practice is provide a prickly, tactile surface area that reduces the chance of the gun slipping in your hand if it, or you, are wet. The same effect is achieved if you are wearing shooting gloves, tactical gloves, or in extremely cold weather, heavy winter gloves. The RTF2 is intended for extreme conditions ranging from rain, snow, and ice, to steamy desert and tropical climates where high humidity makes even the most confident hands sweaty. Such extremes of climate are not uncommon in almost every part of the world, and in some corners of the globe they are more the norm than the seasonal exception. Glock’s 2010 versions and the all-new Gen4 Glock 22 take things one step further.
Building A Legend
Glocks have literally been around for a generation. There are soldiers, FBI agents, and lawmen carrying Glocks today who weren’t even born when the Glock 17 was first introduced to the U.S. market in 1985. By the time the 2nd generation designs with textured front, backstrap and grip panels were introduced, the strange new gun with the so called “plastic” frame was fast becoming the sidearm of choice for law enforcement. The Glock was even being considered for adoption by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and after the FBI made the new .40 caliber Glock 22 the official field issue sidearm for agents, America truly began to embrace the boxy, polymer frame semi-autos. The G22 is used today by more police and law enforcement agencies than any other handgun. The Glock has proven itself from the arctic climates of Alaska to the tropical heat of Florida and every extreme in between, so it is unlikely that anyone outside of Gaston Glock and his designers had even thought about further improving the gripping surface of the guns, although the grip size and shape on larger caliber models had been an issue in the past for shooters with smaller hands. So when the first G22 RTF2 model was unveiled in January 2009 a lot of eyebrows were raised. The RTF2 was, in fact, a notable enhancement in the Glock’s otherwise enduring 3rd generation design. Joined late in 2009 by the G17, G19 and G23 RTF2s (with Glock planning on adding a G21 RTF2 in January 2010), the finishing touches seemed to be in the works, but the Austrain armsmaker had one more gun in its holster, the Gen4.
Over the years all of the improvements made by Glock from the 1st through 3rd generation had been based on the same essential design, polymer frame and mechanism as the original G17 introduced 25 years ago. During that time Glock added a full complement of models chambered in calibers from 9×19 and 10mm, to .40 S&W, .357 Sig, .380 ACP, .45 ACP, and the manufacturer’s proprietary .45 G.A.P. Today there’s a Glock in virtually every major caliber and frame size, 21 models in all, from .380 ACP sub compacts to the hefty 13 round .45 ACP Model 21.
New Gen4 G22
As with the debut of the RTF2, the .40 caliber Glock 22 is once again the standard bearer for change, being the first model to be introduced in the Gen4 series. What the Gen4 brings to the table are a number of design improvements, one of which is something that Glock truly needed–interchangeable backstraps, allowing one gun to fit a variety of hand sizes. Previously this was accomplished only with the large caliber .45 ACP utilizing the short frame (SF) variant of the G21. Recreating the Glock in its own image, the initial G22 Gen4 models will come with three interchangeable backstraps making the popular .40 caliber pistol more accommodating to a greater number of men and women who have had to tackle the one-size-doesn’t-fit-all conundrum for more than two decades. There are three different-sized replaceable backstrap panels that, unlike others that only alter the grip shape in the palm of the hand, run the entire length of the backstrap from the base of the magazine well to the top of the frame, thereby changing the entire gripping surface area. The new design also incorporates a version of the RTF (Rough Textured Frame) for improved grip retention in inclement weather.
The standard panel approximates the current grip size, followed by a slightly smaller replacement panel proportionate to the earlier Short Frame (SF) concept, and suitable for users with shorter fingers or smaller hand size (or for arctic climates where heavy gloves would be necessary, thus shortening up the grip position), and a larger-sized replacement backstrap for those with big hands or longer fingers. It is likely the single most important physical change in Glock design since the gun’s introduction.
Another necessary design change is a reversible magazine catch for the thirteen percent of police and military personnel who are left handed. The percentage figure was arrived at in the early 1980s by legendary holster maker John Bianchi when he undertook the design of a new ambidextrous military holster for the Department of Defense. The Gen4’s slightly larger magazine release can be reversed from one side to the other in a matter of minutes, again making the gun suitable for a greater number of users.
The final and only major internal change is a new dual recoil spring assembly to mitigate recoil from heavier loads and increase the gun’s serviceability under extreme use. At a glance, the Gen4 doesn’t look different; every change is subtle but functional. It is the same gun, only better.