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.
New RTF2 Models
Our tests of the latest RTF2 models were with the G17 and G19. The remaining pair of RTF2 models for 2010 are the .40 caliber G22 (see Glock Autopistols 2010 for a review) and compact G23. Not a bad selection as the 9×19 and .40 caliber Glocks remain the preferred service pistols of law enforcement agencies the world over, guns that have been put to the test and survived abuses most of us would never even consider subjecting a gun to. But in the real world guns do get dropped, driven over by cars, covered in mud, buried in snow and ice, soaked by torrential downpours and get submerged in water.
The Glock 17, with a magazine capacity of 17 rounds, plus one in the chamber, remains one of the powerhouses of police and self defense sidearms, and even the compact Glock 19, with a shorter barrel and grip frame, dispenses a respectable 15+1. Neither gun has to prove itself any longer; the question at hand is how much better the new Rough Textured Frame can make these two venerable 9×19 semi-autos.
Two points to consider with the new RTF2 models is holster choice and clothing. The great advantage of the Rough Textured Frame is the tactile surface which grips hands and gloves, however, it also tends to grab certain fabrics, particularly cotton and cotton/nylon blends (we went through a lot of clothes to see what sticks) and while nothing overtly inhibited drawing the gun, it is something to be aware of. The right holster can help in this regard. As an all weather gun that has proven itself almost invulnerable to the elements, a good concealed carry holster should be equally weather resistant. There are a number of quality synthetic (molded) holsters available to fit most Glock models. For the Glock 19 we selected the Galco MX4 Matrix Autolock Paddle which provides Level 2 retention. The entire rig is injection-molded thermoplastic, “water friendly” as Galco literature notes. Despite being a very hard holster, thermoplastic doesn’t give, the wide, curved paddle allows the wearer to position the rig comfortably on the strong side or just forward of the hip with a solid, secure lock on the gun, until the thumb release is toggled back before drawing. The holster’s internal lock engages the recess in the Glock’s ejector port, preventing the gun from being unintentionally dislodged from the holster. The release is depressed by thumb pressure, a natural action when grasping the grips, which raises the injection-molded lock piece out of the ejector port allowing the gun to be drawn. We found the MX4 Autolock to be an ideal rig for the Glock 19 as it also serves to project the grips slightly away from the body making it easier to draw without interference from clothing. While the MX4 isn’t much to look at (sometimes when form follows function aesthetics takes a back seat) we found the Autolock Paddle the most secure and quickest on the draw of any holster tested.
To carry the larger Glock 17 we tried the new Galco Gladius which is designed to easily snap on and off a belt. Based on Galco’s earlier Side Snap Scabbard, the Gladius has a shortened, open pouch that allows the barrel to protrude, thus allowing a variety of models to be used with one holster. The tighter contour places the gun at a neutral cant and close to the body for better concealment and a thumb break retention strap provides added security. The Model 17 also fits the Matrix MX4 Autolock Paddle, which proved to be the more efficient of the two Galco rigs tested.
In order to see if the RTF2 gripping surface works, we conducted a “wet” test with damp hands and then two glove tests, one with leather tactical gloves, and one with heavy thermal winter gloves. Water, either perspiration under humid conditions or the real wet stuff, can cause a gun to slip around no mater how firm the grip or capable the shooter. The Rough Textured Finish definitely came into play in all three test scenarios. This proved particularly true for the thumb and trigger finger rests and the three front strap grip recesses, all of which provided a better gripping surface for a gloved hand.
There are other design advantages to all Glock models that come into play in inclement weather, second nature operations that on other semi automatic handguns can be problematic if the gun or the shooter’s hand is wet. The Glock design eliminates steps and potential problems by having done away with a manually set and released safety. Under “wet” conditions the fact that there is no external safety to deal with, due to the gun’s “Safe Action” system, provides an added advantage in the field.
The “Safe Action” system as described by Glock is “a partly tensioned firing pin lock, which is moved further back by the trigger bar when the trigger is pulled. When the trigger is pulled, three safety features are automatically deactivated, one after another. When doing so, the trigger bar is deflected downward by the connector and the firing pin is released under full load. When the trigger is released, all three safety features re-engage and the Glock pistol is automatically secured again. As the first of the three Glock “Safe Action” safety features, the trigger safety prevents inadvertent firing by lateral forces on the trigger. Releasing the trigger will automatically reactivate the safety. Easily summed up in the field, there is no way for a Glock to discharge if dropped, and as soon as the user releases pressure on the trigger the gun returns to a “safe” condition. This is extremely important in situations where multiple targets may be engaged, the user is on the move, or clearing a building room by room. The triggerguard is also elongated, which is helpful when handling the gun with heavy winterized thermal gloves.
A Glock is an easy gun to read, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage depending upon which side of the gun you’re on. There are three visible tells on a Glock’s condition. If the trigger is forward, the gun is cocked and the safety activated. If the gun is visible from the right side, and there is a round in the chamber, the loaded chamber indicator (extractor) is protruding from the frame, and if the slide has not been cycled or the gun has been fired and no round is chambered, the trigger is resting farther back in the triggerguard. One needs to learn how to read a Glock’s condition at a glance.
For our test we used Sellier & Bellot 115gr. FMJ and the very potent CorBon DPX 115gr. “Deep Penetrating” hollow points. Timed fire tests were conducted at a combat distance of 7-yards (21 feet) using a B-27 silhouette target, and at 10 meters (33 feet) on a 50 foot slow fire pistol target. Both tests were fired using a two-hand Weaver stance.
Both the G17 and G19 performed flawlessly with both brands of ammo. Of the two brands tested the Sellier & Bellot, manufactured in the Czech Republic, is one of the most affordable, high-quality FMJ 9×19 cartridges around. The hard hitting CorBon DPX hollow points would be our preferred defensive load, however, because of the solid copper bullet design, which retains 100 percent of its weight, even after going through hard barriers. One of the considerations, especially in the winter or in cold, inclement weather, is the effect clothing has on bullet penetration, particularly through layers of clothing. The proven penetration of the DPX rounds provides an added tactical advantage, just like the Glock’s new Rough Textured Frame.
Both guns had trigger pulls slightly over the 5.5 lb. specs, 5 lbs. 10 oz. on the G19 and 5 lbs. 6 oz. on the G17 and both with about ½-inch of take up. Operation of both guns was smooth and consistent with no malfunctions.
With the new Gen4 G22 along with the RTF2 G17, G19, G21, G22, and G23, sweeping change at Glock is at hand, actually in your hand. With the exception of the Gen4, the rest are the same exact guns from a mechanical standpoint. Functionally, the new RTF2 grip surface is a notable improvement under all conditions, but more importantly, under the worst of conditions when any advantage, however minor, could make the difference between life and death.
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