Gun Review: GLOCK 34 Gen 4

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This is a reader gun review. 

By Renegade Dave

If you’ve ever shot a defensive pistol match, you probably came away with a couple conclusions. The first is that “tactical” vests are probably the worst/most obvious “concealment” garment a civilian could ever hope for. The Second is that the GLOCK 34 is as ubiquitous as bad do-it-yourself memes. Even as the current iteration of the long slide gets longer in the tooth, it still sits atop the pile of other plastic wonder nines and also-rans in the competitive circuit . . .

That’s really what the long slide 34 is about: competition shooting. GLOCK has since launched a series of web commercials suggesting the long slides are for “tactical” use as well, and that may be true to some extent. As it is, the 34 is approved for USPSA Production and IDPA Stock Service Pistol and Enhanced Service Pistol competition. Even with tall sights, the 34 will fit in the IDPA box (providing you don’t want a tall baseplate on your mag). I suppose you could run the 34 for Limited and Limited 10 but you are locked into minor scoring. If Limited is your preference, it’s worth looking at a 35. The 34 is a popular fixture at 3 Gun as well.

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Overall Appearance
This is one aspect of the gun that is well documented at this point in the history of the internet. Put simply, the GLOCK is a plain looking gun. The slide is basically a hollowed out piece of bar stock with all of the hard corners rounded and some cocking serrations cut in the rear.

This variant features a lightening cut along the top of the slide to keep weight down. The roll marks are plain jane and nowhere near as exciting as the theater that takes place on the XD, M&P, or PPQ slides. The frame is pure vanilla with no exciting “GRIP ZONES” or fancy moldings barring the small “GLOCK” logo. Due to GLOCK’s marketing success, the iconography means a lot of people think a GLOCK is what a handgun looks like…for better or worse. There’s not much more than can be said about the gun that glancing at the photos won’t tell you.

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I suspect the slide is as simple as it is for a reason. Fewer cuts, contours and gingerbread mean less machine time during production, making finishing the slide likely faster and easier.  There is some Spartan beauty in a GLOCK’s plain-ness, but not nearly enough to earn it the positive moniker, “sleek”.

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Fit and Finish
GLOCKS are very consistent from example to example within a given generation. The slides are all “space without the stars” in color with a very smooth finish in the more recent Gen 4’s. Earlier Gen 4s (pre-beavertail notch) had a rougher texture to them. The finish the 34 wears well and is extremely resilient.

As with any finish, the slide will show minor holster wear with extended use. Rusting will typically only result from wanton negligence (leaving it in salt water for days) or desire (intentionally leaving it in saltwater for days). GLOCK barrels are treated with the same finish, but the barrel will begin to show wear on the hood after 500-700 +/- rounds and the tip of the barrel will begin to show wear in the finish (“smiley”) after north of 1000 rounds (generally).

GLOCKs are designed to have comparatively looser slide to frame fit. This allows for better operation in adverse conditions. That’s not to say it’s by any means “loose,” but it won’t come off the shelf like a higher end 1911 that requires a herculean effort to cycle the slide until it’s been broken in. An off-the-shelf GLOCK will manipulate about as well as a “broken in” model, maybe slightly stiffer. The barrel locks up very tightly when the gun is in battery, but the whole slide will have some very minor side-to-side play. The extractor will sit flush to the slide when unloaded and slightly protrude from the slide with a round in the chamber.

The frame is made about as well as a frame of this design can be made. There are no seams anywhere your hand interfaces with the frame. On my Gen 4 examples there is a seam/rough edge around the mag well, which is annoying. Actually loading the magazine into the gun is pretty easy, but when you’re on the clock in competition, it’s easy(er) to flub a reload with a GLOCK. I don’t like the design of the mag well. The FNS-9 has a brilliant mag well, and I hope GLOCK takes a hint in the next iteration.

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The stock sights are basically “space fillers” until you buy something aftermarket to put on your gun. The standard sight picture is the “ball in a cup” / “ U-dot” / “field goal” sighting system that isn’t very popular despite the fact they actually do a decent job.

The G34 ships with an adjustable rear sight in place of the fixed version found on most other models. If you practice drawing a lot, which most competition shooters do, the front sight can get rounded off on the corners if it rubs the holster on extraction. Apparently the plastic the sights are made of is softer than the Kydex that makes up most holsters. Those in the southeastern US can take their stock GLOCKs to the mothership in Smyrna and have factory night sights installed on your gun for just shy of $60. Here is a picture of some fixed GLOCKsights not on my gun.

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The magazines are metal jobs coated in polymer. They are reasonably easy to load to capacity even when new. As the springs break in you can sometimes stuff a “bonus” round in there. Floor plates are simple to remove if you’re OCD and don’t like your floor plates getting banged up in competition. Or if you want to use some 140mm or 170mm affairs for some USPSA goodness. When you’re on the clock, you can use Armor All wipes on the sides of the mags to ensure drop free functionality (I’ve seen it done, but not sure it’s really required).

Ease of Use
The GLOCK manual of arms is as simple as it gets. Placing your finger on the trigger depresses the dingus/dongle/trigger tab/whatchamacallit that moves a little plastic edge (that would otherwise protrude from the rear of the trigger and catch the frame) allowing the trigger to continue rearward. As the trigger moves to the rear, a hump on the trigger bar inside the frame pushes up the barbell shaped firing pin block in the slide (firing pin safety) and simultaneously finishes the cocking of the striker. The rear movement of the trigger drops the cruciform at the rear of the trigger bar off the drop safety “shelf” and releases the striker.

That sounds like a lot going on, but the shorter version is, you pull the trigger, the magic happens, the shot breaks and a hole shows up somewhere down range of the business end of the gun. No manual safeties to disengage. Very nice.

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The magazine release in the Gen 4s is large, however not as easy to use as the large button suggests. The oversized button takes the same force in the same area of the button as the smaller Gen 3 release. You can’t just throw your thumb over it and press. More than likely you’ll end up having to shift your grip, engaging the button toward the trigger guard end with the point of your firing hand thumb.

The magazines drop free just fine depending on the angle of the grip at the time of release, but the mag release doesn’t throw the magazine out. The release can be swapped over to the opposite side for lefties, but like other ambi-capable designs obstructing the rear of the mag catch on the other side of the frame prevent the mag from dropping free.

The stock slide stop on the 34 is considered “extended” but it’s smallish, but it’s not as diminutive as the stop on smaller-framed GLOCKs. The slide rockets forward into battery with a comfortable sweep of the thumb…if you’re right handed. Lefties get no love, as the release is not at all ambidextrous.

Disassembly
GLOCK basically set the standard for ease of disassembly. Drop the mag, rack the slide and verify the chamber is empty. Put the empty gun in battery, point in a safe direction and, yes, pull trigger. Now pull the slide slightly to the rear and pull the takedown tabs with your free hand toward the floor. The slide will now exit the gun from the front of the frame.

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The whole process takes maybe 10 seconds. The photo above shows a convenient way to pull the slide back for disassembly. With the slide off, you can lift out the recoil spring assembly (RSA) out of the slide and then the barrel. Now you’re field stripped.

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To reassemble the gun, put the barrel back into the slide, then feed the fat end of the RSA into the front of the slide, slightly compress the RSA and work the rear into place on the barrel lug. Feed the assembled slide back onto the rails on the frame and pull the slide all the way to the back and release. No big deal.

Ergonomics – In the Hand
The 34 is a fairly light weight job for its size, even fully loaded and plussed up to 18 rounds of 9mm. The balance is decidedly top heavy as most polymer framed pistols are, especially when the gun is unloaded. The grip angle has been hotly debated since forever. It’s steeper than the gold standard established with a 1911. You can love it or hate it, but “it is what it is” as they say.

The shape of the grip is kind of lackluster based on the current offerings in this market segment. On one side of the aisle you have the M&Ps, PPQs and VP-9s that are sculpted to fit a human’s hand. On the other side there’s the XD/XD(M)s, P320s, FNSs and P09s with the classic oblong cylinder typically thought of as a gun’s grip. Somewhere in the middle is the GLOCK.

The front strap is molded with finger grooves, yet the backstrap kind of falls in the oblong cylinder with a hump category. In short, you have to design your grip around a GLOCK. It wasn’t designed around your grip. It’s reminiscent of a 2×4 with eased edges.

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You may look at the trigger guard and think, “Hey, they relieved trigger guard!” It sure looks that way, but the square corner is unforgiving and rubs. This leads to a callous over the middle knuckle of the middle finger some folks affectionately refer to as “GLOCK knuckle”. This is why trigger guard undercuts are a popular frame modification to GLOCKs in competition shooting.

But it’s not all bad news on the frame. It sports a shelf along the side providing an excellent ledge to anchor the heel of your palm and thumb for your support hand. The Gen4 puts the Gen3 frame on a diet so folks with smallish to medium hands should be comfortable with the trigger reach.

It’s worth mentioning that the backstrap of the full-frame GLOCKs differs from the compact and subcompact offerings. For me the full-frame GLOCK provides easier access to the trigger than either the 19 or 26. The removable backstraps provide options for tuning the length of pull. Beavertails keep our thicker-fisted friends from the heartbreak of slide bite. The grip texturing of the Gen 4 is aggressive without being over the top, and most seem to like it.

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Ergonomics – Firing
The 34 really shines when it’s breathing fire at cardboard or paper bad guys. The combination of a low bore axis, high hand positioning, and a strong support hand welded to the frame leads to grins on even the most experienced shooters. The sights minimally lift in recoil and the “good enough” sight picture nets quality 0- or A-zone hits if you do your part. Mechanically, it all works as it ought to and the sum is somehow greater than the parts.

Fresh from the factory, the 34 sports a standard “minus” connector, or 3.5 pound connector. This nets a trigger pull with a break of 5 to 6 lbs when new.  With some polishing or lots of shooting, that trigger break comes down to 4 to 4.5 lbs, maybe less. The trigger has a long double-action type travel like most striker fired pistols in this category. It is effectively a 2-stage trigger with very light slack and a clearly defined wall. The break is predictable and a little creepy/spongy. After the break there is some overtravel. In higher round count examples, the trigger begins to feel more like a lightly gritty rolling break. The trigger face is fairly broad and smooth on the full size models allowing great contact with the trigger finger.

For most, the GLOCK trigger takes a good bit of practice before attaining anything approaching precision or mastery. A lot of right-handed shooters put shots left with GLOCKs and will swear up and down they need to drift the sights. Usually more of the first pad of your trigger finger is required to get nice uniform pressure on the trigger face as you pull straight to the back.

The trigger reset is where the GLOCK system really shines. It’s short, very pronounced and once it resets you’re right at the breaking point again, so follow ups don’t tear up your sight picture too badly. The quick reset is a highly desirable characteristic in a competition gun and, I would argue, a self-defense gun as well.

Reliability
GLOCKs have storied reliability. They’ve been dropped in just about every kind of mud puddle and sand slurry to see if they will still still cycle. They usually do. This particular model has successfully touched off close to 2000 rounds of 115 grain, 124 grain and 147 grain projectiles in the few months it’s been in my possession. The ammo has been a mix of different roundnose loads ranging from Federal White Box, Winchester White Box, Winchester Train & Defend, to Atlanta Arms and Freedom Munitions.

I’ve not bothered with hollow points, but I have no reason to believe it would have any issue chambering them given my experience with GLOCKs whose mission is self-defense. I have never had a feeding issue, failure to fire, or any sort of ejection issue.

Accuracy
Rather than use this space to show you pictures of how I can nearly make five 9mm diameter holes touch at 7-10 yards (or not, because I’m a lousy bullseye shooter), allow me to regale you with why the 34 is desired for its accuracy: sight radius. That’s the distance between the rear of the front sight and the rear of the back sight. The effect of sight misalignment becomes more pronounced the further the target is down range. The longer sight radius mitigates the effect of misalignment somewhat.

In bag-rested conditions the difference between, say, a 17 and 34 may be hard to appreciate. Shooting off-hand and on the clock, the effect becomes more obvious. The 34 is promoted as having over and inch more distance between the sights than the GLOCK 17, and an inch and a half over the GLOCK 19. This is a little misleading. The 34 is set up with the rear sight flush with the back of the slide while the 17 comes with a fixed sight that extends straight up from the rear sight dovetail. If both a 17 and 34 are set up with the same set of sights, the difference in sight radius shrinks to the difference in slide length. Some aftermarket sights can actually increase or decrease the sight radius.

As a bonus, the 34 generally has the longest barrel allowable in most competition divisions at 5.31 inches. Plus, it has polygonal rifling. The marketing department at GLOCK will tell you that makes the pistol more accurate due to increased velocity of the bullet compared to conventional rifling. While this has been tested and observed to be true with a chronograph, I don’t think any shooter alive is precise enough to really exploit this design feature to their benefit. But what the fancy shmancy rifiling does do is allow the effective use of downloaded ammunition.

All of that said, the sight radius and longer barrel will not magically grant you the ability to centerpunch a target at 25 yards if you didn’t have the chops to begin with. It should help you speed up your sight picture and generally help you get better hits than a shorter slide variant in dynamic shooting.

Doing side-by-side comparisons with a GLOCK 19 and 17 and the 34, I was able to post slightly faster times (less searching for sight picture due to more daylight between the posts even with the same sights) and better hits as the slide is longer. That’s an extremely personal anecdote and your mileage may very well vary, but many guys I shoot with report similar results. If my goal was bullseye shooting at longer ranges, the 34 wouldn’t be my first or even my second or third choice.

Aftermarket Options
If you compete with a full-framed GLOCK, the world is your oyster. You have myriad choices of holsters, sights, frame modification services, doodads to rest your thumb on, slide plate covers, grip plugs, magazine base plates, extended or reduced sized controls, alternate manufacturer internal parts, aftermarket frames and slides, manual safeties, and, and, and…it’s ridiculous.

If the stars align and your GLOCK actually goes down at a match and you don’t have a backup, in IDPA about a fifth of the shooters should be able to help you out. In USPSA you’re likely still covered, although not as enthusiastically as in IDPA. Factory mags are comparatively inexpensive ($30-35, as low as $25 to $20 if you’re a savvy shopper) and widely available (as long as Democrats have not won any major elections recently). The Gen 4s also come with 3 magazines, giving it a leg up on other longslides.

Overall, the gun represents a great value, both in initial cost and in the peripherals required to get set up with a competition rig. While the platform itself isn’t the best at any one thing, it’s “good enough” at all of them. It will never be a barbeque gun, or something people look at and fawn over, but it will do exactly as advertised. For people who don’t shoot for a living, a 34 makes a lot of sense as a competition gun.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Caliber: 9 mm Luger (9×19)
Magazine Capacity: 17 Round
Barrel Length: 5.31″
Overall Length: 8.74″
Sight Radius: 7.55″
Height: 5.43″
Width: 1.18″
Weight Empty: 25.95 oz.
Weight Loaded: 33.01 oz.
Price: Street price ranges from $625-$700+. In my area $650 is most common.

 

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Style * * *
It’s not going to win any beauty contests. Some will argue the simpleness of the design is beautiful.

Ergonomics (in hand) * * *
If I wrote this review 3-4 years ago, I would score it higher, but there are other offerings in this segment that are far more comfortable.

Ergonomics (firing) * * * *
Low bore axis, nice little shelf, wonderful trigger reset. One off for trigger break.

Reliability * * * * *
Zero failures in this example at the time of this writing.

Overall * * * *
The 34 is a no-frills gamer gun. Those weighing an entrance into practical/action shooting will be well served by a GLOCK 34.

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