The other day on the ATA Facebook page, I shared a link to an article that rumored the Navy SEALs will be switching over from Sig pistols to Glock 19’s. Now I have absolutely no way of knowing if this is true (the rumor is pretty suspect since it came via M4carbine.net), but I mentioned in the FB post that the Glock 19 is my handgun of choice. Since my current focus is really on pistol classes until I am able to get the rifle and small unit tactics classes up and running, and since I recommend a good pistol as the starting point for the would-be armed citizen, aaaaaaand since this is something that has been coming up in conversations with students a lot lately, I figured I would address the topic of handguns for the armed citizen.
One Gun to Rule Them All
When somebody asks me what a good pistol is or whether I will come with them to pick out a pistol, I tell them this: You need to get the biggest handgun that you can carry concealed, and for most people that gun is the Glock 19.
So why the Glock 19, specifically? I mean, I could tell you about Glock’s legendary reputation for building reliable and rugged pistols, or I could prattle on about how the streamlined Safe Action makes them a breeze to use for fighting. I could even demonstrate their accuracy in a video, and show you the abundance of magazines, holsters, spare parts, and other accessories for these guns, but there are many pistols that meet all those same criteria: striker-fired, reliable, streamlined, available, accurate, etc.
What really sets the Glock 19 apart from all the rest is that it accomplishes all those things while maintaining what may be the perfect size for a general-purpose handgun.
You see, while the G19 is smaller than most traditional service pistols, it’s still bigger than what has historically been called a “compact” pistol. With a G19, you can wrap both your hands around it and really run the gun the way you need to, but it’s still small enough to maintain concealability when carried covertly and convenience when worn openly.
If you’re using a pistol for a home defense weapon (and you might be if you don’t yet have a long gun), then the Glock 19 will work just fine for you. If you’re carrying concealed, then the Glock 19 will work just fine for you. If you’re getting all jocked up in your tac gear to go out on patrol and you want a sidearm, then the Glock 19 will work just fine for you. Basically, there’s nothing this little pistol won’t do. The Glock 19 is a true jack-of-all-trades when it comes to combat handgunnery.
Okay, What’s the Catch?
Now with all that said, I know you’re probably wondering what I haven’t told you about my favorite pistol. Well the reality is that there are a few downsides that are worth mentioning, but you’ll see that they’re really not big deals.
The first, and most common complaint that I hear about the Glock 19 is that it doesn’t “fit my hand.” Glock pistols have a big, fat grips, and a lot of shooters with smaller hands complain that the Glock’s grip is too fat. While it may be easier or more comfortable for a smaller-handed shooter to hold a slimmer grip, it doesn’t really present any kind of a problem for most people running a Glock. You have to look at the objective results – not the subjective feelings – of using the gun. For example, this eleven-year-old girl seems to have no trouble running a standard Glock 19 at all, and I’m sure her hands are smaller than yours:
It’s also worth noting that there are two things that have gone a long way to combat the “grip too fat” problem. The first is that the current Generation 4 Glocks have an ever-so-slightly slimmer grip than previous generations as well as larger magazine release buttons that are easier to reach for those with smaller hands.
The second is that Glock pistols are polymer-framed and can be easily modified. Brooke’s G19 had a grip-reduction job applied to it from Cold Bore Customs, and she absolutely loves her slim-grip Glock 19. Regardless of her preference for the slimmer-gripped gun, however, she can still run the standard Glock 19 just fine.
The only other real “weakness” to the gun – if you can call it that – is its size.
That’s right, its size. I know that I said above that the Glock 19’s size was perfect and possibly the biggest selling point in favor of this gun, but the size of the gun also carries inherent limitations. Glock 19-sized guns are not quite as shootable as larger guns like the Glock 17/22 or the Glock 34/35. A bigger gun will always be easier to shoot accurately at speed, and the Glock 19 isn’t a big gun.
The Glock 19 is also a little too big for some to conceal in more formal clothing (I’m primarily talking to the ladies on this one, but it applies to men who work in professional environments). Subcompact single-stack guns like the Glock 43 or the S&W Shield do better in those roles.
But here’s the thing: Those big guns that make good shooters and those little guns that are super-easy to conceal are really specialist guns that excel in their niches. Yes, I know that you might be able to conceal a Glock 17 on your person or that you know somebody who can shoot their Shield just as a fast as other dudes can shoot their Glock 34’s, but I’m talking in something called “generalities.” For most people, the thing I said above about those guns being niche holds true.
Think about it: is a multitool as good of a screwdriver as a battery-powered Dewalt screw gun? Of course not. Is the multitool as compact and easy to carry as a small folding case knife? No, obviously it isn’t.
But you know what the multitool is? A freaking multitool. It’s the second best at everything, which makes it the best at one thing: versatility. The Glock 19 is the multitool of handguns; it might not be as good of a shooter as a larger gun, and it might not be as concealable as a smaller gun, but it’s plenty big enough to shoot well and plenty small enough to conceal. In other words, it strikes the perfect balance between concealability and shootability.
The Bottom Line
If you plan to get just one handgun, then it should be the Glock 19; it’s stupid reliable, it’s chambered for the inexpensive and perfectly adequate 9mm cartridge, it’s accurate, it’s readily available, it’s fairly priced, it has any & all manner of available accessories, and it’s the perfect size to do 95%+ of what you need a handgun to do. My advice to you regarding your pistol purchase is this:
- Buy a Glock 19 and a good holster.
- Carry said Glock 19 in said holster EVERY SINGLE DAY.
- Put Better Sights on that thing.
- Take a training class or two (I don’t know, maybe like ATA Pistol I or ATA Pistol II…).
- Practice like crazy (be sure to change out that recoil spring every 3,000-5,000 rounds).
- Stop worrying about what handgun to buy.
If you determine – for whatever reason – that you can’t carry a Glock 19 on your body most of the time, then my second choice would probably be a single-stack 9mm pistol like the Glock 43 or S&W Shield 9. In fact, I will just go ahead and say now that one of those should be your second handgun, right after the Glock 19. Pretty much everybody is capable concealing and carrying one of those virtually 100% of the time.
With those two guns – a Glock 19 and a Glock 43 (or a Shield), you will have all your bases covered when it comes to handguns. You will have a more-or-less “full sized” gun as your primary pistol and a much smaller gun to use either as a backup or a “deep concealment” gun when you can’t hide the Glock 19. That pretty much takes care of everything you need with regards to handguns.
If you find yourself saying ridiculous things like, “That 9mm is for pansies!” or “Glocks are fine for beginners, but the 1911 is a real gunfigther’s pistol!” then please allow me cut through all the crap and break it down for you like this: all handguns and handgun cartridges suck. They are all pitiful fight stoppers. So quit investing your ego into your choice of handgun/caliber, and view the weapon for what it is: a tool that you use for a particular job. The best all-around tool for that job – and the one that gives you the most bang for your buck – is the Glock 19. So just get one, start carrying it, and stop obsessing over handguns.
I’m former marine (who served in Ben’s platoon) and currently a law enforcement officer in the state of Georgia. Well written Ben. For anyone reading this article looking to buy a firearm I second the glock 19. Having studied pistol ballistics and seen plenty of pistol caliber injuries I agree that a pistol is a weapon to be used when a.rifle is not availabe. Pistol calibers are not a quick end to most fights. Don’t fret over articles claiming the 9mm is not sufficient. What’s important when defending yourself with a handgun is ammo selection, shot placement, and multiple rounds accurately on target. Research your ammunition choice for self defense. There have been huge strides lately in defensive ammunition technology and 9mm can do plenty with the proper choice. I’ve seen it. Train, train, train. No caliber will help you if your round aren’t on target. Shot placement is key to ending a confrontation especially with a handgun.
Semper Fi Ben.