In Round 2 of our series of handgun showdowns, we compared the Glock 19 and the Glock 23. Since those two are practically the same pistol and the only thing different about them were the rounds they were chambered for, we ended up having to compare 15 rounds of 9mm vs. 13 rounds of .40 S&W.
The showdown ended with a draw. It would all boil down to individual preferences.
And it wasn’t easy comparing those two, so I’m hoping today’s comparison will be a bit easier.
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Table of Contents
Too many compact handguns, why not get a full-size?
The answer to that question is very simple: smaller guns are easier to conceal carry. If you want more info on conceal-carrying and what your best options are, check out this post.
On Glock’s website there are only 14 compact/subcompact models in different calibers while there are only six “standard”-size pistols and only three “competition”-type long slides.
Both the Glock 17 and the Glock 34 are kind of in the same odd category — they are both bigger in total dimensions and have relatively longer barrel lengths compared to the majority of semi-autos Glock offers.
The Glock 17 vs. The Glock 34: In A NutShell
Looking at these polymer handguns’ specs on Glock’s website, we see no practical difference between them.
They both use the same frame size and they’re both chambered for the small, light and speedy — but some would argue it’s a bit wimpy — 9×19 Parabellum (I think the 9mm is a fine option for self defense. If you want to learn more, you can check out an article I wrote recently where I compared it to the .357 SIG).
Besides their similarities, Glock is also marketing both for law enforcement, handgun enthusiasts and competitive shooting.
But why is the Glock 17 being marketed as a first-time buyer’s handgun while the Glock 34 isn’t? They’re practically the same handguns. It just makes no sense!
Well, let’s try and find out.
The Tale of the Tape
|Glock 17||Glock 34|
|Length: 8.03 in.||Length: 8.81 in.|
|Height: 5.43 in.||Height: 5.43 in.|
|Width: 1.18 in.||Width: 1.18 in.|
|Barrel Height: 1.26 in.||Barrel Height: 1.26 in.|
|Barrel Length: 4.48 in.||Barrel Length: 5.31 in.|
|Sight Radius: 6.49 in.||Sight Radius 7.55 in.|
|Weight (mag empty): 25.06 oz.||Weight (mag empty): 25.77 oz.|
|Weight (mag full): 32.12 oz||Weight (mag full): 32.83 oz.|
|Trigger Pull: around 5.5 lbs.||Trigger Pull: around 4.5 lbs.|
|Trigger Travel: 0.49 in.||Trigger Travel: 0.49 in.|
|Barrel Rifling: right hand, hexagonal||Barrel Rifling: right hand, hexagonal|
|Length of Twist: 1 in 9.84 in.||Length of Twist: 1 in 9.84 in.|
|Magazine Capacity: 17 rounds||Magazine Capacity: 17 rounds|
|Optional Mags: 10- and 33-round mags||Optional Mags: 10-, 15- and 33-round mags|
A quick glance at each of the handguns’ specs doesn’t tell us any major difference between them.
The Glock 17’s slide length is only about eight-tenths of an inch shorter than the Glock 34’s, but the latter’s slide being longer has to have a cutout on top to make it a tad lighter so that the 9mm’s somewhat gentle recoil can still cycle the rounds in the magazine reliably, i.e. eject the empty case and feed a new round in the chamber.
I would guess if the slide of the Glock 34 doesn’t have that cutout, it will fail to extract or eject empty brass.
We also see the sight radius on the Glock 17 to be 1.06 inches shorter compared to the Glock 34’s. And the Glock 17 has a slightly shorter barrel compared to the Glock 34’s, about eight-tenths of an inch, which makes it about seven-tenths of an inch lighter with the mag empty.
They’re not really the same, are they?
Besides a few of only minor differences, we would be tempted to say these handguns are exactly the same.
They use the same frame with the same measurements, and even the number of rounds each can fit in their respective magazines are the same: 17 rounds of 9mm for stock mags, and the same aftermarket 10-round and 33-round mags are also available for both.
But if they’re not too different from each other, why are they priced differently?
Because one’s trigger pull is lighter
The Glock 34 has a 1-lb lighter trigger pull compared to the Glock 17’s.
So what’s with a lighter trigger pull weight? Why is it such a big deal?
A lighter trigger pull has its pros and cons. Let’s look at them in more detail.
Less sway, more accurate shots
A lighter trigger pull means you don’t have to put too much force or effort to squeeze the trigger. You can focus more on aiming because you won’t be distracted by whether or not the gun would sway a little in all directions while you’re squeezing the trigger. Less sway also means a more stable barrel, which results in tighter shot grouping.
In self defense situations, accuracy equates to better shot placement, which is way more important than your gun’s magazine capacity or the ballistic performance of the round you’re using. A .22 long rifle (.22 lr) heart shot is infinitely more preferable than a .45 acp shot in the air.
Accuracy is also requirement in competitive shooting, especially if you are competing in IDPA where self defense scenarios are simulated and more accurate shots give better scores.
Faster shots when needed
For self defense scenarios, particularly when there are more than one person hell-bent on causing you pain, a lighter trigger pull results in you pumping lead in them faster — provided you put enough time in the range for practice.
Shooting three to five rounds of 9mm center mass will be easier than if your gun had a trigger pull of ~100 lbs (okay, that was an exaggeration but you get the point).
For practice and competitive shooting, a lighter trigger pull will give someone the edge they need for when they have to meet or exceed a target time. This is especially useful when competing in USPSA and IPSC, where faster times count toward higher scores.
Sounds Good — But What’s the catch?
For someone who only recently just acquired their first gun, or for people who don’t practice enough, the benefit of having a handgun with a lighter trigger pull might be insignificant and even questionable in self defense situations.
I personally have never found myself in such a situation where I had to pull my gun’s trigger at someone to survive. I attribute this to me being observant when walking outside especially during night time, as I’ve read in a few online articles such as this one that criminals tend to be attracted to people who are unaware of what’s happening in their surroundings. Often, just talking to people while looking them in the eye does the trick, at least for me.
But I’m almost certain that if I get in such a situation where I would have to draw my gun to stay alive, I wouldn’t have problems pulling the trigger even if it had a 15-lb. or greater pull because of a hormone all of us are capable of producing when subjected to stress: adrenaline.
In highly stressful life-threatening situations, our body gets pumped up with it, which makes us physically stronger to the point that we can lift objects much heavier than we normally could.
Heck, a lighter trigger pull might even result in accidental discharges in life-threatening situations where we can lose fine motor control and fumble with a gun’s grips and trigger.
If you’re not being careful or if you just haven’t developed what firearms enthusiasts like to call “trigger discipline” as a habit yet (i.e. the habit of holding your gun without sticking your index finger inside its trigger guard, as shown in the photo above), a lighter trigger pull might result in an accidental discharge — you might accidentally pull the trigger and fire a round, which might cost you your life or someone else’s.
Unlike the 1911 that has two external safety features (grip safety and thumb safety), Glock handguns have no external safety features other than the one built into the trigger — the moment it is actuated, even when the user doesn’t intend to, the gun will shoot.
So that is the catch. The only real safety for any Glock pistol is for the user to have trigger discipline. If you’re not too confident with this, then the Glock 34 — or any Glock for that matter — is not for you.
Glock 17 and Glock 34 Barrel Conversion
If for some reason you happen to own both the Glock 34 and the Glock 17, with those two using the same size frame, their slides and barrels are interchangeable and can be swapped. But there is really no point in doing that, is there?
As for other caliber conversions, Glock enthusiasts have a rule of thumb: you can only do a lateral or a downgrade conversion, as converting to a higher caliber (an upgrade) might result in catastrophies of epic proportions. For example, if you have a Glock in .45 acp, you can convert it to .40 S&W (lateral) and to 9mm and .380 acp (downgrade).
Some people claim that they were able to convert their Glock 34 to accept .40 S&W rounds by changing the slide, barrel, trigger group and buying new mags. While this might work for some, we don’t recommend it. As far as doing a true upgrade conversion a Glock, the only “upgrade” conversion that makes sense is moving from .45 acp to .460 Rowland.
What’s the point in converting?
Considering the additional expenses you’ll incur after the base gun, if you’re really itching to set up a dual or even a multi-caliber system, get the highest caliber Glock you can comfortably shoot (like a Glock 20 in 10mm) so you can buy the all the available conversion kits and mags for all your favorite handgun calibers.
Unfortunately for both the Glock 17 and the Glock 34, since the 9mm is in the lower end of the caliber spectrum, you can conveniently convert to only the .380 acp or the .22 lr, which is kind of pointless.
Aftermarket Parts Availability
These are both Glocks. Availability for upgrades won’t be an issue. And both have the same accessory rail in front of the frame so you can attach a laser or a flashlight if you want.
Note: All pricing info in this article was gathered from Glock’s website.
At the time of this writing, the Glock 17 Gen 3 with two 17-round mags is selling for $475, while the Gen 4 variant costs $549.
On the other hand, the Glock 34 Gen 3 with two 17-round mags is selling for $589, while the Gen 4 variant costs $648.
Ease Of Concealment
Regarding concealment, I don’t think Glock meant for these two pistols to be marketed for conceal-carry weapon (CCW) buyers. If I want a Glock 9mm for conceal carry, I wouldn’t get either of these two. I’d go for the Glock 26 with its 10-round mags instead.
Granted the Glock 26 has seven less rounds in its mag compared to the Glock 17’s and the Glock 34’s 17-round mags, but 10 rounds of quality JHPs should be more than adequate for self defense, and there’s literally a ton of great self defense loads for the 9mm that we had to create a list of the best ones.
You can still try conceal carrying either the Glock 17 or the Glock 34 if it’s the only handgun you own and you have an absolute need to conceal-carry. If you’re tall and wear large clothes anyway, all you’ll need is a good inside-waistband (IWB) holster.
If you’re short, it’ll be difficult but not impossible. Maybe a strong, comfortable leather shoulder holster will do the trick.
As for the trigger pull issue, my own everyday carry (EDC) piece, a gunsmith-customized 4-inch Norc 1911, has a trigger pull of only 3.5-lb. and I’m not worried about any accidental discharges.
If I have a Glock 34 as a CCW, its 4.5-lb trigger pull won’t be a threat to me or my family, just to the bad guys. But your mileage may vary. So really, just get the Glock 26.
Concealment talks aside, if you only need a range or competition handgun in 9mm and you have to choose between these two, you should get the Glock 34. It will shoot faster and more accurately with its slightly longer and heavier barrel and its 1-lb. lighter trigger pull on it.
But the Glock 34 is also $99 to $114 more expensive than the Glock 17 (depending on which Generation you’re looking to buy), which makes it a bit of a hard sell. So for the budget conscious, the Glock 17 will be the better option.
All things considered, I personally don’t see the point in getting the Glock 34 for any practical purpose other than competitive shooting. The $$$ I can save by buying the Glock 17 can go to more practice ammo. More ammo means more fun in the range.
If you haven’t owned or fired a gun before and you’re considering buying any of these two pistols, or if you’re just new to Glocks, the Glock 17 will also be a great option because of its slightly heavier trigger pull as compared to the Glock 34. But you’ll still need to keep your finger off the trigger — that 5.5lb trigger pull weight can and will result in an accidental discharge if you’re not careful.
So, for this handgun showdown, there can be no doubt: the winner is the Glock 17.