Glock 23 review: Gen 3 vs Gen 4

By Volume, the Glock 23 3rd and 4th generation pistols are among the most popular in the entire Glock portfolio, thanks to such a huge footprint in the law enforcement community.

This is a Glock 23 review: Gen 3 vs. Gen 4 and a basic overview of the Glock 23 and its prowess as a personal defense and duty weapon.

The changes from Generation 3 to four were major for the 23, in a sense that it helped to solidify the pistol as a preeminent option for law enforcement and the defensive shooter.

Glock 23 Review Gen 3 vs Gen 4

Given its compact size and the history of the platform, this gun represents one of the most popular pistols on the planet. It features a relatively powerful .40 S&W cartridge which was at one point the de facto law enforcement cartridge. Unfortunately for some of those who are used to smaller cartridges and those who don't like recoil or muzzle rise, the Glock 23 can be a bit of a handful.

Generation 4 improvements help to mitigate this concern, though, admittedly the Glock 23 in Generation 3 form, was not all that hard to handle for most shooters who choose it.

The Gen 4 improvements, and let's be clear here: they are absolutely improvements - Even the most cynical Glock Gen3 users can likely admit that now; are more than just improvements related to recoil mitigation.

There are a lot of reasons that the Glock 23 has remained so steadfastly popular on the market despite recent years mass migration back to 9mm pistols, and specifically the Glock 17 and Glock 19 among others, recoil mitigation is not the primary factor.

What changed in the Gen 4 model compared to previous Generations (specifically the Gen 3)?

This is a review article of the differences between the Gen 3 G23 and the Gen 4 G23, and there are myriad other resources that can pinpoint the differences between the two generational formats.

While we will highlight the basics of the changes made between generations, the point is to highlight specifically the Glock 23 .40 Smith & Wesson Compact pistol and how the generational improvements have affected the continued reception of the famous gun.

In Generation 4 for all of the Glock pistols that share the distinction, there were several major changes, namely:

  • A wholesale change to the texturing on the grip frame
  • Changeable backstraps with the beavertail system
  • An enlarged, reversible magazine catch
  • Changes to the guide rod, with a dual captured system similar to the 26/27 variant
  • Some minor slide changes, including a stamping of the Gen 4 logo
  • The magazine now has two cutouts for drop free/lockup purposes with the reversible mag release now "official"

Most importantly, you get the grip frame modifications, which make the gun easier to handle for smaller shooters, and more comfortable for larger shooters and generally moves Glock in a more wide-market friendly modular direction, though they have never suffered as a niche product.

You also get a much-improved grip texture, though it's arguably less aesthetically pleasing for some shooters. It is infinitely better for those who sweat on their hands a lot or for those who wear gloves without rubberized palms

Glock 23 Gen 4

Along with the grip texture change, you are getting the modular backstraps. Combined, it's a complete win for the Glock line.

The magazine release along with the new magazine modifications improves the flexibility for left-handed shooters, but also makes the gun more easily used in quick reaction scenarios. The drop free magazines are a huge bonus, and the extended flattened profile of the magazine release is impressively svelte given the massive surface area increase on the part.

The guide rod seemed more like an afterthought and a self-preservation methodology if you reverse engineer it, but years after the Generation 4 changes, our hindsight proves that Glock had adequate foresight.

Not only does the dual recoil spring system mitigate the need for frequent spring replacements, but it does significantly dampen recoil and muzzle rise and it offers a much more reliable system for those who are shooting with a weaker wrist, or under difficult circumstances.

Note: it was not perfect upon release, but in less than two months' time, the entire line of retrofitted pistols with the new guide rod system were functioning well and it has since proven to be a great choice by Glock to move in the round wire; dual sprung, captured guide rob direction.

Glock has made systematic changes to the process it uses to finish the slide and barrel at factory, they have moved away from the more caustic processes, and into industry standard finishes. What started out as the "tenifer" finish has now been turned into a hybrid nitro carburization method that utilizes more mainstream protocols. It still resists rust like a champ and looks better than ever from a color depth and an overall finish perspective.

What stayed the same in the generational changeover?

  • The finger grooves
  • Aftermarket part availability (for the most part – with some exceptions to magazine floorplates; triggers)
  • Accessory rails
  • Thumb depression
  • Glock reliability and durability

What has really changed about the Glock 23 though?

What's important to the author to highlight, is that there has been a max exodus by law enforcement, and proportionately by the general buying public from .40 S&W back to 9mm, in the past few years. Yet, the Glock 23 remains as popular as ever. It is simply not affected by the changeover it seems.

That is a testament to the staying power and capability of the Glock 23 as a defensive and concealment capable firearm. In the sense that the Generation 3 to 4 changeover was transformational, it was also, perhaps helpful in keeping this gun at the forefront of the industry for compact .40's.

The size of the compact 23 remains as popular as ever, even given monumental shifts towards super sub-compact variants across the board for full time carriers. It is still a top tier sales volume model for the Glock brand name.

It's a perfect mix for smaller shooters, of power, capacity and handling capability. The 13 rounds of .40 S&W is more than enough for most scenarios and the ability to use the gun along with other modular pieces to make mix and match pistols that suit the shooter's individual tastes makes it highly interesting for those who aren't sure what they want.

It's still lightweight enough, and small enough to conceal easily for a majority of body types and it is proven to be a special gun from a durability and reliability perspective. A just barely over 4-inch barrel and the famous "safe action" trigger that puts you, chamber loaded, into a relatively safe position to fire immediately in a self defense situation makes it ideal for the job.

So yes, a lot has changed about the Glock 23 from generation 3 to generation 4, but in the grand scheme of things it's like a fine wine (which you have probably never heard when referencing a Glock – or any other polymer framed gun), the G23 has gotten better and it's still as good as it always was in the ways that it wasn't materially affected in, by the generational changes.

What you buy a Glock pistol for, this G23 does well, just as every Glock before it has done. What you wish you had in previous generations, this Gen 4 pistol does well. What you need in a concealed carry or otherwise duty carry gun, this Gen 4 Glock 23 can do well. It's a well-rounded, exceptionally built variant for the .40 user.

A lot remains the same too, though, and the Glock line is very good about being historically capable.

You still have the polygonal barrel rifling that ensures good gas seal and easy maintenance as well as higher velocities. You also get the Safe action trigger that makes it difficult to accidentally discharge a cartridge and allows you to carry in a ready condition.

Furthermore, the mounting rail stays on from gen 3, as well as the changes to the surface metal finishes and the finger grooves, which, while very handy, have been met with some disdain by some shooters.

It's not a mixed bag though, you get a cohesion that hasn't ever been manifested in the Glock lineup so well, and it proves that Glock has the consumer in mind when redesigning their pistols. 


The Glock 23 is better than ever in the Generation 4 variety, but the Generation 3 isn't lacking either. The point? The Glock 23 is an impeccable concealed carry or duty firearm that's been masquerading as a mainstream commodity pistol for years and has always been good; and just got better.

What's that saying? "The more things change, the more they stay the same"? In the case of the Glock 23 Gen 3 vs. Gen 4 the more the gun changes, the more you realize why you were purchasing a Glock in the first place because it's as good as it ever was and even more refined.

Watch a Glock 23 review from hickok45

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