Since its introduction in 1983 in the star-crossed, CZ-75-inspired Bren Ten, the 10mm Auto cartridge has followed an all-too-familar trajectory curve in terms of popularity. It has gone from “The Next Big Thing” to cult status, having been pushed along the way by the almost-unprecedented acceptance of the .40 S&W.
However, the 10mm Auto is still considerably more potent than the .40 S&W. And chambered in the Glock 20, it represents about the upper limits of ballistic potential you’re going to get in any real-world auto pistol.
I’d owned an S&W Model 610 10mm revolver a long time ago, and, as much as I liked it, I really couldn’t justify keeping a 61/2-inch N-frame with anything less than “44” stamped on the barrel. Prior to that, I’d heard sea stories about the 10mm’s power from old fans of the Colt Delta Elite, however, and had always wanted to try it in a self-loader. The Gen 4 Glock 20 seemed like a natural—15+1 rounds on tap from a 271/2-ounce platform that resembled a Glock 17 (a pistol I admire) on steroids. I’d seen a lot of hog hunters packing earlier-generation versions of the 20 and figured that if there was such a thing as a serious hunting auto, this would be it.
Since the Glock 17 9mm is pretty much the dimensional yardstick of the company line, the 20 has a 7.59 OAL compared with the 17’s 7.32 OAL and an unloaded weight of 27.6 ounces compared with the 22-ounce weight of the 17. The grips are wider and beefier to accommodate the larger cartridge, of course, but the difference really isn’t all that radical. Yes, it’s a bigger gun than the 17, but the magazine capacity (15+1) is almost as impressive. And the power level of full-house 10mm loads (we’re not talking late-1980s “10 Lite” here) are a lot closer to the .41 Magnum than they are to the 9mm Parabellum.
Basically, the Gen 4 Glocks feature a more aggressive nonslip frame surface; replaceable backstraps and enlarged magazine-release catch; a notched magazine to allow a more positive operation; and a dual recoil-spring assembly to increase spring life and decrease felt recoil. To be honest, when I shot a Gen 4 17 9mm, I was unable to perceive any real difference as opposed to earlier models. However, the 10mm Glock 20 was soft-shooting enough to convince me that the dual-spring setup was doing something good. The Gen 4 20 did a commendable job of taming the 10mm. In fact, it was considerably less obnoxious than .357 SIGs I’ve shot in terms of muzzle upflip and general squirminess. However, the 10mm is a concussive number, and I would not care to shoot one without all the ear protection I could get.
- A Gen 4 feature: Replaceable backstrap inserts to tailor the gun to your individual grip.
My pre-range ammo roundup was complicated a bit by the fact that the world isn’t exactly awash with 10mm ammo. However, what is available is pretty impressive. I was able to lay hands on two energetic numbers from Buffalo Bore featuring a 180-grain Barnes JHC and a rather intimidating 220-grain Hard Cast. Both are called “Heavy 10mm,” and that’s as good an example of truth in advertising as you’re likely to find. The 180-grain load is factory rated at 1,350 fps, while the 220-grain is said to come in at 1,200 fps. The averages I got were 1,264 and 1,145 fps, respectively, from the Glock’s 4.6-inch barrel. I have little doubt that slightly more barrel would result in meeting, or surpassing, factory claims.
The next load I used was Hornady’s Critical Defense offering that features a 165-grain FTX at a claimed 1,225 fps. My average was 1,162 fps, but the load delivered a very uniform extreme spread of 25 fps. My final load was the legendary Norma 170-grain JHP, a number that pretty much made the 10mm’s reputation back in the day. This one was every bit as hot as I remember from my time with the S&W Model 610, averaging nearly 1,249 fps.
In terms of 25-yard accuracy, the top performers were Buffalo Bore’s 220-grain HC and Hornady’s Critical Defense FTX. It took awhile for me to once again get the hang of the Glock trigger (which broke at a reasonably short, crisp five pounds). Once I’d settled down, pretty much everything stayed under three inches. In all fairness, I was plagued with flyers. I’d get four shots into a nice cluster (sometimes as tight as less than an inch-and-a-half) and then tank things with an errant shot. I liked the white-outline rear/white-dot front sights on the gun and the squared-off triggerguard. I know it’s not considered proper form in certain circles to wrap a finger around the front of the triggerguard, but I often do.
Function-wise, the Gen 4 20 ran like you’d expect a Glock to run. Which is to say, no problems. No stovepipes. No failures to feed. No failures to go into battery. The minimal amount of controls, the revolverlike simplicity of operation, the relatively soft-shooting characteristics of the gun made me realize why guys who are so fond of this model are the way they are. And one other nice thing about it is the fact that it comes with three — count ’em, three — magazines, plus a mag-loading tool (which I didn’t use because I didn’t have any problems stoking the magazines without it).
Although a lot of fans of the Glock 20 — of any generation — undoubtedly see it as a defensive tool, to me it seems best-suited to be a general-purpose outdoorsman’s gun. As a primary or secondary hunting tool for deer and hogs at reasonable yardages, I don’t think there’s another auto in the class of the Gen 4 Glock 20. As a last-ditch outdoor emergency tool? Again, tough to beat.
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