Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Gun Test: Glock 32 Gen4 Versatile .357 SIG Performer

Mike Piccione
Editor, Guns & Gear

A Great But Underappreciated Carry Gun Gets A Design Update.

By Massad Ayoob, American Handgunner

A mating of the “compact” size Glock pistol with the .357 SIG cartridge, the Glock 32 is seen as an enthusiast’s pistol, not as a contender in the handgun popularity sweepstakes. The fact is its lower sales figures placed it so far down in the Glock pecking order it’s only now getting the Gen4 factory update. To appreciate the G32 Gen4, we have to look at its configuration and its cartridge as well as the new features.

The platform comes from the Glock 19 of 1988, half an inch shorter in the snout than a full-size service Glock, and chopped two cartridges worth at its butt. This still allowed a full grip in most hands, but made the gun more concealable, allowing the department to issue a single model to all personnel, whether uniformed or plainclothes. Some big departments in particular appreciated this. NYPD offers its cops a choice of three service 15+1-round 9mm pistols to buy themselves, but the odds-on choice is the Glock 19. This is bolstered by the fact thousands of them came under the NYPD patch after the city police absorbed the large Transit Authority and Housing Authority police forces, both of which issued the G19. Boston cops are issued the compact Glock 23 as standard, carrying 13+1 rounds of .40 S&W. The Glock 32 is essentially identical to these guns, except it takes 13+1 rounds of .357 SIG.

The Introduction

The .357 SIG cartridge was introduced in 1994. SIG executive Ted Rowe had noticed representatives of many departments, which were trading in their .357 Magnum revolvers for SIG autoloaders had appreciated the firepower and shootability of the SIGs, but didn’t think any auto pistol would equal the power of the 125-grain .357 Magnum hollow points they’d carried in the old six-shooters. Texas Highway Patrolmen spoke wistfully to Rowe about the “lightning bolt effect” the 125-grain Magnums, with nominal velocities of up to 1,450 fps, delivered on the street in their actual gunfights.

Rowe reached out to Federal Cartridge in hopes of creating an auto pistol round that could do the same, and the .357 SIG was born. Resembling a necked-down .40 S&W (though the construction is actually more complicated than that), the result was a jacketed hollowpoint that weighing 125 grains and actually delivering 1,350 to 1,400 fps.

Because of the different bullet construction, the .357 SIG created a different wound profile from the .357 Mag, distinctly deeper and somewhat narrower. However, when the actual shooting reports started coming in, it was clear users in the field were raving about it. And with bonded bullets, the .357 SIG was second to no other duty pistol round for piercing windshields and auto bodies.

The Glock 32 is of a pleasing size, and its ammunition has earned accolades from real-world sources. Now comes the fourth generation version.

Gen4 Treatment

Glock introduced their first pistol chambered for the .357 SIG, the fullsize 15+1 Glock 31 with 4.5″ barrel,

circa 1996. The compact G32 with 13+1 followed not long after, as did the Baby Glock 33, with 9+1-round capacity. The Gen4 version of the G32 was announced officially at the SHOT Show in January 2012.

The most obvious of the Gen4 characteristics is a reshaping of the gripframe, which brings the backstrap forward and “allows the shooter to get more finger on the trigger.” This is of particular importance, obviously, to those users with smaller hands and shorter fingers. Two backstrap inserts come with the gun. The pistol as is, out of the box, has what might be called a “size small” grip. One provided insert extends the backstrap rearward, giving the shooter essentially the same dimensions and feel of the Gen3 Glock pistol in the same configuration. The other insert will adapt the pistol to extremely large hands. (A tool to effect the change is part of the package.)

I don’t know of any agency that has adopted the G32 Gen4; it’s just too new. However, the feedback I’m getting from police departments that have adopted this-or-that Gen4 Glock in other calibers is the vast majority of their officers are carrying the guns as they come out of the box, without inserts: in effect, with the grip in “size small.”

A couple of years ago, Glock brought out their RTF2 series pistol, with aggressive raised “polymids” to dig into the hands and guarantee a sure grip when the palm was wet with rain, snow, sea-spray, sweat or blood. Some users found them a little too aggressive. The Gen4 has a “just plain” RTF treatment, in which the little protrusions aren’t as high or sharp. When carried deeply concealed against bare skin, there’s a slight chafing that bothers some but not others. When carried inside the waistband with a shirt between grip and skin, we found the Gen4 to be no problem at all.

I carried mine IWB with a SureFire 200 light attached, in a Black Mamba holster from Jason Christianson at Concealment Solutions for more than a week and found it comfortable, concealable, and fast to draw and not hard to re-holster. When worn outside the waistband, the RTF grip treatment does not seem to cause any great wear to the inner lining of cover garments, and it feels very solid and secure in the hand, which of course is the whole point of the RTF.

Engineering Details 

A lot of thought has gone into the new magazine release on the Gen4, and I like it very much. Horizontally rectangular, it’s easier to hit than the release button that has been standard since the ’80s, but I’ve seen absolutely no tendency to prematurely release the magazine, even though I was looking for that. I like it much better than the extended release that comes on the target models, the 6″ 17L and G34, and the 5.3″ G34 and G35 of previous generations.

This Gen4 magazine release is reversible to the right side of the pistol for lefthanded shooters. This keeps the button from being exposed to an impact that could release the magazine inadvertently if, for instance, the gun was in an exposed uniform holster and the southpaw officer was thrown left side first, into a hard wall during a fight that preceded his or her need to go to the gun. If the shooter leaves the mag release set up for right hand use, it will take older model Glock magazines of suitable caliber.

Speaking of which, the Glock .357s in all three sizes seem to work fine with Glock .40 magazines in the same three sizes. Moreover, the nominally 13+1 capacity Glock 32 will take the 15-round magazine of the Glock 31. And, I discovered by accident, the 15-round, .40 magazine for a Glock 22 seems to work perfectly in any size Glock .357 with 16 rounds of .357 SIG! While the case heads are of course the same size between the .40 S&W and the .357 SIG, the bottleneck configuration and narrower nose of the latter seems to alter how they sit in the cartridge stack inside the magazine.

Finally, the Gen4 array of features includes the double-captive recoil spring configuration Glock first proved on the Baby Glocks since 1996 and the Glock 30 in .45 ACP since 1998. It’s theorized this will soften recoil, extend recoil spring life, and perhaps even improve accuracy. This design feature is partly credited with the surprisingly good accuracy of the little Glock 26 9mm, Glock 27 .40, and Glock 30 .45

ACP. Does it really do all this?

Subjective Factors  

With no Gen3 G32 on hand, we put .357 barrels in a couple of Gen3 Glock 23s and shot them side by side with the Gen4 G32, using several brands of .357 SIG ammo. All four testers were experienced, competitive Glock shooters. Dave Chandler found the Gen4 G32 very slightly softer in recoil; Herman Gunter, David Rodgers, and I just couldn’t tell the difference. What we did unanimously agree upon was the new double captive spring requires distinctly more strength and technique for racking the slide, than the earlier system required.

According to Glock, the Gen3 Glock 32 had an 18-pound recoil spring. The spring weight of the new Gen4 unit for this gun had not been specified at deadline. However, my source noted while the previous spring had a recommended replacement cycle of 3,000 rounds; the new Gen4 system is rated to go to 5,000. Both have gone longer in testing.

Less Popular Model?  

Glock .357 sales are dwarfed by the volume of their 9mm and .40 output. American consumers being who we are, the question inevitably arises, “If it’s not popular enough for everyone else to want it, why should I buy it?”

First, Glock .357 sales understate the popularity of the Glock in .357. I say that because a huge number of shooters have bought .357 SIG barrels for their .40-caliber Glocks (and other makes), and either liked them enough to keep them as an option or loved them enough to go to the .357 barrel for primary carry. Remember: with Glock or SIG SAUER (in most models of the latter), all you have to change is the barrel to swap between .357 SIG and .40 S&W caliber. About half of the people I know carrying SIG, Glock, Springfield XD or S&W M&P .357 pistols are carrying .357 barrels in pistols that left their factories as .40-caliber guns.

Second, remember it took longer for the .357 Mag cartridge to attain its widespread popularity, than the .357 SIG cartridge has been in existence. In the early days, well into the early 2000s, there were case neck separations with .357 SIGs, which was enough to turn me (for one) totally against the concept.

The guns didn’t blow up or anything, but you had to disassemble the gun to get that amputated brass collar out of the firing chamber.

The ammo industry has finally fixed that. As long as currently produced ammo and casings are used, I’m much more comfortable carrying .357 SIG pistols. Today, the .357 SIG is much like the 10mm Auto and .41 Magnum — appreciated more by the people who are seriously into shooting, than by those who

follow the herd. As the old Ford commercial said, “Ask the man who owns one.” Regarding the .357 SIG, ask the man who has shot living things with it.

Accuracy  

I took the Gen4 G32 to the 25-yard bench with a Matrix rest and three different brands of the load the .357 SIG cartridge was created to be, 125-grain bullets at a nominal 1,350 fps. The Winchester USA jacketed hollowpoint is as good an “economy priced” defense load as you’re likely to find, and it turns out to be accurate in the bargain. The Glock .357 compact planted its whole 5-shot group in exactly 2″, measuring the farthest-apart bullet holes center to center to the nearest .05″. The best three of those included a double and yielded a measurement of 1.10″.

Over the years, experience has taught me when you’re shooting hand-held without a rest and have called no flyers, measuring the best three hits out of five will factor out enough human error to give a good approximation of what the pistol/ammo combination would have done for all five out of a machine rest.

Charlie Petty and I proved the validity of that right at a decade ago in a test published here in American Hangunner. 

Among the premium loads, the 125-grain Speer Gold Dot is by far the most street-proven .357 SIG round. It has long been used by Richmond (VA) Police, Virginia State Police, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. It has amassed an awesome reputation along the way for tactical penetration and for what is colloquially called stopping power. It also has an excellent reputation for accuracy. In the Gen4 G32, I had a 1.75″ group going when I apparently blew a shot, extending the group’s measurement to 2.80″. However, the “best of three measurements” was a snug 1.30″, strongly indicating this pistol is capable of some serious accuracy. For the .357 SIG aficionados (and their number seems to be growing) this particular flavor of Gold Dot was the dish-nosed, 5-petal hollowpoint, product code 23918.

The trio of loads was rounded out by another 125-grain model, the only training round of the test: Federal’s American Eagle full metal jacket. This has proven to be the most accurate factory practice round I’ve yet shot out of my pet Gen3 Glock 31 with 4.5″ barrel, and from the 4″ barrel of the Gen4 G32, it delivered five shots into a 25-yard group that measuring 2.2″ wide by .65″ high. The best three measured 1.05″.

Reliability  

The bottleneck casing guides the tapered cartridge into the chamber beautifully. Departments using it report an extraordinarily high rate of reliability with it, no matter what the brand. It does, obviously, take some extra care by the reloader. In our testing, several hundred assorted factory FMJ and JHP rounds went through the sample G32 Gen4. There were no malfunctions of any kind.

Bottom line? If you’re considering a pistol in this caliber for personal defense/concealed carry, the G32 Gen4 is definitely worth a look.

Thanks to American Handgunner for this review. To see their free digital magazines click here http://www.fmgpublications.com/.