BB-firing Glock 17 vs 9mm original, which is better?

Nick Stanning pits the blowback BB-firing Glock 17 Gen 5 from Umarex against the 9mm powder-burner.

Most people who enjoy shooting air rifles also enjoy shooting air pistols. Even the most serious 10m shooter competing at national, or even international, level can enjoy shooting up tin cans in the garden.

One of the most popular sectors in air pistol shooting is the replica pistol. These air pistols shoot mainly BBs using CO2 as a power source and are not designed to hit a bullseye at 10m. But they are usually close replicas of their steel counterpart, and most importantly they are great fun to shoot!

I am fortunate enough to live in a country where handguns are legal, so I’ve been taking a close look at some of the popular air-powered replicas and comparing them with the original, and this time it’s the Glock.

But first, a little history. Glock has been around since 1982, when Gaston Glock, a curtain rail manufacturer, heard of the Austrian army’s plan to commission a new standard-issue duty pistol. 

The Austrian ministry of defence formulated a long list of criteria for the new generation service pistol, including requirements that it would be secure against accidental discharge from shock, strike or a drop from a height of two metres onto a steel plate.

Also, after firing 15,000 rounds of standard ammunition, the pistol was to be inspected for wear, and then be used to fire an over-pressure test cartridge generating 5,000 bar – twice the standard pressure.

Glock gathered handgun experts from around Europe, and together they developed the Glock 17. It was given this name for being the 17th patent applied for, not the number of rounds it holds.

Glock won the contract against the biggest names in the firearms world and the Glock 17 is still here. It’s now on the fifth generation, and Glock handguns are used by many law enforcement agencies and military forces around the world.

Side By Side

The Glock 17 Gen 5 is the latest offering, and has an upgraded trigger, match-grade barrel and an improved protective coating to the slide. The main difference is visual, with a change of stippling to the grip and a lack of finger grooves. Let’s take a look at the real thing next to the Glock 17 Gen 5 blowback BB gun from Umarex to see how they have done.

Put the two guns side by side and you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference – they look very similar and even weigh the same

At first glance it is hard to tell them apart. At second glance it is no easier. In fact, these two are so similar you really have to know what to look for to tell them apart, and even then it’s only possible when looking at them close up!

The main giveaways are the safety catch on the Umarex where the serial number is located on the 9mm one, and the moulded extractor rather than a functioning one. Top marks to Umarex!

Muzzle energy on Nick’s Gen 5 is around 330 foot pounds when firing his choice of 124 grain FMJ ammo – rather more than the BB variant

Picking them up is the same story. The trigger reach is a little longer on the Umarex and the slide rattles, but with the slide taped down and my eyes shut, I was completely unable to tell them apart. The weight and balance are identical.

It’s a clever trick that Umarex has achieved here, as most of the weight is in the full-size magazine rather than the slide. More Brownie points to Umarex!

At The Range

I took the Umarex along to my local range for the guys to have a look at. They all loved it and couldn’t believe how accurate a replica it was. I have the feeling Santa may be delivering these to their kids next Christmas!

The genuine Glock 17 fires a 9x19mm Luger round, in my case firing a 124 grain Full Metal Jacket bullet at 1,100 feet per second from a muzzle energy of around 330 foot pounds.

Both of Nick’s Glocks are the Gen 5 model, which saw the removal of the finger grooves in order to let the shooter’s fingers sit more naturally
While both guns have notch and post sights, the notch on the 9mm version is highlighted with a solid white line, while the BB gun uses dots

The recoil is substantial enough to have to deal with, but is also by no means oppressive or difficult. I shot steel plates at 25m with it, which seemed to be a bit too much of an ask for the Umarex, which produces less than 1% of that power, but we shot it, we enjoyed it and sometimes a small “ting” could be heard.

Once back home in its natural habitat it can still dispatch cans at 10m with pleasing regularity, and toy soldiers fall to its rapid-fire capability across the garden. The blowback action provides a pleasing feel to the experience, which can be enjoyed by the whole family. 

As with all BB-firing guns, extra care should be taken with ricochets. Hard backstops are the worst for this, and eye protection should always be worn.

Glock Perfection?

There are many things to like, even love, about the Umarex pistol, but that slide rattle isn’t one of them. It sounds like a pen hitting the glass of your washing machine as it spreads ink over your clothes and there’s nothing you can do about it. It is the rattle of disappointment.

Nick’s disappointed that the Umarex Gen 5 can’t be field stripped, but otherwise praises it as an accurate replica of an iconic handgun

My only other gripe is that this model doesn’t field strip, although I think it should. The Gen 4 model does, so why not this one?

But if you want a fun gun to shoot – and particularly want a Glock 17 Gen 5 replica that really looks the business – then this is the gun for you. And if you want the best Glock 17 replica full stop, maybe buy the Umarex Glock 17 Gen 4 BB gun instead. 

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