The Glock 17 is arguably one of the most popular combat handguns since the 1911 or Hi-Power. They are relatively inexpensive, and easy for novices to shoot. While the handgun itself is relatively inexpensive, the magazines are not. Until recently, Glock has had a monopoly on magazines to feed your 9mm Glock. This has kept retail prices around $25 with LE pricing not much lower. This reason alone caused me to perk up when Magpul announced a Glock compatible Pmag.
We first got our hands on the Pmag 17 GL9 at the 2015 SHOT Show. Magpul had several for visitors to fondle in their booth. I was happy to see that the capacity was correct (equal to the factory magazines) and that they dropped free when the magazine release was pressed.
One of the most interesting features of the Pmag GL9 was the new base plate design. Borrowing from the original Pmag, Magpul designed the GL9 so that it could be field-stripped with a cartridge from the weapon. In this case, that was a 9mm round. Simply pushing the nose of the round into the base plate retainer allows the base plate to slide off. This is much easier than levering the plate off of the Glock magazines with the armorers tool.
Magpul also accounted for the fact that shooters like to number their magazines for better record keeping (age, malfunctions, etc.). They moulded a grid into the bottom of the baseplate. Just a few seconds with a paint pen and you have a mark that isn’t likely to rub off after some hard training days.
The Magpul Pmag GL9 does not use a metal liner like the current “drop-free” Glock magazines. They are an all-polymer body. This caused me some worry initially, but after several week and countless hundreds of rounds, my concerns were proven unfounded. I intermixed factory and Magpul magazines on several training days. I could not discern any difference between the Magpul or Glock. Both loaded with equal ease. Both could be loaded either by hand, Glock loader or UpLula Loader. Performance in the G17 was 100%.
When discussing the Magpul GL9, the question that always comes up is “why?” Why would a professional or competition shooter choose these over the factory Glock magazines? My “Blue Label” Glock 17 came from the factory with three 17 round magazines. This is a sufficient number for range days, concealed carry or uniformed duty use. However it is nowhere near sufficient for an advanced handgun class, Steel Challenge match or serious training at the range. For that, I recommend at least 5-10 magazines. At $25 a piece for factory magazines, this is a bit of an investment. Magpul GL9 magazines are retailing now for around $15-16. Cost should not be a deciding factor on anything we bet our lives on. However, if I can get an equal or better performing product for less money, it does become a consideration. In our testing the GL9 performed at least as well as the factory alternative. When you add the ease of disassembly to the equation, it makes them hard to pass up.
I realize that there will be those who will only run factory magazines in their Glocks for duty or carry. For those, I would recommend picking up some Pmags and save the wear and tear on your factory magazines. Run your factory mags for carry and qualification. Beat the Pmags up on those long training days when you are crunching magazines into the gravel or concrete.
The Pmag 17 GL9 is not without drawbacks. Our GL9 magazines worked perfectly in our 4th Generation Glock 17. They also ran well in a friend’s 4th Gen G19. Some of the first run of the GL9 had issues in the G19. This has apparently been resolved. If you have some of the first run of magazines, I would encourage you to contact Magpul. The one issue we found with the Pmag 17 GL9 was when we attempted to use them in our 3rd Gen Glock 26. This G26 is one of my regular CCW handguns and has been extremely reliable with factory 17 and 10 round magazines. I could not get to it run a full magazine (rapid fire) with the GL9 without a failure. I attribute this to the short grip on the G26 forcing my hand down onto the magazine. There appears to be just enough of a size difference in the GL9 that pressure on the magazine can cause it to tilt in the pistol and cause a failure to feed.
One other drawback that we encountered with the Pmag 17 GL9 was with regard to accessories. Our G17 is equipped with a Dawson Precision ICE magwell. This puts the baseplate of a factory magazine flush with the bottom of the magwell. We did not experience any problems seating a loaded magazine. However, tugging the magazine to ensure it was seated was almost impossible. Even with the serrations on the side of the GL9 baseplate, we could not get a good grip on the magazine. Our factory Glock magazines are equipped with +2 base plates to make seating or ripping them free much easier. There are a host of options for aftermarket base plates that will work the factory magazines. ZEV has recently released +5 extensions for the Pmag 17 that will resolve this.
Soon after we received our GL9 magazines, Magpul released the L-Plate. The Magpul L-Plate is a rubber baseplate for the GL9 magazine that extends the magazine about 1/8″ over the included hard plastic plate. The L-Plate also offers a little cushion when repeatedly ejecting magazines onto a hard concrete surface. The L-Plate was the solution to using the Pmag 17 GL9 on our magwell equipped G17. Installation of the L-Plate was as simple as using a 9mm cartridge to pop off the original plate and slide on the L-Plate. Unfortunately, installation of the L-Plate means you loose the magazine numbering feature of the stock floor plate.
The L-Plate should have been on the GL9 at the start, not an accessory to be purchased after the fact. Magpul then could have placed the marking grid on the side or spine of the magazine. The only reason I can see for shipping the GL9 with the hard plastic plates, is to bring the price point down.
After running hundreds of rounds, I can whole-heartedly recommend the Pmag 17 GL9 for Glock 17 and Glock 19 owners. To those G26 owners, I recommend sticking with the factory magazines until Magpul releases the Pmag 12 GL9.