First submitted for Austrian military trials in 1982, the Glock has become synonymous with the image of the modern handgun. Wolrdwide, Glock pistols are carried by police and military units while also in common circulation among civilians owners who use the Glock for personal defense, concealed carry, and recreational marksmanship.
The Glock’s simple mechanical design and revolutionary polymer construction came together to create a durable and cost-effective handgun platform that is accurate, reliable, easy to operate, and easy to maintain.
The name “Glock” actually represents a series of handguns with over a dozen variations in caliber and size. The original design is the Glock 17, chambered to fire the 9x19mm cartridge and intended for use as a military and police sidearm.
The Glock 17 is a semiautomatic handgun chambered in 9x19mm fed from a detachable 17-round magazine. Fully-loaded, the Glock 17 weighs 32.02 oz (907.18 grams) and has a 17+1 shot capacity using standard 9x19mm ammunition.
It uses a striker-fired (as opposed to a hammer-fired) action and has a practical range of approximately 100 meters (109.3 yards) using a 4.49 inch (11.40 cm) barrel. Glock pistols are also rated for +P (increased pressure) ammunition.
Glock represents a range of pistols each built around the same mechanical and operating principles of the Glock 17. Each variant assumes a specialized frame and and weight profile to adapt overall form and function toward a specific purpose (home defense, concealed carry, military, police).
For example, the Glock 26 is a subcompact version of the Glock 17 using a 3.43 inch barrel (as opposed to 4.49 inch) and using a shortened frame with a capacity of 10+1 rounds (as opposed to 17+1). The Glock 26 gains concealment capabilities while retaining the same firing mechanism, materials, and layout as its full-sized counterpart.
The following are different Glock models that all load and fire 9x19mm:
- Glock 17: Standard Glock with 4.49″ barrel and 17+1 shot capacity.
- Glock 19: Compact version of with 4.02″ barrel and 15+1 shot capacity.
- Glock 26: Subcompact Glock with 3.43″ barrel 10+1 shot capacity.
- Glock 34: Long Slide version with 4.31″ barrel and 17+1 capacity.
- Glock 43: Single stack subcompact Glock with 3.41″ barrel and 6+1 shot capacity.
In addition to variable sizes, the Glock is also available in 6 other calibers including 10mm Auto, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .357 Sig, and .45 GAP.
For example. the Glock 20 is chambered in the 10mm Auto cartridge, originally developed for the FBI specifications to maximize stopping power from an autoloading handgun.
The Glock 20’s frame is reinforced and it uses a heavier slide assembly designed to operate in accordance with greater pressures from firing the 10mm Auto cartridge. It also uses a larger and heavier barrel assembly. The Glock 20 still retains the same layout, function, and construction as all other Glocks.
The Glock was designed to outperform competing submissions to Austrian military trials and would eventually be selected by NATO as its standard-issue sidearm. The Glock’s use of revolutionary materials, design, and construction created a gun that that fulfills a wide range of marksmanship, personal defense, and duty roles.
Practical handgun accuracy is a blend of many factors, including the skill of the shooter. Handguns require the most skill and practice to shoot accurately. The Glock’s design aids shooter accuracy by offering a distinct combination of a low bore-axis barrel paired with recoil reduction from its polymer construction.
Glocks use a hammer-forged barrel with polygonal rifling: A design which can create greater bullet accuracy and velocity due to its construction and geometry.
The barrel is also positioned low and close to the shooter’s hand, lowering its center of mass and reducing muzzle rise. With less disruption to an acquired sight picture, this allows for faster recovery for follow-up shots.
The factory-mounted sights use a square front post and square-notched rear sight. The dot on the front post is large, bright, and easy to acquire. Due to their plastic construction, these sights are frequently replaced with aftermarket sights (combat sights, night sights, adjustable sights).
The Glock’s trigger responds to a straight-line trigger stroke which will immediately accumulate pressure without slack or creep. While the Glock trigger would not be considered the crispest trigger but it breaks consistently without creep or stacking between shots. Glock triggers are notable for having a positive and tactile reset between trigger strokes which aids in effective follow-up fire.
Ergonomics and Weight
Upon its initial submission in 1982, the Glocks’ polymer-framed construction created a lightweight handgun platform that would prove to be revolutionary.
The Glock 17 weighs 32.28 oz (915.21 grams) fully loaded with 17 rounds of 9x19mm. The Beretta 92 is a similar contemporary, and it weigh 34.2 oz (969.55 grams) unloaded. Loaded with 17 rounds of 9x19mm, the Beretta weighs 11 oz more at 43.25 oz (1226.12 grams).
The Glock’s lighter weight contributes to faster sight acquisition and less strain on the hands, arms, and shoulders. When compared to heavier alloy-framed handguns, this weight difference becomes noticeable over the course of extended firing sessions. The polymer frame itself also possesses inherent dampening qualities which absorb recoil and concussion.
Due to the lighter weight, the Glock is faster to draw, present, and aim down sights than similar alloy-framed pistols. Additional recoil reduction generated by its ergonomics and materials aid and accelerate effective follow-up shots. The overall difference in weight also creates considerable carry benefits.
Durability and Reliability
Despite initial skepticism centered around a polymer-framed handgun, Glocks have set the standard for ruggedness and durability.
Using a polymer designed to provide greater resilience than carbon steel and most steel alloys, the original Glock 17 surpassed all preexisting durability standards in NATO trials leading to its selection as NATO’s standard-issue sidearm.
In both military and independent testing, Glocks have been shown to consistently function despite heavy exposure to mud, sand, dirt, moisture, and extreme temperatures. It is capable of resisting unintended discharge due to drops, explosions, fire, and other extreme and dangerous conditions.
The Glock’s simplicity in construction and operation contributes to its reliability, and ease of maintenance. The Glock field-strips into five major components (barrel, frame, slide assembly, recoil spring, assembly, magazine) for maintenance. Current (fifth) generation Glocks can be fully disassembled into 34 parts without the use of tools.
The combination of its durability and reliability make it a popular backup gun for hunting and as a trail sidearm. Glocks have been used in defense against cougars, wolves, and large bears. The Danish Arctic police use the Glock 20 for its reliability and its ability to defend against polar bears using the 10mm Auto cartridge.
Decades after its original trials submission, the Glock’s safety features have set the standard for reliance in all modern handguns. Glocks incorporate three passive mechanical safety devices collectively known as the “GLOCK Safe Action System”. This system incorporates a trigger safety, a firing pin safety, and drop safety.
Glock triggers utilize a dual-piece lever which both need to be simultaneously depressed in order to pull the trigger. If an object unintentionally enters the trigger guard, it cannot pull the trigger without applying pressure to both levers in a straight-pull fashion.
Firing Pin Safety
The firing pin safety is a metallic block that rests in front of the firing pin, blocking contact with a chambered round. This block only retracts when the trigger is pulled, allowing contact of the firing pin to a chambered cartridge.
The drop safety retains the firing pin in a retracted position unless the trigger has been pulled past its “break” point. Unless the trigger has pulled past this break point, the firing pin cannot be released forward to ignite a loaded cartridge.
Affordable and Everywhere
Glock pistols serve as military and police sidearms in over 60 countries worlwide and Glocks are the standard-issue sidearm of NATO armed forces. As of 2007, there had been at least 5 million Glocks produced. While there have been no recent official updates to this figure, it is estimated that Glock USA produces upward of 1 million pistols annually.
For private ownership, Glocks are often lower-priced than many other comparable duty pistols including the Beretta 92 and Sig P226. This is largely due to its elegant design, cost-effective construction, and widespread demand.
Widespread private ownership has spawned an aftermarket industry for Glock owners to customize and upgrade their pistols according to their preferences. Glocks can readily mount equipment such as tactical lights, and many newer Glocks can readily mount red-dot optics.
Quality spare magazines and spare parts allow for continual maintenance and restoration of pistols put into heavy use. Yhere are also thousands of holsters and training tools centered around the Glock platform and all its variants.
Used Glocks can be purchased at considerable discounts through consignment sales, especially pistols retired from police service. These pistols are often largely unused outside of marksmanship qualifications, have used quality ammunition, and are routinely maintained by professional armorers and gunsmiths. These pistols become available for private ownership often through third-party sales.