The Glock Pistol
By R.K. Campbell

The Glock pistol presently holds seventy five per cent of the police market, has enjoyed considerable military success, and is a tremendously popular civilian handgun. The pistol isn’t an old generation handgun by any means, springing forth in the early 1980s but winning overnight acclaim. How did the pistol become so successful so quickly? Part of the answer is good design and the rest is timing. Gaston Glock designed the pistol for the Austrian Army. The European tactical doctrine was geared toward simpler pistols. Long guns are the primary military weapons and the pistol should be as simple as possible for training purposes. The police forces of Europe were in much the same mindset. German police trials produced the superb SIG P series as well as the H&K P 7M8, neither of which featured a manual safety. The Glock pistol was innovative and reliable as well as cost effective to produce. It was adopted by the Austrian military above other more established makers. In America, the police were in the process of moving away from the revolver to the self loading pistol. The transition was sometimes harrowing, as the addition of a double action trigger, a decocker and a safety added to training time. Bean counters are jealous of training and a simpler handgun was desirable. Despite interrogative queries form police agencies, American makers were slow to respond and in the end practically abrogated their niche in police sales. While SIG and Beretta were off to a start with police sales, the double action only Glock, with its simpler manual of arms, received a lot of interest. A 17 round capacity of 9mm ammunition was a bonus. The Glock had features the other lacked, and they were intangible to some but very real to others. These features were simplicity and ruggedness.

There is a considerable opinion among engineers that Glock was successful largely because he came to gun making with a blank slate. He did not have a gun factory, but he had an idea for a gun and a design that he felt would be successful. The factory isn’t very old and it has not been converted from an old line factory that produced old line pistols. Glock designed his pistol with a fresh outlook and built a modern and terribly efficient factory to build the pistol. The pistol was not the first to feature modern polymer but it was by far the most cost efficient. While the Heckler and Koch polymer guns such as the P9 were more expensive than our own domestic handguns, the Glock was less expensive. The double action only mechanism was practically revolver simple, the pistol had a high magazine capacity, and the pistol was proving reliable in critical testing.

The Glock features a unique trigger action. The slide partially cocks the striker as it is racked, prepping the trigger. The trigger is then pressed to continue pressing the striker until the striker spring breaks against sear pressure. Rather than the 12 to 14 pound double action revolver trigger or the equally heavy first shot press of a double action first shot self loader, the Glock trigger broke at about 5.5 pounds. The result was a pistol that was easy to shoot well, and easy to shoot quickly. The Glock has no manual safety. The lever inside of the trigger is primarily a drop safety. If the Glock is dropped this lever prevents the trigger from moving under its own momentum and prevents the pistol from firing from lateral pressure. So, the manual of arms is simple: load, holster, draw, fire. The pistol’s polymer frame is molded, not forged, and the precision parts do not require any type of fitting. The polymer frame makes for inexpensive manufacture and the precision parts are easy to replace when needed. As a result Glock has been able to instigate a very successful Glock Armorer program.

The news media and Hollywood often makes ridiculous statements concerning firearms and the Glock was the target of some of the most inane comments. Among these was the notion that the Glock could not be picked up on a security scanner because it was plastic. This neatly ignored the presence of metal parts and a metal slide. Gun owners and guns are vilified and pilloried in the news while sociopaths are lionized, and it will only give us indigestion to ponder the situation. But the Glock has become a popular cinematographer’s pistol and appears in a wide range of films and television dramas. As this was going on, the Glock was enjoying considerable popularity with the American police. One Chief told his troops he would approve the semiautomatic pistol only when one in double action only configuration was offered, smugly believing American makers would never manufacture such a pistol. After all, they were relying upon old technology with nothing fresh since 1948. The Smith and Wesson M39 pistol is basically an Americanized Walther P38, and the Beretta 92 in real terms is an updated high capacity version of the very influential P38. Only the SIG was a fresh design, but it demanded that officers learn two distinct trigger actions, both double action and single action. The Glock gave the police what they needed.

With the success of the Glock 17 a demand for different types of handguns using the Glock operating system evolved. The popularity of the 10mm cartridge was short lived in police work, but Glock responded with their first large frame pistol the Model 20 in 10mm. This was followed by the Model 21 .45 and later the .40 caliber version of the Glock 17 known as the Model 22. Among the first variations on the original pistol and one of the most popular is the Glock 19. The Glock 19 is a midsize or compact version of the Glock 17, just as the SIG P228 is a compact version of the P226 and the Colt Commander is a compact version of the Colt Government Model. In the case of the Glock, both the handle and the slide are shortened. In the opinion of many experienced shooters, the result is a handgun that is arguably the best balanced, fastest handling and most ergonomic of the all of the Glock handguns. The popularity of the midsize gun is undeniable. Some may question the efficiency of a shorter service pistol. The loss of a few inches in sight radius and the loss of a round or two in magazine capacity may be debated. This is not the case with the Glock. The Glock 19 seems to fit most hands well and to clear leather more quickly than the larger gun. This is common with compact pistols. But in the case of the Glock 19, the shorter pistol often proves at least as accurate if not more so than the full size pistol. The Glock 26, or mini Glock, is a bit more difficult to use well and is a specialized hideout handgun. The Glock 19 is well suited for use as a service pistol or for concealed carry. First introduced in 1988 the Glock 19 is now one of the most popular Glock pistols. As an example, the Glock 19 is the single most popular of all approved pistols for the New York City Police Department. With a half inch shorter slide and proportionately shorter grip, the Glock 19 is comfortable to carry and concealable given proper holster selection. However, the Glock 17 was already a light pistol and the Glock 19 weighs about the same as the Glock 17. Unlike most compact versions of service pistols, there is practically no difference in recoil control with the Glock 19. The handle is more concealable but it is large enough to afford a rapid presentation from the holster. The proper grip is natural with practice. This makes for a desirable handgun on all counts. The Glock 19 deploys with fifteen rounds, more than adequate for service use. A spare magazine gives a concealed carry permit holder thirty rounds on hand and the Glock 19 will accept the longer Glock 17 magazines. The longer magazine locks in and functions but protrudes from the gun butt.

Like all Glock handguns, the Glock 19 requires little maintenance. It is recommended that the pistol be cleaned and lubricated every three hundred rounds but Glock pistols have fired thousands of rounds without any type of maintenance. The only lubrication needed is a spot of oil where the connector and trigger bar meet. The modern versions of the Glock feature a frame molded for a combat light. It is interesting that although the fourth generation pistols were touted as an improvement over older Glocks, the third generation Model 19 is still in production and seems to some of us the better choice. While claims to Glock perfection are not without merit, if there is a single Glock that best sums up the advantages of a combat pistol – light weight, ease of use and fast handling – it is arguably the Glock Model 19. The Glock illustrated has been fired extensively with a wide range of modern defensive ammunition. While +P and +P+ rated ammunition has a greater recoil push, the pistol is still controllable. These loads give the 9mm Luger cartridge a much needed measure of authority. The Glock 19 the author personally deploys is usually fired with Black Hills ‘Blue Box’ practice loads. These 115 grain FMJ loads are mild to fire and accurate. The Glock pistol’s main advantage is combat accuracy, coming on target quickly, and making multiple hits quickly. The Glock 19, however, is also exceedingly accurate in bench rest fire. With a variety of quality ammunition the Glock 19 has produced five shot groups of two to three inches for five shots at twenty five yards. This is more than adequate for personal defense. The pistol is deployed with either the Black Hills 115 grain JHP +P or the Black Hills 124 grain +P. The 115 grain bullet is a great performer with a good balance of expansion and penetration. With the 124 grain load, the balance of penetration and expansion is ideal for police service and for those working in a true four season climate when felons may be wearing heavy clothing. In concealed carry the pistol is often carried in a Barber Leatherworks S and S (snaps and straps) inside the waistband (IWB) holster. The IWB, riding inside the trousers, gives excellent concealment while maintaining good speed and retention. This combination of a good pistol and first class accessories makes for a high level of confidence in the defensive sidearm.

When all is said and done, the Glock pistol is something of a modern marvel. It is affordable, effective, reliable, long lived in service and combat ready out of the box. The pistol inspires confidence in those that use it and derision from the blue steel and walnut crowd, although the Glock seems to be seen often even in pistol competition these days. One thing is for certain, the pistol has earned a place in the hands and holsters of good men and women taking responsibility for their own safety. The Glock is here to stay.

Accuracy: 5 shot groups, 25 yards
Black Hills 115 grain FMJ Blue Box       3.0 inches
Black Hills 115 grain TAC +P       1.8 inches
Black Hills 115 grain JHP +P       2.5 inches
Black Hills 124 grain JHP +P       2.6 inches

Nosler 115 grain JHP- Herco Powder/1,300 fps       3.25 inches
Rainier 124 grain JHP Plated/WW 231 Powder 1,100 fps       2.5 inches
Rainier 124 grain JHP Plated/ Titegroup Powder 1,020 fps       2.75 inches

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review SAW (May 2013)
and was posted online on April 19, 2013


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