Glock is an Austrian defense contractor (named after the founder Gaston Glock) founded in 1963 in Deutsch-Wagram, near Vienna, Austria. Glock, more correctly spelt in all caps "GLOCK", are mostly known for their polymer pistols such as the Glock 17, although in recent years the company has expanded to produce aftermarket parts and accessories.
History[edit | edit source]
Its first handgun model was the Glock 17, a 9 mm Parabellum semi-automatic pistol with a magazine capacity of 17 rounds (unusually large at the time), introduced in the early 1980s as a response to the Austrian army's request for a new sidearm. Glock pistols are popular with law enforcement agencies, the military, security personnel, and defense-minded private citizens. Glock was the first manufacturer to offer models chambered in the .40 S&W cartridge (Glock 22 & Glock 23 - 1990), beating Smith & Wesson to the marketplace with their own cartridge. The Glock 22 is currently (as of mid-2006) the single most popular police sidearm in use in the United States.
Glock also offers pistols chambered in .357 SIG, .380 ACP, 10 mm Auto, .45 ACP, and the new .45 GAP (Glock Automatic Pistol). A very rare run of 9×21mm Glock 19 pistols were made. Glock .380 pistols are not currently available in the United States due to the BATFE's point system.
"C" models are built with a "compensator" feature to reduce recoil.
The company is privately held and does not make public any figures concerning its revenue or internal operations.
Popularity[edit | edit source]
Glock reports sales of over 2.5 million handguns in over 100 countries.
Glock sidearms are very common handguns among law enforcement agencies and military organizations around the world. They are standard-issue sidearms for the Austrian, Belgian, Dutch, and Norwegian Army and Northern Irish police forces, various special units such as the German GSG 9 counter-terrorism unit of the German Federal Police, Specialist Firearms Command of the London Metropolitan Police Service as well as the new Iraq security forces.
Many estimates place Glock's market share among U.S. police departments at over 70% (based on total number of guns sold, not percentage of departments). Glock's website states their pistols are "...in use in 65% of law enforcement agencies." The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation issues all agents graduating from the FBI Academy a Glock 22 or Glock 23 according to the agent's preference. As well, .40 caliber Glock pistols are issued to all new agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. All Australian police services apart from the South Australian Police and Victoria Police use Glock handguns. Glock pistols are also issued to Australian Customs officers, and the South Australian Police Force is currently examining whether or not to replace their current stock of .357 Smith & Wesson revolvers with a Glock model.
The New Zealand Police carry the Glock 17 in situations where weapons are issued. The demand for Glock pistols is such that despite the European Union enforcing an arms embargo against Israel, Glock 17s and Glock 19s are standard service pistols in certain Israeli military and paramilitary units (Yamam, Shayetet 13, Shabak, and private security firms) and remain extremely popular handguns on Israel's private citizen market.
Glocks are extremely popular in the United States as well, where they have become synonymous with quality.
Most of the steel components in a Glock pistol are treated with a nitriding process called "Tenifer", which greatly increases the surface hardness and makes the weapon highly resistant to corrosion and wear.
The popularity of Glock pistols is due to several factors. They are renowned for their reliability, being able to function under extreme conditions and to fire a wide range of ammunition types due to their rugged construction. The simplicity of the Glock design contributes to this reliability, as it contains a relatively small number of components (nearly half as many as the typical handgun) making field maintenance and repair easier.
They are significantly lighter than typical steel or aluminum-frame handguns, which makes them attractive for police officers and private citizens who carry a concealed handgun for self-defense. Another feature of Glock pistols preferred by many users is a lack of external controls such as levers, decockers, or manual safeties. This adds to the simplicity of use and removes a potential source of errors when operating the handgun under stress.
Many Glock shooters feel that the relatively low height of the bore above the grip results in less torque when shooting and lower perceived recoil, leading to increased accuracy. Glock also claims that its "safe action" safety system results in smoother trigger pull than for a conventional double-action pistol.
The Glock name has been misused as a generic slang term for any quality black "plastic" handgun. The Glock name has also been mentioned frequently in rap songs and is usually censored out.
"Plastic pistol" myths[edit | edit source]
Contrary to early reports, Glock pistols do set off metal detectors and can indeed be detected by X-ray machines, due to their metal barrels and slides. The claim that they could not was first made in an article published in the Washington Post on January 13, 1985, entitled, "Quaddafi Buying Austrian Plastic Pistol." In this article, vocal gun control advocate Jack Anderson made the allegations, which were then reported without fact-checking by the Associated Press and further reported by many United States television news stations and newspapers. It has since become an urban legend that to this day continues to appear in news reports and movies, and has even been a topic of debate in the United States Congress.
In fact, 83.7% (by weight) of the Glock pistol is normal ordnance steel and the "plastic" parts are a dense polymer known as 'Polymer 2' which is radio-opaque and is therefore visible to X-ray security equipment. In addition, virtually all of these "plastic" parts contain embedded steel to make them functional and shoot better, not to make them "detectable". Contrary to popular movies like Die Hard 2: Die Harder neither Glock nor any other gun maker has ever produced a "ceramic" or "plastic" firearm which is undetectable by ordinary security screening devices.
In Die Hard 2, the character John McClane portrayed by Bruce Willis specifically referred to a non-existent Glock 7 with many fictitious characteristics:
|“||That punk pulled a Glock 7 on me! You know what that is? It's a porcelain gun made in Germany. It doesn't show up on your airport X-ray machines, and it costs more than you make here in a month!||”|
–John McClane (Die Hard 2)
Furthermore, if a pistol completely undetectable by either X-ray machines or metal detectors were to be developed, the ammunition inside would still be detectable. It would also shatter from recoil as porcelain is not strong enough to handle bullets
Mike Papac, an armorer at Cinema Weaponry, which supplied the Glock pistols used in Die Hard 2, has stated,
|“||I remember when we did that scene, I tried to talk them out of it. There's no such thing as a gun invisible to metal detectors, and there shouldn't be, but they wouldn't budge. They had it written into the script and that was that.||”|
While some Glock fans have boasted that the Glock pistol design was the first pistol to incorporate a plastic frame, this is incorrect. Heckler & Koch was the first company to use polymer for their VP70 pistol frame in 1970. HK's innovation of polymer frames and polygonal rifling seem to have been influential in the Glock design. Still earlier, Remington introduced their polymer-framed Nylon 66 Rifle in 1959. This was so revolutionary at the time that Remington dyed the plastic brown to resemble wood and fitted a cosmetic sheet-metal cover on the receiver to make it appear to be made from steel. Further, the most extensive use of polymers in a pistol was in the Ram-Line Exactor pistol with a barrel made from steel-lined plastic.
However, the popularity of Glock pistols seems to have encouraged other manufacturers to begin production of similar polymer-framed products in recent years, such as the Springfield XD pistols.
Safety mechanism[edit | edit source]
Glock pistols use an internal safety mechanism with three components, with no external thumb activated safety switch as might be found on traditional-design pistols. Glock calls this the "Safe Action" system. All three safeties are disabled one after the other when the trigger is depressed. They are:
- Trigger Safety: An external lever mechanism contained within the trigger that prevents the trigger from moving unless the lever is depressed.
- Striker Safety: A spring-loaded pin attached by an extension bar to the trigger assembly blocks the striker from striking the primer of the Cartridge until the trigger is pulled.
- Drop Safety: The far end of the same extension bar locks the striker into place from the rear until the trigger is pulled.
Similar systems for internal safeties have since become standard for many major manufacturers of semi-automatic pistols. However, Glock pistols, like any other firearm, can discharge and cause injury or death if the operator accidentally or negligently manipulates the trigger. The absence of a traditional safety switch means that Glock users who intend to carry the gun on their person with the loaded chamber must be cautious (as they should be for any type of firearm) of keeping their finger off of the trigger when holstering or unholstering the gun.
In 2003, Glock announced the Internal Locking System (ILS). The ILS is a manually activated lock that is located in the back of the pistol's grip. It is cylindrical in design and, according to Glock, each key is unique. Group key hierarchic solutions are available for law enforcement agencies. When activated, the lock causes a tab to protrude from the rear of the grip. This is done to give both a visual and tactile indication as to whether the lock is engaged or not. When activated, the ILS renders the Glock unfireable as well as making it impossible to disassemble. When disengaged, the ILS adds no further safety mechanisms to the Glock pistol.
The ILS is available as an option on all Glock pistols except for the G36, but not all ILS-equipped Glock pistols are carried by distributors nor imported with the option. The most commonly available Glock pistols with the ILS are the G17, G19, G22, G23, G26, and the G27.
Misconceptions about Glock pistol operation[edit | edit source]
Glock handguns have seen much fictional exposure in action movies and TV shows that often continue to spread misconceptions about the Glock pistol. One common aspect of popular media portrayals of the Glock pistol is when someone pulls out or points a Glock pistol, the sound effect of the Glock being "cocked" like a revolver is inserted. The Glock pistol does not have an external hammer and thus cannot be "cocked" or "uncocked" in the conventional manner and does not make the sort of sounds that are commonly heard in TV and movies.
Similarly, after a Glock has fired the final round in its magazine, the slide will lock in the open position. (This functionality is not unique to Glock, because it is common with most semi-automatic pistols.) At this point the trigger cannot be pulled, hence there will be no audible click of the firing pin striking forward. Since the gun is designed to lock open the slide after firing the final round, a shooter will often be surprised to find that he or she is out of ammo should the slide inadvertently close on an empty chamber. Pulling the trigger in this condition will produce an audible click and the trigger will remain in the rearward position since the slide is not actuated backwards. Hence, the audible click can only be heard once. The Glock design does not produce multiple clicks with repeated trigger pulls on an empty chamber since it is striker-fired, not double-action. Sound effects are sometimes added to films and television shows in order to make it sound as if a character wielding a Glock is pulling the trigger several times, apparently unwilling to accept the fact that their weapon is out of ammunition.
ka-BOOM! or kB! Controversy[edit | edit source]
Coined by firearms reporter Dean Speir, a kB! (or kaBoom!) is the term used to describe the explosive malfunction of a firearm, with usually costly, and often painful, results. Glock pistol kB's usually damage the firearm, with no injury or minor injury to the shooter.
Controversy arose over Glock's safety standards when several instances of explosive malfunction occurred in Glock pistols sold to police departments in the United States. Upon pulling the trigger, the cartridge case would rupture and cause an explosion that would tear apart the gun and sometimes send fragments into the shooter's face.
The cause of this malfunction was traced to issues with a purposely oversized (loose), and partially unsupported chamber in Glock's pistols chambered in .40 S&W, .45 GAP, 45 ACP, and 10mm. The chamber lacks full support in the rear by the feed ramp in order to facilitate feed reliability. The lack of support in the chamber, usually combined with lead bullets, reloaded ammunition, or poor-quality factory ammunition, would cause the case to fail. The subsequent rapid expansion of gas into the chamber caused the cartridge casing to expand beyond normal specifications near the feed ramp at which time the casing would rupture, sometimes damaging the polymer frame and usually ejecting the magazine downwards out of the pistol grip.
Glock, in its own defense, says that the manual that accompanies each pistol informs the shooter of the dangers of using non-factory rated ammunition, and that the firearm will function safely if the shooter uses factory-loaded, jacketed ammunition and properly cleans and cares for the firearm. Supporters also point out that kB!s occur in other firearms as well, particularly M1911-type pistols. However, there continues to be controversy over the presence of an unsupported chamber, critics arguing that it is not necessary and is a liability for the company.
It has been stated that because of the specific design of the polygonal rifling in the Glock pistol, operators should not shoot non-jacketed lead ammunition. Lead residue can quickly build up, decreasing the bore diameter and create a dangerous over-pressurization in the barrel, leading to structural failure or warping in the chamber of the barrel. One can notice a bulge in the fired case ejected from the pistol (even with target loads) to see the result of the unsupported chamber.
A contributing factor may be that, on some models at least, the slide return spring is not strong enough to ensure that the slide returns to full battery after a round is fired, when the shooter has a "limp wrist" instead of a firm grip. This can be overcome by proper training.
Despite the controversy, Glock pistols still continue to be popular among military and law enforcement agencies worldwide. Indeed, their extreme popularity and widespread use likely contributes to the number of incidents reported involving Glock pistols.
Footnotes[edit | edit source]
- Description of custom 9×21 mm Glock 19 pistols from Glockfaq.com
- Description of the BATFE point system from Glockfaq.com
- Guns Magazine article referencing FBI-issue sidearms
- American Handgunner article by Massad Ayoob referencing the issue of .40 caliber Glocks to DEA agents
- Safegarding Australia reference concerning the issue of Glock pistols to Customs officers
- AdelaideNow article describing the need for Australian police to have better sidearms
- Short biography of Dean Speir.
- Explanation of a kB! from the person who coined the term.
- Article detailing alleged reasons behind the 1992 technical bulletin issued by Glock
- Article detailing alleged Glock pistol failure experienced by the NYPD, and the NYPD response to the issue.
- Glock manual page discouraging the use of reloaded ammunition.
- kB! in a Colt Anaconda
- Catastrophic kB! in a Springfield M1A rifle