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Glock Ges.m.b.H., an Austrian manufacturing company named after its owner, Gaston Glock, is now one of the largest and best known pistol manufacturers in the world, but that wasn't always the case.
The Glock company originally produced a number of products, including knives and entrenching tools used by the Austrian Army. In 1980, the Austrian military began searching for a replacement for the World War 2-era P-38 pistols they were still using. At that time, Gaston Glock knew nothing about producing firearms, but he put together a team of experts that did. His team's expertise, along with Glock's extensive experience with advanced synthetic polymers, lead to the creation of the Glock 17 pistol, so named because it was Glock's 17th patent. The Glock 17 brought two revolutionary technologies to pistol manufacture: The polymer frame and a new metal anti-corrosion and hardening technique known as ferritic nitrocarburizing. Glock named this new process the Tennifer finish.
The criteria for the Austrian replacement pistol were:
- The design has to be self-loading.
- The pistol must fire the NATO-standard 9×19mm Parabellum round.
- The magazines would not require any means of assistance for loading.
- The magazines must have a minimum capacity of 8 rounds.
- All actions necessary to prepare the pistol for firing and any actions required after firing must be done single-handed, either right- or left-handed.
- The pistol must be absolutely secure against accidental discharge from shock, stroke and drops from a height of 2 meters onto a steel plate.
- Disassembly of the main parts for maintenance and reassembling must be possible without the use of any tools.
- Maintenance and cleaning of the pistol must be accomplished without the use of tools.
- The pistol's construction may not exceed 58 individual parts (equivalent of a P38).
- Gauges, measuring and precise testing devices must not be necessary for the long-term maintenance of the pistol.
- The manufacturer is required to provide the Ministry of Defence with a complete set of engineering drawings and exploded views. These must be supplied with all the relevant details for the production of the pistol.
- All components must be fully interchangeable between pistols.
- No more than 20 malfunctions are permitted during the first 10,000 rounds fired, not even minor jams that can be cleared without the use of any tools.
- After firing 15,000 rounds of standard ammunition, the pistol will be inspected for wear. The pistol will then be used to fire an overpressure test cartridge generating 5,000 bar (500 MPa; 73,000 psi) (the normal maximum operating pressure Pmax for the 9 mm NATO is rated at 2,520 bar (252 MPa; 36,500 psi). The critical components must continue to function properly and be up to specifications, otherwise the pistol will be disqualified.
- When handled properly, under no circumstances may the user be endangered by case ejection.
- The muzzle energy must be at least 441.5 J when firing a 9mm S-round/P-08 Hirtenberger AG.
- Pistols scoring less than 70% of the total available points will not be considered for military use.
The Glock 17 met or surpassed all of the criteria, but there were a couple of very controversial design elements. The first of course was the use of a polymer lower receiver. This was a radical departure from anything that had come before it and there was a lot of resistence to the concept. Two, the pistol did not have a manual safety. The Glock 17 was one of the first semi-auto pistols ever produced without a manual safety. Instead, the Glock incorporated what it called the Safe-Action system. This system consisted of three elements: an integrated trigger safety, a firing pin safety and a drop safety.
After extensive testing, the Glock 17 was adopted by the Austrian military and police in 1982, as the P80.
In the decades that followed, the Glock evolved through 4 generations of design changes and has become the most popular and recognized handgun in the world, with more than two dozen Glock models in production. Glock pistols are used by more than 65% of US police agencies and by military & police agencies in more than 48 countries. The Glock has become a pop culture icon, used and mentioned in dozens of songs and hundreds of movies and it has given birth to the urban legend of a Glock model that was invisible to x-ray detection. This misconception was reinforced in one of the Die Hard movies and many believe to this day, that such a pistol exists.
The Glock's revolutionary design made it a tough sell initially to the American public. Over the years though, it has become one of, if not the most popular civilian-owned handguns in the country. The Glock has found use as a home/personal defense weapon, a hunting weapon and a competition pistol. In fact, there is a shooting competition organization dedicated to the Glock pistol exclusively: The Glock Sporting Shooting Foundation. This organization uses a unique scoring and prize disbursement system, that gives shooters at every skill level a chance to win.
We will cover each Glock model in detail, in the following pages.