Standing in his small garage workshop nearly four decades ago, could Gaston Glock have imagined the impact of what he was about to embark on? A revolutionary type of new sidearm.
The brainchild of an Austrian native who at the time was doing well for himself in the manufacturing industry, holding a lucrative government contract with the Austrian Ministry of Defense where he supplied field knives and bayonets to the Austrian Army. Along with his government work, he and his wife Helga were doing quite well for themselves, manufacturing and distributing various polymer and plastic goods in the civilian market place utilizing a process very familiar to Gaston known as “Injection Molding.” It was his established government contract though which gained Glock the opportunity to submit a prototype for testing to the Austrian Defense Department in their search for a new sidearm to replace their aging WWII era Walther P-38 in the late 1970’s. Hearing of this opportunity is what set the wheels in motion for what would be nothing short of a landmark moment in firearm development.
Never having designed or built a firearm before, Glock set out with no preconceived notion of what was right or what was wrong. He was a manufacturer by trade, and that’s how he approached this new endeavor. He set out to design and manufacture what his customer wanted, specific to the requirements set forth by the Austrian Defense Department. These requirements where very straightforward. Among them were: the sidearm must be semi-automatic, light weight (no more than 28 ounces empty), must be chambered in 9mm NATO, minimum of 8+1 capacity, able to be manipulated and fired one handed; either left or right, able to withstand being dropped from over six and half feet onto a hard surface without rendering the weapon inoperable, made up of no more than 58 components that must be interchangeable between weapons without having to be hand fitted, no tools required to field strip, and no more than 20 stoppages during the first 10,000 rounds of testing.
Gaston Glock stepped up to the challenge and like Eugene Stoner when developing his lightweight AR-10 rifle, designed a revolutionary sidearm that would be significantly lighter by utilizing his knowledge in polymers and the reactive injection molding process to form the frame of his pistol. He developed a gun with far fewer parts than all other competitor’s designs which were presented for testing at the Austrian trial (33 parts in his original G-17) and developed a gun far more reliable and dependable, through it’s simplicity in engineering, than had ever been seen before. The simple aspect of making the gun more “user friendly” (idiot proof) by implementing the safety into the actual trigger face was ingenious. It would become one less thing for the operator to think about at the critical moment of deployment when needing to stop an imminent threat. Not to mention the weapon being striker fired as opposed to a sear/falling hammer/firing pin system and being able to incorporate that into his newly developed “Safe Action”® design and the normal cycling of the firing sequence. Needless to say, Glock’s new design won the Austrian trials by a large margin.
Patrick Sweeney posed this question in his 2008 edition of The Gun Digest Book of the Glock. “How was it that Gaston Glock was able to get it right?” Sweeney’s answer was simple, “He got it right because he hadn’t done it before.” Glock was able to get out of his own way, so to speak by not following John Browning’s or Samuel Colt’s or Bill Ruger’s ideology. He started from scratch. No rulebook to follow. No ghost of mentors past to live up to. Actually, in my opinion, Gaston Glock is the “John Moses Browning” of modern day service side arms. You only need to walk into your local gun store, peruse your favorite firearm auction sight or publication to see Mr. Glock’s influence in many of the modern service pistols that have been manufactured over the past 30 years.
Top:Colt 1911 L-R:G-17 G-36 G-30. They're not pretty but we love'm
When presented side-by-side with one of John Browning’s designed 1911’s, the quintessential semi-automatic sidearm for which all other pistols seem to be compared to; what Gaston Glock created is made even more obvious… and it ain’t pretty! Since the dawn of modern age weaponry, man has looked upon his sword, shield, knife, rifle and sidearm as a functional work of art. Research some nineteenth century Holland and Holland side-by-side shotguns or some of the fine handcrafted German Kentucky long rifles of the 1770’s with their magnificent scroll work, hand engraving and gold leaf inlay. Without a doubt, some breathtaking craftsmanship, especially for the times. And yes, Glocks can be dressed up in ways more functional than fashionable, but let’s call a “spade a spade”, it’s still a Glock. And we love our Glocks!!! Other than frame size and slide width, added caliber choices, some texture and finger grooves added over the years, they all roll off the assembly line looking pretty much like Gaston’s first offering back in 1980. And we cannot get enough of them. We stand in line like modern day hipsters waiting for the arrival of the new iPhone. To be honest, not unlike many of my fellow GlockTalk brethren, I currently own five Glocks and have had more at different times in my adult life, and I’m sure that’s on the embarrassing low end compared to many others.
So what is it about this simple little gun that draws us together like disciples to our leader, causes us to spend countless hours bouncing around the pages of this website in search of kindred spirits and social interaction? For me, my Glocks have become like old friends that never waiver, never change, steadfast and loyal. Comforting on those late night walks from the office to the truck. At the ready when Rover alerts to the bogeyman at 02:30. Friendly and fun loving when placed in the hands of a responsible youngster on a warm spring morning at your local range. Always reliable, always dependable just as a best friend should be.
Freedom and Protection For All
Glock pistols also ride in holsters of men and women that put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms and provide the blanket of safety we live under in many countries around the world. Not having the exact numbers available, I will simply say thousands up on thousands of brave soldiers, marines, airmen, sailors, peace officers and three letter government agents, depend on Mr. Glocks sidearm to bring them safely home to their loved ones at the end of each watch. Glock firearms have been adopted as the primary service weapon for police forces from Maine to California and from Florida to Washington. Agencies who not long ago decided that the lives of their officers were important enough to invest in the future. Their officers needed every advantage they could provide them with increase capacity over the six shot revolvers of the time, safety and reliability of the “Safe Action”® and Glock design, service life of high quality components, ease of maintenance for their armorers, all solidified by offering several frame sizes and available calibers to fit a wide cross section of officers and department needs. Glock Inc. also made this transition simple and painless for the department “bean counters” by providing buyback incentives and cost breaks for law enforcement agencies willing to make the switch to this strange looking new black weapon.
Where will Gaston Glock’s pistol be in another 30 years? No one truly knows. What I do know is this. The son of an Austrian railroad worker, who happened to be at the right place at the right time in history, has made his mark on the landscape of weaponry with his ugly black pistol. Glocks will be around long after I’m gone, protecting us from bad people with bad intentions and bringing us together to share in a simple day of pleasure and camaraderie at our local GSSF event.
Article The Glock Influence
Standing in his small garage workshop nearly four decades ago, could Gaston Glock have imagined the impact of what he was about to embark on? A...
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