Over the past 25 years, since GLOCK pistols were first introduced into the United States, the guns of Gaston Glock have been praised and embraced by U.S. Law Enforcement agencies and firearms enthusiasts alike. They have also been maligned, insulted, at times unmercifully, by just about everyone with an opinion; and, for the last quarter century they have been torture tested by gun writers and lawmen in an effort to prove, or disprove, that a GLOCK is almost indestructible. Whether buried in ice, covered in mud, dropped in sand and baked in the desert, submerged in water or driven over by patrol cars, GLOCK pistols have prevailed like no other.

Every year since 1986, when GLOCK opened its U.S. sales division in Smyrna, Ga., the Austrian armsmaker has made strides to improve and perfect its own perfection. As Gaston Glock wrote almost a decade ago, “We cannot stagnate and stand still, as we would become obsolete and irrelevant. This is the philosophy I am constantly instilling in my staff.” As with perhaps no other armsmaker in the world, certainly none with so comparatively short a history, GLOCK has continued to go from strength to strength since the innovative firearms design was first unveiled in Europe in 1982.

That first model was the GLOCK 17, named for Gaston Glock’s 17th GLOCK manufactured product. Since its debut, and despite early criticism and incredulous urban legends about “plastic” guns, “combat Tupperware that could pass through metal detectors unnoticed” (except for the barrel, slide, springs, screws and bullets that contain metals!), the original GLOCK 17, and the models that have followed in a variety of calibers and configurations, have become internationally revered as benchmarks in the evolution of firearm’s design. In 2009, the National Rifle Association’s American Rifleman magazine voted the GLOCK 17 as the No. 3 gun of all time; not just for the 20th century, but in the entire 485 year history of firearms! Quite an achievement considering the company had never designed or manufactured a handgun prior to 1982.

Plastics

Gaston Glock and GLOCK Ges.m.b.H. in Austria had a background working with synthetic materials long before the company decided to get into the firearm business. GLOCK’s intent was to apply its successful plastics technology to handgun manufacturing. While the use of plastics had been tried briefly by other armsmakers the G17 utilized a totally innovative injection-molded polymer frame design initially developed for the Austrian Armed Forces military trials in the early 1980s.

Invited to participate by the Austrian government, GLOCK Ges.m.b.H. was no stranger to the Austrian military, having provided the Army with machine gun belts, practice hand grenades, plastic clips, field knives and entrenching tools. Gaston Glock and his team had their first auto pistol designed and ready for testing by early 1982. The G17 passed every one of the 17 standards and requirements established by the Austrian Ministry of Defense and won the military assessment trials over eight other competitors. By year’s end, the G17 was adopted as the standard duty weapon for Austria’s armed forces and Law Enforcement authorities.

What Glock’s knowledge of plastics brought to the table was a totally new concept for building a military sidearm. With its polymer frame, the GLOCK was considerably lighter in weight than a steel-framed pistol. Having been designed new from the ground up it had no limitations as to how it could be engineered, thus the G17 had the highest magazine capacity of any 9×19 pistol in its class. The design did away with traditional features such as an external safety, de-cocking lever or hammer; in fact the G17 had no external controls that needed to be deactivated prior to firing the gun. For a military application (and as it turned out for Law Enforcement and civilian use as well), the GLOCK proved faster to use and with its unique “Safe-Action” trigger system, more straightforward in its functioning than any semi-auto then on the market.

In its final analysis, the GLOCK uniquely combined the advantages of a revolver (where the trigger is the safety) with the firepower (capacity) and speed of reloading of a semi-automatic pistol, permitting soldiers in the field to focus their concentration on tactical considerations rather than thinking about whether their sidearm was cocked, or the safety was still on at a critical moment. The “Safe Action” concept has been so successful that today GLOCK pistols are used by military and Law Enforcement agencies in 43 different countries.

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