When one hears the history of the Glock pistol, it almost invariably starts with the Glock 17 pistol. Gaston Glock began working on the revolutionary design in 1980, and within two years had a fully functional pistol that was adopted by the Austrian military. Glocks were then rapidly accepted by NATO, and, by the mid-80s, had come to America to eventually become the most popular (and also most imitated) semi-automatic pistol. It has evolved over the past three decades, but the basic conceptualization has remained the same: a safe, simple and fast pistol for individual self-defense.

Along with the Glock 17, which can be characterized as a “full-” or “service”-sized pistol (although it was considerably lighter and more compact than contemporary pistols of the time), there were a few variants. One of these was the Glock 17L (L for “Long”). It had a barrel 6 inches in length, and a target trigger setup, i.e. a “minus”-marked connector, which originally gave a trigger pull of around 3.5 pounds. Usually equipped with first generation Glock adjustable sights, there were two barrel configurations, one with compensator slots cut into the barrel and one without. A non-compensated version was used by a Miami police officer, Armando Valdes, to win the IPSC World Championship in practical shooting. And then, a modification of the Glock 17 came about, producing one of the most popular Glocks ever—the Glock 19.

First Among Equals

One of the critical first sales of the Glock 17 was to the city of Miami, Florida in the late 1980s. Other police departments had purchased Glocks (notably St. Paul, Minnesota), but Miami at this time in history was well known internationally, sometimes infamously so. Crime was high, drugs flowed in and around the city, and civil unrest shook the city at times. The Miami Police Department began a search to adopt a new sidearm, with two important qualities: it should be a semi-automatic, and it must have a “double-action-only” fire control mechanism. The desire for a semi-auto was a response to the perception that criminals outgunned officers on the street with high-power automatic weapons; this was a common motivation for American law enforcement to switch to semi-auto handguns in this time period.

The exceptional request was for the pistol to be “double-action-only”(DAO), i.e. a revolver-like, consistent trigger pull for every shot.

Such an action was not generally available then; the majority of pistols were double-action for the first shot; that is, pulling the trigger brought the hammer to the rear and released it. Subsequent shots (unless the pistol was decocked), were single-action-only, where pressing the trigger released the hammer. This desire for a DAO came about because of a regrettable (but legal) action some years before, when a police officer had cocked his revolver on a suspect. A struggle ensued and the suspect was shot. This ignited riots in the city, and one of the results in the aftermath was that the department rendered its revolvers double-action-only. If they were going to switch, the new pistols would also have to be DAO.

Major domestic manufacturers reportedly took a take-it-or-leave-it attitude; they were not going to develop a new fire control mechanism for one department. But the U.S. government classified one new design as DAO: the Glock.

Tough testing and adoption followed. Miami would be the first high-profile user of the Glock pistol. And then, another request from the department: could there be a compact version of the full-sized service Glock? This dovetailed with requests from European organizations. So, the push for the Glock 19 began—a pistol that would soon be carried around the planet.

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