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The Glock 17 Pistol

Glock 17 Pistol

Glock 17: The Pistol That Changed the World

When engineer Gaston Glock began creating a new pistol for the Austrian military, he had no experience designing or manufacturing guns. What he did have was an extensive knowledge of synthetic polymers. Glock applied this knowledge to existing firearms technology and came up with a revolutionary new idea—a pistol composed of plastic.

Initial reaction to this new weapon was overwhelmingly negative. In addition to reports that the pistol would fall apart or explode, many feared it could be smuggled past metal detectors, though the pistol actually contained more metal than synthetic parts.

What first started as an experiment, a novelty, and an aberration, quickly became a revolution. This polymer weapon was lighter, more durable, and had a higher capacity than most handguns that came before it.

Today, the Glock is one of the most popular handguns in the United States, accounting for the majority of all law enforcement handgun sales in the U.S., as well as an overwhelming number of private handgun purchases.

History of the Glock 17

Retiring the Walther
In 1980, the Austrian military decided to replace their standard-issue Walther P38 handguns. The Ministry of Defence announced they would be testing new models, and issued a list of criteria. The requirements for the new pistol included: semi-automatic, chambered for 9x19 Parabellum, high capacity, one-handed operation, safe from accidental discharge, tool-free disassembly and cleaning, small number of interchangeable components, and able to withstand brutal use.

In 1982,Glockassembled a team of Europe’s leading handgun experts to define the most desirable characteristics in a combat pistol and incorporate the Austrian military’s weapon requirements.

Within three months, Glock developed a working prototype.The new weapon made extensive use of synthetic materials and modern manufacturing technologies, making it both cost-effective and ultra-modern looking.The pistol was the 17thGlock patent, and was referred to as Model 17.

The gun was submitted for trials and came out far ahead of the competition.

Austrian Pistol Trials
During the 1982 pistol trials, several other manufacturers presented their handguns, including Heckler & Koch, SIG-Sauer, Beretta, FN Herstal, and Steyr. The Glock 17 outperformed eight different pistols from these manufacturers, surpassing all previous durability standards and becoming the firearm of choice for NATO forces.

This trial attracted attention from the US., who was also looking to replace their standard issue service pistol, the 1911. However, the U.S. needed a large number of test models in a very short time, as well as significant changes that would require altering Glock’s production equipment. Glock declined the U.S. trail, and the armed forces ended up adopting the Beretta 92F.

Nevertheless, the gun began attracting attention in the U.S., and less than ten years after it became available, some 250,000 pistols had been sold stateside.

The Design

The Glock 17 was based on John Browning’s Hi-Power pistol design. The semi-automatic function utilizes short recoil and a tilting barrel. The Glock 17 is chambered for a 9mm round.

The Difference

There are several things that made the Glock different from all the pistols that came before it.

The first, of course, is the polymer frame. Glock was not the first to experiment with a synthetic frame, but it was his version that succeeded. Lightweight and more resilient than steel, the Glock frame is shock resistant, impermeable to caustic liquids, and withstands temperature extremes.

The parts that are metal, including the barrel and slide, are treated with a process called Tenifer. This results in extreme resistance to wear and corrosion, producing the characteristic dark grey metal of the Glock, reported to have a hardness rating nearly equivalent to that of diamonds.

The next difference is the barrel and slide construction.

Rather than conventional rifling, the Glock utilizes a polygonal profile consisting of a series of six interconnected non-circular segments. Each depressed segment within the interior of the barrel is the equivalent of a groove in a conventional barrel.

This barrel design has the advantage of greater consistency in muzzle velocity, increased accuracy, and ease of maintenance.

The Glock pistol has a relatively low slide profile, which holds the barrel axis close to the shooter’s hand and reduces muzzle rise, allowing for faster aim recovery.

For maintenance, the pistol disassembles into five main groups: the barrel, slide, frame, magazine, and recoil-spring assembly.

The third and final most significant difference between a Glock and previous types of pistols is its safety.

In a way, the Glock has no safety, as unlike a conventional pistol, the trigger on a Glock cannot be locked. In fact, any time you pull the trigger, a Glock will fire.

However, there are three safeties integrated into the trigger, so that the ONLY time a Glock will fire is when the trigger is pulled. Because of a firing pin safety and a drop safety, A Glock cannot misfire because of mechanical error or dropping.

To address these concerns, in 2003 Glock announced the Internal Locking System (ILS) safety feature. The ILS is a manually activated lock that is located in the back of the pistol’s grip. When activated, the lock causes a tab to protrude from the rear of the grip giving both a visual and tactile indication that the gun is locked. When activated, the ILS renders the Glock unfireable as well as making it impossible to disassemble.


Glock pistol accessories available from the factory include tactical lights, laser sights, holsters, and magazine pouches. Responding to issues with heavy trigger pulls and strong recoil, Glock produces optional triggers and recoil springs, as well as custom slide stops, magazine release levers, and underwater spring cups.


The Glock was modified several times throughout its production history. In 1991, an integrated recoil spring assembly replaced the original two-piece recoil spring and tube design. The magazine was also slightly modified, changing the floor plate and fitting the follower spring with a resistance insert at its base.

Second generation models
In 1988, Glock added checkering on the front strap and serrations to the back strap. To meet American ATF regulations, a steel plate with a stamped serial number was embedded into the receiver in front of the trigger guard.

Third generation models
In the late 1990s, the frame was further modified with an accessory rail. Thumb rests on both sides of the frame and finger grooves on the front strap were also added.Later third generation models featured a modified extractor that also serves as a loaded chamber indicator, and an enlarged locking block.

In 2009 the Glock 22 RTF2 (Rough Texture Frame 2) was introduced. This pistol featured a new checkering texture around the grip and scalloped serrations at the rear of the slide.

Fourth generation models
In 2010, Glock introduced its fourth generation design, with improved ergonomics and recoil. Fourth generation guns have only partial parts compatibility with previous models. The first 4G models had a modified rough texture frame and grip checkering.

The grip size is smaller than previous designs and can be customized with a series of back straps.

The magazine release catches are also significantly enlarged and reversible for left-handed use.

Recoil is reduced through a dual spring assembly. The slide, barrel shelf, and front portion of the polymer frame under the slide were resizedto fit the larger diameter of this assembly.

The trigger mechanism housing wasadapted to fit in the smaller-sized grip space.

Glock Models

The Glock 17 is the original 9x19 Parabellum model, with a standard magazine capacity of 17 rounds.

The Glock 18 features a fire-control selector switch to change the pistol from semi to fully automatic. It is not available to the general public.

The Glock 19 is a compact-sized Model 17, with shorter barrel and grip

The Glock 20 is larger than the Model 17 and is chambered for a 10mm round.

The Glock 21 is a Model 20 chambered for .45 ACP and features modified barrel rifling and lighter slide.

The Glock 22 is a .40 S&W version of the full-sizedModel 17. The pistol uses a modified slide, frame, and barrel to account for the differences in size and power of the .40 S&W cartridge.

The Glock 23 is a .40 S&W version of the compact Model 19. It is dimensionally identical to the Glock 19, but is slightly heavier and uses a modified slide, frame, .40 S&W barrel, and a standard magazine capacity of 13 rounds.

The Glock 24 is a .40 S&W competition variant of the full-size Model 22. The Glock 24 was introduced in 1994 and officially discontinued upon the release of Models 34 and 35.

The Glock 25 is a derivative of the Glock 19, adapted to use the .380 ACP cartridge.

The Glock 26 is a sub-compact-sized Model 19, with smaller frame and grip, shorter barrel and slide, and double-stack magazine.

The Glock 27 is a .40 S&W version of the subcompact Model 26.

The Glock 28 is a .380 ACP subcompact version of the Model 25.

The Model 29 is a Model 26 chambered for 10mm rounds.

The Model 30 is a .45 ACP version of the subcompact Glock 29.

The Glock 31 is a .357 SIG variant of the full-sized Glock 22.

The Glock 32 is a .357 SIG variant of the compact Glock 23.

The Glock 33 is a .357 SIG variant of the subcompact Glock 27.

The Glock 34 is a modified Model 17, with shorter slide and barrel and extended magazine release and slide stop lever, modified trigger pull, and adjustable rear sight. A hole in the slide reduces the weight of the front of the gun, giving it better balance.

The Glock 35 is a .40 S&W version of the competition Model 34.

The Glock 36 is a thinner version of the subcompact Model 30 that features an ultra-compact frame and is chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge.

The Glock 37 is a .45 GAP version of the Model 17. It uses a wider, beveled slide, larger barrel, and different magazine, but is otherwise similar to the Model 17.

The Glock 38 is a .45 GAP version of the compact Model 19.

The Glock 39 is a .45 GAP version of the subcompact Model 26.

Glocks that carry the designation “C” are compensated models, featuring slots cut in the barrel and/or slide to compensate for muzzle rise and recoil.

Glocks that carry the designation “SF” are shorter frame models.

Glocks that carry the designation “MB” feature ambidextrous magazine release levers.

Glocks that carry the designation “L” are Model 17s with longer slides and extended barrels. These models featured three holes in the top of the barrel and a corresponding slot in the slide. Later versions did not feature holes in the barrel. This model was later discontinued and replaced by the Model 34.

The Appeal of Glock

Glocks have become so popular because they are lightweight, incredibly durable, resistant to wear and weathering, reliable, and simple to take apart and put back together.

Many Glock components are interchangeable, and Glocks are easily customizable. Many people opt to replace trigger mechanisms and grips.

The Glock has integrated safety features and a consistent trigger pull. Glocks are high capacity, use readily available ammunition, and are generally cheaper than other service-grade weapons.

Current users

It all started with the Glock 17, the handgun that inspired a new way of thinking and a new family of firearms.

Glock pistols now make up 65 percent of all law enforcement handguns sold in the United States, as well as supplying national armed forces and security agencies in 48 countries worldwide.

Today, many firearms manufacturers have some version of a lightweight plastic frame, whether in handgun or long gun models.

Gaston Glock may not have known much about weapons, but his engineering know-how, combined with existing firearms technology, propelled handgun design into the next century.

Author: Corinne Flowers
Pub. Date: 4/6/11