How far is the jump of evolution from making curtain rods to the best selling handgun in the world? I don’t believe his theory but maybe Darwin was onto something. So goes the story of Gaston Glock and one of the greatest handguns ever designed. The neatly organized sock drawer of firearms manufacturing pulled from the dresser and dumped upside down on the floor.
Before we go to much further, I must come clean. I was the biggest anti-Glock person you would ever meet–was. I remember as a police officer when the Glocks made its appearance. I was not impressed and as I often do, I waited until it was proven by the hardest test of all–time. One of the most embarrassing things about my dislike for the Glock was its looks. I too became an Internet firearms aficionado. It does not matter what a tool looks like, it only matters how well it works-and how you the artist are capable of using that tool. Shame on me.
This weapons system has proven its worth over time. In 1980 the Austrian military called for a firearm with over 17 high-level standards. Just reading those requirements should give you the warm fuzzies. If this, or any other gun, could do this it would be a force to reckon with. In 1982 an engineer making a considerable amount of money-producing curtain rings and knives-assembled a team of handgun experts. How long did the prototype for the next great handgun take? Years? Within three weeks, a working prototype was on the table. Less than a month to put a dent in the entrenched firearms industry.
A void existed due to the failure of the Austrian firearms company Steyr to come up with an adequate replacement for the aging Walther P-38. Legend has it that Mr. Glock overheard a conversation about this need. He had neither worked with or even owned a firearm. Furthermore, his curtain rings were not plastic they were metal along with his knives. His business was a metal fabrication shop.
Like many engineers, his mind started working on the problem. He was advised several times to abandon the idea as he was not a gun-guy. He has often said the fact that he was not a gun-guy may have been to his advantage; take that you range and Internet know-it-alls. He bought a Beretta 92F, CZ 75, Walther P-38 and an offering from H&K and Sig-Sauer and went to work.
One of those groundbreaking ideas was the use of plastics or polymers. This idea caused quite the uproar and I remember it well. The gun was known as the terrorist special as it was believed the plastics would be undetectable by metal detectors at the airport and other places using preventative security. This proved to be false as much of the gun was metal and is easily detectable. The other complaint was the plastic frame was weak and could break or bend if very cold or hot, respectively. Well that didn’t pan out in the slightest. In fact, this design became so durable in so many atmospheric conditions, I believe it is the best all-weather all-purpose sidearm. No only did it survive, find a firearms-related company that does not have a contribution in polymers these days.
The second innovation would stand the industry up on its end-no hammer or external safeties. While this had existed in revolvers for some time, the idea that a pistol would have no hammer or visible safety created a stir. For someone like me, this was a bit disturbing at first and I closely followed the Internet diatribes. It occurred to me at some point that for years I had carried a handgun everyday with no external safety-a revolver. I then realized with the internal safeties of a Glock it was possibly safer than a revolver, one just keeps the booger-hooker off the bang-switch unless you intended to make it go boom-old lesson.
When Gaston Glock arrived at his 17th production model he had his pistol and thus it was named the Glock 17. Ironically, it has a magazine capacity of 17 rounds as well but the name comes from the 17th design. The gun was released in the Austrian nation in 1985 later to most of the world. The United States failed to adopt this firearm when it transitioned from the venerable 1911 in favor of the Beretta 92F/M9. I believe that was a mistake even though I am a huge Beretta fan and proudly own a Beretta M9. The Glock is responsible for almost 70 percent of all law enforcement personnel every day in this country. Glock has a factory in the United States and it is produced here in this country as well as in the UAE, South America, Hong Kong and of course Austria. I believe it is the most utilized and important handgun in the world today. This coming from a guy who carries a 1911 .45 ACP every time my feet walk out the door of my home.
Gaston Glock was a genius. The firearms that bear his namesake are the finest example of ingenuity, practicality and endurance. They only keep getting better with each new generation. From a person who was the biggest Glock persecutor, the light on the road to Damascus has blinded me. I am a believer. I do not own one but I will correct that misstep this year by getting my very own Glock 23.