General Overview of the Glock


     The Glock.  Combat Tupperware.  With the possible exception of the Peacemaker, no other handgun so instantly earned cultural icon status when introduced.  Not even the famed 1911 attained such widespread acceptance within the first ten or even thirty years of its existence.

     While certainly an innovation in handgun design, little in the Glock is truly new technology. The polymer frame, hammerless striker-fired ignition, and ergonomic design were all influenced by earlier firearms.  But Gaston Glock's team of engineers put it all together in a handgun which truly is ... Perfection.


  1. How the Glock was designed
  2. The different models
  3. Ergonomics
  4. Polymer frame
  5. Tenifer-treated slide and barrel
  6. Safe-Action trigger system
  7. Three safeties

How the Glock was designed

     When the Austrian armed forces announced in the early Eighties that they were going to procure a new handgun for their troops, Glock Ges.m.b.H. decided to try its hand.  Prior to this, the company had never designed, manufactured, or sold a firearm of any kind.  It was a whole new direction for Glock.

     Rather than just make "another handgun" and throw random features at it, Gaston Glock's engineers started from the ground up, taking into consideration not just how a firearm functions but how it functions in the human hand under the stress of combat.  From this holistic design concept was born a handgun unlike anything else on the market.

     The Glock 17 (so named because it was Glock's 17th patent, not because the magazine holds seventeen rounds) was the result, and it won the Austrian armed service trials hands down.  The Glock soon found its way across the Atlantic to the United States where it won instant favor from a law enforcement community desperately seeking an alternative to their old 6-shot revolvers.  Glocks offered everything a street cop could want: firepower, ease of use, reliability, ruggedness, and durability.

The different models

     There are currently twenty different model Glock handguns produced in Austria, seventeen of which are commercially available in the United States.   Most models are also available in a "C" configuration (e.g., "G17C") with a compensated barrel.

     In 9mm, Glock manufactures the full size G17, compact G19, subcompact G26.  For competition, there is the  long-slide G17L and the slightly smaller G34.  The 9mm G18 is a full-auto version of the G17 with a 1,200 round per minute cyclic rate.

     There are two 10mm Glocks, the full size G20 (with optional 6" hunting barrel) and "subcompact" G29.

     For .45ACP aficionados, there is the full size G21 and "subcompact" G30.

     In .40S&W, there is the full size G22, compact G23, and subcompact G27.  A long-slide G24 and G35 are also available.

     The new 357SIG Glocks are the full size G31, compact G32, and subcompact G33.

     Finally, Glock makes two .380ACP handguns, the compact G25 and subcompact G28.

     For more details on the different Glock models, see the Model Specification Sheet.

Not Available in Stores:

The Glock 18 is a full-automatic handgun which is sold only to law enforcement and military agencies.

Full-auto Glock 18 with laser mount

The Glock 25 and 28 are .380ACP handguns which do not meet the import requirements under GCA'68.  The G28 is sold in the United States to law enforcement personnel.



     The Glock was designed from the ground up for one thing: combat.  The ergonomics are perfect for a gun intended to be used on the battleground, on the beat, or in self-defense.

     For many shooters, the Glock points very naturally and sits comfortably in the hand. The wide backstrap (the back part of the grip area) spreads the recoil force out across a larger area of the hand, reducing felt recoil.  However, some shooters with very small hands find the grips too wide and cannot comfortably handle Glocks.

     The Glock does not have any hammer mechanisms in the receiver, so the backstrap continues right to the edge of the slide, so the Glock has a high bore axis.  This means the shooter can place his hand almost perfectly in line with a barrel.  The higher the bore axis, the more the gun recoils straight back, rather than torquing upwards.  The result is that Glocks tend to have less muzzle flip than many other handguns.

     Because there is no need for parts like a hammer. etc., behind the chamber, Glocks can also have longer barrels than similarly sized guns.  For example, the H&K USP40 (3.58" barrel), SIG-Sauer P229 (3.8" barrel), and S&W 4013 (3.5" barrel) are all approximately the same size as the Glock 23 with its 4.02" barrel.

     There are very few controls on a Glock to deal with during a life-or-death struggle.  There is the trigger, the magazine release, and the slide stop lever (which is used only to lock the slide open when there is no magazine in the gun).  No external safeties, decockers, etc.  The manual of arms for the Glock pistol is very simple: point and shoot.

Credit Where It's Due

The Heckler & Koch P7 series of handguns was the first major commercial design which made use of the hammerless concept to give the shooter a high grip, reducing muzzle flip.  As in the Glocks, this design also allowed for a slightly longer than usual barrel.

The P7 is still manufactured, and is two to three times as expensive as the average Glock.  They are very popular with some experienced shooters.

The polymer frame

     Glocks are almost indestructible.  The frame is made from a high-tech polymer that is stronger than aluminum or steel, yet lighter than both.   Because it is not made of metal, it cannot rust.  It is immune to all normal solvents (including gun cleaners, lubricants, etc.) and can withstand 400F heat.

     The frame actually flexes under the impulse of firing and absorbs some of the recoil; of course, this happens so quickly that the shooter does not notice anything but lighter felt recoil.  Combined with the wide backstrap and high bore axis, Glocks are some of the most comfortable and controllable guns to shoot.

The Tenifer-treated slide and barrel

     Glock barrels and slides are made from quality steel which has been treated with a special "Tenifer" process.  This colorless carbo-nitrate formula enriches the steel with oxygen, sealing its pores.  Tenifer makes the steel extremely hard (as hard as industrial diamond on the Rockwell scale) and corrosion resistant.  The steel will not scratch or rust, period!  In fact, the slide is so hard you can use it to sharpen your knives.

     The barrel is treated both inside and out.  Because of this, Glock barrels do not show the normal wear associated with untreated barrels by other manufacturers.  Glock, Inc., has one barrel which has fired one million rounds and still works; another has fired 300,000 rounds and still shoots better than 1" groups!

     Glock also parkerizes the slide and barrel to give them a matte black color.  While the parkerizing might wear off showing "bare" steel beneath, the Tenifer is still there.  In fact, it penetrates the steel to a depth of three microns.  Even a Glock which has lost all of its matte black finish is still scratch- and rust-proof.

Safe-Action Trigger System

     The topic of endless debate, ridicule, and confusion, the Glock Safe-Action system is neither single-action (SA) nor double-action (DA).

     The Glock, unlike most centerfire handguns, does not have a hammer which is dropped to push a firing pin when the trigger is pulled.  Instead, the Glock has a striker which is completely enclosed within the slide.  Whenever a round is in the chamber, the striker is partially retracted under tension.  There isn't enough tension to fire the gun if for some reason the striker were forced forward from this position.

     When the shooter pulls the trigger, the striker is retracted the rest of the way to full tension, wherefrom it can fire the gun.  Because the trigger action needs only retract the striker part way, the trigger stroke is shorter and lighter than traditional DA designs.

     The biggest advantage of the Safe Action system is that the trigger pull is consistent from shot to shot.  Unlike DA/SA guns which fire their first shot with a long, heavy DA stroke and subsequent shots with lighter, shorter strokes, the Glock pull never changes.  Glocks come standard with 5 pound triggers, but a certified armorer can increase it to 8 or 11 pounds.  There is also a 3 pound trigger option available on certain competition models and from aftermarket retailers such as Glockmeister.  SA and DAO (double-action only) guns share this feature, but SA guns require the shooter to disengage a safety switch before firing, and DAO guns have significantly heavier trigger pulls (9 pounds or more).

     The end result of the Glock Safe Action is a light, short, consistent trigger stroke which nevertheless needs to overcome the small resistance of compressing the firing pin spring fully.  That's why I refer to Safe Action as "single-action on the street and DAO in the courtroom."

Where the Action Is

Single Action (SA): pulling the trigger performs a single function, releasing the hammer or striker

Double Action (DA): pulling the trigger performs two actions, cocking the hammer or striker and then releasing it

Safe Action: pulling the trigger completes the striker cocking and then releases it

Three Safeties

     Glocks have three safeties: the trigger safety, the firing pin safety, and the drop safety.  The safeties are redundant, keeping the Glock from discharging at any time unless the shooter pulls the trigger.

     The trigger safety is a small button on the face of the trigger which keeps the trigger from moving backwards (and thus firing the weapon) unless pressed straight back during a normal pull.  This helps keep the trigger from moving backwards when dropped or if something gets in the trigger guard.

     The firing pin safety is a small device in the slide of the gun which blocks the striker from moving forward.  This device is moved out of the way automatically when the trigger is pulled.  So unless the trigger is pulled, there is no way the firing pin can strike the primer on a chambered round.

     The drop safety is part of the trigger housing inside the receiver.  It is a small "shelf" which a part of the trigger mechanism called the cruciform must overcome in order for the striker to release.  Therefore, even if the trigger safety and firing pin safety malfunction and the gun is dropped, it cannot go off.

Trigger Safety

Trigger Safety - pic courtesy of Oleg Volk


Firing Pin Safety

Glock 20 Firing Pin Safety -- Image courtesy of Neil Wegner



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