In the early days of shooting, or BG (Before Glock) as it is known, pistols were complex collections of fitted parts that made for a sometimes precarious balance of reliability and function. This became very evident when a shooter would attempt to go beyond a general field stripping of their pistol to replace a part or even explore the gun. Many a gunsmith would see customers walk into their shop with a shoe box full of parts that were previously a pistol.

While the craftsmanship involved in these weapons was admirable, the sometimes temperamental nature of some pistols was problematic. Then, one fine day in 1981, the revolutionary, semi-automatic Glock service pistol with polymer receiver and new Safe Action System was born. The gun world would never be the same again.

The entire idea behind the development of the Glock handgun was different than the paths chosen by earlier gun makers. In fact, Gaston Glock began his weapon development with no real experience with firearms design. He did, however, possess an extensive background in advanced synthetic polymers and a subtle genius for engineering. He worked to develop a pistol that met the Austrian military’s template for a new duty weapon. The parameters were demanding and very specific and proved to be the blueprint for modern service weapons around the world.

In short order, Glock won the contract by being the top performer on an exhaustive series of reliability and safety tests. From there, the word of Glock’s reliability and simplicity spread like wildfire. The name Glockwould not only be known inside the firearms world but in the general culture as well.

The heart of the Glock is a mix of simplicity, engineering and quality. The Glock pistol when completely broken down, consists of only 34 parts. This is in comparison to other semi-auto pistols that have 50-plus parts at a minimum. The gun can be field stripped with no tools and completely disassembled with only a couple of small tools. It is an armorer’s dream, to say the least.

Gaston Glock’s experience with advanced polymers is evident in the lower portion of the gun. It is lightweight, yet strong enough to survive the abuse it is subjected to as a military and law enforcement duty weapon. The ability to produce a quality weapon with so few parts is a testament to masterful engineering. Every component of the Glock is well thought out and specifically designed for the gun.

The gun was designed from the ground up and the components reflect that. With this mindset, there was no need to compromise or adjust the design to fit a part that they would get from another source. Every part of the gun fits precisely into the weapon, which incidentally eliminates the rattle so commonly associated with other guns.

This well-designed fit is also a contributing factor to the accuracy of the gun. At the center of that accuracy is the unique barrel design created by Glock.

While other barrels have standard lands and grooves, the Glock barrel has a polygonal profile with a series of six or eight interconnected segments. The depressions in the barrel are like the grooves in a regular barrel.

The boiled down result of that engineering feat is a barrel that has a better gas seal around the bullet, which allows a more efficient use of gases. This in turn allows for slightly greater velocities and increased accuracy. This is but one of the large number of unique engineering features seen in a Glock handgun. It would take an encyclopedia-sized book to effectively describe everything about this design. A book that is undoubtedly in print to serve the mass number of Glock devotees.

It is hard to tell if Gaston Glock knew exactly what the effect of his new pistol design would be. While he was confident that he could win the Austrian military contract, it is hard to know if he understood he would be changing the handgun world with his design.

From that first single pistol design, Glock now manufactures 31 different guns. More profound than that is the effort by many in the firearms industry to copy and match the design set out by the late engineer. If it is true that imitation is the highest form of flattery, Glock is indeed a very flattered company.

While clichés about “plastic” guns still rattle around in run-down coffee shop conversations, Glock continues to be at the forefront of producing real-world fighting weapons. Their commitment to reliability and accuracy built on a foundation of simplicity and engineering genius has been and will continue to be the engine that drives them. This focus has served those who carry a Glock not only in the military and law enforcement worlds but in civilian life as well. It is this characteristic that gives us confidence in a gun that we may need to use in defense of our lives.

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