Glock completely changed the way the world viewed pistols. Today, several major firearm manufacturers copy the basic Glock pistol design of a polymer frame and a striker firing system.
Gaston Glock ran a small manufacturing business out of his garage, producing knives and other small items for the military. He had no experience building firearms, but what he did have was determination and vision. He spoke with firearms experts to understand the pros and cons of the current pistol designs. Not having any preconceived notions of how to design or manufacture a pistol, Glock had pure creativity at his disposal with no limitations. He and his team created a pistol with 34 components and a unique Safe Action trigger system never before seen. The pistol made full use of high-tech polymers in the frame, magazine and other components. The slide was machined from round bar stock steel and given a blocky look. Metal components were given a surface-hardening treatment that resists scratches and corrosion. It had a magazine capacity of 17 rounds, parts between pistols were easily interchangeable, and the pistol could be field-stripped without tools in seconds. The Glock 17 was then introduced to the world.
As Glocks were adopted by militaries and LE agencies around the globe, Glock continued to refine its series of pistols by using feedback from troops on the ground and police who carried the Glock on duty, day in and day out. Those changes and suggestions are noted in the succeeding generations of Glocks.
There are four distinct generations of Glocks, and, at a glance, even the casual observer can see how this pistol evolved over the past three decades. Perhaps only the knowledgeable collector can note the slight variations within generations. Here’s a look at how Glock pistols have evolved over the years.
The first generation of Glocks debuted with the G17 in 1982, chambered in 9mm. Gen1 Glocks featured a pebble-finished frame without horizontal grooves on the front- and backstraps. The G17 was purchased by numerous militaries around the world, and it was presented and demonstrated to police chiefs across the U.S. Rare G17 Gen1 cutaways were used to demonstrate the features of the then-new G17, particularly the Safe Action mechanism. The LE world at that time used revolvers. A semi-automatic pistol, let alone a lightweight polymer-framed model with no manual thumb safety, was a new breed indeed
In Europe, G17s were shipped in small plastic containers with two magazines, a cleaning rod and slots to hold 18 rounds of ammunition. The ATF requested the cartridge slots be removed for the U.S. market, and Glock obliged. Shooters immediately tried—and failed—to wear out the pistols by shooting thousands of rounds through them. The media touted the Glock as being immune to detection by metal detectors. These initial thoughts were soon dismissed. As shooters learned, the soft-shooting 9mm G17 was lightweight, accurate and reliable. There was also plenty of steel in the firearm’s construction so it could never sneak past a metal detector.
Glocks were dropped from helicopters, frozen in ice, dunked in mud and buried in sand, and after all the torture tests the Glocks performed flawlessly. Police chiefs liked the pistol but were in need of a more compact pistol for plainclothes officers and detectives, and the Glock 19 was produced by shortening the grip and magazine. Competitive shooters began to demand a Glock pistol of their own, so a longer barrel and slide assembly was mated to the G17 frame and called the Glock 17L. This model also had a lighter trigger pull and an extended magazine catch. The Glock 18 was introduced as a select-fire variant for LE/military use only.