History of GLOCK pistols
|Although plenty was written about GLOCK pistols, even in Czech technical papers, only several articles describing origination of GLOCK guns were published. Therefore we provide this extract of article “GLOCK: Gun of the Future”, published in GLOCK Autopistols magazine in 2002.
At the beginning of the year 1980 a lucky chance drove Gaston GLOCK, a successful businessman and polymer manufacturer, to the Austrian Ministry of Defense (MD). GLOCK supplied the army with combined trench tools, non-moldering machine gun belts and hand grenades at the time. Furthermore, his company produced public market wares (e.g. curtain shafts, drawer rods) and GLOCK had skills with traditional material production, gained during truck radiator manufacturing.
Within that fated MD visit G. GLOCK overheard a talk of two Austrian colonels, discussing the Army`s Request for Proposal (RFP) for new short firearm. Those officers criticized a 5 year long waiting time, during which Styer (and other gun manufacturers) tried to design a gun complying with the RFP; though, no one of these new guns suits strict demands of RFP. So, GLOCK asked the colonel whether they need a new gun or not. GLOCK received a positive answer with comment that the time is short: “We have to find someone, who is able to design and manufacture a firearm, which will meet our demands and passes our tests”.
G. GLOCK, quite interested in this challenge, ask the officer whether GLOCK can join the tender. He also asked them about their idea of a new gun. After a short general discussion about RFP GLOCK estimated that it couldn’t be so difficult. In his theory the gun presents a part of accoutrements, clipped on soldier’s belt much like a knife (produced by GLOCK at that time). Officer informed him that his offer will be welcomed, but it must be prepared in very short time. Idea of opportune success of absolute gun constructer rookie – on a field mastered by world’s top manufacturers – put the officer into spirits. Officer’s impertinence boosted up GLOCK’s decision so Gaston started the project immediately; but as it were a hobby for him.
In 1980 Gaston started to self-study by investigating construction and function of that time’s best pistols. He never uses guns before. He bought Beretta 92, Sig Sauer P220, CZ75 and Walther P38 (standard Austrian army duty gun at that time) 9x19mm pistols. He striped them down and assembled again. Using this simple but tough method he assimilated their mechanical principles and manufacturing procedures, necessary for gun producing. The next step was a study on Austrian patent office; research in patents relating to short handguns helped him to know newest technologies and choose all suitable for his idea.
Austrian army informed GLOCK that he have to show serial production gun for tests, not a prototype. He has been told that pistol R&D takes three or four years. GLOCK answered that he can design completely new gun in fixed term.
Once GLOCK understood basics of weapon construction and technology, he realized that help of handgun expert is essential. So he arranged a meeting with three experts: Siegfried F. Hubner, Richard Silvestri and Friedrich Dechant. The meeting took place on 8. 5. 1980.
During this meeting GLOCK asked other men to tell, what would be their request for pistol of future, for long-term vision for 10 or more years. His guests outlined their idea of perfect pistol on two sheets of paper during the meeting, in the light of premise the gun will be used by military and security units. Regarding contemporary pistol`s imperfections (like accidental shots, failures, safety troubles, maintenance or expenses) they projected design of completely new gun.
First they defined demands like magazine capacity of 100 rounds and weight 2 oz. But, when they aimed on achievable goals, they designed following parameters of new gun: no external safety, lighter than 800 grams and maximal magazine capacity. Mr. Hubner and Mr. Silvestri prefers trigger resistance 1,5 kg; colonel Dechont declared it would be 2-3,5 kg. They demanded gun width 30-50 mm, trigger width 10 mm. The gun should be made of no more than 40 parts, placed in independent subgroups (e.g. trigger mechanism, safety set), which can be easily and quickly replaced by trained gunsmith. (To compare: GLOCK 17 is 30 mm wide, weights 703 grams including magazine and it is made of 34 parts.)
Furthermore, the barrel should be hammered in single manufacturing operation for higher accuracy. It should be able to safely shoot off 9×19 round of double load. Gun should not accidentally shoot in case of fall from 2 meters against metal desk, whatever part of pistol hits the desk. Pistol should be made of tin by stamping or embossing or it could be made of plastic. In either case it must be rust-resistant.
On the basis of his experiences with topical gun specimens GLOCK asked about optimal handle to frame angle. He was convinced that it must be possible to aim the handgun by instinct, to enable the user shooting the gun even in case of injury disallowing using of sights. G. GLOCK nailed together two items and conducted a specific experiment. He defined the question like this: You can aim any gun precisely with eyes open. But what is the right handle angle if you want to aim the gun with eyes closed? After tests and discussion whole group agreed that best angle is 22 degrees (this conclusion was revised later, so present GLOCK gun’s handle angle is 21.5 degrees). During discussing the handle all experts requested for tapered magazine well for easier magazine insertion.
They also consulted dirt and weather resistance: the gun should be working correctly after contact with snow, ice, sand and dust. The gun must fire 10000 rounds with the most of 1 misfire per 1000 rounds.
Finally all three men signed and dated one sheet of paper with their suggestions and designs. By the way this document is held by GLOCK Company nowadays.
When the experts leaved later that evening, they hadn’t realized that they vitally affected gun construction evolution. By contrast they were leaving with smiles on their faces, calling:”Now you have your list. We hope you are happy now. But we guess that you can’t make it. It is impossible!”
G. GLOCK started to assemble all information he gathered: from expert’s list, patent researches and own studies of purchased guns. To verify external safety problem he carried Walther for two weeks; he found out that he is never sure if the guns is locked or not. Because of this doubts the safety appears to be a handicap for quick gun control.
The next step was making of drawings. GLOCK made them as simple as possible, because he handed them over to his engineer Reinhold Hirschheiter every morning and expected him to finish the work in his working hours same day, so GLOCK can test the product the very same evening. GLOCK tested all the guns by himself in his cellar. He held the gun in left hand, because he wanted to shield his right hand in case of accident. Once he found out what is working and what is not, he discarded bad drawing and prototypes and started again the next day. It is interesting that four of his prototypes still exist, but no of the drawing survived.
GLOCK applied for a patent for his new gun on 30. 4. 1981. This proves that his theories were right and efforts were successful.
Gaston GLOCK decided to produce short handgun with polymer body and automatic control less safeties. He wanted a gun corresponding with philosophy – to have everything simple, plain and clean. The development took him 18 months. Finally he sent his gun to Austrian army on 19. 5. 1982. When they asked GLOCK later how he could remember this date so precisely, he answered:”Because I worked on it for two years, whole days and nights, to deliver my sample in time.”
18 GLOCK pistols then passed all military tests successfully. The Army finally has a gun which satisfies almost all its requirements. Thu gun should have two internal safeties instead of one. In addition the army demanded firing pin safety. This safety should protect the cartridge from initiating in case of broken firing pin or slide damage.
For additional military test in 1983 the gun included all three safeties. In consequence the Austrian army ordered 25000 GLOCK pistols; another big order from Norwegian army came shortly after. The GLOCK pistol came true.