To say the arrival of the Glock pistol coincided with a paradigm shift for American handguns is no understatement, not at all.
And even though the Glock’s much vaunted features at the time- striker ignition system, lack of manual safety, polymer frame- had all been seen on production guns elsewhere earlier (sometimes much earlier) it was Glock that managed through clever marketing and a genuinely excellent pistol offering that managed to make it catch on.
For shooters that came to the gun scene after all the polymer brouhaha of the mid nineties, you might not have a frame of reference for just how huge of a deal the Glock was at the time, being taken for granted today as ubiquitous and generic as apple pie or vanilla ice cream.
From serving as dead-hard reliable stock guns to acting as the core “component” of sky’s-the-limit custom builds, Glocks are still overwhelmingly the most plentiful and popular pistol on the market.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the practical reasons why that is so. So Glock fan or not, read on to learn a little bit more about the polymer dynamo that changed the world of handguns.
Glocks are Efficiency Squared
That’s not a joke about the Glock’s aesthetics or lack thereof. Okay, it is a bit of a joke, you caught me. In seriousness, the Glock pistol offered at its debut, and still offers today, a level of performance that is tough to match across most iterations.
Here you can have a supremely reliable pistol that is affordable on an individual or “fleet” level, mechanically extremely robust, easy to shoot well and easy to service.
While other pistols before and since could best the Glock in any of those single categories, none could rival it way back on all of them, and only a few today can claim such a lofty achievement.
Tremendous Performance at a Modest Cost
Fun Fact: The Glock was originally going to hit American markets with approximately a $350 price point.
It is not deep secret that Glock, GmbH is able to manufacture these guns extremely cheaply (and their low production cost along with their massive contracts have been partially responsible for their astronomic profits) but the story goes that their advisers told them American buyers’ psychology would doom to the pistol to a “bargain bin” category if sold for that modest sum no matter its actual performance and quality.
So the price was raised to the upper $400 to mid $500 price point we are accustomed to.
But even at that mid-tier price, for years there was not a pistol that would touch the Glock in overall performance. The Glock cemented the supremacy of polymer handguns in the minds of many and competitors followed suit.
Built to Handle the Worst Extremes
Glock earned its initial reputation on its supreme durability, longevity, and raw mechanical performance.
Glocks were routinely subjected to firing schedules that would leave other guns in need of overhauling and survived frankly comedic and ludicrous torture testing that, while in no way a practical concern for discerning users had the desired effect in the eyes of agency and civilian purchasers alike: tougher equals better.
And while flashy showmanship is just another arrow in a marketer’s quiver, for discerning buyers this did mean they were choosing a handgun that set a new and lofty bar for handgun reliability metrics.
If you bought a Glock, barring complete destruction or feeding it craptastic ammo you knew the damn thing was going to go bang every single time the trigger was pulled. A righteous trait for any handgun. Combine that with extraordinary ruggedness and resistance to corrosion and you have a pistol that will survive, quite literally, constant exposure to the worst conditions on earth.
While there are today handguns from several major manufacturers that can meet the standard set by the Glock, this was not always so. Even now, Glock remains the unofficial benchmark by which pistol reliability is measured.
Easy to Learn, Easy to Shoot Well
While legions of shooters appreciate the sublime simplicity of striker-fired handguns today, there were far fewer options before the Striker Wars™ were in full to-do.
Compared to conventional DA/SA pistols or handguns with manual safeties, the Glock was the very picture of easy operation: if loaded, pull the trigger and the gun will fire. If you don’t want to fire don’t pull the trigger.
Glocks are mechanically exceedingly safe, and will not fire when dropped, jostled or slammed with a round in the chamber. Yes, it is also a very unforgiving gun if one has a wandering trigger finger, but to be fair a great many guns are, and no firearm will suffer a fool’s handling long before barking off a round.
Reducing the manual of arms only to the most elemental steps means a shooter has less to remember and just as importantly less to focus on when actually in the process of shooting: a trigger that feels the same every time it is pressed.
A trigger of both modest travel and weight, not too light or too heavy. No decocking lever. No manual safety to keep up with after the shooting process has ended.
All of this adds up to a pistol that is easy to become proficient with in less time with less rounds fired. No matter what other perks a different pistol might have this is certainly one that should be given significant consideration.
And barring a shooter attains a high level of skill, a stock Glock is still more than enough “gun” for nearly any practical task, from self-defense to stock competition and informal target shooting.
Easy to Maintain, Repair and Replace
It has been said far and wide that real pro’s talk logistics, not base performance. It is here that Glock is undeniably dominant.
From the sapling of its modest initial offerings to the tall oak of the current day catalog, Glock pistols have grown into a veritable first family of polymer pistols, with models to suit any requirement and caliber preference, from backup and deep-cover carry pistols to fullsize optic-ready duty and competition models.
What’s more, the ubiquity and decades-long dominance of Glock handguns has given rise to an entire 3rd party industry that offers custom parts, services and treatments of, quite literally, every component pin and spring. These parts range from mild usability and service life enhancements to borderline lunatic custom slides, barrels, comps and more.
It is, in fact, 100% possible to own a “Glock” that does not feature a single, Glock-made part in it. When you pistol has transcended into exemplifying an entire classification of handgun, you know you have made it.
Even for the more reserved and mundane users, be they police or civilian, the commonality and popularity of Glocks pays dividends when boarding the logistics train: you can get Glock parts, service and expertise literally anywhere.
Servicing the Glock pistol is so simple that it can hardly be called true armorer-level work. While working on a gun is never “just like Legos,” the Glock certainly comes the closest in simplicity so long as one pays attention and follows instruction.
For those who desire being more self-reliant and taking care of their own guns, learning to do so is much simpler for Glocks than any other pistol today or from yesteryear.
Glocks are the most ubiquitous and common handguns on earth and with good reason. Far from a “me too” choice, Glock’s handguns introduced and continually set a benchmark for performance, reliability and maintainability at a fair price that other manufacturers must continually struggle against.