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.
So, why are Glocks so popular?
Glocks are popular because they have always been highly reliable firearms, and they’ve been adopted by law enforcement worldwide. Glocks offer excellent value for money when compared to other premium brands.
This combination of traits has made them immensely popular with shooters of all levels.
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.
Table of Contents
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).
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 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.
Glocks are the Choice of Law Enforcement Worldwide
But perhaps the most important reason Glocks have been so popular is that they’ve been adopted by law enforcement agencies all over the world.
Glock pistols are now the overwhelming choice of law enforcement officers, and for good reason. They’re durable, reliable, and affordable- perfect qualities for a firearm that may be called on to save a life in an instant.
The logistical advantages of the Glock- for police and military as well as civilian use, are undeniable.
Glocks are easy to train shooters to a reasonable standard on, and the guns themselves are so simple that the company has struggled to make the factory-certification armorer course meaningfully longer than a single day!
For “fleet” guns, these means that an entire force can be trained to a high-ish standard quickly. It also means armorers will not find it hard to keep Glocks running properly.
Furthermore, the cost to the parent agency or unit of skilled armorer work goes way, way down: A genuine 1911 ‘smith or Beretta cognoscenti will only be rightly called such after decade or more of dedicated experience. You can train any goober to wrench on a Glock safely and correctly!
This makes Glocks inexpensive to obtain and maintain , and this is a critical factor in their popularity. Affordable, long lasting, easy to use and maintain, high performance. What’s not to love if you are an admin weenie in charge of acquisitions?
There is a Glock for Every Job
An old saying states that there is a shoe for every foot. That’s true, I guess, but there is definitely a Glock for every requirement you might ask of a pistol.
From ultra-compact backup guns to full-size service or competition handguns and crushing, big-bore pistols for bagging dangerous game, Glock has it all.
The Glock 19, for example, is a fantastic all-around gun that will serve most shooters well as a duty gun, a home defense gun, or even a competition gun.
The Glock 17 is the full-size service pistol that has been adopted by police forces all over the world, while the Glock 21 is a .45 ACP powerhouse that is perfect for hunting or self-defense.
These are just their most popular and enduring models! With a permutation of all of the above in every size and need, you can sleep easy knowing Glock has you covered.
Beyond factory offerings, Glocks are now so ubiquitous that they serve as the de facto pattern or basis for several companies custom offerings, both parts and complete guns.
The fact that there are now so many Glock pistols in use means that there is an enormous aftermarket in accessories and parts, making it easy to find anything you need to customize or repair your firearm. Glock’s ubiquity also makes them easy to sell, should you ever need or want to.
Glocks are Utterly Consistent
If there is one trait any shooter will tell you is a virtue, it is consistency. The more variables you can eliminate, and the more repeatable you can make any task or input, the better your performance will be. In this regard, Glock is utterly dominant.
Glock pistols are, bar none, the most consistent pistols on the market, mechanically and in design across models. No matter what size or type of Glock you want, the frame, trigger and controls will all feel and work like any other Glock.
Compare with other guns from SIG, Beretta and others and you can see some pretty radical deviation across models and even sizes or generations of the same type of pistol. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it allows the user to select a pistol that best suits their hand and needs.
But if the best “big” gun varies radically in feel, control layout and operation compared to a smaller stablemate, that means a shooter will need to train at least twice as hard to smooth out any glitches in their process.
But for someone who wants or needs absolute consistency, Glock has no peer.
This means that if you train with one Glock model, you can pretty effectively use any other Glock in an emergency or unexpected situation. It will feel comfortable or at least familiar to you!
If a police department issues officers a Glock 19 for uniform duty, and a Glock 26 for backup or undercover carry, they won’t struggle too much with operating the smaller pistol.
This is a big plus for those who value “muscle memory” in their training, as well as those who might find themselves in a situation where they need to use a gun that is not their own.
Glock is Still the Most Popular Pistol Around
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.
So there you have it- some of the reasons Glocks have become so popular. They offer a combination of features that no other handgun manufacturer can match, and this has made them the go-to choice for shooters all over the world for decades, now.
If you’re looking for an excellent all-around pistol, a Glock should definitely be at the top of your list.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.