Lots of shooters think striker fired pistols are “new” and “next generation” when in reality it’s an old technology. Some of the earliest semi-automatic handguns used strikers vs. the traditional hammer for cartridge ignition. Take the FN Browning 1900 as an example. The FN 1900 was the first commercially successful auto-loading pistol and it featured a striker firing system. It was sleek, snag free and was well-suited for the task of concealed carry . . .
When the Glock 17 came onto the scene, some thought it was the most advanced handgun of the time and it may well have been. But nothing about the Glock was really new. The polymer frame and striker ignition had been done before by HK with their VP70 handgun. It broke new ground with its innovative polymer frame and striker firing, but it wasn’t what I would consider a commercial success in the US.
The VP70 was originally designed as a police/military weapon and was a machine pistol that was capable of full-auto fire with the stock affixed. Unfortunately, the trigger pull was abysmal and measured 16+ lbs on examples I have examined.
Glock took design elements of other pistols, modified them and rolled them up into the Glock 17. Apparently Glock got it right because the G17 went on to become one of the most prolific handguns of the 20th century. In the United States the Glock rivals the popularity of the 1911, which is pretty amazing. The majority of police departments in the US have at one time used the Glock pistol in 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP.
Why has the Glock become so popular? What is it about the design that appeals to so many shooters?
I’d venture to say that reliability is the primary reason behind the Glock’s popularity. The 17 is, if nothing else, reliable. However I believe the recipe for the Glock’s success also lies in its striker firing system which features a consistent 5.5lbs trigger pull. But there’s something else.
The one thing that separates the Glock from the other two pistols mentioned is the fact that it lacks a manual safety. Calm down my loyal Glock groupies, I didn’t say the pistol lacked safeties — I merely stated the fact that Glocks lack a manual safety (please follow the link if you need clarification as to what defines a “manual safety”).
The relatively light trigger pull coupled with the lack of a manual safety makes the Glock one of the quickest handguns into a fight. Let’s face it, adding more operations to ready your pistol under stress only serves to increase the probably Mr. Murphy will make an appearance at your moment of truth. Something as simple as brushing off a safety is easily accomplished on a one-way range, but when you put that same shooter on a two-way range where bullets are coming back at him, all of a sudden the most trivial task becomes a likely failure point.
At first the Glock was decried as being unsafe or even downright dangerous. It’s true, it does have a higher incidence of unintended discharges by LEOs and others that carry them for defensive purposes. However, I view these negligent discharges as being attributable to a lack of training. Why do I say that? Because the Glock will not fire unless the trigger is pulled. Since the Glock is incapable of pulling its own trigger, that means someone pulled the trigger if the gun goes “boom” when the operator wasn’t expecting it.
It’s this simplicity and reliability that draws me towards the Glock for daily carry. With a good holster that covers the trigger and ample range time, the Glock is not only safe, but one of the fastest pistols into a fight you can buy.
I say “one of” because Glock’s success has spawned a whole cornucopia of pistols from competitors that borrow from the Glock’s successful recipe. Some have copied that recipe to such a degree that they’ve found themselves in court facing Glock’s rather aggressive attorneys who enforce the company’s patents with vigor. But many companies have found ways around the Glock patents and brought pistols to market (the M&P, SR9, XD, Steyr A1, Walter PPQ, Caracal, FNS, etc.) that closely mimic Austrian functionality.
I’ve always favored a consistent trigger pull over a double action trigger. That’s why I carried the 1911 for so many years before jumping on the Glock bandwagon. I moved to Glock many years ago before competitive products came to market. At this point I have a couple of decades of Glock shooting under my belt so it makes sense for me to continue using what I’m familiar with. However, if I were to buy my first defensive handgun today I’d lean heavily towards the S&W M&P 9mm.
In the end, I find modern polymer framed striker fired pistols to be the ultimate defensive handguns as they are the epitome of speed, reliability and ease of use. You?
Tim Harmsen runs the Military Arms Channel