Why Are Glocks So Popular?

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Like people, some guns are famous for certain attributes, while others are famous for being famous. I think the long-term fame of Glocks draws a bit from each of those realms, although I’m not sure if the Kardashians use them.

The First Tactical Tupperware … and Curtain Rods

The early Glocks brought the beginning of the polymer-pistol revolution. There was that silly media frenzy over “new pistols that could avoid metal detectors” and other such nonsense. Of course, no “journalist” stopped long enough to breathe into a paper bag and consider that gun barrels and slides are made of steel. (Oh, and ammunition is made of metal too.) Regardless, going to “Tactical Tupperware” was a big deal that turned the gun industry on its head for quite some time. For years, keyboard commandos bemoaned a world where pistols would fall apart or melt if left in the car on hot days. You know what they say about publicity: Any is better than none, and Glock got plenty of attention.

Then there was the whole founding tale. Gaston Glock was a manufacturer of curtain rods who knew nothing about guns when the Austrian military started looking for a new duty pistol back in 1980. In fairness, by that time, Glock’s company was making knives and polymer sheaths, although still nothing that went “bang.” Seeing an opportunity to reduce costs by an Apfelstrudel or two by using advanced plastics, Glock recruited a pile of experts and designed a pistol. The Glock 17 was adopted by the Austrian warfighters as the P80.

The Law Enforcement Pistol

For many years, Glocks were the preferred duty pistols of law enforcement officers pretty much anywhere. Sure, there were occasional upstarts that used SIG Sauers, Berettas or Smith & Wesson semi-autos. But in most cases, if it wasn’t a revolver on the Sam Browne belt, it was a Glock.

Two black Glock pistols, a Glock 17 in 9mm and a Glock 32 chambered in .357 SIG, lying on an untreated wooden deck

Glocks are available in several chamberings, including 9mm and .357 SIG. (Photo by Tom McHale)

If you read Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, the unauthorized biography of Glock and his company, you’ll see all sorts of wild and crazy stories about schmoozing purchasing agents in Atlanta clubs. True? I have no idea, but it’s entertaining reading and might explain part of the early agency sales dominance.

The bottom line is this: Lots and lots of guys and girls who carry duty pistols for a living still use Glocks. How can you go wrong with making the same choice? Many, many civilian users did just that.

Reliability

The Glock was designed from scratch to pass the abusive and exhaustive reliability and function tests dreamed up by the Austrian Armed Forces during its 1981 selection processes. The test pistol had to survive a 2-meter drop onto a steel plate without accidental discharge. It had to fire 15,000 rounds. After that, it had to survive firing a massively over-pressured cartridge with somewhere near double the pressure of a standard 9mm load. The pistol passed, which explains the Glock pistol family’s long-standing reputation for reliability and durability under adverse conditions.

A black Glock 26 concealed-carry pistol lying beside two loaded magazines and a tray of 9mm ammunition.

Glocks are known for reliability and make excellent firearms for concealed carry. (Photo by Tom McHale)

Since that time, people have devised all sorts of torture tests to see if Glocks could survive. They’ve been dragged behind cars and dropped out of planes. Buried, submerged, frozen — you name it. One man abused a Glock 17 for 29 years and more than 300,000 rounds. During that time, the pistol spent months buried in the desert, a six-month span on the Pacific Ocean floor and survived a 750-round test in 40-degree-below-zero conditions. Oh, and he decided not to clean it — at all — until either 10,000 rounds or whenever it started to malfunction. The slide slowed down but still functioned just before the 10K mark, so he cleaned it. You get the idea. They run. And run. And run.

Simplicity

Revolvers are well-known for their ease of operation — just pull the trigger and they go “bang.” Glocks aren’t much different, although the trigger is a lot easier to press with its lower-standard pull weight — at least compared to revolvers.

While the operating controls are simple and intuitive, they’re safe to carry and use. All those law enforcement users carry theirs with one loaded in the chamber because the Glock’s internal safety system does a great job of preventing a boom until you specifically ask for it.

Variety

Variety? Really? Yeah, I know, Glocks have been pretty much the same since 1982. Sure, the company has made sweeping design changes, such as adding and subtracting finger grooves and altering the type of rifling cut in the barrel. But other than that, things have been pretty much the same. However, you do have a choice of caliber, including 9mm, .380 ACP, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 10mm, .45 GAP and even .357 SIG. That’s a useful array of self-defense options to fit most every shooter’s preference.

So, what does all this mean? Glocks are popular. No one but Gaston knows the exact number, but there are millions in circulation. As of 2007, the company published a 5,000,000-pistol milestone. That was a long time and many Glocks ago, so there must be 10 million (plus or minus a couple of million) out there by now. That’s real popularity.

About Tom McHale

Tom McHale, Certified NRA Instructor for pistol and shotgun, is passionate about home and self-defense and the rights of all to protect themselves and their loved ones. He has completed dozens of training programs and will be completing the USCCA Certified Instructor program in the near future. Tom has published seven books on guns, shooting, reloading, concealed carry and holsters, including two for the USCCA: Armed and Ready: Your Comprehensive Blueprint to Concealed Carry Confidence and 30 Days to Concealed Carry Confidence. He has published around 1,700 articles for a dozen gun and shooting publications. Between writing projects, you can find Tom on the range.

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