Compact Perfection

SOF T&Es Glock 17's Little Brother
by Peter G. Kokalis

No handgun has ever induced a greater frenzy of hysteria on the part of anti-gun politicians and their sympathetic media myrmidons than the Glock 17. Yet, none of their contentions are true. It is not invisible when passed through an X-ray screen. It cannot pass through properly monitored metal detectors without notice. And, it is most certainly not "all plastic," as by weight the Glock pistol is 83 percent steel. This so-called "detectability" issue has been raised in no country outside of the United States.

Gaston Glock's 9mm Parabellum pistol was first introduced to the American public by Soldier offortune Magazine almost four years ago (See "Plastic Perfection," SOF, October'84). Since that time more than 350 U.S. local law enforcement and federal agencies have adopted or authorized the Glock as a duty weapon. In addition to Austria, the armed forces of both Norway and the Netherlands have adopted the Glock. Law enforcement agencies and military units in Belgium, Canada, Ecuador, Hong Kong, India, Jordan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela and West Germany issue the Glock as their standard sidearm. Tens of thousands have been sold to the U.S. public, and hundreds of thousands worldwide.

Glock has just announced the introduction of a new compact version, called the Model 19, and a long-slide target version - the Model 17L with 6-inch barrel and muzzle compensator. Also available, albeit only to law enforcement agencies, is the Model 18, a machine pistol with 33-round magazines. SOF's test specimen of the production series Model 19 has an overall length of 7.4 inches, a height, with sights, of 4.64 inches and a width of 1.18 inches. The barrel length is 4 inches. In overall length, height and barrel length, the Model 19 is 1/2-inch shorter than its predecessor. The weight remains approximately the same at 23 ounces with an empty magazine. Of this mass, almost 19 ounces represents the steel components. To preserve the operational reliability of the short recoil system, the slide's mass was not reduced. With the exception of the slide, frame, barrel, locking block, recoil spring, guide rod and slide lock spring, all of the other components are interchangeable between the models 17 and 19. There are only 35 parts in the Glock pistol, including the magazine. Glock says there are 33, but I count the sights and trigger spring cups as two components each. Of little matter, as in either case, this is still less than half the number of bits and pieces found in competing designs.

The Glock's remarkable record of success in just four years is matched by its even more remarkable design. Glock's only condescension to conventionality is the pistol's method of operation. Short recoil operated, the barrel is locked to the slide by a single lug which recesses into the ejection port, in the manner of the SIG-Sauer series. During the recoil stroke the barrel moves rearward approximately 3 millimeters until the bullet leaves the barrel and pressures drop downward, separating from the slide and terminating any further motion. The slide's continued rearward movement and counter-recoil cycle are those of the Browning system.

Hammerless and striker-fired, the Glock's trigger and firing pin mechanisms are innovative and mostly unique. There is no manually operated thumb safety or decocking lever. A so-called "Safe Action" trigger system, pattemed after that encountered on the Sauer Behorden ("Authority") Model 1930 caliber 7.65niin pocket pistol, constitutes the first failsafe. A wide outer trigger (serrated, on the new Model 19) encompasses a small, spring-loaded inner trigger, both fabricated from polymer. The outer trigger cannot be actuated, such as by contact with a holster, unless the inner trigger is depressed first. Thus the trigger can be pulled only from the center, not the edges.

A spring-loaded firing pin safety in the slide blocks forward movement of the striker, and is raised and deacfivated by a projection on the sheet-metal tfigger bar as the trigger is pulled to its final rearward position. When the trigger is in the forward position, the firing pin's spring remains lightly compressed. As the trigger is pulled 10mm through its first stage (with a pull weight of approximately 2.2 pounds), its full compression is almost complete. Removal of the finger from the trigger at this time will return the firing pin spring to its partially compressed, "relaxed" and completely safe state. Continued pressure at this point will 1) Draw the firing pin fully rearward and its spring into complete compression; and then 2) Draw the T-shaped end of the trigger bar to its final rearward position in the trigger housing's stepped safety notch; so that 3) It is free to drop downward away from both the "connector" (sear) and a projection at the end of the striker to release the firing pin and fire the round. The firing pin is rectangular in cross-section with a chisel-shaped tip. Although primers are left with an instantly identifiable indentation, the striker's unorthodox configuration produces less drag on the primer (eliminating the possibility of firing pin breakage) and concentrates its momentum onto a smaller area to ensure positive ignition. A fluted firing pin, which permits the Glock pistol to be fired underwater, is available to legitimate government agencies only. A stamped sheet-metal ejector, with an odd-looking inward cant, is permanently attached to the polymer trigger housing.

Further explanation of the connector is required. This sheet-metal component also serves as a disconnector. When the slide moves forward in counter-recoil, a hump above the rail on the right side pushes the connector away from the trigger bar to prevent another round from being fired until the trigger is released and the trigger bar moves forward. The angle between the connector's upper face and its bottom face determines the trigger pull weight of the second stage. An angle of 90 degrees will produce the standard pull weight of 5 pounds. A pull weight of 8 pounds is achieved by increasing the angle to 105 degrees (it is stamped with a "+"). A pull weight of 3 1/2 pounds, available only with the new Long Slide Target Model 17, is obtained when the angle is reduced to 75 degrees. If the pistol is to be stored for any length of time, the trigger should remain in the retracted position to remove all tension on the firing pin spring.

This triple-safe trigger mechanism is housed in the high-impact polymer frame that initiated the pistol's unjustified controversy. All the more strange as Heckler & Koch's VP70z and P9s pistols, both introduced more than a decade ago, were fabricated with largely polycarbonate frames. Four steel guide rails (about .4 inches in length) for the the slide have been integrated into the injection-molded frame, in pairs at the rear of the frame and above and in front of the trigger guard on the Glock series. To meet BATF regulations, a steel plate carrying the serial number has been embedded into the frame in front of the trigger guard. The trigger guard has been squared off and stippled, but those who fire from the correct Weaver position will not use this dubious fetish.

The grip-to-frame angle of the Model 19 remains that of the Glock 17 which is somewhat steeper than competing designs. However, there is a heavier non-slip, stipple effect on the sides of the grip and both the front and rear straps are grooved. As there are no separate grip panels, the grip portion of the pistol accomodates normal-sized hands despite its large magazine capacity

The locking block, which engages a 45-degree camming surface on the barrel's lower lug, appears to be the Glock's only investment casting. It's retained in the frame by the same steel axis pin that holds the trigger and slide stop. The trigger housing is attached to the frame by means of a polymer pin. A spring-loaded, sheet-metal pressing serves as the slide stop, which is protected from accidental manipulation by a raised guard molded into the frame. The slide lock, operated by a single bent flat spring, engages a step on the front of the barrel's locking lug to prevent the slide and frame groups from parting company during the counter-recoil stroke. The magazine catch-release, another polymer component - located where it belongs, on the left side of the frame, directly to the rear of the trigger guard - is held in place by an uncoiled piece of spring steel. Both interior surfaces of the magazine-well's mouth have a beveled contour to assist in the insertion of magazines.

Rectangular in shape, the slide is milled from bar stock using CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machinery. Three hardening processes are employed on both the slide and barrel. The final Tenifer finish, two hundredths of a millimeter in thickness, produces a patented 69 Rockwell Cone hardness (much harder than any steel object it is likely to contact) by means of a nitrided bath at 500 degrees Centigrade. Scratches, which are in this instance no more than deposits from the other object, can usually be removed with a cloth and solvent. This matte, non-glare finish is 99-percent salt water corrosion resistant and meets or exceeds stainless steel specifications. It's also 80 percent more corrosion-resistant than any hard-chrome finish.

Milled into both the top and right side of the slide, the Glock's large ejection port enhances functional reliability. A large claw extractor, fitted to the slide at the rear of the ejection port on the right side, maintains its tension from a spring-loaded plunger, which, together with the firing pin assembly, are held in place by a polymer backing plate. Cocking serrations on the Model 19's slide have been cross-checkered.

When shipped to the United States, all Glock pistols are equipped with polymer, white outline, adjustable rear sights to meet BATF import regulations. They are somewhat fragile and of little use on a defensive handgun. They can, and should be, substituted by the importer, Glock, Inc. (Dept. SOF, Suite 190, 5000 Highlands Parkway, Smyma, GA 30080; phone: 404-432-1202) for fixed sights for a modest surcharge. Four heights are available: 6.1mm (lower impact), 6.5mm (standard issue), and the higher impact 6.9mm and 7.3mm. A rear sight mounting and adjustment device can be obtained by certified Glock armorers. The polymer front sight carries a white dot. Best of all, in my opinion, are the Armson Self Luminous Trijicon steel sights ("Armson's Bright Sights," SOF, March '87) with which the Models 17 or 19 can now be fitted directly from Glock, Inc. Sight radius of the Model 19 is 6 inches.

The hammer-forged rifling in Glock's barrels is equally innovative. Called "Hexagonal," this rifling lies somewhere between conventional land and groove and H&K's "Polygonal" bores. With a right-hand twist of one turn in 9.84 inches, this hexagonal profile (in cross-section a series of six small arcs connected by flat surfaces) provides a better gas seal, more consistent velocities, superior accuracy and ease of maintenance. A single-coil recoil spring under the barrel rides on a polymer guide rod which is hollow to serve as a cooling air pump.

There is an almost confusing array of magazines available for the Model 19. It comes equipped with two 15-round magazines whose floorplates are flush with the magazine-well. This yields a total of 16 rounds for those who will carry one round up the spout in disregard of Glock's admonition against this practice (for untrained personnel). A 17-round magazine with an extended floorplate is also available. Neither of these magazines can be used in the Model 17 series or Model 18 machine pistol. Model 17, 17-and-19-round magazines and Model 18 33-round magazines can be installed in the Model 19 although they will extend beyond the frame. All are of the single-position feed, staggered column type. Magazine bodies, followers and floorplates are fabricated from polymer. The magazine bodies have steel liners and indicator holes starting with round #4 up to the capacity of the magazine. When new, Glock magazines will drop freely from the magazine well. After use, however, the magazine walls will set with an outward bulge that requries their removal by hand. In my opinion, this is a matter of small consequence. If you haven't solved your problem with sixteen rounds, a pistol was an inappropriate choice for the scenario. Each Glock pistol is issued with a polymer magazine loader and cleaning rod and a nylon-bristle bore brush. The polymer storage box has been designed for armory stacking and retention with a steel rod or chain.

Other accessories include four different holsters and magazine pouches - all fabricated from polymer. Personally, I prefer Bruce Nelson's superb #1 Professional leather holster and single magazine pouch for the entire Glock series (Bruce Nelson Combat Leather, Dept. SOF, P.O. Box 8691 CRB, Tucson, AZ 85738; catalog, $3). This hand-fitted rig with its double belt-loop system pulls the grip area of the frame into the body, requires no straps for retention and can be wom either strong-side or cross-draw.

While somewhat different from the norm, there is nothing complex about the Glock's disassembly procedures. First, remove the magazine and remove any round in the chamber. Then, and only then, pull the trigger. Wrap the four fingers of the right hand over the slide from the right side with the thumb wrapped around the rear of the frame and retract the slide about an 1/8-inch (any more than that and the trigger will move forward to prevent separation of the slide and frame). Pull the slide lock downward with the thumb and index finger of the left hand. While the slide lock is down, push the slide forward and off the frame. Push the guide rod forward and remove the rod and recoil spring. Push the barrel forward, lift up and pull it back out of the slide. No further disassembly is recommended. Do not attempt to manipulate the trigger system after the slide has been removed or you may damage the inner trigger's spring. Reassemble in the reverse order. To disassemble the magazine, merely squeeze the side walls at the base and slide off the floorplate.

There can be no question about the Glock's levels of reliability or durability. It has successfully passed tests every bit as rigorous as the XM9 trials, involving hundreds of thousands of rounds. That it was excluded from the most recent XM9 trials is a commentary on the U.S. Army's conventional mind-set, not the Glock design.

SOF's test and evaluation of the Model 19 did no more than confirm impressions already built from thousands of rounds fired through our Glock 17, which looks and performs as well today as it did four years ago. There were no stoppages attributable to the pistol during the course of the more than 500 rounds fired to date through our test specimen. The frame's inherent elasticity dampens perceived recoil considerably. Target re-acquisition times from shot to shot are minimal. Quite muzzle heavy, the Model 19 points instinctively and comes on target with great speed. With its clean and constant trigger system, the hit probability is high. There is, of course, no hammer bite to distract the shooter. The frame's grip ergonomics are excellent.

What about the accuracy potential? Most engagements with a handgun will take place at 21 feet or less. Firing a pistol from 50 yards off a Ransom rest will provide information concerning its theoretical accuracy potential, but nothing about its practical accuracy in a stress scenario. We fired the Model 19 at ATS combat targets from 21 feet in the Weaver position. Our most accurate load, a 115-grain FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) cartridge manufactured by Black Hills Shooters Supply (Dept. SOF, 3401 South Highway 79, Rapid City, SD 57701; phone: 605-348-5150), will consistently dump five rounds into a ragged half-inch hole at this distance. That's outstanding.

How much velocity do you lose when you opt for the Model 19's four-inch barrel? No more than four percent, as the 115-grain projectile dropped only 44 fps, averaging 1,107 fps (10 feet from the muzzle) out of the Glock 17's 4 1/2-inch barrel and 1,063 fps as it sped out of the Model 19 4-inch barrel.

There's a virtual hailstorm of large capacity 9mm Parabellum pistols out there. Within the next few years this cartridge will almost entirely replace the .38 Special and .357 Magnum as the standard U.S. police service round. Anyone casting about for a nine mill could do no better than selecting any one of the Glock series. Glock's new Model 19 is the finest 9mm factory compact available, bar none. Both the Model 17 and 19 carry a suggested retail price of $511. If you want to shoot at gongs, the long slide target Model 17L will cost you $740.53. This includes a one-year limited warranty on all parts and five years or 10,000 rounds on the barrel, slide and frame.

originally published in the August 1988 edition of Soldier of Fortune Magazine

Glock 19 Specifications
Caliber 9x19 mm
Action Safe Action (constant double action mode)
Overall length (slide) 6.85 in. (174 mm)
Height, including magazine 5.00 in. (127 mm)
Width 1.18 in. (30 mm)
Barrel length 4.02 in. (102 mm)
Sight radius 5.98 in. (152 mm)
Rifling Hexagonal profile with right-hand twist of one turn in 9.84 in. (250 mm)
Weight, without magazine 20.99 oz. (595 g)
Weight, empty magazine 2.46 oz. (70 g)
Weight, full magazine ~8.99 oz. (~255 g)
Magazine capacity 15 rounds
Standard trigger pull ~5.5 lbs. (~2.5 kg)
Trigger pull length 0.5 in. (12.5 mm)
Number of safeties 3

information courtesy of GLOCK