History of the Glock 17

Glock is now world famous for their high quality handguns. When I am asked “what is a good handgun to buy for my first one”, I always reply with “you can’t go wrong with a Glock”.

Glock G.m.B.H. (the Austrian equivalent of “incorporated”) located 15 miles northeast of Vienna, began in 1963 as manufacturer of consumer goods made of steel and injection-molded plastics and polymers.

But by the late ’70s, the handguns used by the Austrian Federal Army (the Bundesheer) were showing signs of age, namely the WWII-era Walther P38. So in 1980, the Bundesheer put out bids for a new handgun to replace the P38. The specs were that the new replacement had to be self-loading, chambered in 9x19mm NATO and had to contain at least 17 rounds, as well as some safety and durability standards. (The model number “17” did not come from the requirement of 17 rounds.)

Billionaire Gaston Glock

The company’s founder and head engineer, Gaston Glock, had no experience designing firearms. However, he did have extensive knowledge of plastics, and responded to the army’s bid and produce his own combat pistol. So in 1982, Glock assembled a team of industry specialists and experts with military and law enforcement backgrounds to give him ideas on the ideal combat handgun.

With their combined experience, as well as his own experience with plastics and polymers, Glock turned out his first working prototype in just three months. Glock already had 16 previous Austrian patents for his consumer goods products, but it was this 17th patent for a combat handgun for which this gun model was named.

Despite being a complete newcomer to the handgun industry, Glock beat out fellow competitors of FN, Beretta, Heckler & Koch, Sig Sauer, and Austria’s oldest firearms manufacturer, Steyr. The Budesheer formally adopted the Glock 17 in 1983 and placed an order for 30,000 units.

In 1984, Norway became the first NATO country to adopt the Glock 17. In late 1985, Glock manufacturing came across the pond and opened its first international subsidiary, Glock Inc., in Smyrna, George. At first, this facility handled just sales and assembly, as the parts were still being produced in Austria.

In 1986, Glock 17s finally were made available to the U.S. market. The first ads marketing their availability appeared on page 20 of the June 1986 issue of the famous gun magazine, American Handgunner. In 1988, the ATF requested a steel plate be added bearing the gun’s serial number embedded into the frame, under the muzzle.

By far, Glock’s most well-known customers are American law enforcement officers. The mid-1980s were a period of rising drug-related crime, fueled mainly by the introduction of crack cocaine. Criminal organizations were becoming better armed and more violent, and U.S. law enforcement agencies felt increasingly outgunned. In response, most police agencies nationwide started transitioning away from .38 Special or .357 Magnum revolvers in favor of high-capacity, semi-automatic pistols. Seeing an opportunity, Glock started marketing their pistols to the police market during this unique period in American law enforcement history.

Once the U.S. law enforcement community adopted Glocks, their products immediately gained a positive reputation. Glocks are lightweight, highly reliable, accurate pistols that are simple to use and even simpler to maintain, making them ideal for shooters of any level.

The Glock quickly entered pop culture and became a staple of action movies. One of the first depictions of the Glock pistol was Die Hard 2. In the movie, a famous scene depicts Bruce Willis describing it as a “porcelain gun from Germany that doesn’t show up on airport metal detectors.” Although the famous movie line is wildly inaccurate, it reflected common misconceptions about polymer-framed handguns in the early 1990s. At the time, they were still relatively uncommon to shooters and enthusiasts.

Eventually, as popularity with both civilians and law enforcement grew, the “porcelain” misconceptions began to wane. It became a staple of the handgun market, winning customers over through its simplicity, reliability, and reasonable pricing.

Glock products equip nearly ⅔ of America’s law enforcement agencies and almost 50 countries’ armies, police forces, and security agencies. They are also popular in the special forces community, including the Green Berets and the Navy SEALs. However, one achievement has eluded the Austrian firm for over 30 years: Becoming the standard service handgun of the U.S. military.

In 1983, the Department of Defense invited Glock to participate in the XM9 pistol trials, seeking a replacement for the M1911 (what we affectionately call the “1911”). Military officials requested 35 samples from the company, but Glock was unable to meet the request at the time. The XM9 trials concluded with the adoption of the Beretta 92F, becoming the U.S. Military’s M9 pistol.

Here is something you don’t see everyday. A Glock 17 with a 50-round drum magazine.

Glock had another chance in 2017 when the DoD announced the XM17 Modular Handgun System competition to replace the M9. This time, Glock came fully prepared. They offered the Glock 19 MHS, meeting all DoD requirements – including a manual safety, something Glocks typically lack by design. However, the Austrian company lost to longtime competitor Sig Sauer, whose P320 pistol was adopted and designated M17.

Today, Glock is an established and highly-respected name in the firearms industry. The company has created five generations’ worth of models suitable for nearly any customer. The selection includes full-size models for combat, duty, and home defense, compact models for general-purpose use, and subcompact models for concealed carrying. And aftermarket parts for Glocks abound. At a local gun show, there is one merchant with hundreds of aftermarket parts whose business name is “Nothing But Glocks”.

Now in its 5th Generation, the Glock 17 is available from our online store. To review and purchase this classic firearm, click here. Remember, you can never go wrong with a Glock.