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  •   Weapon of 'Simplicity' Finds Success

    By Jeff Leen
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 18, 1998; Page A23

    The Glock pistol was developed in the early 1980s during a competition to outfit the Austrian army with a new handgun. Gaston Glock, an Austrian engineer who used his expertise in advanced plastics and metallurgy to make improved bayonets and shovels, had never designed a gun before. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

    By 1983, Austrian soldiers were carrying the pistol named for Glock. Soon the gun was a fixture in U.S. law enforcement agencies. Today, tens of thousands of officers at hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country carry the Glock.

    The gun's big selling point was what Glock Inc. called its "dependable simplicity," a design of such originality, durability and practicality that the gun community still buzzes about it.

    Until the Glock, most semiautomatics had external manual safeties – latches near the thumb position on the gun that had to be disengaged before the gun could fire. Gaston Glock eliminated the external manual safety, but he also did far more. Using polymers and a design that incorporates only 33 parts, Glock developed a lightweight gun with a softer recoil, a shooter's dream. The Glock weighs less than two pounds fully loaded, five to 10 ounces less than most other semiautomatics.

    There was one other feature of the Glock that made it much easier to use: the trigger.

    Revolvers are dependable weapons, but their firepower is limited to six shots before reloading and their triggers require about 10 to 14 pounds of pressure – a considerable squeeze – before the gun will fire. Semiautomatics before Glock increased the firepower, but their triggers still took 10 to 14 pounds of pressure to pull for the first shot. After the first shot, the trigger pressure dropped to four to six pounds.

    The Glock fires all its shots – including the vital first shot – at five to six pounds.

    D.C. police officers carry their weapons in "street-load mode" – ready to fire with a round in the chamber. This can be dangerous, according to some firearms experts, because the Glock has a "light trigger" to begin with. Another Glock design feature makes the gun even easier to shoot: the short distance the Glock's trigger travels to fire the gun, about three-eighths of an inch, far shorter than the three-quarters to seven-eighths of an inch for many other semiautomatics, according to firearms experts.

    "If you're going to be careless with it, a Glock can be a very dangerous weapon," Detective Ron Robertson, former head of the D.C. police union, said in a civil suit deposition in July. "But handled properly, it's as good as any weapon out on the street."

    In 1992, Glock Inc. supplied upgrade kits nationwide for the gun's firing pin safety to prevent accidental discharges. Three years later, the company gave the entire D.C. police department 4,000 new Glocks free of charge to address complaints about grip and slide problems. Officers had said that the grip was too slippery and that the slide was prone to jamming. Gaston Glock personally flew to Washington to handle the discussions.

    Glock officials did not respond to repeated phone calls or a letter sent to the company's U.S. headquarters regarding this article.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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