Is Glock the Best Choice for "America's Gun?"

Back in 2012, a very revealing book about how Glock seized a major portion of the US handgun market, written by Bloomberg Businessweek columnist and assistant editor Paul Barrett, was released. Either Barrett or his publisher or his publisher chose the title Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun.

Glock 17, Generation 3.
Glock 17, Generation 3.

Many years earlier, Arizona gunner Mark Moritz, with Gunsite’s iconic 1911 pistol in mind, coined the term NDP – Non-Dedicated Personnel. From my brief correspondence with Mark, he was thinking mostly of a large segment of police and military personnel. That was also before roughly 73% of the US population lived in jurisdictions where law-abiding adults may lawfully carry firearms discreetly, albeit usually with a permission slip issued by the county or the state. Mark does not seem to have any objection to my extension of the term to the armed private citizen who is not actually a firearm enthusiast.

As I recall, Mark was looking mostly at cops – most of whom are not firearm enthusiasts and many of whom only carry a gun because it is required of them – who mostly carried revolvers at the time. Mark argued that, while the 1911 might be a fine choice as a gunfighting tool for someone dedicated to building and maintaining the skill to use it proficiently and safely, it is a poor choice for those who will not dedicate such time – the non-dedicated personnel.

Only a very small proportion of American civilian (those not currently serving in the military) cops have ever carried the 1911 as a duty pistol. Today, after the virtual abandonment of the revolver as a duty gun, an American cop is more likely to carry a Glock pistol than one of any other brand.

Construction and aesthetics aside, it’s not much of a stretch to think of the Glock as an analog of the 1911. However, Glock has placed the equivalent of the grip safety on the face of the trigger. Perhaps more importantly, the thumb safety (not incorporated in the Model of 1911’s evolution until partway through the very limited production of the Model of 1910) has been deleted.

Okay, “where’s the beef?”

I am neither biased nor ignorant enough to suggest that American cops did not have negligent discharges with double-action revolvers. I believe, however, that a large proportion of those were associated with having thumb-cocked the hammer. In some of those cases, an issue may have been not having taught officers how to decock the revolver safely. The overall problem was great enough that a few departments – most notably LAPD – eventually required that all revolvers carried on duty be rendered double-action-only. Still, one feature of the double-action revolver that appeals to many potential buyers is the ease of verifying loaded or unloaded status by swinging the cylinder free of the frame.

As the original Glock 17 began establishing its footprint in the US, more than one instructor made the observation that its strong point was that it was so easy to shoot and that its weak point was that it was so easy to shoot. I monitor firearm-related news across the nation daily and it’s a rare week that I don’t find at least one report of a negligent discharge of a Glock being stuffed into the front of someone’s pants (see my earlier comments on appendix carry) or being disassembled for cleaning. Perhaps it’s mostly due to its ubiquity but the brand also seems to be involved in many of the reports of children firing guns found in the home or in vehicles.

Do these observations make me a Glock-basher? Not really. The Glock – along with some other pistols that share some of the same features – is a great tool in the hands of the dedicated user, who will train to carry, use, disassemble and store the pistol in compliance with The Rules. Sadly it is widely issued to police officers, correctional and detention officers and even to some private security officers, including those contracted to guard government buildings. It is the NDP’s among them who are responsible for many of those news reports. Add to those many NDP’s among the general public who make their choice of a handgun based on what they see in police holsters.

Should any NDP own a gun? Probably not but it may be a matter of degree. I make no argument that those who purchase a double-action revolver are free to place the finger inside the trigger guard before they are prepared to fire nor that those guns may be left unsecured against unauthorized access, including stored in parked vehicles. Still, it takes a greater effort to stroke a double-action trigger to the firing point than inadvertently to fire a Glock with the standard trigger spring. It’s also easier to verify by sight and feel that every chamber in the cylinder of a revolver is either charged or empty than it is for many people to perform the equivalent checks safely with a pistol.

Cleaning-related discharges of Glocks (and other striker-fired pistols that also require a press of the trigger to separate the slide from that frame) are so common that one  gunsmith/instructor developed a  protocol using a snap cap to help reduce their occurrence.
Cleaning-related discharges of Glocks (and other striker-fired pistols that also require
a press of the trigger to separate the slide from that frame) are so common that one
gunsmith/instructor developed a protocol using a snap cap to help reduce their occurrence.

What about those NDP’s for whom a double-action revolver is a poor fit? I’d advise evaluating a trigger with a longer, more palpable stroke (a shift in that direction can be installation of the New York 1 Trigger Spring in a Glock). I’d also be wary of a pistol that requires a press of the trigger in order to remove the slide from the frame. If your carry system could force you to cross your own legs with the muzzle if you must draw and/or reholster while seated, a thumb safety – such as incorporated on the original S&W Shield – may be a wise choice for those who prefer a pistol with a short-stroke trigger.

While there’s absolutely no substitute for following The Rules, some instructors are big fans of supplementing them with the use of the Safe Direction Academy Pad for all loading and unloading of “bottom-feeding” pistols off the range.

Again, the Glock can be a great pistol for the dedicated user. I just don’t get warm, fuzzy feelings having the Glock as “America’s gun.”

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