Bayou Peter eulogizes Gaston Glock.
The announcement of Gaston Glock’s death last week, at the age of 94, has brought forth a wave of obituaries and reminiscences about “the way things used to be” in the firearms industry. Very few individuals can be said to have changed the way arms manufacturers designed, built and marketed their products. Glock stands tall in the most illustrious of that group, including inventors such as John Moses Browning, Samuel Colt and Hiram Maxim. He does so, not because he improved the technology in the market at the time, but because he drastically streamlined and improved the productivity of the industry. Since then, no-one’s looked back.
Glock got into semi-auto pistol manufacturing in 1980 when by chance, he overheard two Austrian Army officers discussing the bidding process for a new service sidearm. Initially rebuffed by the military powers that be, because he’d never built a firearm before and they presumed him to be ignorant, he took his case to the Austrian Minister of Defense and gained permission to compete for the Army’s handgun program. He won the contest, and – over the next couple of decades – the worldwide handgun market as well.
Glock was in the right place at the right time, with a thoroughly modern engineering approach to his work that defied older stereotypes. While more “traditional” manufacturers made each of their successive models an improvement over their predecessor, never differing that much from their forebears, Glock was willing to ask every time, “Why should this be done like that? Is there any good reason to uphold the status quo, or can we get rid of older, more time-consuming, more material-dependent processes and use modern engineering to come at the problem(s) in a completely new way?” To everyone’s surprise, asking that question was the key to the handgun market; and Glock made very sure to grab hold of that key and retain it as long as he possibly could. Today, his firm dominates the handgun industry, with many clones of his designs available worldwide.
I liked the Glock from the first time I handled one. It was lighter than most of its early competitors, and had far fewer parts (34 of them in most full-size Glocks). That’s a major step forward in simplicity. As one who’d seen combat in the worst terrain in Africa, where complex weapons systems tended to get chewed up and spat out by the surrounding landscape at the drop of a hat, I’d long been a believer in the old proverb, “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” (K.I.S.S.). In my personal firearms today, I continue to maintain that perspective, which is why I own more Glocks than any other brand of pistol. They may look and feel clunky compared to a race-tuned competition pistol, and lack all the little details that illustrate that a gun is a prized possession that’s been “tweaked” to express its owner’s pride of ownership; but they’ve never let out a “Click” instead of a “Bang!” when failure was not an option. That sort of reliability in a personal defense weapon is worth gold, and then some.
I never liked Glocks until I actually shot one, which experience changed my mind completely. How it came about was, back when I was living in NYC, my co-bartender at the hallowed Mona’s was a native New Yorker name of Steve, with whom I quickly became close friends. On the eve of one of my frequent trips back to NC to do a few Playboys gigs, Steve handed me 700 bucks and requested that I pick up a Glock 17 for him, which I agreed to do. The day before I was to drive on back to the Big Bad Apple, I thought what the hey, I never shot a Glock before; why not hit my favorite indoor range and put a few rounds through this little beastie, just for shits and giggles?
So I did that thing, and gained a whole new perspective on Gaston Glock’s masterwork. A fine piece the gun turned out to be: light, steady, smooth, utterly reliable, processing three (3) boxes of cheap, shitty Confederate Arms reloads with nonchalant flawlessness, nary a burp nor balk the whole afternoon. Had the same experience years later at Knob Creek with the Uzi subgun, which I had likewise dismissed as just overhyped, overrated junk. I stand corrected on both counts, and ain’t too proud to admit my error. One of Peter’s commenters shares an intriguing shaggy-Glock story:
First…I hated the first glock I ever shot, a rental at a range…it was to me at the time the most uncomfortable gun I had ever shot from the feel of the recoil and the trigger. It was a Glock 27. However I shot such small groups with it that it matched my best groups with guns I had used for years with 5 and 6 inch barrels and it was the first time I had ever shot one. I seriously had some mental dissonance of the disparity between hating the feel of it and how well I shot it. That model is now my daily and after getting used to it I’m more than happy with it.
Years later I got another .40 the glock 35 I bought it used supposedly in mint condition a police trade in. I was so mad at what they shipped me. It had so much wear on the frame all the rubbing edges were silver from use and holster wear. It was so dirty that you could see buildup of carbon that could have been measured with a caliper for depth. The barrel where it went through the front opening in the slide was worn completely through the nitrated finish and was also silver. I have glocks with thousands of rounds through them that look factory new. I can’t even imagine how many rounds through that gun to show that amount of wear. I made one of the best decisions ever when I calmed down on opening it at the FFL it was delivered to and said let me try it on the gun range before I threw a fit over the internet to the seller (a gunstore). It is my favorite pistol ever. Smooth as silk in all respects and with it I can hit a 8 inch steel 80% of the time at 100 yards. That much wear on the gun simply made it the equivalent of any of the fully tuned race guns I had ever tried. Maybe better in my opinion. Because of it I have never purchased a new glock again. As I know that even with 10’s of thousands of rounds through them they will just keep going. They make the energizer bunny look weak.
Everything above is just my personal opinion and worth every dollar you paid me.
Can’t argue with that. What a story, eh? Another commenter testifies:
I was participating in a GSSF* event in Kentucky and at the second stage I pulled the trigger and nothing happened. I withdrew and went to the event headquarters where a Glock armorer was set up. He replaced the trigger spring in about three minutes and I was back in the game. (IMO *Great* customer service!) He also gave me a helpful hint in the unlikely event I should face a similar situation in a SHTF event: Mash down on the trigger as hard as you can while manually operating the slide, let up on the trigger just until the group resets, then fire; wash, rinse, repeat. Granted, you waste every other remaining round in the magazine but you’re still in the fight. +
The group conducting the event permitted me to re-enter and complete the stages, and I actually had my best showing ever. If I’d shot 6/10ths of a second slower, I would have won a gun as I would have been the top shooter in the second bracket (At the time, GSSF divided shooters into three brackets with appropriate prizes for the winners.
* GSSF = Glock Sport Shooting Foundation.
+ Great argument for the carrying of backup weapons.
Can’t argue with that, either. Hats off and happy trails to Gaston Glock, one of those rare souls who set out to build a better mousetrap and ended up changing the world in the doing.