GLOCK Makes History: The Birth of the Polymer Handgun Market
This exhibition’s opening coincided with the 30th anniversary of GLOCK in the United States. It included a timeline of GLOCK firearms, embellished GLOCKS, and prop guns used for movie and television—including in the television series Longmire.
While GLOCKS are common today, the history of GLOCK, Inc. is fairly recent. Despite its infancy, GLOCK’S contribution to firearms history is no less significant than manufacturers that have been in business for hundreds of years. German manufacturer Heckler & Koch made the first polymer pistol called the Volkspistole (VP/70) in 1970. Designers developed the GLOCK more than a decade later. Its design became the first commercially successful polymer-framed handgun on the market.
The Making of a Gun Designer
Gaston Glock, an Austrian engineer, was not initially a firearms designer. In 1963, he formed GLOCK KG, a company that produced and sold parts, both plastic and steel. While the company did not produce firearms, Glock had an extensive knowledge of synthetic polymers. He coupled this knowledge with the idea for the GLOCK 17, making him a legend in the firearms world.
The P80 and the Austrian Military
In the early 1980s, the Austrian military sought to replace their standard issue Walther P38 pistols. The Austrian Ministry of Defense released a list of 17 criteria for this new pistol. In 1980,Glock and a team of firearms researchers developed the first GLOCK handgun, with a polymer-frame and an internal safety system, known as SAFE ACTION. The following year, the Austrian military tested the firearm and awarded Glock the contract. By 1983, he supplied 30,000 pistols to the military—the GLOCK 17, chambered for 9×19.
By 1986, GLOCK, Inc. received its first U.S. law enforcement contract. More than three decades later, GLOCK has produced millions of guns with complementary ammunition such as their .45 GLOCK Auto Pistol (G.A.P). GLOCK continues to produce the same models today. The company notes model changes by generations, running from Gen 1 to Gen 4. GLOCK now holds more than 60 percent of the law enforcement contracts in the United States.
The Birth of a New Industry
Since GLOCK developed their polymer pistol, almost every handgun manufacturer has produced a polymer handgun. Some are closer in design to the GLOCK than others. Today’s shooters have personal preferences for the polymer gun that suits them best. However, GLOCK had an undeniable impact in bringing that industry to the United States.
Special thanks to our donors:
- GLOCK, Inc.
- The Gretchen Swanson Family Foundation