The Glock 17 is the first model produced by Glock. It's one of the company's full size pistols, chambered in 9 mm. Even though it's a full size pistol, it weighs just 22.04 ounces unloaded, making it one of the most comfortable full size carry pistols you can buy.
The model 17, like all Glock pistols, has Glock's patented "Tennifer" finish on all metal parts. Tennifer is much more wear and corrosion resistant than the nitrate, blued or other finishes found on other brands of pistols, and has a resistance to salt water that actually exceeds that of stainless steel. The Tennifer finish is then black parkerized for appearance.
The frame on all Glock pistols is polymer, which is not only corrosion-proof, but also reduces the weight of the pistol substantially.
The model 17 accepts 10 round, 17 round, 19 round and 33 round magazines, although several states restrict the sale of magazines over 10 rounds.
Glock pistols have three safeties: a drop safety, a firing pin safety, and a trigger safety. It's the trigger safety that is operated by the user, and is done so by simply depressing the safety lever located in the middle of the trigger. Current models also have a built in trigger lock that is activated and deactivated with a key.
The Glock 17 is the model that started it all. For a brief history of Glock pistols, click here.
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The Glock company was started in 1963 by Gaston Glock (shown in the photo to the right), an engineer, and owner of the company that bears his name. The company specialized in making products that combined metals with plastics, and later with polymers. Glock had experience making products for the military, which gave the company something of an "in" when the Austrian military decided in 1980 to call for designs for new pistols to replace the standard issue, World War Two vintage Walther P38. However, Glock had never produced a firearm, or even a part for a firearm.
Nevertheless, Gaston Glock decided to give firearms production a try. By 1982, he had assembled a team of firearms experts to help define the "perfect" combat pistol. The procurement requirements set forth by the Austrian military for the new pistol were extensive. Glock had a steep hill to climb.
Within three months, Glock had a working prototype. The pistol extensively utilized polymers on the frame and other parts not subject to high pressures or impact, such as the barrel and slide.
The Glock design incorporated some innovations in addition to polymer frames. Glock used polygonal rifling on the barrel, a technique that had been all but abandoned after the 1800's. Only a few companies, such as Heckler and Koch, had employed the rifling in the 20th century. The photo on the right shows traditional rifling and polygonal rifling.
Polygonal rifling doesn't have deep rifling cuts in the bore, so the thickness and strength of the barrel isn't compromised. Polygonal rifling also provides a better gas seal around the bullet than does traditional rifling, which gives greater muzzle velocity. The rifling also doesn't deform the bullet as much as traditional rifling, which reduces drag and also helps increase velocity. While polygonal rifling isn't as accurate for target shooting applications as traditional rifling, its accuracy is more than adequate for defensive shooting distances. Polygonal rifling faded in use in the late 1800's because metals at that time were too soft, and polygonal-rifled barrels didn't last long with soft metals.
Glock's design eliminated thumb safeties and other common mechanisms that complicated the shooting process. The Glock pistol was a "point and shoot" design, with the trigger safety being the only user controlled safety mechanism.
Glock's submitted prototype was called the "model 17", as it was the 17th patent the company had filed for its pistols. The Glock 17 was up against established names in the firearms industry such as Heckler and Koch, Sig Sauer, Beretta, FN Herstal, and others. Glock, though, walked away with the military contract.
The Austrian military designated Glock's model 17 as the "Pistole 80", and contracted for 25,000 pistols.
In the US, the military had been seeking a replacement for the 1911, and requested samples of the Glock 17 for evaluation. The US military urged Glock to submit a model for the official trials for the replacement pistol, but the military's specifications would have required extensive modification of the model 17, so Glock declined. (As it turns out, the US military didn't pick a suitable replacement for the 1911 from that competition).
The Glock 17 was adopted by a number of countries' militaries. It was an immediate success with police forces and civilian shooters in the US, which later prompted Glock to open a production facility in Smyrna, Georgia.
The revolutionary design of the Glock 17 was misunderstood by many, particularly elected representatives in Washington, DC. Some thought the pistol was made of porceilan or plastic, and that it would evade metal detectors. Hollywood didn't help this misperception by making movies such as "Die Hard II", in which Bruce Willis' character refers to the Glock 17 as a gun that can go through x-ray scanners undetected. In 1989 Congress passed a law banning "plastic guns" that would evade airport metal detectors. The only member of congress to vote against the bill was fthen-congressman and later Vice President Dick Cheney, who said that he couldn't vote to ban something that didn't exist.
The Glock 17 has now gone through several variations, but it's still basically the same pistol that Gaston Glock envisioned in 1982.