Way back in 1963, a young man named Gaston Glock started a plastics company near Vienna in Austria. He made curtain rods, drawer parts, radiators, and other plastic molded parts, and became moderately successful. He also began to make small plastic and plastic/metal unified parts for the military such as knife handles and grenade components.
One day in early 1980, Gaston overheard the Austrian Minster of Defense officials complaining that the trials for a new military pistol were not satisfying, that the current firearms companies were taking too long, and were unable to comply with the demands of the bid.
Gaston stepped in and asked permission to join the competition although he had never manufactured a firearm before – a complete rookie. After being told the time left was very short and the competition had a several year head start, he received the demands of the proposal and began work.
First he had to understand guns and so began a crash course in disassembling and studying major types of pistols already being produced, including SIG, Beretta, CZ, and Walther. After familiarizing himself with the mechanical principles, on May 8, 1980 he arranged a meeting with three handgun experts, Siegfried F. Hubner, Richard Silvestri and Friedrich Dechant. These three men gave Gaston their ideas on the perfect pistol for the future, outlining it all on paper, and addressing issues encountered in previous designs.
The basic outline for their dream pistol ended up being a lightweight pistol in 9mm with clean lines, no external safety, less than 29 ounces, large magazine capacity, trigger pull in a specific range, with detailed requests for dimensions of trigger and slide, with no more than 40 parts, arranged in independent subgroups for ease of maintenance, a barrel hammered forged in one manufacturing operation, and able to withstand a double load of 9mm. For safety the gun should not fire when dropped on any apart of it from 2 meters.
Important to Gaston Glock was that the pistol should be point shootable without sights. He was convinced the new gun needed to be fired by instinct or with eyes closed. After much testing, they all agreed the best grip angle was 22 degrees (later revised to 21.5).
All men signed this written list, which is still preserved in the Glock company headquarters today.
Gaston had his work cut out for him and so began his design and drawing sessions, repeatedly giving his engineer patterns to create. Gaston tested all prototypes himself in his basement, carefully using his left hand to fire them in order to protect his (more valuable) right hand. Four of these original prototype guns still exist.
Finally on April 30, 1981 he was finished and applied for the patent. It was almost a year since that historic brainstorming meeting. Limited production began and he sent his offering to the Austrian defense bid panel on May 19, 1982, which passed successfully and was accepted with the only addition begin a second internal firing pin safety. The Austrian Army ordered 25,000 Glock 17 pistols, with more contracts soon following. The Glock 17 was born.
Production took off, with compact models (19,23), full auto models (18), big bore models (20,21), and new factories in Hong Kong, the USA, and South America being built to keep up. Now in its fourth generation, the plastic pistol of Gaston Glock continues to satisfy military, police, and recreational shooter around the world.