First introduced to the U.S. by its Austrian manufacturer in 1987, it has since become one of the predominant law enforcement and personal-defense handguns in the nation and is commonly imitated and used as point of departure by some of our largest domestic handgun manufacturers as well. All Glocks share the same basic characteristics and operating principles and are currently available in nearly a dozen basic model configurations and variation packages in chamberings and frame sizes that include 9mm, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto, and .45 ACP.
The newest Glock is the G36, which was initially announced at the 1999 SHOT Show and finally began shipping to dealers in April 2000. It has been eagerly awaited, as it offers a compact .45 ACP with a 3.78-inch barrel and six-round single-stack magazine that is .14 inch narrower and a full four ounces lighter to carry than the antecedent double-stack 10-round Glock G30 .45 ACP originally introduced in 1997—even though their lateral dimensions are the same (6.77 inches long; 4.76 inches high). And, except for the modified character of the grip due to the single-stack magazine, which results in a distinctly individual feel for the G36, it is in all respects the same pistol as every other Glock model.
The most notable and visible unique aspect of any Glock is its nonmetallic polymer frame. And what is most significant about that is the particular way the plastic frame is formed. It is fabricated by first placing various internal steel components (slide bearings, unlocking cam, ejector, slide release, etc.) into a mold, which is then injected with a molten polymer material. When the polymer solidifies, out comes a fully functional frame, ready to be fitted with the steel action assembly, steel slide, and barrel. These other components are fabricated and assembled in an essentially conventional manner, but the original concept of literally molding a polymer pistol frame around its metal parts was breathtaking at its origin and has since been adopted and adapted by dozens of other firearms manufacturers worldwide.
However, it is also important not to make too much of the whole “plastic gun” thing. A Glock pistol is nonetheless 83 percent steel, and the total weight of the metallic components used in a Glock G36’s construction is about 18 ounces—that’s still more than the overall weight of any of the increasingly popular titanium/aluminum all-metal AirLite and MultiAlloy compact .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolvers from such manufacturers as Taurus and S&W. Glock pistols are as visible to security metal-detection devises as any other firearm.
The Glock’s autoloader operating system is mechanically a simple cam-lock design adapted from the John Browning design first developed for the famed Browning Hi-Power 9mm. When the slide and barrel begin to move rearward in recoil, the cammed surfaces of the lug beneath the barrel slide down into a mating cammed ramp in the frame, thus unlocking the large rectangular chamber block from the slide. The function and location of other standard operating features are also customary: The slide locks open after the final round in a magazine is fired; the slide release lever (steel) is on the left side of the frame; the magazine release button (synthetic) is behind the trigger guard on the left side, and freed magazines (steel-sleeved synthetic) pop smartly from the frame when released.
.45 ACP Semiautomatic Pistol
Distributor ...........................Glock Inc.
Smyrna, GA 30081
Caliber ................................... .45 ACP
Barrel length ....................3.78 inches
Overall length................... 6.77 inches
Weight, empty ..............22.51 ounces
Safety ......................Safe Action trigger
integral white-dot blade front
Sight radius ......................6.18 inches
Rifling ........Octagonal, 1:15.75 RH twist
Stocks ..........Integrally molded polymer
Magazine capacity ..............6 rounds
Finish ..................................Matte black
Those things may be conventional. But the Glock’s hammerless trigger mechanism decidedly was not, at least when it first appeared, and has proved as revolutionary and influential on other handgun designs as anything else about the gun. The Glock mechanism has neither a double-action nor a single-action trigger, but is instead something in-between that Glock refers to as a “Safe Action.” It works like this: When the slide functions, the firing pin is moved about halfway back and held in that position against the pressure of its spring by a sear plate on the rear of the trigger bar. This keeps the firing pin from contacting the primer and causes the passive firing pin safety plunger to prevent pin movement. Then, when the shooter presses the trigger, the trigger bar pushes the firing pin backward the remaining distance it can move to compress its spring and then releases it to spring forward and fire the cartridge. The basic concept is the slide only halfway cocks the gun, and the trigger pull completes the action. This was a profoundly significant innovation. One criticism of double-action autoloaders has always been that the first-shot DA trigger pull is too long, and then the sudden shift to the second and subsequent-shot short-pull SA trigger makes it difficult to control rapid-fire. The Glock’s trigger pull is DA in the sense that squeezing the trigger moves the firing mechanism to full cock and then releases it, but it is also SA in the sense that the pull is short because the action is already “half cocked” to begin with. Plus, the trigger always returns to the same position after firing so there is no difference between the position of the trigger for the first and subsequent shots. Pull-weight specification for the G36 is 5.5 pounds, which is about half the weight of a conventional DA revolver or autoloader pull. Rapid-firing the Glock feels like rapid-firing a DA revolver in which the trigger only had to recover about halfway as far forward as usual between shots. For shooters who grew up on previously traditional mechanisms, it takes some training and getting used to.
The safety mechanism on the Glock was also innovative in its origin and has also since become a benchmark for such other manufacturers as S&W, Walther, and Steyr. There is no external manual safety; instead, the trigger itself encloses a pivoting, spring-loaded lever that blocks against the frame to prevent rearward trigger motion except when the trigger finger is actually pressing the trigger to the rear in firing. This allows the gun to be carried safely in its chamber-loaded/halfcocked readiness state. The internal parts arrangement is such that the only thing that can move the firing pin to the discharge position is the trigger, so with the trigger blocked the gun can’t fire.
All these features combine to define the Glock as essentially a short-stroke, double-action-only (DAO) gun, which in practical terms eliminates the need for a manual safety entirely. And when all is said and done, it is this Glock feature set that has truly defined the nature of modern 21st-century autoloader design—a pistol that can be fully charged and carried safe/ready to fire without need for any mechanically intervening manual safety systems at all. All you have to do is take a glance at the operating mechanisms of nearly every new autoloader system offered by any manufacturer in the past decade—all are variations on this same essential theme.
Glock disassembly for maintenance is equally slick. Remove the magazine, then move the slide about .25 inch backward and pull downward on both ends of the little locking bar that goes all the way through the frame just above the front of the trigger guard. Pull the slide/barrel assembly forward off the frame. That’s it. You can separate the recoil spring, guide, and barrel from the slide just as with any other conventional-form autoloader. Reassembly is fast. When the slide/barrel/recoil spring unit is assembled, just slip it on the frame rails and action the slide to the rear.
Shootable In The Extreme
Subjectively, the compact G36 is a very comfortable—even fun—gun to shoot. It much better suits my hand than do the double-stack frames of other standard Glock configurations. This is due to the proportionately longer depth of the grip in proportion to its width (as one of my colleagues has put it, it feels more like a 1x3 than a 2x2) and to the more pronounced incurve of the upper portion of the backstrap. Recoil is not unpleasant or disconcerting, although it is certainly not a quick-recovery gun that could be used in action-shooting competition. And there are some design features concerning Glocks in general that I would like to see changed. The slide release and the magazine release button are too flat. I believe both of these critical operating levers should be made easier to operate by a gloved or hot and sweaty hand.
In order to review the G36’s accuracy, I fired my sample G36 for a series of five full-magazine groups from a sandbag benchrest at 50 feet with 10 varieties of commercial .45 ACP ammunition. The results are shown in the accompanying chart. The overall combined average for all groups fired was 2.55 inches. The best factory-load group was with Winchester’s Ranger SXT 230-grain JHP loading and measured 1.88 inches. That is a pretty fair result, even at the relatively close (street-width) distance I use for evaluating compact personal-defense pistols. In terms as blunt as the instrument itself, the new G36 is the best handling, most concealable compact pistol Glock has yet made. For .45 ACP believers who are content with six-plus-one capacity, it will be a hard choice to overlook.
Glock .45 ACP G36 Performance Results
| || |
Standard Deviation (fps)
50-Foot Accuracy (inches)
|Federal 165-gr. |
| Federal |
| Hornady |
| Remington |
185-gr. BJHP (+P)
| Winchester |
| CCI Blazer |
| Federal 230-gr. |
| PMC 230-gr. |
| Speer 230-gr. |
| Winchester 230-gr. |
| Overall average accuracy || |
NOTES: Accuracy is the average of five round groups fired
from a sandbag benchrest at 50 feet. Velocity is the average
of six rounds measured 10 feet from the gun’s muzzle.