Monday, August 6, 2012

Glock: Innovator or coasting on past success?

G21 Gen4 & G17 Gen3 EXO
Glock is one of the most successful handgun companies in modern history.  Their revolutionary Glock 17 pistol took the shooting community by storm in the early 1980's and its success as a military and law enforcement handgun has been unrivaled globally.

Glock began life around 1982.  By 1983 the Glock 17 had been adopted by the Austrian military.  In 1984 the Glock 17 was introduced to the US market where its destiny to become one of the worlds most popular military and LEO handguns was cemented.

Take note of the dates above.  The Glock has been around for 30 years now with only 4 generations of pistols having been introduced.  In 1988 the Gen 2 pistols was introduced with only minor changes.  In 1998 the Gen 3 pistol was introduced with a new frame that had finger grooves, a new rail, and new loaded chamber indicator on the extractor.  By 2010 Glock launched the biggest changes to its classic pistol, the Gen 4 modifications.  These modifications included a new lower frame with user swappable back straps, new checkering, new recoil spring and other minor changes.
G21SF - Failed Ambi-Mag Release

But there's something worth note in this story.  Every generation of Glock released is the same basic pistol with updates added to keep the aging design relevant on the market.  Glock hasn't introduced a totally new pistol or even a rifle in the last 30 years.  They keep on rewarming the existing design hoping no one notices they've really done nothing notable since the 1980's.

I love Glock handguns.  I really do.  I have several Glocks in my inventory and I carry a G19 EXO as my defensive handgun of choice.  But unlike many diehard Glock fans, I do question some of Glocks decisions and have taken note of their apparent inability to evolve past their one and only claim to fame.

It seems to me that Glock is struggling to stay relevant and they are clinging steadfastly to their original design hoping that by tacking on the latest and greatest doo-dads they will never have to design something totally new -- ever.

As a long time fan of Glock pistols it's been rather painful for me to watch, actually.  While Glock flounders trying to keep their aging design modern, they've made some fairly high profile mistakes.

G21 Gen 4 Replaceable Back Straps
Take the G21SF pistol for example.  The G21SF was developed to compete in military trials.  To meet the functional requirements of the trials they made some quick changes to their G21 .45 ACP pistol.  First, they reduced the grip size to squeeze slightly better ergonomics out of it.  Then they stuck a 1913 rail under the dust cover and quickly fashioned a ambidextrous magazine release system.  The ambi magazine release was a total failure with reports of broken parts and dropping magazines running rampant across the internet.  The original intent was to implement this ambi-magazine system into all future Glock pistols, but that quickly faded as the reports of failures continued to stream into Glock.  Alas, the ambi-magazine release is no more.

The RTF2 (Rough Textured Frame) was introduced in 2009 along with new slide serrations affectionately called "fish gills" by collectors.  A year later the hideous fish gills were dropped from production guns, and the 60 grit sandpaper known as the RTF2 grip frame was relegated to LEO only sales in 2011.  I own two of these now defunct pistols and I have to admit, the RTF2 grips are painful to use for concealed carry -- especially if you wear your pistol inside the waist band.  Many owners dulled the sharp edges with sandpaper in an effort to prevent wounding themselves with their new carry guns.

G19 RTF2
The introduction of the Gen 4 Glocks has also been something of a painful experience for Glock.  Widespread reports of reliability issues has forced Glock to release several different recoil spring updates as they try to get ahead of the cascade of trouble reports coming in from the field.  It's been so troublesome that many Glock fans, such as myself, have refused to buy the Gen 4 pistols and remain loyal to the Gen 3 guns.

I feel the competition is passing Glock by.  I can't think of any other gun manufacturers that have existed for 30 years making only one design without introducing something totally new at some point.  It seems to me that Glock would rather jerry-rig user replaceable back straps onto their existing design as opposed to designing a totally new pistol with modern features.  At this point the Gen 4 Glock pistols look like a hodgepodge of after thoughts vs. a class leading innovative handgun capable of brushing the competition to the side.

Is Glock capable of designing a totally new pistol, or is Glock a one hit wonder biding its time until the competition passes it by?

C'mon Glock, give us something new.

16 comments:

  1. I agree with you that Glock's fundamental design is great but that some of the "updates" have been poorly executed or should have been left in the design room. However, my Glock is a tool and, like a hammer, it doesn't need a new design. As long as it goes bang every time I pull the trigger, that's all I need it to do.

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  2. I agree, I think Glock should stop the "evolution" of the current pistol. Every time they change it they seem to make matters worse, they've yet to really improve the original design much. I was fine with most of the "improvements" until we hit the Gen 4 modifications. Now I'm of the opinion they need to leave it alone. If they want to make future changes, just design a new handgun around the new features they want.

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  3. You are correct, They should leave its gen 3 alone and move along. Look at almost every other pistol MFG. Take a look at the M&P line, granted they borrowed allot of Glocks innovations after the sigma fiasco. The m&p is slowly starting to replace Glocks in many police departments. It has ergonomics and ambidextrous. Almost any user can pick it up from tiny hands to large and it just works for them. Then look at H&K they have the USP, they have pretty much done nothing to it. It works its great and they have left it alone. People wanted better ergonomics they came out with the P2000 series of guns. People wanted better ergonomics again. They have the P30 and HK45 series of Pistols if it was not for their high prices. You would be seeing many more of these being adopted as well. Its amazing in today's day and age that a company does not look ahead but relies on their past. Glock seems destined to end up RIM (blackberry) of the electronics world. We are great we can tweek what we have and they consumer won't bother leaving us for a competitor. We sadly know how it ends up.

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  4. I'm not a Glock guy, they feel like someone else's wife in my hand (I like XDs, and the only Glock that feels good to me is the Gen 4). However, I find your nitpicking to be a bit over the top. First off, the basic pistol is the best. It's reliable and can really take a beating. I've seen fully loaded Glock mags fire from a pistol that was "buried" for 20 plus years, fire without a hitch. Torture tests I've witnessed first hand have shown me that Glock and XDs are the only two pistols I'd trust (not Sigs, M&Ps, HKs, and most definitely not any 1911s), and of course the XD wasn't exactly drafting on JB when it was designed. Perhaps they would have done better by not trying to keep "relevant". They've captured the police market like no other weapons maker has since S&W Model 10. Whenever I see a LEO without a Glock it's a big event. Haven't seen that since being in Santa Clara a couple of years back. Colt, S&W and the rest of the firearms industry have more screw-ups in design in one month than Glock has had in 30 years. It just doesn't seem like an issue to me.

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    1. I am pretty clear in my assessment of the Glock pistols pre-Gen 4 in the article. I too believe they are well made, reliable, accurate, useful handguns. That's not the point of the article. I haven't come anywhere near nitpicking Glock to be honest, I've merely pointed out several of their missteps in their continued effort to improve "perfection". Do you feel any of the failures I point out actually improved the Glock series of pistols? That's the point of the article. If they want something new, design it. But leave the Glock design that won over the hearts of millions of shooters alone and stop trying to fix something that isn't broken.

      As a side note, Glock won over the LEO market in the US because they literally gave pistols away to departments. It was a brilliant strategy.

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  5. If only they could come out with a single/double action model of the glock. I agree but then again when you have a pistol that is the pistol other guns are judged by it hard to beat that.

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  6. leave my gen 3 glocks alone, gaston. i laugh when i read the letter from gaston in the glock annual, the same cut and paste letter year and year. even their branding isnt handled well, cheesy chinese made gear and clotheing, no licensed glock pocket knives. they are still privately owned and wont change until they go public and have someone to answer too.

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  7. It worked for Colt and the 1911 for a lot longer than 30 years. Glock doesn't need to redesign the pistol. S&W did that for them, because GLOCK didnt feel it was necessary. The M&P is a better pistol in many ways and it costs less.

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    1. Colt didn't exist making just 1911's pistols for 30+ years. Colt has a long history of making several different handguns and rifles over the last 30+ years. Have you heard of the New Service revolver? The Anaconda? The Detective Special? The Cobra? The Diamond Back? The King Cobra? The Police Positive? The Python? The Colt 2000? The Cadet? The Mustang? The Double Eagle? The Woodsman? The AR15?

      Glock has made the Glock, nothing else.

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  8. I think that there have been a couple of golden opportunities that Glock has entirely passed up.

    1) What about single stack pistols? I think they really missed the boat here. I'm sure there are many of us that carry Glocks, that would love to have a variety of frame sizes available to us in single stack with similar ergonomics. I point to the historical success of Kahr Arms, and the recent demand for the M&P Shield. Frankly, I have become absolutely tired of all the media coverage that the Shield has received. I'm sure it's a fine pistol, but practically every handgun publication for the last two months has ran it for a cover. Glock could easily cash in on this frenzy.

    2) Where is my Glock Carbine??! Also, if you're reading this Glock - please offer us an SBR version if you ever get around to developing something. I absolutely love my Sub2000. I actually like the fact that the magazines are fed in the grip, it keeps the overall length down, but still not incurring the extra cost of an SBR. I just wish it didn't feel so fragile. Sure, I know there are other options out there. I dislike the carbine "conversions" that are out there. I'm not a huge fan of the Olympic AR offered Glock compatible rifles. I think the Just Right Carbine looks promising. I'd love to get a Lone Wolf AR, but they seem to never be available. You're failing us Glock!!!


    All that said. I jumped on the Glock bandwagon pretty late. I do have a tendency of avoiding the things that are most popular, often just because I want something different. I switched over when the Gen4 models came out, despite the poor reports. For my small hands, it was the first time a factory Glock grip fit me. Even then, it was a Sub2000 that I purchased first. I went with the .40 version because I liked the 22 round magazines. Not as obnoxiously long as the Glock 18 magazines are, these 22 rounders seem just right to me. I then ended up getting Glocks to go with the Kel-Tec, instead of the other way around!

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  9. Instead of phasing out the Gen2 Glocks when they came out with the Gen3's they should've kept the Gen2 style without the finger grooves with the addition of a rail on it. That would've given prospective buyers more options, finger grooves or no finger grooves. I have a Gen2 G19 I purchased in 1989. The only upgrade I'd like on it is a rail.

    A Glock carbine would be great.

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  10. I feel like we see a lot of companies putting out new guns, new cameras, computers, TVs and new everything else *just because they can*

    The fact that Glock has stuck to their guns, so to speak, and isn't trying to offer BS options and weapons just to make more money is one of the reasons I love them. They know what they're good at and they aren't going to mess around with anything else.

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

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  11. I find here a huge information about Glock handguns but i think design of Gun is quite old. It should be updated.

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  12. Their revolutionary Glock 17 pistol took the shooting community by storm in the early 1980's and its success as a military and law enforcement handgun has been unrivaled globally. Glock Siderlock

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