Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Speed and simplicity: Striker fired pistols

FN Browning 1900 Pistol
Many today think that striker fired pistols are "new" and "next generation" when in reality it's old technology.  Some of the earliest examples of semi-automatic handguns used strikers vs. the traditional hammer for cartridge ignition.  Take the FN Browning 1900 as an example. The FN 1900 was the first commercially successful auto-loading pistol and it featured a striker firing system.  The pistol was sleek, snag free and was well suited for the task of concealed carry.

When the Glock 17 came onto the scene some thought it was the most advanced handgun of the time, and it may well have been.  But nothing about the Glock was really new.  The polymer frame and striker ignition had been done before by HK with their VP70 handgun.  The VP70 broke new ground with its innovative polymer frame and striker firing, however it was not what I would consider a commercial success in the US.  It was originally designed as a police/military weapon and was a machine pistol that was capable of full-automatic fire with the stock affixed.  The trigger pull on the VP70 was abysmal and measured 16+ lbs on examples I have examined.

HK VP70 9mm pistol
Glock took design elements of other pistols, modified them and rolled them up into their Glock 17 pistol.  Apparently Glock got it right because the G17 went on to become one of the most prolific handguns of the 20th century.  In the United States the Glock rivals the popularity of the 1911, which is pretty amazing.  The majority of police departments in the US have at one time used the Glock pistol in 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP.

Why has the Glock become so popular?  What is it about the design that appeals to so many shooters?

I would venture to say that reliability is the primary motivation behind the Glocks popularity.  The handgun is, if nothing else, reliable.  However I believe the recipe for Glock success also lies in its striker firing system which features a consistent 5.5lbs trigger pull.

But there's something else.

The one thing that separates the Glock from the other two pistols mentioned in this article is the fact it lacks a manual safety.  Calm down my loyal Glock groupies, I didn't say the pistol lacked safeties -- I merely stated the fact that Glock's lack a manual safety (please follow the link if you need clarification as to what defines a "manual safety").

Two of my Glock 17 pistols
The relatively light trigger pull coupled with the lack of a manual safety makes the Glock one of the quickest handguns into a fight.  Lets face it, the more operations you add to readying your pistol under stress only serves to increase the probably Mr. Murphy will make an appearance at your moment of truth.  Something as simple as brushing off a safety is easily accomplished on a one way range, but when you put that same shooter on a two way range where bullets are coming back at them, all of a sudden the most trivial task becomes a likely failure point.

At first the Glock was decried as being unsafe or even dangerous.  It's true, it does have a higher incident of unintended discharges by LEO's and others that carry them for defensive purposes.  However, I view these negligent discharges as being attributable to lack of training.  Why do I say that?  Because the Glock will not fire unless the trigger is pulled.  Since the Glock is incapable of pulling its own trigger that means someone pulled the trigger if the gun goes "boom" when the operator wasn't expecting it.

It is this simplicity and reliability that draws me towards the Glock for daily carry.  With a good holster that covers the trigger and ample range time, the Glock is not only safe but one of the fastest pistols into a fight you can buy.

Walther PPQ 9mm pistol
I say "one of" because Glocks success has spawned a whole cornucopia of pistols from competitors that mirror the Glocks successful recipe.  Some have copied the recipe to such a degree that they found themselves in court facing Glocks rather aggressive attorneys that enforce their patents with vigor.  However, many companies have found ways around Glocks patents and brought pistols to market that closely mimic Glocks functionality.  Handguns such as the M&P, SR9, XD, Steyr A1, Walter PPQ, Caracal, FNS, etc.

I've always favored a consistent trigger pull over a double action trigger pull.  That's why I carried the 1911 for so many years before jumping on the Glock bandwagon.  I moved to Glock many years ago before competitive products came to market.  At this point I have a couple of decades of Glock shooting under my belt so it makes sense for me to continue using what I'm familiar with. However, if I were to buy my first defensive handgun today I would lean heavily towards the S&W M&P 9mm.

In the end I find modern polymer framed striker fired pistols to be the ultimate defensive handguns as  they are the epitome of speed, reliability and ease of use.


  1. Just curious.....why the M&P over the Glock for a first defensive handgun?

  2. I would choose the M&P due to the improved ergonomics.

  3. Thanks for clarifying it MAC. I personally lean towards hammer guns for many reason but you would have to be a extremely ignorant not to acknowledge what has made the glock a successful and respectable pistol.

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