Glock and the Striker Fired Pistol
And the award for the first production polymer framed, striker fired pistol goes to the German arms manufacturer … Heckler & Koch for the innovative VP70!
‘Heresy!’ cried the Glock crowd. Gaston Glock’s model 17 revolutionized the modern firearms industry and he wasn’t German, he was Austrian!
Sorry, but the record is clear. Glock wasn’t the first to produce a striker-fired pistol. H&K beat them by 12 years in 1970 with the VP70. Manufactured for the law enforcement market, it was capable of full auto fire and the semi automatic version became popular in Italian civilian market. An import restriction largely kept it out of US hands and draws a lot of blank stares when mentioned at your local gun shop.
Glock’s initial fame in the US can largely be attributed to timing. US Law Enforcement was making the transition away from the .38 Special +P to 9mm firearms. Articles and movies claiming that polymer pistols couldn’t be detected by screening methods of the day. And okay, the Glock preformed well and everyone loved to shoot the ugly little beast.
And the striker fired pistol was special with a largely unknown functionality. Working without a typical hammer or firing pin, the spring loaded striker is compressed inside the slide until the weapon is ready to fire. When the trigger is pulled, the safeties are disengaged, and the mechanism, usually an extension of the trigger bar, makes contact and pulls the striker back under spring tension. This continues to increase as the striker is pulled to the rear. At the end of the pull, this trigger bar’s extension pulls or drops off the part of the striker it was up against, and releases it, allowing it to travel forward under the power of the spring and make contact with the primer of the chambered round setting off the cartridge.
And just like other semi automatic pistols when fired, the slide moves rearward under recoil, ejects the spent round and chambers a new one. The pistol is then ready to fire the next round.
On the plus side, the striker fire assembly contains less internal parts and less parts equates to less ‘things to go wrong’. Glock has created a reputation for reliability. Disassembly, and reassembly for that matter, is quick, easy and I never have parts left over.
Most Glock owners will talk about the easy trigger pull that is generally much lighter than Double Action systems. Contrary to the DA system, the shooter experiences the same weight of trigger pull each time. Meaning the shooter does not have to adjust from a first long and heavy double action pull to a second, short and light single action shot. Consistency of experience means a lot when it counts allowing the shooter to remain on target.
The downside list can be long and sociologically complicated. Primary is the lack of an external safety. Imagine the look on the faces of the guys at the range when you unholster your pistol and loudly announce it has no external safety. It’s just not something everyone is comfortable with even if, such as in the case of the Glock, the safety in internal. And you wouldn’t be wrong for being overly skeptical about the little safety lever on the trigger.
When someone says, “if you don’t want to fire the gun, don’t pull the trigger”, you have the right to be uneasy. News stories linking the Glock to accidental discharges and even accidental death are concerning as even the most experienced among us make mistakes. Firearms safety training, even in its most rudimentary form, emphasizes not placing your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire. But in a world where the fault is everyone’s but the person handling the weapon, what can you expect?
Some manufacturers, such as Springfield Armory, add a ‘beavertail’ safety similar to the Colt 1911 .45 ACP. This protects the gun from inadvertent snags on the trigger firing the weapon. You must to have a firm grip on the Springfield before it will fire.
The next ‘con’ is the lack of a ‘second strike capability’. When double action pistol is fired, if the round fails to fire, the trigger resets and you simply pull it again, and hopefully igniting a ‘hard primer’.
On a striker fired pistol, the shooter receives a loud ‘snap’ instead of a ‘bang’. As no ‘second strike capability’ is available, the shooter must cycle the pistol ejecting the non-firing round and loading new. Cycling becomes a major drawback as many will take their sights off their target to perform the action and then, reestablish their sight picture on the target. (And I understand the argument that a ‘misfire’ on any pistol causes the natural impulse to look the weapon over to discover the issue.
The bottom line is the part that most in their excitement to become part of the crowd with the ‘cool’ guns fails to consider – What are my needs and How am I going to use the weapon? Defining your needs and asking questions about your findings not only makes you a more savvy consumer, but a happier, more satisfied one as well.