How safe is a Glock?
April 15, 2008 1:54 PM   Subscribe

PistolFilter. I know there are lots of gun related forums/resources on the web (and am looking at those also), but I'd like to query AskMe about Glocks. Specifically what are the practical advantages and disadvantages of the Glock safety trigger mechanism versus traditional safetys?

I'm kicking around buying my first gun. I've had experience with handgun shooting before and am fairly competent with 9MMs. I'm just thinking of buying a gun as part of a broader package of survival/emergency gear so I'm not really looking for something that is high maintenance and can handle being stowed away for long periods. So, bonus points for gun recommendations. Thanks!
posted by Burhanistan to Shopping (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
A Glock is very safe. As long as you don't pull the trigger, the gun won't go off. You can safely carry/store a glock with a round in the chamber, which can't be said of all pistols.

An additional safety doesn't buy you too much, unless you're an idiot and keep your finger on the trigger, in which case you're screwed anyways.

For a stash of gear, a glock 17 and some extra mags would be a great way to go.
posted by jefftang at 2:11 PM on April 15, 2008

The practical advantage is that there is nothing the user needs to do other than pull the trigger. So when the zombie wars come and your survival bag is all that you have with you when you are crossing the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and a bunch of flesh-eating zombies jump out from behind a rock, you don't have to remember to flip the safety while crapping your pants -- you just point and shoot your traveling companion while successfully making your escape from the zombies.

The disadvantage is if you have the habit of removing your pistols from their holsters by pulling on the trigger, you will shoot yourself in the ass or foot. Or if you have a habit of waving your gun around in the classroom while trying to look cool, this will happen. Don't be that guy. Not having a traditional safety puts an extra piece of responsibility on you to keep control of the trigger at all times.

As to storage for long periods, the advice always used to be to use a revolver for that, because of not wanting the magazine springs to become weak from sitting compressed. That advice may have been superseded by modern materials, I don't know. As to how reliable Glocks are, here is a fascinating account of someone subjecting a Glock 21 to an incredible amount of abuse (including mud, sand, driving over it, shooting it with another gun, more than 150,000 rounds with no cleaning, and worse) that it more or less survived. There aren't many other guns you would even try that with.
posted by Forktine at 2:22 PM on April 15, 2008

While I find Glocks to be somewhat uncomfortable to shoot, it sounds like the pistol fits your criteria perfectly. The tenifer finish on the metal parts is incredibly rust-resistant, and the polymer frame requires no real maintenance at all.

So, given that the Glock is an excellent option for you, I'll just recommend some others in case you try a Glock at the range and hate it.

Sig-Sauer: Regular Sigs are more expensive than Glocks, while the Sig Pro line is at about the same price point. Also extremely tough and reliable. Whereas Glocks have one (somewhat uncomfortable) trigger pull for every round, Sigs use a combination of double action and single action. What you do is store/carry the weapon with the hammer down, which means the first trigger pull will cock the hammer back and then fire it. After that, each subsequent trigger pull will be a lighter single-action pull. My friend has a Sig in .40 and the trigger is incredibly smooth and comfortable, but you do have to learn two different pulls, plus the decock lever. But, like a Glock, there is no safety to trip you up in a hurry. As long as the weapon is loaded, it will go bang when you press the trigger.

Springfield Armory XD: Very much like a Glock in terms of price, materials, and operation, but personally I find it a little more comfortable to shoot.

Also, as for magazine springs, a quality mag won't suffer for being left loaded. Repeated, rapid cycling of springs wears them out far more than leaving them compressed for long periods. My mags have been charged for months at a time and they still function perfectly.

Ultimately, you're not going to go wrong with any of these, provided you like shooting it and you take safety seriously. And so, let me welcome you to the biggest responsibility you'll ever undertake besides having children.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 2:50 PM on April 15, 2008


-No external safety (simple to operate, no forgetting to turn it off)
-No external levers to catch
-Ambidextrous by default
-Mechanically simple (although I don't think it's that much of an difference)
-The usual arguable DAO advantages, e.g. consistent trigger pull, no first/second shot difference


-No external safety

Personally I don't think that not having an external safety is a major downside. If you have your finger -- or anything else -- in the trigger guard when you're not intending to fire, you are wrong. Bluntly: if you can't keep your finger off and away from the trigger, you shouldn't be handling or carrying a gun, period. My feeling is: 'If you need that extra bit of insurance in order to trust yourself with a handgun, do us all a favor and stick with pepper spray.'

I understand this is as much a philosophical argument as a technical one, but it's been my experience that an over-reliance on mechanical safeties leads to sloppy behavior. More than once have I had someone cross me with a muzzle, only to say on being scolded for it, that "the safety was on." Also, I've gotten into arguments with people who think that turning the safety on is an adequate alternative to being open-and-empty (e.g. while people are downrange). Overall, it's been my experience that the presence of switchable safeties leads people -- who otherwise know better! -- to treat loaded guns as if they were unloaded. (In a way that, for whatever reason, automatic safeties like grip and trigger safeties don't.)

(As an aside, I'm a little more open to the presence of user-operable safeties on long guns, although I still think they lead to laziness. However, hunters seem to like them, and not being a hunter, I'll let that go.)

The only thing I think you need to be careful about when using a Glock, especially if you're coming from a gun with a user-operable safety and may have developed some sloppiness, is when holstering it. I have heard of a few people ADing and shooting themselves in the thighs/buttocks because they allowed some part of the holster to stick into the trigger guard and depress the trigger while they were sliding the Glock into their holster. I really don't think that's the fault of the gun, though; the gun is working exactly as advertised. The solution is to make sure you keep the trigger area clear when holstering, and realize that holstering a weapon should always involve some care and thought. Because of the direction you're moving it in, and the presence of material near the trigger, it should never be done casually.

If you are concerned about the holstering issue, you might want to look at the S&W Glock-lookalikes (I think they're the "xD" series...?), which add grip safeties. The trigger+grip safety combination doesn't seem like a bad idea to me, and might remove a little of the holstering danger, depending on how you do it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:01 PM on April 15, 2008

I've never figured out the point of the Glock "safety" - I haven't noticed it does much, which is why I like it. (Reasons better elaborated by Forktine.) 9mm might be a little wimpy for survivalism. I'd think shotguns would be better for home defense, and rifles for hunting, no?

I like my Glock because it's fun to fire, it's small (It's a Glock 19, which is a single stack.), it's very light. The downside is that its magazines are a pain to load- my hands aren't strong enough to load one all the way- and because it's a single stack I haven't found one of those handy-dandy load assist gadgets that's worked, though I haven't looked very hard. I also have a hard time getting the slide stop to engage and have managed to pinch or cut my fingers open a couple times.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:22 PM on April 15, 2008

Well, the others have the safety question well in hand, but I will say that having shot a USP .45, a USP 9mm, a Beretta Brigadier, some kind of .357 revolver and a Glock 17, the Glock 17 was the only pistol I felt like I could hit anything with. It was an instant feeling of confidence in being able to place a round on the target as soon as I pulled the trigger the first time. As they say, your mileage may vary.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:44 PM on April 15, 2008

Just a tiny correction on Kadin's otherwise excellent post: The XD is a Springfield Armory gun. Smith & Wesson makes a Glock-like gun as well, but the general consensus is that it's not in the league of the XD or Glock.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 3:50 PM on April 15, 2008

As to storage for long periods, the advice always used to be to use a revolver for that, because of not wanting the magazine springs to become weak from sitting compressed. That advice may have been superseded by modern materials, I don't know.

As far as I've read, compressing a spring within its normal range will not affect the spring's strength at all, even for long periods of time.
posted by knave at 4:00 PM on April 15, 2008

The Glock trigger system serves its purpose as a drop-safety, but doesn't provide any real disconnect between pulling the trigger and discharging the weapon. If the trigger moves backward a quarter inch, the weapon will discharge (and at least partially cycle). This means that maneuvering the weapon through everyday life gets a little bit riskier, as there are certainly protrusions out there that can enter the outrageously-oversized trigger guard. When it's loaded, you gotta be double careful, in my opinion. That said, watch your muzzle vector and your trigger finger, like you always do (right?), and I don't consider it much more dangerous than a manual safety.

A user experiences the Glock in nearly the same way that he does a revolver: grip the weapon, take aim, pull trigger, manage recoil. However, unlike many revolver designs, you can safely drop the weapon without a discharge.

So, I would say that for storage, without inserted magazine or chambered round, I can find absolutely no reason a Glock wouldn't serve your purpose. After the Rapture, assuming the heathens don't assemble a perfect utopia without need for weapons, I imagine that a Glock would serve just fine for all manner of medium-game hunting, self-defense, and banditry (should you choose such a path).

That said, the iron* on my hip informs me that I should advise you to purchase any (or all) of the fine weapons produced by Messrs. Heckler and Koch in exclusion of those produced by Glock, Inc. Such advise would be, of course, sheer fanboyism. Aside from personal taste and MSRP, I can find very little difference in the quality of the pistols produced by either company. But, in that price range, for mass-produced major-caliber pistols, they're the ones I'd recommend.

*Here "iron" means "mostly plastic and some steel (by volume)".

On Preview:

I also have a hard time getting the slide stop to engage and have managed to pinch or cut my fingers open a couple times.

The one thing I must note in regards to Glock. The controls on these weapons are ludicrous. Luckily, there're only a couple. The trigger is alright, but the mag release is hard to find. And the goddamn slide stop is a tiny square of metal which, for whatever reason, the engineers have mounted parallel to the direction in which you're supposed to push the damn thing.
posted by Netzapper at 4:06 PM on April 15, 2008

This is all very good stuff here. I think after stopping by the gun store today (quite an experience in itself!) I've settled on a Glock 17 (with a good pistol safe, of course). I'll retain a healthy balance of fear vs function regarding firearms.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:37 PM on April 15, 2008

It sounds like you intend to lock this pistol up and never use it. I would like to suggest that you make sure to go to the range with someone who knows what they're doing at least once per year and run a box of ammo through the gun. Maintaining proficiency is critical if you intend to safely handle this weapon, or use it for self defense. If there ever came a time when you decided that you needed to take this gun out and kill someone, your proficiency, such as it is, will plummet due to the adrenaline coursing through your veins. You might shoot yourself or a loved one. Or if the gun has a malfunction or you drop the mag out by accident, or some other mistake that renders you incapable of using the gun, you've basically just provided your attacker a free weapon.

I recently saw a guy at the gun range hammering on the side of his 1911 pistol with a magazine because he forgot how to get the slide stop out. Don't be that guy.

I agree with everything that Netzapper and Forktine said about the Glock's drop safety.

You can stow most any gun for long periods if it's cleaned and oiled properly. The Glock is low-maintenance in that there are only a few things to clean and oil, but they do require maintenance. You do need to know how to maintain the gun if you want it to work when you need it. Practice stripping and reassembling the gun with a knowledgeable friend a few times. You want to know that you can get the gun back together when you clean it, and that you have properly assembled it such that it will operate as designed. I have one pistol that I have a hard time reassembling even with the instruction book in my lap.

Be sure to never use reloaded ammunition in your Glock. Always use factory ammo.

You should contemplate taking some time to make this decision. I would rent and shoot a few of the pistols mentioned in this thread before deciding which one to buy. The Springfield XD is a very similar gun. You should also try out a .40 or .45 Glock. Larger caliber guns are generally considered to more effective at killing people. If size is no object ( you will not be carrying this gun concealed ), I'd recommend buying the most powerful pistol you can comfortably shoot.

I've taught several people to use pistols, and most had terrible firearm safety practices at first. Please do not assume that you are handling the gun in a safe manner until a knowledgeable person has given you some instruction. I'm sorry to sound like I'm talking you out of this, but I got the sense that this was an impulse purchase, and I wanted to make sure you knew what you were getting yourself into. A gun is not a magic totem that you can put in your home to ward off evil. Even a simple gun like the G17 requires thought and care to possess, and having both it and you in a ready state where it can function as intended takes effort. Also, from now on your house has a gun in it. Just because you forget about it, doesn't mean that a visiting kid, the plumber, the maid, or a burgler won't find it.

small_ruminant: Your pistol is not a single stack. It gets easier to load the magazines with practice. Press down on the back of the round that is already in the magazine with your thumb while pressing down on the front of that round with the round you are inserting with the other hand. There are indeed load-assist gadgets for the G19, you can pick one up at the gun show if yours didn't come with one. You can get the slide to lock open by racking it with an empty magazine in the gun. The follower in the magazine will engage the slide stop for you. Once the slide is locked open, you can eject the magazine. If you rack the slide with rounds in the magazine, you will eject a round, so keep an eye out for it. Keep your finger out of the trigger guard while doing this.
posted by popechunk at 9:18 PM on April 15, 2008

popechunk: thanks. The way I worded the question does make sound like an impulse but I've been thinking about buying a gun for a few years now. I haven't researched all the technical aspects of each brand so that's part of this question. If I do go ahead and get the Glock I plan to go to a class or two and go to the range every quarter or so. I've been shooting several times, so I know identify parts of guns, break them down, etc. My wrists aren't that big so a 9mm is relatively easy for me to get consistent results with after emptying several magazines.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:37 PM on April 15, 2008

The Glock is the best marriage of simple, cheap, reliable, and ubiquitous of the 9mm semi-auto guns mentioned in this thread, in my own experience.

But the other popular 9mm pistols that you might rent at the range would all probably do just fine. I have a 9mm Glock, but if I'd bought an XD, Beretta, Sig, or H+K in 9mm instead, I know I would be just as happy. They're all nice guns. I might end up buying them all anyhow eventually.

Rent a few, and pick one that fits in your hand, you are naturally accurate with, and fits your budget.
posted by popechunk at 10:10 PM on April 15, 2008

popechunk- if single stack is the wrong word, what IS the word for magazines that load in a sort of zig-zag format? The website I linked to describes them as "single-position feed, staggered column type."

Whatever it is, it's a pain to load, and plenty of practice hasn't helped. I will look for an assist gadget.

Thanks for the tip on getting it to lock open without finger damage.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:14 PM on April 16, 2008

On a slight tangent, a friend of mine had an old Walther PPK that was really fun to shoot, too, (but cost quite a bit, I think). I didn't shoot enough to know that it was better than a Glock, but it felt really nice in my hand. He may have just bought it for its James Bond associations. Who knows.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:17 PM on April 16, 2008

On a slight tangent, a friend of mine had an old Walther PPK that was really fun to shoot, too

Don't get that. You should be looking for a modern firearm.
posted by Netzapper at 1:06 PM on April 16, 2008

* single stack magazines look like this from the back:

* double stack magazines look like this from the back:

The little o's are bullets.
posted by popechunk at 6:00 PM on April 16, 2008

Ah. Pretty definitely single stack, then.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:34 PM on April 16, 2008

Update: I purchased a Glock 17 with a nice little lock box that will be bolt-mounted in a secure location. Thanks for your input.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:05 AM on April 23, 2008

Have fun!
posted by small_ruminant at 10:47 AM on April 23, 2008

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