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Glock's New G36: A Fistful of Firepower
By Dick Metcalf, Technical Editor, Shooting Times.

After putting it through this shooting review, our Technical Editor has called Glock's new single-stack .45 ACP the best handling, most concealable compact pistol the company has ever made.

he Glock semiautomatic pistol ranks among the most original handgun design concepts of the last 100 years and has been a seminal contributor to the handgun manufacturing technology of the 21st century. 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.

Influential Innovations
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.

SPECS
Glock G36
.45 ACP Semiautomatic Pistol
Distributor ...........................Glock Inc.
Box 369
Smyrna, GA 30081
Model .............................................G36
Operation ....................Recoil-operated
autoloader
Caliber ................................... .45 ACP
Barrel length ....................3.78 inches
Overall length................... 6.77 inches
Weight, empty ..............22.51 ounces
Safety ......................Safe Action trigger
Sights ............................Drift-adjustable
white-outline rear;
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
Price .............................................$668

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.

Page Two - Safety, Action, Maintenance, Shootability

This article was originally published in Shooting Times magazine in November, 2000.

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