Happy Birthday, Herr Glock
Born 19 July 1929 in Vienna during the old Wilhelm Miklas days of the original Austrian Republic, Gaston Glock purportedly served as a teen in the German Wehrmacht late in WWII (although good luck finding exactly what he did, as he has long professed to have shot a gun before test-firing his own prototypes in the 1970s). Filing his first patent in 1953 at age 24 while the country was still under Allied occupation, he founded GLOCK Ges.m.b.H in 1963 in his Deutsch-Wagram garage workshop. Reportedly started out with a Russian surplus drill press, he took it from there, eventually moving into creating injection molding parts and components, specializing in household goods such as hinges, curtain rods, and brass fittings.
Early Austrian Federal Army contracts for grenade casings and machine-gun belt links built to spec led to a bigger one for a relatively innovative polymer-handled field knife in 1978. That contract set the stage to compete against Austrian firearms giant Steyr for a contract to replace the Bundesheer’s myriad of pistols with a single, universal design in 9x19mm.
Left with the flotsam of the Imperial-Royal era (Dreyse M1907, Roth–Steyr M1907, Frommer Stops, Broomhandle Mausers and Steyr M1912) the old Republic (Frommer FÉG M37s, Browning Babys), the German WWII days (Luger P08s, Walther P38s, Radom VIS, and CZ 27), a decade of Allied occupation (Tokarev TT33s, American M1911A1s) and interwar contracts (“OO” series Browning Hi-Powers, French Manurhin-made PPKs) the Austrians had a logistical nightmare when it came to pistols (chambered in no less than seven different calibers!) and the country was sandwiched between an increasingly chilly and muscular NATO and Warsaw Pact.
To make a long story short, Glock’s new prototype 9mm 17+1 capacity pistol pulled a stunner and beat out the favored Steyr GB18– which the Army had been flirting with since 1974– (as well as 20 other designs from around the world) for the win, being adopted as the Pistole 80 by the Austrian military, winning a tender for the gun that would become the Glock 17 in the summer of 1982.
The rest, as they say…