First Look: Umarex Glock G19 Part 1 Part 2
Almost the gun you have been waiting for
By Dennis Adler
Ever since the 2018 Shot Show and the debut of the Umarex Glock G19 there has been speculation as to what the first model introduced would be. The wait is over; it is an entry level, non-blowback version with a stick magazine. Don’t start screaming yet, there is a lot to understand about getting Glock to the table let alone signing on to have a CO2 version of their groundbreaking 1980’s semi-auto put into production by Umarex. Glock is, in a word, conservative in its manufacturing and marketing as only an Austrian company can be. I have been writing about and testing Glock pistols (as one of the original writers for GLOCK AUTOPISTOLS magazine) for more than a decade and understanding Glock and founder Gaston Glock makes this equally groundbreaking CO2 version of the Glock 19 Compact all the more impressive. But first, let’s go back to what makes a Glock, a Glock. They call it “Glock Perfection” and it is evident even in this entry level CO2 model.
The Glock has been hailed as one of the 10 best handgun designs in history. To put that in some meaningful context, the Glock is on the same list as the Flintlock and percussion lock pistol, Samuel Colt’s legendary 1851 Navy revolver, the Colt Peacemaker, and the Colt Model 1911/1911A1 semi-auto; in short, some very illustrious arms spanning somewhere on the order of five centuries of gun making. Considering that the Glock semiautomatic pistol didn’t even exist until the early 1980s, this accomplishment is all the more impressive.
It all began around 1981 when the Austrian manufacturer, known for its use of polymers and injection molding techniques, was invited by the Austrian government to submit a proposal for an upcoming military trial intended to find a suitable replacement for the nation’s aging WWII-era Walter P.38 sidearms. The Walter is still regarded as one of the great (and timeless) designs of the early 20th century, but it had two features the Austrian military no longer admired, its weight and cartridge capacity; one too much, the other too little. While European armsmakers began submitting proposals based on their current designs, Gaston Glock and his staff started with a blank sheet of paper, no preconceived notions, and most of all, no existing hardware!
When you start with a clean sheet of paper the only rules are the ones you make for yourself. Gaston Glock knew he could use an injection molded polymer frame for his new gun. It had been tried before by Heckler & Koch with the VP70 (M model full auto military version) and VP70Z (civilian semi-auto), both of which used a plastic receiver/grip assembly. The H&K 9mm pistols were introduced in 1970 and produced through 1984. This was a very large (28.9 oz., 8-in. overall length), expensive ($2,250) DAO blowback design that has become one of the more interesting footnotes in German arms manufacturing. Glock took nothing from the H&K when he began working on his proposal for the Austrian Ministry of Defense. The new semiautomatic 9mm pistol would be lighter in weight, innovative in its operation, and far less expensive. And Glock GmbH had the experience to both prototype and manufacture the gun in house.
The original Glock 17 was introduced to the public for sale as a 1983 model. It was virtually identical to the guns being made for the Austrian military and police, chambered in 9x19mm and with a capacity of 17+1. Being designed as a military sidearm, it was essentially simplistic in its execution and had very few of the features we find today on Glock semi-autos. The initial success of the G17 also brought forth a wealth of consumer requests for change, something which manufactures are often loathe to do. Glock was slow to warm to the idea of altering what was essentially a brand new design but the company was also market driven and the original changes consumers wanted were neither unreasonable nor difficult with injection molding, thus beginning in 1991 (just eight years after being introduced) texturing was added to the grip panels, along with internal improvements. A second alteration came in the 1990s with the addition of checkering on the front strap and serrations to the backstrap. This all constitutes the 2nd generation, though it is a relatively arbitrary designation.
The most notable revisions to the gun came in the late 1990s with a third variation incorporating an integral-with-the-frame accessory (Picatinny) rail to allow the mounting of laser sights, tactical flashlights, or combinations of both, as well as their availability from Glock. Thumb rests on both sides of the frame and finger grooves on the front strap were also introduced to provide a short term fix for the greater issue many consumers had with the Glock design; grip size. One size didn’t fit all. A still later production modification resulted in an improved extractor that served as a loaded chamber indicator with a tactile squared metal edge protruding slightly outward from back of the ejector port. This could both be seen and, more importantly, felt in situations which demanded immediate knowledge of the gun’s condition. Many improvements were made for North American law enforcement agencies, which were becoming one of the Austrian armsmaker’s principal customers, especially following the establishment of a U.S. importing, distribution and manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Georgia.
By the end of the 20th century Glock had gone from near obscurity as an untried Austrian armsmaker to one of the most successful brands on two continents and the gun preferred by more U.S. law enforcement agencies than any other; eventually surpassing Colt and S&W (among others) as the most customary sidearm for state and local police departments, as well as filling specific needs within the U.S. military. Not bad for a company that hadn’t existed 18 years earlier as an armsmaker!
In the 21st century Glock has added more new models, frame sizes and calibers but as always, change within the Glock organization was slow to come. The further improved Gen4 models were introduced eight years ago. The one constant in Glock engineering for more than a quarter of a century has been its Safe Action trigger design introduced with the original G17. Utilizing a blade safety lever projecting through the face of the trigger, the gun is always in a safe condition unless the trigger is pulled, very much the same concept as a revolver where the trigger is the only actual safety. The difference with the Glock is that when the Safe Action system is activated, internal safety devices make the gun inoperable so it cannot accidentally discharge if dropped.
With the Gen4, Glock finally addressed the biggest complaint; grip size. While not a big gun, the Glock was not sized for everyone. The Gen4, first with the G22 and then G17, were the first models to offer interchangeable backstrap panels. The standard grip, which is now slightly smaller than the previous models, can be covered over by one of two different panels, medium and large. Along with internal changes to the recoil system, the Gen4 models provided better-handling, better-engineering and more versatility; the differences, although subtle, are distinctive in appearance and in function. It’s a 21st Century Glock.
Putting on airs
Glock pistols have never been fancy (the aftermarket, however, has seen to that with more custom Glock parts and finishes than almost any other handgun made today), but rather rugged and straightforward in design. The aesthetics of a Glock are in its simplicity, durability, and familiarity. If you know how to handle one Glock model, you know how to handle every Glock model. It is that consistency throughout the company’s history that finally led them to sign a licensing agreement with Umarex and produce its first CO2 training model. As basic as this initial offering is, it is so close in looks to an actual G19 that it is virtually indistinguishable except for not bearing the caliber markings on the slide. What this new model brings to airgun enthusiasts is a CO2 pistol that makes no compromises with Warnings and manufacturers marks on the slide, other than those found on the centerfire pistol. All of the verbiage is hidden on the underside of the dustcover.
In Part 2 we begin to explore this first Glock model. I say “first” because there is another version down the road. But as with all things Glock, air also moves slowly.