Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)

HANDGUNS

Striker-Fired Double-Stack Handguns

This relatively “new” category of handguns may be a prepper’s best friend.

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Glock G17.

It’s funny sometimes how life works out.

In 1980, a fifty-year-old manager for a car radiator factory happened to be visiting the Austrian Ministry of Defense. He was there because of his part-time, home-based business where he made door fixtures, curtain rods, and knives. He sold the knives to the military. By coincidence, he overheard a conversation between two colonels about the Austrian Army’s need for a new pistol. The man interrupted and asked if he could bid on the contract. Knowing that he didn’t make guns, own guns, or know a thing about guns, the colonels laughed and said, “Sure, knock yourself out, buddy,” or whatever condescending German phrase carried the same meaning.

They laughed when the man asked for the details of the requirements for the new gun and replied, “It shouldn’t be too difficult to make such an item.” He was too naive to even understand that gunmaking is a complicated, difficult process. In Europe handguns were made by companies that were often hundreds of years old. The thought that some guy who made curtain rods in his garage could come up with a workable handgun design and then manufacture the guns was beyond absurd.

But Gaston Glock was not just “some guy.” Love him or hate him, you have to admit he had the brains and the balls to shake up the world. The fact he knew nothing about guns actually worked to his advantage. Even something as simple and as long established as the grip angle was new territory for him. Rather than copy the other pistols, he nailed a couple of wooden sticks together and asked people to tell him which angle felt more natural. Turns out it was 108 degrees, which was a departure from other, established handguns.

Everybody knew that handguns had to be made of metal, but Glock didn’t get the memo. He used injection-molded plastic to make handles and sheaths for his knives, so he thought, “Why not make guns out of plastic?”

Not being a gun guy, Glock picked the brains of people who were. He also did a self-educating crash course on handguns by buying every gun he could. He took them apart and studied their engineering and he shot them until he knew them well.

Another thing he decided was unnecessary was a safety. Safeties caused problems, mainly when people under stress forgot to disengage them in a gunfight. Revolvers didn’t have a safety. The long, hard, double-action trigger pull was their safety. So he reasoned, why did a semiauto handgun need a safety?

Glock hired some engineers, including a plastics expert from the camera industry, and went to work. Legend has it that he designed the gun in six months, but Glock himself said it took a year. Either way, it was remarkable. Most new handguns from established companies take several years to develop and bring to market.

Glock called his new pistol the Glock G17. Not because the plastic magazine held seventeen 9mm cartridges as most people think, but because it was his seventeenth patent.

The simple gun had only thirty-four parts. Everything except the barrel, slide, and a few small internal parts and springs was made of plastic. Even the magazine was plastic. The gun was cheap to manufacture and even when priced well below the competition, it created unprecedented profit margins.

Glock won that Austrian military contract, beating out long-established handgun makers like H&K and Beretta. Later he partnered with a guy named Karl Walter to introduce the gun to America. Walter agreed to a small salary and a percentage of the US sales. Ironically, several years later, when Glock was a billionaire, he tried to change the contract to remove the percentage of sales clause and cut Walter’s income drastically. When Walter refused, Glock fired him.

Walter had been brilliant in marketing the gun. He focused on law enforcement at first. Fueled in part by the disastrous FBI Shootout in Miami, there was a transition in law enforcement from revolvers to higher-capacity semiauto handguns. Walter used some unique marketing ideas, such as taking the old revolvers in trade, to arm police with the new Glock G17.

The Glock G17 became controversial when some foolish people thought the plastic would make it undetectable at airports. The hysteria reached alarming levels as Congress tried to ban the gun. Walter just used it all to get the name out there. Time and again, Walter found new and innovative ways to turn lemons into lemonade in marketing this gun.

Of course, it’s easy to sell something that works. The Glock G17 was unfailingly reliable and its durability became legendary. The trigger has a small metal lever in the center that must be depressed before the gun can fire, essentially acting as a safety. But due to the location, there was no need to remember to activate the safety as with other semiauto handguns; it was automatic when you pulled the trigger. The firing system, called “striker-fired,” was different than the conventional, hammer-fired guns. The trigger kind of split the difference between the long, hard, double-action trigger pull of a revolver and the light, some say unsafe, single-action trigger pull of more conventional semiautos. The striker-fired trigger required about 5.5 pounds of pull weight and half an inch of movement. This system proved to be safe and reliable, but easy to shoot accurately.

With the gun control frenzy of the Clinton years, Glocks became a huge seller in the civilian market as well. That sealed the deal and Glock became the bestselling handgun in America. It continues to hold that position to this day.

This new and innovative handgun design didn’t just rewrite the book on defensive handguns; it burned it and stomped on the ashes. The Glock G17 changed everything. Almost every other company making handguns today has copied the design.

The thing about Glock handguns is most shooters love them or hate them, with little middle ground. The traditionalists disdain the plastic parts, calling them “Tupperware” guns, but even the most hardcore of critics will admit that the plastic guns are incredibly rugged and durable.

That grip angle has resulted in one of the more controversial aspects of the Glock handguns. Proponents claim, and probably correctly, that the grip angle makes the gun point more naturally. Those who use Glocks exclusively love this aspect. But the grip angle is challenging to those of us who shoot a multitude of handguns. There is always a learning curve when switching from a Glock to a traditional-grip-angle pistol or back to the Glock. I find it frustrating when making that switch for at least a few magazines of ammo. The different feel between the guns and the difference in where they point takes a little “getting used to” and when you go back and forth, it can be frustrating.

That said, the reason we all complain about this is that we all own Glocks. So I guess you can easily see the irony in that point.

The bottom line is that the Glock handguns and the multitude of Glock clones, copies, and competition—the striker-fired, polymer-framed handguns—are arguably the best choice for survival handguns. They are relatively inexpensive, extremely reliable, and very durable. Plus, they hold a lot of ammo. They are easy to repair using simple tools and have few parts, making inventory of spare parts easier. For the most popular models like the Glocks and S&W M&P handguns, magazines are easy to find and inexpensive.

Glock changed the handgun world and launched a revolution that has spawned clones from every major gun maker in the market and inspired several other gun makers to enter the market.

There are far too many striker-fired, polymer handguns for me to review all of them here. But, that doesn’t mean if you don’t see your favorite gun here that it failed. It’s far more likely that for any number of reasons I didn’t already own one and for any of a multitude of reasons I did not get one to review for the book.

There are so many striker-fired, double-stack handguns on the market today that testing them all would almost become a full-time profession. One thing that I think is relatively safe to say is that you get what you pay for with these guns. If you find a handgun that is far less expensive than the going rate of other guns in that category, there is usually a reason. Be cautious, because to reduce the price, they had to cut corners at some point. Something, somewhere on that gun is different than all the more expensive guns. Not a big deal if you are just blasting targets at the range, but remember this is a gun that you are choosing to protect your life and the lives of your loved ones. Because we may well be dealing with the end of the world as we know it, the gun has to hold up and keep working. It’s also a gun that may need to last the rest of your life. So, choose carefully. In my way of thinking it is far better to buy an established brand-name handgun and spend a few more bucks than to go cheap and buy on price alone. These are not expensive handguns to start with; a brand-name, top-shelf, double-stack, striker-fired, polymer handgun will cost about half of what you will pay for a top-name, production-grade 1911 handgun.

While there was a time when Glock owned the category, that is no longer true and the double-stack, striker-fired, polymer-frame handgun marketplace today has a list of excellent handguns that is quite large.

Probably the biggest competitor is the S&W M&P. That handgun has made huge inroads into the market, both with civilians and law enforcement. But it’s not alone, as there are several other brands of guns that are doing well.

The following looks at some of the striker-fired guns that I have shot and can recommend. This book is not intended to be a catalog of all the guns available that may interest preppers, but more of an overview of the category of handguns. I can’t and won’t test every gun on the market. The number is too huge, which is mind boggling when you consider that these handguns first came into the market nearly a decade after home computers and several years after Ronald Reagan became president.

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Glock G17 in a Front Line Quad Holster. A prepper can’t go wrong with a brand-name striker-fired, double-stack handgun.