A Gun Too Far

Insty sent me to Tami Keel’s thoughtful post  at Shooting Times :

For the last 10 years or so, though, the standard answer to the “What pistol?” question has been a polymer-frame, striker-fired, double-stack pistol chambered in 9 mm. The temptation is definitely there to think of writing “The End of History and the Last Pistol.” But how did we get here, and what could be next?
For the reasons behind the pistol type itself, it comes down to simple cost. There’s nothing more modern about a striker over a hammer. John Moses Browning’s first semi-automatic pistol, the FN Model 1899, was striker-fired. It’s not intrinsically superior mechanically, either. In fact, it has a few downsides. A hammer generally gets better ignition reliability, and a hammer allows the use of lighter recoil springs since the force required to override the hammer provides much of the initial braking force to the recoiling slide.

Frankly, I would have had a different title — and probably, a different emphasis in the piece altogether.  Let me illustrate why.  Here’s the timeline graphic as it appears in the article:

…and here’s my take on the same graphic:

…which would lead to my headline:

Have We Gone A Gun Too Far?

You see, I question the appearance of the Glock G17 on the chart altogether (and I should point out quite emphatically that I’m not  taking a dig at Tami).  It’s not the first striker-fired pistol (as Tami points out), and it’s certainly not the first semi-auto pistol.

But Tami’s next sentence, while correct, gives the game away:

The striker’s big advantage is simplicity, which translates to a less-expensive gun. There’s just no way to produce a hammer-fired ignition system as cheaply as a striker-fired one. Similarly, there’s just no way to chisel a frame out of steel or aluminum as cheaply as one can injection-mold one out of polymer. When it comes to the real world of accountants and budgets, the cheap gun that works just fine is going to displace the more-expensive gun that also works just fine.

All true, and all well and good.  But just making something cheaper  doesn’t warrant a place on the timeline, any more than making a more efficient (and more expensive) double-action revolver than the Beaumont-Adams (e.g. a Colt Python) would merit a similar inclusion.

Just because the Glock is one of the most popular handguns around doesn’t make it a step on the Gun Evolution Ladder, in other words.

Here’s my final thought on the matter.  For decades, we bought our Coca-Cola in glass bottles.  Then glass containers gave way to plastic bottles — which makes a case for a place on the container  timeline, but not one for inclusion on the soft drink  timeline.

I know, I know:  I’m splitting hairs here, and we all know the Glock is the greatest thing since ice cream etc. etc.  Except it isn’t.  It’s a cheap-to-produce plastic container, and its only real benefit is to the accountants.  As for the “cheaper” part, here’s the Gospel according to Bud:

But whatever.  Y’all can carry a Glock (or any of their copycats), with my blessing.  It’s not a horrible pistol;  it’s an affordable, effective and reliable gun.  Me, I’ll stick to my 1911 (which is on the timeline — and justifiably so) and one day, maybe, a Colt Python.

The rest of the article has to do with ammo, but everybody here knows my opinion about the 9mm Europellet.  Likewise, I’ll stick to .45 ACP and .357 Magnum.

And this exchange in the Comments to Insty’s post had me chuckling:

“Plastic crap”…


  1. The price comparison is fine,as far as it goes. The actual cost of production for a Glock is less than $50.00!That is what has enabled Herr Glock to dominate the law enforcement market.A very smart American distributor convinced Glock to offer his guns to police departments at very low prices and once they were established as desireable to sell to civilians at a competitive retail which had a built in massive profit. See “Glock:The Rise of America’s Gun” by Paul Barrett. I paraphrased but I think that is the gist of it.

    1. Same point I was going to make. Price is price, cost is cost. They are not necessarily related.

  2. It depends what your intentions are with the gun. If I was carrying everyday, with the sole intention of self defense I’d take the Glock. You can beat the chit out of them and not feel bad about it. It’s nothing more than a tool and that’s it. If you want to carry around a crappy low and end 1911 for that task, fill your boots. My polymer gun splits the difference: an HK 45 USP Tactical. ( And before any of you old farts says it, let me say this about that: I think YOU suck, and I hate you right back! 😆👍 (Don’t get bent, it’s an inside joke that only the geekiest of gunnies will get)).

    If I’m at the range going against one of you guys in a match, I have an old but pristine Springfield Trophy Match pistol that shoots better than I do. Often I take along that new Redhawk that shoots 45LC and 45ACP in moon clips because sometimes only a revolver will do.

    For me price has very little to do with it. If you are going to do the gun thing for fun as I do… the first guy ya kill is your inner accountant and shut him up before he does it to you. You are gonna need several guns and no bones about it.

  3. And for those that value quality, dependability, accuracy etc there are the offerings from Sig Sauer.
    15 + 1 of high quality hollow point europills. Stone cold reliabilty. A 229 goes with me every day all day. (God bless the gunshine state of Florida) and a 226 resides bedside. Both from the factory with Tritium nite sights, the 226 wears a Streamlight light / laser. Nothing wrong with the 1911, I have two of them and have won matches with them (before that bastard Arthuritis {sic sig sic} assaulted me).
    But their size and weight makes for difficult concealment plus the recoil from the mighty .45 acp is hell on arthritic hands. No plastic fantastic firearms in this home.

    1. > And for those that value quality, dependability, accuracy etc there are the offerings from Sig Sauer.

      CZ is at least as reliable and a better value for the money.

  4. Okay. Okay. So striker fire has been done. Semi-auto has been done. But does Glock or someone else get credit for double-stack magazines? Was this ever done in the 1911 model (pre or post Glock)? . Extended mags are great but do become cumbersome for EDC. Everytime I hear the argument “No one needs that many rounds” I recall the woman in her attic in Georgia unloading six rounds and hitting with 5, only to see the man walk away. If poly’s give us no more than a solution to that they are well worth it.
    Listen to the link below.

    1. See my comment below – I’m pretty sure the Browning Hi Power or P-35 was the first pistol with a double-stack magazine, and that was pre-WWII. 😉

      The Hi Power was JMB’s last design. I think he died while they were finishing up the details.

      1. Beat me to it Staff. I’m not sure the BHP was the first double stack magazine handgun, but I think it was the first to be widely adopted.

        I went to a Glock for EDC when the prices for BHPs went through the roof and then FN quit producing them.

        Glock is gun, is shoot, takes a beating, I can get my preferred sights on them without spending major bucks with one of about 3 gunsmiths in the country I’d trust with one of my BHPs. Spare parts, mags and holsters are available almost anywhere. And in the unlikely event I have to take out a goblin, having it sit in an evidence locker for possibly years won’t hurt me financially or emotionally near as much as my BHP.

        Darlin’ Daughter would have loved to get a BHP for carry, but when we could get her 3-4 Glocks for the price of one BHP, well budgetary reality won and she has to wait for me to kick off to get mine. In the meantime we some commonality in mags, ammo, etc. in our EDC guns which might come in hand some day.

        Nothing against 1911s, but every time I thought about getting one I ended up with another Hi-Power. Now, maybe next time, I’ll give one a try as the price of a quality 1911 is well below the price of a BHP.

        1. Randy: If you’re a cheap SOB like me and you want a HP you could always get an FEG 35 A/K/A the “Hungarian Hi Power.” I have one and it shoots fine. I think it was less than $300 on Gunbroker about 6 years ago.

          1. Not handguns though, right? I’m pretty sure the Hi Power/P-35 was the first mass produced handgun to have a double stack mag.

          2. Staff Martin, the Savage 1907, 1915, & 1917 are indeed handguns, 10 shot .32 ACP with a double-stack magazine. They beat the Hi-Power to the double-stack mag by over 20 years and were produced up until the late 1930’s. There was also a .380 ACP version.

  5. When it comes to passing-down-to-descendants time, the biggest difference between a Glock and a 1911 is “Gee. Thanksgranddad” and “Gee! THANKS Granddad!”

  6. Well, I’ll be the asshole and say it:

    The M1911 shouldn’t even be on that list as there was absolutely nothing revolutionary, new or different about it when it was introduced.

    The next step on the evolutionary chart should rightfully be the Walther P-38 because it was AFAIK the first mass produced, large caliber double-action semi auto and every DA auto since the P-38 is descended from it.

    By contrast, the M1911 is an evolutionary dead end. Except for the Hi Power/P-35 the 1911 didn’t really influence any further designs (Edited to add: Actually the Hi Power SHOULD be on the list because I believe it was the pistol that introduced the double-stack magazine which has now become the standard.) Yes, I know there are a bajillion copies of the M1911 out there in various calibers but that’s because of the civilian market’s emotional attachment to the gun.

    I get that you guys love your 1911’s, and there’s nothing wrong with liking a gun for non-practical reasons – I love my old S&W Revolvers the same way. But to argue that the 1911 is some kind of pinnacle in the evolution of the handgun is a bit of a stretch.

    1. Staff,
      Can’t argue with your inclusion of the Walther P-38, but I would suggest that the reason the 1911 should be included is partly for the reason you yourself gave — not that it was a developmental dead-end but that it was indeed the pinnacle of the development of the handgun (with the possible line extension of the Browning H-P for the reasons you provided).
      Why the “pinnacle”? Not because it brought anything new to the party, but that it incorporated so many features found mostly as individual design features on other guns.
      There’s a good reason why there’s a “civilian attachment” to the 1911, and its inclusion in the US Armed Forces’ armory for as long as it was: it’s a brutally effective, reliable, durable and easily-maintained firearm, and it was probably the first handgun to be so.

      1. I’d have to respectfully disagree, Kim. “Effective” compared to the anemic .38 S&W revolver it replaced (after the .38’s abysmal performance in the Philippines) for sure, but that’s a pretty low bar to get over. It’s likely the 9mm would have proved at least as effective had it been in the US inventory at the time. “Reliable, durable and easily maintained” – yes, for 1911 certainly but no more so than most of the pistols used by all the major powers during WWII a few decades later. I would point out that things like the removable barrel bushing and swinging toggle of the M1911 have been removed from most of the later pistol designs, for good reason. As for why the 1911 remained in US inventory I would say it has less to do with the 1911’s “effectiveness” and a lot more to do with the fact that in military terms, a sidearm is pretty much irrelevant for most troops.

        Except for a few special operators and military police, a sidearm is more a badge of office than a weapon in modern warfare. Military research and development from WWII to present was much more focused on weapons that actually matter – rifles, machine guns, anti-tank weapons, etc.

        EDITED TO ADD: In my own experience, the primary function of a handgun is that in the war zone where the rules are “all personnel must be armed in the war zone” a pistol makes it much easier to fulfill that requirement than a rifle which can be cumbersome and difficult to carry around when you’re trying to do other things with your hands like talk on the cell phone or pour creamer into your coffee at Green Beans café.

      2. > and its inclusion in the US Armed Forces’ armory for as long as it was: it’s a
        > brutally effective, reliable, durable and easily-maintained firearm, and it
        > was probably the first handgun to be so.

        Don’t forget that for the *military* pistols/handguns are basically an afterthought. Rifles and carbines are primaries, the only people who “only” carry pistols are either REMFs or are busy running a “real” weapon and have the pistol for backup.

        This is at least part of the reason that the US military hung on to the 1911s so long–there were so of them produced during WWII to last through the Vietnam war, and after that the US military was so thoroughly gutted by bad PR and the traitors in Congress that they had much more important problems to focus on other than pistols.

        Also note that there are two reasons the Beretta M9 didn’t stay in service as long–one is that it’s got an aluminum frame as opposed to steel, and the other is that the US military ordered relatively fewer of them and rode those a lot harder (relatively). While they are being replaced by the P320, they are still serving.

        Those of us outside the military have more interest in pistols because for us it IS our primary almost all the time, and thus it is bigger in our minds.

        The Glock and the other polymer pistols are (in any specific caliber) just as effective, almost as durable and at least as reliable *at a given level of maintenance* as the 1911. If nothing else Glocks don’t rust, and the extractors don’t need to be replaced nearly as often.

  7. As far as the Glock “deserving” a spot on the evolution chart, what pistol previously used the “1 1/2 action” or “safe action”?

  8. Silly people, who cares, if if shoots bullets buy it and carry it. I have a 1911, two Hi-Powers, a little PPK and some other pistols but my go to church gun is a Glock43 because it is small and easy to carry and it shoots every time. That’s all folks.

  9. Well, absolutely the Glock deserves prominent mention on that chart. I’m surprised no one has even mentioned the most important part of it’s design. Accorded to gun expert and NYPD officer John McClain, the Glock 7 is the first gun to be made with porcelain that renders it completely invisible to standard airport metal detectors. Seems that was a critical component of a terroristic heist or something during the Christmas season back in 1990.

  10. Ferguson Rifleman sed:
    “You are gonna need several guns and no bones about it.”
    Right there. When I come across “another” gun comparison/argument/whine/childish act of braggadocio my eyes instantly glaze over and I hit the back button. For reasons beyond my scope or care, people make their own choices and some of them brag about their choices and insult others with different choices, and in times past I’d sometimes ask, “Why?”

    I like my guns and I like yours too and if I was wealthier than I am now I’d have more than I do. (Hey, that rymz!)

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