The story of the Glock P80 is integral to the origin story of Glock GmbH as a firearms manufacturer. If it weren’t for the initial success of the P80, Gaston Glock’s famous line of polymer-framed pistols would have probably never taken the world of firearms by storm.
Naming and Development History
In 1980, the Austrian armed forces wanted a new handgun to replace their aging, WW2-era Walther P38 pistols. The handgun had to comply with specific, stringent criteria: it was to be a semi-automatic pistol chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum, it needed to be drop-safe, and be capable of firing over 15,000 rounds of ammunition, pass an inspection, fire a proof load, and still be capable of functioning normally afterward.
Several well-known manufacturers entered the competition; FN Herstal proposed an updated version of the Browning Hi-Power; Heckler & Koch joined with their P7 and P9S pistols, while SIG Sauer offered the P220 and P226, and Austria’s own Steyr participated with the Steyr GB.
A newcomer to the firearms industry, Glock GmbH, also entered the competition with a unique pistol: The Glock 17. Designed by Gaston Glock with the aid of military, police, and civilian advisors, the Glock 17 made extensive use of cutting-edge technology at the time, most notably advanced synthetic polymers used to construct the pistol’s frame.
Contrary to popular belief, the Glock 17 is not the first polymer-framed handgun (that honor goes to the Heckler & Koch VP70), but it is the first to have reached commercial success.
The Glock 17’s unconventional and simplistic design employs only the bare essential controls and nothing more: a trigger, a disassembly lever, a slide stop/release lever, and a magazine release button. No manual safety, no decocker. Instead, the Glock touts what the company calls a Safe-action system: a trigger mounted lever which prevents the pistol from firing when not engaged but which recesses into the trigger when pulled.
Against all odds, this unconventional pistol won the competition, soundly beating all the other models entered by the established manufacturers. It was a considerable upset; after all, Gaston Glock had no prior experience designing firearms.
The Glock 17 was officially adopted by the Austrian military and police in 1982, receiving the Glock P80 (Pistole 80) designation and sparking a wave of interest for the new polymer-framed pistol.
Glock in America
Although several military forces in Europe adopted the G17, Glock’s biggest success story is in the United States. Although it did not enter the XM9 Personal Defense Pistol Trials, intended to replace the M1911 as the US military’s service pistol, the Glock 17 took the US civilian market by storm in 1986.
By the late 1980s, most police departments and law enforcement agencies in the United States were still using revolvers, usually in .38 Special or .357 Magnum. Although high-capacity, 9mm semi-automatic pistols (referred to as “Wonder Nines”) such as the Smith & Wesson Model 59 or the Browning Hi-Power were available, adoption was slow.
All these pistols were steel-framed, and although they offered decently high capacity, they were heavy, not every officer could shoot these comfortably, and not all of them were 100% reliable.
When Glock entered the market, they offered what seemed to be a solution to all their problems: a lightweight, high-capacity, reliable firearm. Officer accuracy and confidence went up; yet, Glock kept their prices down, slashing them considerably. Glock pistols now equip over 65% of all law enforcement agencies in the United States, becoming the country’s most trusted handgun brand.
Over the years that followed, Glocks continued to receive improvements, codified in successive iterations called “Generations,” retroactively designating all pistols made before 1988 as Generation 1.
Generation 2 was introduced in 1988 and saw the rise of Glocks in calibers other than 9mm. Models such as the Glock 20 (10mm Auto), Glock 21 (.45 ACP), and Glock 22 (.40 S&W) started life as Gen 2 pistols.
Generation 3 came out in 1998, alongside a redesigned frame. Among the most significant changes: An accessory rail for lights and lasers, the controversial finger grooves, a redesigned extractor, and other changes aimed at strengthening the pistol and improving its service life further.
Generation 4 was first announced at SHOT Show 2010. The frame was redesigned once again, now sporting the Rough Textured Finish (RTF) grip texture and featuring a new interchangeable backstrap system. Gen 4 magazines, while interchangeable with older models, also received improvements, in the form of dual magazine springs, improving service life.
Generation 5, the latest and current so far, was introduced at SHOT Show 2017. Front slide serrations and a yet-again redesigned frame were among the most significant changes. Gen 5 Glocks ditched the finger grooves, returning to Gen 1 and Gen 2 pistols’ classic frame profile, although they now also feature a slightly flared magazine well and cuts to aid during reloads. Glock also unveiled the MOS line of red-dot ready slides.
The New Glock P80
Although American shooters were able to purchase Gen 1 Glocks in the late 1980s, the military-issued P80 pistol was never imported to the United States, long denying American shooters and Glock fans a chance to own a piece of the company’s history.
That changed in September of 2020 when Glock recreated the original P80 and partnered with Lipsey’s to distribute them into the United States.
These new P80s are newly-manufactured but are identical to the pistols adopted by Austria in 1982, right down to the original slide fonts and the Gen 1 pebble-grain grip texture, complete with Tupperware peel-top container.
The P80 is the cornerstone of Glock’s history as a firearms manufacturer. This pistol is the one that started it all, and it is now available for sale as a Lipsey’s exclusive.
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