GLOCK Makes History
GLOCK Makes History: The Birth of the Polymer Handgun Market
This exhibition’s opening coincided with the 30th anniversary of GLOCK in the United States. It included a timeline of GLOCK firearms, embellished GLOCKS, and prop guns used for movie and television—including in the television series Longmire.
While GLOCKS are common today, the history of GLOCK, Inc. is fairly recent. Despite its infancy, GLOCK’S contribution to firearms history is no less significant than manufacturers that have been in business for hundreds of years. German manufacturer Heckler & Koch made the first polymer pistol called the Volkspistole (VP/70) in 1970. Designers developed the GLOCK more than a decade later. Its design became the first commercially successful polymer-framed handgun on the market.
The Making of a Gun Designer
Gaston Glock, an Austrian engineer, was not initially a firearms designer. In 1963, he formed GLOCK KG, a company that produced and sold parts, both plastic and steel. While the company did not produce firearms, Glock had an extensive knowledge of synthetic polymers. He coupled this knowledge with the idea for the GLOCK 17, making him a legend in the firearms world.
The P80 and the Austrian Military
In the early 1980s, the Austrian military sought to replace their standard issue Walther P38 pistols. The Austrian Ministry of Defense released a list of 17 criteria for this new pistol. In 1980,Glock and a team of firearms researchers developed the first GLOCK handgun, with a polymer-frame and an internal safety system, known as SAFE ACTION. The following year, the Austrian military tested the firearm and awarded Glock the contract. By 1983, he supplied 30,000 pistols to the military—the GLOCK 17, chambered for 9×19.
By 1986, GLOCK, Inc. received its first U.S. law enforcement contract. More than three decades later, GLOCK has produced millions of guns with complementary ammunition such as their .45 GLOCK Auto Pistol (G.A.P). GLOCK continues to produce the same models today. The company notes model changes by generations, running from Gen 1 to Gen 4. GLOCK now holds more than 60 percent of the law enforcement contracts in the United States.
The Birth of a New Industry
Since GLOCK developed their polymer pistol, almost every handgun manufacturer has produced a polymer handgun. Some are closer in design to the GLOCK than others. Today’s shooters have personal preferences for the polymer gun that suits them best. However, GLOCK had an undeniable impact in bringing that industry to the United States.
Special thanks to our donors:
- GLOCK, Inc.
- The Gretchen Swanson Family Foundation
Filed Under: StaffTagged With: Cody Firearms Museum, Glock, GLOCK Inc., Longmire, special exhibitionSours: https://centerofthewest.org/2016/04/08/special-exhibition-glock-makes-history/
First Polymer-Framed, Striker-Fired pistol
They like to say things like: Glock is the “father” of all such handguns.
Well, I guess that could be right, but if Glock is the father, there has to be a grand-daddy, as well. The HK VP70 was actually the first pistol of this type, and was built way back in 1970.
This handgun was revolutionary in that it was a double-stack, 18+1 round 9mm polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol. In a world of revolvers and 1911s, this was the red-headed stepchild that never really gained a lot of attention.
In the roughly 19 years of production, only about 20,000 units were sold, most of them in other countries–which is likely the reason why so many people have never heard of this gun before. Today, one of these VP70s can be purchased for right around the $500 price point.
Why didn’t HK’s version of the plastic gun take off? Well, for one, the trigger sucked. It had close to a 20 pound pull and the double action trigger needed to be squeezed for miles before the pin struck the cartridge’s primer.
It was otherwise a good blow-back design, and is still seen by some as relevant, today. Where HK fell short on design, another company would step up to make one of the most popular and reliable pistols ever made.
I have to give credit to where it’s due, and Glock deserves it. They saw a design that needed to be improved upon, and they ran with it. Certainly, while they weren’t the first, they made it stick, and have helped us get to where we are today.
It isn’t fair to say that all of today’s plastic guns are Glock copies, though, because in all fairness, even the Glock is an HK copy to some extent. After all, even Glock has to have a daddy.
In the history of the gun world, each manufacturer has a role to play, and is important to some degree. Some guns teach us what not to do, while others prove that a design has potential. The VP70 did both. It told Glock that a super-long and heavy trigger was bad. But, it also showed them that there is another way to make a gun.
Sound Off Gun Carriers! Did you know that Glock wasn’t the first polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol? Let us know in the comments below. Also, I want to know if you’ve ever fired a VP70 before. Sadly, I have not. Though, I have held one in my hands before. Have you like the Gun Carrier Facebook Pageyet? Make sure you do!
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The HK VP70 The First Polymer Framed Pistol
Some guns come and go from this world and very few people ever remember them. Rightfully so. Most are abominations of one kind or another. Other guns disappear, but still change everything in their wake. Such is the case with the HK VP70. Heckler and Koch’s Volks Pistole.
We don’t remember the VP70 because of its strange look. The lines are reminiscent of the Mauser HSC. This is logical, as HK grew out of the old Mauser company after World War Two.
In many ways, the VP70 was a nod to the past. The 9mm, for example, had been around for a long time. The stock-as-useless-holster idea is also familiar, only this time with the old Mauser C96–the broom handle.
The VP70 holds 18 rounds of 9mm. It is a simple blow-back action. Nothing new. It is striker fired and double action only. While all of these things are popular enough, we remember the VP70 because it was the first polymer framed pistol.
Information on the VP70 is hard to come by. In fact the information can be a bit misleading. It starts with the name. The HK we understand. The 70 part is easy enough, as the gun was designed in 1970. HK says the VP of the VP70 means Volks Pistole or People’s Pistol.
This is an interesting idea. Steve Galloway, Director of Marketing at Heckler & Koch, says the VP70 was designed as a “stay behind” gun. It was meant to be a weapon “for the resistance.” Cold war resistance. When the Soviets over ran West Germany, those that decided to stay and fight would have VP70s to fight with. The gun was light, small and economical.
Most of the VP70s made (those with the M, for Militar) came with a combination holster/stock. When attached, the stock allowed for select fire. Three round bursts. This is where another (erroneous) name for the pistol comes from. Vollautomatische Pistole. Machine Pistol. The VP70M has a cyclic rate of 2,200 rounds per minute, would provide dependable firepower.
But the VP70M was not available to civilians. Where there were not prohibitions against owning 9mm pistols, HK sold the VP70Z (Z for Zivil), a civilian model without the select fire stock option.
The VP70 is available in a couple of permutations, including 9×21 (an Italian variant on the 9×18). Those were not select fire, and so they show up for sale in the states sometimes.
But let’s get back to the ways it was innovative. Polymer. The VP70 is a really important footnote in the history books. And it makes an interesting piece for a collection. That’s what they are now: collectors’ guns.
The VP70 is reported to have a very stiff trigger pull. It is large (eight inches long), and it doesn’t have sights that can be replaced.
Still, clean VP70s will sell for anywhere from $400 to $700. That is for the VP70Z (the civilian model legal in the U.S.). The select fire versions are much more trouble, as they fall under legislation governing automatic weapons and short barreled rifles.
For the rest of us, I guess we know who to thank for polymer pistols. Or maybe who to blame, depending on your point of view. Still. If the cold war Soviets do make a come back, I’m not going to complain about a plastic frame.
The First Polymer Framed Pistol: Heckler & Koch VP70
In 1970 Heckler & Koch introduced the futuristic looking VP70 (VP standing for Volkspistole/People’s Pistol). Building on the idea behind the Mauser’s 9x19mm blowback Volkspistole. Heckler & Koch designed the pistol to be simple and cost effective and utilised a revolutionary polymer frame - making the VP70 the first production polymer handgun.
The VP70 was designed by a team headed by Alex Seidel, Tilo Moller and Helmut Weldle. It was chambered in 9x19mm and fed from a double-stack, double-feed 18-round magazine. This was a marked increase on Heckler & Koch’s first commercial pistol, the HK4. Work began on the design in 1968 and the pistol was was introduced in 1970, predating the Austrian Glock 17 by 12 years. The pistol used a polymer frame and receiver which supports the barrel.
The weapon used a standard blowback action, while this is typically ill-advised with 9x19mm ammunition Heckler & Koch alleviated the potential problems of the blowback action by machining extra deep rifling which allowed propellant gases to bleed past the projectile as it moved up the barrel. This dropped the pressure in the barrel - though in turn reducing the round’s muzzle velocity by around 10%.
The VP70′s action was striker fired with a very heavy double action trigger. The VP70 doesn’t lock open on an empty magazine and has no manual slide lock. Unloaded the VP70 weighed 0.82kg/29oz, significantly heavier than the later Glock at 0.65kg/23oz. Unlike the Glock, the civilian VP70 had a conventional cross-bolt safety positioned behind the trigger. The magazine release is located on the heel of the magazine - common with European pistols.
Patent drawing showing the stock assembly for the VP70M (source)
The VP70 was designed with an impending Soviet invasion in mind, it was designed to be cheap and easy to manufacture. It was intended to arm the German people should they need to resist a Soviet invasion, though what good arming the population with handguns would do is unclear. It was reportedly intended for stay-behind guerilla elements inside territory occupied by advancing Russian forces. Its possible to see it in this role as a concealable weapon offering considerable controllable close range firepower when used with its stock. The military variant, the VP70M (Militar)’s attachable polymer stock/holster is perhaps the pistol’s most interesting feature. It allowed the weapon to become a select-fire personal defence weapon (PDW), with a controllable 3-round burst option. The selector switch is located on the left hand side of the stock. While ostensibly designed as a cheap and simple weapon for mass production the addition of the stock’s burst mode necessitated a somewhat complex trigger mechanism. From examination of the pistols its clear the final product was not intended as a throwaway.
The pistol was also entered into the US military’s Joint Services Small Arms Program Trials in the late 1970s but suffered ammunition-related cycling issues and was rejected. Though originally designed for military purposes a civilian variant, the semi-automatic VP70Z (’Zivil’/Civil) was marketed. A limited run of VP70Z pistols were also chambered in 9x21mm for the Italian market. An even smaller run of ‘ZH’ pistols were produced with the civilian gun being sold with the attachable holster, without the burst fire mechanism.
The VP70 combined elements of the past and present with features like its holster/stock harking back the the earliest German automatic pistols while its polymer construction was at the cutting edge of manufacturing techniques in 1970. Production ceased in 1989 but the VP line continues with the unrelated HK VP9.
Images: 1 (VP70Z) 23 (VP70M with Stock) 45
Military Small Arms, I. Hogg & J. Weeks, (1985)
‘The H&K VP70 Machine Pistol’, Firearms News, L. Thompson, (source)
‘Self-loading pistol with a stock’, US Patent #3861273, 23/06/73, (source)
‘Self-loading pistol having forwardly extending breech slide’, US Patent #3696706, 10/10/72, (source)
‘Self-loading pistol with cocking trigger‘, US Patent #3678800, 25/07/72, (source)
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7 months ago
Tagged: #History#Military History#Firearms History#Pistol#VP70#HK VP70#Heckler & Koch#HK#Pistols#Firearms#Cold War#Guns#Gun history#GunblrSours: https://www.historicalfirearms.info/post/643780215435345920/the-first-polymer-framed-pistol-heckler-koch
Polymer pistol first
Heckler & Koch VP70
Pistol / Machine pistol
The VP70 is a 9×19mm, 18-round, double action only, semi-automatic/three-round burst capable polymer frame pistol manufactured by German arms firm Heckler & Koch GmbH. VP stands for Volkspistole (literally "People's Pistol"), and the designation 70 was for the first year of production, 1970.
The VP70 combined a number of design features that were innovative, or at least very unusual for its time:
- It was the first polymer-framedhandgun, predating the Glock 17 by 12 years. (Although the Remington Nylon 66rifle introduced in 1959 was the first polymer-framed firearm in production.) At 820 g (28.9 oz) unloaded, the weapon is lighter than most metal framed pistols of the time.
- It has a double-stack, double-feed magazine; double-feed magazines are uncommon for pistols even today. These magazines hold 18 rounds, a rather high capacity for its original production time.
- As on the Mauser C96, the stock was designed to be used as a holster when not mounted. On the military version of the VP70 this combination includes a unique feature: when mounted, a selective-fire switch, located on the stock, allows switching the weapon to a three-round-burst mode, with a 2,200 rounds per minute cyclic rate of fire.
- The VP70 uses a spring-loaded striker like a Glock, instead of a conventional firing pin.
- It is double-action only, so the trigger pull is relatively heavy.
- In lieu of a blade front sight, the VP70 uses a polished ramp with a central notch in the middle to provide the illusion of a dark front post.
- The barrel has very deeply cut rifling; this was done to purposely vent gas past the bullet, placing less gas pressure on the slide, a critical part of the VP70's direct blowback function. This also results in slightly reduced bullet velocity when compared to other pistols with similar, or even slightly shorter barrel length.
The handgun comes in two varieties. The "M" (Militär, military) variant is selective-fire (semi-auto/three-round bursts), the "Z" (Zivil, civilian) variant is a semi-automatic-only version. The VP70Z has no provision to attach the stock, and also lacks the internal mechanical parts required for the burst-fire function even if the stock was attached. The VP70Z also has a crossbolt safety right behind the trigger; on the VP70M this is replaced with a non-functional plug, relying only on the heavy double-action trigger for safety.
Four hundred VP70Zs were made in 9×21mm IMI; these samples were made primarily for the civilian market of Italy, where the use of the 9×19mm Parabellum is permitted only to military and law enforcement agencies. All of the VP70Z pistols sold to Italy had the provision to mount the stock, but still lacked the three-round-burst firing capability.
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