Unless you came in late, you already know that GLOCK is the hot ticket for law enforcement handguns. You probably know that the first GLOCK pistol was the GLOCK 17, as it’s the 17th design by Gaston Glock. It’s also the one that won acceptance by the Austrian Army and launched a world-wide pistol revolution.
Well, if you wanted the ultimate in low-profile firepower without going to a conventional submachine gun or a carbine, you could make the pistol shoot full auto. That’s okay, except most handguns can’t sustain automatic firing for any length of time. That’s not true of the GLOCK 18. It’s truly unique.
Just trying to make a conventional GLOCK pistol into a buzzgun is bound to end in failure. Such a “creation” won’t have what the real auto-GLOCK has. Besides, the conversion is time wasted and totally illegal.
The Basic Buzzgun
The GLOCK 18 is simply a GLOCK 17 that looks only a little different. In fact, examine the picture of the holstered GLOCK. It looks like any other GLOCK 17/22/31. Until the holster is turned over, there’s no real difference. On the left side of the slide, there is a selector switch.
The uninitiated might even think it’s a slide-mounted safety lever. We know better.
Originally designed for airport anti-terrorist operations overseas, the GLOCK 18 was designed to give full-auto fire capability in the hands of agents who could only be armed with handguns. It’s a lot more calming to see uniform police with holstered handguns than select-fire long guns, even if the “handguns” are submachine guns.
This gave the anti-terrorist operators a holstered handgun that most people wouldn’t notice—one that turned into a highly compact and powerful submachine gun.
The original incarnations of the GLOCK 18 had solid barrels. They are now available in ported barrels and slides. The barrel ports are forward facing, pushing the muzzle down during a string of 1,200 rounds-per-minute firing. There are four ports—the two front ports are larger than the last two. These appear through the cutout in the slide’s top—the cutout is wider at the front than the rear, allowing a larger space through which the largest ports expel gas.
The rear of the slide forward of the rear sight is also cut out. GLOCK U.S. Regional Manager Joe Lienemann explained that the weight reduction in the rear of the slide affects “harmonic balance.” Without trying to explain lots of things about which I have a minimal grasp, suffice it to say that the speed of the slide is affected. The result is that the gun has reliable full-auto operation. Since we have a handgun operating at a cyclic rate of between 1,200 and 1,400 rounds a minute, reliability is something that had to be challenging to achieve.
Unique Glock 18 Characteristics
Looking at a field-stripped Glock 18C as it’s being cleaned explains a lot. First, the frame rails are longer than rails on the conventional GLOCK handguns. They’re also higher. More bearing surface gives better control of a faster moving slide.
Markings in front of the selector switch are one dot on top and two on the bottom. The single dot (.) at the top means conventional, semi-auto operation. This is the position that the switch needs to be in when the gun is being handled at all times unless it’s actually employed as a “machine pistol.”
When the gun is loaded—the full magazine inserted into the magazine well and the slide racked—you certainly want that switch at the “.” position. If something goes wrong—an extremely remote possibility—a maximum of one round leaves the gun.
Like any firearm, loading and charging needs to be accomplished with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and finger away from trigger and trigger guard.
When you elect to shoot it like a “machine pistol,” pull the slide-mounted switch down to the “..” position. The two dots on the slide don’t mean that the gun has a 2-shot burst option! It means that the gun will continue to fire as long as there is pressure on the trigger and there is ammo to feed.
The GLOCK 18C is shipped like any other law enforcement GLOCK, with three full-capacity magazines. These are the 17-round 9×19 magazines found with the GLOCK 17. GLOCK also manufactures optional 31-round magazines, fitted with a two-round floor plate extension.
Since the GLOCK 18C is only available for agency orders, purchases cannot be made by individual police officers, nor could they afford to feed it as much as they’d like to shoot it!
Most recently I witnessed a GLOCK 18C at a law enforcement firing range during a training day. Joe Lienemann was demonstrating the pistol and had the students load up and try out a few magazines.
The tendency was to lock and load, then hose the target with the contents of the complete magazine. That’s okay, but soon the troops wanted to see how well they could control the gun.
They mostly found that they could churn out 5-round bursts with some control if they leaned aggressively into the gun. The gun is really fun to shoot and requires an accurate ammo count as it can be brutal to one’s ammo budget. It’s also tough to keep the magazines loaded.
One possible issue that was mentioned concerned the “shield guy” on the response team. The poor guy that’s got to lug that heavy ballistic shield—as the team moves through on a hostage rescue or other dangerous entry—they can’t use a long gun.
Being stuck with the handgun was seen as a problem. Everyone was shooting the GLOCK 18C with two hands. How would our “shield guy” handle the GLOCK buzzgun with only one hand?
Response Team member Chuck Haggard stepped forward. He used one hand to shoot the GLOCK 18C, pulling the other hand and arm across his chest as though holding the shield up. With this, he found that control wasn’t a big problem.
Joe had Troy Willard try canting the gun to about 10 o’clock (Troy’s a righty). Using the pistol cant, something Jim Cirillo showed us years ago, Troy found improvement in his full-auto GLOCK shooting.
The GLOCK 18C we were using had just consumed 10,000 rounds of ammo at a demonstration a few days before our group trial. That was followed up with another 8,000 rounds the day before we shot it. As local law enforcement, our use was tightly constrained due to time and ammo. We only put 500 rounds through the gun in a few moments!
With all the use, the GLOCK 18C was working fine. There were no stoppages, no problems during our shooting of this fine little sub-gun.
Training Tactical Operators
Agencies using the GLOCK 18 vary from special operations units to local law enforcement. The guns are regularly used in high-risk tactical operations worldwide.
While it’s not listed on the GLOCK Training website (glocktraining.com), a GLOCK 18 Operators’ School is available to agencies that purchase the GLOCK 18. It’s an 8-hour course and requires about 1,000 rounds to complete.
You’ll find that loading all the magazines you’ll want to shoot just as time consuming as the training!