Did Gaston Glock Invent the Negligent Discharge?

Glock pistols are as dangerous as the operators.

Glock pistols are as dangerous as the operators.

(Editor’s Note: This piece was published in 2013. Given recent events, it seemed a good idea to pull it back out. Enjoy.)

“Those guns and just unsafe, you’ll never convince me otherwise.” so said a retired police officer during a recent conversation. The topic of conversation was, of course, the Austrian Wonder-Nine, the Plastic Fantastic, the hardest working pistol in show business today…the GLOCK 17.

To be completely honest, I find it a bit odd that in the year 2015 we are still having the Pro/Anti Glock discussions. GLOCK Gmbh. was founded in 1981 and the Model 17 pistol was their first offering in 1982. The Austrian military immediately saw the value of the gun and set the company in motion toward market dominance.

Not a New Design

Folks, Glock pistols have been around for over thirty years and yet some gun culture people talk about them as if they are some recent offering, somehow untested and wet behind the ears. Let’s face facts. If the Glock design was so flawed and faulty, why is it that every major handgun manufacturer in the world now has some type of polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol in their gun stable?

We can argue specifics and minute details until the cows come home, and I don’t even see them on the horizon yet, but with only slight modifications, most of the popular, internal striker-fired pistols function in a very similar manner. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the schematics.

The Creation of the ND

Let’s be intellectually honest, the negligent discharge did not begin with the invention of the Glock pistol. There have been negligent discharges since the ability to discharge a firearm came into being. Can we agree on that?  Can we agree that there have been ND’s since the invention of the firearm?

Yet, there are those malcontents that will acquiesce to the previous assertion but will point out what they feel is as an overabundance of negligent discharges where the Glock pistol was the hardware in question. This is particularly true when the subject of law enforcement using the Glock comes up. “More cops ND Glocks than any other handgun.” Said one man feeling he had put the cork on the anti-Glock argument.

If we agree with the previously presented logic, that the Glock is the least safe for police officers, then we could say that the Whitney Wolverine (go ahead, Google it) is the safest pistol available in the United States because during the year 2012 not one single police officer was reported to have ND’d said pistol.

Riddle me this Batman, if eighty to ninety percent of American police agencies issue Glock pistols in some form or fashion, with what pistol will said police personnel most likely have a negligent discharges? From a hypothetical standpoint, let’s say that males age 16 to 19 on average crash more 2005 Chevy sedans than any other single make. By that token are we supposed to believe that Chevrolet automobiles made in the year 2005 are the most dangerous cars on the road? Or, can we instead surmise that teenage boys drive more Chevy cars than any other and consequently will crash more of them?

The final more prevalent argument against the Glock, and by extension any striker-fired pistol, is that carrying a Glock pistol is akin to carrying an S&W Model 66 with the hammer-cocked back. This argument shows a critical amount of under-education when it comes to the mechanical workings of the patented Glock “Safe-Action” trigger system. Contrary to urban legend, the firing pin on a Glock pistol is not “fully-cocked on a hair trigger”.

Training, Training, Training

 



Several years ago a firearms instructor, for whom I have a great deal of respect, opined that police agencies will never be able to “punish away” negligent discharges. Rather than simply create greater and more severe punishments for the commission of an ND, to try and ‘scare’ them to be safe, he suggest another route. Professional and continued training, as well as competent supervision, were far more likely to reduce that frequency of an ND than holding grave consequences over their heads. No, I am not suggesting that we sweep the ND under the rug, nor am I offering that any person who has had one be forced to wear a scarlet “ND” on their frock coat.

What I would like to offer for consideration is the definition of mechanical firearms safety device as taught by the 4H Shooting Sports program. “A safety is a mechanical device that can fail and is not to be relied upon for the safe handling of a firearm.” Pretty simple, huh?

Yes, mechanical safeties on firearms are appropriate and should be used as they designed for that particular machine. Keep in mind, not every safety is manual or external. Modern arms are built with numerous passive, internal safeties that do not require the user’s attention or cooperation. These operate regardless of the shooter’s intent.

An ND is not an Accident

Finally, if the shooter puts their finger on the trigger, presses, and the gun discharges, whether or not they made the conscious decision to do so, that is not an accident. An accident is something that could not have been avoided by any reasonable means.

A negligent discharge occurs when a human being does something they should not have done. This fact applies regardless of which company name is roll-stamped or engraved on to the slide or receiver. No, Gaston Glock did not invent the negligent discharge, he invented a revolutionary firearm. Like it or not, if a Glock pistol or any other gun that goes off because the shooter committed an error, the maker cannot be held liable any more than Chevy is liable for reckless drivers.

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Paul Markel

Founder & President at Student of the Gun
Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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Comments

  1. R. Hendriks

    Riddle me this… Cops didn’t always have Glocks… what were/are the rate of ND for specific firearms prior to the Glock, or what is the rate of ND for forces that have chose other firearms? If purely a statistical thing, then other guns should have the same rate… This is simple math.

  2. Pingback: Did Gaston Glock Invent the Negligent Discharge? - AmmoLand.com Shooting Sports News

  3. 5WarVeteran

    Great topic. There is a difference between a hair trigger weapon and one that goes off without depressing the trigger at all.
    Is there a difference between Negligent and Unintentional?
    How does that compare to driving without insurance and using the excuse for not having insurance as, “I was not planning on having an accident.” People DO think that way.
    So is negligent discharge the same a premature discharge?
    “Oooh I am sorry, I got “excited”.
    After having a Bersa Thunder 380 fire when I racked the slide without my touching the trigger now I am always pointing downrange when I rack the slide. I cannot trust this will not happen ever again.

  4. Kent Ward

    On the Twitter battle, I wanted to tell Mr. Owens to ‘shut the hello up’ and remind Professor Paul of his words of wisdom, “Mr. Owens, you are an idiot and I’m done talking to you”

  5. John Mark McNair

    I believe that excitement on the part of police officers coupled with a short trigger pull is probably the culprit. Many may have their finger on the trigger without realizing it and there you have it. I have been shooting a Glock for some time without a ND but I haven’t been concerned about the target shooting back.

  6. Greg Tag

    Stats from the Era Before Glock are irrellevant; apples and oranges. The difference is the way the trigger works. To pull the trigger on a Smith & Wesson Model 65 takes about 12 pounds of effort over a long distance to discharge the Glock requires similar effort over a much shorter distance. Did fingers rest carelessly on Model 65 triggers? YES. It’s just Barney Fife could get AWAY with it. Dig up some photos of the University ofTexas “Tower Siege” circa 1966. There are multiple pictures of Austin police officers and armed private citizens too, in position behind parked cars, peering up at the tower from whence the bullets are coming. No immediate target, they are NOT looking through their sights, yet their fingers are ON the trigger of whatever piece they are using. Every one of those officers and probAbly the private citizens had been taught ” finger off the trigger until ready to shoot”. Works well doesn’t it?

    Why do people who Know better stick their finger on the trigger?

    Human beings have opposing thumbs and it is absolutely natural that when we grasp an object we make a fist around the object. Unless a student is ingrained from day 1 with the idea that when we pick up a gun we stick the index finger out when we make the ” gun grasp” fist, they will follow human nature and an entire lifetime of habit and put the ginger on the trigger EVEN when their conscious mind can quote ad infinitude ” finger off the trigger until ready to shoot”
    I teach 25 to 20 newbies a week and I start them with the rule and then they practice picking up objects with their index finger sticking out , this is the “gun grasp” or “gun fist” and they replace their natural habit with the new gun safe habit.

    Glock is not to blame for sloppy safety habits and poor training.

    Greg Tag

    1. Paul

      Thanks for agreeing with the article

      1. Seth B

        Sorry, but I grew up when Glock was an obscure maker of knife handles and curtain rods in Europe. The “wonder nine” was still my favorite pistol, only it was a P35 Browning Hi Power or if you could get one, a CZ75. When the DA/SA Hi Powers came along, I believe Sauer was making them, so I kind of gravitated to the Sig Sauer, hammer fire DA/SA pistols, and like them a lot more than Glock. You have a pretty stiff, and very deliberate 10-12 pound DA pull, and then a nice crisp 4 pound pull for all the subsequent shots. I was NEVER that taken with Glock, and the odd grip angle, mushy trigger, same pull for first, any, or all the other shots. Now it’s 35 years later, and Glock’s patents have all expired. REAL gun makers have taken off with a lot of the Glock design elements, and all Glock has offered up is a flawed recoil spring/rod assembly, and extra magazine, and a $1 magazine loader. Think back to 1971 or 72, and Dirty Harry. The Smith & Wesson model 62, .44 magnum had an MSRP of $269, before the movie. After the movie, you could not touch that pistol for under $550. Glock has enjoyed the same type of silly Hollywood marketing. Enter the 10mm short, .40 S&W, and full sized 10mm, and the exploding Glock frame. By this time the faulty Glock magazine, and 9mm frames had been mostly forgotten, but I still have a bulletin advising to only load my Glock up to 16 rounds, so I don’t over-compress the magazine spring, risking feeding problems. Glock also loves those $1.50 plastic sights, claiming, “Most people are going to change them out anyway”. Wow, if that is not THE WORST excuse for installing sh** on a product, I’d like to hear a worse one. It seems the ONLY thing perfect about Glock for police departments is the fact Glock will undercut everyone else on the lowest bid price. After anyone buys a Glock the first thing they do is start spending more money on it to make it a halfway respectable pistol. $100+ for sights, $30-$300 for a better trigger, $400-$2000 for slide and or barrel improvements. If it’s so damned perfect why all the extra money for myriad upgrades? I think the Army spoke loud and clear, when they selected Beretta, and lastly, Sig Sauer for their pistols. Just because the police or government pick a product, does not make it the best. There is a mixture of politics, lowest bid, and to some extent minimum specs involved in the selection, and Glock was an epic fail at meeting 21st century specs, with a mid 20th century design, using late 20th century materials. They are a lightweight reliable pistol, but I have sent 10s of 1000s of rounds down P35 barrels, with very few malfunctions. I had to make a few tweaks here and there, with feed ramps, chambers, and magazine feed lips. I was ,not even old enough to drink, but I had figure out how to make a Hi Power feed hollowpoints flawlessly. Glock has lost it’s hold on the police market. I suspect they may have fallen below 50%, now. I don’t think they ever exceeded 70%, of the municipal police department market. 68% sounds about right, but it does explain why so many NDs, I guess. I suspect the overall number would be much lower had the Sig P226 been used in 7 out of 10 departments.

  7. RC Layne

    I think that the glock is fine in the hands of a well trained and experienced shooter. In the hands of someone not trained or undertrained, it is a disaster waiting to happen. As long as agencies train to minimum standards, and officers won’t seek out additional training on their own, the problem ain’t going away.

    1. EDB

      Explain how or why it’s a “disaster waiting to happen?” Does having a manipulative safety on the slide or frame somehow increase a level of competence or ability for a shooter, and thusly eliminate the possibility of poor firearms handling causing future ND’s? Or is the location and operation of a manual safety truly just one more thing to have to commit to muscle memory when handling a firearm…much less a firearm being handled under stress? Is a SiG 220-series pistol is inherently unsafe in the hands of an inexperienced shooter because they don’t have manual safeties, or because it’s in the hands of an inexperienced shooter? How does a 1911 using “cocked and locked” carry not rate as unsafe since the mechanism is fully cocked, when a striker-fired pistol needs trigger compression to “cock” the firing mechanism to operate?

      RC, I’ll guess it’s merely Glock bias that makes your opinion what it is, rather than actually admitting the fact that the only real “safety” is the one between your ears. For it goes without saying that an “unloaded” handgun equipped with 15 passive and mechanical safeties held in the hands of the uncaring or ignorant is far more dangerous than a loaded handgun with no safety at all in the hands of the careful and knowing.

      1. B Young

        Competent supervision? Are they not supervised by competent individuals now? Training? Nobody pays me to maintain and improve my proficiencies with my firearms.

        Jeff Cooper’s four rules. If you cannot adhere to these four simple rules should you not reevaluate your decision to own a firearm? Are you a increased danger to yourself and others? A police officer who has had a ND is by definition a danger to himself and others, and has demonstrated that he is a danger to himself and others.

        We civies must suffer the consequences of our ND either civil and/or criminal on our own backs, a police officer must as well.

        That “trained” professional must be prohibited from working in LE…anywhere.

      2. Brian H Mayton

        How about cases where clothing, edge of leather holsters, etc get inside finger guard pressing trigger while holstering? I am actually debating on Glock 29 so I am not a Glock hater per say.

  8. robert

    I was a police officer for 25 years the auto craze came along in the late 80s before that we had smith wesson model 66 357 mags 4 inch barrels. i will tell you a fact to get one to AD you had to have it cocked the trigger pull was long and hard. heres what makes me laugh today if the trigger isnt 5.5 lbs you cant hit nothing its funny to think back in them days we COULD qualify with it. and we didnt even need 18 rounds to drop a perp we did it with 6 but as for is a glock safe well it wont go off unless you pull the trigger BUT anyone that argues that dont know anything about guns cause there has been many ADs from the trigger getting snagged on a holster strap a windbreaker string pull or a bad holster that all is out of the hands of anyone. is a glock safe? load up a 1911 keep the safety off put a rubber band around the grip safety you got a glock locked loaded and a bump of the trigger its gone. also back in the day i was a officer i saw 2 ADs buth with shotgun remingtons 870s they forgot to put the safety on the triggers got snagged. you also have a stress factor a officer puts his finger on the trigger jumps and bang a revolver with a 10 lb trigger takes more to get to fire so love them or hate them there not as safe as any weapon that has a hard long trigger pull some citys back in the old days made there revolvers double action only that was to keep the rookies and public safe any one that cant train to pull and wipe off a safety has less intelligence then a police dog as for me i think a safety is a good idea and i know alot of guys right now been glock legged that believes that now to

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