The Glock 17 is a 9 mm short recoil–operated, locked-breech semi-automatic pistol that uses a modified Browning cam-lock system adapted from the Hi-Power pistol. The firearm’s locking mechanism uses a linkless, vertically tilting barrel with a rectangular breech that locks into the ejection port cut-out in the slide. During the recoil stroke, the barrel moves rearward initially locked together with the slide about 3 mm (0.12 in) until the bullet leaves the barrel and chamber pressure drops to a safe level. A ramped lug extension at the base of the barrel then interacts with a tapered locking block integrated into the frame, forcing the barrel down and unlocking it from the slide. This camming action terminates the barrel’s movement while the slide continues back under recoil, extracting and ejecting the spent cartridge casing. The slide’s uninterrupted rearward movement and counter-recoil cycle are characteristic of the Browning system.
Glock pistols incorporate a number of features intended to enhance reliability in adverse conditions, such as utilizing advanced metal coatings, “stub” slide guides instead of true frame rails, and an unusual cocking mechanism wherein the trigger is partially responsible for cocking the striker. By relying partially on force from the shooter’s trigger finger to cock the striker, a Glock effectively reduces the load on the recoil spring as the slide moves forward into battery, whereas almost all other striker-fired pistols on the market rely fully on the recoil spring to cock the striker. This design gives the recoil spring fewer tasks as the action cycles, helping to ensure that sufficient energy is available to strip a new round from the magazine and achieve full battery even when the breech, chamber, and/or magazine are heavily fouled. For these and other reasons, Glock pistols are commonly considered to be some of the most reliable striker-fired, semi-automatic handguns available, with some independent testing even showing a Glock taking a lead over a Sig Sauer P320 in a wet/dry reliability test, even though the latter was selected as the winner of the U.S. Army’s MHS competition.
The slide features a spring-loaded claw extractor, and the stamped sheet metal ejector is pinned to the trigger mechanism housing. Pistols after 2002 have a reshaped extractor that serves as a loaded chamber indicator. When a cartridge is present in the chamber, a tactile metal edge protrudes slightly out immediately behind the ejection port on the right side of the slide. The striker firing mechanism has a spring-loaded firing pin that is cocked in two stages that the firing pin spring powers. The factory-standard firing pin spring is rated at 24 N (5.4 lbf), but by using a modified firing pin spring, it can be increased to 28 N (6.3 lbf) or to 31 N (7.0 lbf). When the pistol is charged, the firing pin is in the half-cock position. As the trigger is pulled, the firing pin is then fully cocked. At the end of its travel, the trigger bar is tilted downward by the connector, releasing the firing pin to fire the cartridge. The connector resets the trigger bar so that the firing pin will be captured in half-cock at the end of the firing cycle. This is known as a preset trigger mechanism, referred to as the “Safe Action” trigger by the manufacturer. The connector ensures the pistol can only fire semiautomatically.
The factory-standard, two-stage trigger has a trigger travel of 12.5 mm (0.49 in) and is rated at 25 N (5.6 lbf), but by using a modified connector, it can be increased to 35 N (7.9 lbf) or lowered to 20 N (4.5 lbf). In response to a request made by American law enforcement agencies for a two-stage trigger with increased trigger pull, Glock introduced the NY1 (New York) trigger module, which features a flat spring in a plastic housing that replaces the trigger bar’s standard coil spring. This trigger modification is available in two versions: NY1 and NY2 that are rated at 25 N (5.6 lbf) to 40 N (9.0 lbf) and 32 N (7.2 lbf) to 50 N (11.2 lbf), respectively, which require about 20 N (4.5 lbf) to 30 N (6.7 lbf) of force to disengage the safeties and another 10 N (2.2 lbf) to 20 N (4.5 lbf) in the second stage to fire a shot.
The Glock’s frame, magazine body, and several other components are made from a high-strength nylon-based polymer invented by Gaston Glock, called Polymer This plastic was specially formulated to provide increased durability and is more resilient than carbon steel and most steel alloys. Polymer 2 is resistant to shock, caustic liquids, and temperature extremes where traditional steel/alloy frames would warp and become brittle. The injection-molded frame contains four hardened steel guide rails for the slide: two at the rear of the frame, and the remaining pair above and in front of the trigger guard. The trigger guard itself is squared off at the front and checkered. The grip has an angle of 109° and a nonslip, stippled surface on the sides and both the front and rear straps. The frame houses the locking block, which is an investment casting that engages a 45° camming surface on the barrel’s lower camming lug. It is retained in the frame by a steel axis pin that holds the trigger and slide catch. The trigger housing is held to the frame by means of a polymer pin. A spring-loaded sheet-metal pressing serves as the slide catch, which is secured from unintentional manipulation by a raised guard molded into the frame.
The Glock pistol has a relatively low slide profile, which holds the barrel axis close to the shooter’s hand and makes the pistol more comfortable to fire by reducing muzzle rise and allows for faster aim recovery in rapid firing sequences. The rectangular slide is milled from a single block of ordnance-grade steel using CNC machinery. The barrel and slide undergo two hardening processes prior to treatment with a proprietary nitriding process called Tenifer. The Tenifer treatment is applied in a 500 °C (932 °F) nitrate bath. The Tenifer finish is between 0.04 and 0.05 mm (0.0016 and 0.0020 in) in thickness, and is characterized by extreme resistance to wear and corrosion; it penetrates the metal, and treated parts have similar properties even below the surface to a certain depth.
The Tenifer process produces a matte gray-colored, nonglare surface with a 64 Rockwell C hardness rating and a 99% resistance to salt water corrosion (which meets or exceeds stainless steel specifications), making the Glock particularly suitable for individuals carrying the pistol concealed as the highly chloride-resistant finish allows the pistol to better endure the effects of perspiration. Glock steel parts using the Tenifer treatment are more corrosion resistant than analogous gun parts having other finishes or treatments, including Teflon, bluing, hard chrome plating, or phosphates. During 2010 Glock switched from the salt bath nitriding Tenifer process to a not exactly disclosed gas nitriding process. After applying the nitriding process, a black Parkerized decorative surface finish is applied. The underlying nitriding treatment will remain, protecting these parts even if the decorative surface finish were to wear off.
A current production Glock 17 consists of 34 parts. For maintenance, the pistol disassembles into five main groups: the barrel, slide, frame, magazine, and recoil-spring assembly. The firearm is designed for the NATO-standard 9×19mm Parabellum pistol cartridge, but can use high-power (increased pressure) +P ammunition with either full-metal-jacket or jacketed hollow-point projectiles.