For the first time in 45 years, British general-purpose forces will be carrying a new pistol. The Ministry of Defence has awarded a large (almost $15 million) contract to Glock for 25,000 pistols, to replace the Brownings British forces have carried since the Summer of Love.
The new guns won’t be new to everybody — Certain British special operations forces have been using Glocks for some time.
While it’s certainly a feather in Glock’s cap to have the large (by European standards) UK MOD adopting their pistols, the company had the inside track from the beginning of the two-year process. With no UK producer, the MOD started with preferences in place for a European Community product. Several other pistols were evaluated along with several Glock models.
The most interesting part of the evaluation was the comparison of the Glock to the current service pistol, the Browning Hi-Power, which was adopted in 1967. (As far back as World War II it was in use by British SOF, but it was long after the war before the armed forces were willing to replace the classically British top-break revolver). Britain was the last major power to switch from revolver o semi-automatic service pistols, decades behind its peers, but the Browning Hi-Power was popular in UK service. Still, British soldiers familiar with the Browning found the Glock quicker to get into action, easier to master due to its simple manual of arms, and more accurate. The four more rounds per magazine were also welcome.
The pistol contract was an unusually high priority, given that pistols are secondary small arms. In recent years, personal defense weapons, once not taken very seriously by Britain’s fighting forces, have become more important. The serve crucial roles both as backup weapons in CQB and as always-with-you defensive weapons in the current situation in Afghanistan, where many recent British casualties have resulted from extremely close-range insider attacks.
The British are not buying any of the options normally elected by American SOF users of Glocks (extended mag and slide releases and night sights). They’re getting a box-stock (or as an Englishman might say, bog-standard) G4 Glock 17.
This will give Britons a new way to get their hands on a state-of-the-art Glock: join the forces. Due to the national handgun ban for civilian users, the only way a Brit could get his hands on a Glock 17 prior to this announcement was to join a criminal gang or terrorist group.