The British Army has long been on the cutting edge of firearms development. Ever since the days of Oliver Cromwell, whose harquebusier cavalry was armed with doglock carbines, through the Enfield rifle armed Tommies of the Western Front, the fighting men of the Empire carried some of the most advanced arms of their day.
It should be no surprise then that they have just announced that they are going with Glocks now.
British Army sidearms
In examining the handguns of the British Army over the past few hundred years, they seem to have historically picked winning designs that had the capability to endure for decades. In 1887, they adopted the hard-hitting Webley and Scott six-shot, top-break revolver. Chambered in man-stopping .455 Webley, these huge hoglegs in Marks I through VI remained standard issue throughout dozens of colonial wars, the Boer War, World War I, and into World War Two. The .38S&W caliber Enfield No. 2 Mk I revolver began to supplement but never fully replace the Webley in 1932. Finally, after nearly 80-years of hard service, both the Webley and Enfield were finally retired in 1967 by...
The Browning HP
(Royal Australian Regiment soldiers with Browning HPs. Not only is the HP standard with the British Army, several Commonwealth allies also carry it. As the Crown, goes, so goes the Empire....)
As part of NATO and facing down the Warsaw Pact around the world, the British needed to upgrade their pistols from wheelguns to something much more modern. They chose the Browning Hi-Power P35 pistol for this. Designed in part by John Moses Browning, the Hi-Power was the top of the line combat pistol from the time it was introduced in the late 1930s. Built first in Belgium and then during the war in Canada, the Hi-Power was a single action 9mm pistol with a double stack magazine that held 13-rounds. It was so well liked and offered such an increase in firepower that both Nazi troops (who captured the Belgian factory) and British/Canadian commandoes used them during the war. By the 1960s, some 50 countries around the world had adopted it for their military. In fact, almost every nation in the free world (except for the US which used Browning's older M1911 .45) at one time or another issued the Hi-Power.
The Brits have carried this pistol exclusively for the past forty years. They are nice, and a beautiful design, but is dated. Again, the British Army needed and upgrade.
The Glock 17 Adopted
Today the British have about 138,500 regulars and 121,800 reserve troops deployed worldwide who still need a reliable and effective combat pistol for use in defensive roles by special troops, commandos, heavy weapons crews, drivers, military police, and officers.
It was just announced that the government of the Queen has decided to purchase some 25,000 new fourth Generation Glock 17s at a price of $14.5-million. This breaks down to about $580 per new pistol, which is slightly less than the MSRP of a new Glock 17. However, you can be sure that Gaston is probably throwing in a few extra magazines and spare parts as value added.
The choice comes after an extensive trials and experimentation process in which a number of full sized 9mm pistols were evaluated. The winner: Glock.
Compared to the legacy Browning Hi-Powers that the G17 will replace, the polymer gun has a much larger magazine (17 rounds vs. 13); fewer parts (33 vs. 68) which mean fewer parts to break, and are a good bit lighter (at 22.4-ounces vs. 34-ounces unloaded). Overall, the guns are about the same size in barrel length, overall length, and width, which makes transition training easier. The Glock also field strips and takes down much easier and it's safe-action trigger and striker-fired design are more 'soldier-proof' than the Browning's vintage single-action exposed hammer design.
With this move, should it be taken that the Glock 17 is the Browning Hi-Power of our generation?
It's starting to look that way.