Can a civilian own a full auto Glock?
A Glock switch or Glock auto-sear is a small device that can be attached to the rear of the slide of a Glock handgun, converting the semi-automatic pistol into a machine pistol capable of fully automatic fire. As a type of auto sear, it functions by applying force to the trigger bar to prevent it from limiting fire to one round of ammunition per trigger pull. This device by itself, regardless if it is installed on a slide or not, is considered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to be a machine gun. Therefore, the possession of this device is illegal under United States federal law if the person in possession does not have the required licensing.
Operation [ edit ]
A Glock switch functions by applying force to a semi-automatic pistol’s trigger bar to prevent it from limiting fire to one round of ammunition per trigger pull.  It thus converts the weapon into a machine pistol capable of automatic fire.  The device is roughly the size of a United States quarter, and when installed on the rear of the slide on a Glock pistol (replacing the slide cover plate), adds a selective fire switch; flipping the switch sets the weapon to full automatic mode.  Full auto fire makes accurate aiming nearly impossible, which endangers bystanders near shootings. 
History [ edit ]
A handgun with a Glock switch attached fits the definition of an illegal machine gun under United States federal law.  The 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act made new machine guns illegal for civilians to own, banning «possession and transfer of new automatic firearms and parts that fire bullets without stopping once the trigger is depressed», with the exception of machine guns manufactured prior to May 19, 1986.  Those caught with a switch-modified handgun can be prosecuted federally.  The penalties for possession of an unregistered machine gun in the United States are up to a $250,000 fine and prison sentences of up to 10 years. 
In 2019, the ATF recovered thousands of the devices which were imported from China.  In 2021 and 2022, people have been manufacturing the switch devices with 3D printers.   In March 2022, a Vice News investigation learned that the federal prosecutions which involved conversion devices have been rising since 2017. They determined that from 2017 to 2022, advances in low-cost 3D printers and global commerce on the internet have made the devices available for as little as $20 US.  In 2022, federal authorities documented a dramatic rise in the prevalence of the Glock switches. 
See also [ edit ]
- Hell-Fire trigger
- Bump stock
- Recoil operation
- Gun politics in the United States
References [ edit ]
- ^«Indictment: So-called ‘Glock switches’ Would have Turned Pistols into Machine Guns». U.S. Department of Justice. 30 May 2019 . Retrieved 29 December 2022 .
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- «Jacksonville Man Sentenced To Five Years In Federal Prison For Selling Machinegun-Conversion Device To Undercover Agent». U.S. Department of Justice. 2 December 2022 . Retrieved 29 December 2022 .
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- Schratz, Joe (26 August 2022). » ‘Glock switch’ shows up in Jonesboro». The Jonesboro Sun . Retrieved 29 December 2022 .
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- Smith, Kelli (13 December 2022). «Devices that turn pistols into illegal machine guns on the rise in Texas, chief says». The Dallas Morning News . Retrieved 29 December 2022 .
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- Nestel, M.L.; Miller, Andrea (4 October 2017). «What to know about machine gun laws in the US». ABC News . Retrieved 29 December 2022 .
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- Glover, Scott; Devine, Curt (30 August 2022). «A device that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun in moments is wreaking havoc on American streets». Cable News Network (CNN) . Retrieved 29 December 2022 .
- Stephens, Alain (24 March 2022). «Tiny ‘Glock Switches’ Have Quietly Flooded the US With Deadly Machine Guns». Vice Media Group . Retrieved 29 December 2022 .
- Barned-Smith, St. John (25 February 2022). «More Houston shootings are involving ‘Glock switches,’ which turn pistols into machine guns». Houston Chronicle . Retrieved 29 December 2022 .
External links [ edit ]
- Video More ‘Glock Switches’ confiscated in Tennessee
- Video Penny-sized ‘Glock switch’ turns handgun into automatic weapon
Why Is the Glock 18 Illegal in the United States?
If you are a handgun enthusiast in the United States, you are familiar with the Glock name and how popular Glocks are for a number of known reasons — one being the growing number of Glock parts out there. Two of the models that you are probably very familiar with are the Glock 17 and the Glock 19; however, you might be asking yourself, is there a Glock 18? Yes there is, the handgun is illegal in the United States and there is a reason why.
The Glock 18 is Illegal in the United States
The Glock 18 is a fully-sized automatic pistol. It fires 9mm; however, it is capable of firing 1200 rounds per minute. This firing rate is the biggest reason why the Glock 18 is illegal in the United States.
The Glock 18 is similar to the Glock 17; however, it has to shift between the semi-automatic version and the fully-automatic version. The biggest difference is a simple mechanical operation. There is a raised extra tab that sits on the cross of the trigger. This tab connects the trigger to a metal piece that is lowered in order to shift the handgun into a fully automatic mode.
As a result, the sear of the Glock 18 remains engaged. This allows the user to continue firing repeatedly with the same trigger pull. As a result, the Glock 18 is a fully automatic weapon and is incredibly easy to control. It is easy to see why the Glock 18 is an effective sidearm. It is also easy to see how the Glock 18 can do a tremendous amount of damage with a single pull of the trigger, prompting the United States to make it illegal.
A History of the Glock 18
The Glock 18 was first introduced as a 9mm sidearm for both military and police use. It reached the market in 1986 and was designed to be a weapon that could combat terrorism in Austria. The biggest difference between the Glock 18 and its predecessor is that it was a control switch that acts as a lever. There are indented dots that indicate the firing mode. If there is a single dot above the switch then the gun is in the semi-automatic mode. If there is a pair of dots present, then it is in the automatic mode.
The Glock 18 has a compensator that has been cut into the forward position of the slide. This cut makes the gun easier to control and prevents climbing. The slots get larger as they move from the rear to the front. They are designed to vent the gas from the Glock 18.
Finally, the Glock 18 also has a locking mechanism. When the chamber pressure is high, the gun is dangerous to fire. To rectify this situation, the barrel moves backward on the recoil stroke. It locks with the slide to reduce pressure levels. When the pressure has been reduced, the barrel and slide unlock. This is called camming action. It stops the movement of the barrel while the slide shift back, ejecting the used cartridge casing.
Can You Buy A Glock 18
The Glock 18 is illegal in the United States, making it hard to find. There are multiple laws put into place that limit the methods through which someone can get a Glock 18. Of note, these laws also apply to all machine guns. Yes, the Glock 18 is a machine gun. Remember that it fires 1200 rounds per minute.
One option to get a Glock 18 is to get a transferable gun. In this case, the Glock 18 has to be registered before May 19, 1986. Given that the gun was made in 1986, this is nearly impossible to do. If there is an actual Glock 18 that was registered before this date, it probably has a value that is comparable to many luxury cars.
Some dealers might have Glock 18s that have been dubbed pre-samples. These are guns that were imported between Jan 1 of 1986 and May 19 of 1986. Dealers were permitted to keep their models after they surrendered their licenses. Again, this version of the Glock 18 is going to be hard to find. The only other way to get a Glock 18 is to have a Class III dealer’s letter from a police department to sample one. This would mean forfeiting the license, but would save a lot of money.
Where You Can Find the Best Glock Parts
Even though we don’t carry anything for the Glock 18, here at Ghost Inc. we do carry Glock parts and Glock accessories for most if not all Glock models, including Glock 43, Glock 19, Glock 48, among others. Check out our large selection of Glock parts and Glock accessories at Ghost Inc. today!
Glock Parts and Handgun Accessories by Ghost Inc
The world’s best Glock triggers, Glock connectors and Glock parts and accessories
What Can the ATF Do About Converted Machine Guns?
Lawmakers are clamoring for action on auto sears. History leaves clues about what approach the agency might take.
By Alain Stephens and Champe Barton
Jun 9, 2022
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On April 11, more than 40 members of Congress signed a letter urging the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to take action on the proliferation of the auto sear, a small device that makes a semiautomatic gun capable of emptying an entire magazine with a single pull of the trigger.
Auto sears, as The Trace and VICE News reported in March, have become increasingly popular among criminals, and have been tied to dozens of shootings by extremists, mass shooters, and drug traffickers. This April, a gunman armed with a converted Glock handgun opened fire in downtown Sacramento leaving six dead and 12 wounded.
The Return of the Machine Gun
For decades, fully automatic weapons were expensive, collectable, and rarely used in crimes. Auto sears, which can cost less than $20 online, have changed that.
“The ATF is the primary federal regulator for firearms and should be playing quarterback here,” said Representative Jake Auchincloss, a Democrat from Massachusetts, who signed the letter. “They should be enforcing the law on the ground. But they should also be putting some of the liability for the misuse of these weapons — if that misuse is predictable and apparent — onto the manufacturers.”
In their letter, members of Congress asked the ATF to be more explicit in calling conversion devices illegal and to crack down on them. They’re also asking the agency to put a stop to the companies “pushing the legal limits on these devices.” But finding an effective solution may be difficult. Industry insiders and law enforcement officials interviewed for this story questioned whether the agency has the power to do more than it’s already doing.
Machine guns have been subject to strict federal regulation for nearly 90 years. The National Firearms Act of 1934 required anyone who owned a fully automatic weapon to register it with the government and pay a $200 tax, equivalent to about $4,000 today. These requirements significantly drove up the cost of owning a machine gun, and as a result ownership became rare.
The auto sear was invented in the 1970s as a way for gunsmiths and hobbyists to fashion their own automatic weapons away from the watchful eyes of the government. With some elbow grease, an auto sear can convert popular semiautomatic rifles and handguns into machine guns. But in 1981, the ATF ruled that an auto sear is, legally, a machine gun. Without the proper licensing and taxes paid, possession of one of the devices is punishable with up to 10 years in prison.
In the last decade, foreign manufacturers have started producing auto sears in large quantities and sending them to the U.S. According to Homeland Security Investigations, most of the devices originate from China. The devices are marketed online on popular social media platforms, ecommerce sites, and forums, and can cost as little as $20.
Auto sears for Glock handguns, called “switches,” have become so popular that they’ve been name-dropped in rap songs and mailed to the company’s headquarters for repairs by unwitting customers, former employees told The Trace. The ATF said it recovered 1,500 converted weapons in 2021, up from just 300 the year before.
“If a shooter had a fully automatic weapon versus a semiautomatic weapon, that should scare the shit out of every parent out there,” said Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut.
Because auto sears are already technically regulated under federal law, some say the ATF needs to focus on enforcement.
“This isn’t a regulatory problem; it’s an enforcement problem,” said Brian Luettke, a retired ATF special agent. Luettke pointed to the agency’s historically thin roster of field agents as one possible reason these devices have proliferated. And he emphasized that the parts themselves can be difficult to identify.
Another approach would be for the ATF to regulate the other half of a converted machine gun: The gun itself. It’s a path that the agency has taken in the past.
In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, law enforcement agencies started recovering huge numbers of converted RPB Industries SM10 pistols. The popular semiautomatic pistol was a near-perfect replica of the Mac-10 submachine gun, and by shaving down a small internal component with a steel file, it could be modified to fire on fully automatic. At nearly a quarter of the price, it became a hot commodity among drug traffickers.
Law enforcement recovered at least a thousand of the machine guns in crimes across the nation by 1980. That same year, the ATF linked 60 of the guns to drug related murders in Florida alone.
To curb the proliferation of these military-grade weapons, the ATF took an unprecedented step. It reclassified a handful of easily converted semiautomatic pistols and rifles as machine guns. The ruling legally grandfathered the weapons already in circulation, but forced an ultimatum on their makers: Redesign future iterations to be less susceptible to automatic conversion or face selling them under the strict regulations of the National Firearms Act.
Many Democrats say that it’s well within the power of the agency to apply this same strategy to curb the proliferation of modern-day auto sears, like Glock switches, though Luettke and other firearm experts contacted for this story told The Trace that doing so would mean having to regulate dozens of other similarly easy-to-convert handguns.
“A Glock is the most popular handgun in the United States. I think the ATF should explore, as they have in the past, using their regulatory measures to force companies to change their designs or face stricter classifications,” said Representative Eric Swalwell a Democrat from California, who also signed the April letter.
“If they know that their Glocks can be retrofitted with auto sears that easily, and they’re not preventing it with simple design changes, that becomes a product liability,” said Auchincloss.
Firearm experts and law enforcement officials interviewed for this story acknowledged that the ATF still takes regulatory action against gunmakers to change the design of semiautomatic firearms or gun parts to prevent automatic conversions, if inconsistently.
In the early 2000s, the ATF allowed a product called the Akins Accelerator, a predecessor to the bump stock that increases a gun’s rate of fire, to go to market. But after agents discovered the attachment could enable Ruger rifles to fire roughly 800 rounds per minute, they reclassified the part as a machine gun.
In 2021, the agency ruled that the semiautomatic T36 rifle designed and sold by the Tampa-based boutique gunmaker TommyBuilt Tactical was a machine gun, after agents were able to install fully automatic parts in the gun’s receiver. The gun — which retailed for over $3,000 — did not include any fully automatic components as sold, according to the company’s owner, Tom Bostick.
The ATF’s process of modifying the gun effectively broke it, according to Bostick, and he said the agency offered no proof that the firearm successfully fired. When an expert consultant replicated the ATF’s conversion on his behalf, the gun would not fire consistently. Still, the ATF threatened to retrieve the rifles from Bostick’s customers unless he offered an exchange program — in this case a more than $200 upgrade for each customer. Bostick then had to build all future guns so that they would be less capable of accepting fully automatic parts.
Months later, the large German gunmaker Heckler & Koch sought to import a batch of rifles that could be converted to fully automatic fire similarly to the T36. The ATF initially classified the gun as a machine gun and stopped the import, according to Bostick and another person with knowledge of the interuption, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly about it. But after some back-and-forth with Heckler & Koch’s legal team, the ATF walked back its decision, and agreed to classify the gun as a semiautomatic weapon.
“What’s the difference with my gun,” Bostick asked. “It’s just easier for the ATF to go after low-hanging fruit, and they know it would have bled me dry to fight it.”
Heckler and Koch did not respond to requests for comment.
“ATF is always concerned by the criminal use of firearms, including the criminal use of machine gun conversion devices,” said an ATF spokesperson when asked how the bureau plans to deal with the influx of machine gun cases. However, the spokesperson declined to disclose if the ATF had talked to gunmakers whose products are popular for conversion, saying, “We are unable to comment on our communications with private individuals or companies regarding their firearms, including any firearms submitted to ATF for evaluation.”
Norm Bergeron, another former ATF agent, said it’s true that the agency is reluctant to regulate large companies. “You have to have clout to go up against the U.S. government,” he said. “It really comes down to money. Money buys you lobbyists, it buys you attorneys.”
Democrats believe that reluctance is in part due to the ATF’s perpetual leaderlessness over the last 16 years and its historically lean budget.
“Any regulatory agency without permanent leadership is vulnerable to not fully fulfilling its mission,” said Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, a Democrat who also signed the congressional letter to the ATF in April. Watson Coleman said she believes a regulatory path like the one tried during the 1980s could curtail automatic conversions of particular firearms.
In April, the Biden administration announced Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney from Ohio, as its nominee to head the ATF. This is the second attempt the administration has launched in securing a head for the agency after pulling its nomination of David Chipman, a former ATF agent and gun violence prevention advocate, last fall.
Additional reporting by Chip Brownlee
Alain is a staff writer covering developments in firearms technology and the ATF. His investigations into auto sears, toy guns, and ghost guns for The Trace have led to congressional action. A military veteran and gun owner, Alain did tours at inewsource and Texas Standard, where his work led to important public safety, civil rights, and criminal justice reforms.
Champe Barton is a reporter at The Trace covering the gun industry. His work has focused on the role of gun distribution in America’s gun violence epidemic, including lax enforcement of federal firearms laws by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, failure by California police departments to properly trace crime guns, and efforts by gun manufacturers to monitor how the guns they produce slip into the criminal black market. His work has appeared in USA TODAY, Rolling Stone, Slate, The Guardian, FiveThirtyEight, and The Daily Beast, among other publications.
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