Its first pistol model was the classic Glock 17 (so named because it was the 17th patent of the company), a 9mm handgun with an unusually (at the time) large 17 round capacity, introduced in the early 1980s as a response to the Austrian army asking for a new sidearm. Glock pistols are popular with law enforcement agencies throughout the world, especially when chambered for modern, powerful cartridges such as the .40 S&W. Indeed, in an apparent effort to corner this market further Glock have introduced a new cartridge of their own design, the .45 GAP (Glock Automatic Pistol), along with a new pistol to fire it, the Glock 37.
Contrary to early reports, Glocks certainly do set off metal detectors and can indeed be detected by X-ray machines, due to their heavy metal barrels and slides. (An article first published in the Washington Post on January 13, 1985, entitled, "Quaddafi Buying Austrian Plastic Pistol." in which vocal gun control advocate Jack Anderson made allegations which were then re-reported without fact-checking by the Associated Press and re-reported further by many television news stations and newspapers in the United States of America and has since become an urban legend that continues to appear in news reports and in popular movies to this day and has even been a topic of debate in the United States Congress.) In fact, 83% (by weight) of the Glock is ordinary gun steel and the "plastic" parts are in fact a dense polymer which is radio opaque and thus also shows up under X-ray security equipment. In addition, virtually all of these "plastic" parts also contain embedded steel to make them functional, not to make them "detectable". Contrary to popular movies like Die Hard II and In the Line of Fire, neither Glock, nor any other gun maker has ever produced a "ceramic" or "plastic" firearm which is undetectable by ordinary security screening devices. The movie "Die Hard II" specifically refers to a non-existent "Glock 7" as being an undetectable "ceramic" gun.
Glock pistols use an internal safety mechanism with no external safety switch. All three safeties are disabled one after the other while pressing the trigger safety. Similar systems for internal safeties have since become standard for many major brand makers of semi-auto pistols.
Glock handguns have seen much fictional exposure in action movies and TV shows, which often continue to spread the myths about the Glock. One common and amusing aspect of popular media portrayals of the Glock is when someone pulls out or points a Glock and the sound effects people insert the sound of the Glock being "cocked" like a revolver. Sometimes the same Glock gets "cocked" multiple times in the same scene. The Glock does not have an external hammer and thus cannot be "cocked" nor "uncocked" and never makes the sort of sounds that are commonly inserted into TV and movies. This amusing display of media ignorance about firearms is also common for a variety of other types of firearms, along with many other impossible actions attributed to firearms by the popular media. For the record, Glocks can only be "cocked" by manually pulling back the slide (the entire top half of the handgun including the barrel) and letting it slam forward quickly. This requires the use of both hands and produces a rather loud sound that is very different from the sound effect of a revolver being cocked. Also, once a Glock is cocked, re-cocking it does nothing but waste a live round by ejecting it out the side. There is no way to "uncock" a Glock until all the ammo and the magazine is removed from the gun. Another popular TV/movie firearms myth shows a Glock, or other firearm, being dropped and it just "goes off". This is virtually impossible with any firearm made in the past century (unless someone has significantly and foolishly altered the internal workings of the gun to disable the firing-pin safety systems).
The Glock name has been vernacularized as a generic slang term for any expensive black handgun. In a perhaps fitting twist of irony, the "point and shoot" ease of use and high capacity of the Glock pistols has caused Glock to become the single most favored brand of handgun for contemporary hip-hop artists to reference in their music, notably Tupac Shakur, 50 Cent, Ludacris, and others. Indeed, the Glock brand has practically become a fashion accessory for successful rappers.
Another reason that Glocks are popular is the low component count. It's much easier for a layman to detail strip a G17 than a 1911.