British forces are to be armed with a new combat sidearm for the first time in more than half a century to protect themselves against new types of threats. The Browning Hi-Power pistol, which first came into service in 1954, will be replaced by the Glock 17, which has been chosen after intensive trials.
One of the reasons for bringing in the new gun was attacks faced by UK troops in Helmand, increasingly from members of Afghan security forces in so called 'green on blue' shootings, as well as from the Taliban. The Glock is 'faster on the draw' than the ageing Browning and simpler to use in highly dangerous situations where split seconds can mean the difference between death and survival.
The Ministry of Defence has ordered 25,000 Glocks for all three services which currently have a total strength of around 220,000. The numbers mean that they will not be for general use, but issued at the discretion of commanders. However, enough of them will be sent to Afghanistan to ensure all personnel serving there have access to the pistols if necessary.
The Glock, which uses the same 9 mm ammunition as the Browning, was selected after tests lasting two and half years in conditions from the Arctic to the jungles of Borneo. No British company tendered for the £8.5 million contract won by the Austrian manufacturers which saw off six other competitors. Warrant Officer 1 Mark Anderson, of the Royal Marines, a veteran of 26 years, who had been involved in the selection process from the start, said "The Glock beat the others being tested pretty easily, this was the outstanding pistol."