Glock 18
(Photo: Reddit)

The Glock 18 is one of the world’s most renowned and controversial firearms.

Known for its unique capability of firing in both semi-automatic and full-automatic modes, it has garnered significant attention from firearm enthusiasts, law enforcement agencies, and regulators.

This article delves into the Glock 18’s intricacies, exploring why it is banned in many places, its legal status in the US, and the challenges of purchasing one.

What is the Glock 18?

The Glock 18 is a selective-fire variant of the Glock 17 Gen 3, a popular semi-automatic pistol used by military and police forces worldwide. Introduced in 1986, the Glock 18 stands out due to its ability to switch between semi-automatic and full-automatic firing modes. This feature is enabled by an external selector switch on the slide, allowing users to fire up to 1,200 rounds per minute.

Key Features

  • Full-Automatic Mode: The Glock 18’s primary distinguishing feature is its full-automatic firing capability, which allows for rapid fire at a rate of approximately 1,200 rounds per minute.
  • Selector Switch: Located on the left side of the slide, the selector switch enables users to toggle between semi-automatic and full-automatic modes.
  • Design and Build: Similar to other Glock models, the Glock 18 features a polymer frame, a steel slide, and the Safe Action System, which includes three independent safety mechanisms to prevent accidental discharge.

Applications and Usage

Military and law enforcement agencies primarily use the Glock 18 due to its high firepower and versatility in tactical situations. It is favored for close-quarters combat, where the ability to deliver rapid bursts of fire can be crucial. However, due to safety and regulatory concerns, its full-automatic capability makes it unsuitable for civilian use in many regions.

Why is the Glock 18 Banned?

The Glock 18’s full-automatic firing capability is the primary reason for its restricted status in many countries, including the United States. The regulatory landscape surrounding fully automatic weapons is stringent due to concerns over public safety and the potential for misuse.

The 1986 Firearm Owners’ Protection Act

In the United States, the Glock 18 is classified as a machine gun under the National Firearms Act (NFA). The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986 significantly impacted the legal status of machine guns. One of its key provisions is the prohibition of civilian ownership of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986. Since the Glock 18 was introduced after this cut-off date, it is not legally available for civilian ownership.

Public Safety Concerns

The ability of the Glock 18 to fire in full-automatic mode at a rate of 1,200 rounds per minute raises substantial safety concerns. Such high firepower can lead to significant collateral damage and increase the potential for accidents, making it unsuitable for civilian use. Law enforcement and military units, which have specific training and operational needs, are typically the only entities permitted to possess and use such firearms.

Regulatory Compliance

In addition to the FOPA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) strictly regulates the possession and transfer of machine guns. The rigorous background checks, transfer taxes, and registration requirements make it extremely difficult for civilians to legally obtain a Glock 18. This regulatory framework aims to minimize the risk of these powerful firearms falling into the wrong hands.

International Restrictions

The Glock 18 faces similar restrictions in many other countries around the world. Nations with strict gun control laws, such as those in Europe and Australia, generally prohibit the civilian ownership of fully automatic weapons. These regulations are in place to ensure public safety and reduce the risk of gun violence.

Is the Glock 18 Legal in the US?

The legal status of the Glock 18 in the United States is a topic of much interest and confusion. Given its classification as a machine gun, its legality is highly restricted under federal law.

National Firearms Act (NFA)

The Glock 18 falls under the jurisdiction of the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934. This legislation requires stringent control over firearms classified as machine guns, short-barreled rifles, and suppressors. Machine guns, including the Glock 18, must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and owners must undergo an extensive background check and pay a transfer tax.

Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986

A crucial piece of legislation affecting the Glock 18’s legality is the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986. This act included a provision that prohibited the civilian ownership of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986. Since the Glock 18 was introduced after this date, it is not available for civilian ownership. Only those machine guns registered prior to this cut-off date can be legally owned by civilians.

Law Enforcement and Military Use

The Glock 18 is primarily used by law enforcement and military agencies. These entities are exempt from the restrictions imposed by the FOPA and NFA, allowing them to acquire and use fully automatic weapons like the Glock 18 for operational purposes. These agencies often utilize the Glock 18 for its high rate of fire in situations requiring rapid response and significant firepower.

Special Occupational Tax (SOT) Holders

Certain individuals and entities, such as manufacturers, dealers, and importers with a Special Occupational Tax (SOT) designation, can legally possess and transfer machine guns, including the Glock 18. These SOT holders are typically involved in the production or sale of firearms for military or law enforcement use and are subject to rigorous regulatory oversight.

Civilian Ownership Exceptions

While civilian ownership of newly manufactured machine guns like the Glock 18 is broadly prohibited, there are rare exceptions. Collectors and enthusiasts who own pre-1986 registered machine guns can legally possess them, provided they comply with all NFA regulations. However, acquiring such firearms can be prohibitively expensive and involves a lengthy and complex approval process.

Is the Glock 18 For Sale?

The Glock 18 is a highly coveted firearm, but its availability is extremely limited due to stringent legal restrictions. For those with the appropriate licensing and paperwork, there are specific avenues to explore when attempting to purchase a Glock 18.

Glock 18 For Sale

Limited Availability and Legal Channels

The Glock 18 is generally not available for sale to the public due to its classification as a machine gun under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986. However, there are a few exceptions where legally purchasing a Glock 18 is possible:

  • Pre-1986 Registered Machine Guns: The only Glock 18 models that can be legally owned by civilians are those registered before the FOPA cut-off date in 1986. These models are rare and can only be transferred through a very specific and regulated process.
  • Special Occupational Tax (SOT) Holders: Licensed manufacturers, dealers, and importers with an SOT designation can legally acquire and transfer machine guns, including the Glock 18. These entities typically deal with firearms for military and law enforcement use.
  • Law Enforcement and Military Agencies: These agencies can directly purchase the Glock 18 from Glock or authorized dealers for operational purposes.

Where to Purchase a Glock 18

For those who meet the strict criteria for owning a Glock 18, here are some potential avenues to explore:

  • Licensed Firearms Dealers: Contacting licensed firearms dealers who specialize in NFA firearms can provide leads on the availability of pre-1986 registered Glock 18 models. These dealers can also guide you through the intricate legal process required for purchase.
  • Firearms Auctions: Occasionally, pre-1986 registered machine guns, including the Glock 18, appear at high-end firearms auctions. These events attract collectors and individuals with the necessary licenses to legally purchase such firearms. GunBroker is a leading online firearms auction site. It provides a platform for buying and selling firearms through auctions and fixed-price listings. GunBroker’s extensive network of users and its reputation for offering a variety of firearms, including hard-to-find models, make it an excellent resource for collectors looking for a Glock 18.
  • Firearms Collectors’ Networks: Joining networks or associations of firearms collectors can be beneficial. Members of these groups often have access to rare and legally transferable firearms and can provide valuable information on potential sales. Armslist is a popular online marketplace for firearms enthusiasts. It allows users to buy, sell, and trade firearms, including rare and collectible models. By joining Armslist, collectors can connect with a wide network of sellers and buyers, increasing their chances of finding a Glock 18.
  • Direct from Manufacturers (For SOT Holders): Licensed manufacturers, dealers, and importers with the appropriate SOT designation can purchase new Glock 18 models directly from Glock or authorized distributors for purposes aligned with their licensing.

The Evolution and Generations of the Glock 18

Since its introduction, the Glock 18 has undergone several iterations and improvements, each designed to enhance its functionality, reliability, and user experience. Understanding the evolution of this firearm helps one appreciate the technological advancements and design philosophy behind it.

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Glock 18 Gen 1

The original Glock 18, introduced in the mid-1980s, shared much of its design with the Glock 17. It featured a polymer frame, a steel slide, and Glock’s Safe Action System, which includes three independent safeties. The defining characteristic was the external selector switch that allowed the user to switch between semi-automatic and full-automatic firing modes.

Glock 18 Gen 2

The second generation of the Glock 18 saw minor improvements primarily focused on ergonomics and durability. These changes included an updated grip texture and an enlarged magazine release. The Gen 2 model continued to use the external selector switch for full-automatic capability while maintaining its predecessor’s robust build and reliability.

Glock 18 Gen 3

The Glock 18 Gen 3, the most widely recognized version, introduced several significant upgrades. This generation added an accessory rail for mounting tactical lights or laser sights, enhancing its versatility in various operational scenarios. The grip texture was further improved for better handling, and finger grooves were added to the grip for a more secure hold.

Glock 18C

An important variant to note is the Glock 18C, which includes an integrated compensator. The compensator consists of ports cut into the slide and barrel, which help reduce muzzle rise and recoil during rapid fire. This feature makes the Glock 18C more controllable in full-automatic mode, improving accuracy and handling.

Glock 18C
Glock 18C (compensated) in the third generation, unloaded and equipped with 19-round magazine, fire selector set to single fire (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Appeal of the Glock 18: Why It Remains Sought After

Despite its restricted status and legal challenges, the Glock 18 continues to be highly sought after by firearm enthusiasts and collectors. Its unique features and historical significance contribute to its enduring appeal.

Full-Automatic Firing Capability

One of the primary attractions of the Glock 18 is its full-automatic firing mode. This feature allows for rapid firing at a rate of up to 1,200 rounds per minute, a capability that sets it apart from most other handguns. The thrill and novelty of owning a firearm with such high firepower make the Glock 18 a coveted item among enthusiasts.

Historical Significance

The Glock 18 holds a unique place in firearm history. As one of the few pistols with a full-automatic mode, it represents a significant technological advancement in handgun design. Collectors and historians value the Glock 18 for its innovative features and its role in the evolution of modern firearms.

Versatility and Design

Like other Glock models, the Glock 18 is renowned for its reliability, durability, and ease of use. Its lightweight polymer frame, Safe Action System, and high-capacity magazines make it a versatile and effective firearm. The addition of the full-automatic mode and the availability of the compensated Glock 18C variant further enhance its functionality and appeal.

Limited Availability and Exclusivity

The scarcity of legally available Glock 18 models adds to its allure. Pre-1986 registered Glock 18s are rare and highly prized by collectors, making them a status symbol within the firearms community. The difficulty in legally acquiring a Glock 18 enhances its exclusivity and desirability.

Tactical Applications

For military and law enforcement professionals, the Glock 18’s full-automatic capability provides a tactical advantage in specific situations. Its ability to deliver rapid, controlled bursts of fire makes it suitable for close-quarters combat and other high-intensity scenarios. This practical utility ensures that the Glock 18 remains relevant and valuable for tactical applications.


The Glock 18 is remarkable due to its full-automatic firing capability and innovative design. Its classification as a machine gun under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986 significantly limits its availability to civilians, making it primarily accessible to law enforcement and military personnel.

For those with the appropriate licensing, purchasing a Glock 18 involves navigating a complex legal landscape and facing substantial costs.

Despite these challenges, the Glock 18 remains a sought-after item for its historical significance, tactical applications, and the exclusivity associated with its ownership. Whether viewed as a collector’s item or a tool for professional use, the Glock 18 continues to capture the fascination of firearm enthusiasts worldwide.