The GLOCK Switch

Coming Soon To A Drive-By Shooting Near You ...
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A question I have received with increasing frequency from our readers is, “What is a GLOCK ‘switch’?” I’ve got a few answers, most of which you probably won’t want to hear.

Hit the Switch

Commonly known as a “switch,” “chip,” “button” and a host of other names, depending on which street gang or drug dealer you ask, these small devices are increasingly becoming a problem for cops and people who don’t like being hit by stray bullets. In a nutshell, the hereafter designated “switch” is a small device that replaces the slide cover plate and converts a standard GLOCK pistol into a machine pistol, similar in concept to the GLOCK 18. Some people claim the switch is a form of “auto-sear,” but this nomenclature is incorrect.

Patented in 1998 by Jorge A. Leon, the devices are small, cheap, easy to manufacture and simple to install. Critically, mere possession of a switch is a federal felony worth 10 years in the joint, but they are widely available through online retailers and from offshore sources, sometimes labeled as “airsoft switches.” You won’t be surprised to find the majority of them come from China. The devices are also fairly easy to produce if you have access to a 3D printer or basic machining tools.

The switch disconnects the trigger bar on the GLOCK, allowing the gun to keep making loud noises until you release the trigger or the magazine is empty. According to published reports, the cyclical rate of a switch-equipped GLOCK is somewhere in the gazillions, and a standard magazine dump takes less than one second. Most of the ones I’ve seen confiscated have some type of extended mag, the notoriously unreliable but flashy drum magazines being a favorite of criminals.

A trio of GLOCK switches from an online retailer who claims it is possible to own one legally.
You can — provided you’re one of the tiny handful of people in the U.S. with the necessary licenses.

So, what is the purpose of such a device? It’s simple: Lots and lots of bullets downrange in a hurry. For this mission, the GLOCK switch works very well. However, controllability and accuracy goes out the window, making the gun literally a spray-and-pray choice for the user. To you and me, this idea is an anathema and the last thing we want, but for criminal vermin, it works well.

To the typical sub-human gang member, who really cares if a few stray bullets go into a random toddler? You otherwise got your point across to your “peer group!” Drug dealers likewise favor the switches, not so much for shooting as for “flashing” or using it as a business prop, implying to customers and competitors alike that a double-deal will result in a shower of hot lead.


Educational Exhibit A

This is the circumstance where I first heard of switches. A few years ago, I got shanghaied onto the jury of a major federal drug trial. The defendants were three “gentlemen” who were supplying most of the methamphetamine to the hillbillies and speed freaks of the Indianapolis area until the feds got them good.

At the trial, one of the crimes listed was possession of a machine gun, the aforementioned GLOCK with a switch. Ignorant of the devices, I got a quick education on why they were fast becoming one of the most favored accessories of choice for lowlifes. Since then, they have become widely seen in both law enforcement and rap music.

Doing a little research on the internet, it’s pretty clear lots of semi-normal folks are curious about the devices. Forums are filled with lots of “I’d just like to see how they work” and “Those really sound cool; I’d like to try one once” comments. Let me address this particular segment of the gun-owning public because the concept of a GLOCK switch is admittedly attractive to the curious but hopefully law-abiding shooter.

Another version of a GLOCK switch from another online retailer.
Fit it to you favorite stolen GLOCK and you’re ready for the next drive-by shooting!

First, there is the whole felony thing. Just having a switch in your possession, not even attached to a firearm, is a felony. Rail about constitutional law all you want, but simply having one in your pocket or “hidden” in your gun safe means you are facing up to 10 years of hard time. I also assure you law enforcement officers consider these things on par with grenades, and they aren’t going to let you off with only a warning.

If you think you can safely print or build one or buy it anonymously online for a little testing, you’re mistaken. The postal service and other agencies track these things aggressively, and that small package from China or Russia might come with federal agents attached. Likewise, the websites which claim you can legally purchase one hang their hat on the caveat of “you must fill out the proper paperwork.” This is a complete fraud because only a handful of people within the United States are even eligible to possess a switch legally, and you probably aren’t one of those folks.

Just — don’t — do it.



Aside from the legal danger, think of the practical aspects. Machine pistols are hard to control. Unless you have a ported barrel and some type of foregrip — like the GLOCK 18 — you’ll never maintain reasonable control of the pistol once you hit the ‘giggle switch.’ You’ll end up with bullets going everywhere, which, after the first or second time, rapidly becomes ho-hum.

If you’re thinking a switch-equipped GLOCK might be just the ticket for home defense, don’t go there either. There is a chance you’ll hit the bad guy with your bullets, but there is also a chance you’ll shoot yourself, your spouse, kids, dog, neighbor, and nearby aircraft as you battle to control the gun as it dumps a dozen rounds in under a second. You’re far, far better off with a rifle, shotgun, semi-auto pistol — or maybe even a sword!

An airsoft gun fitted out with a drum magazine. If you add a GLOCK switch, this rig closely mimics
the current gang-banger and drug-dealer weapon of choice.

Yes, certain federal agencies reputedly carry the GLOCK 18, but their use is limited to very specific circumstances, and I’m not aware of even one solitary rumored real-world use of a machine pistol among agencies in the United States. As one writer also noted: “If the machine pistol were the best choice for killing something, all military services would field them.”

And finally, this might be hard to understand, but — even the fun is limited. You dump a bunch of rounds from a machine pistol and guess what? To do it again, you’ve got to load a whole bunch of magazines. After the second or third iteration, the “fun” turns into expensive drudgery. When you add in the facts you’re risking a decade behind bars merely for possession and can’t really effectively use it for defensive purposes anyway, the GLOCK switch is definitely a curious itch you don’t need to scratch.

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