What’s a Glock Switch, and Is It Legal?

The term Glock Switch has been trending rather high lately. Even Google Trends shows a steep increase in interest. Recently, they’ve been the subject of numerous news stories, and the term has found its way into rap music en mass. It’s nuts to see the rise of these devices. At one point, Amazon sold these switches. However, those were conveniently advertised for “Airsoft”. I’ve gone to several Chinese-based e-commerce websites, and a quick search made them very easy to find. If I could get one for a mere $18, why wouldn’t I? 

What’s a Glock Switch?

A Glock switch is a device that attaches to the rear of a Glock pistol and converts the weapon to full automatic. Jorge Leon patented the first Glock switch in 1996. Glock makes a full auto Glock or did at one time. The Glock 18 machine pistol was designed for the Austrian counter-terrorist unit, EKO Cobra. They also apparently used these guns to stress-test Glock components. 

Glock switch ad
Here’s a big hint. Glock doesn’t make Glock Switches

These Glock Switches are designed to convert a regular, semi-auto Glock to fully automatic. It bears mentioning that Glock never built or produced these switches. These switches are auto-sears made by external companies. They work by applying force to a semi-auto Glock’s trigger bar that prevents it from limiting fire to semi-auto. Most of these switches make the Glock capable of selective fire.

The name switch comes from a bar at the rear of the switch. The cross-bolt design moves left or right to choose between full auto and semi-auto fire. Also, these overseas-produced Glock switches are not licensed from patents. 

Are Glock Switches Legal? 

Well, that’s a complicated answer. For the average gun owner, no, they are not. A Glock switch is an auto sear, so its mere existence counts as a machine gun. In 1986, the Hughes Amendment prevented the private ownership of newly produced machine guns. This means the only machine guns that are transferrable to an unlicensed individual must have been produced prior to 1986. 

These Chinese-made, often 3D-printed switches were not produced or registered prior to 1986, so they cannot be legally transferred to an individual. That doesn’t mean that all Glock switches are technically illegal. If you possess a Type 7 FFL, which makes you a manufacturer of firearms other than destructive devices, you could legally create your own Glock switch. 

Glock 18
Glock made their own machine pistol.

Dealers and manufacturers cannot legally transfer switches to the average gun owner. However, proper licensing is why you will see some legal full-auto Glock firearms.

So, are they legal? For most people, no, and they are only legal in very few circumstances. Furthermore, Chinese imports introduce an entirely new web of import laws and license necessities these E-commerce websites don’t follow. 

The Rise of the Glock Switch 

The term is even the title of a song that seems to be doing well. Lil Zay Osama, a rapper, left a Glock 22 equipped with a switch in a New York City Uber. Meanwhile, Rapper 24Lik was arrested in Detroit carrying a Glock with a switch. Young Thug experienced the same fate. 

Numerous police departments are reporting finding Glocks equipped with switches across the country. This includes states with extreme levels of gun control, like the aforementioned New York. I don’t have TikTok, and the idea of installing Chinese Spyware on my phone makes me nervous. Yet, I know a Zoomer with no such fears, and we searched the term. It’s nuts the flagrancy at which folks will show these off on their guns with faces clearly visible. 

kid with glock swtich
Don’t TikTok your crimes, even if the law is anti-2A.

That’s bizarre to me. If you are going to commit a federal crime with the possibility of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, then you might want to be at least a little discreet about it. These switches are used in crimes. Several viral videos show Glock’s fired full auto during street gunfights. 

In 2019, the ATF reportedly recovered thousands of these devices imported from China. How did they know? Well, those Chinese e-commerce websites just told them who ordered them and where they went. This resulted in several arrests. The United States isn’t the only palace where these switches have turned up. They’ve were also found in Canada, Toronto, Philippines, Australia, and beyond. 

DC photo of full auto gun in car
Glock switches are getting lots of Federal attention.

They’ve spread far and wide due to the Chinese market and their affordability. Eighteen bucks isn’t a whole lot of cash. The installation isn’t difficult either. This makes for easy startup for an enterprising importer/exporter. Although it’s unadvisable, the ATF seems to be fairly proactive at tracking down purchasers of Glock switches. 

Do They Work? 

Tough to say. I couldn’t review them as some kind of long-term review because they are quite illegal. They most certainly allow your weapon to fire in full auto. Is it a long-term item that will work forever? With the low price, it’s cheap and won’t last. Although I’m sure there are better alternatives, the switch probably compromises a Glock’s reliability. 

You’ll have to deal with an insanely high rate of fire. At 1,200 rounds per minute, that’s the equivalent of an MG 42. This also requires a magazine that feeds the gun fast enough, which might be tricky with aftermarket Glock mags. We will see increased wear on guns using full auto. 

glock switches wish
Don’t buy them from those Chinese websites. The ATF will find out.

In terms of effectiveness, I don’t rate it very high. I’ve had the chance to shoot a full-auto Glock. It was completely legal and owned by a properly licensed organization at an industry range day. They loaded a mere five rounds into the gun and also equipped it with a stock. Even with a stock, the weapon was nearly impossible to control. 

A lightweight firearm firing full automatic without a stock is incredibly difficult to control beyond the first round. The shooter’s aim carries off target quickly. A video from Puerto Rico showed a group of men firing full auto Glocks at another group and essentially wasting ammo. 

The real danger isn’t to the target but to everyone around the target. Bullets travel and these are fired erratically without much control. There is a reason why machine pistols have never been very successful with military or police forces. 

The World of Full Auto Firearms 

The five rounds I fired from that full-auto Glock were admittedly fun. Sadly, obtaining something like that is next to impossible to do unless Federal Prison is a decent trade-off for the fun. I don’t think so. A legal alternative is the Franklin Armory binary Glock trigger. The trigger pull and release fires the gun. It’s not full auto, but it’s still a lot of fun. 

My advice — if you find a Glock switch for sale from China and aren’t a Type 07 FFL, stay away. I can disagree with the Hughes Amendment and the NFA while advising you not to break a law with a harsh penalty. 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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