Mark HibbsPacking Pistols in Vienna

This little item was prompted by Andreas Persbo, executive director at Vertic, who yesterday afternoon filed a few comments to a post of mine on Facebook at the conclusion of the IAEA’s September Board of Governors meeting here in Vienna.

I had retold a bon mot pronounced by an ambassador during the board meeting on Wednesday, referring to his country’s reservations about a report which IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano had submitted to board members last month in anticipation of Agenda item 6b entitled “Safeguards Implementation at the State Level.”

The ambassador in question was one of 23 board members who spoke on September 9 under that agenda item. You’ll be hearing from me on this subject fairly soon. And in considerable detail and length as this important matter deserves.  But not today. One thing at a time. Der Reihe nach, as the locals say.

Sometimes our bilateral conversations move onto some, um… unrelated tangents. This was one of those cases. We got off the SLA and eventually Andreas touched upon security personnel at the IAEA and other U.N. family agencies, at which point he imparted: “I’ve learned never to ask a security guard about his side arm.”

Well, Andreas, I couldn’t resist.

When we return to the VIC next week for the IAEA’s 57th General Conference, the shooting iron we’ll see stuffed into holsters in the halls of the M Building will be a Glock 19.

The technical specifications are these.

It turns out that the Glock 19 is a pretty standard item in the arsenal of United Nations security personnel,  maybe just a tad on the petite side but nonetheless, according to its manufacturer, deemed by the U.S. Air Force trustworthy to provide “efficient defense in emergency situations.”

More or less everything mere mortals should want to know about this weapon can be found well-explained and demonstrated right here.

So, Andreas, your hunch yesterday about Glock was spot on. IAEA security guards pack the little 9mm number, made right here in Austria.





  1. Andreas Persbo (History)

    When I was interning at UNHQ more than a decade ago, there was this guard at the staff entrance who I really liked (formerly with the USMC). When I left HQ, he asked me what my plans were for the future. I said that I really enjoyed working for the UN, and that I would love to come back. His response was, “you’ll be back. You all come back”. Five years later, walking into the UN, the same guard told me something like, “I told you you’d be back. Welcome home.”

    I wish all of the Secretary-General’s guards could be like him.

    And no, I didn’t ask him about his side arm. Having once carried a FN-FNC myself in the service of the United Nations, I now that one gets suspicious when people ask you about your weapon. It happened to me once in Lebanon, but that’s a different story altogether.

    • mark (History)


      As I indicated in the post, I asked. (This was a clear case of deformation professionnelle). And I got a straightforward answer to my question. (That doesn’t always happen in Vienna as you are aware–!)

  2. John Schilling (History)

    I’ve actually had good results talking (tactfully) with security guards about their preferred handguns. Unless they are carrying Glocks. 9mm Glocks, now that the novelty value has worn off, are about the most boringly efficient sidearms around. With just about anything else, there’s a discussion to be had about why that instead of a Glock, and a chance to establish a “common membership in gun culture” connection that results in being treated like a human being. A Glock just says “I don’t care about any of that crap”.

    Mind you, as a card-carrying member of gun culture for most of my life, I wind up carrying a 9mm Glock whenever I have any utilitarian need for a sidearm. Feel free to ask me about any of my more interesting weapons, if the matter ever comes up.

    • mark (History)


      Thanks for this and BTW your comments to other posts which I have enjoyed. Two questions:

      1.) Does not “boring” in your words equate to “reliable”? So wouldn’t that explain the deep penetration of the global personnel security services market by Glock?

      2.) That being said, I would be tickled to hear from you what are the factors (lack of reliability in certain situations equating to risk/danger/thrills?) that make other arms more “interesting” (what does that mean?) than Glocks?

    • Cthippo (History)

      Sig-Saur P226 – I want the finest handgun available and I don’t care what it costs

      CZ-23 – I want Something that works well, but I’m on a budget.

      Taurus or Astra – I want to look like I carry the finest pistol in the world, but I really can’t afford one.

      Walther PPK – I’m a friendly guy who doesn’t really want to hurt anyone, even if they’re shooting at me.

      Colt .45 – Murica! Fuk yeah!

      Also, on a related note:

    • John Schilling (History)

      1. Yes, extremely reliable. Also simple to use, and the ergonomics are generally quite good. Accurate enough that only an expert will have any cause for complaint, powerful enough that anyone not wearing body armor will not long stand against it, and light enough that you won’t notice you are carrying it all day. And the logistics are also ideal – it’s not terribly expensive, it doesn’t really require maintenance unless horribly abused, and it uses ammunition back-compatible to the Imperial German Army of 1908 and now about as readily available as the AA battery.

      Basically, Gaston Glock approached pistol design with a clean sheet and no prior experience and tried to figure out how to make the ideal sidearm for the average policeman, soldier, or security guard using the technologies and materials of the early 1980s, and he got it exactly right. So now just about everyone’s standard issue sidearm is a Glock, a near-clone of a Glock, or whatever it is they were using ca. 1980 and haven’t gotten around to replacing with a Glock/Glock clone.

      2. What makes other weapons interesting, in the positive sense, is exceeding the utilitarian excellence of the Glock in some regard. There’s room for improvement in accuracy, for the few experts who can use it. In particular, the Glock’s simplicity of operation requires a combined trigger/safety that comes with a somewhat coarser trigger pull than you would otherwise like.

      You can obviously make the weapon more powerful, maybe to the extent of defeating increasingly typical light body armor, at the expense of either greater recoil or the use of more exotic ammunition (or both). Glock does offer models in other calibers for that market, and if I see that someone is carrying a Glock 20 (10mm caliber), that’s a definite conversation-starter. Ergonomics is of course somewhat a matter of taste; small-handed people in particular may not find most Glock models to be quite so excellent.

      And then there’s aesthetic concerns. Glocks have been famously described as “combat tupperware”; there’s room for a weapon that, even if it isn’t really superior, at least looks and feels like precision craftsmanship. There’s also a place for weapons that have a long and storied heritage but can still hold their own against a Glock; USMC Force Recon operators are not underarmed with their customized Colt M1911s, and yes, “1911” means what you think it does.

      3. Then there’s “interesting” in the Chinese-curse sense, which correlates with unreliable or at least finicky. And yes, there’s often a correlation between the two kinds of interesting; there’s a lot more stuff that the aforementioned US Marines have to get exactly right every time to keep their ancient[*], powerful, supremely accurate weapons going “Bang!” when they are supposed to and never when the aren’t. You probably wouldn’t want to give one of those weapons to a typical UN security guard, though I do trust that the UN security types at least know enough to know what they don’t know and so wouldn’t get in too much trouble.

      [*] Well, ancient underlying design. 21st century manufacture, and some 21st century accessories.

    • Captain Ned (History)

      @ John Schilling:

      Just how many of John Browning’s designs have ever gone out of production/widespread use?

    • George William Herbert (History)

      Captain Ned wrote:
      Just how many of John Browning’s designs have ever gone out of production/widespread use?

      Quickly perusing the history…

      He produced at least 12 commercially produced pistol designs, of which the 1911 and High Power are the only models still in production. The next to last was the Colt Woodsman .22 pistol produced from 1915-1977.

      He produced 5 commercially produced shotgun designs of which two are still in production, the Ithaca 37 and Auto-5 or A-5 shotgun.

      He produced 11 commercially produced rifle designs; the Winchester 1894 (’94) lever action rifle and SA-22 .22 rifle are the only ones still in production.

      He produced 4 machinegun designs; the M2 .50 caliber is still in production, and one can buy hobbyist-build-rate copies of the M1919 and M1917 machineguns (usually semi-automatic-only, now), but neither is in factory production.

      He produced the M-1918 BAR “automatic rifle”, the military 30-06 magazine fed light support machinegun. hobbyist-build-rate copies of the BAR which are semi-automatic-only are still in production now, but no series production.

      He produced the M4 37mm cannon. It was only produced during WW II.

  3. James (History)

    Glocks of one variety or another dominate U.S. law enforcement agencies. The FBI currently issues the Glock 23, which is the same as the Glock 19 except it is in the more powerful .40 caliber.

    Glocks are not for beginners, hence the term “Glock leg” stemming from the numerous accidents where people shot themselves or others in the leg.

  4. Shawn Hughes (History)

    I carry the Glock 22 (.40 cal) with a M3 light attached every day, except for a gig at an air base where the contract required the Beretta M9.
    The Sheriff’s Department where I served on the Bomb Squad and as head of the Technical and Electronic Surveillance unit ran a series of torture tests on the Glock (which, for gov purposes, are made in Georgia).
    They dropped them from one of the helicopters, immersed them in mud and sand, hot and cold… and they just fired. Not a lot of maintenance, not much upkeep, they just fire. The ergonomics are horrible if you have small hands and the triggers are mush, but they just fire. I can say unhesitatingly they are the AK of the pistol world.

  5. Shawn Hughes (History)

    I forgot to mention… when I work in uniform, I don’t mind a few questions about armament. I usually tell them I have one bullet in my pocket, or that the weapon is actually made of chocolate!


  6. kme (History)

    To me the more interesting question would be if any of the UN guards at the VIC has ever had cause to unholster their sidearm in anger.