Manuals have taken the collector world by storm in the last couple years. This is a comparison of early variants and is limited to the early manuals that would bring the most at auction and hold the most interest to a collector.
**UPDATE: A small number of P80 manuals dated to 1983 and written in German have found their way over to the US. I do not own one to take photographs, but hope to add in the near future. A recent eBay sale broke all manual records closing for $2551.01 in June of 2022. My expectation is that they will only appreciate in value from here.
The earliest civilian guns came with one of these undated manuals with German being the primary language. The very first guns after the prototypes and the P80 models made for Austria were still serialized beginning with an “AA001” format. While it is hard to get accurate information for European guns, it is believed that this would be the manual issued at least through the A prefix guns that were not US bound. The manuals that have made their way stateside now are usually found with guns originally sold in Europe and later imported to the US (the pictured manual came with a very nice BE-prefix model 17). As more examples are made known, I hope to clarify the cut-off for dates and serial ranges but the non-dated “pre-85” or “Euro Import” manual is by far the rarest in the US.
While the ’85 manual isn’t, technically speaking, the earliest printed, it IS the earliest one that’s likely to be found in the US. The early early guns would have come with this Nov 1985 printed manual featuring a Gen 1 G17 on front and back–only a few were imported before Glock US was established and most came with this manual as the ’86 version actually had a shorter run before giving way to the ’87. At the time, the 17 was the only model produced which is why it only has that model number listed. The ’85 manual was standard up until the tail end of the B-prefix of guns by my best estimates.
The second US version has a printed date of August 1986 but is otherwise very similar. New models were not released until 1988 so the ’86 manuals still just feature the Glock 17. I have not personally compared side-by-side to see what the updates were from ’85 to ’86, but I would hazard a guess that it was some legalese that the lawyers asked the company to update. While the ’86 manual is later in production, there is speculation that it is harder to find than the ’85 variant. This kind of information would be hard to quantify definitively, but the anecdotal evidence is that ebay listings seem to feature ’85 manuals more often than ’86. Take that for what it’s worth. The ’86s gave way to ’87s prior to the D-prefix guns.
Not much had changed for the models available by 1987, but there was a short window before verbiage in the how-tos had to be updated again. Just six months after the Aug ’86, yet another “update” was released which would not be updated until new models were released the following year. This is the last manual to only feature the model 17 and was first issued with later C-prefix guns. These first four variants feature the same AC prefix model 17 gun on the front and back cover which would change with the release of the March ’88 series and new models being released.
The growth of the Glock corporation was truly phenomenal and was also unexpected. As has been noted before, Gaston originally intended to only make one model pistol: the Glock 17. But with the exponential growth came the capital to make expansions as well as the demand for other sizes, calibers, and configurations. By 1988, there were actually four models in production–still all 9×19 caliber, but three sizes and one full-auto variant (the 18). The basic function of the semi guns being the same, a single manual was printed for all three models. This was a period of rapid change for the company and that is reflected in the manual production. There are four different versions of the “March 1988” form–clearly not all printed at the same time or even in March of 1988. Each version has a different combination of front/back photography and offers a glimpse of the development of guns as the photographs progress from all Gen 1 guns to all Gen 2 guns. The first version is the hardest to find of the four.
Version 2 of the ’88 is very similar to version 1 but the rear photograph has been updated. The orientation of the guns is reversed, but astute observers will also notice that the model 19 pictured is now a Gen 2 gun rather than a 1. The only Gen 1 19s made were not a polished finished product and Glock was quick to replace them with Gen 2s both in production and literature.
Version 3 was updated incrementally again, but they only updated the rear photograph. It now featured all three models with Gen 2 production, but the front cover was left the same. It’s not known how long the various mixed message manuals were used before transitioning to the full Gen 2 photos manual below.
The final version of the ’88 finally caught up to current production with a Gen 2 gun featured on the front cover and also all three variants on the back. This version will be more common to find simply because things stayed relatively fixed for the next two years when Glock released new models again and new calibers.
A special note if you want to go into the depths of manual collecting. There are known examples of the 3/88 manual that were originally issued with 17L guns and included a red stamp on the front cover that reads, “CAUTION: THIS PISTOL IS SUPPLIED WITH A LIGHT 3.5 LBS TARGET TRIGGER.” The version I have is a V1 manual that came with my 1st Gen 17L, S/N DA026US. It was complete with original warranty card, tupperware, and even purchase receipt from the original owner so I’m confident in it’s originality. However, there does not appear to be consistency in whether this stamp was applied to all 17L guns and, as of now, the collector community has not come to a consensus on which versions of the ’88 manual were stamped. All other 17Ls in my personal collection came with manuals that were NOT stamped–though they do have a lighter trigger connector. The only observed sale of a manual like the one pictured sold in excess of $1,000 at auction in 2020.
No changes were released for a couple years as not much changed during the ’88-’90 with Glock production. Gen 2s were very popular and plans began developing for more calibers and models which culminated with their release in 1991. You can see the extra model numbers listed on the front cover.
A little over a year later, a further revision was issued. This pattern continued throughout Glock’s history, but the later nineties and following manuals have not captured a significant collector following as of yet. While it may not be common to find the 91 manual listed on ebay, it can usually be had for around $25 as compared to the 85 that consistently sells over $1,000. I expect that as the collector community grows, the market for later manuals will grow with it. The ’91 listed above came original with a YE prefix gun which places it in Nov ’91 production though gun production and manual dates do not necessarily correspond.
More manuals will be added to this list as I acquire and photograph them (some are already in the collection, I just haven’t had time to photograph). The above listed manuals encompass the most rare and, thus, valuable issues and are the ones to keep an eye out for. If you happen upon one, shoot me a message!