I-Team: What’s a “Glock switch?” Small illegal device turning popular handguns into machine guns

DAYTON — It’s about the size of a quarter and can quickly turn some models of Glock handguns into an illegal machine gun.

The devices are known as “Glock switches” on the streets and they’re popping up right here in the Miami Valley.

The News Center 7 I-Team’s lead investigative reporter, John Bedell, looked into how they’re getting here and what federal and local law enforcement are doing to get these deadly devices off our streets.

Unless you know what you’re looking for, a gun equipped with an illegal Glock switch looks like a regular semi-automatic handgun. But it acts and sounds like a machine gun. That’s because that’s exactly what the ATF says it is. Federal agents showed the I-Team how one pull of the trigger suddenly emptied an entire extended magazine – containing 19 rounds – in less than two seconds.

The ATF recently gave the I-Team a rare and up-close look at the devices. It is not an official product, even though it has a logo. “So this little switch here on the back (of the slide): even though it says ‘Glock,’ it wasn’t manufactured by Glock,” ATF Special Agent James Nash said. “So that needs to be said: that this is not a Glock product.”

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On the streets, they’re called “Glock switches” or just “switches.” It’s an illegal aftermarket add-on to some models of the popular handgun make.

Criminals get them usually by ordering them online. “You can buy them for $10.00 all the way up to a couple hundred dollars,” Nash said. “Depends on who’s selling them and how bad somebody wants it.”

Just having one is a federal crime and can earn you 10 years in prison. The mere possession of one is not a state crime in and of itself here in Ohio. However, having one in your possession while you commit another crime is an automatic firearm specification in the Buckeye State that can land you in state prison for at least six years.

Cases involving these dangerous devices are now popping up in the Miami Valley. A judge recently sentenced a man for having one in Springfield. The I-Team talked to police about their investigation and to prosecutors about the plea deal.

Clark County court documents show Herbert Ingram, III had a Glock switch on a stolen handgun in May. Right now, he’s serving a nine-year prison sentence after taking a plea deal.

“Earlier this year, we took two of these off the streets,” Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Driscoll said. Driscoll added the switches are a concern, “Because of the way it fires it’s very hard to control. And so instead of having shots going where the person intends them to go, the shots tend to fly all over the place.”

2022 marked the first time Springfield police saw the first Glock switch in their community. “We actually have some surveillance video from incidents here in the city where an entire extended magazine (was) emptied in a second and a half,” Springfield Police Division Sgt. James Byron said. “So, you could (shoot) 20, 30 rounds in a second-and-a-half.”

When SPD officers found a Glock switch for the first time on a gun this past January, officers didn’t know what it was. “Since then, there’s been a lot of training passed around the division, photographs, explanations of how they work, what to look for,” Sgt. Byron said. “So officers are aware that they’re out there.”

The I-Team got a hold of U.S. District Court records that show federal prosecutors have two additional Glock switch cases in the Miami Valley. They charged two men with “possession of a machinegun,” in separate cases in July.

“You can own any type of machine gun that is pre-1986,” Special Agent Nash said. “But anything that’s manufactured after 1986 must be owned by the military, law enforcement, or an individual with a special occupational tax from the ATF.”

The ATF is working to shut down web sites and social media pages where Glock switches are being sold. The agency is also working to stop the shipment of the devices.

“I would say that this is considered a priority to ATF – it’s one priority,” Nash said. “The majority of what we’re seeing right now (is) they’re being imported into the United States. So whether it be from China or Russia, we’ve seen different countries that are importing these type of things.”

It’s an ongoing battle to get the lethal switches off the streets and keep our community safer.

Again, Glock does not make these devices. The I-Team reached out to Glock for comment. So far, we have not heard back.

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