‘I Regret Filing That Patent’ – Creator of the ‘Glock Switch’ Speaks Out Against His Own Invention

Photo Credit: John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe / Getty Images
Photo Credit: John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe / Getty Images

Glock is one of the biggest name in handguns, with the Austrian company’s weapons available worldwide for military, police and civilian use. As of late, Glock handguns have come under scrutiny, given the number of shootings occurring in the United States. Many of the weapons used to commit these crimes have a “Glock switch” installed – this small addition turns the semi-automatic pistol into a fully-automatic one, giving it more sustained firepower.

Glock handgun in a hip holster
Man carrying a Glock handgun in a holster at the LOK HTS Shooting Club range in Krakow, Poland, 2022. (Photo Credit: Beata Zawrzel / NurPhoto / Getty Images)

The Glock switch – also known as an auto-sear – was invented by then-22-year-old Jorge Leon, of Venezuela. He’d hoped the quarter-sized device would help both military and police personnel in their counterterrorism efforts.

“I created my invention always looking for the future to help, to help the military, to help SWAT teams, to help like a tool,” he told ABC News in a 2024 interview. It should be noted that Leon’s device wasn’t the first auto-sear ever developed.

The way the switch works is simple: by attaching it to the back of a handgun’s slide, the operator is able to apply more force to the trigger bar, thus allowing for more than a single shot to be fired at once. To put its strength into perspective, a Glock with a device installed can fire upwards of 1,200 RPM – more than the US military-issued M4 Carbine.

According to Leon, he purposely provided the switch to law enforcement groups for cheap, meaning he made little in the way of profit, forcing him to stop production a few years ago.

Six Glock switches and five switch lifts placed together on a white surface
Glock switches and switch lifts seized by the ATF, 2023. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Leon was originally given a US patent for his invention, despite the Glock switch being deemed an illegal device by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), due to its classification as a machine gun (regardless of whether it’s installed). That, however, hasn’t stopped it getting into the hands of those who have just one thing in mind: crime.

The spread of the switch has only grown within the United States since Leon’s patent expired in 2016, meaning he has no legal way of preventing what ABC News calls “unscrupulous developers” from making their own for the black market. According to officials, this is as easy as using a 3D printer and sneakily importing them into the country.

“My technology was clearly defined in that patent, every dimension, every detail, the physics, the properties, how it works … so in this way, there was very explicit information there in the patent,” Leon explained to the outlet. “Anyone reading the patent could understand perfectly how it works.”

Close-up of a hand holding a 3D-printed Glock switch
Special Agent James O’Flaherty, firearms instructor coordinator for ATF field agents, shows a 3D-printed Glock switch, 2022. (Photo Credit: Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle / Getty Images)

The ATF reports that it’s made getting auto-sears and other machine gun conversion devices off American streets a main priority. According to a 2023 report, agents seized 5,454 guns with such switches between 2017-21, a 570-percent increase over a five-year period.

“I feel like I tried to do the correct thing to keep my technology in safe hands during all that time. But what happened was all the information that was available for everyone who wanted to print out the patent and to make very light, reverse technology and manufacture an illegal Glock switch,” Leon told ABC News.

“We have to find a way to control this unleashed bad thing that occurred, joined together with the bad design of a Glock pistol and with the stolen technology of the US patent that belonged to me,” he added.

The “bad design” he’s referring to is the user’s ability to manipulate the handgun’s trigger bar, which is presumably an oversight on Glock’s part. Prompted by the increased criminal use of his device, Leon wrote a letter to the company’s general counsel, Carlos Guevara, in the hopes of prompting Glock to adapt its design, but he’d not received to response by the time ABC News had published its article.

Glock handgun on display
Glock pistol for sale at Redstone Firearms in Burbank, California, 2022. (Photo Credit: Kyle Grillot / Bloomberg / Getty Images)

“After seeing and reading about all those deaths, those unnecessary deaths of youngsters, of police officers, of broken families. I don’t feel nice about that, I don’t feel good,” Leon revealed. “I regret filing that patent because … my technology, which was very well protected at that time, is free for everybody.”

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He added that he’s made it his life’s mission to rectify the bad his Glock switch has caused. “If I am going to invest my time in something, the time I have left, I want to do it for the right causes. I want to do it for something that will promote life,” he said. “This is my word of commitment that I am looking forward to helping and cooperating with a solution because the American people don’t deserve this. They don’t deserve this crime rising because of the full-auto.”

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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