Here is my commentary on Paul M. Barrett's book Glock: The Rise of America's Gun
In the early 1980sThe Austrian army needed a new sidearm. Concealed carry began a seismic shift from
forbidden to accepted, one US State at a time.The world, particuarly America, needed a modern,
high-capacity 9 milimeter pistol even though it didn't know it yet.
Gaston Glock stood at the confluence of these trends. Like many hyper-successful
businessmen, he had the right combination of lucky timing and ambition.
One such patch of luck occurred when he overheard a conversation between Austrian
army officers, discovering that their military was looking for a more modern sidearm.
Already a small-scale manufacturer, Glock brought together just the right tooling
and expertise. Never having made guns, or even fired that many before, as a designer
he was unencumbered by notions of "this is how it was always done, this is how it should be
done." Beginning with this tabula rasa, he received "wish list" input from military folk with
an interest in the results. After a fairly brief round of prototyping
Glock was ready to sell his creation: a simple, reliable firearm that quickly won
over the Austrian military and went on to dominate American law enforcement and civilian
It is a sterling example of function over form. To call a Glock "handsome"
would be quite the overstatement, lacking either either the pencil barreled
elegance of classic Smith and Wesson revolvers, or the slab-sided blue steeled
masculinity of the 1911.
But the damned thing works.
As a company Glock could hardly be in a better position. The polymer frame and minimal
parts content mean less precision machining to do and commensurate lower labor costs.
High margins *and* high volume give Gaston's firm amazing cash flow.
Spectacular cash flow hides a multitude of sins, and Barrett's book brings to light many
that can be tied to Glock's company and the manner in which it operates.
Volume sales deals closed with stip club outings; byzantine shell companies designed to
minimize taxes paid; internecine conflict within the company including a spectacularly
unsuccessful plot to murder Glock himself.
Not to mention some negligent discharge and weapon detonation incidents in which
the firm used its massive legal muscle to make sure the lawsuit payouts were parsimonious
and bad publicity minimal.
Tales of meteoric business success are often fun to read, and as someone who is definitely
a "gunnie" the book is doubly pleasurable.
I have mixed feelings about Barrett's book because even as it presents an intriguing
business story mixed with some adroitly told firearm history, it weaves in aspects
of the American gun culture, some not always positive.
When talking about the NRA's lobbying efforts during the Glock era, Barrett seems
to describe the organization as "no compromise." The NRA has often yielded ground
on firearm control legislation, earning itself the alternative moniker of "Negotiate
Unlike a lot of members of the "mainstream media" Barrett's writing
bears out some real research. In his writing, he makes sure to use proper terminology.
Also absent is a tone of contempt for shooting sports enthusiasts in the aggregate.
At the end of the day I think he's mildly bemused by the strength of the American affinity
for guns, while also not exactly sure what to do about "gun violence." I detected some support
for magazine capacity limits and possibly for gun registration.
I also admire his pluck in writing both his Businessweek stories on the company and the book itself -
Gaston Glock is a fairly enigmatic man, who spawned an equally enigmatic corporation whose byzantine
layers must have been difficult to penetrate.
I have a bit of backstory with the book's author.
I enjoyed his dryly factual Businessweek story about Glock as a company back in 2010,
and was upset at what seemed to be an anti-Glock, anti-gun "slam" piece published shortly
after the horrific Tucson shooting of Janurary 2011.
Businessweek published the letter I wrote in response to his story, but little did I know that
I would get to meet him and converse with him at a Reno, Nevada gathering called the Gun Blogger
It was an affable and most civilized conversation. Mr. Barrett actually enjoys shooting
and upon looking into the process for acquiring a New York City pistol permit, got a taste of just
how onerous and unpleasant gun control can be.
Sadly, I think that a lot of my fellow "gunnies" will pigeonhole this book simply because the author
is a New Yorker that writes for Bloomberg Businessweek.
I think that's unfortunate and unfair, because at the end of the day, it's an informative and entertaining
look into a company whose products bear the stamp of "Perfection," which is achieved so unevenly
as both a company and a gun. And despite both its good points and flaws, the love for the Glock