Based on fifteen years of research, Glock is the riveting story of the weapon that has become known as American’s gun. Today the Glock pistol has been embraced by two-thirds of all U.S. police departments, glamorized in countless Hollywood movies, and featured as a ubiquitous presence on prime-time TV. It has been rhapsodized by hip-hop artists, and coveted by cops and crooks alike.
Created in 1982 by Gaston Glock, an obscure Austrian curtain-rod manufacturer, and swiftly adopted by the Austrian army, the Glock pistol, with its lightweight plastic frame and large-capacity spring-action magazine, arrived in America at a fortuitous time. Law enforcement agencies had concluded that their agents and officers, armed with standard six-round revolvers, were getting "outgunned" by drug dealers with semi-automatic pistols. They needed a new gun.
When Karl Water, a firearm salesman based in the U.S. first saw a Glock in 1984, his reaction was, “Jeez, that’s ugly.” But the advantages of the pistol soon became apparent. The standard semi-automatic Glock could fire as many as 17 bullets from its magazine without reloading (one equipped with an extended thirty-three cartridge magazine was used in Tucson to shoot Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others). It was built with only 36 parts that were interchangeable with those of other models. You could drop it underwater, toss it from a helicopter, or leave it out in the snow, and it would still fire. It was reliable, accurate, lightweight, and cheaper to produce than Smith and Wesson’s revolver. Made in part of hardened plastic, it was even rumored (incorrectly) to be invisible to airport security screening.
Filled with corporate intrigue, political maneuvering, Hollywood glitz, bloody shoot-outs—and an attempt on Gaston Glock’s life by a former lieutenant—Glock is at once the inside account of how Glock the company went about marketing its pistol to police agencies and later the public, as well as a compelling chronicle of the evolution of gun culture in America.
At age 50, Gaston Glock was manufacturing knives and bayonets for the Austrian army in his garage, when in 1980 he learned the army wanted a replacement for its antiquated pistol. With an okay from the minister of defense, he took on the project: "That I knew nothing was my advantage." After consulting with experts, he hired technicians and in 1982 launched his lightweight Glock 17, sometimes called the "plastic pistol" because of its polymer frame. American police officials wanted a new handgun, and civilians gravitate toward what the professionals carry, so Glock scored a bonanza. Die Hard 2 gave the Glock tremendous public exposure in 1990, and it was featured in films throughout that decade and embraced by hip-hop stars. U.S. gun makers, who had once scoffed at the Glock, now felt threatened. When Smith & Wesson copied the gun's design, Glock sued. Taking aim with a full arsenal of such anecdotes, Barrett traces the events that made Gaston Glock a billionaire. Assistant managing editor of Bloomberg Businessweek, Barrett (American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion) is right on target, delivering a well-oiled, fact-packed, and fast-paced history of the Glock, surveying its crafty marketing and its huge impact on the American gun industry.