“The girl, the guns, the money and liquor—and at the center of it all was this Austrian engineer none of us knew very well.” Former NRA lawyer Robert Ricker should read Glock, The Rise of America’s Gun, in which his quote appears. Ricker won’t be any wiser about Gaston Glock’s psychological motivations, but he’ll become intimately familiar with the Austrian engineer’s dirty laundry. Glock’s bad behavior, and the extra-legal shenanigans of those around him, could fill a washing line from Deustch-Wagram, Austria to Smyrna, Georgia . . .

Bribery, corruption, extortion, prostitution, money laundering, tax evasion, perjury, adultery, sexual harassment—you name it, Glock’s got it. Gaston Glock’s progress from a shed-based car radiator manufacturer with a questionable past to an international man of mystery banking billions on the back of a plastic pistol is a story worthy of Kitty Kelly.

Too bad she didn’t write it. Paul M. Barrett’s book doesn’t break out the eye-opening Glock gossip until Chapter 14 “My Way.” To get to the good stuff a conscientious reader must first negotiate a rambling if comprehensive narrative about America’s recent firearms history and Glock’s meteoric progress within it.

After wandering in the polymer pistol wilderness, the personal revelations arrive much like the rubber hammer wielded by 67-year-old former professional wrestler and French Foreign Legionnaire Jacques Pecheur upside Gaston’s head during a failed assassination attack orchestrated by his chief tax avoidance specialist.

In this excerpt, an embezzling exec’s decided he’s had enough of his employer’s imperious ways. Paul F. Jannuzzo, a hard-drinking Glock marketing maven who bribed thousands of law enforcement officials into buying tens of thousands of guns (while subsidizing an Atlanta strip club), drops by Gaston’s pad with an armful of damning corporate files.

At this point, Glock stood up and left the room. Remaining with [Paul F.] Jannuzzo in the kitchen was Peter Manown, the German-speaking American lawyer who handled Glock’s personal business in the United States. The next thing Jannuzzo and Manown heard was the racking of the slide of a semiautomatic handgun. Gaston Glock had loaded a round into the chamber.

“Paul, did you hear that?” asked a rattled Manown.

Jannuzzo didn’t seem scared. He patted his ankle, allowing Manown to see that had a holster there and a pistol of his own. It might have been a scene out of a bad thriller, if not for the fact that the guns and the clashing egos were real.

Gaston Glock returned to the table with a black plastic pistol protruding under his belt. “I didn’t know if we were going to have a shootout at the O.K. Corral, or what,” Manown said later.

There was more shouting and some finger-pointing, but in the end, neither man pulled his gun. Jannuzzo scooped up his files and left, bellowing at Glock: “You’re history!”

TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia will seize on the crucial question in this sad saga: why didn’t Gaston carry a Glock with a round in the chamber? They’ll be interested to learn that Glock was unarmed during the aforementioned assassination attempt.

And? I’m sure Glock-owning “true believers” will prove impervious to criticism of the master’s gun handling or salacious gossip about his private life; they have an unshakeable, unmistakable belief in Gaston’s genius and the “perfection” of his brainchild.

The company’s unabashed ambition—including [allegedly] employing gun guru Massad Ayoob as a consultant to quell his public distaste for their “light” trigger—is besides the point. Glock guys and gals are hypnotized by the “truth” of the company owner’s repeated assertion that “our system functions without a flaw.”

Barrett’s book is unlikely to get Glockistas to reassess their faith—or please them on other levels. While Glock isn’t bad on the technical side of the story and makes the obvious connection between the gunmaker’s U.S. success and American anti-gun hysteria, the Bloomberg writer (yes, he works for America’s top gun grabber) goes too far. He can’t resist injecting his “moderate” views on gun control into the text.

Here, Barrett upbraids Glock for not selling out to the Clinton administration in 2000:

Lost in the process was a unique opportunity for an industry, or at least some industry leaders, to agree to police their conduct more vigorously.

As in limiting sales to one gun at a time, keeping records of buyers, increase trigger pull resistance and limiting magazines to ten rounds. If the author wants Glock enthusiasts to buy his book, supporting gun control is not the way to go about it. There’s no mistaking Barrett’s position. Clock this from his final chapter “The Impact of the Austrian Pistol”:

The scale of the bloodshed in Tuscon, like that at Virginia Tech and Luby’s, presents the strongest possible evidence that a restriction on magazine size makes sense. Such a limit would not stop a Loughner or Cho from attacking, but it could reduce the number of victims. Only six states—California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York—have their own limits on large magazines. A national ten-round cap seems like a logical compromise that lawful gun owners could easily tolerate.

Barrett also throws his weight behind passing laws to address boss Bloomberg’s pet peeve: “closing the gun show loophole” (mandating FBI background checks for private sales) and “ballistic fingerprinting” (creating a system to trace spent cartridges to a particular gun).

I don’t want to tackle the folly of those propositions here. Suffice it to say, Barrett’s unnecessary gun control pronouncements threaten to put him in Smith & Wesson’s post-Clinton capitulation shoes. There aren’t a whole lot of firearms enthusiasts who’d be comfortable supporting a writer who supports their political enemies.

I don’t think they’d be missing much. While authoritative, Glock doesn’t address Glock’s success in America in a coherent, engaging narrative. And by that I mean the gun. As for the gun’s inventor, Glock offers a tantalizing glimpse of the man behind the curtain. But the enigmatic Austrian remains a curious character, a wildly successful gunmaker who fully deserves a more probing biography.

[Glock, The Rise of America’s Gun will be available in January 2012]

27 Responses to Book Review: Glock, The Rise of America’s Gun

  1. I’ll admit that Glocks are great guns, but they sure are ugly. I’d rather pay triple the price for a beautiful Wilson like RF’s than carry an ugly ass glock.

  2. I don’t mind the look. The reliability is legendary. The price is damn near “everyman” territory. For me, however, glocks hold no mystery – the ergos are 100% wrong for my hand.

    Gaston’s story is a modern-day tall tale; this might be a fun read.

    • If Hollywood wasn’t so damn PC and only interested in ignorantly presenting guns for violent sensationalism then I suspect a good film could be made about Anton and the rise of Glock.

  3. America’s Gun? Are you kidding me? Smith & Wesson maybe. Colt maybe. But Glock? No way. We buy a lot of Glocks, but that does not make it America’s Gun any more than Toyota is America’s Car.

  4. Glock is not “America’s Gun.”

    Winchester’s 1873 model (the gun that won the West), Colt Peacemaker, JMB’s 1911, arguably deserve the title “America’s Gun” before Glock.

  5. Nope, not America’s gun.

    I love Glocks: Best reliability of any handgun. M&P is a close second.
    I hate Glocks: Feels like a 2×4. Butt ugly, but gorgeous compared to the Rhino revolver.

    My hate for Glocks is stronger than my love for them. However, if they fit my hand, that would be reversed.

  6. Absolutely not America’s Gun. The American lever-actions, classic single-action wheel guns, and SxS shotguns (that provided food and protection to families for a long time) deserve that title. Heck, the Gatlin Gun is more America’s Gun. Glock may be among the most currently popular and reliable modern-era pistols, however, quality reliable revolvers are the most reliable of handguns.

  7. Glock has become the gun of American law enforcement, not the gun of a America. The reason that for Glock’s success is cost. Colt, S&W H&K and SiG all make outstanding handguns but they are more costly then a Glock. I might go out and spend $1k+ on a handgun but a large police department has to hundreds of weapons. They don’t have that kind of cash. While the Glock is a quality and reliable weapon it feels like Tupperware to me.

    • Glocks feel like Tupperware but Smiths and HKs do not? Hows that? The M&P has a polymer frame. HK? Yep, same deal. The HK USP, P2000, P30, and 45 are all polymer framed pistols. In fact, HK’s VP70 was the first plastic pistol. Too bad it had a horrendous trigger. Unfortunately for Sig, they can’t make a polymer framed pistol to save their lives.

      As for Colt? The 1911 is a dog that has had it’s day. There are a multitude of pistols available that have more capacity, higher reliability, less weight, and are less armorer intensive than the 1911. Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting them, but I’ve seen more malfunctions out of 1911s than any other type of firearm. Barring .22LR chambered semi-autos, of course.

      • There is “polymer” and then there is polymer. In the rifle market Savage polymer is lot better feeling then Remington and I own a Remington 700 in plastic. As rule I don’t like plastics in guns it makes them feel like toys. The plastic in the Springfield XDm feel a lot better then a Glock because of the texturing.

        Why the rant on the 1911 I never mentioned a 1911 but since you did I will tell that my Springfield has never failed to operate properly. I have had only one FtF and that was the first round in an old after market magazine. The may be an old design but it has stood the test of time.

        • You said “Colt”. I presume you were not talking about Single Action Army revolvers, that being about the only non-1911 pistol Colt markets. I loved the Diamondback, Python, and Anaconda too, sadly, they’re long gone from Colt’s production line-up.

          The 1911 stood the test of time, until better pistols became available. Pistols with feed ramps on the barrel, with external extractors, double stack magazines, superior lock up mechanisms, less complicated fire control groups, no goofy grip safety, and much, much better sights.

          Now it’s popularity has every bit as much to do with nostalgia (it is cool) and aesthetics (it can be very pretty) as it does with the pistol’s unquestionable good ergonomics. A grip angle isn’t too hard to copy, FN and HK have done a pretty good job making modern pistols that point like a 1911.

          I think my theory, in general, stands up to scrutiny. The 1911 is popular because of it’s history, not because of it’s capability. If it was introduced today, no one would be particularly impressed with it.

  8. How can you guys claim this or that pistol/rifle should be “America’s gun” without mentioning the AR-15/M16? Second only to the StG. 44, it’s probably the most revolutionary rifle of the last hundred years. It was fifty years ahead of it’s time. So far ahead, in fact, that there are some people that don’t “get” it to this day.

    Just look how many rifle programs have come and gone without producing a weapon fit to replace it. SPIW, ACR, OICW, XM8, SCAR (limited), and now the Individual Carbine and LSAT. Just look how many walnut and blued steel combat rifles were made after the M16. Not damn many. Probably just one, if you count the AK-74 as new. I do not.

  9. From the get-go I interpreted Mr. Barrett’s title as simply a pithy way of summarizing the way the gun quickly dominated law enforcement and civilian sales in this country.
    It’s also a use of irony as Gaston Glock applied a large dose of American-style mechanical and marketing ingenuity to displace stalwarts like Smith and Wesson.
    Glocks are pervasive in popular culture, seemingly the weapon of choice of “gangstas” both self-proclaimed and actual, even as cheap junk guns still fill up police evidence rooms.
    He even makes a good point about “firearms prohibited” signage, particularly at airports – the silhouetted pistol is clearly a Glock in most cases.
    Finally, it’s also a bit of recycling. His January “slam” against Glocks in Businessweek was titled by his *editors* as “The Killing Machine.” His original title: “America’s Gun.”

  10. i know this posting is old, but im gonna chime in. I recently read this (2 slow days at work) (i didnt contribute to the author either). Anyway, i realize alot of people will say that the Glock isnt americas gun, but i have a feeling the title was meant literally, but figuratively.

    the book covered the history which i found interesting. Then it started in on the sales explosion. how the couldnt import them fast enough, and how the “bad press” fueled sales. it also covers how during the AWB they offered to trade old police glocks, for brand new glocks to police departments straight up. And then how they then sold those old, used, pre-ban mags for a profit.

    Based on this book, you can see why it is titled Americas Gun. It may not be made in america but its popularity is undeniable. Glock outsells all others and is carried by many law enforcement officers. Thats why it is at least figuratively “Americas Gun”.

    i will say that the book was a decent and informative read, but the final chapter where the author started with his opinions, i skipped. Glad i read it.

    note: Im not a glock fanboy, dont even own one. i just like guns.

  11. Gaston Glock himself shared in a 1986 interview with American Rifleman that he always pocket-carried The Glock pistol in condition-3 (unchambered). This is in keeping with his lawyer’s recollection quoted above from the book of hearing Gaston’s pistol slide being racked and it subsequently appearing tucked inside his belt when Glock returned to the meeting.

    The Glock is a combat weapon designed for military use and no changes were made when it was introduced to the civilian market. Thus Glock user manuals have always warned civilians against carrying Glock pistols with a round in the chamber.

    While many argue correctly that Glocks were designed to be carried condition-0, they fail to consider that Glocks were not designed to be carried by civilians, or even LEO’s for that matter.

    The addition of manual safety, stronger trigger spring, full retention holster systems, etc., are some examples of Glock’s design being adapted to civilian or law enforcement use.

    Nevertheless when not employed in combat conditions, the Glock is not designed to be carried with a round in the chamber regardless of internal or external safety measures present or taken.

    This is not an opinion, this is the manual of arms from the manufacturer. Personally I would not argue with Gaston Glock about Glock.

  12. I recently read this book, I picked it up from the library. Not knowing what to expect from it, I’m glad I didn’t buy it once I got to the books final chapter with all of the “common sense” reforms he pines for. What I most enjoyed about this book is that it is the tale of the people who launched the company. The fix was in with the design, but the tale of how it made them rich and exposed their character is interesting. I can tell the author wrote this book over a long period of time. For much of the book, he writes about magazines as being “clips”. At one point he trains with Massad Ayoob and from that point forward in the book he correctly refers to “clips” as magazines.

    More than anything, for people who were not paying attention to politics during the late 80’s and 90’s, it provides an insightful look into the world of utopian politicians clamoring for control. Time after time the pols embarrass themselves by leaping to action with no information and failing in the political arena when opposed by those with understanding.

    The one thing I absolutely did not like about the book is that Barrett perpetually speaks of the NRA with venom and how zealous they are, yet he never really illustrates or substantiates his viewpoint that it is “normal” to dislike the NRA.

    The thing I find most interesting is the timing of the proliferation of concealed carry under the assault weapons ban, leading to widespread popularity of concealed carry weapons such as the G26/G27. That, and the fact that Glock used it’s police trade programs to enrich itself.

    The book does point out that while the company suffered moral decay of it’s chief executive and most of his officers, the gun sold itself. It’s a testament to the design more than anything.

    As for “America’s Gun”, I believe he’s correct in that the striker fired polymer pistol is likely the most prolific modern fire arm and Glock is synonymous with that (he cites statistics in the book, handguns have the largest market share of firearms sold in the US in the modern era.) The Glock is the standard to which all polymer guns are judged. It represents a near perfect blend of quality, reliability, and value.

  13. I will say as someone who read the book, the author did a fair job of trying to stay in the middle of the gun debate. A couple of times when he would write what was quoted above, he’s also give the opinion of the other side of the debate (ie: The correct one). He also called to task anti and named organizations like the Violence Policy Center and a couple others because they would intentionally distort the reality to play on heart strings (like all assault weapons are full auto or the push to ban evil looking guns because they were evil).

    I did wish he spent more time on Glock’s growing pains and problems with certain variants, but that was probably ordered by the publisher to keep the page count down.

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