A Bloomberg BusinessWeek editor takes expert aim at Glock—the man, the company, the handgun.
Before it was “America’s gun,” it was Austria’s, where outside Vienna Gaston Glock operated a garage metal shop. When the Austrian Army needed a new sidearm in the early 1980s, the unlikely Glock designed a revolutionary semi-automatic pistol, featuring a polymer-fashioned frame. Light, thin, easy to shoot and maintain, Glock 17 beat back media assaults against easily concealable “plastic pistols” and, instead, earned the attention of U.S. law-enforcement agencies looking for greater “stopping power” against increasingly better armed criminals. Offering huge discounts and shrewdly marketing to police from its facility in Smyrna, Ga., the company employed Gold Club strippers and Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders to attract crowds, entertain clients and lend the pistol a sexy cachet that grew exponentially when it popped up all over TV and movies as the gun of choice for cops and killers alike. Within the industry, Glock went its own way, quietly settling or aggressively defending lawsuits, alternately feuding or making nice with the federal and city governments and the powerful NRA. Having reported this story for years, Barrett (American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion, 2006, etc.) well knows every aspect of the Glock phenomenon, the company’s astonishing rise to market dominance and its seamy business practices—which have included money laundering, tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions. The author unmasks the in-house lawyers who embezzled and the financial advisor who siphoned funds and who clumsily attempted an assassination of the increasingly imperious founder, whose taste for mistresses and lavish entertainments only grew as Glock amassed billions. Gun enthusiasts surely will enjoy Barrett’s account, but it also serves as a colorful case study of the manufacturer who beat long-entrenched, legendary brands at their own game.
A solidly reported story of a modern-day Samuel Colt who transformed the handgun business.