In the late 20th century, the world of handguns found itself revolutionized not by the venerable household names of Colt or Smith & Wesson, but by
Gaston Glock, an Austrian engineer who'd never been in the arms industry before. The model he produced redefined the gun industry with its light heft, improved accuracy and bullet capacity, and ease of use. It didn't immediately sell itself, however - its astronomical success in the U.S. was due to some savvy marketing and legal decisions by the firm's lawyer and an American gun dealer who discovered and fell in love with the brand. Gaston, however, sees little reason to share the firm's equally astronomical receipts with those who had no hand in the actual design of the gun, leading to some corporate intrigue that's...well, perhaps predictably violent.
Author Paul Barrett takes on three tasks in writing Glock: The Rise of America's Gun
: to detail the exact design features of Glock products that made them so revolutionary; to describe how Glock rose to and stayed at the top of the gun market despite corporate mismanagement and growing internal dissent; and to study the state and wisdom of gun control in the U.S. Three is the big sticking point. The author claims that this is his first big brush with guns, which is to the book's detriment; he's too golly-gee infatuated with the power of firearms to discuss the subject knowledgably. Perhaps most problematic (and yet unintentionally illuminating) is when a couple of Glock enthusiasts take him to a shooting competition at a gun convention featuring Hogan's Alley-style wish-fulfillment scenarios - deterring a mugger; shooting it out with bank robbers; mowing down terrorists who've taken over a mall. Barrett gushes effusively over how strong he feels packing heat, what an adrenaline rush the experience is, and I'm thinking, dude, you are the last person who should be carrying a firearm. The author discusses how certain people need guns for self-defense, and yet he talks exclusively to those insulated enough from crime to treat gun ownership as a thrilling, empowering videogame.
Later, he discusses unintentional side effects of gun-control legislation and governmental actions that made for momentary or more lasting Team Glock gains - upticks in gun sales preceding legal restrictions going into effect, for example. We're supposed to treat every single one as a victory - hooray for Glock! - even if there are negative repercussions for public safety. Hey, Glock is now the weapon of choice among Iraqi insurgents and guarantees that their attacks are more effective! Um, yay? It's not as if the author can't find legitimately intriguing new angles from which to examine the gun-control issue, but his newborn fanboyism often leads him to some suspect reasoning. Arguing that fully automatic weapons should be legalized because it's magazine capacity, not firing speed, that facilitates mass slaughter actually leads to a challenging argument. Arguing that they should be legalized because it's cool to shoot up a washing machine does not.
Where the book does exceed is in chronicling how Glock's employees leveraged a savvy public relations strategy into market dominance. Unlike other firearms manufacturers, Glock and its executives were business strategists first and 2nd amendment activists second, willing to compromise in legal battles they couldn't win to gain legislative goodwill and providing their products free to movie props men to gain cultural cache through silver-screen appearances. They worked with police who wanted superior firepower against ever better-armed criminals, even offering departments a free trade-in on their older models for new, top-of-the-line guns. (Which actually netted Glock more than law-enforcement brownie points; the older trade-in models used higher-capacity magazines that Glock was now banned from manufacturing and which they turned on the secondary market for a pretty profit.) There are ridiculous turns in the narrative that are better than fiction, like the booth babe Block sends to Langley for firearms training who ends up a better markswoman than the FBI agents. The endgame of the Glock internal intrigue does not disappoint, and it concludes in an oddly unique way with the players with both winning over and alienating the reader - you can see what drove them to their misdeeds, and their complaints have a point, but by this point in the game, we also understand that this is a case of honor among thieves.. Indeed, the tale of Glock is interesting and not poorly told - but the author punditizing above his comprehension level makes the book a problematic read at times.