Sunday, May 13, 2012

Done: "Glock" by Paul M. Barrett

Done: Glock: the rise of America's gun by Paul M. Barrett, 2012, 9780307719935.

I finished this a while ago but did not feel compelled to record my notes.  A history of Glock the person, Glock the company, weapons development, and the gun market.

Glock's story and the rise of the 9mm is well known among gun nerds.  In short, Glock was a small manufacturer in Austria who did a radical design and became rich and famous.  Part of Glock's business was cutlery manufacturing that included a contract with the Austrian Army. Glock heard of their search for a new service pistol, designed a gun, and won the contract.

Glock must be quite the designer and engineer but an important note is that he was not working alone and in secret.  Glock first spoke to military men, firearms experts, and firearms designers to find out what was wanted and needed.  He researched the market and current handgun designs and then moved forward.

Parallel to Glock's contract win in 1982 was the rise of the 9MM in the '80s.   Barrett places much emphasis on the the FBI Miami shootout as the impetus of change to different firearms and ammo.  The idea that the revolver carrying FBI agents were outgunned led the change to semi-autos.  I think Barrett places too much emphasis on the Miami aftermath.  I bet the U.S. Army's adoption of the Beretta probably played more importance than the FBI switch.  Since Glocks are so popular with police departments I think Barrett looked too narrowly at the FBI's conversion.  Both Beretta and Glock rode the 9mm wave and plenty of police departments went with Beretta.

I found Barrett's tale of Glock's sales tactics more interesting.  The U.S. division of Glock hired some great sales people, recruited well known trainers and gun experts, sold pistols super cheap to police departments, the wined and dined police armorers at Atlanta strip clubs, they brought beautiful women to trade events, they bought back old guns from police departments, snuck in the .40S&W before S&W, so on, so forth.

Gaston Glock is not the focus of the book.  Barrett did not speak to Glock but interviewed a lot of people including gun industry people and former Glock executives employees.  Glock does not come off well.  He started out as a reserved and unsophisticated engineer and ends up being a dickhead.  He is not that good a business person and tends to be autocratic and micromanaging.  Glock was scornful of American employees even though it is the U.S. market that was bringing him millions and millions of dollars.  He was sleazy dude answering his door in his underwear and hitting on female employees.

Too bad that Barrett could not get more access to company information.  Much of what Barrett gets is only from interviews and court filings.  The legal issues and financial chicanery were surprisingly interesting to me.

1. Regarding the FBI shootout:  How the tactics and equipment chosen by the agents was at fault, not the weaponry.  The FBI placed blame on the tools not the users.  Some agents armed with .357s for crying out loud.  Not to mention that two agents had 9mm pistols.  Although the points to be made about capacity and ease of reloading are pretty dang important.
2.  I did not know Taurus and SW had been closely aligned and step-companies.
3.  Interesting run-down on how competitors were always trying to catch up.  How Smith and Wesson was losing so much market share by sticking with revolvers and had quality control issues.
4.  Barrett's story about NRA versus gun manufacturers.  Many manufacturers were upset with the NRA's tactics.  I am in agreement that the NRA seems more concerned with fundraising.  They try to churn up turmoil with the membership and then ask for more money.
5.  The fanaticism of some Glock owners.  Often referred to as drinking the "Kool Aid".  I suppose Kool Aid references are used elsewhere throughout society I see it in online gun groups more than anywhere else.
6.  Kabooms are discussed and how Glock would often settle out of court.  Those preliminary filings and lawsuits were mined by Barrett for info.

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