However, I generally keep discussions about firearms out of my blogs, for a few reasons. First, guns are a highly charged, emotional topic, even in my own family. No need to poke the bear. Second, guns of all types, gun issues and gun culture are already well covered on other blogs; there's only a few blogs that focus on knives but there's hundreds (perhaps thousands) of blogs (and websites, and YouTube channels) focused on guns. I see no need to rehash what's already been hashed and rehashed elsewhere.
But I am fascinated with guns (did I already mention that?). And I really like Glocks. My affection for Glocks came late in life and was born out of frustration. I went through several small 9mm pistols from other manufacturers that proved unreliable. Not 'fails to fire every few hundred rounds' unreliable, but 'hiccups on damned near every other round' unreliable. Since I was on the hunt for a ultra reliable pistol that I could carry concealed (God bless the State of Georgia and her concealed carry laws) I was very frustrated by the performance of the pistols I had tested.
Then one afternoon I stumbled into a gun store that also happened to be a Glock Law Enforcement dealer. I ended up telling my tale of woe to the guy behind the counter and after listening for a few minutes he asked, "Have you ever looked at the Glock 26?" I made a sour face. To that point all I thought about Glocks (if I thought about them at all) was that they were overpriced tactical Tupperware. The sales guy pulled out a Glock 26 and let me handle it. I have to say that, right off the bat, I was not impressed. The Glock 26 is a fat, stubby, ungainly looking little gun. The frame is so short that I could only grip it with two fingers. It did, however, point quite nicely. The sales guy looked at me, looked at my haircut, and asked, "Are you law enforcement or military?" I told him I was retired from the Army. "Well then, you are entitled to the Glock Law Enforcement discount!" I asked him what the price of the Glock 26 was and was surprised at the number he tossed back to me. I looked at the gun in my hand and figured heck, at that price if I don't like it I can always sell it for more than I paid for it.
Eight years on I still carry that Glock 26. From the first day at the range it has been 100% reliable. Not '100% reliable with most types of ammo', but 100% reliable, period. By my count I've put over 2,000 rounds of ammunition through it and the pistol has never failed to feed, fire and cycle any of the ammo I've fed it. Not once. And I've fed it some pretty crappy ammo.
Since then I've become a big fan of Glock pistols. I bought or traded into several other models (a Glock 22 sits on the shelf next to me as I type). I even got the opportunity to attend the Glock Armorer course at Glock's American headquarters in Smyrna, Ga. When you tear apart a Glock and understand how it works, then compare its design to many of its competitors (Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, Kahr, SIG, H&K, etc.) you begin to understand the genius of Gaston Glock and his design. Many firearms manufacturers have caught up with Glock in terms of design and reliability, but Glock was there first, and was there decades ahead of most of his competitors. When a gun company introduces a new polymer frame pistol the first thing it's compared to is the Glock. In most cases the design is simply a re-engineering of the basic Glock design.
But this blog post isn't really about Glock pistols, at least not directly. It's about a fascinating little book written by Paul M. Barrett titled 'Glock - The Rise of America's Gun'.
You would think that the history of Glock is pretty straightforward - Austrian entrepreneurial genius produces a groundbreaking pistol design, captures the American law enforcement and sports shooting market and lives happily ever after.
Nooooooo.... The history of Glock, particularly the history of Glock in the US, reads like a juicy soap opera. We have:
- The reclusive Austrian genius who thinks Americans are stupid, especially those that unintentionally shoot themselves with his 'perfect' product
- The fast talking company president who got his start selling machine guns out of the back of his van
- The slick corporate lawyer who becomes the master of trapping liberal politicians in their own hypocrisy
- Slimy left wing law enforcement leadership bad mouthing 'plastic pistols' out of one side of their mouths while arranging sweetheart deals with Glock out of the other
- A strip club that hosted so many Glock 'business meetings' that it became a defacto corporate annex
- Company employees buying pistols and magazines at huge discounts just before federal bans are enacted only to start selling them out of the trunks of their cars at enormous profit once the ban was in place
- Lines of vans rolling up to Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta to offload weekly shipments of thousands of guns and tens of thousands of magazines to feed an almost insatiable demand for Glock products
- Shady deals with large police forces in major cities that put Glocks in the holsters of police officers at essentially zero cost
- The 70 year old company owner delivering a bare knuckled ass whipping to a would-be assassin who was was hired by one of his own executives to beat his head in with a rubber mallet
You could take the characters from the Sopranos and insert them into this storyline and all the personalities would fit!
How Monty Python-esque is this story? Here's a sample: when Glock set up its booth at the shooting industry trade show (SHOT Show) in Las Vegas back in 1990 the 'gun babe' they put in the booth to demonstrate the features of the new Glock 20 pistol was actually a stripper from the infamous Gold Club in Atlanta.
Folks, I can't make up stuff this good! Hell, Jimmy Breslin couldn't make up stuff this good!
The author Paul Barrett is an assistant managing editor of Bloomberg Businessweek (yes, that Bloomberg) and as such he's no supporter of guns or the Second Amendment. But he's written a mostly fair, honest and often hilariously revealing story of the Glock company, focusing mainly on its US operations. At the end of the book Barrett invariably slides into familiar liberal talking points territory, asking the reader, for example, if it's really necessary for civilians to have a pistol magazine that holds more than 10 rounds, or if a citizen really needs a cartridge like the .40 S&W that "delivers more destructive force" than the more 'reasonable' 9mm round. And of course the NRA and Sarah Palin get bashed six ways to Sunday.
But in the end it's the fascinating story of an industry changing pistol design that has thrived despite all the foibles, seedy drama, missteps and outright screw-ups of the humans that designed it, manufactured it and successfully marketed it to make it the most successful line of handguns in history.
It's a fun story. If you have any interest in firearms, the firearms industry or Glock in particular I highly recommend this book.