Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review: "Glock: The Rise of America's Gun" by Paul M. Barrett

 How did an unknown Austrian engineer who had barely ever touched a gun come to develop the most iconic modern handgun, with the largest market share in production today? Author Paul Barrett does an excellent job of tracking Glock’s meteoric rise from a Viennese suburb into a handgun empire that trounced the established monoliths of the American handgun industry, like Smith and Wesson. If you are interested in Glock’s, firearms, the gun industry and the wrangling’s of modern gun politics in America, you will thoroughly enjoy Glock.

I began reading this book with a basic knowledge of Glock’s history but Barrett provides a detailed account of the company’s character and inner workings, based on his research with industry insiders and Glock employees. One could say that Gaston Glock was a man who found himself in the right place at the right time, both in Austria and the US. The initially unassuming Austrian decided to compete for a government contract to supply pistols to the Austrian military. Lacking the infrastructural or a priori design path-dependency held by other companies, a factor later believed to have been a benefit as opposed to a constraint, he set about designing a unique handgun. His timing in the USA was also fortuitous – the late 80’s saw many police departments wanting to upgrade their duty side arms from predominantly 6 shot revolvers to higher capacity pistols. A number of high profile police shootouts that left the authorities feeling under-gunned precipitated this review of duty gun capabilities (many of these events also became slightly embellished).  Many in the US at that stage still saw ‘wonder 9’s’ as Euro-trash; the all-American 1911 .45 being the only pistol worthy of consideration. This alongside with the Glock’s unusual features and polymer frame meant that the pistol was initially met with scepticism. However it wasn’t just good timing that worked in Glock’s favour, the fact is that the pistol was, and remains, and very ergonomic, ultra-reliable and user-friendly handgun. It didn’t take the police long to see the light, in part because of the Glock’s capabilities and in part because of the company's innovations outside of pistol design.