I finished Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, and I really enjoyed it. The book is structured as to follow a few central characters chronologically through their impact on the company and culture. I found Gaston Glock to be the most entertaining character. My notes as follows:
- He didn’t bid on his first government contract until age 50.
- He filed for a patent on the Glock 17 in 1981, only one year after starting the development process (so called as it was Gaston Glock’s 17th invention).
- Inspiration: Beretta 92F, Sig Sauer 220, CZ75, Walther P-38. He purchased and evaluated all modern pistols available at that time.
- Intensively studied patent documentation, generations of handgun innovation.
- Discussion at Velen with several firearm enthusiasts: “What would you want in a pistol of the future?” Conclusion: semi-automatic 9mm, 10+ round capacity, no more than 800 grams (28 oz.), consistent and light trigger pull, streamlined, easy to holster, frame width: 30mm or less (1.2 inches or narrower), no more than 40 parts (far fewer than the industry standard).
- Exposed safeties were found to be dangerous as operators could not rapidly deploy a firearm, could not remember if it was engaged, fumbled under stress, etc.
- Built a basement firing range, tested prototypes with his left hand only so he wouldn’t lose his drawing hand.
- Submitted four samples to the Austrian Army in 1982. Learned about polymer after buying a machine to make knife handles, sheaths. Right place, right time: Replacement for Walther P-38, the Beretta shown to be most effective pistol, but wasn’t Austrian. The Steyr sucked, so another Austrian manufacturer was needed.
- Gaston Glock’s political and military cronies got him the connections to secure a contract to satisfy the Austrian-built requirement but offer a better gun than the Steyr.
- Glock 17- 34 parts. 10,000 round test, one malfunction. Based on Browning design- proven track record. Never competed with Beretta for military handgun trials as Gaston Glock could not produce the required 35 units in time and didn’t want to lose exclusive rights to the design.
- Alarmist headlines ran that the “plastic gun” could be sneaked onto an airliner. It was dubbed the new choice of hijackers. It was all bullshit, as an all-metal HK was sneaked onto a plane fully-assembled, signifying a security problem not related to materials. Lawmakers and police departments banned them.
- Law still on the books to this day: It’s illegal to manufacture an all-polymer firearm. Obviously, it had no effect on the Glock. Lawmakers were too dumb to know better.
The design was evolutionary, and the product entered the market at just the right time. I thought the book was a fascinating explanation to a question I never even realized to ask: how did a man that owned a door fitting company in Austria (and had little to no experience with firearms) create a gun that became an American cultural symbol for civilians and law enforcement officers?
The book does not pull punches, and it discusses how many central figures have committed criminal acts involving corporate fraud, corruption, and even attempted contract killing. The money Gaston Glock was making led to a very eccentric lifestyle for his corporate executives and clientele.
In the end, Gaston Glock himself says it best, “That I knew nothing was my advantage.” He relied on educated military minds, proven firearm designs, and his own advanced injection molding techniques learned from his field knife and bayonet contracts, to develop the right gun at the right time.
I highly recommend the book. Many of the stories have to be read to be believed, and many are extremely funny. I think the funniest story was the top executive whose drinking habits spiraled out of control, and the stories of hotel management finding him passed out under convention tables, in elevators (with the doors attempting to close on his unconscious body), and in trashed hotel rooms.
It’s also available on Kindle.