Vinod Peris's Reviews > Glock: The Rise of America's Gun

Glock by Paul M. Barrett
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's review
Jan 30, 2012

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I picked up this book since it had all the elements of a good business story. Smith & Wesson, Colt, Remington, were the incumbent firearm manufacturers. In less than a decade they were unseated by an Austrian man and his modest enterprise. I was eager to learn about the strategic moves he made that resulted in the huge success of the Glock handgun.

As in every successful business venture, first and foremost, you need a compelling product. Gaston Glock understood the product requirements of the Austrian Army and designed a handgun that in every way fulfilled those requirements. What is amazing is that none of the other established firearm manufacturers came up with anything similar until many many years after the Glock had established itself as the handgun of choice for law enforcement in the US.

Once you have a successful product, the next key ingredient to world domination is an aggressive salesperson who lives, breathes and thrives in selling his wares. Glock found such a person in Karl Walter who was responsible for bringing the Glock handgun to the United States. In 1984, Karl Walter was browsing through a gun-store in Vienna when he laid his eyes on the Glock 17. His initial reaction was that it was "ugly". However, he was intrigued by its success with the Austrian army and so took a trip to the Glock homestead in Deutsch-Wagram to test it out. Walter returned to the US and soon established a sales office in Smyrna, Georgia and the rest is history.

Unfortunately the business aspects of the book are done away with in the first couple of chapters. Barrett goes on to describe the NRA and gun control laws in the US. In describing the overzealousness of the NRA to use the Second Amendment to remove any restrictions on the availability of guns in the US, Barrett reminds us of "the more generalized American instinct that anything worth doing is worth overdoing".

In response to increasing gun violence, the US passed a gun control law that banned semiautomatic weapons with a detachable magazine and two or more military style features. It also prohibited magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition - the Glock 17 could hold 17 rounds. However, weapons that were manufactured before the passing of the law were grandfathered in, and this had the opposite effect of spurring the sales of Glock 17 as folks raced to buy up all the available inventory and stockpile them.

The book meanders along in the middle with general gun control and pro-gun themes and I was convinced that it wasn't worth finishing. However towards the end there is a return to Gaston Glock and his eccentricities. There were many interesting twists in the business and its employees, but Barrett has not done justice in describing these.

Overall, the book is entertaining and a very fast read. If you are curious about Glock, the gun, the man and the company, then read this.

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