Glock: The Rise of America's Gun

Glock: The Rise of America's Gun

by Paul M. Barrett


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The Glock pistol is America’s Gun. It has been rhapsodized by hip-hop artists and coveted by cops and crooks alike. Created in 1982 by Gaston Glock, the pistol arrived in America at a fortuitous time. Law enforcement agencies had concluded that their agents and officers, armed with standard six-round revolvers, were getting "outgunned" by drug dealers with semi-automatic pistols; they needed a new gun. With its lightweight plastic frame and large-capacity spring-action magazine, the Glock was the gun of the future. You could drop it underwater, toss it from a helicopter, or leave it out in the snow, and it would still fire. It was reliable, accurate, lightweight, and cheaper to produce than Smith and Wesson’s revolver.
Filled with corporate intrigue, political maneuvering, Hollywood glitz, bloody shoot-outs—and an attempt on Gaston Glock’s life by a former lieutenant—Glock is not only the inside account of how Glock the company went about marketing its pistol to police agencies and later the public, but also a compelling chronicle of the evolution of gun culture in America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307719959
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 01/15/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 175,859
Product dimensions: 5.38(w) x 7.82(h) x 0.73(d)

About the Author

PAUL M. BARRETT is an assistant managing editor of Bloomberg Businessweek. He is the author of American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion and The Good Black: A True Story of Race in America. Barrett lives and works in New York City. For more information, go to

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Shootout in Miami

It was nine forty-­five a.m. on April 11, 1986, when Special Agents Benjamin Grogan and Gerald Dove spotted the two suspects driving a stolen black Chevrolet Monte Carlo on South Dixie Highway. The pair had been robbing banks and armored trucks in southern Dade County over the past four months. To catch them, Gordon McNeill, a supervisory special agent with the Miami field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had set up a rolling stakeout. “They had killed two people; another woman was missing,” McNeill said. “They had shot another guy four times. In my twenty-­one years with the agency, I never felt more sure that when we found these guys, they would go down hard.”

Moments later, other FBI units converged; soon, three unmarked sedans trailed the bank robbers. McNeill, closing from the opposite direction, spotted the black Monte Carlo at the head of the strange convoy. In the passenger seat, one suspect shoved a twenty-­round magazine into a Ruger Mini-­14 semiautomatic rifle. “Felony car stop!” McNeill shouted into his radio to the other units. “Let’s do it!”

FBI vehicles corralled the Monte Carlo, ramming the fugitive automobile and forcing it into a large driveway. The three remaining government sedans skidded into surrounding positions. Two more FBI cars arrived across the street. In all, eight agents faced the two suspects.

Suddenly, one of the fugitives started shooting. FBI men scrambled for cover and returned fire. The occupants of the Monte Carlo seemed to be hit in the fusillade, but the government rounds weren’t stopping them.

In the chaos, the federal agents struggled to reload their revolvers, jamming cartridges one after another into five-­ and six-­shot Smith & Wessons. Three of the FBI agents were members of a special-­tactics squad and carried fifteen-­round S&W pistols. But none of the handgun fire seemed to slow the criminals. The gunman with the Ruger Mini-­14 merely had to snap a new magazine into his rifle to have another twenty rounds instantly. One of his mags had forty rounds. His partner had a twelve-­gauge shotgun with extended eight-­round capacity. The bank robbers were armed for a small war.

Agent McNeill took a round in his right hand, shattering bone. Shredded flesh jammed the cylinder of his revolver, making it impossible to reload. He rose from a crouch to reach for a shotgun on the backseat of an FBI vehicle. As he did, a .223 rifle round pierced his neck. He fell, paralyzed. A fellow agent was severely wounded when he paused to reload his Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special. “Everybody went down fighting,” McNeill said. “We just ran into two kamikazes.”

As law enforcement officials would later discover, the bank robbers, Michael Platt and William Matix, were no ordinary thugs. They had met in the 1970s at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Matix served as a military policeman with the 101st Airborne. Platt received Special Forces training. Both were practiced marksmen. They operated a landscaping business and according to neighbors seemed like hardworking individuals. Neither one had a criminal record. But something had turned them into psychopaths.

Platt, demonstrating his deadly close-­combat skills, worked the shoulder-­fired Mini-­14 with precision. Based on the M14 military rifle, the Mini-­14 was popular with small-­game hunters, target shooters, and, ironically, the police. Platt took full advantage of the semiautomatic weapon’s large magazine and penetrating ammunition. Bobbing and weaving, he sneaked up on Grogan and Dove, the agents who had originally spotted the black Monte Carlo. “He’s coming behind you!” another agent screamed. But the warning came too late. Platt fatally shot Grogan in the torso and Dove in the head.

The firefight had been going on for four minutes when Agent Edmundo Mireles, badly wounded, staggered toward Platt and Matix, who had piled into a bullet-­ridden FBI Buick. A civilian witness described Mireles’s stiff-­legged gait as “stone walking.” Holding a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum at arm’s length, he fired repeatedly at the two gunmen at point-­blank range, killing them both. It was the bloodiest day in FBI history.

All told, the combatants fired 140 rounds. In addition to the deaths of Platt and Matix, two FBI agents were killed, three were permanently crippled, and two others were injured. gun battle “looked like ok corral,” the Palm Beach Post declared the next morning, quoting a shaken witness. But the legendary gunfight in 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona, had lasted only thirty seconds and involved just thirty shots, leaving three dead—­one fewer than the modern-­day battle in Miami.


Lieutenant John H. Rutherford, the firing-­range director with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, heard about the shootout later that day. “The bad guys,” he recalled, “were starting to carry high-­capacity weapons, unlike what they had carried in the past. . . . That was a scary, terrible thing to hear about,” he said. “If the FBI is outgunned, something is wrong.”

Scholars of law enforcement and small arms pored over the forensic records of the Miami Shootout, generating thousands of pages of reports. Police departments across the country held seminars on the gun battle. Gun magazines published dramatic reconstructions. NBC broadcast a made-­for-­TV movie called In the Line of Fire: The FBI Murders.

Later examination would reveal that, for all their bravery, the FBI agents prepared poorly for the violent encounter. At the time, though, and ever since, one idea about the significance of Miami eclipsed all others. The lawmen had been, in Lieutenant Rutherford’s word, “outgunned.” It was a perception widely shared by cops, politicians, and law-­abiding firearm owners: The criminals were better armed than the forces of order. Nationwide, crime rates were rising. Drug gangs ruled inner-­city neighborhoods. Guns had replaced knives in the hands of violent teenagers. The police, the FBI, and all who protected the peace were increasingly seen as being at a lethal disadvantage. The FBI helped shape this perception by emphasizing the seven revolvers its agents had used, deflecting attention from the three fifteen-­round pistols and two twelve-­gauge shotguns they also brought to the fight.

“Although the revolver served the FBI well for several decades, it became quite evident that major changes were critical to the well-­being of our agents and American citizens,” FBI Director William Sessions said in an agency bulletin after Miami. Revolvers held too little ammunition, and they were too difficult to reload in the heat of a gunfight. There were questions about their “stopping power”: In Miami, the FBI fired some seventy rounds, and Platt and Matix received a total of eighteen bullet wounds. Yet the killers stayed alive long enough to inflict a terrible toll.

In 1987, Jacksonville’s Lieutenant Rutherford received the formal assignment to recommend a new handgun to replace the Smith & Wesson revolvers that his department issued. His counterparts in hundreds of local, state, and federal police agencies were given similar missions. “My job,” Rutherford told me, “was to find a better gun.”

Table of Contents

Selected Bibliography
Source Notes

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“This book—from a top-notch reporter—will enlighten you about both gun culture and business culture. It’s fascinating, even-handed, and packs considerable punch!” —Bill McKibben, bestselling author of The End of Nature, Deep Economy, and The Age of Missing Information
“Glock is a riveting tale with masterful pacing and meticulous research. Paul Barrett knows his subject intimately, and it shows. . . . It’s a must-read for anyone with an interest in handguns or the firearm industry or even American pop culture.” —Cameron Hopkins, editor in chief, Combat Tactics magazine; American Rifleman’s Industry Insider blog

“With his customary insight and crystal-clear style, Paul Barrett has told the story of how a simple toolmaker from Austria came to be the dominant force in the manufacture and sale of pistols in the United States. . . . Glock is not at all just for the gun enthusiast. This book is for anyone concerned about the level of gun violence in America, and that should be all of us.”
—Richard Aborn, president, Citizens Crime Commission of New York City; former president, Handgun Control, Inc.
“Glock is a great read. Very informative from both a technical and historical standpoint—warts and all.” —Frank A. DiNuzzo, chief firearms instructor, New York State Police (ret.); chief instructor, Glock, Inc. (ret.)
“Paul Barrett’s Glock is a fascinating and bizarre tale of an entrepreneur, a weapon, and a nation’s love affair with guns.” —Jeffrey Toobin, staff writer, The New Yorker; author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court
“Colt, Smith & Wesson, Winchester, Remington: These were the American firearms industry’s major players for 150 years. In the 1980s they were joined by a foreign upstart, Glock, which soon overtook them all. Paul M. Barrett ably investigates Glock’s seemingly inexorable rise to power, profit, and predominance in this riveting story of how a plastic Austrian pistol...transformed into America’s chosen gun.” —Alexander Rose, author of American Rifle: A Biography
 “It’s a story that pulls back the curtain on a secretive company that was apparently willing to do whatever it took to be successful. And it’s a heckuva good read.” —Jim Shepherd, The Outdoor Wire

"Barrett is right on target, delivering a well-oiled, fact-packed, and fast-paced history of the Glock."¯Publishers Weekly

“Offering huge discounts and shrewdly marketing to police from its facility in Smyrna, Ga., [Glock] employed Gold Club strippers and Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders to attract crowds, entertain clients and lend the pistol a sexy cachet that grew exponentially when it popped up all over TV and movies as the gun of choice for cops and killers alike. . . A colorful case study of the manufacturer who beat long-entrenched, legendary brands at their own game.” ¯Kirkus 

“An informative, frequently surprising account of the evolution of America’s gun culture and the gun that helped define it.” ¯Booklist

"How a pistol developed by an unknown engineer with little firearms experience became the dominant, if not iconic, law enforcement handgun in the United States. . ."The Washington Post

"Gun enthusiasts and gun detractors will almost surely read the saga of Glock, told expertly by journalist Paul M. Barrett, with divergent views...His authoritative voice permeates the nonfiction narrative. His own views about Glock and other weapons merchants are not easy to decipher, which is perhaps one of his book’s many strengths."Dallas Morning News

"An engaging history of the most famous handgun in contemporary America. Barrett..[has] impressive knowledge of criminal and weapons history in the United States, as well as of Glock's business practices."—The New York Times Book Review

"It's rare for a nonfiction book to read like a thriller, but that's what happens with "Glock." The book covers an intriguing and important topic, and it does so with panache and accuracy. Anyone interested in guns or gun control should read it."—The Washington Times

“With an almost breezy, extremely readable style journalist Paul Barrett has written the definitive biography of a gun that has become the standard for American firearms.”—Florida Times Union

“Smart and engrossing.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A compelling tale…a fascinating look at one man’s extraordinary success.”
Wall Street Journal

“The sometimes shocking details about Glock…moves the reader from one anecdote to the next. . . . certain to fascinate audiences regardless of their thoughts on the Second Amendment.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Glock 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
ChrisAbraham More than 1 year ago
Glock: The Rise of America's Gun is not the work of a Glock fanboy like many of these gun books are. It is the gun version of Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. Of course it is an historically-accurate representation of the life and times of Gaston Glock and everything GLOCK, Inc., and its line of handguns. It is also a complete history of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, a history of gun-related politics and policies, and also a very accurate and sober portrayal of America's love for and of guns. In the same way you read Cod even though you're not into fish or fishing, you really should read Glock. If you're anti-gun, you'll learn both about the culture of firearms in America and how powerfull and intelligent -- savvy -- a force your enemy really is. If you're pro-gun, the Glock revolution will blow your mind, especially in contrast with how pathetically every gun manufacturer in the world performed against GLOCK, especially poor Smith & Wesson, a company that watched as GLOCK came in and single-handedly replaced every .38 Special revolver in every police station in America with not only a high-capacity, semi-automatic, magazine-fed pistol, but with a Glock 17. I can keep on going. Each story is more amazing than the next. The chutzpah of Gaston Glock is only bettered by the cajones of his right hand man during the early days in Atlanta, Mr. Karl Walter, a man who turned the conservative and serious world of arms sales and arms dealing in America into a discoteque, into a circus, into a strip club, into a world of Hollywood action flicks, rap music videos, and an army of Glock devotees that is only bettered by those mad men and women who are obsessed with their 1911. So, in an exemplary blogger outreach campaign, Mr, Barrett sent me a Galley copy to read. And I read it. I consumed it and was mesmerized. I was mesmerized by how much I didn't know about these United States, about gun legislation, about gun bans and bans on high-capacity magazines. I was flabbergasted by the loopholes in these bans that were so big you could taxi a 747 through them, I was not mesmerized by the typical fanboy depiction of their favorite gun and gun maker, I was mesmerized by a book writen by a in investigative journalist who dig into the GLOCK empire, and its ripple effects on not just Law Enforcement but popular culture, rap music, politics, television, and hundreds of movies. I really didn't know anything about the history of firearms in America or how they're sourced and have been banned; how they're imported -- or, rather, sourced and then assembled -- and how they're marketed and sold. And that's not even scratching the surface of all that is GLOCK, Inc, and its illustrious founder, Gaston Glock, an Austrian nerd who ended up developing, designing, and producing the most iconic pistol since the Colt 1911: If you liked Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, Salt: A World History, The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, or Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, you'll love Glock: The Rise of America's Gun by Paul M. Barrett.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great look at the history of the GLOCK and how it has become one of America's most popular firearm manufacturers. The book provides a lot of insight into firearm legislation over the years, and how certain requirements and laws are the way they are.
L.A.Carlson-writer More than 1 year ago
I didn't grow up with guns. However, the constant presence of them in the U.S. is hard to dismiss. Barrett writes exceptionally about the history of American gun makers and the unassuming entry of Gaston Glock-Austrian- into this market. How Glock was busy making curtain rods and was apparently at the right place at the right time when he designed the Glock 17 from nothing; the gun with the least amount of parts and made out of hardened plastic. We learn about all the players and discover Glock treats women as crudely as he treats Americans-even his own daughter. Glock has become the gun everyone wants; Hollywood, FBI, Police Departments, Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh had one and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords owned the very same gun that injured her last year-a Glock. The dark side of this tale is that Glock, the company continues to have record profits and questionable accounting practices which shield millions of dollars away from taxes. But we knew it couldn't be a perfect Cinderella story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The reviewer above who wrote the review "Eye Opener" has no business handing firearms...Great book, and the FACT is that ANY firearm is only as safe as the operator...if you feel you need a "manual" mechanical safety, or it is inherently unsafe, then please don't handle firearms around other people. What is unfortunate is that as an NRA Certified Instructor, you are in a position to spread this garbage, incompetent fallacy to new shooters.
GLOCKfan More than 1 year ago
Was an excellent read, which didn't last over a weekend. Very informative on the founder of GLOCK, writings that have been limited to a few articles in news magazines and the yearly column in the GLOCK autopistol magazine. How the handgun became such a great success in the US. As a GLOCK fan, was surprised with the strip club section, and the money spent at the Gold Club in Atlanta. An interesting read for anyone that enjoys the GLOCK empire. Really would like to see a biography of the founder to come out someday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A truly remarkable story about a remarkable company and the culture in America that led to it's overwhelming success. After reading this, I want to buy anGlock to see what it is all about.
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I often like this sort of thing, but for some reason this book didn't work for me. There was something vaguely dry and academic about the writing that didn't appeal - the musty scent of mothballs mixed with Great Great Aunt Twyla's lavendar sachets (poor thing, she never did find a husband).
RandyStafford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Initially, the subtitle of this book raised my hackles. When at the range, I¿ve seen plenty of people firing handguns not the brainchild of Austrian Gaston Glock. And certainly not every American gun owner has a Glock.Yet, Barrett ultimately justifies that subtitle. While not every private American gun owner may have a Glock, most state, Federal, and local law enforcement organizations do own them and so do many elite U.S. military units. And, once you throw in the imitators of Glock, the Smith and Wesson Sigmas, the Springfield XDs, and guns made by other manufacturers, the Glock is, indeed, in the majority.How that happened, the combination of cunning business practices, dead FBI agents, terrorism fears, Hollywood productions, rap music, and honest-to-goodness technological innovation, made the foreign Glock as legendary in the American mind as Colonel Colt¿s American revolvers once were is the story Barrett tells and tells concisely and interestingly.I suspect there will be at least some part of that story new to most readers.While the rabid Glock cultists who hang out at the online forum may confuse innovation and high reliability with technological perfection, there is no denying that the Glock pistol brought three important innovations to handguns: a frame of Tenifer polymer to reduce weight which also made production cheaper, fewer parts than its competitors which further lowered cost and increased reliability, and putting a safety on a trigger rather than the traditional positioning on the frame of the gun.Now anyone with even a passing acquaintance with modern handguns probably knows this already, knows how Glock benefited from the wake of the infamous Miami Shootout of 1986, and knows of the bogus fears that Glock was a ¿plastic gun¿ undetectable by airport security. But Barrett, since he isn¿t writing a book for gun enthusiasts per se, tells us anyway, and even those who know the broad details of those stories may learn new details. For instance, while I knew the Miami Shootout (which left two FBI agents dead, three permanently crippled, and two others injured before killing two bank robbers) could be seen as an example of bad training in available weapons and the consequences of not using body armor rather than the need to replace six-shot revolvers with 17-round Glocks, I did not know that the two robbers were unusually skilled in combat having received training served either in the Special Forcers or as a military policeman. Nor was I aware, while certain politicians and U.S. government officials were depicting the Glock as a ¿hijacker¿s special¿, the FAA and BATF had already debunked the myth of its undetectability at the airport.What gun enthusiasts might find most interesting here is the history and working of the Glock Company -- or, more accurately, whatever corporate entity actually owns and profits from Glock handguns since Gaston Glock created a nest of shell companies to avoid Austrian and American corporate income tax and protect his business from predatory attorneys looking to cash in on ¿ mostly ¿ questionable liability suits including the idea that gun manufacturers should be liable for the damages caused by criminals wielding their products. The man who helped create that international legal camouflage was, eventually, to be involved in an assassination attempt on Glock¿s life using, of all things, a rubber mallet. Another highlight of the book is the selection of a stripper ¿ Glock¿s American branch is headquarterd in Smyrna, George and lavish corporate entertainment was held at the local Gold Club strip club ¿ to represent the company at a Vegas trade show. She proved surprisingly adept at the theory and use of Mr. Glock¿s products. And, of course, there is the fairly well known practice of Glock using a generous gun trade-in policy ¿ as well as the very real value of its product ¿ to make massive inroads into the hearts, minds, and budgets of America¿s police departments.It was thi
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Me no my guns but i think will do a little practice
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
...but about Glock. Interesting and politically neutral.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author seems lost in the middle of this book. After the first fifty pages, the author skips between legal issues, Glock's personal struggles, Glock's relationship with the NRA, and executive turnover without any real cogency.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
guitaoist3 More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Glock are so cool oh & happy new years
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book transcends politics and business and tells the story of Gaston Glock: entrepreneur, rock star, and megalomaniac.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mosso More than 1 year ago
Never liked the look of them. Now that I know the history, I will be investing in one. Good reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book's account of GLOCK's the good, bad, and the ugly. I appreciated the author's objective comparison of GLOCK's reliability compared to similar products. Equally intriguing was the behind-the-scenes shady promotions that ranged from suggestive marketing to out & out fraud. All in all, my opinion of my GLOCK pistol on my hip as I type this is somewhat changed after reading: a reliable product whose reputation is tarnished by its manufacturer's unsavory business practices & founder' s greed. A great read that appears objective and well-researched.