Saturday, July 23, 2016

The World's Most Popular Handguns

The Glock series of handguns is one of the most successful in the world, and its various models have been adopted by military and law enforcement in many countries, including the United States where Glock is so popular that Paul M. Barrett authored a book entitled Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, even though the parent company of the manufacturer is Austrian. Glock was founded by an entrepreneur named Gaston Glock (the name “Glock,” BTW, is derived from the German word for “bell”) who never designed a gun before 1980 when he was 51. The company’s story is about the use of revolutionary manufacturing methods in gun-making. It is also the story of an attempted murder to cover up corporate malfeasance, as well as other scandals, but more about that below.

The chief claim to fame of Glock pistols is that they are constructed from a combination of steel and lightweight yet durable polymers. The lightness, plus more and more ergonomic designs over the years, has made these pistols very easy to handle. Glock was not the first to use polymers in gun-making, but it was responsible for their subsequent widespread use. Mr. Glock’s background was in engineering and the manufacture of curtain rods and knives, where he had experience in the use of polymers. Also, his first employees in his gun-making business mainly came from camera manufacturing where polymers were already in use. Glock was already a military contractor, selling knives to the military, which it still does. In 1980, when he learned that the Austrian military was looking to replace the Walther P38 pistol as their official sidearm, he designed a prototype, which he submitted as the Glock 17 in 1981. The Austrian military accepted the new handgun as its standard, and the rest is history.

Glock Ges. m. b.H. has five subsidiaries worldwide, and one of them, Glock, Inc.,* is in Smyrna, Georgia, U.S.A.  This factory is an extremely modern facility, ultra-clean and kept under ultra-tight security. (After all, if there were a heist, the thieves could get away with large numbers of what is arguably the best handgun in the world!) The American factory is responsible for all aspects of the manufacturing process, except that the machinery and many of the proprietary aspects are imported. For example, Glocks are made from specially formulated steel. The American factory follows that formula, using its own smelting facility.

 Now for the tale of greed and violence (which would make a good movie, unless it has already been done). In 1999, a man name Charles Ewert was embezzling millions from the Glock company. Fearing that Gaston Glock was about to find out about it, Ewert hired a French hit-man to murder Mr. Glock. In a twist that would not have been Hollywood’s call, no firearm, let alone a Glock pistol, was used in the attempted murder or in Mr. Glock’s defense. Instead the would-be assassin used a mallet. What is Hollywood-esque is that Mr. Glock managed to fight off his attacker despite being badly injured. His attacker was caught and agreed to testify against Ewert. The hit-man received seventeen years in prison and is either out now or likely soon will be, but Ewert was sentenced to twenty years and is still in prison.

Mr. Glock, now 87 years-old, wound up undergoing years of medical treatment and rehabilitation. He has also suffered two strokes, possibly due to delayed effects of the beating. During the same period, Mr. Glock separated from his wife and married his nurse, thereby scandalizing his family and causing a feud over the disposition of his fortune of nearly two billion Euros. The American subsidiary has not been free from scandal as its former CEO, Paul Jannuzzo, was also caught embezzling.

 My own Glock is a model 42, which is the smallest gun that Glock makes. It is my understanding that the 42 is only manufactured at the U.S. plant. I detect a theme in my gun ownership: my .380 Glock is the smallest of its kind (indeed, it is often considered a “ladies gun”), my .25 Colt 1908 vest pocket is so-called because it is only four and a half inches in length (it looks a bit like a miniature .45 semiautomatic), and my Henry U.S. Survival Rifle is a little .22 rabbit hunter. Also, as it happens, these guns are all made in the U.S.A. (although, in the past, I have owned non-American guns, including a Chinese-made shotgun and an Argentine pistol.)

*From having worked for Standard and Poor’s, I know that U.S. companies tend to use a comma before “Inc.” but Canadian companies almost never do. Fowler, Inc. would be a U.S. company, while Fowler Inc. would be Canadian.

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