On the Spot: Paul M. Barrett

February 1, 2012

In its 30-year history, the Glock has made an indelible mark on the gun industry — and American culture. In his new book, “Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun,” Paul M. Barrett, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and an editor at Bloomberg Businessweek, and looks at how metalworker Gaston Glock started out designing a modular pistol for the Austrian army in 1982 and ended up redefining firearms.

How did the Glock make it from Austria to the U.S.?
The first chapter of the Glock story in this country is focused on law enforcement. It became almost a fad. … One of the main features Glock was selling was a large magazine capacity. [Police were seeing] agents on the street outgunned by the bad guys. It wasn’t a fair fight anymore.

You liken the shift the Glock made to the gun industry to changes in the auto industry.
The Glock was the Honda alternative to the American Cadillac of guns, Smith & Wesson. In the same way the American auto industry had fallen asleep in the ’70s and ’80s and forgot innovation … Smith & Wesson had allowed its reputation to deteriorate.

Why did the Glock seep into pop culture in a way other guns hadn’t?
The Glock had this staccato name that, for the purpose of lyrics, rhymes with “cop” and “drop.” You just don’t throw in “Luger” or “Beretta.”

The Glock was used in the Virginia Tech massacre and the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson. Could any gun have been used in those crimes?
There’s nothing particularly distinctive anymore about the Glock’s ammunition capacity. But it’s the Glock more than any other brand that changed the market into one where that is so common. … If you create this technology that allows for the very, very efficient use of a gun, it can be turned to that kind of purpose.

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Rudi Greenberg | January 31, 2012