The media is generally fascinated with the showing of gun porn (often featuring fully automatic weapons which, due to restrictions, retail for upwards of a quarter of a million dollars). The market is currently cluttered with AR-15s (a gun associated with spree killings), but coverage conveniently ignores that getting one for under a thousand dollars is an absolute steal. Building one requires some technical skills (Wired had a staff member try milling a receiver and it ended up as a terrible mess). In the rarefied air of the paranoia generated by both sides of the “debate,” as previously mentioned, the real winner is the maker of guns. This is especially true if said gunmaker is rolling out a product that just barely meets the new restrictions and sports a widely recognized brand name—like Glock.
The newly released Glock 43 is a single stack 9mm pistol. Functionally, this means that it is a Glock that can be legally purchased in Connecticut, Maryland, and New York. Although all pre-bill Glocks are legal, new firearms made by the IKEA of guns (generic, easy to operate, bland and beloved by a truly devoted cult following) cannot be imported to these states because the default magazine for most Glocks is over the legal limit.* The Glock 43 is popular regardless of this (Glock produces several thousand guns a day and still retains back orders at many stores), but it is notable in rural Maryland that every single gun dealer advertises their availability.
*It’s important to note that Glock makes new firearms specifically to comply with new laws in jurisdictions—for example, the 17A was made for Australia after new regulations, and the 17DK is Denmark’s equivalent.
This isn’t, strictly speaking, new. Plenty of firearms manufacturers make guns that meet new requirements, and Glock was notably late to market on this new offering (the Glock 42, also a single stack, runs .380 Auto, though 9mm is a more popular round). The thing is that the historical popularity and initial rise of the Glock pistol both came from their larger-capacity magazines built into the pistol grip. Because Glock (the firearm) is so tied to Gaston Glock (the semi-mythical inventor), it is worth turning to him.
Glock has historically marketed itself as a rags-to-riches story, starring Gaston Glock, who persevered through engineering skill and unconventional thinking. This myth (how Glock went from making knives for the Austrian Army as a side job to designing a ubiquitous pistol) has been the bread and butter of Glock, giving the company the warm, friendly image of a man realizing his dream (and incidentally becoming a billionaire). This family-friendly fare is somewhat marred by Glock’s true motivations: primarily spite and pettiness. This vitriol came about in response to the inexperienced Glock being ridiculed after requesting to enter a competition to design the new Austrian Army sidearm. Glock’s rise is heavily associated with his triumph over 5 established companies to create this sidearm in 1982, and the story never fails to include the detail that he test-fired his prototype left-handed, so that if it exploded, his drafting hand would be unharmed. Scratching the surface, Glock becomes a bit more complicated.
As detailed in Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun*, Gaston consulted with a number of specialists regarding their gripes with current sidearms and, most importantly, what they wanted from a sidearm. Glock was less Tony Stark building the Iron Man Suit from raw genius in the cave, and more an industry outsider with a good sense of what designs would work because of excellent sources and no adherence to preexisting designs. If that had been the extent of his rise, there would be very little to say; instead, Glock aggressively courted law enforcement and lucked into an (undeserved) mystique that led to congressional inquiry and helped raise the profile of his gun.
*It’s a strange intimation that a man who openly despises Americans, and is an Austrian citizen, and possibly got his experience with firearms from the German Army in 1944-1945, is definitively “American” in any sense.
In 1988, the Undetectable Firearms Act was passed on the (false) beliefs that 1) Libya was trying to obtain Glocks because 2) they could circumvent metal detectors.* This law (which had very little regulatory power until the rise of 3D printing technology) stemmed from a 1986 article that started this unfounded claim. Similar to the spike in AR-15 sales after their extensive media coverage post-Sandy Hook, Glocks were hot. Rather than tarring Glock by association, it kicked off Glock’s historical image as the gun of choice for the real heavy-hitters. This is probably the only industry where a strong assumption that your product is favored for criminal enterprise can be described as “a lucky break” by industry insiders. While this helped spur the rise of the Glock, the primary strategy has always been collusion with law enforcement.
*The Glock barrel is metal, and the nylon-based synthetic frame to a Glock will also set off a metal detector—as will, rather importantly for a gun’s function, bullets.
Glock was additionally lucky that his pistol was introduced to US markets when police departments were trading in their revolvers (based off of the patently false idea they were outgunned)* for newer semi-automatic handguns with a larger magazine. The Glock, with its larger magazine, minimal kickback, and sleek, bland and ergonomic design, filled that niche perfectly—especially when fueled by Glock’s ravenous hunger for ex-police officers to promote his gun. This strategy paid off in spades (roughly 2 out of every 3 police departments, or roughly 60% of police officers, used Glock pistols at the height of their popularity). Finally, Glocks are inexpensive to make (boasting a roughly 68% profit margin in retail sale at MSRP), meaning Glock could beat the prices of its competitors and still make a profit.** This also is not, strictly speaking, new; Colt himself built his company by relentlessly cultivating the image of frontier lawmen for a product most likely to gather dust in a lockbox in a middle-class home. Even the Thompson SMG (ubiquitous in gangster films with its 45ACP drum magazine) tried to develop a cowboy mystique by filling its ads with ranch hands gunning down cattle rustlers, using a gun better suited to mowing down extras from The Godfather.
*A turning point was the 1986 FBI shootout in Miami, when 2 serial bank robbers encountered 8 federal agents and effectively pinned them down with shotgun and rifle fire, injuring 5 and killing 2. The FBI agents prepared poorly (failing to have their shotguns ready or wear body armor) and 3 of them had semi-automatic pistols; yet the image of an officer shot in the hand, unable to reload his revolver, stuck in the minds of the public—as did the idea of heavily armed street gangs (despite—let me reiterate—that these shooters were ex-military bank robbers unaffiliated with any gang).
**It certainly doesn’t hurt that most of his sales team is former police officers, or that he allegedly plied purchasers with lap dances at the Gold Club in Atlanta from strippers who also served as spokesmodels.
What is unique about Glock, the man, and his symbiotic twin, the pistol, are the politics surrounding them. Glock is best described as Montgomery Burns, sans charisma, animated by the spirit of a Eurofascist Donald Trump. He has sued newspapers for implying connections between him and Jörg Haider. Yet, he paid thousands of dollars to a consultant to help Haider with his image problem. On the more conventional political spectrum, Glock is alleged to have violated campaign finance laws by doling out money to employees to support the elections of Republican lawmakers. Glock stresses that any of these financial improprieties are the products of Charles Ewert and Paul Jannuzzo, two men who both helped shape and grow the company and who are either currently serving time in prison or have recently been paroled—and who both cast a strange light on the company that spawned them.
Charles Ewert, also known as Panama Charlie, was a chance hire by Glock, who was looking to expand while visiting Luxembourg. Ewert is probably, outside of his capacity for creating shell companies and potentially embezzling millions of dollars from Gaston Glock, famous for being the world’s worst recruiter of murder-for-hire. Ever. Oh yeah, the man whom Glock called his “eldest son” and who helped rapidly expand the company by opening the Georgia headquarters (along with HQs in Hong Kong, France, Switzerland and Uruguay) also tried to kill him. As Forbes describes it, an employee was fired by Ewert and phoned up Glock to tell him that Ewert was skimming money (Glock’s lawyers estimate about $100 million dollars) to buy himself the trappings of the nouveau riche (like houses in Switzerland, for example). Glock decided to have a sit-down to clear the air, and Ewert hired a 67-year-old ex-wrestler who used the sobriquet Sparticus to cave in Glock’s head with a rubber mallet in a car park. Glock, being a health nut (though several years the man’s senior), sustained serious injuries but was still able to beat his assailant unconscious. Ewert was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and insists that he was framed by unnamed malicious forces. Sparticus was freed early in his 17-year sentence for good behavior.
Paul Jannuzzo served three and a half years, also for theft from the company but not for attempting to murder his employer—but we will get to that. Jannuzzo helped Glock immeasurably in cornering the market by forcing Smith & Wesson to settle out of court over the Sigma pistol, a virtual carbon copy of the Glock. He also was an excellent strategist, as “in 2000, he made encouraging noises about a master settlement with the Clinton Administration and more than 20 cities that would have shielded gunmakers from future liability in exchange for restrictions on gun marketing. But at the last minute, Jannuzzo pulled back from the deal, leaving rival Smith & Wesson as the only industry signatory. A boycott led by the National Rifle Assn. temporarily crippled S&W, while Glock and other manufacturers enjoyed a sales surge.” Jannuzzo probably also had a hand in the legal loophole by which Glock sold new guns to police departments at a steep discount if they would turn in their old Glocks, and then used a subsidiary to sell the old ones at a premium at gun shows. Jannuzzo was also a confessed member of the Glock executive board which doled money out to employees to donate to political campaigns, in violation of campaign finance laws.
However, if Jannuzzo is to be believed, his time in prison is not reflective of stealing from the company, but because his wife, formerly a nebulously-defined assistant for Gaston Glock, refused to become Glock’s mistress. After the Ewert scandal, Glock hired a team to investigate the finances of the sprawling network of shell companies that Ewert had created. One version of the end result was that they found nothing amiss and overcharged Glock, and Jannuzzo utilized their overbilling to line his pockets. The other is that the investigating team found that the chief beneficiary of tax evasion was Gaston Glock himself, and Glock, also jealous of Jannuzzo’s relationship with Monika Bereczky (now Jannuzzo) framed Jannuzzo. Specifically, after having the motion denied by federal prosecutors, Glock turned to Symrna, Georgia (where Glock is the 10th-largest employer and on impeccable terms with law enforcement) and John Butters, a public prosecutor who is currently linked to an extortion case involving filmed sex acts and the shakedown of the CEO of Waffle House. If the previous three paragraphs seem like a particularly convoluted subplot in The Young and the Restless, they probably should. Jannuzzo was freed after 3.5 years on the technicality that Glock company lawyers basically ran his prosecution, in a colossal conflict of interest. Jannuzzo is now one of many former Glock employees currently suing Gaston.
In addition to these legal fiascos, Glock is being sued by his ex-wife Helga over their 2009 divorce, which enabled him to marry Kathrin Tschikof, his ex-nurse, who is 51 years his junior. Before the dust settled on his second marriage, Helga had to sue him to retrieve her possessions from their former domicile. Glock, to make himself more relatable to the primary purchasers of his weapons, has taken this reflective period to create Glock Horse Performance Center on behalf of Tschikof (making him the €1.8 billion version of Mitt Romney, complete with a stable of fancy dancing horses), cultivating his image as a compassionate humanitarian by firing his own children for siding with their mother, and weathering a slew of embarrassing allegations made by his ex-wife, including that he kept a slush fund of embezzled company money to maintain his mistresses. Given Helga was just empowered under RICO to unseal documents for her lawsuit over Glock allegedly squirrelling away $500 million, I am sure the hits will continue to roll.
Although none of this paints Gaston in a particularly sympathetic light, most of it is the standard corruption and trophy-wife hunting generally associated with the 1%. While he is ethically a loathsome assemblage of Eurofascism, lust, and pettiness, his company is nearly symbiotic with police forces (including potentially using them to arrest a romantic rival), has almost definitely violated campaign finance laws to keep anti-gun politicians out of office, and has a tendency of playing on the fears of anti-gun politicians for fiscal betterment. As noted in Bloomberg reporting:
“U.S. sales soared 71% in the first quarter of [Glock’s] 2010 fiscal year, largely due to what gun executives call the ‘Obama stimulus’: fear among gun owners that the liberal President plans to curb the marketing of handguns. Gaston Glock played on that anxiety in an open letter to customers in January. ‘As shooters and gun owners, we must band together with even greater zeal than in the past,’ he wrote. ‘We are not going to roll over and have our guns taken away because of some of our misguided neighbors, no matter who they are.'”
That is, like many gun makers (Glock is not unique, although its “bad boy” image cultivated by the “plastic handgun” era and the use of spokesmodels certainly is), Glock has benefited from continually pounding on the drum: regulation will lead to your guns being confiscated, and while you’re good and worried would you like to buy another gun? All this while Gaston Glock is laughing all the way to the bank—or his next deposition, I assume.
Art by TN.