Sales: $150 million (1995 est.) NAIC: 332994 Small Arms Manufacturing; 332211 Cutlery and Flatware (Except Precious) Manufacturing; 332212 Hand and Edge Tool Manufacturing
Glock Ges.m.b.H. is virtually synonymous with the lightweight Glock pistol designed by its founder in the early 1980s. Since that time, the pistol has equipped numerous armies and won a leading market share in the law enforcement market. The firm also makes other military items, and got its start fabricating plastic and metal products for a variety of markets.
Gaston Glock, an Austrian engineer, formed Glock Ges.m.b.H. in 1963. At first the company, based in the quiet town of Deutsch-Wagram, Austria, produced steel and plastic products, doorknobs and hinges, and commercial appliances. In the 1970s, Glock began making knives, grenades, machine gun belts, and entrenching tools for the Austrian Army.
In the early 1980s, Gaston Glock, who had never before designed a gun, developed a 9mm semi-automatic pistol to meet an Austrian Army requirement. The first prototypes were created in 1981 after six months of development. (The company continued to develop other military products during this time, such as its combination field knife, saw, and spade.)
The next year, the Glock 17 beat out all competitors to win the Austrian Army contract. An initial order of 30,000 guns was placed in 1983. In 1984, Norway became the first NATO country to adopt the weapon for its army. (As part of NATO acceptance tests, the test pistols each fired 10,000 rounds within five hours while showing no measurable wear.)
Heavy use of polymer made Glock’s gun lightweight (up to 40 percent lighter than conventional pistols) and relatively inexpensive to produce. Glock claimed to be the first company to incorporate polymer into the design of a pistol from the beginning stages. Other advantages to synthetic materials included ease of maintenance as well as climate and corrosion resistance. Further, the “tenifer” hardening coating applied to the metal surfaces allowed the pistols to be carried by scuba divers. Molding a synthetic frame required the fashioning of fewer parts, resulting in lower assembly costs and fewer individual spares to stock.
International in 1985
A U.S. subsidiary, Glock, Inc., was established in late 1985, headquartered in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna, Georgia. In addition to sales, the unit assembled guns from imported components. The popularity of shooting sports in the South likely helped make the region an attractive location—the area purportedly was home to nearly half the country’s firearms. The Glock Shooting Sports Foundation hosted an annual contest near Atlanta that attracted 400 competitors from all over the country and a diverse array of lifestyles, from cops to church organists.
The expansion to the United States came just as legions of policemen across the country were trading in their trusty service revolvers for semiautomatic pistols. As the company founder told Advertising Age, Glock aimed its initial marketing efforts at law enforcement, hoping to later gain sales in the commercial market. In fact, the company sometimes gave the guns away to police departments.
However, political conditions seemed less than favorable for Glock in the U.S. Congress, which was debating a ban on the pistol. Some perceived it as a terrorist threat, believing the use of plastic parts in it made it less visible to airport X-ray machines—a charge countered by the Federal Aviation Administration. Ironically, in 1988 Congress funded the gun for the Washington, D.C., police department.
Georgia’s lax gun laws came under national scrutiny in 1996 after a New York City police officer was killed with a Glock pistol that had been bought in Atlanta. New York drug gangs were buying them through “straw buyers.” Glocks were worth up to three times their $500 retail price on the black market.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms reported that more than half of the 2,560 guns stolen from interstate carriers were stolen in Georgia, home to United Parcel Service as well as Glock. Glock responded by making its packaging less distinguishable and more secure, noted the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. It also enclosed exploding ink packs with its shipments.
Critics of the Glock 17 complained that its trigger-pulling requirement was too light, making it susceptible to accidental discharges. Glock faced several lawsuits alleging this in the mid-1990s. Supporters countered that with proper training, the Glock pistols were as safe as any weapon.
A second plant was opened in Ferlach, Austria, in 1987. At the same time, the company was developing its Glock 18 “Selective Fire” machine pistol, which would be the smallest weapon of its type in the world.
Glock (H.K.) Ltd. was established in Hong Kong in 1988 to market the company’s wares in Asia, Australia, and Oceania. The same year, production started for the Glock 19 “Compact” and Glock 17L “Competition” pistols.
By the end of 1990, there were more than 300,000 Glock pistols in use in North America. Glocks were also being exported to 45 other countries. Approximately 2,000 police departments in the United States had adopted Glock pistols, accounting for approximately 150,000 units.
Rapid Growth in the 1990s
Another international sales facility, Glock America N.V., was set up in Uruguay in 1990. With its new Glock 22 and Glock 23 pistols, the firm claimed to become the first to supply law enforcement agencies with .40 caliber handguns in quantity. The larger rounds of these weapons carried more stopping power; they were seen as an alternative to bulkier .45 caliber pistols which could only carry half the rounds of a 9mm.
Glock’s original plant in Deutsche Wagram was expanded in 1990. The next year, production began on the Glock 20 (10mm) and Glock 21 (.45) Automatic pistols. A fourth subsidiary, Glock France S.A., was created in 1992 to handle sales to France and Francophone Africa.
Another .40 caliber weapon, the Glock 24, began production in 1994. The .380 caliber Auto Glock 25, and two “subcompact” models, the 9mm Glock 26 and .40 caliber Glock 27, were launched the next year. In 1996, Glock began production of the .380 caliber Glock 28 as well as a training version of its original pistol, known as the Glock 17T. This weapon could fire either low-velocity color marking cartridges or rubber bullets.
In 1995, a company spokesperson said Glock was selling 20,000 pistols a month at an average price of $600 each, producing estimated revenues of nearly $150 million a year. The company curtailed its trade magazine advertising due to the high amount of back orders at its plants. The relaxation of concealed weapons laws in several states contributed to demand.
New federal laws, were limiting handgun magazines to ten rounds. However, Glock introduced an 11-shot model, the 9mm G26, in September 1995 that held one round in the chamber. Gun control proponents were critical of this and Glock’s police trade-in program, which brought into the company (for resale) larger capacity magazines that predated the ten-round limit. For its part, Glock said the palm-sized G26 and .40 caliber G27 were “the perfect choice for women.”
By 1996, Glock had sold two million pistols to police, military, and commercial buyers in 60 countries. Its original Glock 17 pistol was then accompanied by 32 other models in eight calibers. No one in Europe, company literature stated, was making more guns per day.
Two new models began production in 1997: the 10mm Auto Glock 29 and .45 caliber Auto Glock 30. Also in 1997, the company completed an extension of the plant in Ferlach, Austria, and began building a new headquarters building in Deutsch-Wagram.
Glock began producing its own .357 caliber weapons—the Glock 31, Glock 32, and Glock 33—in 1998. The 9mm Glock 34 and .40 caliber Glock 35 also began production. A “slimline” .45 Auto pistol, the Glock 36, entered production the next year, and other training models were unveiled.
Big Easy Showdown in the Late 1990s
Glock entered a stormy chapter in its dealings with the city of New Orleans in 1997. Glock, Inc. and a distributor, Kiesler’s Police Supply Co., arranged for the New Orleans police to trade in 8,000 old weapons for 1,700 new Glock .40 caliber handguns. It later emerged that 230 of the guns traded in were semiautomatic assault weapons. Another of the guns was evidence in a murder case. Officials also questioned whether Kiesler’s paid a fair price for the trades, which were then advertised for sale out of state. New Orleans subsequently instituted a policy of destroying confiscated guns.
“The best product for the best value.” With this commitment to uncompromising quality, GLOCK is able to grasp the leading position in the world market. GLOCK uses advanced technological manufacturing methods, as well as high-tech concepts to provide the international benchmark for safety, reliability and ease of maintenance.
In late 1998, the city of New Orleans launched a tobacco industry-style lawsuit against Glock and many other gun manufacturers. The suit alleged that since technology existed that could prevent non-owners from firing handguns, any designed without these safety features were therefore defective by nature. Other municipalities—even Atlanta—soon filed similar suits seeking to recover the costs related to handgun violence and accidental firings. A Glock spokesperson accused mayors of trying to shift the blame for gun-related crimes from perpetrators to legitimate manufacturers.
The stormy relationship between Glock and New Orleans reached its peak on January 26, 1999, when Glock Vice-President Paul Jannuzzo and Mayor Marc Morial both appeared on NBC’s Today show. Jannuzzo called the city’s negligence lawsuit “the height of hypocrisy.”
In January 2001, Glock responded to the New Orleans suit by giving the city locking devices for the 1,700 .40 caliber handguns the New Orleans Police Department had just purchased. The devices were similar to bicycle cable locks and required the removal of the magazine and the round in the chamber.
Eventually, the federal government launched its own suit against the handgun industry. Although Glock did not initially join Smith & Wesson (a unit of Britain’s Tomkins PLC) and others in the settlement, it ultimately agreed to catalog its new guns in the Integrated Ballistic Identification System, an existing national database. Critics countered that criminals could easily and quickly change the unique markings guns were supposed to make on bullets and casings.
Glock officials were opposed to the mandate to develop a “smart gun” in Smith & Wesson’s settlement. They felt the technology was unproven and would ruin the mechanical simplicity of Glock’s pistols. The company did consider joining S&W in requiring its dealers to submit to sales restrictions that went far beyond existing federal law. Apart from their lawsuits, several large cities, including Atlanta, joined a Clinton administration-backed initiative to boycott gunmakers that refused to curb certain business practices. In June 2000, Glock announced that the sale of 2,000 pistols to five municipal police departments had been placed on hold for this reason. By early 2001, 32 cities had filed suit against various gunmakers; New York was the first state government to sue them.
Glock produced 2.5 million pistols between 1985 and 1999. It had a more than 50 percent market share in the law enforcement market and a 5 to 7 percent share of the consumer market.
Glock America N.V. (Uruguay) ; Glock France S.A.; Glock, Inc. (U.S.A.) ; Glock (H.K.) Ltd. (Hong Kong) .
Colt Manufacturing Co.; Fabbrica D’Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A.; Forjas Taurus SA; Sigarms Inc. (Sig/Sauer) ; Sturm, Ruger & Co.; Tomkins PLC.
- Austrian engineer Gaston Glock forms his namesake company.
- Glock creates the Glock 17 pistol in response to a military requirement.
- Norway becomes the first NATO country to adopt the Glock pistol.
- U.S. subsidiary Glock, Inc. is established in order to take the company international.
- Glock produces its two millionth pistol, completes new headquarters.
Anderson, Will, “Gun Maker Takes Aim at Cities’ Lawsuit,” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, February 14, 1999, p. D5.
Armstrong, David, and Andrea Estes, “Gun Deal Raises Questions,” Boston Herald, November 29, 1992, p. 1.
Barrett, Paul M., “Glock Feels Pinch of Push to Limit Gun-Sale Practices,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2000, p. B16.
Barrett, Paul M., Vanessa O’Connell, and Joe Matthews, “Glock May Accept Handgun Restrictions,” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2000, p. A3.
Brice, Arthur, and Alfred Charles, “Smyrna-Based Gun Maker Rejects Settlement on Guns,” Atlanta Constitution, March 22, 2000, p. A3.
Brogan, Joe, “Studies, Advertising Entice Local Agencies to Get Bigger Barrels,” Palm Beach Post, June 2, 1996, p. 4B.
Estes, Andrea, and David Armstrong, “Competitor Raps No-Bid Gun Contract,” Boston Herald, December 1, 1992, p. 18.
“Introduction to Glock, Inc.,” Smyrna, Ga.: Glock, Inc., 1990.
Jannuzzo, Paul F1., “Glock Critical of Morial on Gun Transaction,” Times-Picayune (Letters to the Editor), February 2, 1999, p. B4.
Long, Duncan, Glock’s Handguns, El Dorado, Ariz.: Desert Publications, 1996.
Mitchell, Kent, “Shooting for a Good Time; Glock Shoot Brings All Types Together,” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 13, 1996, p. 16E.
“New Orleans Is Suing Gun Makers, Two in State,” Hartford Courant, October 31, 1998, p. D1.
O’Connell, Vanessa, “Glock Plans Change in How It Sells Guns,” Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2000, p. A3.
Perlstein, Michael, “Guns Destined for the Deep; Seized Weapons to Become Anchor,” Times-Picayune, March 13, 2001, p. 1.
Persica, Dennis, “Sued by City, Glock Fires Back with Gift,” Times-Picayune, January 27, 1999, p. B1.
Philbin, Walt, “Gun Swap Broke No Laws, ATF Says,” Times-Picayune, December 11, 1999, p. IB.
Schrade, Brad, “Glock Will Mark Pistols to Aid Tracing in Crimes,” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, March 24, 2000, p. F1.
Scruggs, Kathy, “Deliveries Under Fire,” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 12, 1997, p. C4.
——, “Glock, UPS Working to Thwart Gun Thieves,” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 12, 1997, p. A1.
Skiba, Katherine M., “As Laws Relax, Little Guns Are Big Business,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 24, 1995, p. 1.
Spain, William, “The Marketing 100: Gaston Glock,” Advertising Age, June 26, 1995, p. S30.
“Suits Miss Mark; Don’t Blame the Manufacturer for the Customer’s Recklessness,” Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph, August 12, 2000, p. 11.
Thorpy, Bill, “Booming Business,” Atlanta Constitution, August 30, 1990, p. D1.
——, “Small Handguns Are Giant Sellers,” Commercial Appeal (Memphis), December 17, 1995, p. 14A.
Vaishnav, Anand, and Walt Philbin, “Report Blames Police Brass in Gun Swap,” Times-Picayune, November 25, 1999, p. IB.
Williams, Monte, “Gun Makers Seek Dismissal of New York State’s Suit Against Them,” New York Times, February 1, 2001, p. B4.
—Frederick C. Ingram