285 of 321 people found the following review helpful
interesting story told by an indifferent author,
This review is from: Glock: The Rise of America's Gun (Hardcover)
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The Glock is indeed a cultural phenomenon in America, and an innovative product (at least when it first appeared), with an interesting story behind it. So I was looking forward to reading this book. In some ways I was satisfied, but in others I ultimately disliked the book. My review is based on a pre-release sample of this book, so there is some chance that the published version is slightly modified, but I am sure that most of it will be the same. I hope you find this review useful.
In a nutshell, the author manages to capture the story of Glock - the company, the pistol, and the man behind it all. However, he also inserts a lot of commentary about guns in America which detracts from the story.
- You do not need any knowledge about Glock or firearms to read this book. The author describes in detail how revolvers and semi-autos work and how Glock is different.
- The book follows the major (and even lesser known) developments in the firearms market and legislation in the US throughout the history of Glock as a company. It starts with the 1986 Miami FBI shootout which precipitated the large-scale move away from revolvers towards semi-auto pistols. It covers things like the assault weapons ban and funny deals that Glock (the company) was involved in to try to buy back large capacity magazines and make a profit. Who knew that Rahm Emanuel, then a staffer in the White House and now mayor of Chicago, was involved in getting the major gun manufacturers to agree to voluntary safety locks?
- Gaston Glock and the people around him are well described with vivid vignettes. For example, how even after he was financially successful, he would apparently collect those little sample shampoos from hotels. Or how a hot stripper was used to promote the 10mm Glock.
- The author provides even handed treatment of most issues. For example, he admits that in the Miami shootout there was plenty of human error, and it wasn't simply about the good guys having inferior weapons. He admits that the Glock is not perfect and there have been numerous known malfunctions which the gun's aficionados turn a blind eye to, and the company itself tries to suppress through buying the defective units and silently settling cases out of court.
- Essentially Glock was in the right place at the right time, and this comes through really well in the book. Gaston Glock was a small-scale manufacturer of knives and simple household items when he overheard that the Austrian army was looking for a new pistol. Then there was plenty of controversy around the gun being undetectable by airport scanners (not true; turned out that employees manning the scanners were asleep once, and a Pentagon employee had an axe to grind), or sales to Arab dictators. Or NYC specifically banning the Glock, while the NYC police commissioner and firearms trainers flaunted the ban and carried the gun privately (until the press caught on). And lastly, the Glock was in many way similar to the revolvers it ended up replacing: simple and reliable, more so than its competitors.
- There are some non-sequitur statements like "Glock is the Google of modern civilian handguns" or mentioning how one police department wanted to upgrade their firepower so they went from .357 Magnum to 9mm.
- The author received some shooting lessons directly from Massad Ayoob, a well regarded shooting expert. In return, he makes Ayoob look silly for choosing to carry a weapon (never mind that Ayoob is a former police officer and minor celebrity who probably has good reasons to care about his safety). Referring to Ayoob and his girlfriend, the author sarcastically opines: "Like many gun owners who carry, they find last night's local television news report of an armed robbery at the neighborhood's 7-11 more compelling than the statistically small chance of being the unlucky customer paying for a Slurpee when a bad guy attacks."
- The author has some pervasive anti-gun bias that shows up even when he discusses facts and data which are inconclusive or contradict his opinion. The last chapter before the epilogue tries to discuss the impact of the Glock and handgun ownership on American society. When discussing the recent Virginia Tech massacre, the author says about the shooter: "Whether his choice of the Austrian brand raised the horrific body count remains a matter of speculation. It probably did." Later on he quips "A national ten-round cap seems like a logical compromise that lawful gun owners could easily tolerate." And then on the next page he admits that "The total number of guns in private hands in the United States is at an all-time high, yet violent crime is back down to where it was in the early 1970s. The murder rate is even lower - at the level of the early 1960s." Basically, he ends the book with a strange and contradictory chapter which tries to be an overarching synthesis of gun ownership in America, but ends up looking unfocused and bad.
I wonder who this book was written for. The author works for Bloomberg and lives in New York City, where it is practically impossible to own a gun, and he clearly does not pretend he cares about guns. So maybe this book is for other big city yuppies who want to know about this Glock thing rappers sing about. For that audience, the book is great. However, for those who own a Glock (I do not, by the way): this may not be your book. The book is still valuable because of the investigative details it presents, but it is clear that the author is not very passionate about his subject.
There is plenty of interesting history in this book, especially about Gaston Glock and his company. I just wish the author had focused on that and avoided trying to analyze guns in America, a larger topic which is controversial and clearly beyond his grasp.
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Showing 1-10 of 46 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 29, 2011 5:59:05 AM PST
I'd like to comment on only one point this reviewer makes: His assertion that I made Massad Ayoob look "silly." I did not aim to make fun of Ayoob. The section of my book on Ayoob cannot reasonably be interpreted that way. Ayoob (and his friend Gail Pepin) reviewed a draft of the manuscript for fact-checking purposes. They did not object to their portrayal. We remain on friendly terms. -- Paul Barrett, author
Posted on Jan 7, 2012 12:29:18 PM PST
Thanks for the review. If this guy has anything to do with the anti-gun Mayor of New York, I'm out.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2012 12:12:51 PM PST
I work for Bloomberg Businessweek, which is owned by Michael Bloomberg's company. If that means you're out, well, so long. On the other hand, if you are interested in guns in America, maybe you ought to read the book before deciding what you think about it. All the best, Paul Barrett, author
Posted on Jan 12, 2012 11:40:39 PM PST
Wiz Dood says:
A good review of this book. I agree on all points - especially on the contrary statements.
I think authors who write about firearms, need to elaborate earlier on in their book what their own meanings of "firepower" and "assault weapon" will be as the media tends to over use them to invoke and draw emotion, but can be confusing to us who are more technical/fact minded.
Posted on Jan 18, 2012 2:48:31 PM PST
There is something odd about this review. It appears that the reviewer has gone out of his way, to skew the author's meanings and misrepresent his arguments to make a very thoughtful, very well-written book into something hateful.
It is true that at one point the Author does suggest a measure to be adopted for the sake of making things harder for deranged mass-murderers, and I do not agree with the logic of his proposal because it would inconvenience thousands, if not millions of firearms enthusiasts to prevent a phenomenon that, despite the heavy media attention every such event generates, amounts to the same toll in death and injury as that caused by lighting strikes on a yearly basis.
I also disagree with Mister Barrett's proposal, a ten-round capacity limit, because it could be easily circumvented by a gun-wielding madman by his carrying spare magazines and practicing the same rapid magazine changes Mister Barrett himself observed Massad Ayoob performing.
None of this however changes the essential qualities of Mister Barrett's book. It doesn't change the workmanlike excellence of his prose; it doesn't change the thoroughness and intelligence of his research, and it doesn't touch the validity of the rest of his conclusions.
This means, that the .357 magnum versus 9mm controversy the reviewer tries to establish is a non-starter: it can be said that an elephant gun has enormous "firepower" in the sense of energy-transfer on impact, but very little of it would be useful in a gunfight where the volume of accurate fire that a high-capacity nine-millimeter pistol generates is by far the more important factor.
Considering that this topic is introduced on page one of chapter one and is again called to mind in the opening of the last chapter, the difference is obvious and "missing" it in order to try and score a point against the author can only be called obtuse.
Much the same is the case with the reviewer's characterisation of mister Barrett's treatment of Massad Ayoob, and others who carry concealed firearms.
As Mister Barrett points out, with violent crime down to its lowest level in decades, there is, statistically speaking, currently less reason to carry firearms for personal protection than before and not more. Once you acknowledge this very simple truth, you can say that carrying a loaded weapon is analogous to a man moving to Arizona and carrying an umbrella in all weathers.
In that situation, the umbrella, like the pistol, fills a need that is personal, or cultural far more than it does any material one, and the observation that it is, is merely that, an observation (and an astute one) and not an attempt to cast Mister Ayoob in a bad light as the reviewer would have his readers believe.
Considering that Mister Barrett has stated here that Mister Ayoob himself has already seen the manuscript and has no problem with it, one can only wonder about the reviewer's motives and objectivity.
Equally galling is the reviewer's stating that Mister Barrett "works for Bloomberg" when the book plainly states that he works for Bloomberg's company. Shaving off the qualifiers and turning Mister Barrett into Michael Bloomberg's personal assistant instead of one journalist working for an organization that employs thousands: you might as well, call everyone you dislike an ATF-agent because they've received an income-tax refund.
When all is said and done, reading this review makes one wonder why *someone would bother reviewing a book when he can't bring himself to read what is in it without setting up a hedgerow of straw men.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2012 5:24:30 AM PST
Michael Z. Williamson says:
While your criticism of the criticism is valid in several areas, I'd like to point out that the argument of not needing a gun because crime is low is akin to arguing against having a guard dog because no one comes onto the property, or against having a fire extinguisher in the house because there haven't been many serious fires of late. Causality can be debated, but changing the factors involved will possibly also change the circumstances--just maybe they're related?
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2012 11:49:48 AM PST
I like the way you argue, however, I do not believe that both your analogies are spot on.
The guard dog is very close because it requires you to spend an effort that makes some difference in things you have to do, while the fire extinguisher is conceptually more passive--something you simply have around rather than something you have to feed or worry about biting a child that wanders onto your property.
Going with the guard dog analogy as the closer of the two, you can say that the dog has to be fed, sheltered and maintained with periodic visits to a vet. It requires time, money and effort to have the dog's protection, just as having the protection a handgun might offer requires practice in using the (hand)gun to have its benefits in an emergency.
Also, dogs, like pistols, are not absolutes--they don't switch off all danger: they are risk-management strategies taken on at various kinds of cost (the danger of the dog's biting someone he shouldn't, cost off ammunition, range-time, risk of handgun accidents, etc.) and whether or not you choose to bear those costs is a a value judgement which is not amenable to logical analysis except by statistical methods.
Stating that crime statistics imply that carrying a handgun at all times is not a statistically "rational" decision is true, which means that the decision has an esthetic basis, one that is based not on real need (e.g., "how many gunfights have you been in lately?") but on feelings that carrying a gun provide that far outweigh its practical value for most people.
We don't live in the wild west or on a battlefield but like to act as if we do for reasons that lie outside of (statistically) demonstrable need. I personally don't find anything wrong with that any more than I think we should all drive the same car or be required to all wear uniforms.
I cannot speak for him, but from reading his words, I doubt that Mister Barrett was saying anything different.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 22, 2012 8:26:54 AM PST
Thomas B. Blaikie says:
I enjoyed all of the reviews. Thank you. I just read a review in the Arts section of the local paper, read the sample pages on-line, read the reviews, and ordered the book. There seems to be enough to support that it is an interesting and well written book. As all books of this nature, (facts with the author making analysis) the author cannot write a book that is tailored for every reader. The most important part is that the factual part be accurate. The analysis/conclusion part can be discussed or discarded as one wishes. Either way, I am looking forward to reading the book, and though I believe and support the right to own weapons, I do not own one. I read a lot of history and this seems like an interesting true story. Looking forward to it, and thanks again for all that had comments.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 22, 2012 9:15:05 AM PST
Thanks for your interest!
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 24, 2012 2:29:38 PM PST
Kitty Warner says:
Do your research. He has stated that he believes it is too difficult to obtain a gun license in NYC.