This is a rant, and I’m going to take heat for it.
Gun people are some serious fanboys at times. I’m focusing my rant here on Glock because they’re low hanging fruit. Well, that and their well-known tagline: “Perfection.”
Anyone who’s been into this for a while knows that this tagline is far from the truth. If it was, then why does every Glock enthusiast factor the price of replacing the junk plastic sights into the cost of any model they purchase?
If it was perfection, why are there so many discussions about shooting low and left, brass to the forehead, awkward grip angles, shallow magazine releases, uncomfortable finger grooves, and other issues?
The answer is good marketing and groupthink.
When Perception is Not Reality
Honestly, I don’t have anything against Glock, per se. They’re fine pistols for serving their intended purpose. If Glock is your preference, then bully for you and carry on. There are a lot of trainers and shooters I respect out there recommending Glocks because of their relative simplicity and the large selection of inexpensive accessories. They’ve practically become the AR-15 of the pistol world.
However, I have trouble with people who confuse marketing materials as cold hard truth.
I pick on Glock because they are a great case study in smart firearms marketing and the cultural effects thereof.
The Way Back machine
Back n 2014 or so, a good friend and fellow officer lent me a book by Paul M. Barrett titled Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun.
Of course, the title alone triggered my skepticism immediately. First, how could Glock be America’s gun if it’s Austrian? Second, that moniker clearly belongs to the AR-15 or 1911.
But I digress.
The book is an entertaining read that details Glock’s inception, heavy-handed sales and marketing tactics, and eventual acceptance into popular culture.
Rather than go into detail, since you might want to read the book, I’ll get to the point.
Glock was in the right place at the right time. They came to the US right as police departments were reeling from the 1986 Miami shootout. Police were questioning their long-beloved revolvers and looking for something with a bit more capacity.
Beretta had recently won the military M9 competition and was focusing on large government contracts. Sig was busy pouting over its loss to Beretta.
At least, as a Beretta fan, I’d like so.
Glock’s polymer wonder was both lighter and had half the number of parts to maintain compared to all-metal classics. It was fresh of winning the Austrian Army contract and was just…different.
The key thing here was cost, though. Since they are mostly polymer, and the metal parts were practically all manufactured through computer-aided machinery, Glocks were extremely cheap to produce.
This is especially true when compared to the other all-metal pistols at the time.
The cheap manufacturing costs set them up for an intensely aggressive marketing campaign where they offered to buy a department’s old pistols and exchange them for new Glocks at a steep discount rate. They still made money on the deal.
That’s how they swept America’s police departments. They were cheaper and more aggressive with greasing the wheels of politics.
They also had strippers to sweeten the deal. Really.
Is it Really a Feature?
If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, just hang on.
Glock is a great example of selling your shortcomings as features. Gaston looked at a wide range of classic pistols and compared their features. He had an eye for where he could remove parts and complexity from his design, making the thing easier to manufacture.
During that research, he determined that a safety on a double action pistol is not required. In a traditional sense, he was right.
Double action pistols usually have trigger pulls in the 8-12 lb range. You have to want to pull the trigger. If it’s a DA/SA mechanism, the pistol switches to single action mode for a nice light trigger pull.
The belief is that the heavier trigger on the double action first shot is the “safety” so long as you’re following the rest of the safety rules. No external safety means o
The trouble is that the Glock isn’t really double action like we’re talking about with a Beretta 92, Sig 226, or CZ. It’s a striker fired pistol with a nominal 5.5 trigger pull, barely lighter than one of the others in single action mode.
To those that pay attention, this is an obvious point of concern. But the marketers are great at their jobs.
You don’t need a thumb safety since it has one built into the trigger, you see. In fact, you shouldn’t even want a thumb safety. That thing will kill you in a fight!
This is how it happens. A feature gets left off for simplicity, and the marketers spin it as something that you shouldn’t have wanted in the first place.
The Power of Groupthink
Good marketing only gets you so far.
Eventually, a rabid fan base will do a lot in your favor. Once the Glock reached commonplace status among police departments, and especially when it got picked up by “cool guy” military units with the budgets and leeway to do what they wanted, it was game over.
If those guys are using it, then it must be the best.
I can’t count the number of internet pissing matches I’ve seen, or been in, where the Glockolyte declares that you absolutely need a Glock for that moment when the bad guy has your wife/girlfriend/daughter as a hostage in the dark while you’re upside down fending off the alien invasion with your weak hand. DA/SA will kill you, m
Ok, that’s an exaggeration. But only a little.
The point here is that once there are enough fanboys chanting, then the new people just showing up to the scene want to be part of the “in-crowd.” It’s no longer marketing, it’s social pressure.
I’ve seen so many new shooters get pushed towards Glock, and then stay there even when they might be better served by something else. They just feel pressured to support their brand.
Glockolytes aren’t the only ones doing this. I’ve seen the same behavior from fans of LaRue Tactical and other manufacturers. Even worse is when I see it from the “just as good as” crowd pressuring new shooters into buying questionable parts.
Bringing it Home
I’m not interested in rehashing fights over external safeties vs no external safeties. Everyone has a preference.
I’m also not interested in bringing up examples of negligent or accidental discharges stemming from loose t-shirts, worn leather holsters, or improper unloading. Those things happen, and not just to Glock owners.
This whole rant isn’t even really about Glock.
I’m imploring you to not take marketing materials and social pressure as sources of truth.
In the firearms world, unbiased information is very difficult to come by. Until you have the experience to know your needs and then analyze the options in front of you, there’s a lot of risk. That also means that you’re going to make mistakes early on.
That’s ok, go with it.
The simple truth is that quality firearm A serves you just as well as quality firearm B in 90% of circumstances. Pick one and stick with it until you have your needs figured out.
Glock’s tagline of Perfection is just one example H&K has their infamous No Compromises line, even though there are indeed some compromises. Even worse was Kel-Tec’s ill-fated “For those who’d drink their own urine” campaign.
Yeah, that happened.
In the end, don’t let the hunt for perfection stop you from working with what you’ve got right in front you.